Who in the world is Gog, part II

The somewhat dreadful D.S. Russell discusses Gog and Magog in his book The Method and Message of Jewish Apocalyptic. He ties Ezekiel’s Gog to earlier prophecies of ‘a mysterious foe from the north’, such as Jer 1.14, Zeph 1.7, 14 ff.; 3.8. He also sees Joel’s reference to ‘the northerner’ in Joel 2.20 as possibly this same person. Here is an extended passage from Russell’s book:

     In the LXX of Ezek. 38.2 Magog becomes the name of the people who inhabit the land rathern than the name of the land itself, and this is possibly the interpretation of the text of 39.6. A similar topographical allusion is made in Sib. Or. III.319f. where ‘the land of Gog and Magog’ is set ‘in the midst of the rivers in Ethiopia’; in this passage these names may refer to the Nubians who returned from Egypt with Antiochus when he despoiled the Temple (cf. also III.512ff., 632ff.).

     Elsewhere they more clearly represent the heathen nations who will make their final assault against God’s people as a prelude to the coming of the messianic kingdom. This assault takes different forms and the heathen nations are variously described. The language of Dan. 11.40ff., for example, is reminiscent of Ezekiel’s picture of Gog’s attack on Israel (Ezek. 38.1f.) and of Isaiah’s picture of the Assyrian invasion of his own day (Isa. 8.7f.; 10.5ff.; 31.8f.). There we have a description of an invader from the north who will ‘overthrow and pass through’ with chariots and horsemen and many ships and will meet his end somewhere between the Mediterranean and Mount Zion (11.45). The passage as a whole, from verse 21 onwards, describes the career of Antiochus IV, but towards the end details of his death are given which do not correspond to the facts known about Antiochus. The writer is apparently modifying his account so as to fulfill the old prophecy that God’s great enemy will ‘fall upon the mountains of Israel’ (Ezek. 39.4, cf. Zech. 14.2; Joel 3.2, 12f.; Isa. 14.25).

     This is certainly how the writer of the War of the Sons of Light, etc., interpreted this particular passage in the Book of Daniel. In his description of the final battle between ‘the sons of light’ and ‘the sons of darkness’ he is patently adapting to his own purpose the language of Dan. 11.40ff., and his treatise has not unfittingly been called a midrash on this section of the Book of Daniel. The ‘sons of darkness’ are identified as ‘the Kittim of Assyria’, the reference being apparently to the Roman armies stationed in Syria. Of interest in this connection is the fragmentary commentary on Isa. 10.28-11.4 which interprets Isaiah’s account of an Assyrian invasion in terms of the Kittim. In the great eschatological battle before the coming of the kingdom the Kittim will be slain. The ‘scion of David’ will hold sway over the heathen nations ‘at the end of days’; among those to be vanquished by him is Magog, who is singled out in this document for special mention (Commentary on Isa. 11.1-4).

Russell fails to believe in the actual foretelling of future events as can be seen by his attitude towards scripture and the prophecies of Isaiah. Nevertheless, he summarizes the theme of Gog and Magog in the Jewish Apocrypha well. He concludes by mentioning Gog and Magog in Revelation 20 as two demon kings who are allies of Satan but are consumed by fire from heaven.

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