Chapter 9

Gog as the Antichrist

In his book Mideast Beast, Joel Richardson asserts that Gog of Ezekiel 38–39 is the Antichrist. He comes to this conclusion primarily by making a case that the Gog-Magog war is the same war as the Battle of Armageddon in Revelation 16:19. However, even if it were true that the Gog-Magog war was to be equated with Armageddon, this in itself would do nothing to prove that the Antichrist is a Muslim. Richardson therefore also concludes that Gog comes from Turkey, which has a sizable Muslim population.

Richardson has three chapters in his book that deal with his claim that Gog is the Antichrist. The first chapter argues that the correct timing of the Gog-Magog war is at the end of the 70th week of Daniel during the Battle of Armageddon. The second chapter goes through some of the similarities between Gog in Ezekiel and the Antichrist. The last chapter is an attempt to show that Gog comes from Turkey as opposed to Russia. I will attempt to refute Richardson’s arguments in the order he presents them in his book beginning with his claim that the Gog-Magog war of Ezekiel 38-39 is the same war as the Battle of Armageddon.

The Timing of the Gog-Magog War

In this section I will present an overview of the views that Christians have about the timing of the Gog-Magog war and discuss some of their strengths and weaknesses. Though I have written this book with the intention not to present my personal views as arguments against the Islamic Antichrist theory, I need to make an exception in this chapter since I believe that understating the correct view of the timing of the Gog-Magog war is the best way to refute Richardson’s claim that Gog is the Antichrist.

The Christian views about the timing of the Gog-Magog war are divided into four categories:

  1. Pre-Seventieth Week of Daniel
  2. Mid-Seventieth Week of Daniel
  3. Armageddon (Richardson’s view)
  4. End of the Millennium

Though there are subsets for most of these categories—for example, at least two views of the timing of the war fall under the umbrella of “pre-seventieth week of Daniel”—I’m limiting this discussion to these four broad categories, as the problems with the main category applies to all of its subsets as well.

Pre-Seventieth Week of Daniel

The problems with viewing the Gog-Magog war as occurring before the seventieth week of Daniel begins are as follows:

1) Ezekiel 39:7 says Yahweh’s name is never to be profaned again after the end of the Gog-Magog war:

“So I will make My holy name known in the midst of My people Israel, and I will not let them profane My holy name anymore. Then the nations shall know that I am the Lord, the Holy One in Israel.” (Ezekiel 39:7)

The seventieth week of Daniel, the time of the Antichrist, is characterized by blasphemy and rebellion against God, both on the part of the Antichrist, who is particularly blasphemous, and those who follow him. For example, Scripture says that people will “blaspheme the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores” (also see Revelation 17:3, 13:6, and 16:9–11).

The people in Israel rejoice at the deaths of the two witnesses (Revelation 11:10), which doesn’t sound like people who are finished with rebellion against God. If the Gog-Magog war occurs before the seventieth week of Daniel, then we need to explain how the blasphemy and rebellion by the Antichrist and the people of the earth in the end times do not constitute a defiling of God’s name. This problem is insurmountable, in my opinion.

2) The nations recognize the sovereignty of God as a result of the Gog-Magog war:

“I will bring you against my land so that the nations may acknowledge me, when before their eyes I magnify myself.” (Ezekiel 38:16b)

“I will exalt and magnify myself; I will reveal myself before many nations. Then they will know that I am the Lord.” (Ezekiel 38:23)

“Then the nations will know that I am the Lord, the Holy One of Israel.” (Ezekiel 39:7b)

The nations are explicitly in rebellion against God throughout the seventieth week of Daniel (Revelation 11:2, 18:3, 16:14). In fact, it seems that the “kings of the earth” who are gathered to battle against Christ at Armageddon include all or most of the nations of the earth. So we would need to explain how this contradiction is reconciled.

3) Israel also recognizes the Lord’s sovereignty in totality (Northern and Southern Kingdoms) after Gog-Magog:

“So the house of Israel shall know that I am the Lord their God from that day forward.” (Ezekiel 39:22)

The salvation of Israel en masse cannot happen before the conclusion of the seventieth week of Daniel. The whole point of the seventieth-week prophecy is that the entirety of the seventy weeks (including the last seven years) needs to be completed before the salvation of Israel will occur:

“Seventy weeks are determined

For your people and for your holy city,

To finish the transgression,

To make an end of sins,

To make reconciliation for iniquity,

To bring in everlasting righteousness,

To seal up vision and prophecy,

And to anoint the Most Holy.” (Daniel 9:24)

This also violates the purpose of the “time of Jacob’s trouble,” which is a purifying event for the Jews during the last half of the final seven-year period, culminating in their repentance and recognition of God. They will not be completely saved until after this purification event is completed.

4) Phrases like “dwelling securely,” “dwelling in a land that has undergone a restoration from the sword,” “a land of unwalled villages,” “peaceful people, who dwell safely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates” are all inconsistent with Israel’s geopolitical situation currently or for the foreseeable future. Nor could one argue that this is some kind of false security brokered by the Antichrist, since that event isn’t supposed to occur until the first day of the seventieth week.

Mid-Seventieth Week of Daniel

Those who hold to the view that the Gog-Magog war occurs sometime in the midst of the seventieth week of Daniel usually see the abomination of desolation, which occurs at the midpoint, as the time when Israel comes to know God. They see references to “dwelling peacefully” and “without walls” explained by the false peace of the Antichrist during the first three-and-a-half years of Daniel’s seventieth week. A number of different proposed scenarios place the Gog-Magog war within the seventieth week, all of which suffer from similar problems:

1) There is no indication that after the Gog-Magog war, Israel will once again be subjected to conquest. This would necessarily be the case if it occurred at the midpoint, since a great deal of destruction and conquest begins at that time (Matthew 24:15–21). Ezekiel says there will be no one to “make them afraid” and God will leave “none of them captive any longer” after the war. The mid-seventieth week view essentially has Israel being miraculously delivered by God, only to be handed over to the Antichrist again for the final part of the seventieth week. Zechariah 13:8–9 says that two-thirds of Israel will be killed during this time, and Revelation 11:2 says the Gentiles will trample Jerusalem for three-and-a-half years after this point. This is hardly consistent with the language of a final victory and establishment of universal peace that seem to come after the Gog-Magog war.

2) Israel is said to bury bodies for seven months and use the weapons of the dead soldiers for fuel for seven years after the Gog-Magog war. This is inconceivable during the Great Tribulation, when the saints are hunted and killed and the trumpet and bowl judgments take place.

3) Related to the previous point, the burying of bodies is described in Ezekiel 39 as a triumphant event that cleanses the land:

“For seven months the house of Israel will be burying them, in order to cleanse the land. Indeed all the people of the land will be burying, and they will gain renown for it on the day that I am glorified,” says the Lord God." (Ezekiel 39:12–13)

How can the land be considered cleansed or even begging to be cleansed during a time before the final judgments found in Revelation, such as, turning the sea into blood and killing all life in the sea? A plain reading of Ezekiel 38–39 is a picture of a final destruction, followed by restoration; but this view anticipates that the Gog-Magog war is followed by the worst persecutions and devastation the world has ever seen.

4) This view presumes that phrases like “dwelling securely” or “a peaceful people, who dwell safely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates” refer to a false peace given by the Antichrist at the beginning of the seven-year period. This is a classic example of reading one’s preconceived notions into the text. I don’t think anyone who holds to this view would disagree that there is absolutely no suggestion in Ezekiel 38–39 that this is a false peace. The idea must be read into the text. Not one word in Ezekiel would give the reader the notion that this peace is from anyone else but God and that it will be anything but everlasting. Indeed, the destruction of Gog-Magog seems to only prove that the original peace is genuine, since the armies are destroyed by God before they even have a chance to attack.

There has been a good deal of scholarly work showing that the specific phrases used by Ezekiel to describe the peace are used elsewhere to describe the millennial peace. Ralph H. Alexander has said the following in his paper, “A Fresh Look at Ezekiel 38 and 39”:

“The expression ‘in the last days’(be’aharit hayyamim), found in Ezekiel 38:16, places these events at the end time, for this phrase is most frequently employed to designate the time of Israel’s final restoration to the land and the period of Messiah’s rule ( cf. Isa. 2:2; Jer. 23:20; 30:24; Hosea 3:5; Mic. 4:1; Dan. 10:14).… Another significant factor in these chapters is the employment of the expression ‘living securely’ (a form of yasab followed by labetah) in Ezekiel 38:8, 11, 14 and Ezekiel 39:26. This phrase is often employed in reference to millennial security, especially in Jeremiah and Ezekiel (cf. Jer. 23:6; 32:27; Ezek. 28:26; Zech. 14:11). This expression is used previously by Ezekiel in this series of mes­sages to describe a definitely millennial picture (Ezek. 34:25-28; cf. Mic. 4:4).… These chronological notices in Ezekiel 38 and 39, in conjunction with the temporal emphasis of the entire context of these six night messages, argues strongly that the events of Ezekiel 38 and 39 transpire at the end time when Israel has already been restored to the land, the Messiah is present, and she has entered into the Peace covenant with Yahweh her Lord.”1

The mid-seventieth-week view also suffers from the problems of the pre-seventieth week view, namely, that Yahweh’s name will be profaned again and the subjection of the nations and Israel cannot occur until the end of the seventieth week.

End of the Millennium

I will skip for now Richardson’s view that the war of Gog is the same as the Battle of Armageddon. I will come back to that view after I have presented the final view, since I believe that understanding the view that the war of Gog occurs after the Millennium will help us see Richardson’s view in a different light.

The view that the Gog-Magog war occurs after the end of the millennial reign, when Satan is let out to gather nations to battle Jerusalem but is defeated by God, is the only view on the timing of this war that enjoys explicit biblical support. It is the only view that has no inherent contradictions and makes sense of the entire prophecy of Ezekiel, beginning in chapter 33 and continuing through chapter 39. The arguments leveled against it are often superficial and will be dealt with at length at the end of this chapter.

Let me start by explaining what I mean when I say that this view enjoys explicit biblical support. In Revelation 20, the apostle John states when the battle of Gog and Magog will occur:

“Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea. They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them. The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” (Revelation 20:7–10, emphasis added)

John says this event will occur when the “thousand years have expired” after the Millennium and after Jesus has been ruling on earth during an unprecedented time of peace. John uses the exact phrase “Gog and Magog,” a phrase used only one other time in Ezekiel 38–39, and the details of the battle John describes are consistent with what is described by Ezekiel, though obviously in an abbreviated version. Ralph Alexander says of this reference to Gog-Magog:

“The strong basis for this position is the explicit reference to Gog and Magog in Revelation 20:8. Such an explicit reference cannot be dismissed lightly, as is often the case. The terms employed in Revelation 20:8 are the same as those in Ezekiel 38 and 39. Normal hermeneutics would require the identification of the two passages (since the terms Gog and Magog are used nowhere else in the Scriptures) unless strong reasons can be brought forth to deny such an equation.”2

It is so frustrating to hear commentators and preachers speak about this passage and dismiss it with a wave of their hands. The excuses they give for its dismissal are not at all convincing, and sometimes even misleading. For example, they almost always say something similar to this: “The armies in Ezekiel come from the north; but in Revelation 20 the armies come from the ‘four corners of the earth.’” This objection is easily dealt with by noting that in Ezekiel 38:5, 6,13 and 39:6, nations from all the compass points are specifically mentioned: Persia from the east, Cush (Ethiopia) from the south, Put (Libya) and the people who dwell ‘carelessly in the isles’ from the west, and Gomer and Togarmah from the north. Why they insist that the armies in Ezekiel only come from the north is beyond me.

Some argue that the term “four corners of the earth” suggests a worldwide invasion, whereas Ezekiel is describing a coalition that is based primarily in the Middle East. This can be easily refuted by noting that the term “four corners of the earth” or “four winds,” which are often used interchangeably,3 are terms which often refer only to the four compass points within a Middle Eastern context (Daniel 11:4; Jeremiah 49:36).

Another reason given for dismissing Revelation 20 is that in Ezekiel, Gog is the main aggressor, a man, whereas in Revelation 20, Satan is said to be the aggressor. To this I would say that there is no reason to expect that after the Millennium Satan will be incarnate and will physically lead these nations to battle. In fact, there is explicit evidence that he operates in the same way he always has after he is released: He tempts these nations to go to war.

“Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea.” (Revelation 20:7–8, emphasis added)

What could be clearer than that? Satan deceives Gog and Magog to go to battle. He is not leading these armies himself. Even the simplest reading of both Ezekiel 38 and 39 and Revelation 20:7–9 proves this argument impotent, as both passages clearly say that Gog is leading human armies in each case.

Another reason given for dismissing Revelation 20:7–9 is that in the passage in Ezekiel, bones are left to be buried, but in Revelation, the fire God sends on the armies completely consumes them, bones and all. Like the others, this argument is reading way too much into the text. Let’s take a look at what is said: “And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them” (Revelation 20:9b).

People who argue this point say the word translated “devoured” must mean the armies are completely consumed, bones and all. But I would suggest that far too little information is given here to state dogmatically that the bones must be consumed as a part of this devouring. If we look at Zechariah 14:12, which some say is a picture of the destruction of Gog and his armies, we see what looks like a fire that certainly could be described as “devouring,” but apparently leaves the bones intact, as it seems to only target the soldier’s flesh.

“And this shall be the plague with which the Lord will strike all the people who fought against Jerusalem: Their flesh shall dissolve while they stand on their feet, Their eyes shall dissolve in their sockets, And their tongues shall dissolve in their mouths.” (Zechariah 14:12)

It’s just as likely the word John used that is translated as “devouring” can refer to an event like we find in Zechariah 14, which is limited to devouring flesh.

I hope you will see that the reasons given for dismissing Revelation 20:7–9 are easily dismissed themselves. The importance of this passage cannot be understated. If this interpretation is correct, we do, in fact, have a clear biblical basis for saying that the Gog-Magog war occurs after the Millennium when Satan is released.


Despite the fact that John only spends a few verses summarizing Ezekiel’s prophecy, the similarities between the two passages are striking:

  1. Both armies march against Israel.
  2. Both armies are destroyed by God Himself.
  3. Both armies are defeated before they attack.
  4. Both armies are destroyed by fire.
  5. Both armies are coalitions of many countries.
  6. Both armies are led by Gog.
  7. The armies come upon people who have been living during an unprecedented time of peace.
  8. The war will be followed by true and everlasting knowledge of God.

Problems Solved

If the Gog-Magog war occurs at the end of the Millennium, as Revelation 20 says, then the following problems concerning the other views are solved:

  1. Yahweh’s name will never be defiled again after the war is over.
  2. All the passages about dwelling securely can be seen in their normal context, as Israel would have been dwelling in peace for one thousand years before this rebellion breaks out.
  3. There is no need to divorce Ezekiel 38–39 from the previous chapter (chapter 37), which is part of the same prophecy and ends with a clear reference to the millennial kingdom, where Jesus is ruling over a restored Israel.
  4. The millennial phrases throughout Ezekiel can mean what they mean in other places (i.e., they are references to the Millennium).
  5. References to weapons made of wood and horses can be seen literally, as opposed to being allusions to high-tech missiles. It can be reasonably assumed that during the Millennium, people will go back to a simpler way of life in which horses and wooden weapons would be used, especially if there had been no need for weapons for a thousand years.
  6. The various promises of final restoration after the war, such as the cleansing of the land and a true peace with no more threats of any kind, can be seen as totally true, since there will be no more wars or evil after Satan is thrown into the lake of fire.

Arguments against a Post-Millennial Gog-Magog War

1. Argument about the chronology of Ezekiel: The main reason people reject this notion is because chapters 38 and 39 in Ezekiel are followed by an obvious description of the Millennium in chapters 40–48. They assume that since chapters 40–48 talk about the Millennium, the Gog-Magog war, which is found in the two preceding chapters, must occur before the Millennium. There are indeed many occasions in Scripture where this kind of chronological connection would be valid, but, as we will see, this is definitely not one of them.

Ezekiel begins each prophecy with a description of the date when he received it; he does this thirteen times throughout the book. The section that includes the prophecy against Gog begins in chapter 33, verse 21: “And it came to pass in the twelfth year of our captivity, in the tenth month, on the fifth day of the month, that one who had escaped from Jerusalem came to me and said, ‘The city has been captured!’” (emphasis added).

Everything Ezekiel was given to write about Gog and Magog is included in this prophecy, which continues for six chapters and ends after the section about the Gog-Magog war in chapter 39. The nine chapters that follow this prophecy about the Millennium are part of a completely different prophecy given to Ezekiel thirteen years later. Chapter 40 begins this way: “In the twenty-fifth year of our captivity, at the beginning of the year, on the tenth day of the month, in the fourteenth year after the city was captured, on the very same day the hand of the Lord was upon me; and He took me there” (Ezekiel 40:1).

In his paper, “Rethinking Ezekiel’s Invasion by Gog4,” Dr. J. Paul Tanner says:

“We need not expect [chapters] 40–48 to chronologically follow [chapters] 38–39 since these chapters are part of a separate vision.”

If we place the dates of Ezekiel’s thirteen visions in chronological order, the list would look like this: Ezekiel 1:1; 8:1; 20:1; 24:1; 29:1; 26:1; 30:20; 31:1; 33:21; 32:17; 40:1; and 29:17. Notice that three of the visions are not in chronological order; more importantly, Ezekiel 29:17, which is about Egypt being conquered by Nebuchadnezzar, was written later than the prophecy of the Millennium that begins in Ezekiel 40. A simple understanding of the nature of the book of Ezekiel would prevent anyone from building doctrine based on the order of the visions in Ezekiel.

Ironically, if we apply the idea correctly and see a chronological connection within a particular vision of Ezekiel—in this case, the one that begins in chapter 33 and goes through 39—we would conclude that the Gog-Magog war must come after the Messiah is ruling on earth, since chapter 37 is so clear that the Millennium has begun and the throne of David is occupied at that time. To say it another way: if we limited chronological connections to the same vision, then it is absolutely necessary to conclude that the Gog-Magog war comes after the Millennium.

Some people even suggest that the last nine chapters of Ezekiel are a part of a separate book altogether. Josephus states that Ezekiel “left behind two books” (The Antiquities of the Jews, 10:5.1). And while we don’t have enough information to say conclusively what Josephus meant, it would make sense if the last nine chapters of Ezekiel were distributed separately. It would mean that the book of Ezekiel originally ended with the Gog-Magog war, which would be fitting since the book of Revelation essentially ends with the Gog-Magog war also. Admittedly, this point is too speculative to be dogmatic about.

2. Israel would have no reason to burn the invaders’ weapons or bury bodies in the eternal kingdom: There are many variations of the argument, but the main idea is based on an assumption that in the eternal state that follows the Millennium, there is no reason to bury bodies or burn weapons for fuel. The people who are making this argument assume a great deal about life after the Millennium, but the fact is that we have very little information about what life will be like in the eternal kingdom. However, the information we do have in Revelation 21–22 seems to suggest there will indeed be life on earth, much like there was during the Millennium; therefore, there will be a reason to bury bodies and make fires.

“Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.’” (Revelation 21:2–3, emphasis added)

The New Jerusalem is a massive structure 1,400 miles in length, width, and height. The notable point here is that this city comes from heaven to earth and “the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them.” God is going to dwell on earth in the eternal kingdom. Therefore, we would expect some semblance of the laws of nature that govern earth to be in effect during this time, even if radically modified. It should also be noted that it is prohibited for anyone to enter the New Jerusalem who might defile it.

“And they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it. But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.” (Revelation 21:26–27)

I only suggest that the little information we do have about the eternal state seems to indicate there will be life on earth outside the New Jerusalem as well. It may be that only those who are dead in Christ dwell in this 1,400-mile-square city. But the existence of earthly life outside the city seems to be implied, and one would assume there would be need to cook food with fires, etc.

The argument that there will be no need for people to bury bodies or burn weapons in the eternal state could be a moot point anyway. After all, we are not told how much time elapses between the Gog-Magog war and the eternal state. Dr. Tanner makes the following observations regarding this:

“A closer look at Revelation 20 reveals that there are a thousand years from the beginning of Christ’s millennial rule until the release of Satan. It does not tell how much time transpires between Satan’s release and the eternal state. Following the thousand years, several things must take place before the eternal state: (1) Satan will be released for ‘a short time’ (v. 3), (2) Satan will have time to deceive the nations and move them to attack Israel, (3) Satan, the beast, and the false prophet will be thrown into the lake of fire (v.10), and (4) all the unrighteous dead will be brought before the great white throne, judged by God and thrown into the lake of fire.

“In all honesty, we don’t know how much time there may be, but nothing in the text precludes a period of seven years in which the weapons of war could be burned.

So the argument concerning burning weapons and burying bodies is based on various speculations and presuppositions about things we are not yet privy to know completely, such as the timing between the thousand years and the eternal state and the exact nature of life on earth in the eternal state. I suggest the information we do know about the eternal state certainly allows for a post-millennial Gog-Magog war.

3. Ezekiel 38–39 says that after the war “the nations shall know that I am the Lord” and He will “make his name known” in the midst of Israel. But this would have already occurred during the Millennium.

It is true that the nations and Israel will be subservient to Christ in the Millennium, but several passages in Scripture make it known that it is far from a sin-free state (see Isaiah 65:20, 11:3–5; Zechariah 14:16–21). Those passages say that “wicked” people and “sinners” are still there. In fact, that is the probably the reason Jesus rules during this era with a “rod of iron” to quickly and decisively give out judgment to those who are sinning. It is generally accepted that during the Millennium, people will still need to accept Christ as their Savior in addition to their King, and not everyone on earth is automatically saved.

Writer Arthur Pink said this of the millennial kingdom:

“In spite of the fact that Satan will have been removed from the earth, and that Christ reigns in person over it, yet conditions here will not be perfect even in the Millennium. Unregenerate human nature will remain unchanged. Sin will still be present, though much of its outward manifestation will be restrained. Discontent and wickedness will not be eradicated from the hearts of men, but will be kept beneath the surface by means of the Iron Rod. Multitudes will yield to Christ nothing but a ‘feigned obedience’” (Ps. 18:44, margin). This ‘feigned obedience’ will be the product of power not grace; it will be the fruit of fear not love.”5

The fact that not everyone is saved is quite obvious considering that when Satan is released at the end of this thousand years, he is able to tempt so many people to go to war against Jesus that their numbers are like the “sands of the sea.” The Millennium is obviously a blessed time, but it is not perfect, and it is not doctrinally correct to say that every person on earth is saved or “knows God” in the salvific sense at this time. Therefore, only after the attack described by John in Revelation 20 and the beginning of the eternal kingdom does true universal salvation appear to occur.


Most of Richardson’s arguments for equating the war of Gog with Armageddon are similar to the arguments that I just made for placing the war at the end of the Millennium. For example, he uses the same arguments concerning the verses that tell us that after the war of Gog and Magog the nations will “know God,” and there will be no more blasphemy, etc. In this I think he is more correct than those who hold to the various views that place the war of Gog at some point before the return of Christ. The problem, however is, that he, at no point, discusses the view that the war of Gog takes place at the end of the Millennium, where John specifically says it takes place. He either doesn’t realize or simply doesn’t address the fact that a majority of his arguments for equating the war of Gog with Armageddon are better suited to the timing of the war that John gives us, such as “when the thousand years have expired” (Revelation 20:7). If Richardson wants us to believe that the same arguments used for putting the war of Gog at the end of the thousand years are best suited to Armageddon (which occurs before the thousand years even begin), then he should at least attempt to interact with the post-Millennium view of the war of Gog to show why the arguments he uses are not better applied there.

There are in fact a number of reasons that the war of Gog in Ezekiel 38-39 cannot be the same as the Battle of Armageddon. For example, the idea that Israel would be “dwelling securely” in the way described by Ezekiel just before the battle of Armageddon is absurd. As mentioned previously, if there were ever a time that Israel is not dwelling in peace, it would be the time just before Armageddon when there is no more grass, clean water, or fish in the sea. This is a time when the Antichrist’s persecution is at its height, when all those who do not worship the beast are killed, and when Jerusalem has been trampled by the Gentiles for the last three-and-a-half years.

Richardson attempts to deal with the multiple references to what seems to be a true and everlasting peace in Ezekiel 38-39 by making somewhat vague allusions to the “peace agreement” the Antichrist will supposedly make with Israel (Daniel 9:27). This falls far short of helping his case because, according to the same passage in Daniel 9:27, this supposed peace agreement will be broken at the mid-point of the seven-year period, resulting in the worst persecution of all time. This persecution is so bad that Jesus warned anyone in the city of Jerusalem at that time to flee to save their lives (Matthew 24:15-22).

Since the Battle of Armageddon does not occur until the end of this seven-year period, are we to believe the Antichrist will relent from this persecution at some point during the last three-and-a-half years? Will he perhaps strike a second peace agreement with Israel that he never breaks, which would then allow them to “dwell securely” in Israel in the time before Armageddon? The idea is preposterous and completely without biblical basis. Any attempt at trying to describe the people who live just before the Battle of Armageddon as “dwelling securely” or “a peaceful people, who dwell safely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates” has insurmountable problems.

Another set of problems for Richardson relates to the reference to the Gog-Magog war in Revelation 20:7-9. There is an unbroken chronology of events from John’s description of the Battle of Armageddon at the end Revelation 19 all the way to John’s description of the war of Gog and Magog in Revelation 20:7 which shows us without any doubt that John understood the two wars to be distinct, not to mention separated by over a thousand years.

It is true that portions of the book of Revelation can be seen as out of chronological order, but it is just as true that certain sections of the book are clearly meant to be taken in chronological order. One of the ways we can tell that one event occurs before the next event listed is by such chronological phrases as “and then,.” as well as contextual clues that the passage is following a consistent forward progression of events. John concludes his discussion of the war of Armageddon in the last verse of Revelation 19. He then begins the next chapter (note that chapter breaks were not in the original) with the words:

“Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.”(Revelation 20:1-2)

Here I don’t think I would find any opposition with my claiming that Revelation 20:1-2 is to be understood as John explaining a chronological progression of events. There are few, if any, premillennial scholars who would disagree with the idea that the Battle of Armageddon in Revelation 19 is followed by an angel binding Satan for a thousand years (Revelation 20:1-2). Both the word “then” in verse 1 as well as the context of this passage make this point clear.

Revelation 20:3–6 continues with this description of events in chronological order, making several references to the “thousand years” mentioned in verse 2.

Then in Revelation 20:7–10 John says:

“Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea.”

Because of this clearly unbroken chronology of events from the Battle of Armageddon in Revelation 19 to the war of Gog and Magog in 20:7, those who try to say that John, in Revelation 20:7–10 was just re-telling the events of the war of Armageddon, have a great deal of explaining to do. Why would John use several phrases like “and then” leading up to this verse if he was not explaining a progression of events, and why use the very strong phrase “now when the thousand years have expired” when they believe he is referring to an event that happens before the thousand years even begin?

In my opinion the only hope for someone still wanting to hold to the idea that Armageddon is the same war described by Ezekiel in chapters 38-39 is to see the war that John describes in Revelation 20:7-10 as another war altogether. In this view they would at least not have to deny that such a war will occur at the end of the Millennium, though they would still have to come up with a reason why John says this war will be led by Gog and Magog, not to mention why all the events of this post-millennial war look so much like the war that Ezekiel describes.

If Richardson takes this view that there is, in fact, a war led by Gog that will occur “when the thousand years have expired” but that is not to be understood as the same war as the one Ezekiel describes, then there are still a host of problems for his theory. The main problem is that the majority of arguments he makes in his book concerning the timing of the Gog-Magog war are not best suited for the battle of Armageddon because he rightly sees the verses he cites as demanding there be no more sin, rebellion, or lack of salvation after the war of Gog-Magog. As we have seen in the arguments above, all of those things will in fact be present in the Millennium to some degree, and especially in the time after Satan is released at the end of the thousand years. In other words, Richardson consistently claims that the descriptions of the world after the war of Gog in Ezekiel 38-39 are only possible after Armageddon, but in reality, such descriptions are truly only possible after the Gog-Magog war John describes in Revelation 20:7-10.

What the True Timing of the Gog-Magog War Means for the Gog / Antichrist Theory

The logical outcome of seeing the Gog-Magog war as occurring “after the thousand years have expired” is the theological impossibility of the Antichrist playing a role in the Gog-Magog war in any way.

We are told in Revelation that the Antichrist and False Prophet are thrown alive into the “lake of fire” at the end of the battle of Armageddon.

“Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone.” (Revelation 19:20–23)

Later on, after the thousand years have expired and the battle of Gog and Magog has occurred, Satan is also thrown into the lake of fire with the Antichrist. When this event is described, we are told this is where the Antichrist and False Prophet have been the whole time.

“The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” (Revelation 20:10)

Since the Antichrist was thrown alive into the lake of fire just after Armageddon (Revelation 19:20-23) and clearly spends the entire 1000 year period there, (confirmed in Revelation 20:10), then he cannot be Gog, since John tells us Gog’s entire rebellion occurs while the Antichrist is in the lake of fire.

A Concession

Though I firmly believe, for the reasons I have stated above, that the war Ezekiel describes in chapters 38–39 must have its ultimate and most literal fulfillment in the war described by John in Revelation 20:7-10, I am not opposed to the idea that the war of Armageddon is a kind of type fulfillment of the Gog-Magog war. I do believe there are certain aspects of Armageddon that parallel the Gog-Magog war. For example, the description of the birds feasting on the bodies is very similar in Ezekiel 39 and Revelation 19. But like other prophecies in Scripture that have a near and far fulfillment the earlier event has some aspects that could be said to have been fulfilled, while the final event will fulfill all aspects of the prophecy perfectly and literally. Take, for example, the prophecies of Antiochus Epiphanies given to us by Daniel. Quite a few people, mostly preterists, would say that those prophecies were completely fulfilled by Antiochus, but most premillennial scholars recognize it would be impossible for Antiochus to have fulfilled all of those prophecies himself and the future fulfillment with the Antichrist is required to fulfill the prophecy completely and literally. Jesus endorses this understanding of the prophecies about Antiochus awaiting their most accurate fulfillment in the future with the Antichrist when he tells his followers to look for the “Abomination of Desolation,” which was spoken of by Daniel.” Similar near/far fulfillments follow this same pattern.

All this to say that it is possible we are to see Armageddon as a limited or near fulfillment of Ezekiel 38-39, but because of the various problems with equating Armageddon with the war of Gog listed above, it simply cannot be the fullest or most literal fulfillment. That distinction must go to the Gog-Magog war mentioned by John in Revelation 20.

More From Richardson On Equating Gog with the Antichrist

In Richardson’s second chapter about the war of Gog he gives a few additional reasons why Gog should be seen as the Antichrist. At the end of this chapter he summarizes his arguments with twenty items that he considers comparisons with Gog and the Antichrist. Some of these comparisons are superficial and would be expected in any battle that takes place in Israel, as both of these wars undoubtedly will. For example number four on his list is “Both armies attack each other.”

Other comparisons on his list of similarities we have already dealt with to some degree, such as the “bird feast” which occurs in both passages. I maintain that because of the near/far nature of Ezekiel’s prophecy, we should expect some of these types of similarities. In the same way we would say that Antiochus Epiphanies was surely in view in Daniel 11, but that he was only a shadow of the ultimate fulfillment that will occur in its fullness with the Antichrist.

Other comparisons on his list are based on various presuppositions that he has argued for in earlier parts of his book. For example, number eight says that “both come from the same region.” This is true only if you buy his earlier argument about the “Assyrian” in Isaiah and Micah. If you have read and agree with the chapter in this book which argues against Richardson’s view that “the Assyrian” is the Antichrist, then there is no reason to believe that number eight on his list is true at all.

Similarly about seven of the items on Richardson’s list have been refuted in the previous section of this book on the timing of the war of Gog. For example, number fifteen says: “After both of their deaths, the surviving nations will come to a saving knowledge of God.” As discussed earlier, this isn’t true, at least with regard to Armageddon. Though the people in the Millennium are certainly in better place than we are today, “wickedness,” “sin,” and unsaved people still exist in the Millennium (see Isaiah 65:20, 11:3–5; Zechariah 14:16–21). What Richardson refers to will not be fully true until after the war described by John in Revelation 20:7–10; after this the Great White Throne Judgment occurs, the New Jerusalem descends, and the “eternal state” begins.

Additional Problems

Richardson also provides what he sees as answers to various criticisms about his view that Gog is the same person as the Antichrist. For example, he addresses the problem that Gog is described as being buried in Ezekiel 39:11 whereas the Antichrist is said to be “thrown alive” into the lake of fire.

Ezekiel 39:11 says of Gog:

“It will come to pass in that day that I will give Gog a burial place there in Israel, the valley of those who pass by east of the sea; and it will obstruct travelers, because there they will bury Gog and all his multitude. Therefore they will call it the Valley of Hamon Gog.” (Ezekiel 39:11)

Of the Antichrist it is said:

“Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone.” (Revelation 19:20, emphasis added)

Of this seeming contradiction Richardson says Revelation 19:20 is only speaking of the soul of the Antichrist being “cast alive” into the lake of fire, not his body. I find it very hard to believe that the Greek word for “alive” would be used here if it were really only trying to convey that his soul would go to hell when he died.

Richardson’s reasoning for this is based on two passages that seem to suggest that the Antichrist is killed at Christ’s parousia (second coming). The first passage is found in Daniel 7:11-12.

“I watched then because of the sound of the pompous words which the horn was speaking; I watched till the beast was slain, and its body destroyed and given to the burning flame. As for the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away, yet their lives were prolonged for a season and a time.” (Daniel 7:11-12)

It should be noted that in Daniel 7 the “beast,” which verse 11 says will be destroyed, is almost certainly a reference to the kingdom and not the person of the Antichrist. I can say this with some confidence because the beasts in this chapter are consistently described as “kingdoms” (Daniel 7:23), while the horns on the beast are described as “kings” (Daniel 7:24). The Antichrist himself is pictured as a particular horn on the beast’s head, but the beast in which the horns are found is his kingdom. I would not deny that the Antichrist must be included in this destruction of the beast in some way, as he is obviously a part of the beast; but I would say that using this verse to prove the Antichrist physically dies is sketchy because what is being described as “destroyed” is what has been earlier defined as a kingdom. It is especially good to be cautious in light of the verse in Revelation 19:20 where the Antichrist is clearly in view and is described as being thrown “alive” into the lake of fire.

The second verse that Richardson uses to try to prove the physical death of the Antichrist is 2 Thessalonians 2:8:

“And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming.” (2 Thessalonians 2:8)

This verse presents a much stronger case since clearly the Antichrist himself is being referred to here. I would simply make the case that the Greek word used here for “destroyed” katargeō is sometimes translated “do away with” or “made to cease.” It could be consistent with the Antichrist being “thrown alive” into the lake of fire and certainly that would be a type of katargeō or destruction. This is in contrast to the much clearer words the Bible uses when bodily death is meant. For example, apokteinō, which is used seventy-five times in the Bible, always means to kill the body, slay, to be put to death. Similarly another Greek word anaireō, used twenty-three times in Scripture and is often translated “kill or killed,” would have been better than katargeō if Paul wanted to let us know that physical death was in view. In conclusion on this point, katargeō is in fact a good description of the Antichrist being “thrown alive” into the lake of fire, and if physical death was intended, apokteinō or even anaireō could have been used over katargeō.

Is Gog From Turkey

Islamic Antichrist theorists such as Joel Richardson place the locations of many of the northern nations mentioned in Ezekiel 38 and 39 (Magog, Meshech, and Tubal) in Turkey, which is primarily a Muslim nation. They use this premise to conclude that the Antichrist must be a Muslim because, as we have seen, they see the Antichrist as Gog, and Gog is said to come from the region where Magog, Mesech and Tubal are located.

As detailed in the preceding chapter, the evidence strongly supports the idea that this war will not occur until the end of the thousand-year reign of Christ on earth. This means that identifying the exact locations of the nations mentioned by Ezekiel has only limited value for the believer since this war will be at least a thousand-plus years in the future. Attempting to force the circumstances of this war onto the modern, premillennial world can only lead to confusion and error. That being said, I do think Scripture gives us the tools we need to discover the location of many of the nations involved in this war. I believe there is value in such a study if for no other reason than to show the errors of the theorists who try to force Ezekiel’s prophecy into our modern context. I will try to remain as neutral as I can in this study, something uniquely possible for those who hold to the view that the Gog-Magog war won’t occur until after the Millennium. Christians from every era of the church have attempted to identify these countries in light of their current political circumstances; they identified the countries involved as the primary “boogey men” of their day. Because I don’t need to try to fit these countries into a modern context, it is easier to follow the evidence wherever it leads. Even if you disagree with me about the timing of the war, I hope this study on the players involved will be useful for that reason alone.

Nations Mentioned In Ezekiel 38–39

At least eleven nations are mentioned in Ezekiel 38 and 39, including Magog, Meshech, Tubal, Persia, Cush, Put, Gomer, Togarmah, Sheba, Dedan, and Tarshish. For many of these nations, there are virtually no disagreements about their location, but others have been the focus of longstanding debates. For example, few would argue that Persia refers to modern Iran, but there are many different opinions about the location of Magog, Meshech, and Tubal. These three nations are of particular importance for our purposes as it is said that Gog is the chief prince of Magog, Meshech and Tubal. Therefore, it is believed by those who see Gog as the Antichrist that simply determining the location of Magog, Meshech, and Tubal, one can discover the nation of origin of the Antichrist. For this reason I will focus primarily on the locations of these particular nations in this study.

Millennial Occurrences

Before identifying the countries involved, I would like to make a point often overlooked by commentators, one I believe reinforces the idea that the war Ezekiel describes occurs after the Messiah has been ruling over Israel during the Millennium. Four of the countries mentioned by Ezekiel are also said to exist during the Millennium: Cush (Psalms 68:31; Isaiah 11:11; Zephaniah 3:10), Tubal (Isaiah 66:19), Sheba (Psalms 72:10; Isaiah 60:6), and Tarshish (Psalms 72:10; Isaiah 2:16, 60:9, 66:19). I could add more to this list, but will limit the references I cite to passages that unquestionably speak of the Millennium. I mention this to invoke a little humility among those attempting to identify these nations, as we simply cannot guess the exact way Christ will divide the nations during His rule. It may be that during His earthly reign these nations will actually be called by the ancient names Ezekiel uses or have different borders. All we know for sure is that the Bible tells us many of the nations in Ezekiel 38 and 39 are also present during the Millennium. That being said, these nations have also existed in the past, and it is possible to discover a great deal about their locations. It is reasonable to assume that the locations and borders of these countries in the past will have a great deal of correlation with their millennial counterparts.

Another interesting point that reinforces the idea that we are to understand the nations mentioned in Ezekiel 38-39 as nations existing during the Millennium can be seen by looking at all of the areas that will be involved in the Gog-Magog war (see map). If you do this, an interesting question comes up: Why aren’t the nations closest to Israel involved? It seems there is a kind of buffer zone of nations that separate Israel from its enemies.

Map of the Middle East - Gog & Magog War

Why, for example, isn’t Egypt involved? Historically it has been a major enemy of Israel, not to mention Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Syria, which constitute the biblical Assyria. The answer lies in Isaiah 19:23–25, which says that during the Millennium, Egypt and Assyria will be in a special relationship with the Lord and Israel.

“In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian will come into Egypt and the Egyptian into Assyria, and the Egyptians will serve with the Assyrians. In that day Israel will be one of three with Egypt and Assyria—a blessing in the midst of the land, whom the Lord of hosts shall bless, saying, ‘Blessed is Egypt My people, and Assyria the work of My hands, and Israel My inheritance.’ (Isaiah 19:23–25)

So it would seem that those nantions closest to Israel, namely Egypt and Assyria (modern-day Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Syria) will be allied with Israel in a special way during the Millennium, and when the time comes for Satan to be released at the end of the thousand-year period, they remain true to the Lord. I believe this is the best way to explain the conspicuous absence of these historical enemies of Israel in the Gog-Magog war.

Gog, of the Land of Magog, the Prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal

Let’s begin our study of the geographical locations of the nations mentioned in Ezekiel 38-39.

Gog, the primary instigator of the war, is described as being from the land of Magog and prince over Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal: “Son of man, set your face against Gog, of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal, and prophesy against him” (Ezekiel 38:2).

Since all of the areas mentioned in this passage are a part of Gog’s kingdom (Magog, Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal), determining the location of even one of these areas with a measure of certainty will help to narrow the scope of our search. I like to start any research on the location of a biblical nation within the pages of Scripture itself, because while the views of ancient writers and historians are useful, we should not rely upon them dogmatically as they often have different opinions. While Gog, Magog, and Rosh are mentioned in other places in Scripture, those passages don’t offer additional clues to their locations. Magog is only mentioned in the genealogies of Japath (Genesis 10:2; 1 Chronicles 1:5), the prophecy in Ezekiel 38–39, and in Revelation 20:8. Other than the fact that Ezekiel 38:15 says Gog will come from the “far north,” we are left with no specific details that might help determine which nation or nations from the far north are being referred to. The identification of Rosh is difficult as well for reasons we will come to later. Of these four nations associated with Gog, only Meshech and Tubal are found in another place in Scripture that might give us a clue as to their whereabouts.

Meshech and Tubal

In Ezekiel 27, we find a prophecy against the city of Tyre in modern-day Lebanon. Tyre has been a commercial shipping port for thousands of years, going back to the ancient Phoenician merchants. Ezekiel 27 describes many of the nations, including Meshech and Tubal, that traded with Tyre, as well as the specific goods they traded: “Javan, Tubal, and Meshech were your traders. They bartered human lives and vessels of bronze for your merchandise” (Ezekiel 27:13).

We can gather two important clues about Meshech and Tubal from this passage:

  1. They traded with Tyre in Ezekiel’s day (593–565 BC).
  2. They traded bronze and slaves with Tyre.

Normally, we could gather very little about the location of a biblical nation based on the goods that it traded, but the mention of bronze narrows the field considerably. Bronze wasn’t something that just anyone could make during this time; the process was very specialized and limited to a handful of nations. The field narrows even further when we consider that this nation also must be from the north and must have been able to trade with Tyre in Ezekiel’s day.

This brings us to the end of the biblical clues that can help us determine the location of Meshech and Tubal. Even though it seems like only a little information, I think you will agree it is more than enough to confirm or deny the extrabiblical and historical data that we will now look at.

The Jewish Encyclopedia identifies Meshech and Tubal with Moschia (which the Assyrians called “Mushki” or “Muski”) and Tubal (which the Assyrians called “Tabal”).

“Meshech…are probably the Moschi (Assyrian: Mushku and Musku), the inhabitants of the Moschian mountains, between the Black and the Caspian seas, which contained rich copper mines. ‘Tubal’ (Assyrian, Tabal), which is always mentioned in connection with Meshech, is the name of the Tibareni, who lived to the south-east of the Black Sea.”6

There are many reasons to take this view seriously. I mentioned before that the production of bronze was important. Well, Mushku and Tabal were two of the few places in the world where bronze was produced at this time; in fact, they were famous for it—they were even two of the inventors of Iron Age metallurgy. The legend of King Midas, who was said to be able to turn everything he touched into gold, is actually based on Mita, a historic king of Moschia. Assyrian records refer to the Assyrians receiving huge amounts of bronze vessels as tribute from Moschia and Tabal—the very goods that Ezekiel said these nations traded with. In addition, it is known that trade between these countries and Tyre was well established at the time of Ezekiel’s writing.

It is interesting that these two places, Moschia and Tabal, are so often mentioned together in ancient writings, because Meshech and Tubal are almost always mentioned together in the Bible as well (Ezekiel 27:13, 32:26, 38:2, 3, 39:1; Genesis 10:2). One scholar believes that even Rosh is mentioned along with Meshech and Tubal in one Assyrian text.

“There is even one cuneiform document from the reign of the Assyrian King Sargon II (ruled 722–705 B.C.) which actually names all three peoples [Rosh, Meshech, Tubal] mentioned by Ezekiel 38–39. Sargon II writes in this badly broken inscription:

“I deported (the people) of the lands of Kashu, Tabalu, and Hilakku. I drove out Mite (Midas), king of the land of Muski…the lands of Rashi and Ellipi which are on the Elamite frontier.”7 (emphasis added)

This view is also consistent with what we know from ancient writers like Josephus, who identified the people from Meshech and Tubal as the Mosocheni (from Moschia) and Thobelites (from Tabal). The identification of Meshech and Tubal as Moschia and Tabal has a massive amount of support in the modern scholarly community as well.8 It’s probably safe to call it the majority view among scholars.

A few people have claimed that Meshech and Tubal refer to the modern Russian cities of Moscow and Tobolsk. There is no historical support for this claim whatsoever. It is based solely on the similar sounds of both words. Even people like Thomas Ice who support the idea that Russia is in view with the northern coalition of Gog reject the idea that Meshech and Tubal indicate Moscow and Tobolsk.9

The modern location of Meshech and Tubal is on the southeast side of the Black Sea, south of the Caucuses Mountains, primarily in modern-day Georgia, as well as parts of Armenia and eastern Turkey. There is some debate as to whether Tubal should also be associated with the Tibareni on the Black Sea coast, which would push the location a bit more into central Turkey, but that connection is not as certain.

Gog and Magog

The location of Gog and Magog are much more difficult to determine, either with Scripture or historical accounts. Gog, of course, is a proper name designating the leader of this future coalition. Some people attempt to find a reference to a king named Gog in ancient texts, namely Gugu of Lydia (western Turkey), but the general consensus seems to be that this connection is inconclusive.

The location of Magog is also less clear than Tubal or Meshech. There is not very much to go on in Scripture or history, though we can reasonably assume that Magog would be close to Meshech and Tubal, based on the biblical account that seems to link the three nations geographically and the fact that the migrations of Japheth’s sons would likely be close together. Jewish sources have traditionally put Magog very close to Meshech and Tubal (see map).

Magog close to Meshech and Tubal

Josephus said: “Magog founded those that from him were named Magogites, but who are by the Greeks called Scythians.”10 The Scythians were a band of ethnically diverse nomadic tribes that spanned great distances in the Eurasian Steppe. There are several problems with understanding the term “Scythians” used by Josephus the same way we do today. The term was applied very generally by the Greeks as any nomadic tribe north of the Black Sea. Other scholars have pointed out that the terms “Scythians” and “Cimmerians” were used interchangeably.11 The Cimmerians started out dwelling north of the Caucuses Mountains, but by Ezekiel’s day had migrated south due to wars with Sargon II, settling in the general area of Meshech and Tubal, specifically around modern-day Armenia, Georgia, and parts of Turkey. The Encyclopedia Biblica places Magog in the same area using a totally different method to come to its conclusion.12 I believe that the evidence is conclusive that Magog should be placed in roughly the same area as Meshech and Tubal, in modern-day Georgia, Armenia, and parts of eastern Turkey.

The Rosh Problem

There is considerable debate among scholars to this day as to whether the Hebrew word “Rosh” in Ezekiel 38:3 is a proper noun designating another nation or an adjective related to “prince” (i.e., “chief prince”). A review of different Bible translations will demonstrate the differences in opinion among scholars:

  • “and say, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Behold, I am against you, O Gog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal.”’” (Ezekiel 38:3 NKJV, emphasis added)
  • “and say, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Behold, I am against you, O Gog, chief prince of Meshech and Tubal.”’” (Ezekiel 38:3 ESV, emphasis added)

The basic idea is that if “Rosh” is a proper noun, then Gog is also the prince of a place named Rosh. If it’s not a proper noun, then it should be translated as the word “chief,” meaning Gog is the chief prince of only Meshech and Tubal and there is no place called Rosh. This argument seems to be primarily motivated by those trying to either prove a connection to Rosh and modern-day Russia and those who are trying to deny such a connection. In my opinion, both sides are letting their determination to prove their points affect their ability to honestly deal with the issue.

The early Greek texts of the Old Testament, such as the Septuagint and the Theodosian, translate “Rosh” as a proper noun. But Jerome, when writing his Latin translation of the Bible known as the Vulgate, decided to translate “Rosh” as “chief.” He did this not because of any grammatical clue, but rather, in his own words, because “we could not find the name of this race [i.e., the Rosh people] mentioned either in Genesis or any other place in the Scriptures, or in Josephus.”13

Though Jerome couldn’t find any references to the Rosh people, there do indeed seem to be such references in ancient history. Clyde E. Billington, in his three-part paper “The Rosh People in History and Prophecy,” does a good job of tracking down the references to the Rosh people. I disagree with part 3 of Billington’s paper, in which he claims the references to “Rosh” in Ezekiel should be understood as modern-day Russia, but I do agree with him that the Rosh were an ancient people in Ezekiel’s day.

The Rosh people, according to Billington, migrated often during their history, but he believes they primarily occupied a particular area south of the Caucasus Mountains in modern Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and northeastern Turkey.14 In other words, he agrees that the Rosh were located in the same areas as Meshech, Tubal, and Magog. It is especially notable that this was the primary location of the Rosh people when, as mentioned earlier, the Rosh were mentioned in the same Assyrian inscription with Meshech and Tubal, linking them all to the same basic geographic region.

Billington and others who attempt to equate the Rosh mentioned by Ezekiel to modern Russia do so by arguing that the Rosh people, long after the time of Ezekiel, migrated north of the Caucasus to modern-day Ukraine. They also argue that the Varangian Rus, Vikings of Scandinavian origin who conquered Russia from the north in the ninth century AD and are why we call the land Russia today, got the second part of their name (Rus) from intermarriage with the Rosh people in the south in an attempt to integrate with their conquered population. While this argument is feasible, from what I can tell, this has little bearing on the identification of the Rosh in Ezekiel 38 and 39 for the following reasons:

  1. It is clear that Ezekiel believed Magog, Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal were closely related. Even Billington admits that in Ezekiel’s day, all of these places were geographically centered in the areas around Georgia, Armenia, and eastern Turkey. It is far more reasonable to assume that this is the area the northern coalition will come from.
  2. Ezekiel 27 not only mentions Meshech and Tubal as trading with Tyre, but also almost every other nation that is a part of this future war, namely Put, Togarmah, Dedan, Sheba, Tarshish, and Persia. It is inconceivable to think that Russia was trading with Tyre in Ezekiel’s day.
  3. The method of interpretation that Billington and others use is called the ancestral migration method, which attempts to identify nations in Scripture not by the geographic location of the nation during the relevant times, but rather by tracing the bloodlines of the people throughout history.

The bottom line is that all the nations mentioned in Ezekiel 38:3—Magog, Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal—can be shown to have been located in modern-day Georgia, Armenia, and parts of eastern Turkey. This area was a relatively small area to the far north of Israel, that traded with Tyre with the same goods mentioned in Ezekiel 27. There is every reason to believe that this will be the area the northern coalition will come from in the Gog-Magog war as well.

Joel Richardson never mentions Georgia or Armenia when discussing the locations of Magog, Meschech, or Tubal, probably because they are not Muslim nations. For example, Georgia is 90 percent Christian and Armenia is 95 percent Christian, so mentioning that Meshech and Tubal were primarily located in these countries would be counterproductive to his agenda. I believe this is somewhat deceptive on his part because of the nine atlas entries he cites15 to show that these areas are in the “regions of Turkey.” Most of them actually make clear that Georgia and Armenia are just as much if not more in view than Turkey. This omission seems unlikely to be chalked up to ignorance on his part since the information is in the sources he cites. It is more likely to be a result of his desire to divert attention from information that would cast his theory in a negative light.