In September 2013 Mother Jones.com ran an article entitled “Oh Magog! Why End Times Buffs Are Freaking Out About Syria.” In response to allegations that the Syrian government used chemical weapons on its own people many Americans called for the United States to bomb this government’s inhuman military. Syria’s military controls its capital city of Damascus, one of the oldest cities in the Middle East. For end time buffs this brings to mind an end time prophecy from the Old Testament Book of Isaiah. In Isaiah 17:1 KJV the prophet wrote “The Burden of Damascus. Behold Damascus is taken away from being a city and it shall be a ruinous heap.” If the U.S. bombed Damascus this could result in the city becoming a ruinous heap and be the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy?
This controversy over Syria has renewed attention in end times Bible prophecy, especially since both Russia and Iran support the Syrian government. Many Christians believe that Russia and Iran will play key roles in the fulfillment of end times Bible prophecy that ultimately leads to Armageddon and the end of the world as we know it. Many end time enthusiasts believe Russia is Gog/Magog, the leader and his evil empire that Ezekiel 38/39 says will lead a multi-national invasion of Israel during the end times.
The battle of Gog/Magog of Ezekiel 38/39 is considered to be one of the most important events prophesied for the end times. Many evangelical Christians believe that Ezekiel 38/39 offers an exact description of Russia with Ezekiel 38:5 also listing Persia (Iran), Libya and Ethiopia among the invaders. Historian Paul Boyer at the University of Wisconsin in his book When Time Shall Be No More: Prophecy Belief in Modern American Culture, Harvard University Press, 1992, (p.162) wrote, "So hackneyed had this scenario (Magog and Scythia as Russia) become by the 1980’s that its proponents hardly bothered with geographic and linguistic evidence marshaled by earlier writers."
The Mother Jones article “Oh Magog!” focused on bestselling novelist Joel Rosenberg books (Implosion, Epicenter 2.0, Damascus Countdown, The Ezekiel Option). Rosenberg talks about how the innocent bloodshed in Syria is setting the stage for terrible judgment that includes the battle of Ezekiel 38/39 and Armageddon. Rosenberg fervently believes that the Ezekiel 38/39 Gog/Magog invasion involves Russia. In his book Epicenter 2.0 on page 87 Rosenberg writes, “Based on the textural, linguistic and historical evidence we can therefore conclude with a high degree of confidence that Ezekiel is speaking of Russia and the former Soviet Union in chapter 38/39.”
The only data Rosenberg gives to support this bold statement is given on page 364 in footnote no. 8 of Epicenter which lists outdated information from scholastically questionable sources. He also refers to this same footnote for reasons why Russia is Gog/Magog in his recent book Implosion in the endnotes for page 116. Yet throughout his books Rosenberg keeps repeating the mantra that Russia is represented by Gog /Magog with no further support. In other words Rosenberg calls for a Russian-led Gog/Magog alliance invading Israel even though there is no credible historical or Biblical evidence for connecting Russia to Gog/Magog.
Rosenberg has taken up the call for Russia leading the invasion of Ezekiel 38/39 that was first popularized by Hal Lindsey, an evangelist famous for his 1970 book The Late Great Planet Earth. Hal Lindsey still calls for a Russian led Gog/Magog alliance invading Israel despite new archeological and historical evidence to the contrary. This new primary evidence comes from the ancient records of the Assyrian Royal Court. These cuneiform records cover the time period of when Ezekiel wrote. The Assyrian Empire lay to the south of Asia Minor and it was the dominant power of the region. Their court records talk about all the ancient countries referred to in Ezekiel 38/39. The Assyrians received annual tribute from all of the nations of Asia Minor. The documentsrecord the dealings these nations had with the Royal Court over the years. The Assyrian records were not discovered and translated until the 1900’s. These ancient records constitute primary evidence in identifying the nations referred to in Ezekiel 38/39.
These court records tell of a warrior king called Gog (Gugu to the Assyrians and Gyges to the Greeks) from the country of Lydia (Ludu), a country the Assyrians also referred to as Magog. “Magog” simply means “the land of Gog” (matu-gugu). They tell how Gog and the nations allied with Gog were situated across Asia Minor (modern Turkey). We also read how Gog sent two shackled Cimmerian (Gomer) chieftains with rich gifts to Assurbanipal, the Assyrian King.
The Scythians (Ashkuza to the Assyrians and Ashkenaz to the Hebrews-Genesis 10:3) were at different times friends or foes of the Assyrians, and these court records make it clear that the Scythians were in no way related to Magog. Therefore it is very clear that there is no relationship between Magog and Russia, a nation that would not come into existence for another 1400 years or so. Russian origins are Scandinavian not Scythian. In May 2000 National Geographic did a special issue and documentary on Russian origins. The Assyrian Court records also support the information given in Ezekiel 38/39 and Ezekiel 27:13-14 about Meshech, Tubal and Togarmah trading people, brass vessels, and horses.
Archeologists now know Gog was a militant king who led the countries of Meshech and Tubal to defeat the Cimmerians (Gomer - Ezekiel 38:6) who were invading Asia Minor just as Ezekiel 38:2 refers to Gog of the land of Magog, as the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal. In yet another tie to scripture Gog even sent an army to Egypt to help support Pharaoh Psammetichus the son of Pharaoh Necho (II Chronicles 35:20-22) who met with Judah’s King Josiah.
Everything that is needed to properly identify the nations referred in Ezekiel 38/39 is given in the records of the Assyrian Royal Court. These records can all be read in Ancient Records of Assyria and Babylonia, vol.ll – Historical Records of Assyria, University of Chicago Press, 1926, Greenwood Press Reprint, 1968, by Daniel Luckenbill. If the Assyrian court Records are correct in these events, why would they be wrong about the identity of Gog/Magog?
As an archeologist it is astonishing to see that the scriptures about the ancient nations of Ezekiel 38/39 are directly supported by the Assyrian records. The primary evidence of the Assyrian records trump all of the subjective evidence put forth for Russia being Gog/Magog of Ezekiel 38/39. There is one historical record; Christians cannot have a separate historical record for Bible interpretation. The bottom line is that Russia is not Magog of Ezekiel 38/39. I believe that there will be a war as prophesied in Ezekiel 38/39 but Russia will not be the leader of the invasion of the nations named in Ezekiel 38/39.
The correct identification of these nations brilliantly ties together a number of important Biblical prophetic passages and shows that the Bible contains information about some very important ancient events which only recently came to be known by archeologists and historians. These new discoveries are based on DNA studies of ancient skeletons and DNA studies of Tuscan cattle.
When I read the Mother Jones article “Oh Magog!” I was disturbed that some prominent politicians such as some members of Congress, Rep. Louie Gohmert, Rep. Michele Bachman, former Senator Rick Santorum, Governor Sam Brownback, Governor Rick Perry, and Benjamin Netanyahu seem to be buying into the erroneous Biblical interpretations Rosenberg and some other evangelicals are espousing. During his presidency Ronald Reagan even bought into this erroneous Biblical interpretation which portrays Russia as an "evil empire" and the "focus of evil in the modern world". As one critic said "Bad Biblical interpretation makes for even worse politics.” It is important that Christians and political leaders have a correct understanding of just who the nations of Ezekiel 38/39 are to be as they are being influenced and making decisions based on this information.
Below is a more detailed report about Russia and the War of Gog and Magog
Russia and the War of Gog and Magog
While most end times Bible prophecy authors have argued that Russia's origins trace back to the ancient nation of "Magog” described in Ezekiel 38-39, this is simply not true. This myth that traces back to the mid 1800’s is built on historical statements that were deliberately altered, and on the assumption that the similarity of certain words could mean something else in another language. Although ancient records have been found that tell a different story about the identity of Magog and about Russia’s origins, the “Russia is Magog” myth persists.
Assyrian Court Records
The popular identification of the nations of Ezekiel 38-39 is not correct. Despite the traditional viewpoint, professional archeologists know the identity of these nations from the Assyrian Royal Court records. The reliable, clear and detailed records of Assyrian Royal Court show they dealt directly with each of these nations about 100 years before Ezekiel wrote. These are the same records that are referred to in Ezra 4:15, 19 and 5:17-6:7. These passagestell how the Jews of the fifth century BC 538 BC–457 BC overcame opposition by the local Persian governor to the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem by referring to these same Assyrian cuneiform court records. They are also the same records Bible scholars now use to provide independent verification and edification of the Bible’s historical accounts from about 805 BC to 530 BC.
The Assyrian Royal Court records provide direct evidence and represent an incontestable primary source on this subject, since they were written during the time period in question by people who were directly involved. Primary sources have greater value than secondary sources, which can include generalizations, speculation and interpretations made long after the occurrence of the events. On this particular subject, too often what has been written about these countries constitutes secondary evidence and is not based on facts. In some instances statements are the product of mischief, bias or not studying all of the available information.
The Assyrian Court records show dealings with Magog, Meshech, Tubal, and Togarmah (Ezekiel 38:3-6), the nations that stretched across ancient Asia Minor (modern Turkey) from west to east. From these records we also learn that the ancient nation of Gomer (Ezekiel 38:6), an enemy of the Assyrians invaded Asia Minor by coming down from an area around the northeast shore of the Black Sea. Archeologists know that the militant leader called “Gog” in Ezekiel 38/39 led a confederacy of these nations against invading Gomer.
Who and what are Gog and Magog?
Gog is a historical man who the Greeks called Gyges of Lydia. In Gyges of Lydia we have the leader the Assyrians called “Gugu, King of Ludu,” and “Gugu of Magugu,” who is referred to in the Bible as Gog of Magog. "Magog" simply means "the land of Gog.” In Akkadian ma means land, so in Akkadian Ma- gugu means "the land of Gugu," which becomes our Ma-gog. (Just as the Assyrian eponym for the land of the leader called Zamua is rendered as Ma-zamua). Magog is an eponym for the ancient nation of Lydia that was in the westernmost part of Asia Minor.
The Assyrians often referred to a new land by the name of the first leader they learned of from this land. The Assyrians dealt with Lydia through Meshech, who were subsequently defeated by Gomer, and thus the Assyrians finally came to deal with Lydia directly. In the prophecy of Ezekiel 38/39 Gog is being used as a "historical type" of the "antichrist" who is prophesied to come during the end times, and Magog is being used as a “historical type” of “the land of the antichrist.”
It has been mistakenly believed that the ancient nation of “Magog” in western Asia Minor was the ancient "tribal name" of the "Scythians," a group of Iranian speaking nomadic tribes from Central Asia (north of Iran) that traveled across the Russian steppes, and came to live in the territory north of the Black Sea. Then, in turn, and again in error, it has been believed that the ancient Scythians were the progenitors of the modern Russians. In Foes from the Northern Frontier Dr. Edwin Yamauchi, a professor of history at Miami University in Ohio emphatically explains that none of the ancient nations referred to in Ezekiel 38-39 can possibly be related to modern Russia. Further, Yamauchi says:
“Even if one were to transliterate the Hebrew rosh as a proper name (as does the NAS) rather than translate it as ‘chief’ (as does the KJV, NIV, and Hebrew Tanakh), it can have nothing to do with modern ‘Russia.’ This would be a gross anachronism for the modern name is based upon the name Rus, which was brought into the region of Kiev, north of the Black Sea, by the Vikings only in the Middle Ages.”
Daniel I. Block, a professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois in The Book of Ezekiel writes, "The popular identification of Tubal with Tubolsk in Russia (H. Lindsey, The Late Great Planet Earth 1970, p.53) is ludicrous. . . The popular identification of Meshech with Moscow (of Lindsey, The Late Great Planet Earth p.53) is absurd."
How did Russia become associated with Magog?
The erroneous belief that Russia is Magog can be traced back to a small group of 18th and 19th century theologians who wrote long before the primary evidence from the ancient Assyrian records was discovered, translated and made available to the public. Instead, they based their assertions on secondary sources, historical works written over 500 years after the time of Ezekiel, and to make matters worse some of these sources had come to be purposefully altered. These altered references include statements attributed to the first century AD Jewish historian Josephus, and first century AD Roman historian Pliny.
In his book The Antiquity of the Jews Josephus says that the Greeks called the "Magogites" the "Scythians" despite the fact that the Greeks did not call the Magogites the Scythians. In this same passage there are other errors in the identification of other ancient nations of Asia Minor. This passage shows that the author did not understand that Ashkenaz is the Hebrew word for the Scythians. (Interestingly, the Assyrian word for the Scythians, Ishkuza or Ashguza is similar to the Hebrew word for the Scythians – Ashkenaz.) This passage also comes into conflict with what the ancient Greek historian Herodotus who after living with each group wrote about the Scythians and the Lydians in his book The History.
Since Josephus used Herodotus' book as a reference, one can only speculate how and why these obviously wrong statements are in Josephus' book. Were these inaccurate statements the products of Josephus’ imagination, or were they the result of alterations to the few copies of Josephus' work that existed in medieval times? (Jews did not preserve the writings of Josephus because they considered him to be a traitor.) Beginning in the 11th century these surviving manuscripts were copied by Catholic monks, and obviously altered in some places to suit prevailing beliefs. Ecclesiastical acceptance of the erroneous connection between Magog and the Scythians traces back to Saint Jerome of the late fourth century AD. Unfortunately, the oft quoted statement that has Josephus connecting Magog with the Scythians is an act of document forgery.
Similarly, the oft quoted statement that has the ancient Roman historian Pliny in his work The Natural History that connects Magog with the Scythians is another forgery. Nineteenth century Scottish Reverend John Cumming is credited as being a leading promoter of the Bible interpretation that calls for Russia invading Israel. In his book The Destiny of Nations Cumming quotes a passage from Pliny’s book about Magog which he purposefully altered.
Reverend Cumming on page 126 wrote: "Pliny says 'Hierapolis taken by the Scythians was afterwards called Magog.'"
Pliny on page 439 actually wrote: "Bambyx (a part of Lydia) the other name of which is Hierapolis, but by the Syrians called Magog."
Pliny’s statement has been misquoted by Cumming in a way that makes it seem that Magog was related to the Scythians rather than the Lydians. Unfortunately, this same misquote of Pliny has been carried forward in time and appears in Hal Lindsey’s book The Late Great Planet Earth (page 53). This alteration is easily verified by going to a copy of Pliny’s book and seeing how key words were changed and switched around. It is difficult to believe that none of the many authors of books that discuss Ezekiel 38/39 and the war of Gog and Magog have not discovered this sleight of hand and exposed the deception. (While many contemporary Evangelicals gave Cumming’s books on prophecy favorable reviews, an article in the Westminster Review in 1855 about Cumming attacked him for his “intellectual dishonesty, anti-Catholic bigotry, and moral and spiritual perversion.”)
The correct identification of Magog with Lydia and not Scythia is consistent with the ancient texts of the Assyrians, who at various times were either the allies or the foes of the Scythians, but had peaceful dealings with the Lydians, who they also referred to as “Magog.” Within academia today, no professional archeologists, historians or serious Bible researchers associate Magog with the Scythians or the Scythians with the Russians. The truth is that modern scholars have unequivocally documented that a group of Scandinavian Viking traders called the Rus began the Russian state during the mid AD 800's, and gave their name to Russia. Therefore there is no historical or factual basis for any connection of Russia to Magog.
ANCIENT NATIONS OF EZEKIEL Ezekiel 38/39 makes reference to a group of ancient nations that are all found in Asia Minor: Magog (Lydia), Meshech, Tubal, Togarmah and Gomer. The correct identification of these nations comes from the “Royal Court Records of the Assyrians”; the primary source on this subject. These same Assyrian Court records are referred to in the Bible (Ezra 4:15, 19).
LYDIAN MIGRATION TO ITALY An early Lydian dynasty experienced a prolonged famine which caused half of the Lydian population to migrate to the west coast of Italy, just north of Rome. The Romans called these Lydian migrants “Etruscans.” The Etruscans settled in an area called Tuscany and they helped found the city of Rome and jump start the Roman civilization. Hundreds of years after this migration, the Lydian population in Asia Minor came to be ruled by a militant ruler whom the Greeks called “Gyges of Lydia.” To the Assyrians this same leader was known as “Gugu King of Ludu,” and “Gugu of Magugu.” Ezekiel referred to this same leader as "Gog of Magog" where "Magog" means "the land of Gog."
Why understanding Gog and Magog is important
As for comparing Gog and Magog of Ezekiel 38/39 to Gog and Magog of Revelation 20:7-10, two different wars are being referred to and the terms Gog and Magog are not being used literally but being used as "historical types." As referred to in Ezekiel 38-39, the historical Gog who was a "prince" of the nations of Magog, Meshech, and Tubal, serve as "historical types" of the "antichrist" and the multi-national confederacy over which the antichrist is to rule during the tribulation period. The Bible uses the historical leader Gog as a historical type of the antichrist to come in the exact same ways the Bible uses the historical King David as a type of Jesus’ Second Coming (Ezekiel 34:23 and Ezekiel 37:22-24). Similarly, in Matthew 11:14 (also see Malachi 4:5) and Matthew 17:10-13 ("if you will receive it") Jesus in effect says that John is a historical type of Elijah. In other words, "Gog and Magog" (remember in Akkadian "Magog" means "the land of Gog") in their most basic meaning, are taken to be types or references to any "antichrist" and "the land of this antichrist;" just as I John 2:18, 22, 4:3, and II John 7 says "there are many antichrists.” Thus, Revelation 20 tells of a second and separate battle involving another Gog and Magog, that is, a different battle involving another antichrist and the lands of this antichrist that takes place around 1,000 years after the battle of Gog and Magog of Ezekiel 38/39.
The Gog or antichrist of Ezekiel 38 is involved with one war that is to occur before Jesus returns, and the Gog or antichrist of Revelation 20 is involved with another war that is to occur after Jesus returns and dwells with mankind for one thousand years.
The bottom line for what is said in Ezekiel 38/39 is that just as a real person called Gog led a confederacy of nations around 660 B.C., Ezekiel is using Gog as a historical type of the antichrist, and Magog as a historical type of the nations the antichrist is to lead, for a war that Ezekiel is prophesying to occur during the end times. This could be fulfilled by the appearance of an antichrist and a confederacy of European nations representing a revived Roman Empire. Ecclesiastes 1:9 and 3:15 teach that which is to be hath already been and that there is nothing new under the sun. Has such an invasion of the Holy Land and effort to kill Jews by a confederacy of European nations ever occurred before? Yes, deadly invasions of Israel have taken place a number of times. These invasions are called the Crusades of the Middle Ages.
A confederacy of European nations has invaded Israel before and according to scripture it seems that these nations will do so again. While Russia's anti-Israel actions regularly appear in the news, it is interesting to note the ever growing anti-Israel attitude and actions of the European Community.
This overview ties to two free downloads on my website (www.thecometsofgod.com) which give the evidence and explanations supporting this overview:
1 - "Russia Is Not Magog" (http://www.thecometsofgod.com/dwnlds/appndx-b.pdf
2 - "Armageddon, Magog, and the War of Ezekiel 38/39” (http://www.thecometsofgod.com/dwnlds/chap9.pdf
A chart that illustrates how The Battle of Gog and Magog and the Battle of Armageddon is one in the same war that occurs at the end of the tribulation can be found at:
About the author:
An archeologist and a geologist, Dr. Goodman has devoted over twenty-five years to the study of the Bible. He holds a geological engineering degree from the Colorado School of Mines, a M.A. in anthropology from the University of Arizona, and a Ph.D. in anthropology from California Coast University. He also earned a M.B.A. from Columbia University Graduate School of Business. He was accredited by the former Society of Professional Archeologists. Goodman is a Messianic Jew who was saved in 1987.