31 Aug Ezekiel, Magog and the Scythians
The prophecy of Ezekiel 38 and 39, often referred to as the Battle of Gog and Magog is hands-down, one of the most influential end-time prophecies in all of Scripture. But it is also arguably one of the most misinterpreted prophecies. In previous articles, I’ve explained that while many prophecy teachers claim that Ezekiel is speaking of a Russia-led invasion of Israel, the historical record and modern scholarship show that it is in fact a Turkish-led invasion. As previously discussed, the popular but faulty line of reasoning many follow to conclude a Russian-led invasion is as follows:
1. Magog and the Scythians are one and the same.
2. The Scythians lived in Russia.
3. Gog, the leader of Ezekiel’s invasion, comes from Magog.
4. Thus Ezekiel’s prophesied invasion is led by a leader from Russia.
The problem with this line of reasoning is that history tells us that the Scythians were a nomadic migratory people who rarely stayed in one place for very long. The question is not if the Scythians ever lived in the region that has become modern-day Russia, but rather, where did the Magog/Scythian people live specifically in Ezekiel’s day? We are not concerned with where the Scythians lived several hundred or even thousands of years after Ezekiel. Our only concern is to discover where they lived during Ezekiel’s day. Lets review a small sampling of historical sources to see where they placed the Magog/Scythian people during Ezekiel’s day.
Herodotus (484– 425 B.C.)
Herodotus, the Greek historian, lived roughly 150 years after Ezekiel. In his day, he placed the homeland of the Scythians in the region extending from eastern Europe to Moldova and the Ukraine. According to Dr. Michael Kulikowski, department head of History at Pennsylvania State University, “Herodotus’ Scythians were to be found in a bit of modern Bulgaria and Romania, and across the grasslands of Moldova and Ukraine” but not Russia. Another essential point is that while Herodotus also discusses Meshech and Tubal, two of the regions that Magog is ruler over, and placed them squarely in Anatolia (modern-day Turkey).
Pliny The Elder (d. A.D. 79)
Pliny the Elder, a first-century Roman military commander, author, naturalist and philosopher, referred to the Turkish city of Hieropolis as the heartland of Magog. Hierapolis was an ancient Greco-Roman city in Phyrgia near Laodicea. Hieropolis was also known as Scythopolis, (City of Scythes) which the peoples of that day referred to as Magog. One would think that this would be crucial information to consider and mention, yet in the numerous popular books and treatments of Gog and Magog I’ve reviewed in my studies, I have never once seen this important historical reference cited.
Hippolytus (d. 235)
Roughly a hundred years after Pliny, Hippolytus, one of the most important Christian theologians of the early third century, spoke of Magog. In his work known as “The Chronicon,” Hippolytus also connected Magog to Asia Minor – modern-day Turkey. One would also think this to be a crucial reference to cite. Hippolytus is one of the most prolific early Christian writers concerning the last days. Yet again, in the many popular works arguing for a Russian Magog correlation, I have never once seen it mentioned.
Maimonides, also known as Rambam, the revered Jewish sage, in “Hichot Terumot,” also identified Magog as being in the modern nation of Turkey.
John Wesley (1755)
In fact, this connection between modern-day Turkey and Magog was well-known among Christian theologians for centuries. In his “Explanatory Notes” on Ezekiel 38 and 39, John Wesley says the following:
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, the countries of Sarmatia, and many others, under more than one in succession of time. And in the last time under some one active and daring prince, all their power will be stirred up against Christians.
It is because of this fact, ignored by virtually all modern-day popular prophecy teachers, that the homeland of the Scythians during Ezekiel’s day was in western Asia Minor, that so many modern scholars place Magog in Asia Minor or specifically in the ancient Kingdom of Lydia (Western Turkey). In a previous article, I re-created maps from several of the best modern-day Bible atlases, showing how they each placed Magog in the region of modern-day Turkey.
Below is another map showing the migration pattern of the ancient Scythians and where they lived during Ezekiel’s days:
Scythian migration pattern:
1. 8th century B.C.: Scythians migrate south out of the Caucasus.
2. 7th century B.C.: Scythians invade Asia Minor.
3. 7th century B.C. (in Ezekiel’s day), Scythians founded Hieroplois / Scythopolis near Laodicea.
4. Late 6th century B.C.: Scythians driven into Europe by the Persians.
5. 4th-3rd centuries B.C.: Scythians spread north to European and Russian Steppes.
Through consulting a wide range of ancient sources, including Assyrian records, scholars today acknowledge that before Ezekiel’s day, the Scythians had pushed down out of the Caucasus and invaded Asia Minor, or modern-day Turkey. There they dominated and settled the city of Hierapolis, also known as Scythopolis, in the western Anatolian Kingdom of Lydia, which was for many years known as Magog. Sometime after Ezekiel’s day, a Persian invasion pushed the Scythians out of Asia Minor, west and north into Europe around the Black Sea. Eventually they would reach Russia. But this was hundreds of years after Ezekiel’s day.
In conclusion, Ezekiel spoke of a Turkish-led invasion of Israel. Genuine students of the Scriptures who make it their goal to always seek truth, even when it is in conflict with their own traditions, will recognize the flaws with the popular view. It is imperative that students of the Bible take the time to study Ezekiel’s prophecy. In my newest book, “Mideast Beast: The Scriptural Case for an Islamic Antichrist,” not only do we examine many essential, but often-ignored historical, geographical and exegetical elements of the passage, but even more importantly, its application and relevance for the Church and the world today.
As the days the prophets warned us of draw ever closer, it is imperative that every Christian believer pay careful attention to the roadmap and many prophetic warnings so clearly laid out before us. The Lord has given us this roadmap; it is our duty as his students of the Scriptures not only to make ourselves aware of it, but most importantly, to follow it.