Ezekiel 38:1-23 Who is Gog and Magog?

Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying (Ezekiel 38:1 NASB 1995)

This oracle is given to Ezekiel, and its contents are covered in both chapter 38 and 39.

“Son of man, set your face toward Gog of the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him (Ezekiel 38:2)

Son of man. Son of man here probably is meant to contrast between the human condition of Ezekiel and the transcendent majesty of God. This contrasts with the usage of “Son of man” in Daniel 7:13-14, which appear to be Messianic.

Set your face toward Gog of the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal. Ezekiel is commanded to orient himself toward Gog, who is presented as a person, from the land of Magog. The people of Magog are direct descendants of Japheth, one of three sons of Noah (Genesis 10:1-2). Gog rules over more than one people (Tubal and Meshech), who are also descendants from the fifth and sixth sons of Japheth (1 Chronicles 1:5). Hence, Ezekiel likely has in view the peoples to the far north of the land of Israel (in modern day terms, the land area appears to be modern-day Turkey). Because the Hebrew term rosh (“chief”) in verse 1 sounds similar to the name Russia, some believe that Ezekiel 38 predicts modern Russia’s rise and influence. However, the context suggests that everyone in Ezekiel’s day would have been familiar with these nations (Ezek. 38:17), so there is no reason to assume that the nations listed in Ezekiel 38 are actually the geographical equivalent of modern nations.2 

And prophesy against him. Ezekiel is to foretell Gog’s ruin and destruction. 

But who is Gog? Various names have been suggested, such as Cambyses, king of Persia, Antiochus Epiphanes, king of Syria, Gyges, a Lydian king, among others, as possible historical fulfillments for Gog, though it is uncertain if these identities are the best fits. Dispensationalists interpret Gog as a future ruler from a coalition of nations, including Russia, Turkey, Iran, Sudan, and Libya (Algeria/Tunisia), who comes against modern day Israel near the midpoint of a supposed Tribulation.

However, there appears to be another ruler who fits the description of Gog. He is Haman, who attempted to annihilate the Jews in the book of Esther (Esther 3:12-14). Since Gog is identified as a “chief prince”, Gog may be a fitting description of Haman, who was not the king of Persia, but rather was a high-ranking official or perhaps, 2nd in charge over 127 provinces of the Persian Empire (Esther 1:1; Esther 3:13). Moreover, in Esther 3:1 and 9:24, Haman is referred to as an “Agagite.” He was a descendant of Agag, who was the king of Amalekites. The term “Agag” and “Gog” appear similar at face value, and they are equated in the Septuagint, the ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament. Numbers 24:7 LXX reads, “There shall come a man out of [Israel’s] seed, and he shall rule over many nations. The kingdom of Gog shall be exalted, and his kingdom shall be increased”. In fact, some Septuagint manuscripts say that Haman was a “Gogite,” instead of an “Agagite,” at Esther 3:1 and Esther 9:24 (Lewis B. Paton, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Esther, page 194).Clearly, there is an ancient connection between the titles of “Agag” and “Gog”. Moreover, “Gog” could well have been used as a title for the kings of the Amalekites, much like how “Pharaoh” was a title for the kings of Egypt.

[How could we explain Gog’s relationship with Japhethic territories, if he is a descendant of Amalekites? The Amalekites may not be the descendants of Amalek, the grandson of Esau (also known as Edomites) (Gen. 36:12,16) since it appears that the Amalekites were already a major force to contend with in the days of Abraham (Gen. 14:7). Furthermore, the Amalekites who were under God’s curse in Exodus and following were said to be the “first (tyvar) of the nations” (Numb. 24:20). If they are identified with Magog, this may makes sense].

Is there further evidence that Haman is Gog from the context of chapter 38 and 39? Continuing from next verse.

This is what the Lord God says: “Behold, I am against you, Gog, chief prince of Meshech and Tubal (Ezekiel 38:3)

Ezekiel was to announce that Yahweh was opposed to Gog, implication being that God is declaring war against Gog, whose evil scheme is to annihilate God’s people.

So I will turn you around and put hooks into your jaws, and I will bring you out, and all your army, horses and horsemen, all of them magnificently dressed, a great contingent with shield and buckler, all of them wielding swords (Ezekiel 38:4)

The Lord would reverse the fortunes of this ruler, take him under His control, and bring him and his vast, impressive army and power he exercises over them out into the open.  Putting hooks in his jaws pictures control that Gog would not be able to resist, emphasizing God is the one who is orchestrating this battle.  Gog’s arsenal is said to be armed with swords, clubs, spears, and bows and arrows, and they invade by riding horses while carrying shields. These descriptions could not apply to a future war in our modern day or future time, but rather it appears that the prophet has ancient war in mind. Usually, dispensationalist assert that “bows and arrows,” “clubs,” “spears,” and “swords” really refer to machine guns, rifles, pistols, etc., but this spiritualization or allegorizing of the text undermines the fundamental premise of their position, which is that this text must be interpreted literally. In the Book of Esther, we are told that Haman had command over “all the king’s provinces to destroy, to kill and to annihilate all the Jews, both young and old, women and children, in one day” (Esther 3:12,14).

Persia, Cush, and Put with them, all of them with buckler and helmet; Gomer with all its troops; Beth-togarmah from the remote parts of the north with all its troops—many peoples with you (Ezekiel 38:5-6)

Gog is not alone. Ezekiel foresaw a day when Meshech and Tubal would also join with two other northern powers—Gomer and Beth-togarmah (all these northern powers are descendants of Japheth)—and this four would form an alliance with Cush (Ethiopia), Put (Libya), and Persia, which were three powers to the far south or southeast of the Promised Land. The sevenfold makeup of the enemy coalition suggests totality of the threat of evil that would rise up against the people of God.  Haman fits Gog here as well, as Meshech, Tubal, Magog, Togarmah, and Gomar were all nations within the Persian Empire, which he had control over during the time of Esther (Esther 3:12-14).3 

“Be ready, and be prepared, you and all your contingents that are assembled around you, and be a guard for them (Ezekiel 38:7)

Gog is admonished to get ready with his alliances. Guard and guide them, but it would be all in vain. Hence, the implication is Gog, be ready for your downfall!

After many days you will be summoned; in the latter years you will come into the land that is restored from the sword, whose inhabitants have been gathered from many nations to the mountains of Israel which had been a continual place of ruins; but its people were brought out from the nations, and they are living securely, all of them (Ezekiel 38:8)

After many days you will be summoned; in the latter years you will come. The expression “after many days” indicate that what is predicted is yet in the future from the time of Ezekiel and it is synonymous with the “latter years” . The idiom “latter years” do not refer to future end times, but the contextual “end”, which is the prophet’s own “eschatological horizon” which is clarified in the next clause. Gog will come at the latter time from days of Ezekiel. When is that time?

Into the land that is restored from the sword. Gog will come into the land, when it is being recovered from the sword of their enemies. This appears to be a time when Israel started to return to their land after the Babylonian exile.

Whose inhabitants have been gathered from many nations to the mountains of Israel which had been a continual place of ruins. People who were once scattered over many nations (due to the Babylonian captivity), are now brought back to the mountains of Israel, which were desolated continually due to enemy sieges. We are told that Gog would come shortly after Israel returned from exile. Since modern Israel does not fit the description of Ezekiel 38, it appears the timeframe of Gog’s invasion is shortly after Israel returned from Babylonian exile in approximately 537 BC during the reign of the Persian Empire.

But its people were brought out from the nations, and they are living securely, all of them. Gog will come at a time when the people are been regathered, and they dwell securely. Some Jews had returned to Jerusalem, though others were still scattered over the 127 provinces of Persia ranging from India to Ethiopia and everywhere else (Esther 8:9). Persian empire was much kinder to the Jews unlike its predecessor, the Babylonian empire, and this fits with the idea of Jews living securely. Moreover, in Esther, the fighting occurs in every province. In Ezekiel, though we see a focus on the land of Israel, but Ezekiel also indicates that “all the nations will see My judgment” (Ezek. 39:21) and God will “send fire upon Magog and those who inhabit the coastlands in safety” (Ezek. 39:6). Hence, both passages portray the fight universally, and not just in the land of Israel.

And you will go up, you will come like a storm; you will be like a cloud covering the land, you and all your troops, and many peoples with you. (Ezekiel 38:9)

Gog and his bands shall come like a storm that overspreads the whole land like a cloud, as they come against God’s people. The book of Esther shows that all people in all the land were ready to act on God’s people no sooner the command went forth (Esther 3:14)

‘This is what the Lord God says: “It will come about on that day, that thoughts will come into your mind and you will devise an evil plan (Ezekiel 38:10)

On that day, Gog will entertain a malicious design for the destruction of God’s people. We are told that Haman had an “evil scheme” against Israel (Esther 8:3).

And you will say, ‘I will go up against the land of unwalled villages. I will go against those who are at rest, who live securely, all of them living without walls and having no bars or gates (Ezekiel 38:11)

Gog will go up against the people of God at a time they are dwelling safely, i.e., securely and confidently, in a land of un-walled villages, meaning a land of open places, as opposed to fortified cities, i.e., towns without walls, and having neither bars nor gates. In Esther, we learn that there were Jews who were living peacefully in “unwalled towns” (Esther 9:19 KJV) when Haman conspired against them. Hence, the battle of Ezekiel occurs when Jerusalem and the other towns where God’s people were living still had no walls. This rules out an interpretation in the days of the Maccabees or later, since Jerusalem has had walls ever since Nehemiah built them. However, at this point in Esther’s story, no walls have been built. Nehemiah has not yet started that work.

To capture spoils and to seize plunder, to turn your hand against the ruins that are now inhabited, and against the people who are gathered from the nations, who have acquired livestock and goods, who live at the center of the world (Ezekiel 38:11)

Gog’s motive is described here, and that is to seize upon the goods and plunder the substance of these people, who live at the center of the world (what may be meant is that the people of God have an exalted position, and are the center of attention, in reference to other nations, which Gog is envious about). Haman’s words suggest this. “There is a certain people scattered and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom; their laws are different from those of all other people and they do not observe the king’s laws..” (Esther 3:8). Moreover, we are told that Haman’s desire was exactly this, to “seize their possessions as plunder” (Esther 3:13).

Sheba and Dedan and the merchants of Tarshish with all its villages will say to you, ‘Have you come to capture spoils? Have you assembled your contingent to seize plunder, to carry away silver and gold, to take away livestock and goods, to capture great spoils?’”’“Therefore prophesy, son of man, and say to Gog, ‘This is what the Lord God says: “On that day when My people Israel are living securely, will you not know it15 You will come from your place out of the remote parts of the north, you and many peoples with you, all of them riding horses, a large assembly and a mighty army; 16 and you will come up against My people Israel like a cloud to cover the land. It shall come about in the last days that I will bring you against My land, so that the nations may know Me when I show Myself holy through you before their eyes, Gog.” (Ezekiel 38:12-16)

Sheba, and Dorian, and the merchants of Tarshish were the great trading communities of the South, East, and West respectively (Ezekiel 27:15, 20, 22, 25). All are depicted as following in the wake of Gog. By coming against Israel, who is living securely, and defenseless, Gog, and his well-equipped forces, is taking on Israel’s God; God says it is “My people”, “My land”, that Gog is assaulting. The only reason that Gog and his armies are brought against Israel is that the Lord will demonstrate His greatness and holiness before their eyes, by defeating them. The planned destruction of the Jews is reversed in both in Ezekiel and Esther and judgement comes upon the enemy (Ezek. 39:3; Esther 9:2).

‘This is what the Lord God says: “Are you the one of whom I spoke in former days through My servants the prophets of Israel, who prophesied in those days for many years that I would bring you against them? (Ezekiel 38:17)

Gog and Magog cannot be a new people or modern day nations, who are unmentioned before the time of Ezekiel because earlier prophets had predicted such an invasion of Israel in a future time under the leadership of Gog. Haman appears to represents the ancient spiritual struggle between Amalekites and Israel (Ex. 17:8-16; Deut. 25:17-19). Hence, if Gog and Magog are Amalekites, then this verse makes more sense. Many prophets spoke of Amalek including Moses (Ex. 17:16), Balaam (Numb. 24:20), Samuel (1 Sam. 15:1-3,17-23), Deborah (Judges 5:14), Gideon (Judges 6-7), an unnamed prophet (Judges 10:11-14), David (1 Sam. 30) and Asaph (Psalm 83). They prophesied of multi-generational warfare in Exodus 17:16; Numb. 14:43; 24:20; Deut. 25:17-19; 1 Sam. 14:48; 15:18.

It will come about on that day, when Gog comes against the land of Israel,” declares the Lord God, “that My fury will mount up in My anger” (Ezekiel 38:18)

However, when Gog comes against Israel, he is coming not to bring judgement on Israel, but to be judged by God’s wrath.

In My zeal and in My blazing wrath I declare that on that day there will certainly be a great earthquake in the land of Israel. The fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the animals of the field, all the crawling things that crawl on the earth, and all mankind who are on the face of the earth will shake at My presence; and the mountains will be thrown down, the steep pathways will collapse, and every wall will fall to the ground.  (Ezekiel 38:19-20)

When God’s zeal and wrath is let loose on the enemies, it will be akin to a mighty earthquake that will cause the earth (land) and its creatures to tremble in His presence. In the Old Testament, earthquakes, mountains being thrown down, and turmoil among the enemy nations when God visits in judgement is not unusual. Such language is often used figuratively to describe the grandeur of the judgement. For instance, Micah speaks of “Mountains melting”, “Valley’s splitting” (Micah 1:4) for events that transpired before the first coming of the Messiah. Isaiah speaks of “every mountain and hill be made low” (Isaiah 40:4) in view of the first coming Messiah. In Isaiah 29:6, God’s visit accompanies thunder, earthquake and great noise, and flame of devouring fire on the enemies of Judah. Hence, it is not required to read this literally, as there is a precedent for interpreting some of these judgements symbolically.

And I will call for a sword against him on all My mountains,” declares the Lord God. “Every man’s sword will be against his brother.With plague and with blood I will enter into judgment with him; and I will rain on him and on his troops, and on the many peoples who are with him, a torrential rain, hailstones, fire, and brimstone. (Ezekiel 38:21-22)

The sword, plague (affliction), bloodshed, torrential rain, hailstones, fire and brimstone: These are alsoemblems and symbols of God’s presence, and of the judgments about to be executed on the persecutors (Isaiah 30:30; Psalms 11:6).

So I will prove Myself great, show Myself holy, and make Myself known in the sight of many nations; and they will know that I am the Lord.”’ (Ezekiel 38:23)

God will show His power, and holiness, not just by the destruction of Gog and his coalition, but by the protection of his restored people.

There is more evidence in Ezekiel 38 and 39 to show that Haman does fit the description of Gog. For instance, a) There are an enormous number of dead in both passages. (Ezek. 39:12-16; Esther 9:12-16). b) Both passages show that the Jews were authorized to plunder those who fought against them (Esther 8:11; Ezek. 39:10). c) The seven months wait in Ezekiel 39:12-16 is equivalent to the time from Purim till the Feast of Tabernacles when cleansing waters are made with the ashes of the heifer (Esther 9:26-32). d) Haman’s name appears in Ezekiel’s prophecy as Hamon (39:11,15,16). Again, this slight change in pronunciation (which is common with other names) can be explained by the language differences. The phrase, “the valley of Hamon of Gog” would then be equivalent to Haman of Agag (or “Haman the Agagite”).  d) Haman was hanged from the 50-cubit-high gallows (Esther 7:9-10), potentially becoming “food to every kind of predatory bird and beast of the field” (Ezekiel 39:4).3

See also:

  • Our chapter-by-chapter, verse-by-verse, commentaries on the book of DanielRevelation.

Referenced & Adapted

1. Duguid (1999). The NIV Application Commentary, Ezekiel

2. Peterson (2022). https://providencechristiannm.com/difficult-passage-ezekiel-38-part-1/

2. Kayser (2002). https://kaysercommentary.com/Sermons/Old%20Testament/Esther/battle%20of%20Ezek.md

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