What is the Gog-Magog War?

The Gog-Magog War is a war which is described in the Bible, in the book of Ezekiel chapters 38 and 39. Many Bible scholars believe this war will take place during a time called the Tribulation - the last 7 years before Jesus returns to Earth. In order to understand the end-times better, it will help to examine this war and when it happens and who is involved.

When does the Gog-Magog war happen?

It appears the Gog-Magog war will happen a few months or years after the Battle of Psalm 83. The Battle of Psalm 83 happens when the countries of Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and the Palestinians will attack and attempt to completely destroy Israel. This battle may involve nuclear weapons, and the destruction of Damascus. God protects Israel from being destroyed, and this causes Israel to turn back to following God. When the battle is done, the attacking countries are defeated and may be partially destroyed. This battle may be what causes the Antichrist to sign a peace treaty between Israel and her defeated neighbors, and possibly other nearby Islamic states. This peace treaty, and the destruction of Israel's nearby enemies may allow Israel to rebuild their Temple and to finally feel like they are safe and at peace.

Ezekiel 38:7-8 says the Gog-Magog war will happen when Israel has been re-established and the people have returned there from among the foreign nations. This happened in 1948 when Israel again became a country and many Jews returned there from Europe. Therefore, we know this war has not happened yet, and must still be in the future. Ezekiel 38:10 says that Israel will be a "weak and peaceful country where people live safely inside towns that have no walls or gates or locks.". Israel may be weakened after the battle of Psalm 83, where it appears that parts of it may be destroyed by nuclear weapons (Isaiah 17:3). Yet they will feel safe because all their immediate hostile neighbors have been destroyed, and they have a peace treaty signed by their defeated enemies and other Muslim nations. This allows Israel to let down their guard and feel safe.

This peace treaty that the Antichrist has signed may be broken when the Gog-Magog war occurs. The Gog-Magog coalition will attack Israel - perhaps partly motivated to take what resources and wealth that is still in Israel (Ezekiel 38:12-13), and I believe they may be motivated to destroy Israel as revenge for what happened to the countries in the battle of Psalm 83. It says the Gog-Magog coalition will "attack them (Israel) like a fierce thunderstorm and surround them like a cloud." (Ezekiel 38:9) and "You will lead your powerful cavalry from your kingdom in the north." (Ezekiel 38:16). So it appears this will be a massive invasion, probably with tanks and ground artillery, which will come at Israel from the north.

We don't know for sure at what point in the Tribulation this battle occurs, yet if Psalm 83 is indeed the cause for the peace treaty which reveals the Antichrist in Revelation chapter 6:1-2, and the Gog-Magog war happens after this, I suspect it may be in the first half of the Tribulation - perhaps as early as the second Seal Judgement (the spread of war throughout the world - Revelation 6:3).

Who is involved in the Gog-Magog war?

The Gog-Magog war is started by a leader called "Gog, of the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshek and Tubal" (Ezekiel 38:2, NIV). And his allies will be: "Persia, Cush and Put will be with them, all with shields and helmets, also Gomer with all its troops, and Beth Togarmah from the far north with all its troops the many nations with you." (Ezekiel 38:5, NIV). So let's see if we can find out in modern-day terms who these countries are.

In source [1], Jennifer Rast does an excellent in-depth study of these countries:

  • Magog: The countries south of Russia which used to be part of the Soviet-Union. From source [1]: "The Jewish historian Josephus said, 'Magog founded the Magogians, called Scythians by the Greeks. Scythians were a nomadic tribe who inhabited the ancient territory from Central Asia across the southern part of ancient Russia.' Today this area is inhabited by the former Soviet Republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and possibly northern parts of Afghanistan." It is interesting that [1] notes that all these countries are mostly Muslim, and therefore more likely to join with other Muslim countries in attacking Israel.
  • Meshech and Tubal: Turkey and parts of Russia and Iran: "It's likely that Meshech and Tubal refer to the ancient Moshi/Mushki and Tubalu/Tibareni who dwelled in the area around, primarily south of, the Black and Caspian Sea in Ezekiel's day. Today these nations would be in the modern country of Turkey, parts of Southern Russia and Northern Iran"[1].
  • Persia: Persia is the former name for Iran, which changed it's name during the 20th century. Iran hates Israel and their current leader Ahmadinejad is well known for disliking Israel [2]. Iran also has close ties to Syria, which is important if the reason for the Gog-Magog war is revenge on Israel for destroying Damascus in the battle of Psalm 83.
  • Cush: "Cush in Ezekiel's time was the land just south of Egypt on the Nile River. Today this land is occupied by Sudan"[1]. Sudan is again an Islamic country and has close ties to Iran.
  • Put: "Ancient Put was the land just west of Egypt, or what is today Libya."[1]. Even though today Libya is in the process of throwing out their dictator Ghaddafi, it is still primarily Muslim and depending on what the new government is like, it could be hostile towards Israel.
  • Gomer: Parts of Turkey and Russia: "The Gomerites were the ancient Cimmerians, expelled in 700 B.C. from the southern steppes of Russia into what is today Turkey"[1].
  • Beth-Togarmah: "In Ezekiel's time there was a city in Cappodocia (Modern Turkey) known as Tegarma, Tagarma, Til-garimmu, and Takarama."[1]

If you want to read more about these locations and theories about them, I would recommend reading Jennifer Rast's full analysis in [1]. In summary, it looks like the main nations which form a coalition to destroy Israel in the Gog-Magog war are: Iran, Turkey, Sudan, Libya, and formerly-Soviet republics south of Russia. Russia itself may be involved, as they traditionally will side with Iran and other middle-eastern countries instead of western-Europe. They have also been selling military hardware to Iran.

Since it says that Gog is the leader of Meshech and Tubal, it seems the leader of this coalition will be Turkey, even though most people assume it will be Iran because of Iran's publicly-declared hatred of Israel.

Comparison to Nations in Psalm 83

As I discussed in my article about the Battle of Psalm 83, the nations involved in that conflict were Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Palestine. It seems likely that most of these nations are severely wounded or destroyed in the aftermath when God protects Israel: "Our God, scatter them around like dust in a whirlwind. Just as flames destroy forests on the mountains, pursue and terrify them with storms of your own ... Let them be forever ashamed and confused. Let them die in disgrace." (Psalm 83:13-17).

So it doesn't say these countries will be completely destroyed, yet will probably be in no condition to join the Gog-Magog coalition. I believe this is the reason why these countries are not mentioned in the list of those involved in the Gog-Magog war. Additionally, it seems that the Gog-Magog war is made up of Muslim nations, who may be taking revenge for the destruction of Israel's Muslim neighbors in the battle of Psalm 83, and to complete what that invasion failed to do - wipe Israel out (Psalm 83:4).

The Reaction of Other Countries

Ezekiel says that when the Gog-Magog war happens "Sheba and Dedan and the merchants of Tarshish and all her villages will say to you, 'Have you come to plunder? Have you gathered your hordes to loot, to carry off silver and gold, to take away livestock and goods and to seize much plunder?'"(Ezekiel 38:13, NIV).

Source [1] says "Sheba and Dedan are not hard to identify. These were ancient names for what is known today as Saudi Arabia". And "Tarshish is most commonly agreed to be ancient Tartessus or the area of present day Spain in Western Europe. In Ezekiel's day, Tarshish was in the farthest west regions of the known world."[1]. So Tarshish would be countries such as Spain, France, and England. It is not unusual that Saudi Arabia would side with the West because they have traditionally been close trading partners (mostly for oil) and would not want to anger their most important customers by siding with the Gog-Magog coalition.

It is interesting that in the King James Version of the Bible, it says "and the merchants of Tarshish, with all the young lions thereof". This could indicate that relatively young western countries such as Canada, the United States, and Australia (previously members of the British Empire - whose icon was a Lion [3]) will join with European countries in denouncing the invasion of Israel by the Gog-Magog coalition. It could be they don't come to Israel's aid because the invasion is so sudden, or perhaps they simply don't care because they have their own problems to deal with. The Rapture will probably devastate many western countries so they may not be as effective as they are now when dealing with international issues.

The Defeat of the Gog-Magog Coalition

Fortunately, even if other countries do nothing but lodge diplomatic protests - God will come to rescue Israel again. God says "When you invade Israel, I will become furious, and in my anger I will send a terrible earthquake to shake Israel... Mountains will crumble, cliffs will fall, and cities will collapse. I the LORD, will make the mountains of Israel turn against you. Your troops will be so terrified that they will attack each other. I will strike you with diseases and punish you with death. You and your army will be pounded with rainstorms, hailstones, and burning sulfur. I will do these things to show the world that I the LORD am holy." (Ezekiel 38:18-23).

So God will destroy the attacking armies with an earthquake, disease, rain, hail, and sulfur. The army will be so confused it will turn and attack itself. The dead bodies will be food for the birds and wild animals (Ezekiel 39:4). Then God will "set fire to the land of Magog and to those nations along the seacoast that think they are so secure, and they will know that I am the LORD."(Ezekiel 39:6).

The Aftermath of the Gog-Magog War

The Gog-Magog coalition will be so huge, and have so many soldiers that the clean-up effort for Israel will be enormous. "When that day comes, the people in the towns of Israel will collect the weapons of their dead enemies. They will use these shields, bows and arrows, spears, and clubs as firewood, and there will be enough to last for seven years. They will burn these weapons instead of gathering sticks or chopping down trees."(Ezekiel 39:9-10). So it appears the resources of the army will be gathered by Israel and be used for themselves. In modern times it is unlikely that the army will literally be carrying wooden shields and spears, so perhaps this means Israelis will take the gasoline from all the tanks and vehicles and will use that instead of having to buy gas or drill for oil.

There will also be a huge effort to bury all the bodies. Ezekiel 39:11-16 describes this effort. All the soldiers will be buried in Israel in a valley that will be called "The Valley of Gog's Army". It will take seven months to bury all the soldiers and clean up the mess of the war. Then "After those seven months, the people will appoint a group of men to look for any dead bodies left unburied. This must be done for seven months to make sure the land is no longer unclean. Whenever they find a human bone, they will set up a marker next to it. Then the gravediggers will bury it" (Ezekiel 39:15). So it takes fourteen months total (over a year) to clean up after this war. This is more evidence that the Gog-Magog war probably happens earlier in the Tribulation, before the Antichrist has declared himself to be God in the Temple. When the Antichrist says this, Jews are commanded to flee into the mountains (Matthew 24:15-20), so they would not be able to continue with the clean-up.

What is the point of the Gog-Magog war?

The overall objectives and outcomes of this war are different than those in Psalm 83. Psalm 83 was primarily an attack designed to destroy Israel, and the outcome was that Israel turns back to God, rebuilds their Temple, and signs a treaty with the Antichrist. However, the Gog-Magog war seems to have different purposes. The initial invasion may be a combination of revenge for Psalm 83 and/or economic motivations to take wealth from Israel. Yet God seems to say that the entire point is to punish Gog (Ezekiel 38:1-3) and to let the rest of the world know that God exists and does protect Israel (Ezekiel 38:16, 38:23, 39:6,and 39:21-23). God may use this war during the Tribulation to try to convince the world to turn back to God before it's too late.

Why is Israel always getting attacked?

It is also interesting to look at why Israel keeps getting attacked. Israel has been attacked historically in the wars of 1948-49, 1967, 1973, and will be attacked again in the future in Psalm 83 and in the Gog-Magog war. The Holocaust in WW2 was primarily against the Jews. Additionally, the battle of Armageddon at the end of the Tribulation will once again be fought in Israel and directed against the Jews. So why is it always Israel and the Jews who are the targets of destruction?

There is a very good reason why it's always the Jews: Satan hates God. Since Israel and the Jews are God's chosen people, Satan wishes to destroy them. It's the same as in any superhero movie - if the villain can't hurt the superhero directly, he will instead go after the superhero's family or girlfriend. Satan does the same thing and since he hates God, but God is invincible and all-powerful, Satan goes after those who God cares about that are not invincible - the chosen people of Israel. Satan can persuade countries and leaders to be hostile to the Jews to try to achieve this purpose.

There is another reason why Satan wants all the Jews and Israel to be destroyed. Satan knows that God has promised that Israel would exist forever (i.e. Genesis 13:15, Exodus 32:13, Micah 4:7), and that Jesus would return to rule Israel and throw Satan into the deep pit (Revelation 19:11-20:3). However, Satan probably thinks that if he can destroy the Jews before Jesus comes, then that would make all the prophecies about the future of Israel invalid and Jesus will not be able to return to rule Israel. That would make God a liar for saying Israel would exist forever.

During the Tribulation, Satan will be thrown out of heaven and will be very angry (Revelation 12:7-17), and at this point Satan knows he has only 7 years left before Jesus returns: "He knows his time is short and he is very angry." (Revelation 12:12). So he will unleash as much fury and hate as possible towards the Jews, which will lead to three wars - the battle of Psalm 83, the Gog-Magog war, and the battle of Armageddon. Even after the Millennium, Satan will be released again for a short time, and the first thing he does is mobilize an army against Jerusalem, and again God saves the city with fire from heaven (Revelation 20:7-10). Satan must be truly furious at this point - his every attempt throughout history to destroy Israel and thwart God's plan has failed, and Satan is finally thrown into the lake of fire.

Conclusion

So now we are finished the analysis of the Gog-Magog war. We can see that it has not yet happened, and will most likely take place at some point in the early or mid-Tribulation period. It cannot happen before that because Israel is not living in peace and safety. This will only happen after Israel has signed the 7-year treaty with the Antichrist after the battle of Psalm 83. Since all current Christians will be Raptured before the Tribulation starts, we will not be around to see this war, yet we can learn important things from studying it.

We can learn that God will always defend his chosen people Israel, and therefore has not abandoned Israel or replaced them with the Church, as some people claim. God will supernaturally protect Israel three times during the Tribulation, and once more at the end of the Millennium. It shows that God can be trusted to fulfill his promises, and it shows that God is all powerful and no one can conquer Him. Christians can take comfort in the fact that we place our trust in the same God who controls nature and destroys vast armies to protect those He loves. We should never feel afraid or weak with God as our ally.

References

[1] www.contenderministries.org - "The War of Gog and Magog" by Jennifer Rast
[2] www.wikipedia.org - Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
[3] www.wikipedia.org - Royal Banner of England

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