Esther Predicted in Ezekiel


The book of Esther describes the fulfillment of the battle of Gog and Magog

An excerpt from “Esther in the Midst of Covenant History” by James B. Jordan (2001)

The battle of Gog and Magog is found in Ezekiel 38-39. Ezekiel presents the destruction of Jerusalem as simultaneously a judgment on the whole world (Ezekiel 24-33). After this, he prophesies that the people will return to the land. Sometime after this there would be a time of trouble and the land would be invaded by an army made up of many peoples under the leadership of Prince Gog. In my book Through New Eyes: Developing a Biblical View of the World I followed many older commentators in referring this to the invasion of the land by Antiochus Epiphanes.

After this huge battle, a new Temple is built out of the spoils. This follows the pattern of victory followed by house building that we see everywhere in the Bible. The Tabernacle was built of the spoils of Egypt, and the Temple of the spoils of the Philistines. Ezekiel’s Temple is described in a vision of sacred geometry, but it was intended to apply to the Restoration era. The actual building erected by Joshua and Zerubbabel (Haggai 1-2; Zechariah 1-6) and glorified by Ezra was the literal fulfillment of the visions of Ezekiel 40-48. The changes in sacrificial administration set out in these visions were implemented in the Restoration Temple. I noted in Through New Eyes that this was the view of Adam Clarke, Matthew Henry, Matthew Poole, and E. W. Hengstenberg.

I wasn’t quite happy with this, since it puts the battle of Gog and Magog out of sequence. Antiochus Epiphanes invaded the land years after the Temple was initially rebuilt and then made glorious. Is there another event that better fits as the fulfillment of Ezekiel 38-30? I believe there is. I suggest that the book of Esther describes the fulfillment of the battle of Gog and Magog.

Let me make a detour into Zechariah. Zechariah sees the Kingdom in the form of a grove of myrtle trees (Zech. 1:8). It is significant that Esther’s original Hebrew name, Hadassah, is the word for “myrtle” (Esth. 2:7). Moreover, Zechariah prophesies the events of Esther in Zechariah 2:8-9. He states that after the Glory of God had moved back into the Temple, the nations would seek to plunder Israel. God would wave His hand over them, however, so that they would be plundered by their slaves, those they were oppressing: Israel. This event would be a confirming seal to them that God had indeed reestablished the Covenant with them.

Of course, it is in Esther that we see a conspiracy to plunder the Jews, which backfires with the result that the Jews plundered their enemies. This event is then ceremonially sealed with the institution of the annual Feast of Purim. The book of Esther is frequently overlooked in the Old Testament, and its meaning has been widely debated. If my suggestion is correct, however, we now have a good idea of its purpose and place in the canon.

With this in mind, we can look back at Ezekiel. Ezekiel 34 states that God will act as Good Shepherd to Israel, and will bring them back into the land. He continues this theme in Ezekiel 36, saying that God will make a new covenant with Israel. The inauguration of this new covenant, which we can call the Restoration Covenant, is described in Zechariah 3, where God removes the filth from Joshua the High Priest and restores the Temple and priesthood. Of course, Ezekiel’s language in Ezekiel 36:25-27 is picked up in the New Testament and applied to the New Covenant, but we need to understand that the first fulfillment of his words was in the Restoration Covenant, which was of course a type of the New Covenant.

Ezekiel continues in Ezekiel 37 with the vision of the valley of dry bones. The Spirit of God would be given in greater measure than ever before (though of course not as great as at Pentecost in Acts 2), and the result would be a restoration of the people. No longer would there be a cultural division between Judah and Ephraim, but all would be together as a new people. (Their new name as a whole would be “Judahite, Jew.”)

At this point, Ezekiel describes the attack of Gog, Prince of Magog, and his confederates. Ezekiel states that people from all the world will attack God’s people, who are pictured dwelling at peace in the land. God’s people will completely defeat them, however, and the spoils will be immense. The result is that all nations will see the victory, and “the house of Israel will know that I am the Lord their God from that day onward” (Ezk. 39:21-23). This is the same idea as we found in Zechariah 2:9, “Then you will know that Yahweh of hosts has sent Me,” which I argued above most likely refers to the events of Esther.

Chronologically this all fits very nicely. The events of Esther took place during the reign of Darius, after the initial rebuilding of the Temple under Joshua and Zerubbabel and shortly before rebuilding of the walls by Nehemiah.

Nehemiah established a social polity among the people and rebuilt the physical walls of Jerusalem. Since Ezekiel 40-48 is concerned with the fullness of the Temple and also with the reconfiguration of the social polity of the land, it is possible to maintain that the central fulfillment of Ezekiel 40-48 is found in the labors of Nehemiah. It should be noted that the prophecy of Ezekiel 40-48 came in the first month of 572 B.C., exactly 70 years prior to Nehemiah’s request to Darius to go to Jerusalem. This fact should not be discounted, for there are several 70-year predictions operating in this period of history, as we saw in our studies in Daniel.

Thus, the interpretive hypothesis I am suggesting (until someone shoots it down) is this: Ezekiel 34-37 describes the first return of the exiles under Zerubbabel, and implies the initial rebuilding of the physical Temple. Ezekiel 38-39 describes the attack of Gog (Haman) and his confederates against the Jews. Finally, Ezekiel 40-48 describes in figurative language the situation as a result of the work of Nehemiah.

Looking at a few details, we see that the victory of the Jews over their enemies in Esther resulted in the deaths of 75,310 people (Esth. 9:10,15,16). This number of deaths is commensurate with the extent of the slaughter pictured in Ezekiel 38-39. The Jews were told that they might plunder those they slew (Esth. 8:11), but they did not take any of the plunder for their personal use (Esth. 9:10,15,16), which surely implies that it was regarded as holy and was sent to adorn the Temple.

Another interesting correspondence lies in the fact that the book of Esther repeatedly calls attention to the “127 provinces” of the Persian Empire, and in connection with the attack on the Jews, speaks of the “provinces which were from India to Cush” (Esth. 8:9). This goes well with the way Ezekiel 38 starts out, for there a number of nations are mentioned from all over the world, all of which were within the boundaries of the Persian Empire (Ezk. 38:1-6). In other words, the explicit idea that the Jews were attacked by people from all the provinces of Persia is in both passages.

Another possible cue is found in the prominent use of the Hebrew word for “multitude” in Ezekiel 39:11, 15, and 16. That word is hamon, which is spelled in Hebrew almost exactly like the name Haman. It was Haman, of course, who engineered the attack on the Jews in Esther. In Hebrew, both words have the same “tri-literal root” (hmn). Only the vowels are different. (Though in hamon, the vowel “o” is indicated by the vowel-letter vav.) According to Ezekiel 39:11 and 15, the place where the army of Gog is buried will be known as the Valley of Hamon-Gog, and according to verse 16, the nearby city will become known as Hamonah. Moreover, the words Agagite and Gog are the same in Hebrew, if we subtract the vowels and vowel-letters. Thus, in Hebrew consonants, Hamon-Gog and Haman the Agagite are identical. It seems to me that if I were a Jew living during the inter-testamental era, I would be struck by these correspondences, and they would cause me to consider whether or not they are related.

Yet another corroboration, to my mind, lies in the fact that Haman was an Amalekite. He was an “Agagite,” a descendant of the Amalekite king Agag who was captured by Saul and hacked to pieces by Samuel (1 Sam. 15; Esth. 3:1). What Esther records is the last great attack upon Israel by Amalek, and the final destruction of Amalek. Now, Numbers 24:20 states that “Amalek was the first of the nations, but his end shall be destruction.” The term “nation” is more closely associated with the Japhethites than with the Hamites or the Shemites. We don’t know which “nation” Amalek was, since it is not listed in Genesis 10, but it would seem to have been a Japhethite one.1I disagree with Jim on the identity of Amalek. He notes below that Amalek is the name of one of Esau’s grandsons, presumably after this “nation” of Amalek, but I believe that this was in fact the original Amalek, and thus “first” means the firstborn of Jacob, a false brother who would trouble Israel until the end of the Old Covenant era, the Herods being “Idumeans” or Edomites. For more discussion, see Everlasting Arms.

At any rate, what is striking about Ezekiel 38 is that the nations listed as conspiring against Israel are Japhethite and Hamite nations seldom if ever mentioned outside the primordial list in Genesis 10. Magog, Meshech, Tubal, Beth-togarmah, Tarshish, and Gomer are all Japhethite nations from Genesis 10:2-4. Cush, Put, Sheba, and Dedan are Hamite peoples from Genesis 10:6-7. Thus, the notion is of a conspiracy of primordial peoples against the true remnant of the Shemites. This certainly squares well with the fact that Haman was the preeminent representative of Amalek, the first of the nations.

Moreover, Amalek is the name of one of Esau’s grandsons, a mighty chieftain (Gen. 36:16). As Genesis 36 shows, Esau’s sons and grandsons completely merged with the Horites of Mount Seir to become the semi-Canaanite nation of Edom. From Genesis 14:6-7 we learn that the hill country of the original Amalekites was close to the Horites of Mount Seir. By giving his son the name Amalek, Eliphaz, son of Esau, was clearly forging another link. Thereafter, the Amalekites are not only gentiles, but also Edomites. Haman in Esther is not only a spokesman of the gentile opposition to God, but also of the continuing hatred of Esau for Jacob.

The main argument against my hypothesis would be that Ezekiel 38-39 picture an invasion of the land of Israel, whereas the events of Esther happened throughout the Persian Empire. At present, this argument does not have much force with me because of the fact that this entire section of Ezekiel is so highly symbolic in tone anyway. Chapter 37 gives us the vision of the valley of dry bones, after all, and chapters 40-48 are a thoroughly geometrical vision of the Restoration Covenant. Thus, I can see no difficulty in assuming that Ezekiel is picturing the final world-wide attack of Amalek and his cohorts under the imagery of an attack on the land, imagery derived from the book of Judges (cp. Jud. 18:7,10,27 with Ezk. 38:8,11,14).

Moreover, since the land of the Jews was part of the empire of Ahasuerus-Darius, and the attack on the Jews took place throughout the empire, it is clear that the Jews in the land were under assault in Esther. Thus, even if someone wants to press the idea of an invasion of the land of promise, Esther still portrays it. God’s people throughout the empire, including those in the land, were under assault.

A final corroboration of this interpretive hypothesis comes from what we might call the “Amalek Pattern” in the Bible. Note in Genesis 12-15 that Abram moves into the land after escaping Pharaoh (ch. 12), settles down and experiences peace and prosperity (ch. 13), and then faces an invasion of a worldwide alliance of nations (ch. 14). This alliance captures Lot, but Abram rescues him, after which a Gentile priest blesses Abram (ch. 14). Finally, after this, God appears to Abram in a vision and makes covenant with him (ch. 15), guaranteeing him a “house.”

Now look at Moses: After escaping Pharaoh (Ex. 1-14), the people are given food and water in the wilderness (Ex. 16). Then Amalek attacks and kills many Lot-like stragglers (Ex. 17; Dt. 25:17-19). Moses defeats Amalek, after which a Gentile priest (Jethro) blesses the people, and then God appears in the Cloud and makes covenant with them (Ex. 18-24), including the building of a “house” (the Tabernacle).

The same themes show up in the history of David: After escaping Pharaoh Saul (1 Sam. 18-26), David finds a place of rest in the “wilderness” at Ziklag (ch. 27). Then Amalek attacks and steals David’s wives (ch. 30), but David defeats them. Following this, a Gentile priest-king (Hiram of Tyre, who as a Gentile king was also a priest) blesses David (2 Sam. 5:11-12), and then God appears to David in a vision, promising him a “house” (2 Sam. 7).

In this pattern, the attack of Gentile world powers (Gen. 14) is associated with the attack of Amalek (Ex. 17; 1 Sam. 27). As can plainly be seen, the same pattern recurs in the Restoration. After departing from Babylon, the people settle in the land and experience a degree of peace. Then comes the attack of Amalek and Gog & Magog. After this, Gentile priest-kings sponsor the return of Nehemiah to restore the land and the “house.”

While it would be fascinating to follow up this theme in the Gospels, Acts, and possibly Revelation, enough has been said to indicate that it is a recurring pattern, and one that lends some support to the hypothesis that the attack of Gog and Magog is fulfilled in the book of Esther.

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1. I disagree with Jim on the identity of Amalek. He notes below that Amalek is the name of one of Esau’s grandsons, presumably after this “nation” of Amalek, but I believe that this was in fact the original Amalek, and thus “first” means the firstborn of Jacob, a false brother who would trouble Israel until the end of the Old Covenant era, the Herods being “Idumeans” or Edomites. For more discussion, see Everlasting Arms.

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