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Gog and Magog

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GOG AND MAGOG (Heb. גּוֹג וּמָגוֹג). Gog and Magog are first mentioned together in Ezekiel 38–39 in the vision of the end of days, where the prophet describes the war of the Lord against "Gog, of the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal." After the ingathering of Israel Gog will come up against Israel with many peoples from the furthest north to plunder it and carry away spoil. The Lord Himself will go to war against Gog and punish him "with pestilence, and with blood, and with overflowing rain," and His name will be magnified and sanctified in the eyes of many nations. Gog will die in the land of Israel and his place of burial will be called "the valley of hamon Gog" and for seven years the inhabitants of Israel will use the weapons of the enemy for fuel.

Since, in the list of the sons of Noah (Gen. 10:2), Magog is mentioned as the brother of Gomer and Madai, the most reasonable identification put forward is with Giges, also known as Gogo, king of Lydia, and Magog, with his country. That, however, does not affect in any way the symbolic nature of the name and the special character of Ezekiel's vision. Gog and his people are not historical enemies of Israel, like Babylonia and Assyria. They will attack simply out of a lust for violence and with the intention of destroying a peaceful kingdom. Indeed, other prophets prophesied about a people that would come up from the north to besiege Israel in the end of days, but Ezekiel, who prophesied after the destruction of the Temple, fixed the date of the last war after the ingathering of the exiles and the rebuilding of Jerusalem.

In the Septuagint the name Gog appears in two other places where it is not mentioned in the Hebrew text. In Numbers 24:7, Gog appears instead of Agag, and in Amos 7:1, the reading is "Gog," instead of gizei ("the mowings"). These variants indicate the antiquity of the connection between the war of Gog and the advent of the Messiah. Descriptions of the decisive, final war occupy an important place in the Apocrypha (En. 56:5; IV Ezra 13:5), but the names Gog and Magog appear only in the vision of the Hebrew Sibylline Oracles (3:319 and 512), and even there only as the name of a country between the rivers of Ethiopia, a country saturated with blood, for which a bitter fate is in store. In the aggadah, the names Gog and Magog were reserved for the enemy of Israel in the end of days, but the details are very different from those in Ezekiel. In Ezekiel, Gog is the king of Magog; in the aggadah, Gog and Magog are two parallel names for the same nation. Moses had already seen Gog and all his multitude coming up against Israel and falling in the valley of Jericho (Mekh. Be-Shalaḥ, 2), and Eldad and Medad prophesied concerning them (Sanh. 17a). The war of Gog and Magog is in essence a war against the Lord, and the whole of Psalm 2 is interpreted as referring to it (Av. Zar. 3b; Tanh. Noah 18; Pd-RK 79); God Himself will do battle with this enemy. The last of "the ten occasions of the Shekhinah's descent to the world" will be in the days of Gog and Magog (ARN1, 34, 102). R. Akiva was of the opinion that the judgment of Gog would endure for 12 months (Eduy. 2:10). This judgment will bring great calamities upon Israel that will cause all previous calamities to fade into insignificance (Tosef., Ber. 1:13). Eliezer b. Hyrcanus connects it with the pangs of the Messiah and the great day of judgment (Mekh., Be-Shalaḥ 4: Shab. 118a). The war of Gog and Magog will be the final war, after which there will be no servitude, and it will presage the advent of the Messiah (Sif. Num. 76, Deut. 43; Sanh. 97b). In the Palestinian Targums the Messiah plays an active role in this war. Gog and Magog and their armies will go up to Jerusalem and fall into the hands of the Messianic king, but the ingathering of the exiles – contrary to what is said in Ezekiel – will come only after the victory (Targ. Yer., Num. 11:26; ibid., Song 8:4). A kind of compromise is found in the Targum, namely, that the house of Israel will conquer Gog and his company through the assistance of Messiah the son of Ephraim (Targ. Yer., Ex. 40:11; cf. also Targ. Song 4:5). In the New Testament vision of John (Rev. 20), the war of Gog and Magog takes place at the end of a millennium after the first resurrection, and in Sefer Eliyahu ("Book of Elijah"; J. Kaufmann (Even Shemuel), ed.), Midreshei Ge'ullah (19542), 46) Gog and Magog come after the days of the Messiah but before the final day of judgment.

From the biblical sources and the tradition of the rabbis, the stories about Gog and Magog passed to the Church Fathers. At the time of the Gothic migrations it was customary to identify the Goths with Gog and Magog. An ancient Christian tradition also identified Gog and Magog with the barbarian peoples whom Alexander the Great locked away behind iron gates next to the Caspian Sea but who are destined to break forth in the end of days. During the Islamic conquests, Christians identified the Muslim armies with Gog and Magog.


Sources:Kaufmann Y., Toledot, 3 (1954), 578–83; Ginzberg, Legends, index; P. Volz, Die Eschatologie der juedischen Gemeinde im neutestamentlichen Zeitalter (1934), 150ff.; J. Klausner, The Messianic Idea in Israel (1955); M. Waxman, Galut u-Ge'ulah (1952), 218–33; J. Lust, in: DDD, 373–75.

Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.

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