The Gog and Magog War: Who Are Meshech, Tubal, Gomer, and Beth-Togarmah?
Does Ezekiel 38-39 Refer to Turkey Only or Central Eurasia?
Given that Russia is threatening Eastern Europe and more generally, NATO and the Western alliance of nations, it’s once more time to challenge the popular theory that the Antichrist will arise from Turkey — that it will be Turkey who leads the assault against Israel in the War of Gog and Magog…
Son of man, set your face toward Gog of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal, and prophesy against him and say, ‘Thus says the Lord God “Behold, I am against you, O Gog, prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal. I will turn you about and put hooks into your jaws, and I will bring you out, and all your army, horses and horsemen, all of them splendidly attired, a great company with buckler and shield, all of them wielding swords: Persia, Ethiopia, and Put with them, all of them with shield and helmet; Gomer with all its troops, Beth-Togarmah from the remote parts of the north will all its troops – many peoples with you. (Ezekiel 3: 1-6, NASV)
A core component of the Islamic Antichrist Theory (IAT) involves the tribal names listed in Ezekiel 38 – that hearken back to the so-called ‘Table of Nations’ in Genesis 10. This list of tribes comprise the alliance of Gog and Magog that conspires to attack Israel. These names reference the sons and grandsons of Japheth, the son of Noah (father of all Caucasians including the Indo-European peoples).
The IAT points out that each name in Ezekiel’s list refers to peoples settled soon after the flood of Noah in the area we call Anatolia (today’s Turkey); and that virtually any old atlas one can obtain (and Joel Richardson has many) will substantiate the fact that these tribes originated in Anatolia and lived between, and south of, the Black and Caspian Seas. Richardson has commented on this matter extensively, including a recent article written and published on-line at Prophezine. [i] In his article, he cites just a few of these atlases from which he presents maps of the area along with the following commentary:
- The Oxford Bible Atlas says of Meshech and Tubal that they are, “regions in Asia Minor [Turkey].”
- Old Testament scholar Daniel I. Block, in the New International Commentary on Ezekiel, says, “It seems best to interpret Magog as a contraction of an original māt Gūgi, ‘land of Gog,’ and to see here a reference to the territory of Lydia in western Anatolia [Turkey].”
- The Zondervan Illustrated Bible Dictionary states, “Magog, possibly meaning ‘the land of Gog,’ was no doubt in Asia Minor [Turkey] and may refer to Lydia.”
- The IVP Bible Background Commentary lists Magog, Meshech, Tubal, and Togarmah as “sections or peoples in Asia Minor” [Turkey].
- The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary, under the entry for “Magog,” states, “It is clear that Lydia [Turkey] is meant, and that by ‘Magog,’ we must understand, ‘the land of Gog.’”
I would certainly stipulate that the original dwelling place for Japheth’s sons, Magog, Gomer, Tubal, and Meschech is most certainly Anatolia. But that may not be saying much. The issue is whether it matters that the sons of Japheth, these four sons (there were seven altogether), and the first two or three generations thereafter (settling down in the region as many of their families no doubt did within after the Flood), remained only there, never migrating anywhere else between that time and almost two millenniums later when Ezekiel was prophesying about the great war in the days leading up to the coming of Messiah. It other words, it was almost 1,800 years from the time of Japheth’s lineage settling in and around this region, until Ezekiel talks about Magog, Meschech, Tubal, Gomer, and Beth-Togarmah. What is striking: by looking beyond his sons to Japheth’s grandsons, we already see that significant dispersion had happened as their names gave rise to place names throughout Eurasia.
Consequently, it leads me to ask, “When do you draw the line and say, “The peoples spoken of by Ezekiel refer only to the original dwelling place of the peoples and not subsequent generations that migrated across (perhaps) the entire Northern Hemisphere?”
I argue any such “line drawing” is arbitrary.
2,000 Years of Being Fruitful and Multiplying–Before Ezekiel
Most demographers would indicate that by the time of Ezekiel, about 2,000 years from Noah’s flood, the world was populated in all its parts. The three sons of Noah – Ham, Shem, and Japheth – did exactly what God had commanded – they were fruitful, multiplied and replenished the earth.
The question seems to be: “When Ezekiel speaks of Meschech, Tubal, Gomer, Beth-Togarmah, etc., is he referring to large people groups and where their multitudes would ultimately inhabit, or just the areas where they settled originally soon after the Flood?” As Richardson rightly says, many maps show the area of Anatolia as the home to these tribes as identified in the table of nations (Genesis 10). But does that disclose where they were located in Ezekiel’s time? Or perhaps more relevantly, where they will be located in the last days?
When doing this analysis, it would seem to be more important to consider the extent of colonization and the ultimate dwelling places of these peoples rather than were their forebears began. After all, it would seem reasonable to expect that Noah’s family exited the Ark together, dwelt in some proximity to the Ark, were none too distant from one another, and initially did not venture too far away from Mount Ararat! By the time of Ezekiel, the dominant empire around the Mediterranean Sea was not Assyria or Babylon – it was Phoenicia – the Canaanites. Some say the Phoenician Empire even reached to the new world in the time of Solomon!
To make the point more explicit, I developed a detailed chart for the prequel to this book owing to the research by Tim Osterholm and his magnificent study incorporating the work of almost 30 scholars (modern as well as ancient), identifying where great peoples originated and where they “wound up”. His research was based (among others) upon the scholarship of John F. Walvoord, Lambert Dolphin Jr., Paul F. Taylor, Ken Ham, Ray Stedman, Henry M. Morris, John C. Whitcomb, and Arthur C. Custance. Ancient scholars consulted included Herodotus, Strabo, and Josephus (Appendix II lists ancient references demonstrating – before the time of Christ – that they understood the domain of Magog extended far beyond Anatolia). Here is the chart:
The other key issue related to genealogy and the names in Ezekiel concerns the issue of whether the reference to Rosh constitutes a reference to “Rus”, i.e., the Russians (which means the “land of the Rus”), or whether it’s strictly an adjective meaning chief as in “chief prince” or “chief priest”. “Behold, I am against you, O Gog, prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal.” This topic remains a subject of great debate. If Rosh references Russia it deals a death blow to the Islamic Antichrist Theory because the Theory in no small part depends upon the core assertion that Turkey, an Islamic Nation, must be the leader of the pack in Ezekiel 38 and not Russia.
In the conventional view, Russia comprises the leader and it doesn’t matter whether it exists as an atheistic nation or Christian (depending upon your confidence in the revival of the Eastern Orthodox Church as a genuine force in Russian governance and culture). While true that many former Soviet Union nations like Tajikistan and Turkmenistan remain mostly Muslim and continue to have strong ties with Moscow to this day, their influence on what happens in the Kremlin most likely lies somewhere between slight to nil. In other words, Muslims do not control Russia.
Opponents to the IAT continue to argue that Russia, not Turkey, is the instigator of the War of Gog and Magog, and that God Himself hooks Gog in the jaws, “turning him back” and “drawing him into” the conflict leading to the attack on Israel.
The list of conventional scholars speaking on behalf of Russia and against Turkey as the leader of the confederation is most impressive, even more than the list Richardson produces: Arnold Fruchtenbaum, Rabbi Moshe Eisemann, Mark Hitchcock, Thomas Ice, Grant Jeffrey Jack Kelley, Hal Lindsey, Thomas McCall, Zola Levitt, J. Dwight Pentecost, John Mark Ruthven, John F. Walvoord, Bill Salus, J.R. Church, Gary Stearman, John Price, and yours truly.
Why It’s So Difficult for Turkey to be Antichrist’s Powerbase
Remember there are two enormous and improbable geopolitical challenges that the Islamic Antichrist Theory must overcome.
- The first improbable supposition: Turkey leads Islam against Israel while Russia and the United States “sit out” the conflict. Geopolitically, a Turkish move implies Russia and the U.S. have no interests in the region and no intention to oppose Turkey in leading an Islamic War against Israel.
- The second improbable supposition: Turkey and Iran overcome their differences and work together, Sunni and Shia, to annihilate and disperse the Jews in Israel. There is little ancient or modern precedent for such cooperation. Observing what has happened recently in the political executions of 43 Shia in Eastern Saudi Arabia (by the Sunni government) or Western Iraq (by the crimes of Shia against Sunni and vice versa) demonstrates the hatred between Shia and Sunni continues unabated. It seems most genuine. ISIS would never have arisen if it were concocted.
While Ezekiel 38:13 can be (and usually is) interpreted to indicate that Sheba and Dedan (Saudi Arabia), the Merchants of Tarshish (England), and its young lions (the U.S.) won’t engage in the Gog and Magog war, (being puzzled as to what Gog’s military action means) this particular verse says nothing about Russia sitting out the dance. That would be beyond the realm of possibility. And if Turkey were to make the move without NATO, or for NATO and the U.S. to sit by and do nothing in response to Turkey leading an Islamic attack on Israel, it also transcends any geopolitical reality the wildest imagination could conjecture.
Therefore, it would seem clear that:
- Russia leads the confederation against Israel (Gog being the Prince of Rosh as the conventional position argues); and
- The United States and the United Kingdom are not in any position to react to the aggression mounted by Russia and its allies.
- Saudi Arabia is also directly and negatively impacted by what Russia and Iran (Persia) do when they mount an assault against Israel.
Even if the Bible were to be interpreted so that Turkey equates with Gog, geopolitically speaking (that is, based upon the realities of world politics at this time), the fundamental scenario argued by the purveyors of Islamic Antichrist Theory remains highly flawed.
Again, the tribal names in Ezekiel no doubt reference the sons of Japheth and where they originally settled, many of which remained for an indefinite period of time. What remains at stake is whether Ezekiel’s list of names references only their most ancient home or whether it’s adumbrative (prophetic).
Does the list refer to the descendants of these peoples and where they dwelt at the time Ezekiel prophesied (nearly 2,000 years afterwards)? Or does it refer to the future, now over 4,500 years later in the “last days”, when the prophecy is fulfilled?
Just for a refresher, the area we know as Anatolia would not stay static. It would be transformed into a series of distinct provinces during Greek and Roman times, with cities whose names would become familiar to Christians as the cities of the seven churches in Revelation, such as Ephesus, Philadelphia, Pergamum, Sardis, and Laodicea.
As the map of the Seleucid Empire shown above (during the time of the Hasmonean Dynasty when Antiochus Epiphanies IV desolated the Jewish Temple), the place names across Assyria and Turkey became distinctly different. This implies that the names–Meshech, Tubal, Gomer, and Beth-Togarmah–aren’t likely a reference to only Turkey, but to a broader geographical and demographic area. Today’s geopolitical experts refer to the area as Eurasia, or more specifically, Central Eurasia. This is the same area that Halford MacKender referred to as “the Heartland” in his famous presentation to the British Geographic Society in 1906, when he explained why controlling this area ultimately determines who has the greatest strategic advantage in what the Brits called, “The Great Game” with the Russians.