Saturday, February 2, 2008

The Internet is Cool!

Happy Super Bowl weekend to everyone. Go Giants! I wanted to share a very interesting email I received from someone who claims to be writing from Poland, and identifies himself as a believer. No, he did not ask me to handle an estate in his country, or to send him money. J He found me through my blog, and a brief discussion I had in one of my posts about Daniel's prophecies. Although the writer of the email may not actually be from Poland, it appears to me that he is. And his location had nothing to do with the subject of his email: He wrote to me providing me with what he describes as a "short" (12 pages, single space) analysis of Daniel Chapter 11. The thought of someone from Poland writing to me to discuss the Bible is a wonderful thought to me. Wow!


But the reason that I am telling you about this, is to discuss one of the topics he raised where he tells me the identity of the "northern king" / Gog / the northern country that will one day attack Israel. The typical Church view, and the Polish writer's view is that Russia is this northern country that will one day in the future lead an attack against Israel. And for those of us who grew up and lived during the Cold War, it is easy to believe that godless Russia could be the leader of a future attack against Israel. This attacker is discussed in the God's Word as being 'Gog' in Revelation 20:8-:15 (the Leader of the Final Battle against Israel); Ezekiel 38-39 (the great Old Testament prophetic chapters describing Gog and Magog leading an attack against Israel); and Daniel 11:36-12:4 (northern king who attacks the "Glorious Land" of Israel). While it may be true that this northern king, known as Gog may indeed be the country of Russia, I wanted to raise at least the possibility that it is not.


First, let me briefly summarize why many thoughtful Bible scholars believe that the nation prophetically described as Gog and Magog is really modern day Russia. Remember our starting point is Ezekiel chapter 38 which describes Gog and Magog. In Ezekiel 38:2, Gog is described as the prince of Rosh, Meschech, and Tubal. Some have equated Meschech with Moscow, and Tubal being the Russian city of Tobolsk. Yet, it seems clear that the people of Israel did not know of Russia until the Vikings came to the area in the Middle Ages, and so it seems unlikely that Ezekiel would have known Russian city's names. Several ancient sources (Hesiod, Josephus, and Philo) describe Magog as being a group of people known as 'Scythians'. The famous Roman historian Herodotus apparently wrote that the Scythians lived in present day southern Russia. And so, if Ezekiel's description of Magog means the Scythains, then because they lived in what is now known as modern day Russia, this may mean Russia is Israel's future attacker.


But I think there is good reason to read the prophetic attackers from the north as meaning that the attackers are from those parts more directly north of Israel, or modern day Palestine, Syria, Iraq and Iran. I base this on the context of Ezekiel, Daniel, and Revelation's prophecy about northern kingdoms attacking Israel, and what would these writers think was meant by a northern kingdom attacking Israel. This means we should read the end-times prophecies in light of other descriptions of Old Testament books. There are many references of threats to Israel coming from the north. For a short list see, Isa. 5:26-29, 13:1-13, 41:25; Jer. 1:13-15 (and fifteen other references in Jeremiah), Ezekiel 26:7, Zech. 2:6, 6:6-8, etc. And prior to the sixth century exile in Babylon, this typically meant the nations of Assyria, Babylon and Persia. And so, it may be that the prophecies contained in Ezekiel 38-39, Daniel 11, and Revelation 20:8-15 that describe Gog, Magog, or northern kingdoms that will one day attack Israel are the traditional northern enemies of Israel: Assyria, Babylon and Persia. This then means that the northern attackers are the immediate northern neighbors of Israel, modern day Palestine, Syria (Assyria), Iraq (Babylon) and Iran (Persia). Given that these areas today are followers of Islam, perhaps this better explains an unbridled hatred inspired united attack against Israel, that is described as the final battle of Armageddon (Revelation 16:16, 19:17-:21, 20:7-:10, and Zech. 14:2-:4). But I pass these thoughts out humbly, knowing that that the original prophecies of Ezekiel and Daniel were made over 2,600 years ago, and given this, there is room for differing thoughts on whatever position is taken. (I borrowed liberally from the study notes in my Reformation Study Bible for my thoughts on this.)


So I am grateful to have received an email from this unknown writer claiming to be from Poland. It helped me to see there are more parts of Daniel dealing with the end-times. And that there is likely a connection between Daniel's prophecy and Ezekiel's prophecy. I find studying the end-times prophecies in the Bible to be exciting, and I hope it was helpful to anyone reading this now. I invite your thoughts on this discussion. Thanks, and may God bless you this day and weekend.

1 comment:

edward oleander said...

Hi Tom,

This one is as tough to call as the current Clinton-Obama race... Right now I have to agree with you. I think the immediate northern neighbors will pose a greater long-term threat to Israel than Mother Russia... The history of armed conflict in the region, and the indirect roles played by the superpowers, would seem to support this as well. Russia is more likely to use the Islamic nations as a proxy than to openly attack. One note though... Russia is no longer "Godless." I heard on TV a couple years ago that so many churches closed by the Soviets are now open that Russia has more regular church-goers than the USA does...

To play Devil's Advocate though, I have to bring up two points:
1) Russia's re-emergence as a super-power. It is still fragile, but recent natural resource finds in eastern Russia might fuel a strong comeback. Putin has essentially seized power for life already, and Moscow has an 800 year history of imperialism... Soon they will feel the need to counter rising Chinese dominance in the Eastern Hemisphere, and winning the Arab nations as friends by backing a war on Israel (or even participating) would go a long way to stemming the Chinese expansion plans for northern Africa.
2) If the prophets do indeed get their prophecy directly from God or His agents, then the matter of not knowing about Russia is moot. He's just passing along God's words, after all...