on Revelation 20 :8
Gog and Magog - This seems to be almost literally taken from the Jerusalem Targum, and that of Jonathan ben Uzziel, on Numbers 11:26. I shall give the words at length: "And there were two men left in the camp, the name of the one was Eldad, the name of the other was Medad, and on them the spirit of prophecy rested. Eldad prophesied and said, 'Behold, Moses the prophet, the scribe of Israel, shall be taken from this world; and Joshua the son of Nun, captain of the host, shall succeed him.' Medad prophesied and said, 'Behold quails shall arise out of the sea, and be a stumbling block to Israel.' Then they both prophesied together, and said, 'In the very end of time Gog and Magog and their army shall come up against Jerusalem, and they shall fall by the hand of the King Messiah; and for seven whole years shall the children of Israel light their fires with the wood of their warlike engines, and they shall not go to the wood nor cut down any tree.'" In the Targum of Jonathan ben Uzziel, on the same place, the same account is given; only the latter part, that is, the conjoint prophecy of Eldad and Medad, is given more circumstantially, thus: "And they both prophesied together, and said, 'Behold, a king shall come up from the land of Magog in the last days, and shall gather the kings together, and leaders clothed with armor, and all people shall obey them; and they shall wage war in the land of Israel against the children of the captivity, but the hour of lamentation has been long prepared for them, for they shall be slain by the flame of fire which shall proceed from under the throne of glory, and their dead carcasses shall fall on the mountains of the land of Israel; and all the wild beasts of the field, and the wild fowl of heaven, shall come and devour their carcasses; and afterwards all the dead of Israel shall rise again to life, and shall enjoy the delights prepared for them from the beginning, and shall receive the reward of their worlds.'"
This account seems most evidently to have been copied by St. John, but how he intended it to be applied is a question too difficult to be solved by the skill of man; yet both the account in the rabbins and in St. John is founded on Ezekiel, Ezekiel 38:1-39:29. The rabbinical writings are full of accounts concerning Gog and Magog, of which Wetstein has made a pretty large collection in his notes on this place. Under these names the enemies of God's truth are generally intended.
on Revelation 20 :8
And shall go out to deceive the nations - See the notes on Revelation 12:9. The meaning here is, that he would again, for a time, act in his true character, and in some way delude the nations once more. In what way this would be done is not stated. It would be, however, clearly an appeal to the wicked passions of mankind, exciting a hope that they might yet overthrow the kingdom of God on the earth.
Which are in the four quarters of the earth - Literally, corners of the earth, as if the earth were one extended square plain. The earth is usually spoken of as divided into four parts or quarters - the eastern, the western, the northern, and the southern. It is implied here that the deception or apostasy referred to would not be confined to one spot or portion of the world, but would extend afar. The idea seems to be, that during that period, though there would be a "general" prevalence of the gospel, and a "general" diffusion of its blessings, yet that the earth would not be entirely under its influence, and especially that the native character of the human heart would not be changed. Man, under powerful temptations, would be liable to be deluded by the great master spirit that has so often corrupted the race. Once more he would be permitted to make the trial, and then his power would forever come to an end.
Gog and Magog - The name "Gog" occurs as the name of a prince in Ezekiel 38:2-3, Ezekiel 38:16, Ezekiel 38:18; Ezekiel 39:1, Ezekiel 39:11. "He is an invader of the land of Israel, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal," Ezekiel 38:2. "Magog" is also mentioned in Ezekiel 38:2, "the land of Magog"; and in Ezekiel 39:6, "I will send a fire on Magog." As the terms are used in the Old Testament, the representation would seem to be that "Gog" was the king of a people called "Magog." The signification of the names is unknown, and consequently nothing can be determined about the meaning of this passage from that source. Nor is there much known about the "people" who are referred to by Ezekiel. His representation would seem to be, that a great and powerful people, dwelling in the extreme recesses of the north Ezekiel 38:15; Ezekiel 39:2, would invade the Holy Land after the return from the exile, Ezekiel 38:8-12. It is commonly supposed that they were Scythians, residing between the Caspian and Euxine Seas, or in the region of Mount Caucasus. Thus Josephus (Ant Ezekiel 1:6, Ezekiel 1:3) has dropped the Hebrew word Magog, and rendered it by Σκύθαι Skuthai - "Scythians"; and so does Jerome. Suidas renders it Persai - Persians; but this does not materially vary the view, since the word "Scythians," among the ancient writers, is a collective word, to denote all the northeastern, unknown, barbarous tribes.
Among the Hebrews, the name "Magog" also would seem to denote all the unknown barbarous tribes about the Caucasian mountains. The fact that the names Gog and Magog are, in Ezekiel, associated with Meshech and Tubal, seems to determine the locality of these people, for those two countries lie between the Euxine and Caspian Seas, or at the southeast extremity of the Euxine Sea (Rosenmuller, Bib. Geog. vol. 1, p. 240). The people of that region were, it seems, a terror to Middle Asia, in the same manner as the Scythians were to the Greeks and Romans. Intercourse with such distant and savage nations was scarcely possible in ancient times; and hence, from their numbers and strength, they were regarded with great terror, just as the Scythians were regarded by the ancient Greeks and Romans, and as the Tartars were in the middle ages. In this manner they became an appropriate symbol of rude and savage people; of enemies fierce and warlike; of foes to be dreaded; and as such they were referred to by both Ezekiel and John. It has been made a question whether Ezekiel and John do not refer to the same period, but it is not necessary to consider that question here.
All that is needful to be understood is, that John means to say that at the time referred to there would be formidable enemies of the church who might be compared with the dreaded dwellers in the land of Magog; or, that after this long period of millennial tranquility and peace, there would be a state of things which might be properly compared with the invasion of the Holy Land by the dreaded barbarians of Magog or Scythia. It is not necessary to suppose that any particular "country" is referred to, or that there would be any one portion of the earth which the gospel would not reach, and which would be still barbarous, pagan, and savage; all that is necessary to be supposed is, that though religion would generally prevail, human nature would remain essentially corrupt and unchanged; and that, therefore, from causes which are not stated, there might yet be a fearful apostasy, and a somewhat general prevalence of iniquity. This would be nothing more than has occurred after the most favored times in the church, and nothing more than human nature would exhibit at any time, if all restraints were withdrawn, and people were suffered to act out their native feelings. "Why" this will be permitted; what causes will bring it about; what subordinate agencies will be employed, is not said, and conjecture would be vain. The reader who wishes more information in regard to Gog and Magog may consult Prof. Stuart on this book, vol. 2, pp. 364-368, and the authorities there referred to. Compare especially Rosenmuller on Ezekiel 38:2. See also Sale's "Koran," Pre. Dis. section 4, and the "Koran" itself, Sura 18:94 and 21:95.
To gather them together to battle - As if to assemble them for war; that is, a state of things would exist in regard to the kingdom of God and the prevalence of the true religion as if distant and barbarous nations should be aroused to make war on the church of God. The meaning is, that there would be an awakened hostility against the kingdom of Christ in the earth. See the notes on Revelation 16:14.
The number of whom is as the sand of the sea - A common comparison in the Scriptures to denote a great multitude, Genesis 22:17; Genesis 32:12; Genesis 41:49; 1 Samuel 13:5; 1 Kings 4:20, et al.
Section c. - Condition of things in the period referred to in Revelation 20:7-8;
(1) This will occur "at the close" of the millennial period - the period of the thousand years. It is not said, indeed, that it would be "immediately" after that; but the statement is explicit that it will be "after" that, or "when the thousand years are expired." There may be an interval before it shall be accomplished of an indefinite time; the alienation and corruption may be gradual; a considerable period may elapse before the apostasy shall assume an organized form, or, in the language of John, before the hosts shall "be gathered to battle," but it is to be the "next" marked and prominent event in the history of the world, and is to precede the final consummation of all things.
(2) this will be a "brief period." Compared with the long period of prosperity that preceded it, and "perhaps" compared with the long period that shall follow it before the final judgment, it will be short. Thus, in Revelation 20:3, it is said that Satan "must be loosed a little season." See the notes on that verse. There is no way of determining the time with exactness; but we are assured that it will not be long.
(3) what will be the exact state of things then can be only a matter of conjecture. We may say, however, that it will not be:
(a) necessarily "war." The language is figurative and symbolical, and it is not necessary to suppose that an actual and bloody warfare will be literally waged against the church. Nor,
(b) will there be a literal invasion of the land of Palestine as the residence of the saints and the capital of the Redeemer's visible empire, for there is not a hint of this - not a word to justify such an interpretation. Nor,
(c) is it necessary to suppose that there will be literally such nations as will be then called "Gog and Magog," for this language is figurative, and designed to characterize the foes of the church - as being in some respects formidable and terrible as were those ancient nations.
on Revelation 20 :8
20:8 And shall go forth to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth - (That is, in all the earth) - the more diligently, as he hath been so long restrained, and knoweth he hath but a small time. Gog and Magog - Magog, the second son of Japhet, is the father of the innumerable northern nations toward the east. The prince of these nations, of which the bulk of that army will consist, is termed Gog by Ezekiel also, Ezek 38:2. Both Gog and Magog signify high or lifted up; a name well suiting both the prince and people. When that fierce leader of many nations shall appear, then will his own name be known. To gather them - Both Gog and his armies. Of Gog, little more is said, as being soon mingled with the rest in the common slaughter. The Revelation speaks of this the more briefly, because it had been so particularly described by Ezekiel. Whose number is as the sand of the sea - Immensely numerous: a proverbial expression.