The Coming Invasion
A conflict is coming unlike any other. It’s the Battle of Gog and Magog.
Today much of the world despises Israel. All it takes to substantiate this truth is a look at the UN’s overwhelming number of anti-Israel resolutions, the countries that have waged war against Israel in hopes of annihilating it, and the news media’s endless caricature of Israel as an aggressor—despite this tiny nation’s constant battle merely to survive. But more hostility is coming.
The Bible says that in the end-times, nations will fight against Israel at the Battle of Gog and Magog (Ezek. 38—39). Prior to that time, the Jewish people will be regathered in their land in unbelief (20:33–38; 22:17–22). The Battle of Gog and Magog will culminate with the Messiah’s return to defend Israel and set up His Messianic Kingdom (chaps. 40—48).
Which Nations Will Attack Israel?
Scholars debate much about the identity of the nations involved in the future Battle of Gog and Magog. The prophet Ezekiel wrote, “Now the word of the LORD came to me, saying, ‘Son of man, set your face against Gog, of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal’” (38:1–2).
The word Rosh can mean “chief” or “head.” Consequently, some theologians believe Gog is the chief prince of two places—Meshech and Tubal—rather than the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal. But the text most likely means Gog is the prince of the three territories.1
Magog, Meshech, and Tubal were sons of Noah’s son Japheth (Gen. 10:1–2). Their descendants populated Asia Minor (Turkey) and the regions farther north. Rosh likely was close by. Ancient historian Josephus identified Magog with the Scythians who eventually inhabited the areas around the Black and Caspian Seas.2 Gog, the leader of this faction of opponents, will come “out of the far north” (Ezek. 38:15).
Ezekiel also prophesied that Persia (Iran), Ethiopia (Sudan), Libya, Gomer, and Togarmah will join Gog’s forces against Israel (vv. 5–6). Gomer, like Magog, was Japheth’s son; and Togarmah was Gomer’s son (Gen. 10:2–3). Some scholars place the descendants of Gomer and Togarmah in central Europe, but it’s more likely they lived in southern Russia and later moved to Asia Minor 3
Ezekiel 38:13 also mentions Sheba, Dedan, and the merchants of Tarshish. But it is not clear if they join the attack on Israel. Sheba and Dedan were probably in southern or central Arabia, and the merchants of Tarshish were traders in the Mediterranean world.
Therefore, the Battle of Gog and Magog will be a northern confederacy led by Gog in the areas associated with southern Russia and Asia Minor and will also involve nations from northern Africa and the Middle East. Though some interpreters spiritualize the places as symbols of a general plot against God, it is best to take the text at face value and interpret the names as real nations that attack Israel.
What Will Provoke the Attack?
The news media today constantly accuse Israel of provoking Arab hostility. But it is impossible to read the Bible’s account of the future Battle of Gog and Magog and see Israel as the instigator. Israel’s future attackers—much like its enemies today—will use evil thoughts to produce evil plans (v. 10). They will take advantage of Israel’s disposition toward peace and safety and invade the Jewish nation to seek plunder and spoil (vv. 11–13).
Interestingly, the passage says God will lead the aggressors (v. 4). In fact, God asserts, “I will bring you against My land” (v. 16). How should we understand this passage?
It is best to see God as the one putting structure to the thoughts and plans of evil men. In other words, God lets some evil take place but turns it in a direction to advance His ultimate purpose in the world, “that the nations may know Me” (v. 16).
When Will the Attack Occur?
Bible scholars differ concerning when this battle will occur. The venerable theologian Harry A. Ironside, citing Zechariah 14:1–4, taught it will take place near the end of the seven-year Tribulation.4 To be sure, Ezekiel 39:17–20 depicts a call for birds to eat the flesh of the defeated hordes after the Battle of Gog and Magog in the same way they are called to do so after Christ returns to destroy His enemies at the end of the Tribulation (Rev. 19:17–18).
Yet some incongruities exist in this view, such as how Israel’s burning of war instruments could last seven years after the battle if the Millennium (Christ’s 1,000-year reign on Earth) is about to begin (Ezek. 39:9).
Others equate the Battle of Gog and Magog with the Gog and Magog in Revelation 20:8, which describes Satan’s future, last-gasp attack on Jerusalem to dethrone God and Christ at the end of the Millennium. But there are too many differences between the two accounts to make a definite correlation.
Others believe the battle will occur early in the Millennium or before the Rapture or between the Rapture and the start of the Tribulation. But all of these views lack precision and raise questions.
The best view is that the Battle of Gog and Magog will occur early in the first half of the Tribulation. The peace treaty between the Antichrist and Israel at the beginning of Daniel’s 70th week (Dan. 9:27) will make Israel feel safe and secure, as implied in Ezekiel 38:11. Based on history, the current Arab-Israeli conflict, and future prophecy, Israel’s window of time for feeling safe and secure appears quite small. Thus the battle most likely will take place during the first three and a half years of the Tribulation, when the Jewish people will feel protected.
How Will God Judge Gog and Magog?
Most of Ezekiel 38—39 describes God’s judgment of the confederacy that will come against Israel. But God will not fight Israel’s enemies by assisting the nation in direct military combat. Instead, He supernaturally will cause a tremendous earthquake in Israel and confuse the minds of the attacking armies so they fight one another:
Surely in that day there shall be a great earthquake in the land of Israel. . . . Every man’s sword will be against his brother. And I will bring him to judgment with pestilence and bloodshed; I will rain down on him, on his troops, and on the many peoples who are with him, flooding rain, great hailstones, fire, and brimstone (38:19, 21–22).
The dead attackers will become food for animals and birds and will be buried in Israel over a period of seven months (39:4, 11–13, 17–20). God’s judgment will be just, true, and complete.
A Glorious Ending
The Battle of Gog and Magog will result in God’s glorification and Israel’s ultimate restoration. God will be magnified and known among all nations, including Israel (38:23; 39:7, 13, 21–22, 28). His intervention on Israel’s behalf will help the Jewish people know the Lord their God.
In addition, God’s victory will assure Israel of His ultimate plan for the Jewish nation’s restoration in the Messianic Kingdom: “And I will not hide My face from them anymore; for I shall have poured out My Spirit on the house of Israel” (39:29). That is why the Ezekiel 38—39 account of the Battle of Gog and Magog precedes the Ezekiel 40—48 teaching of the coming Kingdom and the glorious future for Israel and the Jewish people.
- The NASB and NKJV translate Rosh as a place name, whereas the KJV and NIV do not. Either way, the issue does not affect the passage’s overall interpretation.
- Josephus Antiquities of the Jews 1.6.1.
- C. P. Weber, “Gomer,” The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, ed. Merrill C. Tenney (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1976), 2:774–75
- H. A. Ironside, Ezekiel (New York, NY: Loizeaux Brothers, 1949), 264–65.