WND reports that “over the weekend, Palestinians in Gaza fired hundreds of rockets into Israel, and Israel responded with strategic attacks on terrorist camps. It’s happened before and likely will again. But a prominent rabbi warns that one of these times, it’s not going to end easily, because it will be the End Times war of Gog and Magog, prophesied in the Bible.”
Israel has been at war with its neighbor even before it became a nation again in 1948. For decades, portraying Russia as the end-time bad guy has been popular. For example, Glenn Beck brought up the Ezekiel 38-39 “Gog and Magog” prophecy a few years ago. Beck formulated his views on the Ezekiel prophecy based on Joel Rosenberg’s books Epicenter (2006) and the novel The Ezekiel Option (2005) and interviews he’s had with him. In The Ezekiel Option, Rosenberg writes:
The journey that follows is fiction.
The prophecy upon which it is based is true.
The cryptic vision of a Hebrew scribe — writing twenty-five centuries ago — foretold one of the most horrific periods in the future of mankind.
Yet even today it remains one of man’s great unsolved mysteries.
Its central premise was once discussed in a speech before the U.S. Congress, and was believed to be both true and increasingly close at hand by one of America’s greatest presidents.
The President who discussed the Gog and Magog prophecy in a speech before Congress was Ronald Reagan. Like Beck, President Reagan was using very bad prophetic “intelligence.” There was nothing intelligent or biblical about it.
Why is this topic important? The rabbis and many Christians believe that such an end-time war “is unavoidable” based on the Ezekiel 38-39 prophecy. According to their understanding of the prophecy, must be a war; there will be a war that will encompass the globe. How you understand the meaning of Ezekiel 38-39 makes all the difference in the world.
On August 31, 2006, I debated Rosenberg on Mickelson in the Morning, a radio show hosted by Jan Mickelson. Rosenberg won’t debate me again because he knows his position will not stand up to biblical scrutiny. All his books are fiction – even Epicenter — but are being sold as biblical truth.
The claim is made that the Ezekiel prophecy is about Russia and Iran and other current Middle East players. There is no mention of either Russia or Iran in Ezekiel 38 and 39. Finding Russia is based in part on the use of the Hebrew word rosh (ראש). Rosh does not refer to Russia. Rosh means “head,” as in Rosh Hashanah, the head or start of the Jewish New year. Below is a chart of how rosh is used in the Bible.
Benjamin Netanyahu is the “head” (or ראש or “prime minister” of the Israeli government as the sign on the podium specifies:
The reading of Ezekiel 38:2 should be “the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal” (38:2; 39:1) and not the “prince of Rosh,” that is, modern-day Russia. Charles Ryrie, the author of the Ryrie Study Bible, acknowledges that rosh is not a proper name: “The prince of Rosh is better translated as ‘the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal.’”
The modern Hebrew spelling of “Russia” (reading from right to left) looks nothing like the Hebrew word rosh. The only common Hebrew letter is resh (r).
Daniel I. Block translates Ezekiel 38:3, “[Son of Man], set your face toward Gog, of the land of Magog, the prince, chief of Meshech and Tubal.”1 Here is Block’s explanation:
[Rosh] is therefore best understood as a common noun, appositional to and offering a closer definition of [the Hebrew word] nasi [translated as “prince”]. Accordingly, the prince, chief of Meshech and Tubal, combines Ezekiel’s preferred title for kings with a hierarchical designation, the addition serving to clarify the preceding archaic term.2
Then there’s the problem with the weapons. They are ancient weapons: bows and arrows, spears, clubs, shields (Ezek. 39:9) and chariots (39:20). The claim is often made that God was revealing modern-day weaponry in terms that Ezekiel and the people of his day could understand. Bows and arrows are said to be missiles and rocket launchers. Horses are said to refer to horsepower. Chariots are tanks. All of this from interpreters who claim to interpret the Bible literally.
Hal Lindsey, author of The Late Great Planet Earth (1970), is well known for his claim that the locusts of Revelation 9:1–12 could be Vietnam-era “cobra helicopters.” He writes:
I have a Christian friend who was a Green Beret in Viet Nam. When he first read this chapter he said, ‘I know what those are. I’ve seen hundreds of them in Viet Nam. They’re Cobra helicopters! That may be conjecture, but it does give you something to think about! A Cobra helicopter does fit the sound of “many chariots.” My friend believes that the means of torment will be a kind of nerve gas sprayed from its tail.3
The way so-called literalists interpret the prophecy, everybody is confused, the people in Ezekiel’s day and our day.
Notice that these invading northern hordes are after silver, gold, cattle, and goods (Ezek. 38:12–13). What did the returning exiles from Babylon bring back to Israel? “silver and gold, with goods and cattle” (Ezra 1:4).
Notice that the prophecy describes a time when there were “unwalled villages” (Ezek. 38:11). Today, Israel is a nation of walls. In the book of Esther, we see that there were Jews who were living in relative peace in “unwalled towns” (Esther 9:19, KJV) when Haman conspired against them. The Hebrew word perazah is used in Esther 9:19 and Ezekiel 38:11. It’s unfortunate that the translators of the New American Standard Version translate perazah as “rural towns” in Esther 9:19 instead of “unwalled villages” as they do in Ezekiel 38:11.
There’s much more that could be said about this topic. It’s quite obvious that Ezekiel is describing a future battle that was in Israel’s near future about 2500 years ago. The most likely fulfillment is found in the events surrounding the book of Esther where Haman (Hamon-Gog: Ezek. 39:11, 15). “One late manuscript to Esther 3:1 and 9:24 refers to Haman as a ‘Gogite.’”4 Haman wanted to “destroy all the Jews, the people of Mordecai, who were throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus” (Esther 3:6) but failed in the attempt.
For a thorough study of this topic, see my book The Gog and Magog End-Time Alliance. It’s the most comprehensive study of Ezekiel 38 and 39 that takes seriously the context, the weapons used, the goal of the invasion, and the identity of Hamon-Gog (Ezek. 39:11, 15).
The parallels between Ezekiel’s prophecy, the book of Esther, and other prophetic passages are remarkable. It will change the way you read the Bible.
- Daniel I. Block, The Book of Ezekiel: Chapters 25–48 (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1998), 432. [↩]
- Block, Ezekiel, 2:435. [↩]
- Hal Lindsey, There’s a New World Coming: A Prophetic Odyssey (Santa Ana, CA: Vision House Publishers, 1973), 138–139. [↩]
- Sverre Bøe, Gog and Magog: Ezekiel 38–39 as Pre-Text for Revelation 19, 17–21 and 20, 7–10 (Wissunt Zum Neun Testament Ser. II, 135) (Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2001), 384. [↩]