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Is Russia mentioned in the Bible?
Ezekiel 38-39

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"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 mention Gog, Magog, Rosh, Meshech and Tubal. Some think that Rosh represents Russia, and Meshech, Moscow, and thus identify the former USSR in biblical prophecy.

First, we should note that the language of prophecy and especially of apocalyptic prophecy is difficult. That of Ezekiel ranks highest for incomprehensibility because of its sometimes strange imagery. The only other place mentioning Gog and Magog is Revelation 20:8, another hard to interpret volume saturated with Old Testament imagery.

Actually, Magog first appears separately in the division of the nations after the flood:

"The sons of Japheth were Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech, and Tiras." (Genesis 10:2)

Gog turns up amongst Reuben's offspring:

"The sons of Joel were Shemaiah his son, Gog his son..." (1 Chronicles 5:4)

One theoryF1 that Magog is equivalent to an Akkadian term, mat-Gog, 'land of Gog', is unlikely since the Bible records the sons and/or nations of Magog and Gog as separate individuals with Magog being the older. Gog, himself, has been identified historically with Gyges, a 7th century B.C. king of Lydia, or possibly an Assyrian deity Gaga. A number of othersF2 have suggested a city prince Gâgi mentioned in the annals of Ashurbanipal, the ruler of a bellicose mountain people to the north of Assyria. It is surprising that some prophecy site has not come out and identified GOG with GeOrGia, by some he was identified with Gorbachev, particularly when it was discovered that his family name may have been GOGrbachevF3.

Strength is, however, given to the relatively modern interpretation that Gog and Magog, particularly with Rosh, Meshech and Tubal, are part of Russia by the name Rosh and the land of Russia lying directly to the north of Israel and Moscow lying north of Jerusalem. We have already noted that in Genesis 10:2 Magog is a grandson-nation of Noah, in the same verse Meshech and Tubal are listed too. But what about Rosh?

The Hebrew of Ezekiel 38:2 may be a legitimate heir of this theory. A nation with a known antipathy toward Israel and sometimes hitherto backed by Russia.

Rosh as Russia itself, Meshech as Moscow, and Tubal equated with Tobolsk in Siberia, are relatively modern interpretations, as found in the Scofield Reference Bible and some 19th and 20th century interpreters. Many recent prophetic web sites still hold to the Russia theory and presumably await a re-ascendant Russia. See for example:

Biblically, one would have to say that Rosh=Russia is tenuous on linguistic grounds, but geographically Russia, Afghanistan, Syria, Lebanon, even Turkey, would fit. But one should not get locked into exact identifications. For example, the European Union is no longer an exact fit for a Danielic 10 nation conspiracy in the last days, nor is Communism in the USSR the greatest threat to the West and Christianity. Many have moved on to highlight the New Age or Islam as the eschatological enemy of our time. We are encouraged to watch and pray not to speculate and build ministries around identifying the Antichrist. Nevertheless, it would be safe to say 'watch the nations to the north of Israel'. The EC (ancient Rome) is to the west and Iraq (ancient Babylon) is to the south-east.


FOOTNOTES:
F1: Harper's Bible Dictionary, Achtemeier, P. J., (San Francisco: Harper & Row & Society of Biblical Literature, 1985)
F2: e.g., Delitzsch
F3: Prophecy In The News, November, 1989, "before the Russian revolution in 1917, Gorbachev's family name was spelled GOGRBACHEV"
F4: b.Ab.Zar. 3b: "When they witness the war of Gog and Magog, he will say to them, 'Against whom have you come?' They will say, 'Against the LORD and against his Anointed'", compare Talmud, Berakoth 7b; Targum, Neof. Num 11:26: "Eldad and Medad prophesied that, in the end of the days, Gog and Magog will come up against Jerusalem with their army, and will fall by the hand of the king Messiah".
F5: Dem. Ev. 9, 3.6 cited in Toorn, K., Becking, B., & Horst, P. W., Dictionary of deities and demons in the Bible, (Leiden; Boston; Grand Rapids, Mich.: Brill; Eerdmans, 1999), p.375
F6: e.g., Josephus, Antiquities 1.6.1
F7: Pliny (book 5.23) cited in John Lightfoot's A Commentary of the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica, states:
Coelosyria habet Apamiam Marsya amne divisam. A Nazerinorum tetrarchia Bambycen, quae alio nomine 'Hierapolis' vocatur, Syris vero 'Magog.'
Which translates as:
"Assyria was divided into two sections: Apania and Marsya. Nazareth was in the tetrarchy of Bambycen, also known as 'Hieropolis,' while Syria was known as 'Magog.'"


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Thursday, December 5th, 2019
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KJ Went has taught biblical Hebrew, hermeneutics and Jewish background to early Christianity. The "Biblical Hebrew made easy" course can be found at www.biblicalhebrew.com.

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