The Coming War with Russia
Russia will invade Israel at a time when war is not expected.
Students of Bible prophecy have long expected a Russian military move in the Middle East. Early in the 20th century, Dr. Ironside wrote:
In the last days, the final head of the Russian people will look with covetous eyes upon the great developments in the land of Palestine. They will determine that Russia must have her part of the wealth there produced. Consequently, we have the picture of a vast army, augmented by warriors from Persia, Cush, Phut, marching down toward Palestine.
Aggressors in Conflict
But why have prophetic experts come to this conclusion?
The reasons are found in chapters 38 and 39 of Ezekiel’s prophecy. There a devastating war is described that takes place in the Middle East involving Israel, Russia, and a number of other nations.
The following is Ezekiel’s indictment of the aggressors in the conflict:
And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Son of man, set thy face against Gog, the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him, And say, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I am against thee, O Gog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal: And I will turn thee back, and put hooks into thy jaws, and I will bring thee forth, and all thine army, horses and horsemen, all of them clothed with all sorts of amour, even a great company with bucklers and shields, all of them handling swords: Persia, Ethiopia, and Libya with them; all of them with shield and helmet: Gomer, and all his bands: and many people with thee… (Ezekiel 38:1 – 6)
It is no secret that the majority of prophetic speakers and writers identify the prime mover among these nations named by Ezekiel as Russia. Millions of booklets, pamphlets, and books have been circulated describing the coming war between Russia and Israel. But is there hard evidence that the conclusions of these students of prophecy are correct?
Did Ezekiel really foresee Russia rising as a military power in the end time and having a special interest in the Middle East, or have present-day writers and speakers simply used today’s international tensions as an opportunity to sell books and attract crowds?
Is the public the victim of ecclesiastical opportunists who have themselves set the stage for what they describe as the end-time drama?
How can anyone be sure that Ezekiel’s prophecy has anything to do with modern nations when the words used in his description of this conflict are so unfamiliar to today’s Bible reader?
» Who is Gog? Where is the land of Magog?
» Where would one look on a map to find the cities of Meshech and Tubal?
» To what nations did Ezekiel refer when he wrote of Gomer and Togarmah?
Unless these questions can be answered satisfactorily, there is good reason to question the conclusions being so widely accepted and promoted in our time.
Let us begin at the beginning.
A table of nations is given in Genesis 10.
At the opening of this important chapter, we are confronted with the key names in Ezekiel’s prophecy: “Now these are the generations of the sons of Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth: and unto them were sons born after the flood. The sons of Japheth; Gomer, and Magog, and Madai, and Javan, and Tubal, and Meshech, and Tiras” (Genesis 10:1, 2).
These key verses describe the repopulating of the earth after the flood. It was the custom in ancient times for the descendents of a man to adopt his name for their tribe. Understanding this, historians and Bible students have been able to trace the movements of some of the tribes and know where their descendents can be found today.
Using this system, the editors of the Scofield Reference Bible have furnished the following information about the names that concern us in the table of nations:
Magog — “From Magog are descended the ancient Scythians or Tarters, whose descendents predominate in modern Russia.”
Tubal — “Tubal’s descendents peopled the region south of the Black Sea from whence they spread north and south. It is probable that Tobolsk perpetuates the tribal name.”
Meshech — “Progenitor of a race mentioned in connection with Tubal, Magog, and other northern nations. Broadly speaking, Russia, excluding the conquests of Peter the Great and his successors, is the modern land of Magog, Tubal, and Meshech.”
The Scofield Reference Bible was published in 1909. These notes alone let us know that the identification of Russia as the main aggressor in Ezekiel’s end-time battle is not the conclusion of prophetic opportunists. But there is more.
In the oriental tongue, the name of the Caucasus Mountains that run through Russia means “Fort of Gog“ or “Gog’s last stand.“ If you were to ask a Russian what he calls the heights of the Caucasus Mountains, he would say, “the Gogh.“
The evidence builds.
The word that is translated “chief” in Ezekiel 38:3 is “Rosh” in the Hebrew language.
For centuries prophetic scholars have generally agreed that the word “Rosh” is a proper name.
Allowing this long-accepted conclusion in the translation of this verse would make it read, “And say, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I am against thee, O Gog, the Rosh prince of Meshech and Tubal.“
But who is Rosh?
“Rosh” was the name of the tribe dwelling in the area of the Volga. And “Rosh” is the word for “Russia” today in some languages of the world.
In Belgium and Holland it is “Rus.” Here, abbreviated, it’s “Russ,” and often appears in that form in the headlines of newspapers. An understanding of this truth moved Robert Lowth, Bishop of London two hundred years ago, to write: “Rosh, taken as a proper name in Ezekiel signifies the inhabitants of Scythia from whom the modern Russians derive their modern name. The name ‘Russia’ dates only from the seventeenth century and was formed from the ancient name ‘Russ.’
It is clear then that Ezekiel was delivering a warning to the Russian prince (leader) of Meshech and Tubal.
We have already seen from Scofield’s notes of 1909 that Tubal is the root of the name Tobolsk, but what about Meshech?
In his note on Ezekiel 38:2, Scofield continues his work of identification, stating: “That the primary reference is to the northern European powers headed by Russia, all agree… Gog is the prince, Magog his land, the reference to Meshech and Tubal (Moscow and Tobolsk) is a clear mark of identification.“
As has been already shown, Dr. Scofield was by no means the first to come to this conclusion. In 1890, Arno C. Gaebelein wrote a book on Ezekiel. Commenting on chapters 38 and 39, he declared:
Another important voice of the past is that of Josephus. In Book I, Chapter VI of his work, this historian who lived almost two thousand years ago stated that the Scythians were called Magogites by the Greeks. Why is that important? The Scythians populated Russia.
It is little wonder then that the weight of prophetic scholarship has gone with the conclusion that Russia is the chief aggressor named by Ezekiel in this end-time war with Israel. The allies of Russia in that fierce conflict will be Persia (Iran and Iraq), Ethiopia, Libya, Gomer (Eastern Germany and Slovakia), and Togarmah (Turkey).
It is interesting that Daniel adds Egypt to the names of nations coming against Israel and the final world dictator, so that the invasion includes attacks from the north and the south, as well as the prospect of trouble from the east (see Dan. 11:40-44).
There is no need to marshal the scholars of the past to confirm the place or purpose of this war.
After many days thou shalt be visited: in the latter years thou shalt come into the land that is brought back from the sword, and is gathered out of many people, against the mountains of Israel, which have been always waste: but it is brought forth out of the nations, and they shall dwell safely all of them (Ezek. 38:8).
What a clear and up-to-date description of Israel! She is certainly the land that is brought back from the sword — gathered out of many people — a former wasteland — brought forth out of the nations.
The invaders of Israel will come with immense air power: “Thou shalt ascend and come like a storm, thou shalt be like a cloud to cover the land, thou, and all thy bands, and many people with thee” (Ezek. 38:9).
They will also come in full confidence of victory: And thou shalt say, I will go up to the land of unwalled villages; I will go to them that are at rest, that dwell safely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates, To take a spoil, and to take a prey; to turn thine hand upon the desolate places that are now inhabited, and upon the people that are gathered out of the nations, which have gotten cattle and goods, that dwell in the midst of the land (Ezek. 38:11,12).
We will continue our study in this next week.
A MESSAGE OF HOPE FROM DR. JACK VAN IMPE