Identifying the Northern Invaders

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In the late-1900’s it was prestigious to be named in Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges.  Having “made the grade,” some paid the high price to be listed among those students, and to have their credentials published for all the world to see.  Of course, no one really cared to read that book, other than those whose names it contained…and then only their own entry!  So much for prestige!

Today we’re going to examine the list of “Who’s Who Among Northern Invaders!”  It could definitely be argued that these nations are prestigious, but probably for the wrong reasons!  This doesn’t seem like a Who’s Who list of which any nation would wish to be named.  But, nonetheless, the Lord names names and predicts His destruction of these nations.

Before we discover the identity of those nations, let’s take a detour to Isaiah 44:6-7.  During the days of Isaiah, Israel was surrounded by false gods, thus the Lord, through his prophet, chose to make a very pointed statement in these verses.  What was the point?

Indeed, Jehovah God is the first and the last, He is able to accurately predict the future, and He did that very well through His Word.  The prophecy in Ezekiel 38 is one such foretelling and, if God says it is so, we can fully believe it!  Thus, let’s hear the Lord’s prediction of what will happen in end times.

Read Ezekiel 38:1-13.

We do not have the luxury in this study of digging deeply into the etymology (study of words) to fully develop the origin of each modern-day nation in the region.  Even if time permitted, we would find that brilliant Bible scholars who have spent decades identifying these lands have differing opinions, particularly regarding Gomer, Beth-Togarmah, and Tarshish. Thus, our objective is not to “prove” the identity of every nation, though you are certainly encouraged to pursue further research.  Rather, the goal is to clearly identify the major players and gain a solid understanding of what general areas these Biblical locales represent today.  In the end, I am confident there will be agreement on the major players, and in the general areas represented.  Please do not allow minor differences of opinion in identification of these nations to be a distraction.

According to verse 2, against who is the prophet to prophesy?  If you said Gog of Magog, you are correct!  Gog is a person, not a place.  In fact, Gog is likely a title meaning “prince, chief or czar,” not a given name; and we’re told that he is the prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal.  We can be sure that a leader will emerge to lead the nations listed in these verses into battle against Israel.

Ezekiel tells us that God is against Gog and that He will turn him about and put hooks in his jaws, bringing him and his army “out of the north” into battle with Israel.

Interestingly, the Jewish mind would recall their greatest day as the day Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt enroute to the Promised Land.  However, take a look at Jeremiah 16:14-15.  There, the prophet Jeremiah indicates that, though the Lord brought the sons of Israel out of Egypt in the early days, He will bring them “from the land of the north” in the last days.  To date, over 1 million Jews have returned to Israel from Russia, the land of the north!  Unfortunately, from that same land will come Gog and his army.

Northern Invasion Nations

In Ezekiel 38:2, what four geographical entities are listed?  (Remember, Gog is likely the title of a person, not a geographical place.)  Now, let’s identify the modern-day places represented by those ancient names.

  • Magog.  A region to the north whose borders do not seem to be precisely identified.  Ancient Jewish historian, Josephus, indicates that Magog is a land of Scythians to the north.  Some scholars have identified the area of modern-day Georgia as the likely region of Magog.  (Georgia, the Russian state, not Georgia USA.)
  • Rosh.  Most believe Rosh refers to the area of modern-day Russia.
  • Meshech.  Likely referring to modern-day Moscow, Meshech seems to be a contraction of words meaning “to draw out, drag, seize.”
  • Tubal.  Many believe Tubal is modern-day Tolbolsk, an eastern city of Russia.  A few believe Tubal could refer to Turkey.

Now turn your attention to Ezekiel 38:5-6.  What five locales are listed there?

  • Persia.  There is virtually no question surrounding the identity of Persia.  It is undoubtedly Iran, but could also include northern Iraq.  The name “Persia” was used by the Western world, though “Iran” has been the historical name.  In 1935 the shah asked foreign delegates to use the name “Iran.”  Thus, Persia and Iran have been synonymous for ages.
  • Ethiopia.  Sometimes called “Cush” in Scripture, Ethiopia is widely believed to be not only modern-day Ethiopia, but likely Sudan and other areas south of Egypt as well.  In recent history, this area has been home to the National Islamic Front, has been under Islamic dictatorship, and was once the home of Osama bin Laden.
  • Put.  A long-term sponsor and exporter of terror, it is not surprising that Put is undeniably Libya, but probably also includes Algeria and perhaps Tunisia.  (Put is to the west of the territory seen on the map above.)
  • Gomer.  Scholars differ as to the identity of Gomer, though most believe it is the vicinity of either Germany or Turkey.
  • Beth-Togarmah.  Differences of opinion regarding Beth-Togarmah are widespread as well.  Beth-Togarmah could refer to areas of Germany, Turkey, Armenia, Asia Minor or Central Asia (Some simply identify them as Turkish-speaking people in Asia.)

Regardless of total lack of consensus, a glance at the map above reveals that Iran and areas north and southwest of Israel are well-represented in the list provided in Ezekiel 38.

It is also important to realize that this passage includes phrases such as “with all its troops,” and “many peoples with you” leaving open possibilities that other people groups and lands may be included.

Our final look at Who’s Who is from verse 13, where we find a list of people groups who seem to stand around asking questions, but doing nothing to engage the enemy.  Those lands include Sheba, Dedan and Tarshish, but also include other “merchants” and “villages,” indicating others may be involved.  Here is the consensus:

  • Sheba and Dedan.  Widely believed to be Saudi Arabia, though some also include Yemen and Oman (the entire Arabian Peninsula).
  • The “merchants of Tarshish with all its villages.” Widely believed to be the UK, Spain, or Europe; some even speculate the “villages” to include the US and other western nations.

So, there you have it…a look at the infamous Who’s Who!  Do you see the nations listed in verses 3-6 aligning today?  Do you see today’s Sheba, Dedan and merchants of Tarshish standing around asking questions rather than getting involved in defense of God’s chosen land?  I do too!

But we’ve just begun our study of this terrible invasion from the North. Stay with us this week as we dive deeper into the mindset of those who seek Israel’s destruction, and discover their motives. Thanks for sailing with us!

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