Gog and Magog

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A Persian miniature, Dhul-Qarnayn with the help of jinn, building the Iron Wall to keep the barbarian Gog and Magog from civilized peoples. (16th century Persian miniature).

Gog and Magog (Hebrew: גּוֹג וּמָגוֹג‎‎ Gog u-Magog; Arabic: يَأْجُوج وَمَأْجُوجYaʾjūj wa-Maʾjūj) are names that appear primarily in various Abrahamic scriptures, as well as numerous subsequent references in other works. Their context can be either genealogical (as Magog in Genesis 10:2) or eschatological and apocalyptic, as in Ezekiel and Revelation. They are sometimes individuals, sometimes peoples, and sometimes geographic regions. The passages from Ezekiel and Revelation in particular have attracted attention due to their prophetic descriptions of conflicts said to occur near the "End times".



The etymology of both the names Gog and Magog remains uncertain. The ma- at the beginning of Magog may indicate a land, or it may mean "from", so that Magog means "of the land of Gog" or "from Gog". Gog may originate as the Hebrew version of the name of Gyges of Lydia, who made his kingdom a great power in the early 7th century BC, but this explanation, although common, is not universally accepted.[1] A different theory is that "Magog" might be a reference to Babylon, by turning BBL ("Babylon" in Hebrew script, which originally had no vowel-signs) into MGG (Magog), but this account, like the others, has problems.[2]


Genesis and Chronicles

Chapter 10 of the Book of Genesis, commonly called the "Table of Nations", names some 70 descendants of Noah from whom "the nations spread out over the earth after the Deluge." Noah has three sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth, and Magog is one of the sons (the second) of Japheth:

This is the account of Shem, Ham and Japheth, Noah’s sons, who themselves had sons after the flood. The sons of Japheth: Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech and Tiras.[3]

1 Chronicles begins with a list of genealogies repeating that in the Table of Nations but continuing well beyond. In chapter 5, among the many descendants of Reuben, first of the twelve sons of the patriarch Jacob, it mentions an individual named Gog.[4]


The two names first appear together in chapters 38 and 39 of the Book of Ezekiel, but here Magog is a place and not an individual:[5]

Son of man, direct your face towards Gog, of the land of Magog, the prince, leader of Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy concerning him. Say: Thus said the Lord: Behold, I am against you, Gog, the prince, leader of Meshech and Tubal.[6]

Ezekiel lived in the first half of the 6th century BC, and the earliest possible date for the prophecy is c. 585 BC.[7] Scholars disagree, however, as to whether Ezekiel 38-39 was part of the original text (compare, for example, Joseph Blenkinsopp, who believes it to be a late addition,[8] and Daniel Block, who argues for its original status).[9] Its prophecy of a savage foe from the north is based on Jeremiah 1:3-16, where Jeremiah is talking about the Babylonians;[8] Ezekiel turns this into an eschatological enemy who will come "in the latter years," an apocalypse at the end of time.[1]

Gog's allies - Meshech and Tubal, Persia, Cush and Put, and "Gomer with all its troops, and Beth Togarmah from the far north" - are all, with the exception of Persia, taken from the Table of Nations.[8] Meshech, Tubal, Gomer and Beth Togarmah can be identified with real 8th and 7th century peoples, kings or kingdoms of Anatolia, modern Turkey.[10] "Why the prophet's gaze should have focused on these particular nations is unclear," says Daniel Block in a recent study of Ezekiel 25-48, but suggests that their remoteness and reputation for violence and mystery "made Gog and his confederates perfect symbols of the archetypal enemy, rising against God and his people."[11] Cush (Sudan or Ethiopia) and Put (Libya) are sons of Ham according to Genesis 10, while Persia is located to the east, and is not mentioned in Genesis 10 at all. Since Ezekiel insists on a northerly situation of Gog and his allies, many commentators believe that these three names were added later, although this too is disputed.[12]

Intertestamental period

Around the middle of the 2nd century BC, the Sibylline Oracles mention the "land of Gog and Magog" as "situated in the midst of Aethiopian rivers", but in a second mention links it with the "Marsians and Dacians", in eastern Europe; in both cases they are about to receive "woe," and according to Boe, "there can be little doubt about the direct use of Ezekiel's oracles" in their composition.[13]

The Book of Jubilees, known from about the same time, mentions Magog as a son of Japheth to whom land is allocated, while Gog is a region on Japheth's borders.[14] 1 Enoch tells how God stirs up the Medes and Parthians (instead of Gog and Magog) to attack Jerusalem, where they are destroyed; an indebtedness to Ezekiel 38-39 has also been asserted.[15] In the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Messiah will rule "over all the peoples and Magog,"[16] and Magog is allocated land next to Gomer, the first son of Japheth.[17] The sole fragment where the two names are combined as "Gog and Magog" is too small to be meaningful.[15] The 1st century Liber Antiquitatum Biblicarum is notable for listing and naming seven of Magog's sons, and mentions his "thousands" of descendants.[18]

The Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, made during this period, occasionally introduces the name of Gog where the Hebrew original has something else. Thus at Numbers 24:7 it replaces Agag, a mysterious but clearly powerful figure, with Gog, and at Amos 7:1 the Greek has Gog as the leader of a threatening locust-like army.[1] The Greek translation of Ezekiel takes Gog and Magog to be synonyms for the same country, a step which paved the way for the Book of Revelation to turn "Gog from Magog" into "Gog and Magog."[2]

Book of Revelation

By the end of the 1st century, Jewish tradition had long since changed Ezekiel's Gog from Magog into Gog and Magog, the ultimate enemies of God's people, to be destroyed in the final battle.[19] The author of the Book of Revelation tells how he sees in a vision Satan rallying Gog and Magog, "the nations in the four corners of the Earth," to a final battle with Christ and his saints:

When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the Earth—Gog and Magog—and to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore.[20]

Ezekiel's Gog from Magog was a symbol of the evil darkness of the north and the powers hostile to God,[1] but in Revelation, Gog and Magog have no geographic location, and instead represent the nations of the world, banded together for the final assault on Christ and those who follow him.[21]


In Surat Al-Kahf ("The Cave", 18:83–98) of the Qur'an, a pious warrior king called Dhul-Qarnayn journeys to the place between the East and the West, and in the place between the two mountains he finds people who scarcely understood a word"18:94 They said: "O Dhul-Qarnain! the Gog and Magog (People) do great mischief on earth: shall we then render thee tribute in order that thou mightest erect a barrier between us and them?" Dhu'l-Qarnayn doesn't take any tribute from them and makes a wall made of iron between the mountains to keep Gog and Magog out, but warns that it will be broken at the time appointed by Allah (before the Day of Resurrection).[22]

In Surat Al-Anbiya ("The Prophets", 21:96–100) in fact, we read that Allah threatens to open "the dim of Gog and Magog" to let those people descend from above. Also, those forces from above can be intended as "false gods" the worshippers of which will be damned in the Last Days. [23]

Rabbinic Literature

According to the Radak commenting on Zechariah 14, this part of Zechariah refers to the war of Gog and Magog, that in the end of days Jerusalem will be the battle ground of Gog and Magog.[24]

Identifying Gog and Magog

Separate passages in the "Jewish Antiquities" and "Jewish War" of the 1st century Jewish historian and scholar Josephus show that Jews of that time identified Gog and Magog with the Scythians: Alexander the Great, Josephus said, locked these horse-riding barbarians of the far north behind the Caucasus mountains with iron gates.[25] Although the Jewish traditions encapsulate parts of this story, a deeper insight has been given in the Qur'anic passages referring to Zul-Qarnayn (Cyrus of Babylon).[26]

Some early Christian writers (e.g. Eusebius) identified Gog and Magog with the Romans.[27] After the Roman Empire became Christian this was no longer possible and attention switched to Rome's northern barbarian enemies. Ambrose (d.397) identified them with the Goths,[28] and Isidore of Seville confirmed that people in his day supposed that the Goths were descended from Magog "because of the similarity of the last syllable".[29] The idea that Gog and Magog were connected with the Goths was longstanding; in the mid-16th century, Archbishop of Uppsala Johannes Magnus traced the royal family of Sweden back to Magog son of Japheth, (Magnus identified two of Magog's sons as Suenno, progenitor of the Swedes, and Gethar (also known as Gog or Gogus), ancestor of the Goths).[30]

In the 6th century, the Byzantine historian Procopius (d. after 562) saw Attila and the Huns as the nation locked out by Alexander, and a little later other Christian writers identified them with the Saracens.[31] Still later, Gog and Magog became identified with the Khazars, whose empire dominated Central Asia in the 9th and 10th centuries. In his 9th century work Expositio in Matthaeum Evangelistam, the Benedictine monk Christian of Stavelot referred to them as descendants of Gog and Magog, and says they are "Circumcised and observing all [the laws of] Judaism";[32] the 14th century Sunni scholar Ibn Kathir also identified Gog and Magog with the Khazars,[33][34] as did a Georgian tradition, which called them "wild men with hideous faces and the manners of wild beasts, eaters of blood".[35] According to the famous Khazar Correspondence (c. 960), King Joseph of Khazaria claimed to be a descendant of Magog's nephew Togarmah.[36]

The Mongols were the next barbarians. Early in the 13th century reports began to reach Europe of a mysterious and invincible horde from the east that destroyed Muslim empires and kingdoms, leading kings and popes to take them for Prester John, marching to save Christians from the Saracens; but when they entered Poland and Hungary and annihilated Christian armies, a terrified Europe concluded that they were "Magogoli", the offspring of Gog and Magog, released from the prison Alexander had constructed for them and heralding Armageddon.[37]

The Mongolian armies decided to turn back because of the death of Genghis Khan back in the East and their defeat in the Battle of Ain Jalut in Palestine. Gog and Magog became the subject of literature. The Travels of Sir John Mandeville, a 14th best-seller, associated the Jews with Gog and Magog, saying the nation trapped behind the Gates of Alexander comprised the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel.[38] Marco Polo located Gog and Magog as regions of Tenduk, a province belonging to the legendary Prester John, and governed by one George, fourth in descent from the original John. According to this account Gog (locally Ung) is inhabited by a tribe called the Gog, whilst Magog (or Mongul) is inhabited by Tatars. The 14th century Muslim traveller Ibn Battuta reported that "the rampart of Yajuj and Majuj" was "sixty days' travel" from the city of Zeitun;[39] the translator notes that Ibn Battuta has confused the Great Wall of China with that built by Dhul-Qarnayn.[40]

A German tradition claimed a group called the Red Jews would invade Europe at the end of the world; the "Red Jews" became associated with different peoples, but especially the Eastern European Jews and the Ottoman Turks.[41]

Jewish scholars of the Middle Ages, including Rashi, Radak and others, had associated no specific nation or territory with Magog, beyond locating it to the north of Israel.[42] In the early 19th century some Chasidic rabbis identified Napoleon's invasion of Russia as "The War of Gog and Magog" which would precede the coming of the Messiah, so that the Emperor filled the role of Gog.[43] In the 20th century Hitler was seen as a likely candidate.[27]

During the Cold War the idea (first advanced by Wilhelm Gesenius in the mid-1800s) that Russia itself had the role of Gog gained popularity (since Ezekiel's words describing him as "prince of Meshek" - rosh meshek in Hebrew - sounded suspiciously like Russia and Moscow).[8] This interpretation has been taken up by several Christian authors and preachers since then (such as Hal Lindsey's The Late Great Planet Earth; Grant R. Jeffrey's Armageddon: Appointment with Destiny; M. R. De Haan's The Signs of the Times; Tim LaHaye's Are We Living in the End Times?).

The popularity of this theory during the Cold War can be seen in that it was openly advocated in 1971 by the then Governor of California, Ronald Reagan. During a dinner address to state legislators Reagan said "Ezekiel tells us that Gog, the nation that will lead all of the other powers of darkness against Israel, will come out of the north. Biblical scholars have been saying for generations that Gog must be Russia. What other powerful nation is to the north of Israel? None. But it didn’t seem to make sense before the Russian revolution, when Russia was a Christian country. Now it does, now that Russia has become Communistic and atheistic, now that Russia has set itself against God. Now it fits the description of Gog perfectly."[44]

With the closing of the Cold War, some Christian thinkers who accepted this interpretation altered it after the fall of the Soviet Union (such as Pat Robertson who advocated it in his 1982 book The Secret Kingdom, but in 1992 suggested Gog was "Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Azerbaijan"[45]). Other Christian thinkers do not consider the fall of communism to have any relevance in maintaining their interpretation that Russia is Gog (such as Chuck Missler in his book Magog Invasion).

The biblical interpretation that Russia is Gog, is one that some Russians believe themselves according to historian Christopher Marsh. He writes "Russians and Ukrainians, [are] two peoples with a long history of looking to the Bible for clues to their past and future. At least as far back as the Primary Chronicle, the Rus' looked to scripture for such clues and found them from Genesis to Revelations. They were the descendants of Noah's third son, Japheth, giving themselves direct lineage to the diluvian period, and they were of the tribe of Magog (or Gog), in the land of Rosh. The implications of such identity as expressed in Revelations, where the Gog and Magog were both thrown out of heaven, apparently didn't matter to those drawing these lines. Ancestors were found in the Bible, and that was enough."[46]

In his 1945 book "The Reign of Quantity and The Sign of Times" metaphysician and author René Guénon has a full chapter on the subject of Gog and Magog ("The fissures of the great wall"). Gog and Magog are related to their Hindu counterpart called demon brothers Koka and Vikoka "whose names are obviously similar", and refer symbolically, according to Guénon, not to groups of people on earth, but to entities belonging to the "subtle world" and having an existence presently hidden from the human realm and symbolically described as subterranean.

Gog and Magog in Britain and Ireland


Gog and Magog figures located in the Royal Arcade, Melbourne (Australia)

Despite their generally negative depiction in the Bible, Lord Mayors of the City of London carry images of Gog and Magog (depicted as giants) in a traditional procession in the Lord Mayor's Show. According to the tradition, the giants Gog and Magog are guardians of the City of London, and images of them have been carried in the Lord Mayor's Show since the days of King Henry V. The Lord Mayor's procession takes place each year on the second Saturday of November.

The Lord Mayor's account of Gog and Magog says that the Roman Emperor Diocletian had thirty-three wicked daughters. He found thirty-three husbands for them to curb their wicked ways; they chafed at this, and under the leadership of the eldest sister, Alba, they murdered their husbands. For this crime they were set adrift at sea; they washed ashore on a windswept island, which they named "Albion" - after Alba. Here they coupled with demons and gave birth to a race of giants, whose descendants included Gog and Magog.[47]

An even older British connection to Gog and Magog appears in Geoffrey of Monmouth's influential 12th century Historia Regum Britanniae, which states that Goemagot was a giant slain by the eponymous Cornish hero Corin or Corineus. The tale figures in the body of unlikely lore that has Britain settled by the Trojan soldier Brutus and other fleeing heroes from the Trojan War. Corineus supposedly slew the giant by throwing him into the sea near Plymouth; Richard Carew notes the presence of chalk figures carved on Plymouth Hoe in his time. Wace (Roman de Brut), Layamon (Layamon's Brut) (who calls the giant Goemagog), and other chroniclers retell the story, which was picked up by later poets and romanciers. John Milton's History of Britain gives this version:

The Island, not yet Britain, but Albion, was in a manner desert and inhospitable, kept only by a remnant of Giants, whose excessive Force and Tyrannie had consumed the rest. Them Brutus destroies, and to his people divides the land, which, with some reference to his own name, he thenceforth calls Britain. To Corineus, Cornwall, as now we call it, fell by lot; the rather by him lik't, for that the hugest Giants in Rocks and Caves were said to lurk still there; which kind of Monsters to deal with was his old exercise.
And heer, with leave bespok'n to recite a grand fable, though dignify'd by our best Poets: While Brutus, on a certain Festival day, solemnly kept on that shore where he first landed (Totnes), was with the People in great jollity and mirth, a crew of these savages, breaking in upon them, began on the sudden another sort of Game than at such a meeting was expected. But at length by many hands overcome, Goemagog, the hugest, in hight twelve cubits, is reserved alive; that with him Corineus, who desired nothing more, might try his strength, whom in a Wrestle the Giant catching aloft, with a terrible hugg broke three of his Ribs: Nevertheless Corineus, enraged, heaving him up by main force, and on his shoulders bearing him to the next high rock, threw him hedlong all shatter'd into the sea, and left his name on the cliff, called ever since Langoemagog, which is to say, the Giant's Leap.

Michael Drayton's Poly-Olbion preserves the tale as well:

Amongst the ragged Cleeves those monstrous giants sought:
Who (of their dreadful kind) t'appal the Trojans brought
Great Gogmagog, an oake that by the roots could teare;
So mighty were (that time) the men who lived there:
But, for the use of armes he did not understand
(Except some rock or tree, that coming next to land,
He raised out of the earth to execute his rage),
He challenge makes for strength, and offereth there his gage,
Which Corin taketh up, to answer by and by,
Upon this sonne of earth his utmost power to try.

Gog Magog Hills

The Gog Magog Downs are about three miles south of Cambridge, said to be the metamorphosis of the giant after being rejected by the nymph Granta (i.e. the River Cam). The dowser Thomas Charles Lethbridge claimed to have discovered a group of three hidden chalk carvings in the Gogmagog Hills. This alleged discovery is described at length in his book Gogmagog: The Buried Gods,[48] in which Lethbridge uses his discoveries to extrapolate a primal deity named 'Gog' and his consort, 'Ma-Gog', which he believed represented the Sun and Moon. Although his discovery of the chalk figures in the Gogmagog Hills has been dogged by controversy, there are similarities between the name and nature of the purported 'Gog' and the Irish deity Ogma, or the Gaulish Ogmios.

Gog and Magog in Ireland

"Gog and Magog giving Paddy a Lift Out of the Mire." From Punch magazine, 1846

Works of Irish mythology, including the Lebor Gabála Érenn (the Book of Invasions), expand on the Genesis account of Magog as the son of Japheth and make him the ancestor to the Irish through Partholón, leader of the first group to colonize Ireland after the Deluge, and a descendant of Magog, as also were the Milesians, the people of the 5th invasion of Ireland. Magog was also the progenitor of the Scythians, as well as of numerous other races across Europe and Central Asia. His three sons were Baath, Jobhath, and Fathochta.[49]

Gog and Magog elsewhere

Gog and Magog in Melbourne, Australia


Gog and Magog in Colorado

Two rock outcroppings visible from Manitou Springs Colorado named after the two giants.

Gog and Magog in Tasmania

In northern Tasmnania, two large dolerite hills overlooking the Mersey River are named Gog and Magog. They form part of Gog Range and mark the opening of the gorge through which the river flows.

Gog and Magog in Canada

Gog and Magog are also names given to two rock formations near Friendship Col, 2000 feet above the Alpine Club of Canada's Fairy Meadows hut in the northern Selkirk Mountains of British Columbia, Canada.


  1. ^ a b c d Van der Toorn, p.374
  2. ^ a b Van der Toorn, p.536
  3. ^ Genesis 10
  4. ^ 1 Chronicles 5
  5. ^ Boe, p.76
  6. ^ Ezekiel 38-39. For discussion of uncertainties over the translation of this passage, see Block, pp.432 ff.
  7. ^ Boe, p.92
  8. ^ a b c d Blenkinsopp, p.178
  9. ^ Block, pp.426-427
  10. ^ Eichrodt, p.518 fn.e, and Block, p.439
  11. ^ Block, p.436
  12. ^ Block, pp.439-440
  13. ^ Boe, pp.144-150
  14. ^ Boe, p.153
  15. ^ a b Boe, p.178
  16. ^ Boe, p.173
  17. ^ Boe, pp.175-176
  18. ^ Boe, p.187, 189
  19. ^ Boring, p.209
  20. ^ Revelation 20:7-10
  21. ^ Mounce, p.372
  22. ^ Qur'an, Surat 18, Al-Kahf (The Cave)
  23. ^ Qur'an, Surat 21, Al-Anbiya (The Prophets)
  24. ^ Zechariah (Tanach). Brooklyn, New York: ArtScroll. 1996. pp. 1424. 
  25. ^ Bietenholz, pp.122
  26. ^ Bietenholz, pp.123
  27. ^ a b Van der Toorn, p.375
  28. ^ Christensen, p.44
  29. ^ Isidore's Etymologiae, IX, 2.27, 2.89
  30. ^ Derry, p.129 (fn)
  31. ^ Bietenholz, pp. 125-126
  32. ^ Brook (no page number available)
  33. ^ Ibn Kathir, Al-Bidayah wa'l-Nihayah (The Beginning and the End)
  34. ^ Ibn Kathir, "Stories of the Prophets", page 54. Riyadh, SA Maktaba Dar-us-Salam, 2003
  35. ^ Schultze (1905), p. 23.[verification needed]
  36. ^ Fordham edu.com: "The Medieval Jewish Kingdom of the Khazars, 740-1259": the Khazar correspondence
  37. ^ Marshall, pp. 12, 120–122, 144
  38. ^ Unknown (1357–1371). "XXIX" (.txt). The Travels of Sir John Mandeville. http://www.gutenberg.org/dirs/etext97/tosjm10.txt. Retrieved 2009-03-11. "In that same region be the mountains of Caspian that men crepe Uber in the country. Between those mountains the Jews of ten lineages be enclosed, that men clepe Goth and Magoth and they may not go out on no side. There were enclosed twenty-two kings with their people, that dwelled between the mountains of Scythia. There King Alexander chased them between those mountains, and there he thought for to enclose them through work of his men." 
  39. ^ H. A. R. Gibb and C. F. Beckingham, trans. The Travels of Ibn Baṭṭūṭa, A.D. 1325–1354 (Vol. IV). London: Hakluyt Society, 1994 (ISBN 0904180379), pg. 896
  40. ^ Gibb, pg. 896, footnote #30
  41. ^ Gow, ch.3
  42. ^ Mikraot Gedolot HaMeor p.400
  43. ^ הנסיון להפוך את נפוליאון לגוג ומגוג "The Attempt to turn Napoleon into Gog and Magog", "Hashem1.net" (Israeli religious website in Hebrew)
  44. ^ Paul Boyer (1992). When Time Shall Be No More: Prophecy Belief in Modern Culture. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University. p. 162. 
  45. ^ Heidi Szpek (2002). Voices from the University: The Legacy of the Hebrew Bible. Writers Club Press. 
  46. ^ Christopher Marsh (2011). Religion and the state in Russia and China: suppression, survival, and revival. New York, NY: The Continuum International Publishing Group. 
  47. ^ Gog and Magog at the Lord Mayor's Show: official website. Retrieved August 3, 2007.
  48. ^ "Gogmagog: The Buried gods". Tc-lethbridge.com. http://www.tc-lethbridge.com/anthological_review/gogmagog/. Retrieved 2010-10-07. 
  49. ^ Heller, Jason. "Deeper Into Music With Glenn Danzig | Music | Interview". The A.V. Club. http://www.avclub.com/content/node/57114. Retrieved 2010-03-27. 


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