Gog and Magog
"Gog" and "Magog" are names used in several different contexts in Judeo-Christian scriptures, and there has been and is now a lot of confusion about their meaning.
In the book of Genesis, Magog is mentioned as a son of Japheth and a grandson of Noah. In 1 Chronicles Gog is referred to as a descendant of Reuben, the first of 12 sons of Jacob. In the book of Ezekiel the names Gog and Magog appear together, but they appear as Gog from Magog, meaning Gog is an individual while Magog is a place and not an individual. And in the Christian canon, John’s book of Revelation refers to "Gog and Magog" as evil forces that wage war on Israel.
Why is this important? Because there are many Christians in America today who are waging war and they have been led to believe it is against “Gog and Magog” to fulfill prophecy.
That, in fact, is partly what George W. Bush’s war in Iraq was about. Of course it was mostly about oil, as is revealed in the article on Bush’s Real Record). But, it was justified, at least in Bush’s and his “religious” advisers’ minds, because of the “prophecies” about “Gog and Magog.” (That was revealed in a then-secret phone call Bush made to then French President Jacques Chirac in 2003 trying to recruit the French military into his war on Iraq. Bush told Chirac that they had to fight “Gog and Magog” in Iraq and the Mid-East. Chirac, of course, was shocked by Bush’s fanaticism and asked Professor Thomas Römer, a Bible scholar, about what Bush was talking about — and Romer subsequently leaked the story).
However, Bush’s “religious” advisers had convinced him not only about the “Gog and Magog” story, but also the story of a “warring angel pouring out his vial on the River Euphrates” in John’s book of Revelation. That was the clincher, and it’s what has led many right-wing Christians to conclude that Iraq was part of “Gog and Magog.”
Unfortunately, that excuse and ostensible reason for waging war on and occupying Iraq was based on misinterpretation and misunderstanding of such prophecies. Furthermore, that was not the first time right-wing Christians in America justified their foreign policy and military objectives on the book of Revelation.
In 1970 the leaders of the “religious right” in America who supported President Richard Nixon spread the idea that the Soviet Union was Gog and Magog, and that idea became popular among right-wing conservatives.
The popularity of that belief or theory was very evident when it was spouted in 1971 by the then Governor of California, Ronald Reagan. During a speech to state legislators Reagan said: "Ezekiel tells us that Gog, the nation that will lead all of the other powers of darkness against Israel, will come out of the north. Biblical scholars have been saying for generations that Gog must be Russia. What other powerful nation is to the north of Israel? None. But it didn’t seem to make sense before the Russian revolution, when Russia was a Christian country. Now it does, now that Russia has become Communistic and atheistic, now that Russia has set itself against God. Now it fits the description of Gog perfectly."
Of course, the Soviet Union was a hypocritical empire that committed much evil (as have all the "superpowers"), but it was not “Gog” or "Magog." And while Reagan was preaching hate and making the cold war worse, the U.S. Government was hypocritical itself, and had been for some time.
Even so, the idea that the Soviet Union was "Gog" persisted. In fact, in 1983 as president, Ronald Reagan was still pushing that idea. During a speech to the National Association of Evangelical Christians he used it to label the Soviet Union as “The Evil Empire” to justify an arms buildup, even though the Soviet Union was already in decline and Soviet reformer Mikhail Gorbachev had already begun the process that ultimately resulted in the dismantling of the Soviet Union.
However, that didn’t stop the “religious right” from using the “Gog and Magog” story as a justification for militarism. After the decline and dismantling of the Soviet Union, right-wing fundamentalist and evangelical Christian leaders adapted the story to fit the situation, and they began to focus on Iran, Iraq, and other Islamic countries.
When George W. Bush rose to power in 2000 they led him to believe that Muslim countries in the Mid-East, including Iraq, represented Gog and Magog (which was revealed in the secret phone call from Bush to France.) Therefore, since such beliefs about “Gog and Magog” have become a matter of life and death and the cause of wars, we need to understand what the names really represent.
The context of Magog in the book of Genesis is genealogical, since Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth, and Magog is the second son of Japheth, whereas the context in the books of Ezekiel and Revelation is eschatological. But there has been and still is a lot of confusion and misinterpretation regarding what Gog and Magog really means in terms of modern understanding.
1 Chronicles chapter 5 states that among the many descendants of Reuben, who was the first of the twelve sons of the patriarch Jacob, was one named Gog. In Ezekiel chapters 38 and 39 the names Gog and Magog appear together, but they appear as Gog from Magog, meaning Gog is an individual while Magog is a place and not an individual.
Ezekiel 38:2 states: “Son of man, direct your face towards Gog, of the land of Magog, the prince, leader of Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy concerning him. Say: Thus said the Lord: Behold, I am against you, Gog, the prince, leader of Meshech and Tubal.”
That has been interpreted by many Christians as part of “end times” eschatology. However, we know that even though Ezekiel’s prophecy of an enemy of Israel from the north is somewhat similar to Jeremiah 1:14-16, Jeremiah and Ezekiel are different.
Jeremiah 1:14-19 states: “Then the Lord said to me: 'Out of the north the evil shall break forth upon all the inhabitants of the land. For I will call all the kingdoms of the north, and they shall come and storm the gates of Jerusalem, and against all the walls, and against all the cities of Judah. And I will utter my judgments against them; in that they have forsaken me, and have offered unto other gods, and worshiped the work of their own hands. Therefore arise and speak to them all that I command you. Be not dismayed at them. For, behold, I have made you this day a fortified city, and an iron pillar, and brazen walls, against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, against their princes, against the priests thereof, and against the people of the land. And they shall fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you. For I am with you, said the Lord, to deliver you.”
Notice that it is God that calls the “kingdoms from the north” to wage war on Israel, but Jeremiah does not mention Gog or Magog.
Futhermore, the first book of Enoch tells how God causes the Medes (Persians) and Parthians, rather that Gog and Magog, to attack Jerusalem. Moreover, the original Hebrew book of Numbers 24:7 does not mention Gog either.
In contrast to that, however, the Greek Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Bible mentions the name of Gog in Amos 7:1, where Gog is the leader of a threatening locust-like army. And that version of the book of Amos and the book of Ezekiel have been the most influential on Christians regarding Gog.
And granted, Ezekiel does state: “And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will give to Gog a place fit for burial in Israel, the valley of them that pass through on the east of the sea; and it shall stop them that pass through; and there shall they bury Gog and all his multitude; and they shall call it the valley of Hamon-gog. And seven months shall the house of Israel be burying them, that they may cleanse the land. Yea, all the people of the land shall bury them, and it shall be to them a renown; in the day that I shall be glorified, said the Lord God.” – Ezekiel 39:11-13
Since first century Christians went by the Greek Septuagint rather than the original Hebrew texts, and therefore believed in the Greek version of the book of Amos, they gave more credence to Ezekiel and saw it as prophetic and eschatological.
That, in fact, is why John’s book of Revelation changes "Gog from Magog" into "Gog and Magog," and the idea that it was apocalyptic prophecy was solidified. However, John’s book of Revelation describes his vision of “Satan” rallying Gog and Magog as not merely enemies from the north, but from "the nations in the four corners of the Earth" who wage a final battle with the Christ Jesus and his saints.
Now, certainly most of the prophets, including Jesus of Nazareth, foresaw what would happen since 1914 and what would be happening now and as we have come to the end of the passing age with all the wars and rumors of war. However, even though Ezekiel's Gog from Magog was a symbol of evil forces of the north hostile to Israel, in John’s book of Revelation, Gog and Magog have no specific geographic location, but rather represent the nations of the world, banded together for a final assault on Jerusalem.
Furthermore, according to the Bible it is God that causes the nations to bring Israel down because of "Israel's iniquity," as Isaiah put it. For Israel is a rogue nation, and the fact is that NO nation is "holy." All nations are corrupt to various degrees, and in fact the "weapons of the Lord" are not carnal or lethal, but are words of truth, mighty through God and the Spirit of truth for pulling down strongholds of mighty military power.
Furthermore, John's story in his book of Revelation is quite different from what was written in the books on "Jewish Antiquities" and "Jewish War" written in the first century by Jewish historian and scholar Flavius Josephus.
Josephus's historic record shows that Jews of that time identified Gog and Magog with the Scythians. And Josephus wrote that Alexander the Great put the Scythians, the horse-riding barbarians of the far north, in the Caucasus mountains, locked behind iron gates.
Unfortunately, between the first and sixth centuries, Christians trying to figure out John’s book of Revelation dismissed Josephus’s work, and in the 6th century, the Byzantine historian Procopius claimed it was Atila and the Huns that were the nation locked out by Alexander. And a little later other Christian writers identified them with the Saracens.
Over the centuries since then, the story has changed. At a certain point, Gog and Magog became identified with Khazaria, or the Kingdom of the Khazars, whose empire dominated Central Asia in the 8th, 9th and 10th centuries. And some people believe that the Khazars were Jews who turned back Muslim invaders in the 10th century.
Early in the 13th century many European Christians concluded that a people called "Magogoli" were the offspring of Gog and Magog, released from the prison Alexander had constructed for them, and they thought the “battle of Armageddon” was nigh. But, when that didn’t happen, Gog and Magog became the subject of much more speculation. In the 14th century a popular book even associated Jews with Gog and Magog, saying the nation trapped behind the Gates of Alexander comprised the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel.
In the 19th century some Chasidic Jewish rabbis believed Napoleon's invasions as "The War of Gog and Magog" which would herald the coming of the Jewish Messiah. Then during the Cold War between the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R. in the 20th Century the idea that Russia was popular with many fundamentalist Christian “End Times” authors and preachers, even though since 2000 many of them leave open the possibility that Gog and Magog are Muslim countries.
For example, Pat Robertson, who had insisted in 1982 when Reagan became president that the Soviet Union was Gog, changed his mind in 1992 and suggested Gog was "Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Azerbaijan."
However, some right-wing fundamentalist Christian writers submit that the fall of the Soviet Union is irrelevant and immaterial, and that Russia is definitely Gog. And, apparently the interpretation that Russia is Gog is one that even some Russians and Ukrainians believe, for some reason or another, because there are stories saying that some of them believe they are descendants of Noah's third son, Japheth.
What Is the Truth?
What religious Jews and Christians have been led to believe about Gog and Magog and a “final war” has been a matter of conjecture and misinterpretation, and it still is.
Granted, it is true that Israel’s enemies have attacked her, but they have many valid grievances against Israel because of the Israeli government’s iniquity, as is explained in the article on The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. There are two sides to the story that must be heard.
As many of the Hebrew prophets foretold, the government of the nation of Israel has committed much iniquity and offenses against her neighbors, and it is not too much better than some other terrible military regimes and occupation forces. And the ancient Jewish prophets knew it would be this way.
The prophet Isaiah was not afraid to point out the iniquity of his people, and he prophesied of the iniquity of Israel writing that it would practice the ways of war and "know not the ways of peace," and instead cause much violence, death and destruction.
That is why Israel’s iniquity has not yet been forgiven, as Isaiah prophesied it will be, because Israel and the world do not yet recognize the modern son of man, the modern prophet, and the modern “prince of peace.” But when the Israeli government gets the message and repents, then her enemies will also repent, and we will all make peace rather than try to “win” the peace by waging war.
But that will not happen until Americans stop supporting the arrogant, haughty, rogue government of Israel, and that will not happen until it is understood how and why the fundamentalist “Christian Right” is wrong about prophecy, not only about Israel and Jerusalem, but about a so-called “End Times” eschatology.
While the fundamentalist Christian “End Times” eschatology holds the idea of Apocalypse as cataclysmic and catastrophic, and has even led some Christians to believe in a so-called “Rapture of the Church” whereby the “true believers” will be carried off to heaven while all others will be “left behind” to die or suffer. However, that is not what Apocalypse means.
Apocalypse is a Greek word that actually means to "uncover, reveal, or unveil" the truth that has been ignored, forgotten, misinterpreted and misunderstood, and the phrase apokalupsis eschaton literally means "revelation at the end of the aeon, or age."
That is what Jesus actually foresaw and foretold. And that revelation has come, and is here. And while symbolic prophecies depict even more dramatic and dire events, literal real prophecies as revealed by the new revelation foretell the actual truth.
Prophets like Isaiah and Jesus knew and said that the proud and militant hypocrites who divide humanity would be judged, exposed and rebuked as this message does, and the humble, gentle, peaceful and "meek" majority of us shall unite and inherit this earth, save it, and vastly improve it.
There need be no more war. We have had enough war. There has been enough killing. The wars that were prophesied, or foreseen and foretold, have taken place. Israel need not be overrun, if it repents and asks for forgiveness so that its iniquity can be forgiven.
America, however, is a key player, because what America does will have a significant impact on what Israel, Russia, China and the Islamic nations do.
That is why this message is directed mainly at Americans, because the future of the world depends largely on what the U.S. Government does. Therefore, Americans must decide.
Do we want to continue going backward following traditions based on the idea of “divine right” and hegemonic nationalism?
Or do we want to advance and progress forward toward a more unifying, brighter future in which all people and all nations, religions, races and cultures get along?