The great army of Joel 2
In Joel’s prophecy, God’s people are described under the figure of a plague of locusts. [vs. 25] The locust metaphor alludes to the Israelites in the wilderness. After the Exodus, Moses commissioned representatives from each tribe to survey the land that Israel was to inherit. When they returned after 40 days some of the spies gave an evil report, describing the people dwelling in the land as giants, and themselves as grasshoppers. People who have not entered the saints’ promised land are represented in Joel’s prophecy by locusts.
Ezekiel wrote of Gog and Magog:
“After many days thou shalt be visited: in the latter years thou shalt come into the land that is brought back from the sword, and is gathered out of many people, against the mountains of Israel, which have been always waste: but it is brought forth out of the nations, and they shall dwell safely all of them. Thou shalt ascend and come like a storm, thou shalt be like a cloud to cover the land, thou, and all thy bands, and many people with thee.” [Ezek. 38:8-9]
“The land brought back from the sword” seems to allude to the garden of Eden, which was guarded by an angel or a cherubim brandishing a flaming sword. [Gen. 3:24] And Eden represents the knowledge of God revealed in the Gospel and in the Scriptures.
In Ezekiel’s prophecy of Gog and Magog, all the armies ride upon horses.
“Therefore, son of man, prophesy and say unto Gog, Thus saith the Lord God; In that day when my people of Israel dwelleth safely, shalt thou not know it? And thou shalt come from thy place out of the north parts, thou, and many people with thee, all of them riding upon horses, a great company, and a mighty army:” [Ezek. 38:14-15]
In prophecy, horses are symbolic of people with no understanding. David wrote: “Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee.” [Psa. 32:9]
The armies of Gog and Magog in Ezekiel 38 come against “the mountains of Israel.”
“After many days thou shalt be visited: in the latter years thou shalt come into the land that is brought back from the sword, and is gathered out of many people, against the mountains of Israel, which have been always waste: but it is brought forth out of the nations, and they shall dwell safely all of them.” [Ezek. 38:8]
In Ezekiel’s prophecies, the mountains of Israel are metaphors representing God’s promises to his saints. When Jacob blessed Joseph, he said, “The blessings of thy father have prevailed above the blessings of my progenitors unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills: they shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him that was separate from his brethren.” [Gen. 49:26] God’s promises are eternal, and have a lofty spiritual meaning, so they are compared to high mountains in prophecy.
The following is a discussion of the significance of the Gog and Magog invasion by Patrick Fairbairn (1805-1874), from his book: Ezekiel and the book of his prophecy: an exposition. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark (1855), pp. 421-428.
Dispensational attempts to interpret Ezekiel’s prophecy of the Gog & Magog invasion are a huge embarrassment; for example, the weapons of the invaders, bows and arrows, clubs, spears, javelins, swords, shields, bucklers, etc., are archaic. They are made of wood, that is later burned by Israel for fuel, so they no longer need to collect any firewood for 7 years.
The invaders all ride horses, which are very vulnerable to modern weapons such as firearms, bombs, machine guns, etc. There are also logistical problems feeding large herds of horses in regions where fresh water and grass is scarce. And horse populations are quite limited in modern times.