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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

God and Magog

In the Book of Revelation (Revelation 20:7-8) the seer tells that Satan, after being bound for one Thousand years, shall be loosed and go forth to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle. This is conceived in the Apocalypse as the last great battle between the powers of evil and the armies of God, and as the occasion of the final overthrow of the wicked, when fire comes forth from heaven to devour them. In this passage Gog and Magog are represented as nations dwelling in the four quarters of the earth and symbolic of the enemies of the Lord. The names are taken from the prophecy of Ezekiel (chs. 38 and 39), where Gog is represented as a person, ‘the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal,’ and Magog as the name of his land (Ezekiel 38:2). The prophet depicts this prince as leading a great host against the restored Israel, and being utterly defeated and overthrown. In the ethnological table in Genesis 10 Magog is represented as the son of Japheth and brother of Gomer. As to the etymology of the names, considerable difference of opinion exists. Driver (in Hastings’ Single-vol. Dictionary of the Bible , article ‘Gog’) states that the name Gog recalls that of Gyges (Gr. Γύγης; Assyr. Gugu), the famous king of Lydia of whom Herodotus (i. 8-14) tells us, and who, Assurbanipal states (KIB [Note: IB Keilinschriftliche Bibliothek.] ii. 173-5), when his country was invaded by the Gimirra (Cimerians), expelled them with Assyrian help. The name may have reached Palestine as that of a successful and distant king of barbarian tribes and may have been used by Ezekiel as symbolic of powers hostile to the Kingdom of God. Another interesting explanation is that of Uhlemann (Zeitschrift für wissenschaftliche Theologie v. (ed. Hilgenfeld, 1862], p. 265ff.). He points out that Magog originally signified ‘dwelling-place,’ or ‘land of Gog,’ and that the name Gog itself means ‘mountain.’ According to Uhlemann, all etymological and geographical indications point to the nation of Gog being the inhabitants of the Caucasus, as the καυκάσιν αὖρος of Herodotus is simply the Asiatic ‘Kauk’ or the Asiatic ‘mountain range.’ Others, such as Augustine and several ancient commentators, connect the word with Heb. נָּנ ‘roof,’ ‘cover’ or ‘protection,’ but it is unlikely that there is any connexion.

The Jews themselves regarded Gog and Magog as vague descriptions of northern barbaric nations, with whom they were very slightly acquainted. Josephus (Ant. I. vi. I) identifies them with the Seythians-a term which was generally used to describe vaguely any northern barbaric people. Perhaps oven in Ezekiel, where Gog is the prince and Magog the name of his country, the terms are little more than symbolic names for the opponents of God and His people. The picture that Ezekiel gave of their overthrow gave rise to the apocalyptic conception that finally the enemies of God and His people would he utterly overthrown in a great battle, and the names Gog and Magog frequently appear in later Jewish apocalyptic literature as leaders of the hostile world powers (cf. Sib. Orac. iii. 319, 322; Mishna, Eduyoth, 2.10). This final and abortive attack on the part of the powers of evil is referred to in Revelation 19:17 ff., while in 20:8 the names of Gog and Magog appear as the description of hostile nations. Probably Revelation 19, 20, like most of the book, is part of a Jewish apocalypse which has been transformed by the Christian writer. The Christian seer, like the Hebrew prophet, looks for a day when the enemies of God and His saints will be utterly overthrown.

Many and varied are the interpretations that have been given of Gog and Magog by those who, ignoring the poetical and pictorial nature of apocalyptic literature, regard the Apocalypse as a prophecy of actual historic events. Thus the names have been applied to nations beyond the bounds of the Roman Empire, to Bar Cochba, the Jewish Messianic pretender, and frequently to the Turks. These interpretations depend on the view taken of the ‘thousand years’ and the ‘first resurrection.’ For a full discussion of the subject, see articles Eschatology, Parousia.

Literature.-A. B. Davidson, Ezekiel (Camb. Bible, 1892); F. Düsterdieck. Handbuch über die Offenbarung Johannis2 in Meyer’s Kommentar über das NT, 1865; W. Bousset, Die Offenbarung Johannis5 in Meyer’s Kommentar, 1896, Der Antichrist, 1895, Religion des Judentums im NT Zeitalter2, 1906; J. Moffatt, ‘Revelation’ in Expositor’s Greek Testament , 1910; B. Stade, Geschichte des Volkes Israel, 1888; E. Schürer, GJV [Note: JV Geschichte des jüdischen Volkes (Schürer).] 4 1901-1911; E. Schrader, KAT [Note: AT Zimmern-Winckler’s ed. of the preceding (a totally distinct work), 1902-03.] 3 [Note: Zimmern-Winckler’s ed. of the preceding (a totally distinct work), 1902-03.] . 1902-03; S. R. Driver, articles ‘Gog,’ ‘Magog’ in Hastings’ Single-vol. Dictionary of the Bible ; A. H. Sayce, articles ‘Gog,’ ‘Magog’ in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) .

W. F. Boyd.



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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'God and Magog'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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