The Coming Invasion of Israel
More than 2,600 years ago, Ezekiel prophesied that in the end times, the Jews would be regathered from “many nations” around the world (Ezekiel 36–37). Sometime later, he warned, there would be an all-out invasion into Israel by a massive northern invasion force consisting of Rosh, Magog, Meshech and Tubal, Persia, Cush, Put, Gomer, and Beth-togarmah (38–39). It is fascinating to uncover the modern identifications of these ancient nations.
- Rosh is modern Russia. There are two primary reasons for making this identification: (1) Rosh is identified as being in “the uttermost parts of the north” (Ezekiel 39:2). Russia is to the uttermost north of Israel. (2) A place known as Rosh—sometimes using alternate spellings such as Rus, Ros, Rox, Rash, Rashu, and Reshu—was very familiar in the ancient world. It was located in the territory that is now occupied by Russia.
- Magog refers to the area now occupied by the former southern Soviet republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and possibly even northern parts of modern Afghanistan. This entire area is Muslim-dominated.
- Meshech and Tubal refer to the geographical territory to the south of the Black and Caspian Seas. Today much of this area is modern-day Turkey.
- Persia is Iran. Persia officially became Iran in 1935. Later, during the Iranian Revolution in 1979, the name was changed to the Islamic Republic of Iran.
- Cush refers to the territory south of Egypt on the Nile River—today known as Sudan (Ezekiel 38:5).
- Put is a country to the west of Egypt, which is now Libya (Ezekiel 38:5).
- Gomer is another reference to an area in modern-day Turkey (Ezekiel 38:6).
- Beth-togarmah is yet another reference to a region in modern-day Turkey. (At one time, Turkey was divided into several smaller territories. This is why our text uses different terms for Turkey.)
These nations will be led by a powerful leader called “Gog” (Ezekiel 38:2). The Hebrew term translated “Gog” refers to a king-like role—such as Pharaoh, Caesar, Czar, or President. It means “high,” “supreme,” “a height,” or “a high mountain.” Gog will be a Czar-like military leader. He will be a man of great stature who commands tremendous respect.
Here’s an interesting fact: An alliance between many of the nations mentioned in Ezekiel 38–39 would probably not have made much sense in Ezekiel’s day because they are not right next to each other. But it makes a lot of sense in our day because the nations that make up the coalition are predominantly Muslim. Islam is a religion that did not arise until the seventh century AD, long after Ezekiel’s time. The Islamic hatred of Israel is a unifying factor among these various nations.
Russia and the Muslim nations will attack Israel because they will want Israel’s wealth (Ezekiel 38:11-12). Specifically, they will want Israel’s “silver and gold,” “livestock and goods,” and “great spoil” (38:13).
The invaders will fail. God Himself will destroy this massive invading coalition with a fourfold judgment:
1. God will cause a massive earthquake (Ezekiel 38:19-20). Transportation will be disrupted, and the armies of the multinational forces will be thrown into chaos (verse 20).
2. Infighting will break out among the invading forces (Ezekiel 38:21). Perhaps God will cause the Russians and Muslims to turn on each other, each suspecting they’re being double-crossed.
3. God will cause a massive outbreak of disease, with dead bodies lying around everywhere (Ezekiel 38:22a).
4. God will pour down hailstones, fire, and burning sulfur (Ezekiel 38:22b). Perhaps a mighty earthquake will set off volcanic eruptions in the region, hurling a hail of molten rock and burning sulfur into the atmosphere, incinerating the remaining invaders.
Three biblical truths are especially relevant at this juncture:
1. God is always watchful over Israel: “Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep” (Psalm 121:4).
2. God promised the Jews that “no weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed” (Isaiah 54:17).
3. In the Abrahamic covenant, God promised Abraham, “I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse” (Genesis 12:3).
Given these three scriptural truths, we can surmise that attacks against Israel are an invitation to divine judgment.
We see in the biblical text that God’s judgment is comprehensive. After destroying the invaders, He declares, “I will send fire on Magog and on those who dwell securely in the coastlands” (Ezekiel 39:6). The destruction may include military targets such as missile silos, bases, and radar installations, as well as religious centers, mosques, madrassas, Islamic schools and universities, and other institutions that preach hatred against the Jews. God may send fire directly, or He may bring it about through Israel’s (or some other nation’s) nuclear arsenal.
The Timing of the Invasion: The Invasion of Israel
It is quite possible that the Ezekiel invasion will occur after the rapture but before the tribulation period begins. This timing has obvious implications for other end-time prophecies. For example, the world will be in a state of chaos after the rapture. Since the United States is heavily populated by Christians, the rapture will have a particularly devastating effect on that country. Russia and its Muslim allies may well seize the moment, considering it the ideal time to launch a massive attack against Israel, knowing that the United States is unlikely to come to Israel’s rescue.
Moreover, with Christians gone because of the rapture, and with the invading Muslim forces decimated because of God’s judgment, the two most prominent global religious groups that would have resisted the emergence of the false world religion described in Revelation 17 will be gone. The absence of both Christians and Muslims will create a religious vacuum. All of this will make it much easier for the false religion to emerge.
In addition, with Muslim countries neutralized by God’s judgment, it will be much easier for the antichrist to catapult himself into world domination. Remember, Muslims have long intended to establish a worldwide caliphate with Muslims in control. God will have removed that possibility by destroying the invading Muslim armies. This will make it easier for the antichrist to seize his moment and make his move onto the world stage.
Furthermore, with Muslim resistance now at an all-time low because of God’s judgment, the Jews will find it much easier to rebuild their temple on the Temple Mount. Israel will no longer face a massive Muslim threat as related to the rebuilding of the Temple.
Frequently Asked Questions on the Invasion of Israel
Is the antichrist the “Gog” of the Ezekiel invasion?
No. The antichrist leads a revived Roman Empire (Daniel 2, 7), while Gog leads an invading force composed of Russia and some Muslim nations (Ezekiel 38:1-6). Moreover, Gog’s moment in the spotlight is short-lived—it is all over when God destroys the invading force (Ezekiel 39). By contrast, the antichrist is in power throughout the seven-year tribulation (Revelation 4–18).
Why does the term “Rosh” not appear in some modern Bible translations, except as a marginal reading?
The Hebrew word in Ezekiel 38:2 can be taken either as a proper noun—a geographical place called Rosh—or as an adjective, meaning “chief.” If it is an adjective, it qualifies the meaning of the word prince, so that it is translated as “chief prince.”
I believe that the Hebrew scholars C.F. Keil and Wilhelm Gesenius are correct in saying that Rosh is a proper noun referring to a geographical place. The erroneous translation of Rosh as an adjective, “chief prince,” can be traced to the Latin Vulgate, translated by Jerome—who himself admitted that he did not base his translation on any grammatical considerations. He resisted translating Rosh as a proper noun only because he could not find it mentioned anywhere else in Scripture as a geographical place. Unfortunately, many of today’s English translations follow Jerome on this verse.
In any event, this issue is not terribly consequential. If the correct translation is “Rosh,” as I believe to be the case, then the invading force against Israel will comprise Russia and some Muslim nations. If “chief prince” is the correct rendering, then Muslim nations alone—without the participation of Russia—will invade Israel. Either way, Israel will be invaded by a massive military coalition.
It is worth noting that many Bible interpreters believe that Russia’s current close ties—indeed, alliances—with Iran and other Muslim nations support the idea that Russia will be involved in the invasion.
• A powerful military coalition consisting of Russia and a group of Muslim nations will invade Israel in the end times.
• A likely scenario is that this invasion will occur after the rapture but before the tribulation.
• Gog will lead this military force.
• God will destroy this military force.
A Personal Reflection
Just as God is sovereign over global circumstances, so He is sovereign over the local circumstances of our puny little lives. It is especially important to trust our sovereign God when life throws us a curveball and we are unsure why bad things are happening (Proverbs 3:5-6).
Just as God is watchful over Israel (Psalm 121:4), so He is watchful over the affairs of our lives. As Psalm 23 puts it, “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want… Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me” (verses 1, 4). It is good to begin each day with a recognition of this truth.