Listening to Glenn Beck requires a good grasp of history, religion (especially the Bible), and general worldview thinking to filter out the misinformation. Too often Beck relies on misinformed “experts” whom he trusts without investigating their claims or at least seeking out other opinions. But since only the most sensational stories make the headline grade — a story only leads if it bleeds — an alternative view might dampen audience wonder and enthusiasm.
Beck likes to talk about how all the signs are about us that the end of the world is near and Jesus has to be coming back soon. At the same time he points to the inevitabilities of Bible prophecy, he goes to Washington to call on people to work to change America before we lose this once great nation. It’s schizophrenic.
On his June 18th radio program, the second hour, he brought up the Ezekiel 38–39 “Gog and Magog” prophecy.
Beck has formulated his views on the Ezekiel prophecy based on Joel Rosenberg’s books Epicenter (2006) and the novel The Ezekiel Option (2005) and interviews he’s had with him. In The Ezekiel Option, Rosenberg writes:
The journey that follows is fiction.
The prophecy upon which it is based is true.
The cryptic vision of a Hebrew scribe — writing twenty-five centuries ago — foretold one of the most horrific periods in the future of mankind.
Yet even today it remains one of man’s great unsolved mysteries.
Its central premise was once discussed in a speech before the U.S. Congress, and was believed to be both true and increasingly close at hand by one of America’s greatest presidents.
The president was Ronald Reagan. Like Beck, President Reagan was using very bad prophetic intelligence.
On August 31, 2006, I debated Rosenberg on Mickelson in the Morning, a radio show hosted by Jan Mickelson. He won’t debate me again because he knows his position will not stand up to biblical scrutiny. All his books are fiction – even Epicenter — but are being sold as biblical truth.
The claim is made that the Ezekiel prophecy is about Russia and Iran and other current Middle East players. There is no mention of either Russia or Iran in Ezekiel 38 and 39. Finding Russia is based in part on the use of the Hebrew word rosh (ראש). Rosh does not refer to Russia. Rosh means “head,” as in Rosh Hashanah, the head of the Jewish New year, that is, the first day. The first word in Genesis 1:1 includes the word rosh (בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית): “In the beginning. . .”
The reading of Ezekiel 38:2 should be “the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal” (38:2; 39:1) and not the “prince of Rosh.” Charles Ryrie, author of the Ryrie Study Bible, acknowledges that rosh is not a proper name: “The prince of Rosh is better translated as ‘the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal.’”
Daniel I. Block translates Ezekiel 38:3, “[Son of Man], set your face toward Gog, of the land of Magog, the prince, chief of Meshech and Tubal.” ((Daniel I. Block, The Book of Ezekiel: Chapters 25–48 (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1998), 432.)) Here is Block’s explanation:
“[Rosh] is therefore best understood as a common noun, appositional to and offering a closer definition of [the Hebrew word] nasi [translated as ‘prince’]. Accordingly, the prince, chief of Meshech and Tubal, combines Ezekiel’s preferred title for kings with a hierarchical designation, the addition serving to clarify the preceding archaic term.” ((Block, Ezekiel, 2:435.))
Then there’s the problem with the weapons. They are ancient weapons: bows and arrows, spears, clubs, shields (Ezek. 39:9) and chariots (39:20). The claim is often made that God was revealing modern-day weaponry in terms that Ezekiel and the people of his day could understand. Bows and arrows are really missiles and rocket launchers. Horses are “horse power.” Chariots are tanks.
Hal Lindsey, author of The Late Great Planet Earth (1970), is well known for his claim that the locusts of Revelation 9:1–12 could be Vietnam-era “cobra helicopters.” He writes:
“I have a Christian friend who was a Green Beret in Viet Nam. When he first read this chapter he said, ‘I know what those are. I’ve seen hundreds of them in Viet Nam. They’re Cobra helicopters! That may be conjecture, but it does give you something to think about! A Cobra helicopter does fit the sound of ‘many chariots.’ My friend believes that the means of torment will be a kind of nerve gas sprayed from its tail.” ((Hal Lindsey, There’s a New World Coming: A Prophetic Odyssey (Santa Ana, CA: Vision House Publishers, 1973), 138–139.))
The way the so-called literalists like Lindsey and Rosenberg interpret the prophecy, everybody is confused, the people in Ezekiel’s day and our day.
Notice what these invading northern hordes are after: silver, gold, cattle, and goods (Ezek. 38:12–13). What did the returning exiles from Babylon bring back to Israel?: silver, gold, goods, and cattle (Ezra 1:4).
Notice that the prophecy describes a time when there were “unwalled villages” (Ezek. 38:11). Today, Israel is a nation of walls. In the book of Esther, we see that there were Jews who were living in relative peace in “unwalled towns” (9:19, KJV) when Haman conspired against them. The Hebrew word perazah is used in Esther 9:19 and Ezekiel 38:11. ((It’s unfortunate that the translators of the New American Standard Version translate perazah as “rural towns” in Esther 9:19 instead of “unwalled villages” as they do in Ezekiel 38:11.))
There’s much more that could be said about this topic. It’s quite obvious that Ezekiel is describing a future battle that was in Israel’s near future about 2500 years ago. The most likely fulfillment is found in the events surrounding the book of Esther where Haman (Hamon-Gog: Ezek. 39:11, 15) ((“One late manuscript to Esther 3:1 and 9:24 refers to Haman as a ‘Gogite.’” (Sverre Bøe, Gog and Magog: Ezekiel 38–39 as Pre-Text for Revelation 19, 17–21 and 20, 7–10 (Wissunt Zum Neun Testament Ser. II, 135) (Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2001), 384.).)) Haman wanted to “destroy all the Jews, the people of Mordecai, who were throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus” (Esther 3:6) but failed in the attempt.
Glenn Beck is all about getting to the truth. I respect him for that. But on this subject, he is very far from the truth, as are millions of prophecy-stuck Christians who believe the only hope for our world is a “rapture” followed by worldwide destruction.
For a thorough study of this topic, see my book Why the End of the World is Not in Your Future: Identifying the Gog-Magog Alliance.