When will the Ezekiel 38-39 war be fulfilled? Get a more secure handle on exactly what nations are involved in Ezekiel 38-39 and when the Gog-Magog Battle will occur in this academic presentation made by evangelist Nathan E. Jones!
“If biblical prophecy teaches us anything, it is that God is in complete control of human history and its culmination.”1
That quote by Dr. Ron Rhodes highlights one of the greatest benefits of studying God’s prophetic word—fulfilled Bible prophecy provides an indisputable apologetic for the existence of God. “For prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21 NKJV). Intertwined with that apologetic is an evangelistic message that effectively proclaims the triune God of the Bible alone stands apart the one true God, and only as revealed in Scriptures.
While Bible prophecy constitutes a whopping 27% of the Bible, God’s overall plan for the ages appears to be rather like a 100 piece puzzle, and so far, He has only provided 75 pieces. One can definitely make out the outline of a picture, but until certain events unfold, which then adds another new piece to the puzzle, the picture remains incomplete.
These absent proverbial puzzle pieces have been a stumbling block for the apologist wielding Bible prophecy as an evangelistic tool and those to whom they are witnessing, causing both to not properly see the big picture of God’s redemptive plan for mankind. And so, to use Bible prophecy as an effective apologetic in one’s evangelistic efforts, the student of the Bible must dive into the complete Word and utilize that one dirty word so missing in much of today’s “newspaper exegesis” so unfortunately equated with the field of Eschatology—study. The proclaimer of God’s Word must be able to study a particular biblical prophecy, and much like a diamond, carefully examine the many glistening facets in order to discern exactly what revelations the Bible desires to impart.
One such “incomplete” prophecy can be found in Ezekiel chapters 38-39 which concerns what is called the Gog-Magog Battle or the War of Gog and Magog. At first read, as one theologian so colorfully commented, the book of Ezekiel can appear as if a “perplexing maze of incoherent visions—a kaleidoscope of whirling wheels and dry bones that defy interpretation,” causing readers to “shy away from studying the book and to miss one of the great literary and spiritual portions of the Old Testament.”2 And, he would be right.
That is why this study will evaluate the research provided by Dr. Ron Rhodes of Reasoning from the Scriptures Ministries in his authoritative book on Ezekiel 38-39 titled Northern Storm Rising. Dr. Rhodes earned his Th.M. and Th.D. degrees from Dallas Theological Seminary, has long served as a professor at that seminary, and has authored an incredible 80-plus books mainly about the doctrine of Eschatology. Northern Storm Rising focuses on discerning who the Gog-Magog players are and examines the clues as to when this prophesied war will occur. Dr. Rhodes’ work will be evaluated in light of the research of other esteemed theologians. In the process of mining the book of Ezekiel for its “rich spiritual truths that strike with peculiar force upon the hearts of men,” the hope is the reader will be “brought face to face with a transcendent God, a self-existent being who has absolute power and is constantly revealed in glory.”3
A long 2,600 years ago, the great Hebrew nabi, Ezekiel ben Buzi of the priestly family of Zadok, was exiled to Babylon in 597 B.C.4 There he unveiled a prophecy the Lord God had divulged to him concerning the future of the nation of Israel. Recorded in the book of Ezekiel chapters 36 and 37, the prophet revealed that God would fulfill His promise to regather the Jewish people “out of all [the] countries” of the world where they had been dispersed “and bring you into your own land” that had been promised to their forefathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Ezekiel 36:24; Geneses 17:7; 1 Chronicles 16:17-18; Psalm 105:8-11; Romans 9:4 NKJV).
Like dry bones reanimated into a living person, Israel did indeed become a nation once again on May 14, 1948, after nearly 1,900 years since the Romans in 70 A.D. destroyed Jerusalem and exiled the Jewish people across the globe. But, this reanimation would still lack a soul—the national belief in Yahweh and His Son. As one commentator noted: “The bones came together. The flesh crept up over them. They were ready for life, but as yet there was no life in them. It was still a congregation of corpses.”5 After all of these centuries, this prophecy found its fulfillment in our modern generation. But, God was not done unveiling the future of Israel to Ezekiel and the world, for the following two chapters portray a great trial for the newly established nation of Israel—the Gog-Magog Battle—a trial that would lead towards granting that reanimated body a soul.
The Gog-Magog Battle is set between a massive coalition of nations descended from Noah’s sons Japheth and Ham against Israel (Genesis 10:2-7). The nations are from the territories of ancient Rosh, Magog, Meshech, Tubal, Persia, Cush, Gomer, and Beth-Togarmah (Ezekiel 38:2-6). Their leader is called “Gog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal” (Ezekiel 38:2-3 NKJV). The battlefield is on “the mountains of Israel, which had long been desolate” (Ezekiel 38:8 NKJV). The purpose of the invasion is to “plunder and to take booty” and attack the people of Israel (Ezekiel 38:12-16 NKJV).
The end result of such a massive invasion by a seemingly invincible army on an unprotected Israel ends up surprising the invaders and shocking the world. The invading nations are, in truth, being manipulated by God, pulled out of their lands as with “hooks in your jaws,” so that those nations feel the Sovereign Lord’s fury (Ezekiel 38:4,18 NKJV). God drags these specific nations to the “mountains of Israel” to “bring him to judgment with pestilence and bloodshed… flooding rain, great hailstones, fire, and brimstone” (Ezekiel 38:21-22 NKJV). God’s ultimate purpose for supernaturally obliterating the invading coalition is so: “Thus, I [God], will magnify Myself and sanctify Myself, and I will be known in the eyes of many nations. Then they shall know that I am the LORD” (Ezekiel 38:23 NKJV).
God’s supernatural victory over the Gog-Magog invaders allows Him to reintroduce Himself to the world and declare in no uncertain terms that Yahweh is personally defending Israel. Should the people of the world doubt, they only have to look on Israel who “will go out and set on fire and burn the weapons… and they will make fires with them for seven years” (Ezekiel 39:9 NKJV). As for the invaders’ corpses, “for seven months the house of Israel will be burying them, in order to cleanse the land” in the newly named “Valley of Hamon Gog” by a newly built “town called Hamonah” (Ezek. 39:11-12,16 NKJV).
Ezekiel provides the prophetic name of the leader of this coalition of nations—“Gog, of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal” (Ezekiel 38:2-3 NKJV). Whether Gog is a real name as was used of a descendent of Reuben in 1 Chronicles 5:4, or is a title for a supreme position such as king or president, remains to be seen. Some historians even point to King Gyges of Lydia, who asked King Ashurbanipal of Assyria for help in 676 B.C. but then joined an Egyptian-led rebellion against Assyria, as a historic type.6 Gyges’ name in that era became synonymous with terror, bloodshed, and homelessness.7 Others point to Genghis Khan who, during the 1200s, ruled the Mongol empire which covered a fourth of Asia, as another historic type.8 Whether Gog is either historical or the prophesied Antichrist that is yet to come, depends on when one places the timing of the Gog-Magog Battle. Either way, the identity of Gog truly lives up to the meaning of his name—”hidden or covered.”9
Ezekiel 38:1-6 provides the ancient names of those territories which comprise the invading nations: Rosh, Magog, Meshech, Tubal, Persia, Cush, Put, Gomer, and Beth-Togarmah. If only Ezekiel had gone the extra mile and given the names of the invading nations contemporary to the battle, a lot of debate over their modern identities would have been saved. Nevertheless, God prefers students of the Bible to do their historical research, and the following list of equivalent names is the fruit of that research.
Some historians point to the former Soviet nations of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, as well as including Afghanistan, as encompassing the land of Magog. Historian Edwin Yamauchi explains that Magog was the “ancient Scythian northern nomadic tribes who inhabited territory from Central Asia across the southern steppes of modern Russia.”10 These nations, today consisting of a population of 60 million, are united by one commonality—Islam.11
The ancient Moschoi or Muschki or Musku tribe settled in Cilicia and Cappadocia, which is now part of modern-day Turkey.12 Ezekiel 27:13 notes these people traded in slaves to Tyre and Ezekiel 32:26 refers to them as an ancient bandit nation.
The people of Tubal would have hailed from the ancient Tibarenoi tribe.13 For those who have equated Tubal as the Serbian city of Tobolsk, along with Meshech as the Russian city of Moscow, Hebrew Scripture experts claim there is “no etymological, grammatical, historical, or literary data in support of such a position.”14 This land also resides in modern-day Turkey.
The Jewish historian Josephus identified Gomer who “founded those whom the Greeks now call Galatians [Galls], but were then called Gomerites.15 Some theologians point to Germany as the land of Gomer, leading one theologian to ask, “What if a united and anti-Semitic Germany were to seek its future fortunes while allied to an anti-Semitic Russia?”16 The Jewish Midrash Rabbah and Talmud also call Gomer “Germania” indicating today’s Germany.17 Not a commonly held view, but one Oxford historian even suggested Gomer’s son who became the ancestor of the Celtic people necessitates including the Cymry of Wales and Brittany, meaning Great Britain.18 Gomer most popularly looks to reference the Gimirrai of the Assyrians, or Cimmerians, who lived in the Black Sea area adjacent to Turkey.19
Togarmah, or Beth-Togarmah, which means the “house of Togarmah,” contains an etymological connection between the name Togarmah and the names Turkey and Turkestan.20 The Tilgaimmu resided between ancient Carchemish and Haran, which is modern-day Turkey and possibly the lands of Azerbaijan and Armenia.21
The land of Persia is ancient and long-running and the easiest to identify, only having changed its name to Iran during the last century in 1935.
Cush is another area easy to identify, having split into Ethiopia and the Sudan in more recent history.
While the Midrash Rabbah claims Put is not Libya or Lub, but rather Somaliland or Somalia bordering on Ethiopia, the scholars reviewed all claim that Put is indeed Libya with the possibility that the land also includes Algeria and Tunisia.22
Ezekiel describes “Sheba and Dedan, the merchants of Tarshish, and all their young lions” as just observing the battle (Ezekiel 38:13 NKJV). Sheba and Dedan were Shem’s descendants who settled in modern-day Saudi Arabia.23 Tarshish could refer to Tarsus located just northwest of Israel, or the island of Sardinia located just north of Carthage in the Mediterranean Sea.24 But, more than likely, the inhabitants of Tartessus, located on the southwest coast of Spain, denotes the Phoenician merchants who sailed as far as Britain.25 The “young lions” could then be referring to Spain and Great Britain’s colonies in the New World.
Noticeably absent from this list of Middle Eastern nations are those surrounding modern-day Israel, such as Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Gaza, Iraq, and the Arabian peninsula nations. Why these “many nations” are not also actively involved in the Gog-Magog Battle is open to speculation, but a Psalm 83 scenario where the seer Asaph foresaw Israel subjugating their surrounding neighbors could be the scenario that grants Israel the peaceful precondition Ezekiel describes that precedes the Gog-Magog invasion (Ezekiel 38:11).
In the second part of this academic presentation about the prophetic Gog-Magog War of Ezekiel 38-39, I will attempt to prove that ancient Rosh is modern-day Russia.
1. Ron Rhodes, Northern Storm Rising (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2008), 13.
2. John F. Walvoord & Roy B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old Testament (Wheaton, IL: Scripture Press Publications Inc., 1985), 1225.
3. Kyle M. Yates, Preaching From the Prophets (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1942), 179.
4. Gaalyah Cornfeld, Archaeology of the Bible: Book By Book (London, England: Adam and Charles Black, 1977), 179.
5. W. MacKintosh MacKay, The Goodly Fellowship of the Prophets (New York, NY: Richard R. Smith, Inc. Publishers, 1929), 181.
6. Tent C. Butler, (Ed.), Holman Bible Dictionary (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 1991). 565.
7. William P. Barker, Everyone in the Bible (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1966), 115.
8. Stephen M. Miller, The Complete Guide to Bible Prophecy (Uhrichville, OH: Barbour Publishing, 2010), 128.
9. New Catholic Edition of the Holy Bible (New York, NY: Catholic Book Publishing Co., 1957), 997.
10. Edwin M. Yamauchi, Foes From the Northern Frontier (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1982), 64-109.
11. Mark Hitchcock, The Coming Islamic Invasion of Israel (Sisters, OR: Multnomah, 2002), 31-32.
12. Tim LaHaye & Ed Hindson (Eds.), The Popular Encyclopedia of Bible Prophecy (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2004), 119-120.
13. John. B. Taylor, Ezekiel: An Introduction and Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1969), 244-245.
14. Frank E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Vol 6) (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1986), 930.
15. Josephus, The Works of Josephus. “Antiquities 1.6.1.” (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1987), 36.
16. John Phillips, Exploring the Future: A Comprehensive Guide to Bible Prophecy 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids, IL: Kregel, 2003), 327.
17. Midrash Rabbah 37:1.
18. Alfred Edersheim, Old Testament Bible History (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1975), i.59.
19. Taylor, 244-245.
20. Henry M. Morris, The Genesis Record: A Scientific and Devotional Commentary on the Book of Beginnings (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1976), 247.
21. LaHaye & Hindson.
22. Midrash Rabbah 37:1.
23. Marshall W. Best, Through the Prophet’s Eye (Enumclaw, WA: WinePress Publishing, 2000), 146.
24. Best, 144.
25. Charles F. Pfeiffer, Baker Bible Atlas (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1961), 40.