Gog and Magog

Gog and Magog

[gog uhn mey-gog]
The tradition of Gog and Magog (Hebrew גוג ומגוג; Arabic يأجوج و مأجوج) begins in the Hebrew Bible with the reference to Magog, son of Japheth, in the Book of Genesis and continues in cryptic prophecies in the Book of Ezekiel (see War of Ezekiel 38-39), 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.

Gog and Magog in religious works

Hebrew Bible

The first occurrence of "Magog" in the Hebrew Bible is in the Table of Nations in Genesis 10, where Magog is the eponymous ancestor of a people or nation (without any accompanying apocalyptic symbolism, or mention of Gog, although "Magog" may mean "the land of Gog"):

2. The sons of Japheth were Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech, and Tiras
3. The sons of Gomer were Ashkenaz, Riphath, and Togarmah.

In this occurrence, Magog is clearly the name of a person, although in the anthropology proposed by Genesis, ethnic groups and nations are founded by, and usually named after, their founding ancestors. The names of Gomer, Tubal, Meshech, and Togarmah also occur in Ezekiel.

The earliest known reference to "Gog" and "Magog" together is also in the Bible, in the Book of Ezekiel:

38:2. Son of man, set thy face against Gog, of the land of Magog, the chief prince of 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, the head of Meshech and Tubal.

Although it is clear (in the Hebrew) that here Magog is a "land" (eretz) from verse 2, and that Gog is a "prince" from verse 3, different identifications have been made. These are discussed after the text itself. The Interlinear Bible (Hebrew - Greek - English) states 2. as: "Son of man, set your face toward Gog, the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal; and prophesy concerning him.

10. Thus says the Lord "On that day it shall come to pass that thoughts will arise in your mind and you will make an evil plan:
11. You will say, "I will go against a land of unwalled villages…(FRZ)(FRZ: mostly refers to Iraq as Frz (Unwalled Villages) in the Book of Esther)
12. To take plunder and booty…
13. Sheba and Dedan, and the merchants of Tarshish, with all the young lions thereof, will say to you, "have you come to take a spoil?

They will be joined by Persians from the East, Phut from the West, Kushites from the South, and others. We are told that Gog dwelt north of Israel, but there is little else to identify Gog in the passage. Gog and his allies are to attack "a land of unwalled villages" to collect booty, but before attacking Israel itself will be reduced to a "sixth" of their size (Ezekiel 39:2). Their reduced army will be destroyed in Israel, their dead buried in the Valley of Hamon-Gog for all to see and comment on (39:15-17).

Addressing Gog and Magog, God describes how the attacks will be repelled (Ezekiel 39:1-16). The army of Gog and Magog includes people from the nations of "Gomer, Tubal, Meshech, and the house of Togarmah from the North", all of whom are mentioned as descendants of Japheth in Genesis 10. God describes the aftermath of the battle later in the same chapter, addressing "thou, son of man":

17. …,thus says the Lord, "Speak to every bird and every beast of the field, 'Assemble yourselves and come,…'
18. "You shall eat the flesh of the mighty, drink the blood of the princes of the earth, of rams and lambs, of goats and bulls, all of them fatlings of Bashan

Ezekiel (38 and 39) says that Gog will be defeated.

New Testament

"Gog and Magog" are first mentioned as a pair in the New Testament Book of Revelation, which draws on the depiction of them in the older prophetic works. They appear in verses 20:7-9 (United Bible Societies' Greek New Testament - 4th revised ed.)

7. And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, :8. And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea.
9. And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them. (KJV)

Here, Gog and Magog are identified as the nations in the four corners of the earth, and their attack is represented as an eschatological crisis after the Millennium, to be vanquished by divine intervention.

Although the language of Gog and Magog's destruction is very similar to that of their mention in Ezekiel, premillennialist Christians believe that Ezekiel's prophecy and the description found in the Book of Revelation refer to two distinct eschatological events. According to this belief, the war described by Ezekiel occurs before the millennium (probably as an opening act of the apocalyptic era), while the event described in the Book of Revelation occurs at the end of the millenium era (as an event that directly leads to the closing of the millenium era).


Gog and Magog appear in Qur'an sura Al-Kahf (The Cave), 18:83-98, as Yajuj and Majuj (Ya-juj/Ya-jewj and Ma-juj/Ma-jewj or يأجوج و مأجوج, in Arabic). 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) 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 below). 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 Prophet Muhammad and the recording of the Qur'an, most historians consider Dhul-Qarnayn a reference to Alexander (see Alexander 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 Prophet 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 India and encountered a large community of Muslim merchants in the city of Zaitun. 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.

Koka and Vikoka in Hinduism

The Kalki Purana, one of the minor puranas in Hinduism, mentions a similar Koka and Vikoka who will fight against Kalki. They serve as generals under the apocalypse demon Kali, not to be confused with the goddess of the same name. Modern scholarship dates this purana prior to the 16th century.


In Jewish traditions

In terms of extra-biblical Jewish tradition, Gog the "prince" has been explained being one of the 70 national angels – of whom all except one, Michael, the guardian angel of Israel, are fallen angels. According to this interpretation, Gog is the angel of a nation called Magog (literally meaning "of Gog" or "from Gog"). Gog in this view represents an apocalyptic coalition of nations arrayed against Israel. Some Biblical scholars believe that Gyges (Greek Γυγες), 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 Anatolia; 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 Sea.

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 Derbent, Russia. Another frequently suggested candidate is the wall at the Darial Gorge in Georgia, 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 (376-382). 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 (410) by Alaric, 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 Celts

Some legends of Hungarians and certain Celtic peoples say they are descendants of Magog. Poseidonius, for example, mentions that the Cimmerians, considered to be the original ancestors in Celtic traditions, were derived from gug and guas. In Irish tradition, Magog was supposed to have had a grandchild called Heber, who spread throughout the Mediterranean. The result is that Gog — the land of the four corners of the world – has also been identified as lands somewhere in the oceans surrounding the Old World, i.e., the New World (See also the "Gog and Magog in England" section of this article).

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 Muslim scholar Ibn Kathir also identified Gog and Magog with the Khazars who lived between the Black and Caspian Seas 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 Ibn Fadlan. In his travelogue regarding his diplomatic mission to iltäbär (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 Mongolians

Some Muslim scholars including Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi and Tibri believe the Qur'anic Gog and Magog are intended to be the Mongols. The Mongols were a serious threat to Muslim power during the Middle Ages, attacking Muslim civilizations, and eventually destroying the Abbasid caliphate in Baghdad and the Khwarezmian Empire of Central Asia.

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 Moscow, and that "Tubal" represents the Siberian capital Tobolsk. During the Cold War this identification led Hal Lindsey to claim that the Soviet Union 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 L. 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.

As European nations

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community present the view that Gog and Magog represent one or more of the European nations. They associate European imperialism after the Age of Discovery with the reference to Gog and Magog's rule at the "four corners of the world" in the Christian Book of Revelation. Ahmadiyya founder Mirza Ghulam Ahmad linked Gog and Magog to the European nations, and his son and second successor, Mirza Basheerud Deen Mahmood further expounds the connection between Europe and the accounts of Gog and Magog in the Bible, the Qur'an, and the hadith in his work Tafseer e Kabeer and in his commentary on Surah Al-Kahaf (Urdu). According to this interpretation, Gog and Magog were descendants of Noah who populated eastern and western Europe long ago; the Ahmadi cite the folkloric British interpretation of Gog and Magog as giants (see below) as support for their view.

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 somewhat 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 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 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 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 is supposed to have slain the giant by throwing him into the sea near Plymouth. 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 Polyolbion 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 Hills 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 T.C. 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.

Partholon, 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.

See also


External links

Ya’juj dan Ma’juj

Search another word or see gog and magogon Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2015 Dictionary.com, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature