WHAT IS THE “WAR OF GOG AND MAGOG”? Part One in a Three Part Series
(Jerusalem, Israel, Tuesday, May 10, 2011) — Today Israel celebrates her 63rd Independence Day. May the Lord bless and protect all Israelis and draw them close to His heart. May the Lord also bless and protect the Palestinian people and give His mercy and grace to both sides of this painful conflict. Jesus said, “Love your neighbor” and “Love your enemy.” Not easy, but the only way forward.
On Friday, May 6th, I had the opportunity to address a conference of some 300 Israeli Jews and Arabs and was asked to speak on “Current Events In Light of Bible Prophecy.” It was the first event of its kind to which I have been invited in Israel and it was a fascinating experience. My focus was the prophecies found in Ezekiel chapters 38 & 39, what Bible scholars describe as the coming “War of Gog & Magog.”
Here are Part One of my notes;
Today, let’s start by defining who “Gog” and “Magog” are, when this prophecy will take place, and what countries will be participating in the coalition against Israel:
- The Hebrew Prophet Ezekiel lived in Babylon (Iraq) more than 2,500 years ago and the Lord gave him a vision of events that would take place in the future.
- Ezekiel 38:16 specifically tells us these events will take place in the “last days” — that is in the End Times before the Messiah comes to set up His kingdom on earth.
- Ezekiel chapters 36 and 37 set the stage for the “War of Gog and Magog” by describing that Israel will be reborn as a country in the last days, the Jewish people will come back to the Holy Land from exile all over the world, the Jewish people will rebuild the ancient ruins and make the deserts bloom again. These things have all happened, and this suggests we are getting closer to the fulfillment of the next set of prophecies.
- Ezekiel 38:2 tells us that the war will be led be someone known as “Gog.” This is not a personal name. We’re not looking for someone named David Gog. Or Ahmed Gog. Or Dmitri Gog. Rather, “Gog” is a title, like a “Pharoah” or a “Czar.” Through the prophecy, this Gog is described as a military leader, a political leader, and a coalition builder. In Ezekiel 38:10 he is described as developing an “evil plan,” we know this is an evil man, a tyrant.
- The Hebrew prophet gives us more clues. This “Gog” is going to be from the “land of Magog.” One has to do some historical detective work to determine what Magog is, but it is possible. Flavius Josephus, the first century Roman historian, wrote in his famous book, The Antiquities of the Jews, that the people of Magog are the people whom the Greeks called “Scythians.” This is a critical clue because we know from history that the Scythians were a people group that migrated from the Middle East northward and settled north of the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea in the region we know today as Russia and the former Soviet Republics.
- There are other interesting clues, as well. Ezekiel 38:15 says that Gog “will come from your place out of the remote parts of the north.” Ezekiel 39:2 says Gog will come “from the remotest parts of the north” and come “against the mountains of Israel.” The country that is farthest to the north in relation to Israel is Russia.
- Thus, we can determine that a Russian dictator will build a diplomatic and military coalition to surround and attack the State of Israel in the End Times.
- The question then is what other countries will be part of the coalition?
- In Ezekiel 38:5, we learn that the first ally Russia will have is “Persia.” Until 1935, of course, Persia was the legal name of the country we know today as Iran. So we know that Russia and Iran will build an alliance in the last days to attack Israel.
- Ezekiel tells us that another country in the alliance will be what many English Bible translate as “Ethiopia.” The Hebrew word, however, is “Cush” and Cush is the upper Nile region that we now know as Sudan. While the current state of Ethiopia may also be involved in the war, the focus is really Sudan, which today, of course, is a radical Islamic Sunni state closely allied with Iran and Russia and deeply anti-Semitic and anti-Israel.
- Next, Ezekiel says a nation called “Put” will be part of the alliance. Josephus identifies “Put” as “ancient Lybios” — the territory that today we call Libya and Algeria. Interestingly, both countries today are deeply hostile to Israel and closely allied with Russia.
- The next country mentioned is “Gomer.” When one does the historical detective work, one learns that Gomer is what we now call Turkey. For much of the past 80 years, it didn’t make sense that Turkey would turn against Israel. Why? Because Turkey was a NATO ally, and a friend of Israel, the U.S. and the European Union. But in the last few years, the Turkish government has swung dramatically away from the West, towards Russia and Iran, and become deeply hostile towards the State of Israel.
- The next country Ezekiel mentions is “Beth Togarmah.” This is the Turkic-speaking peoples that spread out from Turkey across the Causasus, and across Central Asia. We can’t be certain precisely which modern nation states from this area will join the anti-Israel alliance, because these are almost all Muslim countries with close links to Russia and Iran.
- Interestingly, Egypt is not mentioned by Ezekiel as part of the Russian-Iranian alliance against Israel. This is interesting because Egypt has been such an historic enemy of Israel and the Jewish people. That said, perhaps Egypt’s non-involvement in the War of Gog and Magog could be explained by the peace treaty Egypt signed with Israel in 1979. This treaty is now in danger of unraveling, but at least for the near term Egypt is still unlikely to be in a position to strategically threaten Israel.
- Iraq — whether under its biblical names of Babel, Babylon, Babylonia, Shinar, or Mesopotamia — isn’t mentioned in the prophecy either, yet it, too, is an historic enemy of Israel. Still, given the liberation of Iraq in 2003, the subsequent violence, and the rebuilding now going on, Iraq is not likely to be a threat to Israel in the near term.
- Syria and Lebanon are not mentioned by named in the prophecy either. However, Ezekiel tells us repeatedly that the main military force that will be coming against Israel will be coming from the north, which means they will be coming through Lebanon and Syria.
That’s enough for today. In my next posting, I’ll explain what this coalition does and how the “War of Gog and Magog” will unfold.