Who are the attackers?
Ezekiel 38:1-6 (NIV)1 The word of the LORD came to me: 2 “Son of man, set your face against Gog, of the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal; prophesy against him 3 and say: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am against you, O Gog, chief prince of Meshech and Tubal. 4 I will turn you around, put hooks in your jaws and bring you out with your whole army–your horses, your horsemen fully armed, and a great horde with large and small shields, all of them brandishing their swords. 5 Persia, Cush and Put will be with them, all with shields and helmets, 6 also Gomer with all its troops, and Beth Togarmah from the far north with all its troops–the many nations with you.
Magog, Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal are ancient tribes that occupied the geographical area of modern day Russia, and parts of Iran and Turkey. Magog, Meshech and Tubal were sons of Japheth. Magog’s descendants, according to Josephus, were the Scythians. The Scythians occupied an area above the Black Sea in modern day Ukraine and western Russia.
Gog and Magog are mentioned also in the book of Revelation, which will be covered toward the end of this study. However it is the author’s understanding that in Ezekiel, Magog is a geographical reference, along with Rosh, Meshech and Tubal, while in Revelation Gog and Magog are symbolic references to all nations without Christ whom are susceptible to Satanic deception.
Meshech is seen by many biblical scholars as the ancestors of the Russian people. It is believed that several Russian geographical names, such as Moscow, the Meschera tribe and the Meshchera Lowlands, could be related to Meshech.
Tubal, also being a son of Japheth, is almost always coupled with Meshech in scripture. Tubal’s descendants are thought to be the Tiberini of the Greek historian Herodotus, a people of the Asiatic highland west of the Upper Euphrates, the southern range of the Caucasus, on the east of the Black Sea. In modern terms, this could include Turkish and Iranian areas to the south and Russian areas to the north.
Rosh was the seventh son of Benjamin in Genesis 46:21. The geographical location of Rosh’s descendants are difficult to trace, but in this text are seemingly in the same general area “far from the north” as the other ancient nations referenced. Coincidentally, tracing “from the far north” from Israel, in a straight line, one arrives at Moscow, Russia.
The prophecy is spoken against “Gog,” who is referenced as the ruler of Meshech and Tubal. Specifically he is named as “the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal.” To that end, Gog may be understood as a title, such as “Caesar.” Because the prophecy is spoken against Gog, it is apparent that the area consistent with modern day Russia is the leading nation in this attack, as Gog is the chief prince of nations which formerly occupied that geographical area. This is a coalition attack of numerous people groups, in retrospect, fitting well with Jesus’ words examined earlier in Matthew 24 of wide-spread warfare as a birth pain pointing toward the times of the end.
Verses 5 and 6 note other nations involved in the attack: Persia (present day Iran), Cush (modern day Ethiopia), Put (modern day Somalia), Gomer, referred to as Germania in the Midrash and the Talmud (modern day Germany) and Togarman (Armenia).
Many have attempted to determine the nations involved in this attack by historical evidences rather than the Bible itself. This has led many to turn away from the “Russian” leadership of this attack due to the fall of the former Soviet Union. However, the Bible speaks of the geographic areas of its own day rather than referencing specific modern nations. The fall of the former Soviet Union is irrelevant to the interpretation of this prophecy. Perhaps Russia itself will fall and be named another name. The biblical geography is what is relevant to understanding whom is involved, not the names of the modern nations.
It is tempting to try to interpret the Bible by current events. However, current events are, in fact, determined by the Bible. The presupposition of this study is that the Bible is unfailing in its teaching and that history will unfold as it has been prophesied. Thus, regardless of the future outcomes of any nations currently occupying these areas, the people who occupy this geography at the time of the attack are being specified in this text.
This coalition is said to be “from the North”, though not all of these nations are North of Israel. The indication is that they are attacking from the North and that their leadership is from the North (modern day Russia).
In summary, the attackers, unless their names or borders are changed between now and this attack, appear to be Russia, possibly Turkey, Iran, Ethiopia, Somalia, Germany and Armenia.