‘Then those who live in the towns of Israel will go out and use the weapons for fuel and burn them up—the small and large shields, the bows and arrows, the war clubs and spears. For seven years they will use them for fuel. They will not need to gather wood from the fields or cut it from the forests, because they will use the weapons for fuel. And they will plunder those who plundered them and loot those who looted them, declares the Sovereign Lord . “ ‘On that day I will give Gog a burial place in Israel, in the valley of those who travel east of the Sea. It will block the way of travelers, because Gog and all his hordes will be buried there. So it will be called the Valley of Hamon Gog. “ ‘For seven months the Israelites will be burying them in order to cleanse the land. All the people of the land will bury them, and the day I display my glory will be a memorable day for them, declares the Sovereign Lord . People will be continually employed in cleansing the land. They will spread out across the land and, along with others, they will bury any bodies that are lying on the ground. “ ‘After the seven months they will carry out a more detailed search. – Ezekiel 39:9-14
I have to be honest, I was tempted to skip this passage. The fleeting reference to water, “the sea” seems incidental and superfluous, but I have been surprised by hidden wells before so here goes.
This is a “swords into plowshares” moment for the people of Israel. God, through Ezekiel, is describing a time after fighting is over and weapons are no longer needed. In fact there are so many weapons laying around that they can provide fuel for the people of Israel for 7 years! That is a lot of shields and such.
When I first read this passage I immediately thought of the missile silos I used to drive past in rural Montana on my way to Zortman, Montana where I was working on my Master’s Degree research in geology. Some of these silos have been decommissioned and retasked, but there are apparently still around 400 or so Minute Man III missiles armed and ready. It does seem somewhat sad that nuclear fission and fusion technology has not been applied more effectively to provide for our energy needs. I suspect re-tasking the fuel in nuclear weapons to be used in nuclear reactors could provide power for a very long time, probably longer than 7 years.
The passage takes a somewhat macabre turn as it goes on to describe dead people scattered about, a truly strange scene to be sure, “On that day I will give Gog a burial place in Israel, in the valley of those who travel east of the Sea. It will block the way of travelers, because Gog and all his hordes will be buried there.” I did a little research on this person/nation Gog and it is apparently the same Gog and Magog that is mentioned in Revelations in the new testament. There is much debate about who this reference refer to. Some think it is referring to a historic invader like the Mongols or the Huns, while others see a prophetic reference to a future conflict. I do not know.
I will not pretend to have any definitive answer to this question, but I do find some of the details of the prophecy interesting, intriguing, and confusing. The passage describes an extended period of cleansing, “for seven months the Israelites will be burying them in order to cleanse the land”. This prolonged period of cleansing sounds like something beyond stinking dead bodies to me. It sounds like these bodies are in some way toxic and need to be isolated from the environment as a result of a plague or contamination. The passage goes on to provide another odd detail that makes me wonder, “They will spread out across the land and, along with others, they will bury any bodies that are lying on the ground. “ ‘After the seven months they will carry out a more detailed search.”
There are several things about the above description that I find intriguing, 1) the 7-month duration of the searching for dead; 2) the fact that the burial site, the valley of Hamon Gog, will apparently be toxic in some way; 3) there will be a more detailed second searching after 7 months; 4) “others” will aid in the search and cleansing of the land.
All of this may be describing a traditional battle with traditional weapons that has happened in the past or will happen in the future, but I can’t help but wonder at some of these details. The prolonged cleansing of the land and toxicity of the burial site sounds like a chemical, biological, or nuclear agent was involved in this epic battle to me. If we take this as a prophetic passage about an event that has not yet happened then it is a very bleak and scary scenario to be sure. I hope I am way off base here, but what if a chemical, biological, or nuclear weapon was used somewhere in this region of the middle east? I suspect the description would sound eerily similar to this one. Clean up would be slow, complicated, and dangerous and very likely involve experts and “others” from around the world.
I know this is not a very uplifting message to dwell upon as we approach Christmas, but I have signed up for the entire river and this passage is part of the “funny water” that I have to pass through to reach more quiet waters ahead.
Prayer: God You love us. Help us to avoid killing one another here on earth through misunderstanding and hatred.