The Biblical Gog-Magog War
The Arab-Islamic Invasion of Israel is Imminent
Remember: The root-cause of all aggression against Israel is spiritual
The prophecies in Ezekiel 38 and 39 probably refer to a single invasion of Israel prior to the last battle of this age (the so-called ‘Battle of Armageddon’). The war in Ezekiel 38-39 is often called the Gog-Magog war and involves mainly those Arab-Islamic nations surrounding Israel. Psalm 83 speaks of an alliance of invading nations, a mainly Arab-Islamic alliance. This view is supported by the fact that some nations denounce the invasion (Ezek 38.13) and by the fact that the God of Israel is ‘hallowed’ (revered and honoured) in the sight of many other nations through the defeat of the invader (Ezek 38.16, Ezek 39.27). In other words, not all nations seem to be involved. Moreover, key present-day Arab-Islamic nations such as Turkey, Iran, Libya and Ethiopia are identified in Ezek 38.1-6. Let’s examine prophecy in more detail.
The puzzle of Israel’s role in the world is being assembled, and some of the pieces involve war.
Israel’s neighbours are posed to attack.
The Significance of Psalm 83: Aggressive Islamic Nations
Many Bible scholars see this psalm (written 10th century BC) as prophetic and applicable to end-times. They identify in the psalm specific Arab nations which make war against Israel at the end of this age, although scholars disagree on the particular nations involved, link, link. What we do know is that the psalm speaks of a confederacy against Israel with the aim of eliminating Israel:
They have said, ‘Come, and let us wipe them out as a nation, that the name of Israel be remembered no more … they form a confederacy against You’ (Ps 83.4,5)
Does this sound familiar?
Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it [ Hamas Charter, 1988 ]
Israel has no roots in the Middle East and would be ‘eliminated’ [ President of Iran, 2012 ]
Psalm 83 goes on to mention certain people groups in this alliance:
- Ishmaelites (v6) refer to Saudi Arabia (the Arabs)
- Edom and Moab (v6) refer to Jordan
- Philistia (v7) relates to Hamas in Gaza
- Gebal (v7) (a maritime town near Tyre) and Tyre relate to Hezbollah in Lebanon
- Ammon (v7) relates to Palestinians east of the West Bank (NW Jordan)
- Assyria (v8) relates to northern Iraq and parts of NE Syria and SE Turkey (areas now troubled by ISIS or ISIL), link
What is the current scenario? Well, these are all Islamic countries with Hamas (Gaza) and Hezbollah (Lebanon) vehemently opposed to Israel. Currently Israel’s chief enemies are Shia Muslim (as in Hezbollah), so Israel is currently tightly aligned with anti-Shia Saudi Arabia, link. When it comes to Israel and Jordan, these nations are currently tethered by a peace treaty but the current ‘cold peace’ could easily turn into a ‘deep freeze’, link. Moreover, Jordan (and all Israel) is an integral part of the Levant, an area marked by ISIS for an Islamic caliphate (see map).
Historical Connection: We must not forget what has already happened. Historically, the Edomites (v6) and the Amalekites (v7) were arch enemies of OT Israel. Whilst it is claimed that Edom disappeared into Rome when the Temple was destroyed in 70 AD, link, that is not true for the Amalekites. The Torah teaches that Amalekites exist in every generation, link, and so today many Israeli’s regard their adversaries as ‘Amalek’ either in reality or in symbolism. As in history, today’s Amalekites actively conspire to kill off God’s chosen people – the Jews – and we can see this in Iran and in ISIS. So given the close correspondence of Philistia (Gaza) with Hamas, Tyre (Lebanon) with Hezbollah, and the Levant (Ammon, Amalek, Philistia, Tyre, Moab and (northern) Assyria) with ISIS, then Psalm 83 does indeed appear to foresee an end-time Arab-Islamic invasion of Israel. Prophecies in Ezekiel confirm this.
The Significance of Turkey
The invasion is sometimes referred to as the Gog-Magog war since it is led by “Gog of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal … from out of the far north” (Ezek 38.2,15). Here, ‘Gog’ could be the leader of the coalition against Israel, or a specific anti-God people living in Magog. A number of Bible atlas’s place Magog in northern Turkey, link. Gomer and the house of Togarmah are also mentioned (Ezek 38.6). Gomer was an Aryan group who conquered Armenia (essentially north-eastern Turkey) from their Ukrainian homeland, and Togarmah was the south-eastern part of Turkey near the Syrian border, link.
Ezekiel 38.2 mentions Meshech and Tubal which the Oxford Bible Atlas identifies as “regions in Asia Minor”. So biblical maps usually locate Magog, Meshech, Tubal, Gomer and Togarmah in Asia Minor or Turkey, link, link. And of course Turkey is indeed north of Israel, as required by prophecy (Ezek 38.6).
Politics: Currently Turkey finds herself isolated and surrounded by not very friendly states such as Iran, Iraq and Syria. So an anti-Israel alliance with these countries seems rather distant, especially since Turkey-Israel relations could even improve, link, link. But given the rapid political transitions in recent years in Libya, Iraq and Egypt, Turkey could yet fall to hard-line Islamic fundamentalists and join Iran, link.
What of Syria?
Syria is mentioned some 300 times in the Bible and Damascus (now probably the world’s oldest, continuously inhabited city) is mentioned about 60 times. In those days Syria covered a substantially larger area than modern Syria, reaching down into Lebanon and Israel, link. But apart from the coastal regions of ancient Syria (e.g. Gebal and Tyre), Syria is not specifically mentioned in Psalm 83 or in Ezekiel 38. Why? Consider a possible reason. Historically, Damascus has suffered attack (2 Ki 16.9) but it has never been totally destroyed. But prophecy states that one day soon it will be totally destroyed:
Damascus will cease from being a city … it will be a ruinous heap. (Isa 17.1)
Today’s news suggests that this is close to fulfilment.
Is Russia Involved?
The key question here is, ‘Where is the land Magog?’, the land of the key player Gog in the coalition against Israel. As discussed, Bible atlases tend to place Magog in northern Turkey. But there is another view. Magog was a son of Japheth and a grandson of Noah (Gen 10.2). The descendants of Japheth subsequently settled across Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey) and those in the eastern parts became known as Scythians. The significant point here is that historians link the Scythian peoples to Magog. Hesiod identified Magog with the Scythians and the southern Russia area in the 7th century BC, and Herodotus wrote about the descendants of Magog by their Greek name, the Scythians in the 5th century BC. Both Jerome and Josephus claimed that Magog is a general designation for the many Scythian tribes of the north, whilst Philo (1st century) identifies Magog with the southern Russia area, link.
So where were these Scythians? They were barbarians (non-Greek and non-Roman), a people dwelling north and east of the Black Sea and in the area surrounding the Caspian Sea. This was an area on the outer edge of the then known civilized world, link, link. Today’s maps identify this area to include the Ukraine, Kazakhstan and the Russian Federation, link. The Russian Federation (and Moscow) is indeed to the ‘far north’ of Israel (Ezek 38.15).
It is also worth considering ‘Rosh’ (Ezek 38.2,3 NKJV, NASB). This term is missing in some Bibles, and is replaced by the Hebrew noun ‘ros’, meaning ‘the chief’ or ‘the head’, link, link. But other translations imply Rosh is a geographic location, and in early Greek writings Rosh was a name used for all the nations of the north, link. So some bible scholars associate Rosh with Russia, link.
Politics: Russia’s strengthening economic and military ties with Iran (a key nation in Ezekiel 38) supports the view that Russia could be the leader of the God-Magog invasion, link. Russia and Iran both support Bashar al Assad’s regime in Syria and oppose Sunni jihadist movements such as ISIS. Russian military support for Iran comes via arms deals between the two countries, as in the supply of S-300 air defense systems, Sukhoi Su-30SM multi-role fighter jets and advanced Russian T-90 tanks, link. On the other hand, Moscow does not want Iran to acquire nuclear weapons.
An Islamic-Russian alliance leads to the Gog-Magog War
So let’s identify the key players in the alliance against Israel. If we follow some historians rather than a Bible atlas, then Russia could be the leader (Gog). The rest of the coalition are nearly all strongly Islamic. Ezekiel 38.1-6 describes Turkey (98% Muslim), Iran or Persia (99% Muslim), Libya Heb:Put (97% Muslim) and Ethiopia Heb:Cush (50% Muslim). Psalm 83 adds more Islamic groups based in Gaza, Lebanon, and possibly northern Iraq (Assyria). All this is pretty specific on location and seems to involve principally Arab-Islamic nations in the Middle East. Current Islamic threats support this interpretation of prophecy.
Politics: Not all Islamic nations appear to be involved, principally Egypt, and probably also Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Today’s politics support this view. Israel has been working hard in recent years at diversifying its alliances, and has courted the leaders of Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Surprisingly, in contrast to prophecy, Israel also has a working relationship with Russia, link! Prophecy indicates that this will change.
A straight reading of prophecy suggests that the invaders use primitive weapons that can be burnt for fuel (Ezek 39.9,10 suggests they are combustible). Surprisingly, such a scenario is not impossible in today’s world! An EMP (electromagnetic pulse) weapon exploded over areas north of Israel could disable all modern electronics-based weapons, link, forcing the use of primitive weapons. On the other hand, Mal 4 and Zech 14 may refer to the actual weapons used, which seem to be modern, and so the combustible element could be unused fuel.
Islam is Humiliated
The 1988 Hamas Charter vowed that Islam would eliminate Israel. Nothing has changed, and today Islamic leaders proudly boast of their coming destruction of the Jewish nation, Israel. For example:
The Quran teaches that the Palestinians must liberate Israel in its entirety. Allah says (in the Quran): ‘And drive them out from wherever they have driven you out’. Removing the Jews from the land they occupied in 1948 is an immutable principle, because it appears in the Book of Allah. We have liberated Gaza, part of Palestine, but I am not prepared to accept just Gaza … Our position is: Palestine in its entirety, and not a grain of soil less. (The Quran says:) ‘Kill them wherever you may find them’ – Allah did not define the 1967 borders or the 1948 borders. We will fight them wherever we can – on the ground, underground, and if we have airplanes, we will fight them from the skies.
[ Mahmoud Al-Zahar, a co-founder of Hamas, and member of the Hamas leadership in the Gaza Strip, March 2017 ]
Here, Al-Zahar is choosing his words from at least 109 verses in the Quran that call Muslims to war with nonbelievers for the sake of Islamic rule, link.
But Bible prophecy says they will fail! The invaders do not appear to reach Jerusalem. Rather, they fall on the mountains of Israel and in the open field (Ezek 39.4,5). Whilst the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) must play a part in the war, prophecy implies that they receive supernatural help. The God of Israel says to the invaders: “I will strike your bow from your left hand and dash down your arrows from your right hand” (Ezek 39.3). They are also defeated by extreme weather:
With pestilence and with blood I will enter into judgment with him; and I will rain on him and on his troops, and on the many peoples who are with him, a torrential rain, with hailstones, fire and brimstone. I will magnify Myself, sanctify Myself, and make Myself known in the sight of many nations; and they will know that I am the Lord.
Defeat comes through fire and brimstone similar to that which destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah (Job 38.22,23), and via extreme snowfall (Job 38.22-23). There will also be a great earthquake in Israel (Ezek 38.19).
Here we see the total defeat and humiliation of militant Islam in the sight of many nations. Moreover, from that day, Israel starts to know her God as He pours out His Spirit on her:
So the House of Israel shall know that I am the LORD their God from that day forward … for I shall have poured out My Spirit on her (Ezek 39.22,29)
This is not clear in scripture but there are certain prophetic pointers. As mentioned, scripture indicates that this is a separate invasion to ‘the battle of Armageddon’ and that it takes place before the revealing of the secular world dictator (Rev 13.1) and the false ecclesiastical head (the antichrist, Rev 13.11). So it probably occurs around the time of the rapture of the true church, either a few years before or a few years after the rapture. Placing the invasion before the rapture allows Israel seven years to use Gog’s weapons as fuel (Ezek 39.9,10) before they start to suffer in the great tribulation under the beast (Jacob’s trouble Jer 30.7).
Such timing at first seems to conflict with the vision of Israel ‘dwelling in safety’ before the invasion commences (Ezek 38.11). Clearly, that is not true of present-day Israel and it seems incompatible with the common view that Israel’s ‘safety’ arises from the seven-year ‘peace treaty’ signed between Israel and the world dictator (Dan 9.27) – which in reality is a ‘covenant with hell’ (Isa 28.11). But ‘safety’ here may refer to the fact that the Jews will by then have returned to Israel where they find safety from hostility e.g. antisemitism in Gentile nations (Ezek 38.8, 39.26). These verses imply that dispersed Israel will never feel safe whilst she dwells amongst Gentile nations and will only feel safe when she is in her own land. Note God’s warning to rebellious Israel:
And among those nations you shall find no rest … there the LORD will give you a trembling heart … your shall fear day and night (Deut 28.65,66)
Similarly, the reference to ‘towns without walls’ (Zech 2.4) appears not to be a reference to a peace treaty but a reference to the shear numbers of Jews that have returned to Israel.
So the timing of the Gog-Magog invasion could well be before the emergence of the final world dictator but after the dispersed people of Israel have been gathered back into their own land and so are safe from hostility within the Gentile nations i.e. at or near the end of the aliyah (Ezek 39.27,28). Today, the aliyah continues, with millions of Jews still residing in Gentile nations. As of 2015, the world Jewish population was 14.2 million, of which 6.2 million (44%) resided in Israel, link.
A Post-Millennial Invasion?
If Ezek 38 refers to a different war to Ezek 39, then Ezek 38 may refer to the post-Millennial Gog-Magog invasion of Israel in Rev 20.7-10. Certainly, Israel will be at peace and live securely throughout the Millennium with no need for military forces (Ezek 38.8,11), and it will be necessary for God alone to destroy the invader (Ezek 38.22, Rev 20.9). Also, today’s weapons will be a thing of the past in the Millennium and primative weapons (Ezek 38.4,5) may return.