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The tradition of Gog and Magog ( ; ) begins in the Bible with the reference to Magog, son of Japheth, in the Book of Genesis and continues in cryptic prophecies in the Book of Ezekiel which are echoed in the Book of Revelation and in the Qur'an. The tradition is very ambiguous, with even the very nature of the entities differing between sources. They are variously presented as men, supernatural beings (giants or demons), national groups, or lands. Gog and Magog occur widely in mythology and folklore.

Biblical references

Magog appears in the Table of Nations in Genesis 10:2 as the eponymous ancestor of a people or nation:

The sons of Japheth were Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech, and Tiras

Gog is listed as a descendant of Reuben (one of the sons of patriarch Jacob) at 1 Chronicles 5: 3, 4.

The earliest known reference to "Gog" and "Magog" together is in the Book of Ezekiel, 38:2-3:

38:2. Son of man, set thy face against Gog, of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him,
3. And you shall say; So said the Lord God: Behold, I am against you, Gog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal..


In Jewish traditions

In terms of extra-biblical Jewish tradition, Gog the "prince" has been explained by Rashi, Radak and others as being the king of the nation of Magog, descended from the son Magog of Japthet, the son of Noah. No particular nation is associated with them, nor is any particular territory beyond them being in the north of Israel. Some Biblical scholars believe that Gyges ( ), king of Lydia (687 BC-652 BC), is meant. In Assyrian letters, Gyges appears as Gu-gu, in which case Magog might be his territory in Anatoliamarker; for in Assyrian, māt Gu-gu would be the normal way of designating 'the land of Gugu'.

In his book Antiquities of the Jews, the Jewish historian and scholar Josephus identifies Magog with the Scythians, but this name seems to have been used generically in antiquity for a number of peoples north of the Black Seamarker.

The Jewish Talmud and Midrashim also deal with Magog's location, and use the names Gytia (גיתיא) and Germania (גרמניא), identified by later Jewish scholars as Kermaniamarker and Sattagydia, currently located in eastern Iranmarker and Balochistan, which is also called Sakastan, meaning "home of the Scythians" (which were named by Josephus as Magogites).

In Islamic tradition

A painting by Qasim, 16th century, illustrating the building of the wall
Gog and Magog appear in Qur'an sura Al-Kahf (The Cave chapter), 18:83-98, as Yajuj and Majuj (Ya'jūj and Ma'jūj or يأجوج و مأجوج, in Arabic, Yecüc Mecüc in Turkish transliteration). Some Muslim scholars contend that the Gog in Ezekiel verse 38:2 should be read Yajuj (there is a maqaph (מקף) or hyphen immediately before Gog in the Hebrew version which in some printings looks like the Hebrew letter "yod" or "Y" ). The verses state that Dhul-Qarnayn (the one with two horns or Two Ages (one who impacts on two ages)) travelled the world in three directions, until he found a tribe threatened by Gog and Magog, who were of an "evil and destructive nature" and "caused great corruption on earth." The people offered tribute in exchange for protection. Dhul-Qarnayn agreed to help them, but refused the tribute; he constructed a great wall that the hostile nations were unable to penetrate. They will be trapped there until doomsday, and their escape will be a sign of the end:

The Qur'anic account of Dhul-Qarnayn follows very closely the "Gates of Alexander" story from the Alexander romance, a thoroughly embellished compilation of Alexander the Great's wars and adventures (see Alexander the Great in the Qur'an). Since the construction of a great iron gate to hold back a hostile northern people was attributed to Alexander many centuries before the time of Islamic Prophet Muhammad and the recording of the Qur'an, most historians consider Dhul-Qarnayn a reference to Alexander (see Alexander the Great in the Qur'an). However, some Muslim scholars reject this attribution, associating Dhul-Qarnayn with some other early ruler, usually Cyrus the Great, but also Darius the Great. Gog and Magog are also mentioned in some of the hadith, or sayings of Muhammad, specifically the Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim, revered by Muslims.

Fourteenth century Muslim sojourner Ibn Battuta traveled to China on order of the Sultan of Delhi, Muhammad bin Tughluq, and encountered a large community of Muslim merchants in the city of Zaitunmarker. He comments in his travel log that "Between it [the city] and the rampart of Yajuj and Majuj is sixty days' travel." The translator of the travel log notes that Ibn Battuta confused the Great Wall of China with that supposedly built by Dhul-Qarnayn.

In the Alexander Romance

The older accounts influenced the authors of the Alexander Romance, a late and romanticized account of Alexander the Great's conquests. According to the Romance, Alexander came to a northern land devastated by incursions from barbarian peoples, including Gog and Magog. Alexander defends the land by constructing the Gates of Alexander, an immense wall between two mountains that will stop the invaders until the end times. In the Romance, these gates are built between two mountains in the Caucasus called the "Breasts of the World"; this has been taken as a reference to the historical "Caspian Gates" in Derbentmarker, Russiamarker. Another frequently suggested candidate is the wall at the Darial Gorgemarker in Georgiamarker, also in the Caucasus.

As Goths

Ambrose was the first to integrate the Goths in a Christian view of the world. In a treatise, de fide, written in 378 at the request of Emperor Gratian, he took up the issue of the Goths because the Emperor was going to fight them on the Balkans in the Gothic War . In a comment on he famously wrote: Gog iste Gothus est — "That Gog is the Goth".

In the mid 390's, Jerome did not agree with this assessment. In his comment on , he argued that events had proven Ambrose wrong, and he instead identified the Goths with the Getae of Thrace. Augustine did not agree with Ambrose either. In his The City of God, written as a reaction to the sack of Rome by Alaric I, he explained that Gog and Magog in the Book of Revelation are not a particular people in a particular place, but that they exist all over the world.

In the Getica, written by Jordanes in 551 as an abbreviation of a lost work by Theoderic's chancellor Cassiodorus, Josephus is quoted for connecting Magog to the Scythians and so to the Goths. However, this plays only a minor role in the elaborate origin myth in the Getica.

Isidore of Seville confirmed that people in his day supposed that the Goths were descended from Japheth's son Magog "because of the similarity of the last syllable", and also mentions the view that they were anciently known as Getae. Many of the mountains peaks in the Caucasian mountains and land areas there retain the place name "Gog" in medieval European and Armenian maps. In the 7th century Apocalypse of Pseudo-Methodius it is the messianic Last Roman Emperor who fights and destroys Gog and Magog, with divine aid. The 11th century historian Adam of Bremen considered Ezekiel's prophecy to have been fulfilled on the Swedes, a group related to the Goths. Johannes Magnus (1488 - 1544) stated that Magog's sons were Sven and Gethar (also named Gog), who became the ancestors of the Swedes and the Goths. Queen Christina of Sweden reckoned herself as number 249 in a list of kings going back to Magog.

As Khazars

Christian and Muslim writers sometimes associated the Khazars with Gog and Magog. In his 9th century work Expositio in Matthaeum Evangelistam, the Benedictine monk Christian of Stavelot refers to the Khazars as Hunnic descendants of Gog and Magog, and says they are "circumcized and observing all [the laws of] Judaism"; the Khazars were a Central Asian people with a long association with Judaism. The 14th century Sunni scholar Ibn Kathir also identified Gog and Magog with the Khazars who lived between the Black and Caspian Seasmarker in his work Al-Bidayah wa al-Nihayah (The Beginning and the End). A Georgian tradition, echoed in a chronicle, also identifies the Khazars with Gog and Magog, stating they are "wild men with hideous faces and the manners of wild beasts, eaters of blood". Another author who has identified this connection was the Arab traveller Ahmad ibn Fadlan. In his travelogue regarding his diplomatic mission to elteber (vassal-king under the Khazars), he noted the beliefs about Gog and Magog being the ancestors of the Khazars.

As Israelites or Jews

The 14th-century Travels of Sir John Mandeville, a book of fanciful travels, makes a peripheral association between the Jews and Gog and Magog, saying the nation trapped behind the Gates of Alexander comprised the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel. Additionally, 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.

As Russia

According to one modern theory of dispensationalist Biblical hermeneutics, Gog and Magog are supposed to represent Russia. The Scofield Reference Bible's notes to Ezekiel claim that "Meshech" is a Hebrew form of Moscowmarker, and that "Tubal" represents the Siberianmarker capital Tobolskmarker. During the Cold War this identification led Hal Lindsey to claim that the Soviet Unionmarker would play a major role in the end times. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the retreat of Russia from the role of a military superpower, some commentators have attempted to cast some other country in the role of Gog. Apocalyptic author Louis Bauman claimed that the word "Caucasian" came from the Arabic term "gog-i-hisn" for the mountains there which means "fortress of Gog". However, this identification is unanimously rejected by even the most conservative of credentialed biblical scholars working in accredited institutions of higher learning. It should be noted that the Scythians, who were identified by Josephus and others as being Magog, lived in what is now Russiamarker and Ukrainemarker.

The legend of Gog and Magog, as well as the land of Rosh, also plays a significant part in the New Chronology of Russian pseudohistorian Anatoly Fomenko.

In The Travels of Marco Polo

In The Travels dictated by Marco Polo, Gog and Magog are regions of Tenduk, a province belonging to 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.

As Napoleon in Russia

During the Napoleon Bonaparte's Invasion of Russia, some Chasidic rabbis identified this major war and upheaval as "The War of Gog and Magog", which would precede the coming of the Messiah.

Gog and Magog in Britain


Given this somewhat frightening Biblical imagery, it is odd that images of Gog and Magog depicted as giants are carried in a traditional procession in the Lord Mayor's Show by the Lord Mayor of the City of London. According to the tradition, the giants Gog and Magog are guardians of the City of Londonmarker, 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 them. For this crime, they were set adrift at sea; they were washed ashore on a windswept island, which after Alba was called Albion. Here they coupled with demons, and gave birth to a race of giants, among whose descendants were Gog and Magog.

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 Cornishmarker hero Corin or Corineus. The tale figures in the body of unlikely lore that has Britainmarker settled by the Trojanmarker soldier Brutus and other fleeing heroes from the Trojan War. Corineus is supposed to have slain the giant by throwing him into the sea near Plymouthmarker. 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 (Totnesmarker), 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 Downsmarker are about three miles south of Cambridgemarker, said to be the metamorphosis of the giant after being rejected by the nymph Granta (i.e. the River Cammarker). 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, 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.

The Cambridge molly side, Gog Magog, take their name from these hills.

Gog and Magog in Ireland

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. His three sons were Baath, Jobhath, and Fathochta. Magog is regarded as the father of the Irish race, and the progenitor of the Scythians, as well as of numerous other races across Europe and Central Asia.

Partholón, leader of the first group to colonize Ireland after the Deluge, was a descendant of Magog. The Milesians, or people of the 5th invasion of Ireland, were also descendants of Magog.

Gog and Magog and President George W. Bush

The French ex-President Jacques Chirac recounted during an interview with the French journalist Jean-Claude Maurice how the U.S. President George Walker Bush asked him in 2003 during a phone conversation for support of the invasion of Iraq.In Maurice's book Si vous le répétez, je démentirai George W. Bush is documented to have said “Gog and Magog are at work in the Middle East", "The biblical prophecies are being fulfilled", and "This confrontation is willed by God, who wants to use this conflict to erase his people’s enemies before a New Age begins.”

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