Gog and Magog Identified

OVERVIEW - Revelation identifies “Gog and Magog” as the nations from the “four corners of the Earth” are gathered to attack the “saints” in Satan’s final bid to destroy the churchRevelation 20:7-10

World Reach - Photo by Kelsey Knight on Unsplash
The prophet Ezekiel received a vision of an invading force consisting of regional nations that attacked ancient Israel from a northerly direction. This military force was spearheaded by “Gog of the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal” - (
King James Version). Before completing the destruction of Israel, “Gog” and his forces were destroyed by divine intervention, “on the mountains of Israel.” - [Photo by Kelsey Knight on Unsplash].

Ezekiel identified several of the nations involved in the attack, including several countries known from history, but also several whose identities remain uncertain; especially, “Rosh” - (Translated “chief” in the King James Version).

Several interpretations identify this ‘rosh’ with modern Russia because of a perceived similarity in the pronunciation of the two terms. Regardless, the book of Revelation identifies “Gog and Magog” as the “nations” gathered from the “four corners of the Earth” in a final attempt to destroy the “saints” - (Revelation 20:7-10).
  • (Ezekiel 38:1-9) – “And the word of Yahweh cameto me, saying: Son of man Set your face against Gog, of the land of the Magog, Prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy concerning him, and say, Thus saith My Lord Yahweh, Behold me! against you, O Gog, Prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal; Therefore, I will turn you about and put hooks in your jaws, and bring you forth and all your army…Persia, Ethiopia, and Libya with them, all of them, with shield and helmet; Gomer and all her hordes, The house of Togarmah the remote men of the North and all his hordes, Many peoples with you.”
The nations listed are derived from the so-called “Table of Nations” found in the tenth chapter Genesis, which lists the descendants of Noah’s three sons - Shem, Ham and Japheth - (Genesis 10:1-32).

In the book of Ezekiel, the geographic range of the nations listed is to the north of Israel, as far as the Caucasus Mountains, to the south, into the Arabian Peninsula, to the east, as far as the Iranian plateau, and to the west, as far as the Aegean Sea, and possibly Spain (Tarshish) - {Kenneth Matthews, Genesis 1 – 11:26 (Broadman and Holman Pub., 1996), p. 437}.

Genesis places the descendants of Japheth in regions to the north and west of Palestine - Asia Minor, the Aegean area - The offspring of Ham in Africa, Mesopotamia and Arabia, and the descendants of Shem in northern Mesopotamia, Syria, and Arabia. The “Table of Nations” totals seventy nations, a number that symbolizes the totality of human civilization.

In Ezekiel, the invading force is composed of peoples descended from Japheth and Ham. This includes nations from the north (Magog, Gomer), east (Persia) and south (Libya, Ethiopia), as well as groups from the “ends” of the earth. The geographic directions are from the perspective of Israel. To the west, Palestine is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea.

All the nations in Ezekiel were known to ancient Israel. “Gog” is the leader of the force, not a separate nation. “Gog” was from the “land of Magog and a chief prince of Meshech and Tubal.” The first-century Jewish historian, Josephus, identified “Magog” with the Scythians north of the Black Sea - (Antiquities, I.vi.1). The name “Gog” resembles the name of a famous king of Lydia, Gyges or Gugu. If this is correct, “Magog” may refer to the kingdom of Lydia in western Asia Minor.

While “Magog” has not been identified with certainty, “Meshech” and “Tubal” are known to historians from ancient Assyrian literature - the tribes of Mushki and Tabal from central and eastern Anatolia, and near the headwaters of the Tigris River.

“Uttermost parts of the North”

Historically, attacking armies invaded Israel from the north due to the geographical conditions of the Middle East, especially along the so-called “Fertile Crescent,” an arc of arable land, extending from Palestine north to the southern boundaries of the Taurus Mountains, then east along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, finally ending in Mesopotamia. On the east, Palestine was bordered by an arid region that blended into the vast Arabian Desert and could not support a large army attempting to cross it.

Traders and invaders alike traveled to and from Palestine along the Fertile Crescent with its ready supply of food and water - Regardless of their place of origin, armies and trade goods arrived in Palestine from the north.

The frequent connection of a northerly direction assigned to invading forces in the Old Testament reflects the direction from which invaders historically arrived in Israel, not necessarily to their point of origin. Babylon and Persia lay to the east of Israel, yet both attacked by marching northwestward along the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, then southward along the Mediterranean coast.

It does not follow from the reference to the “uttermost parts of the north” that “Gog” might be Russia simply since it is located to the far north of Palestine. The phrase refers to the furthest reaches of the north from the perspective of ancient Israel, which knew next to nothing about regions beyond the Caucasus Mountains.

The books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel all describe Babylon as a nation from the “north,” from the “uttermost parts of the north,” and from the “uttermost parts of the earth,” although geographically, it lay to the east of Israel - (Isaiah 14:13, Jeremiah 1:15, 6:22, 25:32, 31:8, 50:41, Ezekiel 26:7).

Gomer” and “Togarmah” were to the north of Israel, and “Gog” is said to be “from the uttermost parts of the north.” However, the military coalition in Ezekiel also included nations from the east (Persia) and south - (Cush, Put - Ezekiel 38:6, 38:15, 39:1-2).

In Ezekiel, the stress is not on the direction of the attack, but on how the invading force completely encompassed the land of Israel. Note the following passages:
  • (Ezekiel 38:9) – “And you shall ascend, you shall come like a storm, you shall be like a cloud to cover the land, you and all your hordes, and many peoples with you.”
  • (Ezekiel 38:15-16) – “And you shall come from your place out of the uttermost parts of the north, you and many peoples with you, all of them riding upon horses, a great company and a mighty army; and you shall come up against my people Israel, as a cloud to cover the land: it shall come to pass in the latter days, that I will bring you against my land, that the nations may know me, when I shall be sanctified in you, O Gog, before their eyes.”

Is “Rosh” Russia?

The identification of “Rosh” with ‘Rus’ or Russia is based on perceived similarities in pronunciation and spelling. However, the similarities are superficial and do not reflect the Old Testament usage of the Hebrew word, rô'sh - (Strong’s - #H7218).

Rosh” was the name of a grandson of Benjamin, otherwise it is not used as a proper name. It was not one of the nations listed in Genesis, and it is not so used in Ezekiel - (Genesis 46:21).

Rosh” occurs almost 600 times in the Hebrew Bible, virtually always with the basic meaning “head.”  From this are derived metaphorical ideas, including “chief, top, beginning, sum, first.” It is the term used in the Old Testament for the “chief priest” and ‘Rosh Hashanah,’ the term for the “first” or “head” of the month.

In the passage from Ezekiel, the text reads, “Gog of the land of Gog, chief prince of Meshech and Tubal,” not “Prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal.” It refers to a rank, not to a nation - (Exodus 12:1-3, 1 Chronicles 27:5, 2 Chronicles 19:11).

Rosh” occurs 38 times in the book of Ezekiel, always with the sense “head,” with the only possible exception in Ezekiel 38:2. The book never uses the word as a proper name, whether for a person, place or thing. The Hebrew noun rô'sh is spelled differently than the modern Hebrew form for Rus. The two words have only the initial ‘r’ sound in common. Thus, Russia is NOT 'rosh.'

New Testament Interprets the Old

The New Testament often applies Old Testament passages in unexpected ways. For example, Paul universalized the original “land promise” to Abraham so that it now encompasses the entire “world” or kosmos. Peter labeled Christian congregations as “an elect race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession,” terms originally given to ancient Israel - (Romans 4:12-13, 1 Peter 2:9, Exodus 19:5-6).

The book of Revelation is no exception. The seven churches of Asia were constituted “a kingdom of priests unto God.” The prophecy that the “house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem” would look upon the one whom “they pierced” is universalized to become - “All the tribes of the earth” - (Exodus 19:4-6, Zechariah 10:10, Matthew 24:30, Revelation 1:4-7).

How the New Testament applies an Old Testament passage is the decisive factor in its interpretation.

The “Kings of the Whole Earth”
  • (Revelation 16:12-19) – “And the sixth angel poured out his bowl upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way might be made ready for the kings that come from the sun-rising. And I saw coming out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits, as it were frogs: for they are spirits of demons, working signs; which go forth unto the kings of the whole habitable earth, to gather them together to the war of the great day of God, the Almighty…And the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell: and Babylon the great was remembered in the sight of God, to give to her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath.
Images from two Old Testament passages provide the imagery for the “war of the great day of God, the Almighty” - The battle of “Armageddon” - A prophecy about the conquest of Babylon by Cyrus the Great from the book of Isaiah, and the prophecy from Ezekiel concerning “Gog and Magog.”  Clauses from both passages are combined to form one new image.

Yahweh promised the restoration of the Jewish nation that was defeated by Babylon. To facilitate this, He would command the deep and rivers to “be dry…who says of Cyrus, He is my shepherd and shall perform all my pleasure.” Yahweh would “raise up one from the north who would come from the sun-rising,” “disquiet the inhabitants of Babylon,” and cause “a drought upon her waters that they should be dried up.” The overthrow of Babylon meant the liberation of the Jewish exiles - (Isaiah 41:45, 44:24-28, Jeremiah 50:38, 51:36).

This was fulfilled in October of 539 B.C. when a Persian army rerouted the Euphrates River to expose a dry riverbed to provide an entry point by which it could penetrate the walls of Babylon. This was the historical event that provided the background for the “battle of Armageddon” unleashed by the “sixth bowl of wrath.” The image of the “kings from the sun-rising” marching across a dry riverbed borrows language from this prophecy - (Daniel 5:1).
  • (Isaiah 41:2, 25) – “Who has raised up one from the sunrise, whom he calls in righteousness to his foot? He gives nations before him and makes him rule over kings; he gives them as the dust to his sword, as the driven stubble to his bowI have raised up one from the north, and he is come; from the rising of the sun one that calls upon my name: and he shall come upon rulers as upon mortar, and as the potter treads clay.”
Thus, Revelation uses the conquest of ancient Babylon as a model for its vision of the downfall of end-time “Babylon.” In it, neither the “Euphrates River” nor “Babylon” is a literal geographical reference.

World Empire Photo by Christine Roy on Unsplash
World Empire Photo by Christine Roy on Unsplash

When the “
sixth bowl” was emptied, three demonic spirits caused the “kings of the whole habitable earth” to assemble for the war of the “great day of God, the Almighty.” The description employs language from Ezekiel’s prophecy:
  • I will turn you back and put hooks into your jaws, and I will gather you and all your armyBe prepared and prepare yourself, you and all your company that are gathered unto you…in the latter years you shall come into the land that is brought back from the sword and is gathered out of many people, against the mountains of Israel...You shall ascend and come like a storm, you shall be like a cloud to cover the land, you and all your bands, and many people with you.”
In Revelation, the “kings from the sun-rising” and the “kings of the whole earth” are one and the same - The latter interprets the former - The original image has been universalized. Ultimately, the “kings of the earth” are gathered to destroy “Babylon.” The “gathering” of the kings parallels the “gathering” of “Gog of Magog” in Ezekiel, a force that was destroyed on the “mountains of Israel” - (Ezekiel 38:3-10, 39:1-3).

In the “sixth bowl of wrath,” demons “gathered the kings of the earth unto the war.” The term “war” is singular and has a definite article or “the,” which indicates a specific event - It is “THE war.” Later, the “kings of the earth and their armies were “gathered together to wage war” against the heavenly “Rider on a White Horse.” Note the verbal parallels with the prophecy about “Gog and Magog” in Ezekiel:
  • (Revelation 19:17-21) – “And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God; That ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great. And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make the war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army…And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh.”
  • (Ezekiel 38:7-8) – “Be prepared, you and all your companies that are gathered together to you, and be a guard to them. After many days you shall be visited: in the latter years you shall come into the land that is brought back from the sword, that is gathered together out of many peoples upon the mountains of Israel.”
  • (Ezekiel 39:17-20) – “Thus says Yahweh; Speak to every feathered fowl, and to every beast of the field, assemble yourselves and come; gather yourselves on every side to my sacrifice that I do sacrifice for you, even a great sacrifice upon the mountains of Israel, that ye may eat flesh and drink blood. Ye shall eat the flesh of the mighty and drink the blood of the rulers of the earth, of rams, of lambs, and of goats, of bullocks, all of them fatlings of Bashan. And ye shall eat fat till ye be full, and drink blood till ye be drunken, of my sacrifice which I have sacrificed for you. Thus, you shall be filled at my table with horses and chariots, with mighty men, and with all men of war, says the Lord Yahweh.”
  • (Ezekiel 39:21) – “And I will call for a sword against him unto all my mountains, says the Lord Yahweh: every man’s sword shall be against his brother.”
As in the “sixth bowl of wrath,” the force attacking the “Rider on a White Horse” included the “kings of the earth” and their armies. As before, the “war” is singular. And in both visions, a virtually identical Greek clause is used for the “gathering” of the “kings of the earth”:
  • (Revelation 16:14) - “Gather them unto the war” - (Greek: sunagagein autous eis ton polemon).
  • (Revelation 19:19) - “Gathered to make the war” - (Greek: sunégmena poiésai ton polemon).
The “birds” were summoned to eat the flesh of “the mighty” and to drink the blood of the “rulers of the earth.” The list of participants from Ezekiel is expanded in Revelation to include kings, captains, and all men, both free and slave, small and great. Additionally, the “kings of the earth and their armies” were slain by the sword; likewise, in Ezekiel 39:21, “every man’s sword shall be against his brother.”

“Gog and Magog” - (Revelation)
  • (Revelation 20:7-10) – “And when the thousand years are finished, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison and shall come forth to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to the war: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they came up over the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down out of heaven and devoured them. And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where are also the beast and the false prophet; and they shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.”
In Revelation, “Gog and Magog” are named explicitly. Once more, the attacking force is gathered to “the war,” singular. The passage uses language from several verses from Ezekiel chapter 38, as follows:
  • (Ezekiel 38:2) – “Son of man, set thy face toward Gog of the land of Magog.”
  • (Ezekiel 38:9) – “And you shall come up, you shall come like a storm, you shall be like a cloud to cover the land.”
  • (Ezekiel 38:16) – “You shall come up against my people Israel, as a cloud to cover the land.”
  • (Ezekiel 39:22) – “And I will rain upon him and upon his hordes and upon the many peoples that are with him an overflowing shower, and great hailstones, fire and brimstone.”
Thus, “Gog and Magog” is identical to the “nations from the four corners of the earth.” This force ascended over the “breadth of the earth to encompass the camp of the saints.” All humanity was united to annihilate the “saints.” The final “war” by Satan is the same war portrayed in the visions of the “sixth bowl of wrath” and the “Rider on a White Horse” – (Revelation 20:8-10).

God destroyed the attacking force with “fire and brimstone.” Satan was cast into the “Lake of Fire” to join the “Beast and the False Prophet.” Previously, the attacking force was destroyed by the “sword” of the “Rider on the White Horse.” Now, it is consumed by “fire and brimstone” in accord with Ezekiel 39:22 - (“I will rain upon him and upon his hordes…fire and brimstone”). This is not a contradiction - The language is metaphorical.
Gog and Magog” is not a specific country from the north of Israel, but a gathering of all the “nations of the earth” in one last effort to destroy the church.  The verbal allusions to Ezekiel’s prophecy are numerous and clear, and chapter 20 of Revelation identifies this attacking force as “Gog and Magog.”
The evidence used to identify modern Russia as “Gog of Magog” is unconvincing.  Even more important, the attempts to identify “Gog,” “Magog,” or “Rosh” with contemporary nation-states ignore how the book of Revelation reapplies and universalizes the original vision from Ezekiel 38-39.

The book of Revelation is an all-encompassing vision that divides humanity into two opposing groups - Those who follow the “Lamb,” and those who render homage to the “Beast.” The existing world order is united in its rebellion against the “Lamb” and servitude to the “Dragon.”

In the end, the invading army, “Gog and Magog,” becomes the “kings of the whole habitable earth and their armies” allied with the “Beast” in opposition to the “Lamb.” They wage “war” against Jesus by destroying his “saints,” or at least attempting to do so.




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