A Bible Study by Jack Kelley
(This is an update of a study I first posted in Nov. 2003. I’m posting it again because of the impressive rise of Vladimir Putin, who some have suggested could be the “Gog” of the Bible.)
Those who labor to understand the nuances of the battle described in Ezekiel 38-39 quickly identify two major puzzles. One is the timing of the battle and the other is the identity of Gog, from Magog. Suffice it to say here that almost no scholar, certainly none I’m aware of, believes the battle of Ezekiel 38-39 has already taken place. Some believe it will occur just before the beginning of Daniel’s 70th Week, others believe Ezekiel is actually describing the Battle of Armageddon, which would put it at the end of the Great Tribulation, and a few believe it will take place at the end of the Millennium, primarily due to the mention of Gog and Magog in Rev. 20:8. But all place it sometime in our future.
In my opinion, there are several reasons why Ezekiel 38 can’t be part of the Armageddon scenario. First, only some nations are involved in Ezekiel 38. For example, Saudi Arabia and Western Europe are said to be on the sidelines observing and others you would expect to see, like Egypt and Jordan, are not mentioned at all, although both appear later on. But Zechariah 12:3 says that in preparation for the Battle of Armageddon all the nations of the Earth will come against Jerusalem.
Second, how is Israel going to burn the left over weapons for 7 years as Ezekiel 39:9 indicates unless there are 7 years left in which to burn them? Rev. 21:24. says the nations will walk by the light of the New Jerusalem in the Millennium, so they won’t need fuel for energy then. And then you have Ezekiel 38:11 telling us that Israel will be a peaceful and unsuspecting people when the Moslem coalition strikes. Could that be possible near the end of the Great Tribulation when all the nations are gathering to attack? I don’t think so.
But most importantly, Daniel’s 70th week can’t start until Israel is back in covenant with God and the battle of Ezekiel 38 is what causes the covenant to be re-instated. (Ezek. 39:22) Armageddon comes at the end of Daniel’s 70th week, not the beginning.
As for Gog and Magog, the first thing to note is that while Magog is listed in Genesis 10, Gog is not. The list of 70 names in Genesis 10 is often called the Table of Nations because each of the men named there was the original ancestor of an ethnic group that grew to become a nation of people. For instance, Magog was the 2nd son of Japeth, one of Noah’s three sons, and bore the children who in time became known to the ancient world as the Scythians. They lived in central Asia and are believed to be the forefathers of today’s Russians. Many historical references support this view. For example, Josephus Flavius wrote “Magog founded the Magogians, thus named after him, but who were by the Greeks called Scythians.” And in some ancient Arabic documents, the Great Wall of China is called the Ramparts of Gog and Magog. It was built to keep the Scythians out of China.
So while the Russian people of today are likely descended from Magog, there is no such biological connection for Gog to either Magog or any other ethnic group. There is an unrelated mention of a man named Gog, a grandson of Reuben, in 1 Chronicles 5:4 but there doesn’t seem to be any connection between him and the land of Magog either. Clearly, while Magog refers to the millions of his descendants in today’s Russia, Gog remains a single individual.
Some say he’s a king or leader, and in a real sense I think that’s true but I don’t believe he’s of the human variety. The time spanned by his three appearances in scripture make that impossible.
The first one is in the first verse of Amos 7, but you have to be reading Amos from the Septuagint translation to see it. There, Gog is identified as a king, but of a swarm of locusts. To further shroud him in mystery Proverbs 30:27 states that locusts have no king, and observers of locust swarms agree that no obvious leader directs them, as a queen would direct a hive of bees for example. The swarm of locusts led by Gog in Amos 7:1-2 was symbolic of a judgment that was to come upon the Northern Kingdom, but the Lord relented because of Amos’ intercession.
(This hint also lends insight to another appearance of locusts, by the way. I’m referring to the one in Revelation 9, where a swarm of locusts comes out of the Abyss to afflict those on Earth who lack the seal of God on their foreheads. These locusts have a king named Abaddon in the Hebrew or Appolyon in the Greek. Here again, the Proverbs passage would indicate that these locusts are of supernatural origin like the ones in Amos 7, not ordinary locusts.)
The next time Gog is mentioned is in Ezekiel 38:1, where he is called by name as the leader of a coalition of what are now primarily Muslim nations attacking Israel. His final mention comes from the Book of Revelation where he again leads the people from Magog against the Lord’s army at the end of the Millennium (Rev. 20:8).
Even if you’re among those who place the battle of Ezekiel 38 at the end of the Millennium, the span of time between Gog’s last two biblical appearances is at least 1000 years, and while I believe that some born in that era will have long life spans, there isn’t any indication that natural humans born before the Millennium begins will live to see its end. This is especially true of God’s enemies, since all surviving unbelievers are removed from Earth at the beginning of our Lord’s reign.
So I’ve come to the conclusion that Gog is not a mere human, like Vladimir Putin. I think he’s a supernatural figure working behind the scene. The Bible clearly states that behind the human seats of government stand supernatural figures manipulating the thoughts and actions of the world’s leaders. These figures are in Satan’s employ, helping in his effort to wrest ownership of Planet Earth from its Creator. The Bible offers several examples of the supernatural forces behind human thrones. I believe there are enough of these to make it a general principle.
In Isaiah 14 beginning at verse 3 the Lord began a taunt against the King of Babylon. Then in verse 12 He identified this king as Lucifer (KJV) and goes on to describe his rebellion against God and eventual fall.
In Ezekiel 28 we see a similar situation with the Lord speaking first of the human king of Tyre and then verse 11, still calling him the king of Tyre, He began describing circumstances and events no human king has ever experienced. It’s clear He was again speaking of Satan.
In Daniel 10, the prophet wrote of a vision he saw in the third year of the Persian Empire while on a fast to gain understanding of prophetic events. In the 21st day of his fast an angel came to him apologizing for taking so long to reach him. He had been detained by one he called the prince of Persia and had to summon Michael the archangel for help in getting free (Daniel 10:12-13). Then in verses 20-21 the angel said he would have to continue his fight against the prince of Persia and after that the prince of Greece would come.
Angels cannot be not detained by humans, and whoever detained this angel was so powerful that it took Michael to free him. Also, the Greek Empire was still 200 years in the future at the time.
In Daniel 10:13 Michael is identified as one of the Lord’s chief princes. In Daniel 12:1 we’re told that Michael will protect Israel at the end of the age. And in Rev 12:7 he’s seen leading the angelic host in a great battle in heaven when Satan is defeated there and cast down to Earth at the outset of the Great Tribulation. Michael is clearly a supernatural warrior leaping across the pages of history in defense of the Lord’s interests. It makes sense that Satan would have a military commander leading his forces as well, since everything he does seems to mirror the actions of his Creator. With his multiple mentions in Scripture and the long span of time between appearances, Gog could easily be this commander. Maybe it’s just an interesting coincidence, but one of the translations of Ezekiel 38:2 identifies Gog as the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal. That makes Gog the only other one called a chief prince in the Bible besides Michael.
Only time will tell if this view is correct. But one of the great advantages of living in our day is that we won’t have long to wait till we find out. You can almost hear the footsteps of the Messiah.