Ezekiel 39 describes an alliance led by Gog of Magog attacking Israel and heading to its defeat. Meanwhile, Joel 2 describes a powerful northern army attacking Jerusalem before its demise. Could these armies be related? I will address this question in this article by sharing some of my observations about Joel 2:20 and Ezekiel 39:11.

Armies from the North

Gog’s Ezekiel 39 army and the army in Joel 2 share the common characteristic of invading from the north:

“(1) Therefore, thou son of man, prophesy against Gog, and say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against thee, O Gog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal: (2) And I will turn thee back, and leave but the sixth part of thee, and will cause thee to come up from the north parts, and will bring thee upon the mountains of Israel” (Ezekiel 39:1-2)

“But I will remove far off from you the northern army and will drive him into a land barren and desolate, with his face toward the east sea, and his hinder part toward the utmost sea, and his stink shall come up, and his ill savour shall come up, because he hath done great things.” (Joel 2:20)

This parallel alone has led some to conclude that these armies are identical.

The Lord Will Defeat the Armies

Another parallel is that the Lord will defeat the northern army and Gog’s army:

“And I will smite thy bow out of thy left hand, and will cause thine arrows to fall out of thy right hand” (Ezekiel 39:3)

“But I will remove far off from you the northern army, and will drive him into a land barren and desolate, with his face toward the east sea, and his hinder part toward the utmost sea, and his stink shall come up, and his ill savour shall come up, because he hath done great things.” (Joel 2:20)

The Stench of the Remains

Joel 2:20 provides further details about the demise of the northern army. The Lord promises to remove the northern army and to have the defeated army face towards the east sea (the Dead Sea) and the back portion towards the utmost sea (the Mediterranean Sea). In addition, Joel 2:20 indicates that the smell of the corpses will be extremely noticeable:

“But I will remove far off from you the northern army, and will drive him into a land barren and desolate, with his face toward the east sea, and his hinder part toward the utmost sea, and his stink shall come up, and his ill savour shall come up, because he hath done great things.” (Joel 2:20)

I believe Ezekiel 39:11 could provide another link to connect Joel 2 with Ezekiel 39. Ezekiel 39:11 says the following about Gog’s defeated army:

“And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will give unto Gog a place there of graves in Israel, the valley of the passengers on the east of the sea: and it shall stop the noses of the passengers: and there shall they bury Gog and all his multitude: and they shall call it The valley of Hamongog.” (Ezekiel 39:11)

Some discount the possibility that Gog’s Ezekiel 39 army is the same army as the one mentioned in Joel 2 since Ezekiel 39:11 apparently says that Gog’s army is buried “east of the sea” (the Dead Sea) while the remains of the northern army mentioned in Joel is between the Mediterranean Sea and the Dead Sea.

I examined several Bible commentaries to figure out if there were any nuances I missed in Ezekiel 39:11. The Keil and Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament analysis of Ezekiel 39 included an interesting statement about the usage/definition of the word “east” (Hebrew קדמה) in Ezekiel 39:11:

“The definition indicates this, viz., קִדְמַת, on the front of the sea; not to the east of the sea, as it is generally rendered, for קִדְמַת never has this meaning”

In other words, the translation “east of the sea” in Ezekiel 39:11 is very questionable in the minds of Keil and Delitzsch. Instead, the Keil and Delitzsch suggested that the term actually means “on the front of the sea”. Keil and Delitzsch also suggested that the remnant of the corpses of Gog’s army will be located “above” the Dead Sea at the Jordan Valley rather than “east of the sea”. This interpretation opens up the possibility for the remains of Gog’s forces to be located where Joel suggested the remains of the northern army will be.1

Another interesting thing I noticed is that the King James Bible (the Bible version I prefer to use in my studies) is the only major Bible translation that has the phrase “it shall stop the noses of the passengers” in Ezekiel 39:11. Meanwhile, other major Bible translations like the New International Version and the New American Standard Bible suggest that the remains of Gog’s army will block people.

Ezekiel 39:11 Comparison
KJV NIV NASB
And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will give unto Gog a place there of graves in Israel, the valley of the passengers on the east of the sea: and it shall stop the noses of the passengers: and there shall they bury Gog and all his multitude: and they shall call it the valley of Hamongog. On that day I will give Gog a burial place in Israel, in the valley of those who travel east toward 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. On that day I will give Gog a burial ground there in Israel, the valley of those who pass by east of the sea, and it will block off those who would pass by. So they will bury Gog there with all his horde, and they will call it the valley of Hamon-gog.

The phrase “it shall stop the noses of the passengers” is an important phrase to examine because it may provide another parallel between Ezekiel 39 and Joel 2.

  • If the King James Version’s rendering of Ezekiel 39:11 is consistent with the idea conveyed in the Hebrew text then we can say that people will be stopped by the stench of Gog’s army remains.
  • Recall that Joel 2:20 indicates that there is going to be a strong stench emanating from the remains of the northern army.

The Hebrew word châsam (חסם) is the word that the King James Bible uses in Ezekiel 39:11 to come up with the expression “it shall stop the noses”. According to Strong’s Greek and Hebrew Dictionary, the word means to “to muzzle; by analogy to stop the nose: – muzzle, stop”. The only other time where the word “châsam” is found in the Bible is Deuteronomy 25:4:

“Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn.” (Deuteronomy 25:4)

Keil and Delitzsch believe that the word “châsam” in Ezekiel 39:11 probably means “to stop” based on an Arabic translation. Meanwhile, the study notes of the Geneva Study Bible for Ezekiel 39:11 suggest that people will be stopped by the stink of the carcasses.

My View of Joel 2:20 & Ezekiel 39

Overall, I believe the northern army of Joel 2 and Gog’s army in Ezekiel 39 may be related. This implies that Gog’s forces may participate in an attack of Jerusalem during the end times. If you would like to read more about the possibility of Gog being involved in an end time attack of Jerusalem, click this link for my article on the topic.

  1. It’s worth noting that the word קִדְמַת only appears four times in the Old Testament. There is a different Hebrew word used in Old Testament to denote “east” the majority of the time.