Biblical Research & Education Resources
Blaine Robison, M.A., M.R.E.
The Invasion of Israel
Published 11 September 2007; Revised 18 December 2017
Bibliographic data for sources cited may be found at the end of the article.
"Son of man, set your face toward Gog of the land of Magog, chief prince of Meshech and Tubal. Prophesy against him 3 and say, thus says ADONAI Elohim: 'Behold, I am against you, Gog, chief prince of Meshech and Tubal. 4 I will turn you about and put hooks into your jaws. I will bring you out, with all your army, horses and horsemen—all of them splendidly dressed—a vast assembly with breastplate and shield, all of them wielding swords. 5 With them will be Persia, Cush and Put, all of them with shield and helmet, 6 Gomer and all his troops, the house of Togarmah from the extreme north and all his troops—many peoples with you.'" (Ezek 38:2-6 TLV)
Ezekiel 38 and 39 predict a massive invasion of Israel by a seven-nation alliance. Some think the prophecy of the post-millennial war initiated by Gog and Magog in Revelation 20 is the same event as the prophecy of Ezekiel 38-39, but there are too many differences in the details between the two prophecies for them to be the same event. Ezekiel 38:8 places the time of the invasion in the "latter years" (v. 8) and the "last days" (v. 16), which designates the period of history occurring before the Days of the Messiah or the age to come. Israel during this time is described as "a people gathered from many nations" (v. 8), reflecting the reestablishment of Israel as an independent state, as prophesied in Ezekiel 37.
Israel will also be "living in unwalled villages" (v. 11), which is the current status of towns in Israel in contrast to ancient times when all towns relied on a wall for defense against attack. Israel will be "enjoying prosperity" (v. 12) and "living securely" (v. 8, 14). The "peace and security" of the land does not refer to a lack of terrorism or external threats, but the relationship the people have with their own government (cf. Jdg 18:7). In other words, there is no danger of civil war among the Israelis. Security is also represented in the Israeli economy, one of the strongest in the world (cf. Ezek 34:27). Even in the midst of external threats from Islamic terrorists, thousands of tourists visit Israel every year without being harmed. Israel has a strong and advanced military and the Israel Defense Forces don't hesitate take aggressive action to defend the country. Israelis "rest" in their military prowess.
The prophecy of invasion was given after Israel had been taken into captivity by Babylon, but the conditions mentioned above have not existed until modern times. Israel was invaded in 1967 and in 1973. The war in 1967 pitted Israel against Egypt, Jordan and Syria. The nations of Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Algeria also contributed troops and arms to the Arab forces. Israel achieved a decisive victory in six days and at the war's end, Israel had gained control of eastern Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip, the Sinai Peninsula, Judea, Samaria (the so-called "West Bank"), and the Golan Heights. In 1973 Egypt and Syria attacked Israel on Yom Kippur. The war lasted 20 days and again Israel gained an overwhelming victory. Although these wars were significant, they did not involve the major powers listed in Ezekiel 38 and 39 nor accomplish the level of destruction that Ezekiel saw. This war is yet to be fought.
Identifying the enemies of Israel listed in Ezekiel is not difficult if their location at the time of the prophecy is considered. Jewish Rabbinic writings make frequent mention of Gog and Magog as nations that will march against the Messiah. The name of Magog first appears as a grandson of Noah (Gen 10:2) and the first mention of Gog is in 1Chronicles 5:4 as the grandson of Joel. The names next appear (and together) in Ezekiel 38:2 where Gog is identified as a demonic prince over the descendants of Magog, Meshech and Tubal (cf. Dan 10:13). Ancient authorities offer incomplete information on the location of Magog’s descendants. Josephus, the first century Jewish historian, associated Magog with the Scythians, a nomadic warrior people located east of the Caspian Sea (Antiquities of the Jews, I, 6:1). Another suggestion is that Magog refers to the name of Armenia, located now in Turkey. BDB also notes the similarity of Gog with the Assyrian Gâgu, chief of a mountainous tribe north of Assyria (155).
In ancient Bible times the peoples of Gomer, Meshech, Tubal and Togarmah lived in Asia Minor, now called Turkey (Atlas 71). Put was located in North Africa in an area now within the borders of Libya (66). Biblical Cush (Ethiopia) occupied a large area of the southern Nile divided now between southern Egypt and Sudan (Atlas 78). Persia corresponds to present-day Iran (Atlas 79), but in Ezekiel's time the Persian empire included the conquered territory of Babylon (Iraq). I do not include Rosh in the list of nations (as indicated in KJV, NASB, NKJV) because the Hebrew word literally means "chief" and should be connected with "prince," a descriptive adjective of Gog, and thus it is not a place-name. Many pretribulationist commentators have predicted that Russia will invade Israel because of supposed similarities between "Rosh" and "Russia," as well as "Meshech" and "Moscow." The association of the biblical names in Ezekiel 38 with English cognates of Russia is extremely speculative and lacking in biblical or archaeological evidence. This is not to say that Russia would not be involved as they provide weapons to Islamic countries.
What should be obvious is that all the enemy nations listed in Ezekiel 38 are now controlled by fundamentalist Islamic regimes. The final Islamic jihad or "holy war" may be initiated on the assumption that many more nations will need to join the attack against Israel than in the two previous wars. The major impediment to the invasion happening (from a human point of view) for many years had been the reign of Saddam Hussein, who fancied himself as the second Nebuchadnezzar and had his own dreams of regional power. With Hussein's removal and the reduction of U.S. forces in the region, Iran has increased its efforts to seize control of the Middle East. Add to the volatile situation the current upheaval in Islamic governments to more radical control, the constant warmongering rhetoric coming out of Tehran, the posturing of Turkey to assert its influence over the entire Middle East and the anti-Israel sentiment pervading the West, the probability of Israel being invaded is all but a certainty.
The only question is when. God in His sovereignty has already decreed the date (Ezek 38:10, 14; 39:8). We can only "watch" and continue to pray for and support Israel. Dark days appear on the horizon, but God will defend His Land. Israel may be abandoned by the world, but according to Ezekiel's prophecy God will give a resounding victory to Israel.
Atlas: Oxford Bible Atlas, Second Edition. Ed. Herbert G. May. Oxford University Press, 1974.
BDB: The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. Oxford University Press, 1907. Reprinted by Associated Publishers and Authors, Inc., 1981.
Copyright © 2011-2015 Blaine Robison. All rights reserved.