Son of man, direct your face against GOG of the land of MAGOG,

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the chief head

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and TUBAL,

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and prophesy against him.


You, my chosen one, point everything within your mind in a contrary manner against the leader of Those Ruthless, Hostile People, who rules over of the Land Of The Ruthless And Hostile People; he is the highest authority of the TALL PEOPLE who consider themselves THE ANSWER. Speak these divinely inspired words against him.


1: Gog and Magog

We do not know for sure what the names Gog and Magog mean, but Magog refers to the land of the Scythians between the black sea and the Caspian sea, and Gog is their ruler. These people were greatly feared because they were ruthless and hostile. In my paraphrase I express their reputation, which is probably different than the meaning of these names. If we knew the meaning of those names they would probably show how they saw themselves, whereas, the reputation I am using shows how others saw them.

2: "the chief head"

Two different words are used here in Hebrew. The first one comes from a root word meaning “lifted up, or exalted” and can mean “chief, captain, governor, prince, ruler, cloud, vapor, or mist.” The second word means “head.” It can refer to the head of a family, of a nation, the top of a mountain, the beginning of time, the source of a river.” In this context it is obviously being used of the leader of a nation. I would not have to render it “”chief head” but I have done so to show you the basic meaning of each word and how similar they are.


Meshech means “long or tall.”


Tubal seems to mean “to answer or to restore.”

The Symbolic Emphasis of Gog and Magog

Through ancient times Magog referred to the region of the Scythians, between the Caspian Sea and what we call the Black Sea, and Gog referred to their leader. This was so common that Josephus dropped the word Magog and substituted the word Scythians (Barnes Commentary on Rev 20:8).

Today that region includes the countries of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and part of Russia.

Meshech means “long or tall”. Some say this was a land in central Turkey, but others say it was also in the land of the Scythians, along with the other names mentioned. From the context it seems that the latter meaning is most likely.

Tubal means “answer, restore.” Tubal may have been the ancestor of the Caucasian Iberians who lived in the same region as the land of Magog.

But in this passage it is not the meaning of the names Meshech and Tubal that is important, rather it is their reputation for being barbaric and fearsome.

But very little is divulged in Scripture about the people or the place, only that the people of Palestine and surrounding nations had great fear of them. Thus Magog became a symbol for the ruthless, barbaric, hostile people, who were greatly feared, and of whom little else was known. We don’t even know what the names Gog and Magog mean.

We should see this use of Magog as a symbol of a certain type of people, ones to be feared, rather than those from a certain place, i.e. Scythia. Although it is possible to take this as a reference to a specific place, it is more advisable, to understand it as a type of people who oppose the people of God—something that has happened many times, in many places and in many ways. This interpretive method makes the text relevant to a majority of believers through all time, and it fits the purpose of the vision of Revelation—to encourage believers who are facing hardship because of their faith.

Gog and Magog in Ancient History

Extra-biblical sources confirm the reasons why this group of people were feared. They are credited by some as being among the first to master mounted warfare (Encyclopedia Britannica). They were known for their skills in archery, and also as extremely aggressive warriors in close combat (Will Durant, Our Oriental Heritage, (Simon and Schuster, 1935,) p. 287).

The Scythians dominated a vast area extending from the Carpathian Mountains in Europe to central China and southern Siberia. They predated the Mongolian “Empire” in that area by several hundred years. The Scythian rulers lived in the western portions of their loosely organized “empire” and were very wealthy due to the trade route they established linking Greece, Persia, India and China, (long before Marco Polo reopened such a trade route). The Scythes were known to have invaded Palestine, but they did not occupy it.

By100 BC (some say 300 BC) the Scythians ceased to be a military threat to anyone. Since John penned Revelation around 90 AD, that means that at least 190 years before John received this vision the Scythians were no longer a force to contend with. Thus it makes more sense to see the reference to Magog in Revelation 20 as imagery rather than a real threat of actual military invasion. While a real threat may no longer have existed, the imagery would have persisted.

When Ezekiel was alive, the Scythes were in power to the North of Israel and were a fearsome people. But the prophecy of Ezekiel was not fulfilled while the Scythes were in power, so it had to be symbolic in some way. The debate is over what that symbolism refers to.

Gog and Magog in Modern Thinking

In modern times it has become popular to interpret this as an army coming from Russia to attack Israel. Ezekiel associates Magog with two other places called Meshech and Tubal, which were in the same region, between the Black Sea and Caspian Sea. Russia does indeed extend down as far as this region between the Black sea and the Caspian Sea, however, it would be highly abnormal for a country to be identified by one of its extremities, unless only that part of the country were involved, or if that were the place of its centralized power,. i.e. its capital. In our modern context, we could say that Washington D.C went to war against the Axis powers in WWII, but we would not say that Florida went to war against the Axis powers. Therefore, if Russia were intended, we could expect the text to say that Russia, or Moscow, will invade Israel, but we would not expect it to say the southwestern region of Russia will invade Israel. The term Magog fits the Scythians because the western region became the seat of quasi-centralized power where their wealthy rulers resided. However, it does not fit Russia.

To interpret this literally we must also assume that Israel is the target, not the people of God in a spiritual sense. We must assume that this is only about physical conquest, not spiritual advantage. While it is possible to make a case that Israelis are still the people of God, it is more fitting with the message of Revelation to say that the people of God are the pure and holy ones who are committed to following God even to the point of martyrdom.

Every time Israel has been seriously attacked (1948, 1967, 2023) people have assumed that it was a fulfillment of Ezekiel 38 and 39 and Revelation 20:8. It is commonly assumed that these passages are referring to Russia. In the first two cases, 1948 and 1967, these assumptions were proved wrong. Why then is everyone so quick to make the same assumptions in 2023? While Russia may be involved today behind the scenes, that is not the same as armies marching to war, as a geo-political fulfillment of Ez 38 &39 would require.

When we look at prophecy from a geopolitical perspective, we are forced to look around us in search of anything that might fit a literal interpretation of the prophecy. But if we look at prophecy from a spiritual perspective, we are called to look back at what God has done in the past and take encouragement from it regardless of the hardships we are facing.

On the one hand, there are places earlier in the book of Ezekiel that mention these same physical locations and others. This makes it seem like the prophecy of chapters 38 and 39 is talking about real places and real people. On the other hand, problems arise when we try to predict how this will play out in the physical realm. We keep guessing and keep being wrong. We cannot know if a prophecy has a physical fulfillment until after the completion of the events. We cannot know the spiritual fulfillments of a prophecy until after, or part way through, the fulfillments of those spiritual realities.

Do Not Fear!

The purpose of Ez 38 & 39 is not primarily about military attacks and military victories; the point is that you do not need to fear the things in your life that usually cause fear. Although they look scary and everyone speaks of them with hushed tones, there is absolutely no reason to fear those things. God wants to vanquish your fears utterly and completely. If you let Him, He can conquer your fears and annihilate the root cause behind them. Just like Ezekiel uses the symbolism of a military victory unlike any other, God wants you to experience that level of victory over all your fears.

Whether or not these two chapters are ever fulfilled in a literal way and in every detail, can be debated. God’s message of “Do not fear” should be perfectly clear.

Most fears come from a focus on self. The more we surrender our lives and futures to God, the less those fears will be able to trouble us.

So, what do you fear? Name the biggest fears in your life. Write these fears down, and, if you are in a group, discuss these fears with your group. Now thank God for His victory over those fears. The final step is to come up with a clear plan of what you will do whenever those fears come back into your mind. Find verses you can quote, or statements you can say to yourself which will remind you that there is no reason for fear. Write down your plan and, if your are in a group, share your plan with your group.