While Daniel saw the beginnings of the final wars in the Middle East, other prophets went further and predicted what would happen next. Ezekiel chapters 38 and 39 contain perhaps the most fascinating and frightening prophecy in the entire Bible concerning these future battles. Where Daniel only hinted at the fact that a northern power would attack Israel at the end, Ezekiel was very specific. However, to understand the interpretation of this new prophecy and to see how it fits into the scenario of World War III, we need to look closely at the first seven verses of Ezekiel chapter 38. This particular prophecy holds the key to identifying exactly what nations are represented by an attacking northern power.
“And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying,
“Son of man, set thy face against Gog, of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal, and prophesy against him,
“And say, Thus saith the Lord God: Behold, I am against thee, O Gog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal,
“And I will turn thee back, and put hooks into thy jaws, and I will bring thee forth, and all thine army, horses, and horsemen, all of them clothed with all sorts of armor, even a great company with bucklers and shields, all of them handling swords:
“Persia, Cush, and Put with them; all of them with shield and helmet;
“Gomer, and all its hordes; the house of Togarmah of the north quarters, and all its hordes; and many peoples with thee.
“Be thou prepared, and prepare for thyself, thou, and all thy company that are assembled unto thee, and be thou a guard unto them.”
Ezekiel’s prediction begins in a strange way with weird names and places and bizarre references to primitive battle accoutrements. On the surface it may seem like Ezekiel’s words were meant for a people and a time long since forgotten, to armies equipped with the armor and weapons of an ancient world. However, as our study of these verses progresses it will soon become apparent that the Lord has provided the information in this way for a very definite purpose—to identify one of the major aggressors in the final battles and to emphasize that they would be armed to the teeth as they attack the Middle East.
In many of Isaiah’s prophecies dealing with the rebirth of Israel (see the section on Israel), he used the names of countries from his own time to predict the general regions of the world from which the Israelis would return to their homeland in the last days. Even though the rebirth of Israel would not happen for centuries into the future from Isaiah’s time, the predictions were made as though the original countries would still exist at the end of the age. This concept is important, because by using the ancient names of the nations in the Eighth Century B.C., he clearly identified for all time (and especially our generation) the main areas of the world from which the Jews would come back to Israel. Isaiah did this by using the original names of the countries familiar to the people of his day, which also is the only way that allows us to identify the corresponding regions in our day. Most of those ancient countries no longer exist, but their names can be used to locate the corresponding modern-day nations which now occupy these areas. Incredibly, with regard to Isaiah’s prophecies of Israel’s return to the land, modern day history concludes that the Jews did indeed return in mass from those same territories.
The Land of Magog
In a similar way, Ezekiel used the old tribal names for the countries he mentions in Chapter 38 to let his readers know the identity of the modern day country that will attack Israel in the last days. In the beginning of this prophecy, he says that this future power would come from a land called Magog. This rather obscure name, as well as some of the other names of Ezekiel’s prophecy, is first mentioned in the Bible in the tenth chapter of the book of Genesis, which lets us know the descendants of Noah that repopulated the world after the flood:
“Now these are the records of the generations of Shem, Ham, and Japheth, the sons of Noah; and sons were born to them after the flood.
“The sons of Japheth were Gomer and Magog and Madai and Javan and Tubal and Meshech and Tiras.
“The sons of Gomer were Ashkenaz and Riphath and Togarmah.”
Genesis 10:1-3 (NASV)
Most of Genesis chapter ten contains a complete listing of the first few generations which came from Noah’s offspring. The sons of Noah and their wives who populated the world after the flood became the original ancestors of every person born since that time. Thus, in many respects, this one chapter is a short synopsis of the racial and ethnic origins of all people now alive. Each of the initial descendants of the sons of Noah became “tribes” as their own offspring increased. In the first few years after the flood this early civilization was confined primarily in and around one region along the Euphrates and Tigris rivers. However, when the Lord confused their tongues at the tower of Babel so that they could no longer understand one another’s speech, this situation began to change. As their numbers continued to grow, the tribes began to move out from their homes in the Fertile Crescent and migrate to new areas of the world. In many cases, the tribal names which came from each group’s original forefathers stuck with them for generations. When a tribe settled in a particular area and their numbers finally grew to nation state size, the tribal name eventually became the name for a new country. From the historical record we can say, in general, that the descendants of Japheth migrated toward the north, while Ham’s offspring went south and Shem’s people, east.
Most of the names that Ezekiel mentions in chapter 38 can be traced back to these early descendants of Noah’s sons. Therefore, if the descendants of the tribe of Magog can be identified as to their location today, we can identify the home country of the people who will attack Israel at the time of the end.
Josephus, the great Jewish historian of the first century A.D., provides us with one of the earliest written records concerning these people. In his commentary concerning the tribes mentioned in Genesis chapter 10 he says this:
“…and settling themselves on the lands which they light upon, which none had inhabited before, they called the nations by their own names; for Gomer founded those whom the Greeks now call Galatians (Galls), but were then called Gomerites. Magog founded those that from him were named Magogites, but who are by the Greeks called Scythians”
Antiquities of the Jews – Book I, Chapter 6
According to Josephus, the Greeks began to call the Magogites, Scythians. As it turns out, the Scythian people were one of the earliest settlers in the region north of the Caucasus Mountains. The Encyclopedia Brittanica says that much of what is known about this group comes from the historian Herodotus:
“…we learn, by the intermediary of ancient Greek colonies on the northern black sea shore, the names of ancient peoples of southern Russia… The most ancient of them, the Cimmerians, are said to have been replaced by the Scyths and these by the Sarmatians”.
The beginning of Russian history is a very complex story of conquering and assimilation by many invading peoples. Most historians believe that the first of these powerful settlers were the Cimmerians, the Scythians, and the Sarmatians. Each of these tribes successively took over the previous one and became a dominant force in the southern fertile steppe, which is north of the Black Sea.
It is now known that the Scythians were originally nomads from the northwestern Iranian area. They began to migrate northwest in search of better farm and grazing land for their herds. From the Seventh to the Third Century B.C., the power of these nomads was unmatched in southern Russia. Thus, it seems apparent that the Magog of the last days Ezekiel describes in Chapter 38 must definitely refer to the territory north of the Caucasus Mountains—a region which is best represented by the nation of Russia today. Amazingly, even the name “Caucasus” is said to mean “Gog’s fort”.
Historians also will readily admit that the ancient Scythian traditions helped to mold the development of Russian society. John Lawrence, the author of “A History of Russia”, says,
“No doubt some Scythian influences went to the making of Russia. Traditional Russian dress owes much to Scythia, and no one can tell how much Scythian blood flows in Russian veins, but those ruling tribes of Scythians, whom Herodotus chiefly describes and who have left us the finest gold and silver, must be counted among the wandering peoples of the steppe.”
He also goes on to say…
“…the Scythians were suspicious of undue contact with foreigners. When the xenophobic side of their nature rises to the surface, modern Russians sometimes call themselves Scythians.”
Does this sound like the Russians in our time—distrustful of all other nations? There can be no doubt that the Magogites or Scythians at one time resided in the same territory that makes up the southern part of Russian territory today and that their influence and cultural traditions survive throughout their society even to the Twenty-First Century.