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Russia and Ezekiel's Prophecy of Gog, in the Land of Magog

Russia has risen to an economic power, and Russian foreign policy is promoting closer diplomatic ties in the Middle East with Iran, Syria, Hamas, and Hezbollah while strengthening economic and military trade with the Islamic nations. These events along with the Arab Spring movement are aligning the nations for the perfect storm prophesied by Ezekiel more than 2,500 years ago.

The unrest in the Middle East is no surprise to anyone. The contention over Palestine and the rising demand for Islamic theocratic rule is an increasing challenge for Israel’s security. And the growing anti-Semitism in the west is isolating Israel as western nations attempt to pressure Israel into concessions it cannot accept. Israel’s apparent friends including America are in some instances demonstrating outright indignation toward Israel regarding her settlements and borders. Arab Spring uprisings are sprouting across Northern Africa and the Middle East. Dictatorships and monarchies that use corruption and repression to stay in power are being challenged by those demanding reform. The reformists are demanding democracy based on principles of Islamic law. But this ideology is an oxymoron; Islamic law is incompatible with democracy. To appease the west for support, however, radical reformers will use democracy to gain power before abolishing it under the precepts of Islam. In February 2012, the Muslim Brotherhood won fifty-eight percent of the parliament seats in Egypt’s Shura Council (upper house) while Al-Nour came in second place with twenty-five percent. Egypt’s Islamists also dominate the People’s Assembly (lower house). In the end, Islamic movements will demand theocratic states governed by Sharia Law similar to the theocratic Islamic republic of Iran. The moral code of Islamic law will serve only to threaten Israel because hatred for the Jews is grounded in Islamic culture by the Koran. And Iranian president Ahmadinejad’s promise to wipe Israel off the face of the earth only raises the frenzy of hatred against Israel.

So how does Russia enter into the events unfolding in the Middle East? Russia has an increasingly large economic stake in the Middle East. It’s no surprise that Russia has a habit of vetoing UN resolutions that impose sanctions on Islamic states, in particular Iran and Syria. In addition to its growing economic and military trade, Russia is pursuing a gas cartel in the Middle East. And Russia recently signed an agreement with Turkey for a gas pipeline under the Black Sea that will allow Russia to transport its domestic gas to its northern Caucasus region and under the Black Sea in Turkish waters to Western Europe. Combined with a gas cartel, Russia’s entire natural gas resource infrastructure would make Russia the dominate energy provider to Europe, Central Asia and a portion of Eastern Asia. Russia’s greatest export sector is energy. And as Russia’s domestic energy sources decline, there will be a need to secure energy reserves outside its borders.

The dangerous combination for Israel is Russia’s desire for greater Russo-Islamic trade relations and the Palestinians’ demand for statehood in the West Bank, and in particular, for East Jerusalem as their capital. It’s no secret that Israel also has great wealth in the mineral reserves of the Dead Sea and the Negev wasteland. In addition, Israel has discovered large reserves of natural gas off its eastern Mediterranean coast. The time will come when Russia will assist the Islamic nations in their attempt to take control of Jerusalem in exchange for the wealth of natural resources and minerals in the Middle East including Israel.

Map of Israel Before discussing the nations of Ezekiel’s Gog and Magog who will make war against Israel during the Great Tribulation at the end of our age, it’s important to review the history of Israel’s rebirth as a nation in 1948 and its relevance to Ezekiel’s prophecy as literal events taking place in our time. The world today views Israel as a nation illegally occupying Palestinian land and thereby displacing its people as refugees. This could not be further from the truth. A review of historical facts is in order [refer to adjacent map]. After Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in AD 70 and the Jews dispersed among the foreign nations, Roman Emperor Hadrian renamed Judea the land of “Palestine” in approximately AD 135. The name was given in reference to the Jews’ biblical enemy, the Philistines, who fought Israel for possession of the land after the Exodus from Egypt. Therefore, the name Palestine was intended to be an insult to the Jews and an attempt to forever break the bond between the Land of Israel and the Jewish people. Consequently, the word “Palestine” originated long before the present people in Palestine began calling themselves “Palestinians” in the 1960s. In addition, the Palestinian people cannot claim to be descendants of the Philistines because it was the ancient Aegean people who migrated to the eastern Mediterranean coastline of Israel in the area near Gaza. The Palestinian people, on the other hand, are descendants from the Arabs of Arabia. Since the Roman conquest, Jews have always maintained a presence in Palestine even though many had been forced into exile. They periodically migrated back to Palestine and by 1864 Jews once again were the majority in Jerusalem. They purchased their land and restored it to prosperity. Their desire for independent statehood became known as the Zionist movement. But in spite of this peaceful and legal process, the Jews suffered discrimination to varying degrees by their Arab neighbors. The opposition to a Jewish presence intensified by the time of the British Mandate derived from the 1917 Balfour Declaration. This mandate pledged Palestine to the reestablishment of the Jewish homeland while the adjacent lands were to be partitioned to the Arab population. This was supported by both European and Arab leaders in hope that the Jews would revive the impoverished Palestinian wasteland. But later in response to Arab pressure, Britain violated the mandate in 1922 by repartitioning over 75 percent of Palestine (all land east of the Jordan River) to present day Jordan. And things only got worse for Israel. In 1923, the British again violated the mandate by giving the Golan Heights to the French mandate, which later became Syria. And in 1947, UN Resolution 181 recommended repartitioning the remaining Jewish dedicated Palestinian mandate to establish an Arab Palestinian state within a Jewish Palestinian state with the exception of Jerusalem. From a strategic point of view, there could not have been a worse repartitioning of Palestine for Israel. Not only would this relegate the size of the Jewish state to only 13 percent of the original British Mandate, it would also split the Jewish state nearly in half leaving it vulnerable to its enemies. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the UN resolution would leave the Jews with an area that is 60 percent arid Negev Desert. But in spite of mandate violations by the British and the ostensibly unfair UN resolution, the Jewish leaders accepted to plan. What is dumbfounding is that the Arab leaders rejected the offer. They went to war against Israel in 1948 to seize the whole of Palestine and push the Jews into the sea. The war ended in a ceasefire. Jordan annexed an area they renamed the “West Bank” and Egypt occupied Gaza. And Israel gained statehood over an area slightly larger than the area proposed by UN Resolution 181 of 1947. These lines of demarcation are known today as the pre-1967 borders. Consequently, these lines exposed Israel’s majority populace to repeated rocket attacks from three sides: the Syrian Golan Heights to the north, the Jordanian West Bank to the east, and the Egyptian Gaza Strip to the south. Only the eastern Mediterranean coastline provided some defense on Israel’s western flank. This vulnerability no doubt encouraged Israel’s enemies of Syria, Egypt and Jordan to mobilize for war in 1967 in another attempt to destroy Israel and take all the land of Palestine. Israel learned of the planned invasion and preempted with a defensive war. Israel won the war and, as defensive buffers, captured the Golan Heights, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and the Sinai Peninsula. Soon afterwards, Israel tried to negotiate with her three neighbors by offering to return land for peace. But the Arab leaders refused the offer. In 1973, Syria and Egypt launched a surprise attack in another attempt to destroy Israel. Again, Israel was victorious. In the 1979 Camp David Peace Accords, Israel signed a peace treaty with Egypt and returned the Sinai Peninsula. And in 1994, Israel signed a peace treaty with Jordan. Today's borders are a result of these events with Gaza embroiled in constant volatility.

Today, the Palestinian Arabs are demanding the return of the West Bank and claim East Jerusalem as their future capital. The Jerusalem Post reported in March 2012 that the PLO Executive Committee stated there would be no solution to the Israeli-Arab crisis unless Jerusalem became the eternal capital of an independent Palestinian state. Syria is demanding the return of the Golan Heights. For defensive reasons, however, Israel refuses to return to the pre-1967 borders with the exception of the Gaza Strip. And Jerusalem is non-negotiable according to Israeli leaders for obvious reasons; Jerusalem defines Israel as much as DNA defines an individual. Unfortunately, peace is not the priority of most Islamic neighbors of Israel. The bitter hatred fostered against the Jews by Hamas and Hezbollah places death and misery above life and prosperity. Their ultimate goal is not statehood for the Palestinians; rather, it is death to the Jews.

In view of the foregoing discussion, it is vividly evident that Ezekiel’s prophetic events are literal and are intended for our generation, that is, we are living Ezekiel’s prophetic events of the end times. Events that have been witnessed in our generation are summarized as follows:

1. Israel has been regathered from many nations (Ezekiel 37:21-22)

2. Israel has restored a wasteland (Ezekiel 38:8,12)

3. Israel was reborn as a nation in 1948 (Ezekiel 37:22)

4. Israel has cities without walls (Ezekiel 38:11)

5. Nations hostile to Israel are aligning themselves against her (Ezekiel 38:1-6)

From this overview of Israel’s recent history and current events in the Middle East, we now turn our attention to identifying the nations that Ezekiel prophesied will invade Israel at the end time.

An Introduction to Ezekiel’s Nations

Ezekiel 38:1-9 from the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB):

"The word of the Lord came to me. "Son of man, turn your face toward Gog, of the land of Magog, the chief prince of [or the prince of Rosh] Meshech and Tubal. Prophesy against him and say: This is what the Lord God says: Look, I am against you, Gog, chief prince of [or the prince of Rosh] Meshech and Tubal. I will turn you around, put hooks in your jaws, and bring you out with all your army, including horses and riders, who are all splendidly dressed, a huge company armed with shields and bucklers, all of them brandishing swords. Persia, Cush, and Put are with them, all of them with shields and helmets; Gomer with all its troops; [and] Beth-Togarmah [from] the remotest parts of the north along with all its troops—many peoples are with you. Be prepared and get yourself ready, you and all your company who have been mobilized around you; you will be their guard. After a long time you will be summoned. In the last years you will enter a land that has been restored from war and regathered from many peoples to the mountains of Israel, which had long been a ruin. They were brought out from the peoples, and all of them [now] live securely. You, all of your troops, and many peoples with you will advance, coming like a thunderstorm; you will be like a cloud covering the land."

Overview

The Book of Ezekiel has been among the most difficult of Hebrew scripture to interpret. The interpretation of Gog and Magog prophetic events in chapters 38 and 39 has been controversially characterized by various groups as being either symbolic, contemporary-literal (Ezekiel’s time) or future-literal (end-time). In addition, the debate over the grammatical structure of the word “Rosh”, and thus, its place in the identity of nations prophesied to come against Israel, has added to the controversy. However, recent research of ancient manuscripts and unfolding world events confirm Ezekiel’s prophecy, including the role of Rosh [Russia], to be a literal message from God for the end-time generation. The regathering of Israel as a nation in 1948 and the ensuing alignment of nations against her is a testament to Ezekiel’s message as literal end-time events, and these events are as literal as the end-time prophecies of Daniel and Christ’s revelation to the Apostle John in the Book of Revelation.

The following discussions shed light on the identity of the nations described by Ezekiel who will lead an invasion against Israel during the Great Tribulation, which culminates at the final battle of Armageddon with the second coming of Jesus Christ, the Messiah. The context of the ensuing discussions of the nations and their migratory paths is based primarily on the research of Ruthven and Griess [see reference 1]. Their technical scholarly thesis is highly recommended reading because of the exhaustive approach to combine the facets of grammatical, philological, historical, ethnological, and toponymical investigations into identifying the nations. The invading nations described by Ezekiel can be divided into two groups relative to Israel on a compass: the northern nations; and the other nations surrounding Israel to the east, south and west. The northern nations include Rosh, Gomer, Meshech, Tubal and Togarmah, which comprise the modern day territories of Russia, Ukraine, nations in the Caucasus and Caspian Sea regions, and Anatolia (primarily present day Turkey). Thus, the northern nations can be summarized as Russia and her southern neighbors from the Black Sea eastward to the Caspian Sea. The other nations surrounding Israel are Persia to the east, Cush to the south, and Put to the west. These nations today represent Iran, Sudan and Libya, respectively [see map below].

Location of Ezekiel's Nations

Location of Ezekiel's Nations

A review of Noah’s early descendants and their migrations will help frame the peoples of Gog and Magog in their respective groups in the ensuing discussions. The following genealogy can be found in Genesis chapter 10 and First Chronicles chapter 1:

Noah’s sons: Japheth, Ham, Shem

Japheth’s son: Meshech, Tubal, Gomer (who begot Togarmah), Madai (Persia)

Ham’s sons: Put, Cush, Egypt

Shem’s sons: Israel (First Chronicles 1:17-28; Genesis 10:25)

Ezekiel’s Northern Nations: Gog, of the Land of Magog

The earliest territory inhabited in the land of Russia was a result of successive waves of invaders from Asia, east of the Ural Mountains. These migrations were part of a greater Japhetic movement (Japheth's descendants) that formed an ethnic mix of the Andronovo Culture in the period 1200 BC to 200 BC [see map below]. These movements followed a path from east to west across the Russian steppes along the southern tip of the Ural Mountains. The migrations continued generally westward north of the Caspian Sea and into the fertile Ukrainian steppes north of the Black Sea. The earlier invaders comprised the Cimmerians (Ezekiel’s Gomer) from 1200 BC – 750 BC, the Scythians from 750 BC – 250 BC, and the Sarmatians from 250 BC – AD 250. The Slavs (an ethnic mix of Europe) and the Norsemen of Scandinavia invaded the land of Russia in the latter part of the first millennium AD from the west and north, respectively. It is important to understand that the earliest peoples were migratory and, therefore, cannot be associated with ancient nations having rigid borders. The history of ancient migrations can be compared to the actions of ocean waves on seashores. The waves wash ashore and leave deposits of sediments before retreating out to sea. In ancient migrations, invaders would often overrun a land to plunder the wealth and impose taxes on the inhabitants. In the process, they would leave a footprint of their own people in the land. These cycles would continue eventually leaving a mix of peoples in the land.

Ezekiel’s Northern Nations' Earliest Migrations

Russia's Earliest Migrations

What is important to note at this point is that Ezekiel singles out Rosh, Meshech and Tubal as being under the auspices of [the prince] Gog, of the land of Magog. Although historians have not been able to directly identify Gog and Magog, the following discussions present the premise that Gog and Magog were revealed to Ezekiel as nations to rise during the end-times whose modern day names could only be identified in Ezekiel's time by the names of peoples in ancient times. This is a plausible premise because it will be shown that the nation of Russia is more closely associated with the ancient peoples of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal. The ancient peoples of Gomer and Togarmah are more closely associated with the nations in the regions from the Black Sea to the Caspian Sea including the Caucasus. These associations, however, are not exclusive of each other. Consequently, all these regions comprise the land of Magog, the northern nations. The other nations to the east (Iran), south (Sudan) and west (Libya) will join the invasion.

Rosh

We start with the longer discussion of Rosh because of the importance in its identity with the present day nation of Russia. Even though Rosh is listed as a son of Benjamin in Genesis 46:21, no connection can be made between Rosh, the son of Benjamin, and Rosh, the land of Russia. Rosh is not easily linked to the migrations of peoples into the land of Russia. Consequently, this has led theologians and Bible scholars to traditionally dismiss Ezekiel’s Rosh as being associated with Russia. However, recent research has challenged this view.

Hermeneutical studies of the word “Rosh” have long been at the center of debate and controversy regarding its intended meaning in the Book of Ezekiel. Based much on the work of J. Simons, many Bible expositors and translations have traditionally accepted Rosh as a noun [head] or a noun serving as a noun-adjective [chief] rather than a noun serving as a proper name [Russia]. Both grammatical and philological arguments have been made to support this position. Biblical translators of the Hebrew language often use the phrase “[chief] prince of” instead of “prince of [Rosh]” in Ezekiel 38:2-3 and 39:1. Some provide the latter as an optional translation. However, recent rigorous research by Ruthven and Griess [see reference 1], and others including Price [see reference 2], also incorporates both arguments, in addition to others, to make a convincing case that Ezekiel intended to describe “Rosh” as a proper name of a people and their land – the land of Russia. Their research of ancient literature has corroborated their grammatical expositions of the Hebrew language to describe a literal place we know today as Russia. The evidence for Rosh as a proper name is presented by Ruthven and Griess in five parts: grammatical, philological, historical, ethnological, and toponymical.

Grammatical – The grammatical interpretation of Ezekiel’s Hebrew word ‘Rosh’ has been a technically challenging and controversially, scholarly subject among theologians. The debate and controversy focuses on the interpretation of Ezekiel 38:2-3 and 39:1. The traditionally accepted argument by J. Simons states that the rules of the Hebrew language require the conjunctive word "AND" in the polysyndeton of Rosh-Meshech-Tubal in order to allow Rosh to be included as a proper name in conjunction with Meshech and Tubal. Thus, according to Simons, the absence of the conjunction "AND" between Rosh and Meshech by Ezekiel precludes Rosh as a proper name alongside Meshech and Tubal. Consequently, Rosh becomes a noun serving as the adjective [chief] rendering the translation “[chief] prince of Meshech and Tubal”. However, Ezekiel’s writing style clearly ignores this rule in chapter 38 verse 5 when he lists the three nations of Persia [no AND] Cush, [AND] Put. In addition, the renowned Hebrew and Greek scholar William Gesenius cites exceptions to the polysyndeton rule throughout the Bible (see Price, page 74). James Price continues in his paper with arguments against Simons. He examined four other patterns of Hebrew and three major Hebrew grammars to determine if Ezekiel’s style might have set a precedent for the translation by Simons. The various exceptional constructions he found were either irrelevant or ambiguous to the application of Simon’s interpretation. Thus, Simon’s interpretation fails grammatically.

These relatively recent grammatical findings still only represent interpretation of the Hebrew text rather than proof of the original meaning intended. Consequently, the combination of philological, historical, ethnological, and toponymical evidence serves to corroborate the grammatical arguments presented by Gesenius, Ruthven and Griess, and Price. It will be helpful to refer to the map below as the discussion of Rosh progresses.

Ezekiel’s Rosh (Rōs/Ros/Rus)

Ezekiel's Rosh (Rōs/Ros/Rus)

Philological – Philology is basically the study of how a language is used in historical texts. In this context, the Bible characterizes Rosh as a proper name rather than a noun-adjective in several passages. In the Greek Septuagint (LXX), Rosh appears as a proper name Ρως (Rōs) in Ezekiel 38:2-3 and 29:1, and as Βυζ (Buz) in Jeremiah 25:23. It should be noted that in the Hebrew Masoretic text, the LXX’s Ρως is written as Βυζ. In Genesis 46:21, Rosh appears as a proper name in the listing of Benjamin’s sons. Although there is no Biblical reference that a nation named Rosh descended from Benjamin’s son, Rosh, eponymous ancestry is clearly evident in Genesis 10:2. This passage outlines a list of individuals descended from Japheth whose names became the names of nations including Gomer, Meshech, Tubal and Togarmah. These nations are listed in Ezekiel’s prophecy of Gog and Magog. Therefore, there is a biblical basis for allowing Rosh to be used a proper name rather than an exclusive reference to a noun-adjective such as "chief".

Historical – As noted earlier, the land of Russia is inclusive of the nations immediately bordering the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. Ezekiel’s northern nations of Rosh, Gomer, Meshech, Togarmah, and Tubal have been linked to peoples by ancient Near East historical texts spanning a period from approximately 1500 BC to AD 200. Their migratory paths originated in Asia. The migrations progressed westward across the Russian steppes and along the southern tip of the Ural Mountains into the steppes of Ukraine. From this geographical region, the migration continued around the western and southern coastlines of the Black Sea into present day Turkey. During the time of Ezekiel’s ministry, a small percentage of these northern nations inhabited eastern Anatolia, which today is primarily the eastern region of Turkey. Within a few centuries, they returned northward leaving their footprints in southern Russia. Several tribes of the Sarmatians might have provided the earliest reference to the name Rus from which the name Russia was derived. The Roxolani [Rukhs] tribe appeared in the Volga basin north of the Caucasus and Black Sea regions, and the [Ros]omones tribe appeared in the tran-Caucasian area long before the Varangians Rus (Norsemen) arrived in the land of Russia from Scandinavia.

Near East ancient literature regarding Ezekiel’s nations includes many sources: Egyptian, Ugaritic, Hittite, Urartian, Assyrian, Babylonian, and Greek. Of particular importance is Greek literature because of its extensive writings of the ancient world. Greek literature spans a period from approximately 900 BC to 31 BC. Afterward, the literature from the Greek and Roman empires blended until the beginning of the Byzantine period in approximately AD 330. In the Greek Septuagint, the Hebrew word Rosh is translated as Rōs and takes on the additional forms of Rōsos and Rōssos in Greek literature. In early Greek literature, including Aristotle in the 4th century BC, Rōs referred to an area in the northeastern corner of the Mediterranean. In later Greek literature of the 9th century AD and onward including the Byzantines in their Greek Bible, Rōs most commonly referred to the Kievan Rus, which later gave its name to Russia.

Ethnological – Ethnology is the study of the origin and distribution of races. The ancient migrations described in the historical context places the Rōs/Rus people primarily in the Ukrainian steppes and southern Russia. This area is located north of the Black Sea in Ukraine and in southern Russia including Russia's northern Caucasus region. The land of Russia reflects a history of earlier ancient eastern invaders from a period of approximately 1200 BC to 200 BC: The Cimmerians (1200 BC – 750 BC), The Scythians (750 BC – 250 BC), and the Sarmatians (250 BC – AD 250). The Slavs (an ethnic mix of Europe) and the Norsemen invaded the land of Russia in the latter part of the first millennium AD from the west and north, respectively. The Scythians represented the majority ethnic constituent of early Russia. The Byzantines referred to the Rus as Tauro-Scythians who migrated to the Crimean Peninsula in approximately 250 BC. The medieval Greeks referred to the Scythians as Rōs. The Sarmatians may have been the earliest people to inhabit Russia farther north of the Black Sea and the Caucasus in the Volga basin.

The implication of these chronicled invasions is that the Varangians, known also as the Scandinavian Norsemen or Vikings, were not the original settlers in the land of Russia. There is no tribe or nation called Rus known to have existed anywhere in Scandinavia. The Varangians invaded the land in the ninth century AD from the northwest through the Baltic Sea and established themselves initially in the northern area of present day St. Petersburg, Russia. Their invasion route eventually took them south along the Dnieper toward Kiev. By assimilation into the indigenous population, they became known as the Scandinavian Rus. By early 10th century AD, the original Rōs tribe had expanded northward from the region of Kiev in the Dnieper valley. They seized control over the other East Slavic tribes and later formed the Kievan Rus. Soviet historians have confirmed a southern origin name, Rus, from a discovery of a 4th century AD term, “Ruskaya Zemlya,” which in the Russian language means “Russian Land”. This is long before the invasion of the Scandinavians. Later in history, the name Rus was expropriated from the Kievan region of Ukraine by the more powerful tribe of Moscow to the north. Consequently, the land of the Rus, Russia, is identified today by its power seat in Moscow.

Toponymical – Toponymy is a study of place names and their origins. Toponyms can provide important information about the history of a people and their land. There is ample evidence of a people named Rōs/Rus throughout Russia, Ukraine and the Caucasus Mountains long before the invasion of the Scandinavians. During the first few centuries AD, what is currently the Volga River was called the Ra/Rōs/Rus’ River. A fifth century Greek geographer called the Volga River the Rōs. In addition, a tributary of the Dnieper River named Rōs is located a few kilometers south of Kiev. These are just a few examples of names of rivers and tributaries whose names are derived from Rōs/Rus before the invasion of the Scandinavians.

A summary of Rosh – As has been presented, there exist much evidence that the Hebrew word Rosh in Ezekiel chapters 38 and 39 is a proper name rather than an adjective or a noun-adjective. And the evidence clearly points to a nation named Rosh which is present day Russia. The people of Rosh were not originally Scandinavian as traditionally believed. However, the Scandinavians were instrumental in the creation of the land of Russia. This does not go unnoticed in Ezekiel 38:6 when Ezekiel prophesies that God will gather the armies of Gog and Magog from the remotest parts of the north. If a line is drawn on a map going north of Jerusalem, the line will very nearly traverse Moscow and St. Petersburg. The latter was the original settlement by the Scandinavians near the Arctic Circle as they began their invasion southward into the land of Russia long after the earlier invaders from Asia and Europe had migrated into the land to become an indigenous people of Russia. And it is the earlier Asian invaders that identify the other names of Gomer, Meshech, Togarmah, and Tubal who will join Rosh as Gog invades Israel at the end time. Also joining Gog and the land of Magog will be the nations of Persia (Iran), Put (Libya) and Cush (Sudan).

Meshech

Ancient Near-East literature reveals that Ezekiel’s tribe of Meshech migrated from Eastern Europe in the second millennium BC to central and eastern Anatolia, the area of modern day Turkey. The tribe later moved progressively north from eastern Anatolia toward the southern slopes of the Caucasus Mountains where Meshech might have given its identity to the Meskhi in the region of modern day Georgia [see map below].

Ezekiel’s Meshech

Ezekiel's Meshech

There has been controversy whether or not Ezekiel’s Meshech is related to Moscow. It has been difficult to prove that the Meskhi are related to the Mescherians who were located in Eastern Europe and concentrated in the region occupied today by Moscow. It is interesting to note, however, that Moscow’s suburbs have expanded into an area called the Meshchera lowlands. It is possible that Meshech could have been part of a Finnic-Ugric migration from the east that moved westward along the southern end of the Ural Mountains and eventually settled in the area of modern day Moscow. Part of this group at least continued southward around 1100 BC into eastern Anatolia (Turkey) where they were later identified by the Assyrians as the Mushki. By AD 800, there were only about a dozen tribal names in the land of Russia. Thus, it is amazingly coincidental that the tribe of Meshech is co-located with present day Moscow. From the foregoing discussion, there is no basis to claim that Ezekiel’s Meshech cannot be identified with Moscow.

Tubal

Tubal refers to Tabal, which is linked historically to the Mushki described in the previous section pertaining to Meshech. They had similar experiences with the Assyrians. Assyrian King Shalmaneser III (858-824 BC) described his advance against the kings in the land of Tabal in the area of the Taurus Mountain range in southeast Anatolia, which is located in present day Turkey [see map below].

Ezekiel’s Tubal

Ezekiel's Tubal

There is also another location that might be identified with the tribe of Tabal prior to their ultimate migration into southeast Anatolia. As presented earlier in the introduction to Ezekiel’s northern nations, the tribes of the Japhetic movement generally migrated from eastern Asia westward past the southern tip of the Ural Mountains into Eastern Europe. Tubal might have been part of the Cimmerians (Gomer) migration. Their earlier migrations appear to have settled near the southern tip of the Ural Mountains. This is evident by the river named Tobol, which flows northward along the eastern side of the Urals. In addition, at least four cities indicate evidence of the Tabal tribe: Tobol in Kazakhstan; Tobolskiy, one in Kazakhstan and the other in Russia; and Tobolsk in Russia near the confluence of the Tobol and Irtysh Rivers.

Gomer

The Cimmerians are identified with biblical Gomer in Genesis chapter 10 and Ezekiel chapters 38-39. As a son of Japheth, Gomer was part of the Japhetic movement from eastern Asia westward into Eastern Europe. The Cimmerians were a nomadic tribe who invaded an area from the Caspian Sea to an area north of the Black Sea in present day Ukraine from around 1200 BC to about 750 BC. Under pressure from the invading Scythians to the east, the Cimmerians ultimately migrated west and south. The main group of Cimmerians either assimilated with the Scythian invaders or moved slowly westward to an area north of the Black Sea. A second group of Cimmerians moved in a southerly direction through the Caucasus Mountains into Asia Minor, which is present day Turkey. Incursions into Assyria caused the Assyrians to push the Cimmerians farther westward through Asia Minor to Ephesus on the Aegean coast [see map below].

Ezekiel’s Gomer

Ezekiel's Gomer

Traditional Bible commentaries and atlases place Gomer in present day Turkey. However, they do not account for the larger group of Cimmerians who were eventually pushed by the Scythians into the Crimean peninsula and as far west as Romania. Consequently, an ethnic population of the larger main group of Cimmerians assimilated into present day Ukraine and southern Russia.

The Cimmerians were eventually displaced by the invading Scythians around 750 BC. The Scythians are identified with the biblical Ashkenaz, a son of Gomer. They covered an immense geographical area: west to east from Romania to Korea; and north to south from the Siberian permafrost to Egypt. The Scythians ultimately shaped the major ethnic population of early Russia.

Around 205 BC, the Sarmatians, closely related to the Scythians, appeared in the steppes of Ukraine and defeated the Scythians. They dominated the region from 250 BC to AD 250. Several tribes of the Sarmatians might have provided the earliest reference to the name Rus from which the name Russia was derived. The Roxolani [Rukhs] tribe appeared in the Volga basin north of the Caucasus and Black Sea regions, and the [Ros]omones tribe appeared in the tran-Caucasian area long before the Varangians Rus (Norsemen) arrived in the land of Russia.

Togarmah

Togarmah is listed in Genesis chapter 10 as a son of Gomer, who is a son of Japheth. The migrations specific to Togarmah have not been definitively established. Research traces the migratory path of Togarmah into modern day southern Russia and Turkey. This migration was part of the greater Japhetic movement that formed an ethnic mix of the Andronovo Culture in the period 1200 BC to 200 BC. Later migrations place the ultimate destinations of Togarmah in Armenia near the southeastern coastline of the Black Sea [see map below].

Ezekiel’s Togarmah

Ezekiel's Togarmah

Consequently, this limited information and the sentence structure of Ezekiel 38:6 implies that the remotest parts of the north are restricted to Togarmah initially in southern Russia and Turkey, and ultimately in Armenia. But what about the territories of Russia that extends much farther north into the Arctic Circle? A close inspection of a traditional Bible translation of the original Hebrew text might explain this apparent anomaly. The following discussion is a supposition from this writer and not necessarily a conclusion of Ruthven and Griess. Bible translations typically insert the conjunction [and] and the preposition [from] into the Hebrew text regarding Togarmah in Ezekiel 38:6 as follows:

“Gomer and all its troops; [and] Beth-Togarmah [from] the remotest parts of the north” (HCSB)

This translation implies that the remotest parts of the north are restricted to Togarmah initially in southern Russia and Turkey, and ultimately in Armenia. While this region may have been considered remotely north in Ezekiel’s time, it does not reconcile the land of modern day Russia farther north. Later migrations of the Scandinavians into the land of Russia established populations near St. Petersburg, which is located near the Arctic Circle. Did Ezekiel understand the ‘remotest’ parts to be much farther than the ultimate migration of Togarmah as suggested in traditional Bible translations? The Hebrew text suggests Ezekiel understood the reach to extend to the farthest northerly regions by the following critique:

The Hebrew text does not include the conjunction [and] or the preposition [from]:

“Gomer and all its troops [no And] the house of Togarmah [no From] the remotest parts of the north”

Accordingly, the absence of conjunctions and prepositions leads to the following translation of the Hebrew text with semicolons added to separate phrases of text:

“Gomer and all its troops; the house of Togarmah; the remotest parts of the north”

The implication here is that Ezekiel’s prophecy meant to include all the land of modern day Russia from her southern borders all the way north to the Arctic Circle. God gave Ezekiel a vision of the ancient land, the land of Magog, which would become what we know today as Russia and her neighboring nations including the nation of Turkey.

Ezekiel’s Non-Northern Nations: Persia, Cush, and Put

Ezekiel chapters 38 and 39 begin with God’s command to Ezekiel to prophecy against a list of nations who will come against Israel in the last days. The northern nations are identified as Gog, of the land of Magog, which include Rosh, Meshech, Tubal, Gomer, and Togarmah. The other nations encompassing Israel are Persia (Iran) to the east, Cush (Sudan) to the south, and Put (Libya) to the west [see map below].

Ezekiel’s Northern and Other Nations

Ezekiel's Other Nations of Put (Libya), Cush (Sudan) and Persia (Iran)

Put and Cush were sons of Ham, who was one of Noah’s three sons. Both are recorded in the biblical table of nations in Genesis 10:6 and the genealogy of Noah in First Chronicles 1:8. First century Jewish historian Josephus wrote that Phut (Put) was the founder of Libya, a northern African nation located west of Egypt. The Cushites, on the other hand, lived in the Upper Nile region south of Egypt. It was an ancient Nubian state centered on the confluences of the Blue Nile, White Nile and River Atbara in what is known today as the Republic of Sudan, specifically, the northern region of Sudan. The earliest historical record comes from Egyptian sources, which referred to the land Kush, meaning "wretched."

The Hebrew word for Persia is Para. The Persian Empire geographically existed in the area that is today called Iran. Iran covers an area that extends from the south at the Persian Gulf (ancient Persia region) to the north at the Caspian Sea (ancient Media region), and from the eastern border with Afghanistan to the western border with Iraq. The first two Persian dynasties included the Medes (725 to 550 BC) and the Achaemenids (559 to 330 BC). The books of Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Daniel, Haggai, Zachariah, and Malachi were written during the first two dynasties of the early Persian Kingdom from the reigns of King Cyrus to King Artaxerxes.

The commonality of Persia (Iran), Put (Libya) and Cush (Sudan) is that they shared military alliances with Egypt in ancient history as noted in numerous biblical passages including Jeremiah 46:9, Nahum 3:9, and Ezekiel 27:10; 30:5. Their common enemy was Israel. And in the last days in which we are living, they again oppose Israel, at least passively.

Summary of Ezekiel’s Nations and the Time of the End

God is revealing to us through world headline news the nations prophesied by Ezekiel who will make war on Israel at the time of the end. Not to be confused with the end of the world, the time of the end is in reference to the end of Israel’s transgressions and the domination of Israel by the Gentile nations. Russia’s reemergence and the outbreak of the Arab Spring movement are aligning the nations as foretold by Ezekiel. The events that will take place at the time of the end will be literal events just prior to the return of Jesus Christ, the Messiah. God reveals His Word first to the heart of man, then to the intellect at the appropriate time. There is scriptural basis for this as can be found in the Daniel 12:8-9. Like Ezekiel, the prophet Daniel also was given a vision of the end-times regarding Israel. Even though Daniel’s heart was prepared to receive the vision, he could not fully comprehend it. When he asked the angel for understanding, he was told that the words are secret and sealed until the time of the end. During this time, many would move about and knowledge would increase. We are living in the time of the end and God is revealing to us the mysteries that were hidden from Daniel. Those who are in Christ will have the understanding that Daniel sought. The coming tribulation period will be catastrophic and God desires that no one should perish but all should come to repentance (Second Peter 3:9). When the disciples approached Jesus and asked, “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what is the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” Then Jesus told them, “Now learn this parable from the fig tree: As soon as its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see all these things, recognize that He [Christ] is near – at the door! [Matthew 24:32-33 (HCSB)]

If you have not received Christ in your heart and life, then salvation is as close as your confession of faith. You will not have to fear the coming judgment upon the world if you are in Christ because those who belong to Christ will be raptured to meet Him in the air prior to the tribulation period.

References:

1. Ruthven PhD, Jon Mark “The Prophecy That Is Shaping History – New Research on Ezekiel’s Vision of the Land.” Xulon Press 2003

2. Price, James D. “Rosh: An Ancient Land Known to Ezekiel.” Grace Theological Journal 6:1 (Spring 1985): 67-89