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. He names regions that today perfectly correlate to the nation of Russia and its allies in the Middle East and to the north. 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.
From Rosh to Russia
The name of Magog is not the only tribe or people that Ezekiel mentions. He also says that the future nation of Magog would be the principle leader of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal. Actually, in many Bibles this portion of verse 2 is typically translated as “…Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal”. However, the word “chief” is really a proper name and many marginal notes say that the verse should be translated alternately as “…Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal”. This seemingly minor difference is actually very important when trying to discover the geographical territory Magog represents. If the word chief is written properly as the name Rosh, then the aspect of Russia figuring into the prophecy becomes even clearer.
In studying the early history of Russia the curious name of “Rus” continually comes into play.
“Russian legend says that the Rus were first asked to come to Novgorod by the local population to put an end to their internal feuds. Rurik was the first prince of Novgorod.
“The term Rus was…used to designate the southern outpost of the whole system of defense”
(from Encyclopedia Britannica, 1972 ed., vol. 19, s.v. “Russian History”).
Historically, the terms Rus and Rosh are too similar to ignore. Considering the other evidence for the identity of Magog and Russia, we will soon correlate the two names to see an amazing accuracy of this prophecy concerning the Rus. It is primarily in this portion of Ezekiel’s prophecy that we will find a connection tying together the ancient time period of the Scythians with the more recent development of modern Russia.
By the eighth century A.D., the Vikings of Scandinavia began to move toward the east. According to legend, these “Varangians”, as they were called, came east by invitation to protect the Slavic people from their enemies, especially the Khazars. The man who became the new leader of northern Russia at this time was Rurik. He and his followers were the ones who first became known as the “Rus”. It is from these events that we find the earliest roots for the name of Russia. Again, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica:
“Russia (originally Rus, latter Rossiya) was for centuries a multinational state of eastern Europe and the northern part of Asia. At first a loose confederation of principalities it became in 1480 a sovereign tsardom (Tsarotvo Russkoe) governed centrally from Moscow and in 1721 an empire (Rossiiskaya Imperiya) that was destroyed in the revolution of 1917”.
Therefore, the name Rus eventually became Rossiya and then Russkoe and Rossiiskaya and finally Russia. Ezekiel’s term Rosh serves to relate the ancient inhabitants of that territory, namely the Scythians or Magogites, with the future development of modern Russia or the former Soviet Union. Today, the “Great Russians” still dominate even the new Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), which stretches from Europe through Asia.
Meshech and Tubal
Similarly, the terms “Meshech” and “Tubal” from Ezekiel’s prophecy also point directly to Russia. The Encyclopedia Britannica goes on to say:
“The oldest references to peoples of Paleocaucasian stock are found in Assyrian sources and in the Bible; e.g., the name of the biblical Meshech (Ezek. 39:1; in Assyrian sources Mushki) survives in the present-day Meskhi, one of the southernmost subdivisions of the Georgian Kartlians”.
John Lawrence said that the tribe of Meshech (Meskhi) was among those who were originally persecuted by the 1917 communist take-over. He went on to say that some of the people in Russia…
“…have lost their national territory, such as the Soviet Germans, the Crimean Tartars and small tribes such as the Meskhi, the Biblical Meshech, who are not allowed to return to their mountainous home in the Caucasus” .
Lawrence, John T. (1969) History of Russia, Signet, ISBN-10: 0451606175
Some historians even have found some hint that the name of Meshech was the root word for the naming of the city of Moscow, but this is less clear. In any event, this ancient Biblical tribe definitely migrated north of the Caucasus with their brothers, the Magogites, and ultimately became a part of the expanding Russian territories.
Furthermore, the tribe of Tubal mentioned in Ezekiel’s prophecy is seen in Assyrian writings as the “Tabal” tribe, or in the Greek language, “Tibarenoi” (Encyclopedia Britannica, 15th ed., vol. IX, s.v. “Tabal”). It is said that Tabal was an “ancient Anatolian kingdom that was absorbed into the Assyrian Empire in 713 B.C.”. The Anatolian culture actually represents the beginnings of the Turkish or Armenian people. Living mainly in Asia Minor and northern Syria, they spoke a sub-set of the Indo-European languages and thus can be properly considered descendants of Japheth. Over time, the Armenian people migrated north and east, finally stretching even beyond the Caucasus Mountains and into central Asia. In the former Soviet Union, one of the subdivisions comprising the union as a whole was the Armenian Republic in the south. Today, the CIS also includes these regions that stretch along the southern border of Russia, north of the Middle East and central Asian countries. Some have even said that the original name of Tubal survives in the present-day city of Tobolsk, which lays in central Russia. If true, Tubal may represent the Soviet Union in the east (i.e., in Siberia) while Meshech (Moscow?) may refer to the Russians of the west.
In every sense, the description Ezekiel gives us with regard to the kingdom of Magog points directly at the Russian empire of recent history. Even the geographical locations are described correctly in the Bible. Ezekiel says that Magog’s future attack will come upon Israel from “out of the north parts” (Ezek. 38:15). There can be no question that the only nation out of the north capable of launching such a full-scale invasion of the Middle East is Russia (or the present consolidated CIS countries).
On a map, the capital of Russia, Moscow, is almost due north of Jerusalem. In our world today, no other people living to the north of Israel could even attempt such an invasion and hope to succeed. In addition, since Daniel already described how Syria would attack and be defeated, and then only afterwards the Antichrist would hear tidings out of the north which would trouble him, the only significant power left toward the north to do any further battle is Russia. Thus, everything points directly toward Russia and the Commonwealth States as being the fulfillment of Ezekiel’s Magog.
Despite the dramatic events that have taken place since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989 to change the political landscape of the world, Russia still is predicted to be a primary instigator of World War III. The temporary decrease in East-West tensions brought on by the dissolution of the Soviet Union now is being replaced by a renewed Russia intent on being a power broker throughout the Middle East. The so-called fall of communism and the opening of economic relations between the East and West may only serve to bring the world closer to accepting the final world order, which will temporarily unite the entire world under the Antichrist. The peace and euphoria that will materialize when the Empire of the Beast arises is presaged by the elimination of the cold war. Even though the world is full of new dangers, both the East and the West will support the new age with open arms and unmitigated enthusiasm.
However, when the Antichrist proclaims himself to be God incarnate in the Jewish Temple, the peace of the new world order will quickly dissolve away through the fires of war. The old tensions between the major power brokers of the world will arise anew to spiral the world toward conflict and destruction. The Western Alliance will not be able to prevent it. The CIS will not be able to stop it. China and the nations of the East will have no effect. The United Nations will be powerless. No force on earth will be able to deter the prophecies from being fulfilled exactly as written.
Allied with Russia
Russia is not predicted to be alone in their invasion of the Middle East at the end. Ezekiel also says that there will be a number of nations aligned with Russia in the attack. Among the Russian allies he lists Persia, Cush, Put, Gomer, and Togarmah. With a little research, most of these ancient countries can be rather easily traced to their modern-day equivalents.
The nation of Persia is perhaps the simplest to locate. For thousands of years Persia existed under its original name. In the early part of the Twentieth Century, however, the Persians asserted their independence from outside powers and through the Constitutional Revolution in 1906 decided to change their country’s name to “Iran”. In the last days, Ezekiel says that this nation (Persia or Iran) will be aligned in the Russian camp against the Western Alliance. Until the latter half of the 1970’s this prophecy would have seemed almost impossible to achieve. At that time, the Iranian government was one of the staunchest allies that the U.S. and the West had in the Middle East outside of Israel. However, with the sudden Iranian revolution and the fall of the Shah that situation changed dramatically. Today, Iran considers the United States and its allies as the “Great Satan” of the world. Of course, they also are staunch enemies of Israel, threatening to build a nuclear weapon to annihilate the Jewish people from off the face of the Earth. At the time of the end, Ezekiel says that Iran will be allied with Russia in their attack on Israel (and also on the Empire of the Beast). This is not surprising given recent political history.
Cush and Put
Ezekiel also says that the nations of Cush and Put will be aligned with Russia. The identification of these two countries also is easy. In most modern English Bibles Cush is translated as Ethiopia and Put as Libya. Actually, ancient Put included all the countries of northern Africa to the west of Egypt. Today, the nation of Libya along with many of the African Arab countries are Islamic and firmly anti-Israel and, if given the chance, would likely participate in any attack on the Jewish homeland.
Likewise, Ethiopia has long been a Russian ally. Soviet militarism is so entrenched in that country that they have allowed millions of their own people to starve just for the sake of buying a few more arms. This situation is common in many countries today, and it is in direct fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy that describes the overwhelming militarism of the last days. Joel says that the consensus of that day will be:
“Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruning hooks into spears: let the weak say, I am strong.”
Joel predicts that there will be relatively weak nations in the last days that will build up their military and weapons, even to the point of sacrificing their ability to feed their own people. Many of the Third World dictatorships like Ethiopia today are arming themselves to the teeth while their citizens are nearly starving and have almost nothing. North Korea is another prime example of this war mentality (see ?). Notice too that Joel’s prophecy is the exact opposite of what Isaiah predicts for the Kingdom Age after Christ returns, which will be characterized as true peace on Earth (Isaiah 2:4). In Isaiah’s prophecy, which is quoted on the United Nations building in New York, he predicts that…
…”they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”
The fact that both Libya and Ethiopia are predicted by Ezekiel to be allies of Russia is interesting in light of what Daniel said about the forces of the Antichrist being positioned in the Middle East. Daniel told us that after the defeat of Egypt and Syria (see previous sections), “the Libyans and the Ethiopians shall be at his [the Antichrist’s] steps” (Dan. 11:43). No doubt the Antichrist will refrain at first from attacking these two countries, since they were not involved in the initial attack against Israel by Egypt and Syria. However, when the Russians decide to counterattack, the Libyans and the Ethiopians will be eager to join in the battle.
The tribe of Gomer is also predicted to fight alongside Russia in the coming attack. Gomer was the brother of Magog and a son of Japheth, who in turn was a son of Noah (Genesis 10:2). According to historical information, Gomer was the originator of the ancient Cimmerians, which lived to the north of the Caucasus region in southern Russia and were driven further north and west by the Scythians (Encyclopedia Britannica). The Talmud, the great Jewish commentary on the Old Testament, says that the people of Gomer are called the Germani. The ancient Germani settled in the western and central part of the Russian empire and they are likely best represented by the Slavic people today, the majority of whom live within the nations of Eastern Europe and primarily within Russia, which stretches from the southeast to the northwest through Eastern Europe and into Asia. Ezekiel’s prophecy may indicate that the nations of Eastern Europe also will support the coming attack of Russia on the Middle East.
The last country mentioned by Ezekiel as a future ally of Magog is the “house of Togarmah of the north quarters”. Togarmah was the third son of Gomer who moved along with his family after the flood toward the north. It is obvious from Ezekiel’s prophecy that whatever precise area is meant, the tribal homeland of Togarmah must lie somewhere to the north of Israel. According to J. D. Pentecost, Togarmah has always referred to the peoples of Asia Minor or Turkish Armenia (Things to Come, J. Dwight Pentecost, 1958, p. 330, Zondervan Press). Pentecost quotes Louis Bauman as saying that this reference relates to the Armenian and Turkmen tribes which stretch from Asia Minor all the way across Siberia to the Pacific Ocean. No one knows exactly how far the Armenian and Turkish descendants extend across Asia, but the tribe of Togarmah seems to include the great expanse of Russia stretching through the Siberian wilderness.
Curiously, along with the Armenian Republic in the former Soviet Union there was also a Turkmen Republic, both of which may refer to the Tubal and Togarmah of Ezekiel’s prophecy. In 1991, part of this region became independent of Russia and was renamed Turkmenistan. There is also another possibility—namely that the country of Turkey itself is in view. Turkey is not a member of the EC (although it has applied for membership), but it is still a member of NATO and a strong ally of the West. Recently, Turkey has desired to have a more prominent role in the Middle East Islamic world, especially with the civil war in Syria affecting their southern border (see PressTV). Only time will tell if this prophecy also predicts a shift in Turkey’s allegiance from the West toward the Middle East.
Regardless of the relative obscurity of one or two of these ancient tribes, there can be little doubt that the entire prophecy accurately describes the present state of Russia and its allies through the Middle East. According to Ezekiel, in the last days Russia will descend from out of the north while at the same time the nations of Iran, Ethiopia, and Libya, along with probably some of the other Islamic nations of the Middle East countries, will attack Israel with the full force of their combined military might.
Next: The Battle Begins