“The word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, set your face toward Gog, of the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him and say, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I am against you, O Gog, chief prince of Meshech and Tubal.'”
Almost every Bible scholar — both Jewish and Christian — universally agree that the prophecy of Ezekiel 38-39 is yet future and has not occurred at anytime in history. Although there have been many foreign invasions of Israel throughout history, none match the description of this prophetic event. So if this prophecy is depicting a future event, then what would we expect to see coming in the last days?
Magog, Meshech & Tubal
The very first step of interpretation for this amazing prophecy in Ezekiel 38-39 is to establish the historical and geographical context. No shortage of books, articles, maps, and teachings have been published about this passage, with varying viewpoints nonetheless. However, if Gog is the end-times Antichrist, which I believe is the case, then this passage provides essential details about the geographical region of his empire and his military alliances.
Ezekiel says that Gog is “the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal … in the land of Magog,” which clearly denotes a specific geographic location. Basic rules of hermeneutics teach that it is imperative first to discover the historical context in order to responsibly interpret the future context. For example, in order to accurately discover where the ancient land of Magog is, it is essential to understand what Magog meant to the original author — in this case, Ezekiel. Ezekiel wrote this prophecy somewhere between 590-570 B.C., so naturally we should ask, “where was the land of Magog during Ezekiel’s day?” Fortunately, we can answer that question with a high level of certainty.
Two Interpretive Problems
Before I answer that critical question, it is important to point out two observations. First, many scholars and teachers take a convoluted, unreliable ancient-bloodline approach to determine the ancient land of Magog. Without going too far in depth, this approach attempts to trace particular ethnic groups as they migrated out of the ancient land of Magog and follow them through history to their modern day location. Instead of understanding the land of Magog simply as a geographic location, this faulty method attempts to identify Magog as an ethnic people group.
Not only is this approach counterintuitive, but also unproductive. God isn’t expecting an average person to perform interpretive acrobatics just to figure out a simple geographic location in the Scriptures. Instead, it makes perfect sense to simply find out what Ezekiel would have called Magog and where it corresponds in the world today.
A second problem that perhaps has caused even more confusion and misinterpretation is the incorrect translation of the Hebrew word, rosh, used in this passage. For some reason, a minority of Bible translators decided to translate rosh as a proper noun denoting a location. For example, the New American Standard Bible reads like this. “Son of man, set your face toward Gog of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him.” [Ezekiel 38:2]
Although the overwhelming majority of translations correctly render this Hebrew word — rosh — as “chief” or “head,” there are now entire theories of eschatology that are built around this faulty notion that Gog will be the prince of a place called Rosh — a place that doesn’t exist! The problem with this erroneous translation is that the Hebrew word — rosh — is used in various forms nearly 600 other times in the Old Testament, and NEVER ONCE IS IT TRANSLATED AS A PROPER NOUN OR GEOGRAPHIC LOCATION! It is consistently translated as “head,” or “chief.” That is why Gog is correctly called the “the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal.” The word, rosh, has nothing to do with a place or location.
Rosh is NOT Russia
To make matters worse, somewhere along the way Rosh became associated with modern-day Russia simply because they sounded alike. This theory makes just about as much sense as saying that everyone who wears” beige” must have been born in “Beijing!” It’s nonsense!
So now the popular view of Ezekiel 38-39 is built on a false premise that originated out of an incorrect translation and gross misinterpretation of the text. Untold books and sermon series have propagated for years that Gog must be from Russia, primarily because the word Rosh just happens to sound like the word Russia! This is a classic case of how the church can be led into error by naively accepting man’s irresponsible interpretations instead of studying the Scriptures for ourselves!
The reason this technical examination of the text is so crucial is because it directly informs our interpretation of where the Antichrist will come from. Either one makes the case that Gog is coming out of Russia, or he is coming out of modern day Magog.
Going back to our original interpretive method, is there any historical evidence that provides an accurate geographic location of the land of Magog? Well, for starters, let’s view a handful of scholarly Bible Atlases that identify the land of Magog.
Magog is Modern Day Turkey
Although you can definitely find maps that depict the land of Magog to be in modern-day Russia, those maps are not accurately established on Biblical or historical geography. The overwhelming consensus of Bible scholars agree that the land of Magog is in modern-day Turkey, as are Meshech and Tubal. This proper understanding of the geographic context of Ezekiel 38-39 has profound implications about the origin of the Antichrist and his coming kingdom. For more conclusive evidence, feel free to read Joel Richardson’s article about the accurate historical location of Magog, Meshech and Tubal.
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