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The truth about Gog and Magog

Posted By Joel Richardson On 06/21/2012 @ 8:04 pm In Commentary,Opinion | No Comments

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The prophecy of Ezekiel 38 and 39, often referred to as the Battle of Gog and Magog, is hands-down one of the most important and influential end-time prophecies in all of Scripture. But it is also one of the most controversial and widely misunderstood prophecies. Throughout the Church today, a vast number of Christians believe that Ezekiel 38 and 39 predicts a Russian-led invasion of Israel in the last days. Ever since the release of the Scofield Reference Bible, this view has been echoed in dozens upon dozens of prophecy books, in thousands of end-time sermons, and today in countless online end-time discussion forums and articles. I cannot understate how well-established and influential the Russian-Gog view is. Consider for example, the comments made by then-Gov. Ronald Reagan in 1971, to a room full of state legislators:

“Ezekiel tells us that Gog, the nation that will lead all of the other powers against Israel, will come out of the north. Biblical scholars have been saying for generations that Gog must be Russia. What other powerful nation is to the north of Israel? None.”

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But how do so many many Christians arrive at this idea? What is the primary basis for such an idea? This view is rooted in the fact that “Gog,” the leader of the Ezekiel’s prophesied invasion, is from the land of “Magog,” which is most-often claimed as a reference to Russia.

If one Googles the terms “Gog and Magog” and “map,” numerous maps created by various prophecy ministries or teachers will pop up. I’ve included several below. Take note of where Magog is always located – either in Russia or the former Soviet Central Asia states:

Map 1: Here Magog is among the former Soviet Central Asian States.

Map 2: Here Magog is placed deep in the heart of Russia.

Map 3: Here Magog is once more placed deep in the heart of Russia.

Map 4: Again, Magog is placed deep in the Russian interior.

Map 5: And again, Magog is placed in Russia.

The problem however, is that as popular as this “Magog = Russia” notion is, the consensus of actual biblical scholarship has long rejected such an idea.

Having seen how well-established the Russia-Magog idea is, now consider the following sampling of recreated maps representing several popular Bible atlases, each created by teams of highly accredited and interdisciplinary scholars, and where they all place Magog:

The New Moody Atlas of the Bible p. 93 places Magog in Turkey.

The Zondervan Atlas of the Bible p. 83 places Magog in Turkey.

The Holman Bible Atlas p. 36 places Magog in Turkey.

The IVP Atlas of Bible History p. 18 also places Magog in Turkey.

The question that Bereans and students of Bible prophecy must now ask ourselves is: Why is there such a radical discrepancy between Magog’s identification according to popular belief, and these various scholarly resources? Are the atlases and the many conservative scholars that created them all wrong? Or are the prophecy teachers wrong? How have the two groups arrived at such different conclusions?

The answer lies in the different methods of interpretation used by these two groups. Most conservative, trained scholars of the Bible use what is called the historical-grammatical method of interpretation. This is to say that they simply identify the names found within Ezekiel’s prophecy according to how Ezekiel himself would have understood them. Thus in the late seventh and early sixth century B.C. when Ezekiel prophesied, Magog, Meshech and Tubal were known to have dwelt in Asia Minor, or modern-day Turkey.

Far too many prophecy teachers use what I call the bloodline-migration method. This method of interpreting the names within prophecy attempt to trace the bloodlines, intermarrying and migration of the ancient peoples mentioned within a prophecy to link them to their modern-day descendants and the nations where they now live. But this method is fraught with problems, variables and inconsistencies. When using this method, five different teachers will, and usually do, arrive at five different conclusions. None uses this method consistently, with each interpreter stopping at random periods of history, whenever it may suits his view and provide the result desired. Because there is such an abundance of data out there, and a few millennia between the ancient prophecies and modern times, the data are easy to manipulate and mold to one’s own prophetic bias.

The next question we students of the Scriptures must ask ourselves is whether we are more concerned with interpreting the Scriptures based on proper methods of interpretation practiced by genuine biblical scholars, or are we more concerned with defending our own particular prophetic “teams” and traditions? Is our goal to understand the God-breathed Scriptures according to the context in which they were originally inspired? Or are we simply determined to embark on wild-goose chases subject to the limited and ever-changing historical data as well as the many varied opinions of those who interpret it?

For those concerned with truth, modern scholarship unanimously affirms that it is high time to discard the notion that the prophet Ezekiel predicted a Russian invasion of Israel. What, then, did he predict? Which presently rising Middle Eastern nation does Ezekiel point us to as the leader of a last-days coalition that will come against Israel?

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