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
Ezek 38:2-4 (NKJV)
Ezekiel prophesied of Gog, of the land of Magog, a future leader who will one day lead a coalition of nations against Israel. The Bible tells us that Gog will be destroyed by divine intervention just before the moment of his triumph. Magog is not found on any modern map, so how will this prophecy be fulfilled?
A clue to the whereabouts of the land of Magog can be found in the story of Noah in Genesis. In Genesis 10:2, Magog is listed as a grandson of Noah (and a son of Noah’s son, Japheth). Meshech and Tubal, whose names were also mentioned by Ezekiel, have the same lineage.
Scholars believe that Magog and his descendents moved north and eventually settled in what is now Russia. According to the historian Josephus, Magog’s descendents eventually became known as the Scythians. The Scythians were a warlike people who were one of the first groups to master horseback riding and the use of horse drawn wagons. The Tartars, another warlike Asian people who settled in modern Russia, may also be descended from Magog.
Similarly, Meshech is believed to have founded northern peoples. Ethnic Georgian tradition is that Georgia was founded by descendents of Meshech. The Russians believe that the city of Moscow (Moskva) was founded by King Mosokh, another descendent of Meshech. They believe that the name of the city is a combination of Mosokh’s name and that of his wife, Kwa.
Tubal is the third son of Japheth identified by Ezekiel. Tubal’s tribe is believed to have settled south of the Black Sea and eventually moved further into Asia. The city of Tobolsk, situated on the Tobol River in Siberia, is believed to refer to Tubal.
Two other grandsons of Noah are also listed by Ezekiel. Gomer, another son of Japheth, was progenitor of the Cimmerians, a people who settled north of the Black Sea. The Cimmerians are believed to have been ancestors of the Celts. Togarmah (Genesis 10:3) is a son of Gomer. Ezekiel refers to Togarmah “from the far north” (38:6).
Likewise, Ezekiel 38:15 says that Gog will come “out of the far north.” When Ezekiel speaks of the north, he uses Israel, and more specifically Jerusalem, as a reference point. One far northern country would be Turkey, and some scholars do believe that Ezekiel’s references do point there. However, beyond Turkey, Moscow lies the far north of Israel and Jerusalem. Given Soviet support for Israel’s enemies over the past few decades, as well as Russia’s support of Iran today, Russia seems to be a much more likely candidate for the country of Gog.
The Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament) refers to “Rhos” instead of “Rosh” (Ezekiel 38:2). A tribe of Scythians in Crimea used this name, and the inhabitants of Russia may have taken their name from them. Additionally, the Araxes River, which flows through Turkey, Iran, and Azerbaijan, has also been called the Rhos. An alternative explanation for “Rosh” is that it refers to the Hebrew word for leader and is thus a title.
Finally, the meaning of the word “Gog” remains mysterious. Gog may refer to the name of an individual who will lead the latter days Russian army against Israel. Another possibility is that Gog is a title bestowed upon such a leader. One suggestion is that it may be a contraction of “Chakan,” a Northern Asiatic term for a king.
The clues that the Bible gives about the leader of the coalition can be viewed in terms of modern geopolitics. Two decades after the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia is once again resurgent. Oil wealth has provided Russia with the means to revitalize its military.
Vladimir Putin, a former official of the KGB and the FSB (Federal Security Bureau), succeeded Boris Yeltsin as Russia’s president in 2000. He was reelected in 2004, but had to step down in 2008 due to term limits. His handpicked successor, Dmitri Medvedev, immediately named Putin as his prime minister, where he continues to wield considerable power.
Putin’s administration has been characterized by crackdowns on democracy and murders of dissidents. Putin strengthened the power of the Russian executive during his time in office. He has also made numerous veiled and blatant threats against former Soviet republics and, in 2008, was instrumental in Russia’s invasion of Georgia.
Under Putin, Russia and Iran have grown closer. Russia is supplying Iran with nuclear reactors and modern air defense systems. Russia has also interfered with UN and NATO efforts to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Russia and Iran have formed an economic alliance and are very close militarily as well, for the first time in history. Iran, of course, was traditionally known as Persia.
Vladimir Putin may or may not eventually prove to be Gog of Magog. Currently, he is a likely candidate as the de facto ruler of Russia. His entreaties toward Iran, a traditional enemy of Israel, also match Ezekiel’s prophecy and give him a motive to lead a joint attack on Israel at some point in the future.
Epicenter: How the Current Rumblings in the Middle East Will Change Your Future, Joel C. Rosenberg
Schofield’s Study Notes, Bible Explorer 4.0, Wordsearch, 2004.
Jamieson-Faussett-Brown Bible Commentary, Bible Explorer 4.0, Wordsearch, 2004.