What Is This Gog and Magog? Originally published September 28-29, 2018.

On the Shabbat in the middle of Sukkot (“Shabbat hol hamo’ed Sukkot”) we read a haftarah from the book of Ezekiel (38:18-39:16) discussing Gog of the land of Magog.  Gog seems to be a model of an enemy, written to show what will happen to the enemies, but I always leave such interpretation to the rabbis.

This story is a vision of the end of days, and a war is being fought against “Gog, of the land of Magog, the head of Meshekh and Tuval.”  When Gog sets foot in the Land of Israel, says God, a great tumult will occur – all creatures on land and sea will feel the thunder, earthquakes, etc.  Once the weapons are knocked from the hands of Gog’s people, they will be stricken dead and lie as food for beasts and birds of prey.  The inhabitants of the cities of Israel will go out and collect the weapons to use as fuel for fires for seven years.  And then Gog is to be buried with his people in the Valley of the Travelers, east of the Sea, in Israel, to block the path, now to be called the Valley of Gog’s Multitude.

Now, then, what else do we know?  There was a Magog who was the son of Noah, but that lead seems to have led scholars to a dead end.  In the Apocrypha, there are descriptions of a final war, but Gog and Magog appear only in the vision of the Hebrew Sibylline Oracles (according to the Encyclopedia Judaica), and that is as a name of a country saturated with blood, between the rivers of Ethiopia, for which a bitter fate is in store. 

In the aggadah (the non-Bible writings), Gog and Magog were enemies of Israel, but were two parallel names of the same nation.  And the Christians brought the story forward into the new testament.  Some Christians identify the Goths with Gog and Magog. 

Of course, we don’t want to confuse Gog and Magog with Og, the fellow who lived 10,000 years, cropping up every so often in the Bible.  Remembering what we learned that the Book of Enoch says – angels mixed with humans and created super-humans – some say that Og, King of Bashan, was one of them who was saved by climbing on to the roof of Noah’s ark, and later attempted to destroy Moses.  At one point, a story goes, Moses mistook Og for a wall.

So Gog, flogged, became a clog on the slog through the vale, Og may have been a demagogue, but the underdogs prevailed, and Magog may be in Ethiopia.  I am all agog. 

We’ll post this in the blog.