There is an end-time prophecy in Ezekiel 38–39 that has fascinated me since I first started studying the Bible fifty-five years ago. Gog, along with Meshech and Tubal and several nations including Persia (Iran), Ethiopia, and Libya attempt to invade Israel and are supernaturally destroyed by God so that he “will be known in the eyes of many nations, and they shall know that I am the LORD” (Ezekiel 38:23).
In the past few months, conditions have rapidly aligned with the potential fulfillment of this 2,700-year-old prophecy. Fulfillment seems imminent. Our redemption draws nearer with every newscast.
During the twentieth century and up until the present, evangelical prophecy teachers have held to the belief that the invading force is Russia. I, too, have repeated that standard line, not having done any original research. It is not the first time I have been wrong due to accepting conventional opinions garnered from people I respect—and continue to respect. It is very time-consuming to study every belief we inherit—probably impossible. After independent study, my conclusion is that Russia may well be a part of the commanding force of Magog, but so is the United States of America, along with the rest of the Western Japhetic nations, as well as some Middle Eastern Japhetic nations.
There are three approaches to identifying the invading forces:
The most weight must be given to the Bible itself. But as in all truth, we will expect to see history and genetics supporting our biblical interpretation. Accurate Bible interpretation and true science are never in conflict.
In Ezekiel chapters 38 and 39, the prophet records the very words God spoke to him. In the “latter years,” Israel will be attacked from the north through Togarmah (Turkey) by a large federation of nations under the headship of Magog (Caucasian descendants of Japheth) who dwell in the “north parts.” Magog, Meshech, and Tubal will be assisted by “a great company, and a might army” of “many people” from the north with three additional countries: Persia from the east (Iran), and two countries from the south: Ethiopia and Libya.
Magog, Meshech, and Tubal are not the names of countries, but of ethnic groups, the descendants of Japheth through his son Magog (Genesis 10:2). After Noah’s flood, Japheth’s sons begin a northwesterly migration, eventually spreading out to occupy all of Europe, Russia, Ukraine, Poland, the Slavic states, Great Britain, and eventually the United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, etc.
Due, I think, to ethnocentrisms, some American Christians have developed a tradition of saying that Magog is Russia. It is easy for the Western free world to believe that the “Evil Empire” will invade Israel, but the idea that Europe and the U.S. might be the instigators of this invasion has been unthinkable. But it is much more thinkable now than it was seven years ago.
Modern writers think Magog is Russia because of the similarity of the words Meshech and Moscow, and Tubal and Tobolsk, but Russia didn’t exist at the time of the prophecy. However, according to numerous historical records, including Josephus of the first century and many rabbis, the descendants of Magog did exist in the area north of Turkey, below the Black Sea, and across southern Europe. The earliest Russia began to form would have been around 800 AD, 1,500 years after the prophecy. Moscow came into existence around 1147 AD, and the Russian Empire was founded in 1721. The ancient names for Moscow and Tobolsk were Slavi and Wends, not Meshech and Tubal. There is nothing in history that links Meshech and Tubal with these two Russian cities. It is just a matter of the words sharing some consonants.
And if one could find hard evidence that Meshech and Tubal are in Russia, that would exclude Russia from being the primary mover—Magog. For Magog is said to be the “chief prince” of Meshech and Tubal, indicating a difference in political structure. The head prince indicates one that leads a coalition of powers while not being the actual ruler of either of them. This fits the concept of a UN-led “peacekeeping force” under Western leadership. Turkey is the land from which Israel will be attacked, as clearly stated by the geographic description given by the prophet, yet the leader, Magog, will be “prince” over a large number of different nations.
In Revelation 20:8 we learn that “Gog and Magog” is a universal combination of nations, “. . . which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea.” Even after the millennial reign of Christ over the nations, the worldwide descendants of Magog will still maintain their ethnic identification. The fact that Scripture places Magog in the four quarters of the earth would eliminate any single nation from exclusively holding that designation. History and genetic studies support the worldwide distribution of Magog’s descendants.
It is also noteworthy that whereas the prophet named the countries of Persia and Libya, he did not name a particular country as the driving force from the north; rather, he goes all the way back to the table of nations in Genesis 10, immediately after the flood, and references the Japhetic line as opposed to the Hamitic and Semitic.
Genetics place the origin of Russians in the Slavic peoples, Poland, and Eastern Europe. So for that reason, not the similarity of names, Russia may be a significant part of the invading force, having descended from Japheth as did Europe, Great Britain, and the United States.
It is fascinating that of the more than one hundred people groups and nations in the seventh century BC within reach of Israel, the three that the prophet names still exist today and are aligned against Israel. The people of Ezekiel’s day would never suspect Libya and Ethiopia of posing a threat to Israel. If the prophet had named the more obvious Tyre, Philistia, Edom, the Amorites, or any of the Canaanite nations that were a constant threat, the prophecy would have been believable in Ezekiel’s day, but in time it would have been proven false, for all those people groups no longer exist upon the earth. Not only are the nations gone, but the ethnic lineage has disappeared. The only way to explain the incredible fact that Ezekiel was able to see 2,700 years into the future and accurately predict the surviving nations that would be enemies of Israel is by the omniscient and omnipotent God. That is no small prophecy.
The prophet dates it as “in the latter years” and says Israel is “the land that is brought back from the sword [war], and is gathered out of many people [nations where they were dispersed], . . . which have been always waste [the land was waste before the Jews occupied it]: but it is brought forth out of the nations [United Nations], and they shall dwell safely all of them” (Ezekiel 38:8). There are six specific details in the prophecy. How could the prophet know 2,700 years beforehand that Israel would be “brought forth out of the [United] nations”?
In 1947 the United Nations General Assembly allotted the Jews a place in their ancient homeland. That is a perfect description of historical events. They were “brought forth out of the nations” as boatload after boatload were dumped on the shores of their embattled, ancient homeland. Many were immediately put into battle carrying sticks. This extraordinary event occurred during my lifetime and the Scripture dates it as “the latter years.” I have lived my entire life knowing I am living in the last days before the coming of Christ.
In 1946 a Church of Christ preacher wrote a book disparaging the idea of a pre-tribulation rapture and a literal millennial reign of Christ upon the earth. His primary argument was that for premillennialism to be true, the Jews would have to occupy their ancient land of Israel, and it was obvious to him that such a thing could never happen. At the time of his writing, two-thirds of the Jews living in Europe (about half of their worldwide number) had been killed in the Holocaust. Furthermore, Britain occupied Palestine, favoring the Arabs. Israel had been dispersed throughout the nations for 1,866 years. Survivors of the Holocaust were pitiful physical wrecks. It appeared their end had come, not their redemption. But within a year of the publication of his book, Israel was a nation of Jews who had driven the English out (King David Hotel) and defeated their enemies in battle. The Star of David flew over their ancient homeland and God was worshipped in ancient Hebrew, the language in which the Scriptures were originally written. Needless to say, the publisher had a lot of books sent to the dump. Never doubt your Bible, no matter how far-fetched
Ezekiel 38:6 names two more descendants of Japheth (Caucasians/white/Aryan) that participate in the invasion of Israel: Gomer and Togarmah (Genesis 10:3). There is no objection to the fact that Gomer refers mainly to Celtic peoples, including Gauls, Britons, and Irish, which now represent not only the Western European nations but also the United States. By the fourth century BC, they spread over much of what is now France, Belgium, Switzerland, Southern Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic, and southern Russia.
You will notice an overlap of the people groups and geographical locations by the different factions, all descendants of Japheth, because the family consistently migrated north and west, mingling as they competed for territory and conquering one another from time to time. The history of Russia, Europe, and Great Britain is the history of the sons of Japheth struggling for territory and supremacy.
The prophet includes in the invasion force “the house of Togarmah of the north quarters, and all his bands: and many people with thee” (Ezekiel 38:6). Ancient Jewish sources list Togarmah as the father of the Turkic peoples. This fits the text’s geographic reference of the people north of Israel.
Today there are 170 million people speaking a Turkic language. At present, there are six independent Turkic countries: Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Turkey, and Uzbekistan. The Turkic lineage is also Japhetic (white, non-Arab, non-Semitic, non-Hamitic). The reason the prophet singles it out from Magog and Gomer is most likely due to the fact that though it is Japhetic, it is Muslim and is set apart from the Western world by its culture.
The invasion comes down through Turkey with “all his bands: and many people.” So we can expect all the Turkic “–stan” countries to be in league with Turkey and Magog.
Persia was called Persia up until 1935 when it changed its name to Iran at the urging of Hitler. The Persians, in contrast with the rest of the Arabic Muslims, are also Aryan/descendants of Japheth.
(Hebrew: Cush, Son of Ham, father of Nimrod, Genesis 10:6-8.) Ethiopia was the land occupied by the descendants of Cush and located around the southern parts of the Nile. The Ethiopia of Ezekiel’s day encompassed most of Northern Africa with the exception of Egypt. These are the only Hamites to assist in the invasion, but they will come down from the north through Turkey as well.
This alignment looks an awful lot like a United Nations operation headed by Western powers commanding some of the nations surrounding Israel.
A nation of Northern Africa. Origin of name is unknown. Libya is 90% Arab. As a nation, not necessarily a people group, it will assist in the invasion of Israel from the north, down through Turkey.
Apparently the countries from the south will be transported to Turkey, which will be a staging area for the assault.
Meshech (Genesis 10:2), son of Japheth, who traded with Israel in 593 BC, is mentioned with Tubal, plus “all her multitude” (Ezekiel 32:26), as if the two are the heads of a large number of various peoples.
“Javan, Tubal, and Meshech, they were thy merchants: they traded the persons of men and vessels of brass in thy market” (Ezekiel 27:13).
Tubal (Genesis 10:2), son of Japheth. According to Isaiah 66:19, Tubal is among the isles that are “afar off.” Tubal, it seems, refers to the people of the Asiatic highland west of the Upper Euphrates, the southern range of the Caucasus on the east side of the Black Sea. Meshech and Tubal, frequently mentioned together, are part of the ancestors of Russia, Europe, and Britain and the Americas.
The history of nations was predicted by Noah 4,338 years ago, after the flood. “God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant” (Genesis 9:27). We have seen that the history of Japheth has been one of enlargement, advancing into the wilderness of Asia all the way to the Arctic Circle (Russia), continuing west to all of Europe, Britain, and the Americas, then on to Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific Islands. The descendants of Shem have dwelt in the same region throughout history. The Chinese, Japanese, and Jews have not conquered the world and created empires on which the sun never sets, as have the descendants of Japheth.
But God has dwelt in the tents of Shem. All of the seven major religions began with Shem. Jews are from Shem. God dwelt in a temple erected by descendants of Shem. The church was founded on Jesus and his twelve apostles, all from Shem. The first several thousand converts were from Shem, and the Bible was written by Shem’s descendants.
Then the prophecy says “Canaan shall be his [Shem’s] servant.” That is not the Hamitic race as a whole, just one of the descendants of Ham (Genesis 10:6). In accordance with Noah’s prophecy, Shem (the Jews) conquered the land of Canaan and made servants of them until their eventual total demise.
Again, how miraculous that Noah could anticipate the history of his three sons!
This northern federation of Magog, Meshech, Tubal, and Gomer encompasses:
“Sheba, and Dedan, and the merchants of Tarshish, with all the young lions thereof, shall say unto thee, Art thou come to take a spoil? hast thou gathered thy company to take a prey? to carry away silver and gold, to take away cattle and goods, to take a great spoil?” (Ezekiel 38:13).
Ezekiel’s prophecy names exceptions to the invading force. Sheba and Dedan were great-grandsons of Ham. Solomon received the queen of Sheba from the south. History well documents that Sheba was in southwestern Arabia, presently Saudi Arabia and Yemen, as was Dedan, a station on the caravan road between Tema and Medina.
“The burden upon Arabia. In the forest in Arabia shall ye lodge, O ye travelling companies of Dedanim” (Isaiah 21:13).
Saudi Arabia and Yemen are not part of the attacking coalition. They stand afar and ask the question, “Why have you invaded Israel; are you come to take a spoil?” Perhaps their proximity will give them reason for concern.
The annals of the Assyrian king Esarhaddon (681–669 BC), place Tarshish on the southern Spanish coast by the Strait of Gibraltar. Ten times the Scriptures speak of the “ships of Tarshish” and of the trade Israel did with them.
Merchants from Spain will be troubled by the invasion because it cuts into their trade, which will cause them to question the motive of Magog and his great number of accomplices.
You can read Ezekiel 38–39 to see the drama unfolding. Space allows only a brief overview of events.
In the “latter days” a large force of many nations will come “like a cloud to cover the land” (Ezekiel 38:9). Their original purpose for forming the military coalition is for reasons other than an invasion of Israel. They are there to exert needed force in a troubled region, but at the same time, while they are in the vicinity, “shall things come into thy [Magog and forces] mind, and thou shalt think an evil thought: And thou shalt say, I will go up to the land of unwalled villages [Israel]; I will go to them that are at rest, that dwell safely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates, To take a spoil, and to take a prey; to turn thine hand upon the desolate places that are now inhabited, and upon the people that are gathered out of the nations, which have gotten cattle and goods, that dwell in the midst of the land” (38:10–12).
What the invading force does not realize is that God has seduced them into taking this action against his people Israel. For God says, “I will bring thee against my land, that the heathen may know me, when I shall be sanctified in thee, O Gog, before their eyes” (38:16). God brings them against Israel so he can destroy their invading forces in such a manner that everyone knows God did it, thus glorifying himself.
Verses 19–22 speak of events that match conditions in the tribulation. But it is clear that this invasion is not the Battle of Armageddon for a number of reasons. I have delineated these in the expanded version of this article, which you can acquire if you seek confirmation of my conclusions. This is a different event that precedes Armageddon and, I think, leads to the introduction of Antichrist. I do think there is a very good chance that this event takes place before the rapture of the church, although I cannot be certain. If it does take place in the Great Tribulation, it will precede Armageddon.
God warns, “I will send a fire on Magog, and among them that dwell carelessly in the isles” (Ezekiel 39:6).
“And they that dwell in the cities of Israel shall go forth, and shall set on fire and burn the weapons, both the shields and the bucklers, the bows and the arrows, and the handstaves, and the spears, and they shall burn them with fire seven years: So that they shall take no wood out of the field, neither cut down any out of the forests; for they shall burn the weapons with fire: and they shall spoil those that spoiled them, and rob those that robbed them, saith the Lord GOD. 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 [east of the Dead 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 Hamon-gog” (39:9–11).
God will destroy five-sixths (39:2) of the invading forces by means of a fire from heaven (38:22). We know it will not be nuclear because the world will recognize it to be the work of God.
There will be so many dead that it says the stench “shall stop the noses of the passengers” (39:11).
For seven months following the destruction, the entire nation is engaged in burying Magog’s dead. At the end of seven months Israel hires men to work full-time in the job of burying the dead and cleansing the land (39:12–15). An entire city will be built to manage the employees who are cleansing the land (39:16).
There is one teaser in the passage that lends credence to the possibility that this event begins before the rapture of the church. After the cleansing of the land, Israel will gather the leftover weaponry and supplies of the enemy and burn them for fuel for seven years (39:9). It seems that the seven years follows the seven months of all Israel engaged in burying the dead. The entire period in which the tribulation occurs is just seven years, preceded by the rapture and followed by the second coming and Millennium. So either the destruction takes place at least seven months before the rapture, or the burning of implements continues into the Millennium. It’s a thought. We don’t have to know for sure because we will have a ringside seat and can ride our white horse through the area when we return to the earth with our Lord, the Captain of our salvation.
If you wish to know more about this subject, order ten copies of my small book, The Prophecy of Magog and Israel: Ezekiel 38–39, and give a copy to your friends. Everyone needs to know their future. It is time to celebrate our victory.
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Sure wish you had sent this out while you were having a sale...I could have afforded it a little easier. Thank you.
Great article Mike - looking forward to the book in January!
The more I study, the more it seems part of Isaiah 17 is part of Ezekiel 38 or at least close in the timeline of their fulfillment. The valley of Hamongog is in the same general location as cities of Aroer (Is. 17:2) and Ezekiel 38:23 seems to echo Isaiah 17:7-8.
Perhaps the first part of Isaiah is being fulfilled now as Damascus has become a ruinous heap. I do not agree that a nuclear bomb destroys Damascus as many say towards the end of the chapter. The Lord uses the word "he", but cities in the bible are usually referred to as a "she". So, could the "he" in vs 14 be the enemy, either the chief prince or Magog and vs 12-13 be the UN coalition turned back by a hook in the jaw from their recent assault against ISIS? It is almost a straight decent from Turkey through Damascus to the cities of Aroer and the Valley of Hamongog.
Ezekiel says " I will go up to the land of unwalled villages; I will go to them that are at rest, that dwell safely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates," that is not the case today with Israel. They have walls and gates up and live under a constant threat, so Israel must widen their current borders via war at some point before Ezekiel 38 takes place. Do you think Psalm 83 is still a relevant prophecy for today or nullified since as you mentioned in this article, some of the people groups do not exist today?
I believe Ezekiel 38 will bring in the beginning of Daniel's 70th week as there may be a timed event here - "And it shall come to pass AT THE SAME TIME when Gog shall come against the land of Israel, saith the Lord GOD, that MY FURY SHALL COME up in my face."
I also see another option for the 7 year burning of fuel. In Ezekiel 39:9, the key word is THEY that dwell in the cities of Israel - THEY shall burn them with fire seven years:. Perhaps the THEY is not the people of Israel but the other ethnic groups that dwell within the current borders of the soon to be expanded borders of Israel.
Blessings to your ministry and family. You have been a blessing to ours. Fascinating times we live in!
Mike, I was given your article by friend who wanted my opinion. My mother got me interested in Ezk 38 & 39 at a young age. I have always followed current events comparing it with that scripture. I agree with your interpretation too. However, recently I was reading in Rev and ran across 20:7-9 where Gogh and Magog being destroyed by fire after the 1,000 year reign of Christ. I always felt this was before the tribulation too until reading this. I felt the destruction of Jerusalem led to Israel to rebuild the temple that the anti-Christ needed to defile. Thanks!