What is the Battle of Gog and Magog?

What is the Battle of Gog and Magog?

Since winning the Six-Day War in June 1967, the nation of Israel has grown into a world military power and has proven its ability to defend itself. But according to the Bible, the greatest threat to modern Israel’s continued existence has yet to happen.

This is when Israel will be attacked by a coalition of nations from every direction. The prophet Ezekiel describes this invasion, known as the Battle of Gog and Magog, in Ezekiel 38-39. This coalition of invading nations will be motivated by a seething desire to eradicate Israel, enrich themselves, and entangle Israel’s allies in the war.

Participants of the Ezekiel 38-39 War

The prophecy of the Battle of Gog and Magog begins with a list of ten proper names in Ezekiel 38:1-7.

Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 2 “Son of man, set your face against Gog, of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal, and prophesy against him, 3
and say, ‘Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I am against you, O Gog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal.’”

4 “I will turn you around, put hooks into your jaws, and lead you out, with all your army, horses, and horsemen, all splendidly clothed, a great company with bucklers and shields, all of them handling swords. 5
Persia, Ethiopia, and Libya are with them, all of them with shield and helmet; 6 Gomer and all its troops; the house of Togarmah from the far north and all its troops–many people are with you.”

7 “Prepare yourself and be ready, you and all your companies that are gathered about you; and be a guard for them.”

Note: Italics added for emphasis

Gog

While the other nine proper names in Ezekiel 38:1-7 are specific geographical locations, the name Gog, which occurs eleven times in Ezekiel 38-39, is clearly an individual who heads the coalition of invaders.  He is also directly addressed by God several times (Ezekiel 38:14; 39:1) and is called a prince (Ezekiel 38:2; 39:1).

Ezekiel may have used ancient names familiar to the people of his day and these names have changed many times throughout history, but the geographical territory remains the same. Regardless of what names they may carry at the time of this invasion, a literal interpretation holds that these specific geographical areas will be involved.

Let’s take a look at each of these ancient locations and examine them and then we will identify the modern counterpart.

Magog

The Jewish historian Josephus said the land of Magog was inhabited by ancient Scythians. The Scythians were northern nomadic tribes who inhabited the territory from Central Asia across the southern steppes of modern Russia.

Magog today probably represents nations from the former Soviet Union: Kazakhstan, Kirghizia, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Tajikistan. Afghanistan could also be part of this territory.

Rosh

Bible scholars have often identified Rosh with Russia. But this conclusion has not been unanimous.

The word rosh in Hebrew simply means “head, top, summit, or chief.” It is a very common word used in all Semitic languages. Although most Bible translations translate rosh as a common noun – “chief,” the Jerusalem Bible, New English Bible, and New American Standard Bible all translate Rosh as a proper name indicating a geographical location.

Several arguments support taking Rosh as a proper name but the most impressive evidence is simply that this translation in this context is the most natural. G. A. Cooke translates Ezekiel 38:2, “the chief of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal.” He calls this “the most natural way” of rendering the Hebrews.

After establishing that Rosh should be translated as a proper name for a geographical area, the question now is where is Rosh? The great Hebrew scholar Wilhelm Gesenius noted that Rosh is “undoubtedly the Russians.”

Ezekiel 38-39 emphasizes repeatedly that at least part of this invading force will come from the “remote parts of the north” (Ezekiel 38:6, 15; 39:2). The Bible usually provides directions about Israel, which, on God’s compass, is the center of the earth (Ezekiel 38:12).

If you draw a line directly north from Israel, the land that is most remote or distant to the north is Russia.

Meshech and Tubal

Meshech and Tubal are normally mentioned together in Scripture. Aside from Ezekiel 38:2, Meshech and Tubal are mentioned two other times in Ezekiel (Ezekiel 27:13; 32:26).

In Ezekiel 27:13, they are mentioned as trading partners with ancient Tyre. It is highly unlikely that ancient Tyre (modern Lebanon) was trading with Moscow and the Siberian city of Tobolsk. The preferred identification is that Meshech and Tubal are the ancient Moschoi and Tibarenoi in Greek writings or Tabal and Musku in Assyrian inscriptions.

These ancient locations are in present-day Turkey.

What is the Battle of Gog and Magog
Photo Credits: Pinterest/Revelation Bible

Persia

 The words Persia, Persian, and Persians are found thirty-five times in the Old Testament. In Ezekiel 38:5, Persia is best understood as modern-day Iran. The land of Persia became the modern nation of Iran in March 1935, and then the name was changed to the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979.

Libya (Put)

Some ancient sources indicate that Put or Phut was a North African nation. The New Living Translation documents this identification in footnotes for several passages, including Isaiah 66:19; Jeremiah 46:9; and Ezekiel 27:10; 38:5.

From the Babylonian Chronicles, tablets that recorded ancient Babylonian history, it appears that Put was the “distant” land to the west of Egypt, which would be modern-day Libya and could possibly include nations further west such as modern-day Algeria and Tunisia.

The Septuagint renders the word Put as Libues.

Ethiopia (Cush)

Modern versions often translate the Hebrew word Cush in Ezekiel 38:5 as “Ethiopia.” Ancient Cush was called Kusu by the Assyrians and Babylonians, Kos or Kas by the Egyptians, and Nubia by the Greeks.

Secular history locates Cush directly south of ancient Egypt, extending south past the modern city of Khartoum, which is the capital of modern Sudan. Thus, modern Sudan inhabits the ancient land of Cush.

Gomer

Gomer has often been identified by Bible teachers as Germany, or more particularly East Germany before the fall of Communism. This identification is superficial and not the literal meaning of the word in its cultural and historic context.

Gomer is probably a reference to the ancient Cimmerians or Kimmerioi. Ancient history identifies biblical Gomer with the Akkadian Gi-mir-ra-a and the Armenian Gamir. Beginning in the eighth century BC, the Cimmerians occupied territory is what is now modern Turkey.

Josephus noted that the Gomerites were identified with the Galatians who inhabited what today is central Turkey.

Beth-Togarmah

The Hebrew word beth means “house,” so Beth-Togarmah means the “house of Togarmah.” Ezekiel 27:14 mentions Togarmah as a nation that traded horses and mules with ancient Tyre.

Ezekiel 38:6 states that the armies of Beth-Togarmah will join in, too, from the distant north. Ancient Togarmah was also known as Til-garamu (Assyrian) or Tegarma (Hittite), and its territory is in modern Turkey, north of Israel.

Based on these identifications, Ezekiel 38-39 predicts an invasion of the land of Israel in the last days by a vast confederation of nations from north of the Black and Caspian Seas, extending to modern Iran in the east, as far as modern Libya to the west, and Sudan in the south.

Therefore, Russia will have at least five key allies: Turkey, Iran, Libya, Sudan, and the Central Asian nations of the former Soviet Union.

Timing of the Battle

The battle of Gog and Magog will occur in the future, in the end times, but when in the future? While there is a general agreement about many of the details in Ezekiel 38-39, the timing of battle is the most debated issue. Scholars have located the battle at almost every major point in the end times from the Rapture all the way to the end of the Millennium.

Some believe the battle will take place before the Rapture; others believe it will occur between the Rapture and the Tribulation; others believe it will take place in conjunction with the Battle of Armageddon at the end of the Great Tribulation. Some believe it occurs at the end of the Millennium since Revelation 20:8 refers to Gog and Magog. Others maintain that it will unfold in phases throughout the Tribulation.

Thankfully, we are not left to our own speculation in timing the events of Ezekiel 38-39. The passage gives us clues that suggest when this battle will take place. One of which is when Israel is at peace (Ezekiel 38:11).

Daniel 9:27 tells us that there’s coming a time when Israel will sign a peace treaty with the Antichrist, which will guarantee protection for the Jewish people and Israel will be able to relax. This is the first half of the Tribulation or what’s called Daniel’s seventieth week.

This peacetime moment in Israel’s history fits the prophetic scenario perfectly. With these guarantees of secure borders and international peace, Israel will turn her energies toward increasing wealth rather than defense. But the peace treaty will be shattered less than four years later.


Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a commission when you use any links on this page to make a purchase, but at no additional cost to you.

The Purpose of the Ezekiel 38-39 War

What is the purpose of this invasion? The passage gives both the human and the divine purposes for the invasion.

The invaders will have four main goals: the land, money, total destruction of Israel, and power. First, the invading forces will desire to acquire more territory (Ezekiel 38:8). Any military invasion of this magnitude and scope always includes land.

Then there’s money. The invaders will come to plunder Israel and amass wealth (Ezekiel 38:12). One might wonder, “What wealth does Israel have?” No one knows for sure what this will entail, but discoveries of vast gas reserves off the coast of Israel could be part of the equation as oil becomes more scarce in the future, triggering energy wars. Make no mistake – greed will be a key motive behind the Gog invasion.

The third is racism. The invading horde will come to destroy the people of Israel and wipe them off the face of the earth (Ezekiel 38:10, 16). This is in keeping with the hatred we see for the Jewish people in Israel’s neighbors today.

Fourth is power. These nations will use this attack to challenge the Antichrist, who will be Israel’s ally as a result of the peace treaty (Daniel 9:27). Their attack on Israel will also be an attack against the Western confederacy, attempting to draw it into an open confrontation.

Finally, while the invaders will have their evil intent, God will also have His own motivation. He says that through this attack He will be sanctified in the eyes of the nations: “You will come up against My people Israel like a cloud, to cover the land. It will be in the latter days that I will bring you against My land, so that the nations may know Me, when I am hallowed in you, O Gog, before their eyes” (Ezekiel 38:16).

Result of the War

When the forces invade Israel, there will be no stopping them. They will be bent on war and destruction. The timing will seem perfect, and the invaders will not back down. It will look like the biggest mismatch in history. The Arab invasion of Israel in 1967 and 1973 will pale in comparison. The Jewish people will be unable to overcome their enemies by their own strength and ingenuity. Gog and his army will cover Israel like a cloud. It will look like Israel is finished.

However, God will come to the rescue of His people and will quickly annihilate the invaders by supernatural means (Ezekiel 38:18-22).

Ezekiel 38-39 describes what we might call “One-Day-War” or even the “One-Hour-War” or “When Gog Meets God.” God will mount up in His fury to destroy these godless invaders.

This coalition of nations will brashly swoop down on Israel to take her land, but the only piece of land they will claim in Israel will be their burial plots (Ezekiel 39:12). They will set out to bury Israel, but God will bury them.

The Prophetic Significance

Is the world stage being set for the fulfillment of this incredible prophecy? Many major developments point toward the fulfillment of Ezekiel’s prophecy, but three key elements stand out.

First, the Jewish people are back in their land, fulfilling the major pre-condition for this invasion. Second, the nations predicted in Ezekiel 38 all have the will and desire to wipe out the Jewish people and these nations are forming alliances with one another.

Third, according to Ezekiel 39:2, 4, Israel will possess the “mountains of Israel” when this invasion occurs. God tells the future invaders: “I will turn you around and lead you on, bringing you up from the far north, and bring you against the mountains of Israel.”

“You shall fall upon the mountains of Israel, you and all your troops and the peoples who are with you; I will give you to birds of prey of every sort and to the beasts of the field to be devoured.”

The famous Six-Day-War in Israel in 1967 helped set the stage to fulfill this prophecy. Before the Six-Day-war the mountains of Israel were in the hands of the Jordanian Arabs, except for a small strip of West Jerusalem.

Only since that war have the mountains of Israel been in Israel. Thus many pieces of the prophetic puzzle are already in place for the fulfillment of this prophecy.

Conclusion

Events in the Middle East today strikingly foreshadow this coming invasion. The continued unrest and smoldering hatred for Israel are necessary ingredients for what the Bible predicts.

Nations are rising and falling. The world is focused on the Middle East. Israel is in the crosshairs. No one knows when the Lord will come or how much time remains before the Battle of Gog and Magog plunges the Middle East into war.

There will undoubtedly be many twists and turns, some expected and others we could never imagine in today’s climate. But God’s Word is clear – when the world stage is set, this invasion will occur right on time in the unfolding of God’s end-times script.


Note: This article is taken from Dr. Mark Hitchcock’s book The End: A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days.

The end times have seen a great amount of interest within the last two decades, but there hasn’t been a comprehensive overview of biblical prophecy and eschatology for more than five decades. Mark Hitchcock’s book is that comprehensive resource for the twenty-first century The End will do for eschatology what Randy Alcorn’s Heaven did for people’s understanding of heaven. It will provide a solid biblical foundation for Christians to explore the essential truths around this topic―the end of the world.

2 Replies to “What is the Battle of Gog and Magog?”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *