The coming invasion
Ezekiel 38-39 predicts that a broad coalition of hostile forces, Led by “Gog, prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal” (Ezek. 38:2-3) will attack Israel. The huge army will attack Israel from the north, seemingly through Syria. The decisive battlefield is the “mountains of Israel, which have Long been desolate” (Ezek. 38:8). The purpose of the invasion is to “plunder and loot,” and destroy the people of Israel (Ezek. 38:12, 16).
When Israel’s destruction seems imminent, God will intervene and bring victory by sending torrents of rain, hailstones and burning sulfur on the advancing army (Ezek. 38:22). God’s hope is that through this clearly supernatural victory, many will be brought to faith in Him. Ezekiel 38:23 notes: “I will make myself known in the sight of many nations. Then they will know that I am the LORD.”
Who or what is Gog?
Gog and Magog are descendants of Noah and mentioned in genealogy listings in Genesis 10:2, 1 Chronicles 1:5 and 1 Chronicles 5:4). The terms used in Ezekiel 38 likely references the people groups associated with the descendants of the Gog and Magog listed in Genesis 10. The Gog referenced in Revelation 20 likely references the hostile and rebellious actions and spirit associated with those people groups.
The timing of the Gog-Magog invasion
The Bible provides general clues regarding the timing of the Gog Magog conflict, but not specific information. Ezekiel uses the terms, “latter years” (Ezek. 38:8) and “last days” (Ezek. 38:16) in reference to the timing. This indicates that the 2600-year-old prophecy could not be fulfilled before 1948-the year Israel reestablished itself as a sovereign and independent nation. Most believe that large sections of the book of Ezekiel present prophecies in chronological order. Ezekiel 36 profiles a displaced Israel (600 BC-1948 AD). Chapter 37 presents a revived or restored Israel (1948-). And as the last part of chapter 39 and beginning of chapter 40 present information on the Millennial Kingdom (which follows the Tribulation), it is through that chapter 38 through the first part of chapter 39, should be placed just before, or in the early part of, the Tribulation period.
The nations involved in the conflict
Ezekiel 38:1-6 presents ancient names for those invading Israel. The list includes Rosh, Magog, Meshech, Tubal, Persia, Cush, Gomer, and Beth-Togarmah. Most believe the contemporary designations are:
- Magog = Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan (and possibly Afghanistan)
- Rosh = Russia
- Meshech, Tubal, Gomer, and Beth-Togarmah = Turkey (and possibly Azerbaijan, Armenia)
- Persia = Iran
- Ethiopia = Sudan
- Put= Libya (and possibly Algeria and Tunisia)
Notably absent from the above list are the nations surrounding modern-day Israel. Many believe these nations will be under Israeli control at the time of the attack (as a result of the Psalm 83 war). Others believe these nations are referenced in the phrase, “the many nations with you” (Ezekiel 38:6b).
Ezekiel 38:2-3 notes that the leader of the coalition of nations that march against Israel is “Gog, prince of Rosh.” Gog is likely a title, such as Prince or General, or a symbolic term, associated with evil, rebellion, or violence.
Does Rosh = Russia?
The words ROSH or RUSSIA are not found in the New International Version, the King James Version, the English Standard Version, and several other notable Bible translations of Ezekiel 38:3. The word ROSH is present in the New King James, New American Standard Version, Amplified Version, and the Darby translation of Ezekiel 38:3. The variance in translations is attributed to how translators choose to interpret the word “Rosh” or “Ros” (as a noun or as an adjective).
In his book, Northern Storm Rising, Dr. Rhodes reports that the noun form points to a geographical area and the adjective points to a title or position (such as top, leader or chief). Accordingly, the NASV translators chose to translate the noun form of “Rosh,” and the NIV translators chose to use the adjective form. Both forms are acceptable.
It is worthy to note that in the fifth century A.D., the Byzantine Church referenced the people living in the area now called Russia as the Ros. Also, Ezekiel 39:1-2 states the invasion would come “from the remotest parts of the north.” Cartographers note that the land far north of Israel is modern-day Russia.
The magnitude of the destruction of the God-Magog war will be staggering. Never in history will a victory be so decisive. This, of course, is the result of God’s intervention on Israel’s behalf. Israel will bury dead for seven months, and weapons collected from the battlefield will provide fuel for the country for seven years (Ezek. 39:9-12).
Israel, though vastly outnumbered and outgunned, will be the undisputed victor. God’s desire is that many will see the supernatural nature of the victory and commit their hearts to Him. Through this victory, God proclaims He is the defender of Israel and desires all to enter into a relationship with Him. Sadly, few will.
The chaotic outflow may be referenced in the plights associated with the Horsemen of Revelation 6. The post-war chaos will likely provide an opening for a new world leader (the Antichrist) to step onto the world stage and broker a remarkable “peace covenant” (agreement) for that region (Daniel 9:27). If so, it will be that “peace covenant” that initiates the seven-year Tribulation.
Russia’s current incursion into Ukraine is not the Gog-Magog war, but it could easily morph into an action against Israel. For example, Russia has material and personnel in Syria, which constantly launch attacks against Israel. Last week, Iran sent several planeloads of supplies to Syria to support terrorist activity against Israel. Israeli jets attacked the supply centers. Russian troops in the area responded by firing missiles at Israeli jets. Tension is increasing in the region. Russia and Iran are experiencing shortages in food and natural fuels. Ukraine and Israel could satisfy their needs (this could be the “spoil” spoken of in Ezekiel 38).
In recent days, Russia has threatened to cut off energy supply lines to the UK, Poland, Finland, Sweden, and Germany (and even threatened the UK with a nuclear strike). It is easy to see how some in the region (particularly Arab States) would side with Russia in attacking Israel and absorbing satellite states (such as Ukraine) if promised economic support and abundant energy. Right now, Russia is attacking Ukraine primarily from the north—just a few hundred miles more and Israel is in their sites (just as prophesied in Ezekiel 38). Broadening military alliances with Turkey, Iran, Syria, Sudan, and Egypt is not only probable, it sets the stage for the conflict profiled in Ezekiel 38-39.
One last thought. On May 17, 2022, Israeli’s Defense Minister soberly warned that Iran was a little more than a week away from producing enough nuclear material to create a bomb of mass destruction (which Iranian leaders have vowed to use against Israel). American and UN leadership has not reigned-in Iran’s nuclear weapons development program. Israel considers this an existential threat and vows to strike. Many believe the preemptive strike alluded to in Jeremiah 49:7-8, 14-17, 20-22. Note: Elam is an ancient designation for the current region in Iran where the Bushehr Nuclear Development Facility is located.
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