The identity of Magog is hotly debated among prophecy students. The first couple of mentions (Gen 10:2, 1 Chr 1:5) in the Bible speak of a person, the son of Japheth, the son of Noah. All other places speak about the descendants of this individual, usually as a region and people group. Genesis 10 is known by many as the ‘Table of Nations‘ and lists individuals that spread out after the tower of Babel and settled in regions with their names. A quick search of this term will show many Mideast maps and where Bible scholars placed them.
These maps are similar to the REO Speedwagon song – Take It On The Run. They heard it from a friend who, heard it from a friend who, heard it … well, you get the idea. These maps are often copied and modified with little textual research. Tens of millions of people have access to tools that can create images and throw them on the internet. The information superhighway is both a blessing and a curse. It is awesome that we have access to so much knowledge, but it is unfortunate that most of that knowledge is buried in tons of trash.
I have seen maps that place Magog in any of the following regions: Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Germany, Poland, Turkey, and even Crimea. Sounds like a guessing game for many. A big problem with prophecy in general is that people often like to interpret scripture in the light of current events. The same is true about the war of Gog of Magog mentioned in Ezekiel.
Son of man, set your face toward Gog of the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against himEzekiel 38:2 – NASB
The world entered a time of political unrest after World War II that lasted until the early nineties. It was known as the Cold War. This was a time of growing tension between the United States and Russia, and also a time of prophetical speculation among eschatology students. There was no greater threat in the world at that time. Could Russia be Magog? Many began to make biblical connections to political situations.
One common mistake ties to a mistranslation of Ezekiel 38:2. Most Bible translations, including the NASB above, translate the Hebrew word rō’š as Chief, Chief Prince, or Chief Ruler. Some translations like (MEV & NLV) translate this word to ‘Rosh’, which is phonetically similar to Russia. “I am against you, O Gog, leader of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal.” These translations don’t do the passage justice. The word rō’š is translated as head 349 times, chief 91 times, and top 73 times. It is clear that rō’š means the great leader over two specific places: Meshech and Tubal. People often make the same phonetic mistake when tying these two regions to the Russian cities of Moscow and Tobolsk. Names do change over time, but it is poor hermeneutics to link these places by how they sound.
The next logical place prophecy interpreters turn to is Flavius Josephus a Jewish historian of the 1st century who wrote Antiquities of the Jews. In chapter 6 of book I he states, “Magog founded those that from him were named Magogites; but who are by the Greeks called Scythians.” I do want to mention that historians are not always right. In the same way I look back 2000 years to read the words of Flavius, he may have also looked back hundreds of years to get his information. It appears from his comment that he got his information from Greek writing, probably from the 4th – 3rd centuries B.C.
Another difficulty that arises with the Scythians is that they were a nomadic people. The origin of this group is difficult to nail down, but it is likely they started between the Black Sea and Caspian Sea. In the centuries before Ezekiel they migrated into Eastern Turkey. By the time Ezekiel gave us his prophetic work, they had moved into Western Turkey and took the city of Hieroplois. Pliny the Elder, a Roman historian that lived in the 1st century, seems to tie the name Magog to Hierapolis, which is in Western Turkey. The Scythians eventually moved further north into southern Europe and Russia.
Bambyx, the other name of which is Hierapolis, but by the Syrians called Mabog[sic]Pliny the Elder, The Natural History
The big prophetic question we have to ask with this nomadic people is which location should we associate with Magog? This group over time inhabited millions of acres of land. Is Magog Azerbaijan? Is it Turkey? How about Bulgaria, Romania, Russia, or Europe? They have lived in all those places. Will all those nations join forces and attack Israel in the last days? We could take the migration idea even further and say that the Scythians migrated into Southern Europe. From there some of those moved into Western Europe. And beyond that some of those migrated to the thirteen colonies of the United States. Can we now call America Magog? I think some have tried.
A better approach is to ask what geographic location did Ezekiel associate with Magog? In his day the Scythians were in Turkey. It makes much more sense to say a leader from Western Turkey, who is also leader over two regions in Eastern Turkey (Meshech and Tubal) will one day invade Israel.
A little more support for this can be found in the writings of Hippolytus (235ad) in the Chronicon when he wrote “Magog from whom are the CELTS and GALATIANS.” The Galatians were in Central Turkey.
John Wesley (1755ad) also wrote in his Explanatory Notes, “Magog is, at least, part of Scythia, and comprehends Syria, in which was Hierapolis. taken by the Scythians, and called of them Scythopolis. It is that country, which now is in subjection to the Turks, and may be extended thro’ Asia minor.“