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What is "Gog and Magog"?

by Rabbi Shlomo Chein

  

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The book of Ezekiel1 speaks of a climactic war with "Gog of the land Magog" in Israel "at the end of years" [of the Jewish exile]2 .


According to the simple interpretation, after G-d brings the Jewish people back to Israel with Moshiach,3 and the nations hear of the success of the Jewish people in rebuilding their land, they will gather to do battle against them, lead by Gog, the king of Magog. The battle will symbolize the final war between good and evil. At that time G-d will destroy Gog and co., and all evil will ultimately be vanquished.


However, much like all (especially Messianic) prophecies, there really is no "simplest" interpretation. The battle of Gog and Magog in particular is very cryptic and subject to a wide array of commentary and interpretation. It is another of the complex issues of the Messianic redemption.4


In fact, in his book "Moshiach", Rabbi I. Schochet writes:5 an authoritative tradition from the disciples of the Baal Shem Tov6 states that the extraordinary length of the present severe exile has already made up for the troubles of that battle, and it will no longer occur."


 

Footnotes

  • 1. Ezekiel chapters 38 and 39.
  • 2. For more background information, the following is from Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan's "Living Torah": Magog: Most probably a Teutonic people, living to the north of the Holy Land (cf. Ezekiel 38:2). Some sources identify Magog with Germania (Targum Yonathan; Targum on 1 Chronicles 1:5; Pesikta Zutratha). Others identify them with the Goths (Yerushalmi, Megillah 1:9). These were a Teutonic people who migrated to Scythia, in what is now southern Russia. It is therefore not contradictory when some sources identify Magog with Scythia (Josephus; Yoma 10a, according to Rabbenu Chananel; Arukh s.v. Germamia). Ancient histories state that the Scythians came from Asia, driven by the Massagetae (cf. Meshekh), and settling near the Cimerians (Herodotus 4:11; see note on Genesis 10:2, 'Gomer'). Linguistically, the Scythians were related to the Iranians, and hence, to the Persians and the Medes. It is therefore significant that there was a Persian tribe known as the Germanians (Herodotus 1:125). Other sources note that Magog may denote the Mongols, whose very name may be a corruption of Magog. Indeed, Arab writers referred to the Great Wall of China as the 'wall of al Magog' (Rabbi Aaron Marcus, Kesseth HaSofer, p. 112a). Other ancient sources agree with the identification of Magog as living to the north of the Black Sea (Yov'loth 9:8). Agag: A generic name for the kings of Amalek (Rashbam); see notes on Genesis 12:15, 20:2. See 1 Samuel 15:8; Esther 3:1. The Septuagint identifies Agag with Gog; cf. Ezekiel 38:2. Amalek: A tribe descended from Esau, see Genesis 36:12. Amalek came from around Gobolitis and Petra, to the north of Sinai (Josephus 3:2:1). See Numbers 24:20.
  • 3. Ezekiel 37
  • 4. See Igeret Teyman, end of ch. 3, Midrash Tanchuma, Korach: end of 14, Agadat Bereishit 2:1; Midrash Tehilim 2:4; and the parallel passages cited there. See also Targum Yehonathan (and Targum Yerushalmi) on Numbers 11:26; and Torah Shelemah on this verse, note 196. (These sources were collected from Rabbi Immanuel Schochet's book "Moshiach", Appendix 1 footnote 2.
  • 5. See http://www.moshiach.com/topics/in-depth/moshiach-ben-yossef.php footnote 17.
  • 6. See R. Shemuel of Sochachev, Shem MiShemuel, Vayigash, s.v. Vayigash 5677 (s.v. venireh od, p. 298bf).

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RELATED CATEGORIES

Israel » Messiah

Moshiach
The Messiah. Moshiach is the person who will usher in an era of peace and tranquility for all of humanity when there will be no jealousy or hate, wars or famine. This is a fundamental Jewish belief.
Baal Shem Tov
Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov (1698-1760), Polish mystic and founder of the Chassidic movement.
Ezekiel
1. Major Jewish prophet who lived in the 5th century BCE. 2. One of the 24 books of the Bible, containing the prophecies which Ezekiel transmitted.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.