Sunday, July 21, 2024
Sunday, July 21, 2024
HomeAll The NewsRosh Still Ain't Russia, Neither is Magog

Rosh Still Ain’t Russia, Neither is Magog

     A few weeks ago, I wrote an article that was unfortunately timely. At that time Russia seemed staged to invade Ukraine, but still, it seemed unlikely we’d see an unprovoked invasion like has occurred. The purpose of the article was to jump ahead of what I believe is an incorrect interpretation of Ezekiel 38 which proposes that Russia will lead a coalition of nations that will invade Israel. I didn’t write the article to flex my interpretative opinion, but it was written from a pastoral heart, for the reputation of God and the truthfulness of His Word is on the line anytime we proclaim Bible prophecy, as well as the faith of those hearing those messages. We can’t afford to be wrong. We can afford to not know all the answers (as is certainly the case), but the body of Christ has already been hurt and disillusioned from incorrect end-time interpretations.

     I sure wish teachers like Pat Roberson and even Greg Laurie had Baptist Trumpet subscriptions and read that previous article because they have made bold statements that Russia is the “Rosh” of Ezekiel 38. I believe such incorrect public declarations will bring reproach on preaching and the Bible. They are basing their positions on prophecy teaching, not scholarly Biblical interpretation.

         The previous article, which can be found in the Feb. 16 issue of the Baptist Trumpet or at, argued that one of the reasons modern prophecy teachers have argued for Ezekiel 38 to speak of Russia is because of the Hebrew word “rosh” (ראש). Grammatically, there seems no way that the term would point to Russia. There are some historians who do say there may have been an ancient people referred to as “Rosh,” but even if that’s the case they were greatly spread out beyond just what is modern day Russia and the term isn’t parallel to the other locations listed. The other names in Ezekiel 38 point to exact locations, not a dispersed people group. I do not see how anyone can claim to rightly divide the text and conclude “rosh” is modern-day Russia. So, yes Rosh still ain’t Russia.

     Though the evidence is overwhelming that Rosh is off the hook for being interpreted as Russia, there’s still another location listed in Ezekiel 38 and 39 that many modern prophecy teachers believe translates to modern-day Russia, and that’s “Magog”. Likely, you’ve heard this over the past couple of weeks. Unlike “Rosh” the term “Magog” does point to a specific place.

     The name Magog first appears in the table of nations in Genesis 10, which tells of the descendants of Noah. All the names listed in Ezekiel 38, except for Persia, appear in the Genesis chapter. These are names of Noah’s descendants, but their names would also become the names of tribes and people groups that laid the foundation of the world we know today. From the historic record, it seems that Magog and his descendants first went to what is modern-day Turkey but could have later migrated further north. The issue about tracing possible migrations is that then becomes tracing “bloodlines” versus pinpointing locations which is done with all the other geographical names in the Ezekiel list.

     An article like this isn’t sufficient to lay out all the arguments for the location of the nations listed in Gog’s coalition in Ezekiel 38 and 39, but I believe it’s important to address the subject. I have full confidence that the correct interpretation of Magog is modern-day Turkey, but again you shouldn’t take my word for it, like you definitely shouldn’t take Pat Robertson’s. Therefore, I want to lay out give scholarly support in favor of Magog being modern-day Turkey.

     On the Magog equals Russia side, there is only one historic reference and that comes from the Jewish historian Josephus. Though his statement should be considered, it isn’t as specific as proponents argue. On Magog equaling modern-day Turkey, there is much more historic support. The main two come from Roman authors Pliny the Elder and Hippolytus of Rome, an early Christian theologian.

     Again, due to the needed brevity of this article, I want to leave you with a survey of the leading scholarly Bible commentaries and atlases on “Magog.”

     • Daniel I. Block, in the New International Commentary on Ezekiel, says, “It seems best to interpret Magog as a contraction of an original māt Gūgi, ‘land of Gog,’ and to see here a reference to the territory of Lydia in western Anatolia (Turkey).”

     • The Zondervan Illustrated Bible Dictionary states, “Magog… was no doubt in Asia Minor (Turkey) and may refer to Lydia.”

     • The IVP Bible Background Commentary lists Magog, Meshech, Tubal and Togarmah as “sections or peoples in Asia Minor” (Turkey).

     • The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary under the entry for Magog states, “It is clear that Lydia (Turkey) is meant….”

     • The Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary places Magog in Anatolia, or modern-day Turkey.

     • The Catholic Encyclopedia states, “it seems more probable that… Magog should be identified with Lydia (Turkey). On the other hand, as Mosoch and Thubal were nations belonging to Asia Minor, it would seem from the text of Ezechiel that Magog must be in that part of the world….”

     • The Holman Bible Atlas places Magog in Turkey.

     • The New Moody Atlas of the Bible places Magog in Turkey.

     • The Zondervan Atlas of the Bible places Magog in Turkey.

     • The IVP Atlas of Bible History places Magog in Turkey.

     Unfortunately, there is a great disconnect from the scholarly world that we lean into to understand correct interpretations of the Bible and most modern prophecy teachers. It’s absolutely strange that is the case.

     I know many may see the argument as unnecessary, but we’re all looking for answers and, unfortunately, most being provided are erroneous and could lead to disillusionment when they fall flat before our eyes.

     I realize this might contradict your own positions, it greatly clashed with mine. I had to wrestle with this passage and many others. I had been pastoring for 12 years at the time and was directing a seminary extension campus, but I was still off track. I had to come to terms with that and go back to those whom I had pastored and was teaching to say I had been wrong. It’s far more important that we get Scripture right than we double-down on being right ourselves.

     The list above is from Joel Richardson’s Mideast Beast which has one of the best treatments of Ezekiel 38 and 39.

      Jake is available for revivals and preaching learn more at