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The Real Identity of Gog and Magog
"The Word of HaShem came to me, saying:
¨Son of man, set your face against Gog, of the land of Magog,
the head prince of Meshekh and Tuval, and prophesy against him.¨
Persia, Kush and Put are with them,
all of them with shield and helmet,
Gomer and all his bands, the house of Togarmah from the far north
and all his bands, many peoples with you."
The Prophet Hezekiel is speaking about the nations that will come against Israel in the Last Times.
The interpretation of these peoples and place names in the Scriptures must be founded upon sound historical research, respecting the established laws of historical and comparative linguistics. Equating modern English or any other language terms with the original Semitic terminology must be avoided. The similarity in sound of an ancient Hebrew word with a modern language word is absolutely negligible. The Hebrew Prophets were not writing to a Western audience, and their terminology should not be interpreted as such but rather from their own historical standpoint. An essential linguistic principle to bear in mind is that in Hebrew, as in any Semitic tongue, if a word migrates from one language to another of the same stem, the vowels may all change, but the consonants will always remain the same.
Care must also be taken to avoid personal or political bias; when interpreting Scripture such trends must be set aside. The priority of the written Word demands that Scripture be interpreted with absolute honesty.
In fact, the popular teaching is that these verses refer to Russia and her allies, which is fully wrong and misleading. Actually, neither of these names may be in any way related to Russia or Moscow.
The first term to be carefully examined is a very common Hebrew word that has been often mistranslated, maybe in order to give more support to the tendentious interpretation: the Hebrew transliteration of the verse is N'SYI ROSH MESHEKH V'TUVAL, that means exactly "Prince RULER of Meshekh and Tuval". "Rosh" is not a proper name, but it means "ruler", "head", "chief", "principle"; this is the same word used for "Rosh HaShanah", "Head" of the Year, meaning "New Year", and other similar terms. Nevertheless, this word of such an easy and simple interpretation, has been often written as a name like Meshekh and Tuval, obviously intending to equal this term with Russia. The first problem is that there is absolutely no place on earth known by this name, Rosh. Of all the occurrences of Meshech and Tuval in both Scriptural and historical writings, they are never associated with a place called "Rosh" as the mistranslation would suggest. The equation Rosh=Russia is only presumptive, as there is not any real link between the two words. The name "Russia" came into existence one and a half millennium after the Prophet Yehezqel wrote his prophecy, and has not root in any Hebrew term but in the name given to Scandinavian settlers, who founded the kingdom of "Ros" or "Rus". A further evidence is that the transcription of such term into Hebrew is ROS [Resh+Alef+Samek], not ROSH [Resh+Alef+Shin].
Who is Gog? "Gog" is known to be an Anatolian name. It is reasonable to identify him with Gogis or Gyges (seventh century b.c.e.), king of Lydia, who is called Gugu in the Chronicles of Ashurbanipal. Such personage was known to the Prophet, who took him as reference in order to point out a determined geographic area: Asia Minor. Precisely such is the area (Anatolia, Asia Minor) that Yehezqel's prophecy intends to point out under five names (Magog, Meshekh, Tuval, Gomer and Togarmah). These people were well known to the Prophet, and this seems clearly to be the exact interpretation.
It seems unusual that such an irrelevant king would be taken to symbolize a future chief of a great coalition of powerful nations. It is not unusual in the Scriptures, indeed. For example, in Bemidbar 24:20 it is said of Amalek "Reshit Goyim Amalek", that means, "Head of Nations is Amalek" –and here "Reshit", a term related to Rosh, head, is not taken as a proper name–. Obviously, Amalek was an insignificant people to be qualified as "head of nations", but the Scriptures apply such term in order to convey a precise teaching. The same happens in Yehezqel 28:1-19, where we find an exaltation of the king of Tyre (a wealthy city but certainly not an empire) in order to represent the king of all wicked forces of the universe.
We have already considered which peoples were originated in Magog, whose present descendants are mainly the Turkic nations; some of them were confederated with Russia in the Soviet Union, but they are separated now. Also the Balkanic branch of peoples coming from Magog have broken their links with Russia, by which this son of Yepheth cannot be associated with that nation in any way. The Turkic minorities still living in the Russian Federation are irrelevant and now there are larger Turk communities in Germany and America than there; besides this, Turkey has been historically closer to Germany and is a solid ally of the western states, while in perpetual rivalry with Russia.
The identity of Meshekh has also been clearly exposed, yet it is pertinent to this chapter to confirm that Meshekh is not related to Moscow, neither linguistically nor historically, geographically or in any other way. We have already proved that the names MeSHeKH and MoSKVaH in Hebrew are two completely different words (see Meshekh), and that the consonants cannot be exchanged to convert one word into another.
Meshekh is mentioned in Bereshyit 10:2, and is the name of a patriarch, not of a city that was founded more than three thousand years later. In Yehezqel's times such name was applied to a people already existing, with a determined territory and identity, that was quite known by the Prophet. Such people was not the Muscovites (who are not an ethnic group but just the citizens of Moscow, in the same way as New Yorkers are the citizens of New York). Moscow was founded in the year 4907 (1147 c.e.) by the Viking Yurii Dolgoruky, and the city was called that way in reference to the river Moskva (muddy water), not to any previously existing people. The assertion that Meshekh refers to Moscow is simply ridiculous – Where were Muscovites hidden since Noach and Yehezqel's times until then? The answer is obvious.
The descent of Meshekh in present times is to be found in western countries and partially in Transcaucasia, and still in the land that Yehezqel clearly intended to show in his times, Asia Minor.
A similar and equally preposterous meaning has been given to the name "Tuval", whose identity has been on purpose transferred from the real people and place to the most unlikely ones. The tendentious theorizers have hypothesized that this name would be equal to Tobol' or Tobol'sk, in Siberia (why not Tuvalu, in the Pacific Ocean?). It is evident that such assertion is not supported by history. First, there is not any people called after the river by which they live, and Tobol' is a river, not a people. The descent of Tuval, originally settled in Anatolia, then in the Caucasus, migrated westwards to Europe, not northwards. Besides, the peoples living in the Tobol' area are the Khantys and Mansys, also known as Ostyaks and Voguls, that are an irrelevant minority regarding the population of Russia. These peoples are closely related to Hungarians, which excludes them from any relationship with Tuval.
Whoever intends to mention Russia by her main cities, will not say "Moscow and Tobol'sk", but rather "Moscow and Petersburg", or else Novgorod, Vladimyr, Kazan' or any other city either important or at least historically relevant.
The Prophet did not know anything about Tobol'sk (as he did not know about Moscow either), but he was speaking of a land and people with which he was well acquainted.
Concerning the identity of Persia, Kush and Put there is no argument. Persia cannot be other than Iran. Put is Libya, though may be extended to all North-Africa (except Egypt). Kush usually refers to the land in the south of Egypt that historically is Ethiopia; notwithstanding, being the present-day Ethiopia not hostile to Israel, the identification of Kush with Sudan is also valid and the most likely. However, the Biblical Kush may be also understood as present-day Iraq and the Arabian Peninsula; consequently, the expression "Kush and Put" may indicate the modern Arab states.
Gomer, obviously, not only bears no relation to Russia but also is fully identified with Western Europe and the United States. There is no objection against the fact that Gomer refers mainly to Celtic peoples, including Gaul, Britons and Irish, that now represent not only the Western European nations but also the leadership of the United States.
The last member of this coalition is Togarmah, whose identification is also widely acknowledged as well as the geographical location, that in Yehezqel's times was in the Eastern Anatolia, around Mount Ararat, the historic Armenia.
There is a remarkable detail regarding this land: the Prophet states clearly that Togarmah is coincident with "the far north", and this excludes any land beyond Armenia towards north. Scriptural terminology must not be forced into a present-day map, and expressions must not be taken isolate out of the context. To Yehezqel the "farthest north" was Asia Minor, and to extend the Prophet's frame of reference any further, without exegetical warrant, is not correct. Togarmah is exactly the southernmost boundary of Russia, not the northern part. It is once more demonstrated that, if there is a nation that has not anything to share with Gog's coalition, that is Russia.
In the Scriptures, as well as in any other Hebrew source, definitions are usually related to Israel's geographic position within the parts of the world known to the authors. Another example can be quoted from the Gospels, where the expression "The queen of the South... she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Shlomoh" (Luke 11:31): This verse obviously refers to Yemen as "the south" and "the ends of the earth", and nobody has ever suggested that such expression may be identified with the Antarctica, Argentina, Australia or South-Africa, which are actually the southernmost parts of the earth.
What has been exposed in this chapter should be enough to have a clear view about this subject, anyway, it is interesting to consider further facts that allow an even deeper understanding. The Prophet has mentioned by name the nations that participate in the coalition, and has obviously omitted those that do not participate. It is significant that two peoples closely related to Togarmah are excluded: ASHKENAZ and RIPHAT.
Even though it is clear that the Prophet is referring to Japhetic peoples settled in the area of Anatolia (Magog, Meshekh, Tuval, Gomer and Togarmah), he has deliberately omitted these two, precisely, the only ones that are related to Russia!
Riphat was in Yehezqel's times still settled in Paphlagonia, Asia Minor; nevertheless, the Prophet knows that this people will not join the future alliance of which Gog is the leader. Riphat was the ancestor of all Slavic peoples, including those that became Russians.
Ashkenaz was sharing part of Togarmah's land then, but another branch of this people was already in the territory that now is Ukraine and Southern Russia. If Yehezqel would have intended to include Russia in his prophecy, would have not omitted Ashkenaz. The first time that the name "Ros", "Rus", "Russia" is mentioned in history concerns the state founded by Scandinavians (an Ashkenazic people) in the Slavic/Finnic territories between the Baltic Sea and the Black and Caspian Seas, namely, present-day Russia.
The conclusion is very evident: would anybody who intends to point out Russia avoid mentioning the main components of that nation, the Rus (Ashkenaz) and the Slavs (Riphat)? Obviously not, as nobody would omit the Anglo-Saxons if the subject is England, or refer to Italy by mentioning the Germanic minority of the Südtirol and neglecting Italians.
A further historic analysis demonstrates that Russia not only is not related to Magog and Meshekh but also that has always been opposed with hostility towards them. Before Russia came into existence, Scythians, Avars, Alans, Huns and other peoples of the stock of Magog and Meshekh were indeed settled in the Eurasian plains, until Slavic peoples replaced them and the Rus displaced and fought them.
In a subsequent period, the Kievan Rus fell under Tatar hordes that ruled over Russia for more than two centuries, when Russians achieved in shaking off the Tatar domination and even conquered all the lands beyond the Urals.
Paradoxically, if there is a nation that has never reached any agreement with the descent of Magog, that nation is Russia! The historic rivalry with Turkey is a further proof.
There are two possible interpretations of Yehezqel's prophecy: the Prophet may refer either 1) to these peoples according to their geographic position in his time or else 2) to the same peoples in the future.
1) What he prophesied, then, is an end-time battle involving the following nations coming against Israel: Turkey (Magog, Meshech, Tubal, Gomer, Togarmah); Iran (Persia), Sudan and Arabia (Kush), and Libya (Put).
2) Gog is not called "king", but "head prince", that means, one that leads a coalition of states not being the actual ruler of each of them. He is an international leader. This aspect fits with the present world political situation. Turkey is the land from which Israel will be attacked, as clearly stated by the geographic description given by the Prophet, yet, the leader may be someone from other nation. The descent of these peoples are now present in western nations, among which the following:
British Isles: Celtic, Gaels, Irish, Welsh, Britons (Gomer); Scots (Magog, according to the Milesian genealogy); Anglo-Saxons (Gomer, Magog and Meshekh).
France: Gaul, Britons (Gomer); Franks, Goths, other Germanic peoples (Gomer, Magog and Meshekh); Gascons (Tuval).
Spain: Celtiberians (Gomer and Tuval); Basques (Tuval); Goths (Meshekh).
United States: every one of the above mentioned, though the leadership is from British/Irish stock (Gomer, Magog). Besides, this nation includes a large number of people of African stock (Kush and Put).
Turkey is the main ally of these countries in the Middle East. Their apparent "friendship" with Israel should not be misleading. Of course, the present political evolution does not discard the possibility that Russia may join them in the future, but according to the prophecy she will not.