The possible invasion of the Ukraine by Russia has rekindled cold war “prophecy hermeneutics” that the “Rosh” in Ezek. 38:3 is Russia, therefore Russia is the nation of the Antichrist or at least the leader of a future Ezekiel 38 war. But a true exegetical look at the passage shows Rosh Ain’t Russia.
If there’s an invasion of Ukraine, and especially a messy one — and even more so if the US gets involved — there’s no doubt you’ll hear this Rosh report in Christian circles, whether you’ve heard it before or not. I’m trying to cut that conversation off before it happens, and even more so drive each of us to the text rather than the New York Times. A friend of mine recently told me that modern prophecy teaching tends to be more of a popular eisegesis than a Biblical exegesis, and that’s so true.
Exegesis and eisegesis aren’t words we throw around much at church and definitely not in the “real world,” but sit in on a pastor’s conference and you’ll hear them. Eisegesis means that we read into the Bible and the interpretation of it our own preconceived ideas, while exegesis means that the Bible drives the meaning. In other words, exegesis takes the Bible for what it says, while through eisegesis we can make it say what we want it to say. Believe me, you want your pastor to be exegeting not eisegeting the Bible.
Where this happens in prophecy is that we look at events going on in the world, then read those events into the Bible rather than reading the Biblical text and letting it speak for itself. You can see how Russia could have been read into the Bible during the cold war.
There are three prophetic aspects in the Bible that have been used to show that Russia would be the Antichrist or a leading player at the end of the age:
• The Hebrew word “Rosh” in Ezek. 38:2 (we’ll come back to this).
• There are several prophecies that talk about the final invasion of Israel at the end of the age coming from the north. This is seen in Daniel and Joel. Though Russia would be far north of Jerusalem, “far north” in Biblical times often referred to what is the modern Turkey and Syria region. Even Assyria and Babylon were said to invade from the north, for the path they would use brought them into Israel through the north; but finding them on the map they would be more eastward and almost in line with Israel. The monikers “man of the north” or “invasion from the north” aren’t biblically sound alone to point to Russia.
• The image of the Bear-beast in Daniel 7 has been attributed to being a clue that this final empire must be Russia. This bear imagery isn’t enough to connect to modern Russia either. For one, the bear isn’t even representing the final kingdom. If Daniel 7 is parallel to Daniel 2, it would point to the Medes and Persians. Those are just a couple of reasons why the bear would not be a solid reference to Russia.
Now back to “Rosh.” Ezekiel 38 is an incredible passage in which God is speaking to a leader figure called Gog (whom I believe is the Antichrist, but that’s a conversation for another day). God then names specific places in which Gog rules. In naming these places, God doesn’t use the modern names, but rather ancient names of these locations. Most of these ancient names point back to the Table of Nations found in Genesis 10, which describes the settlement of people following the Tower of Babel event. The places mentioned are Magog, Meshek, Tubal, Gomer and Beth Togarmah, which point to the modern-day Turkey region. Persia represents modern-day Iran. Cush is modern-day Sudan, while Put is modern-day Libya. The prophecy continues to describe how Gog leads this group of nations against Israel in the last days.
The Hebrew word “Rosh” is found in Ezek. 38:2. Modern prophecy teachers have said that it likely represents Russia, but “rosh” isn’t used only in this passage, it’s found over 600 times in the Old Testament, and every one of those times it’s translated to English “chief” or “head.” One of the major times this is seen is the Jewish New Year — Rosh Hashanah. This term means that New Year’s Day is the “chief day” or “head day” of the new year. So, if the word is translated “chief or head leader” in all 601 of 602 times, the Russia idea is a very big stretch.
Though this usage of “Rosh” being Russia is seen mainly in modern prophecy teaching, there are some Bible translations that treat “Rosh” as a place. Look at these comparisons:
• “Son of man, set thy face against Gog, the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal…” (KJV)
• “Son of man, set your face against Gog, of the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshek and Tubal…” (NIV)
• “Son of man, set your face toward Gog, of the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal…” (ESV)
In most Bible translations like the three above “Rosh” is translated as “chief prince.” In which they mean that Gog is the chief head of Magog and the other nations listed. But a few, like the NKJV, translate “Rosh” as a name of a nation: “Son of man, set your face against Gog, of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal….” Even if this one time out of over 600 the Hebrew word “Rosh” needed to be translated to a place, there’s still no evidence that it means Russia.
I know this may seem like an unnecessary argument, but it’s likely future events concerning Russia could bring teachings of Russia being the Antichrist nation or leader of this Jerusalem invasion to our ears. But that’s not what the Bible reveals. Russia could be a player at the end of the age and in the time leading up to that, but one thing is certain — Rosh Ain’t Russia.
Jake is available for revivals and preaching learn more at standfirmministries.com.