Home > Theology and Eschatology, Wars and Rumors of War > Gog Of Magog: Does ‘Rosh’ Mean ‘Russia’ or ‘Chief’? Understanding The Hebrew Text Gives Us The Answer …

Gog Of Magog: Does ‘Rosh’ Mean ‘Russia’ or ‘Chief’? Understanding The Hebrew Text Gives Us The Answer …


By Joel Richardson – “For centuries, controversy and debate has swirled amongst Biblical scholars concerning how to properly translate and interpret the Hebrew word rosh as found in the Oracle of Gog of Magog, Ezekiel 38 & 39. Some scholars have argued that rosh should be translated as an adjective—meaning chief—and others have argued that it should be translated as a proper noun, referring to a place. The effect of this controversy on various translations is quite apparent when we compare a handful of today’s most popular translations. As we see below, The King James Version, The New International Version and The English Standard Versions all translate rosh as an adjective:

“Son of man, set thy face against Gog, the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal…” —KJV

“Son of man, set your face against Gog, of the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal…” —NIV

“Son of man, set your face toward Gog, of the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal…” —ESV

On the other hand, the New American Standard Bible and the New King James Version both translate rosh as a proper noun:

“Son of man, set your face toward Gog of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal…” —NASB

“Son of man, set your face against Gog, of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal…” —NKJV

Adhering to the idea that rosh should be translated as a proper noun referring to a place, many prophecy teachers have argued that Ezekiel was speaking here of Russia. In support of this view, virtually all popular prophecy teachers have looked to two renowned scholars of Hebrew, Wilhelm Gesenius and C.F. Keil.

The problem with relying entirely on Gesenius and Keil is that scholars of ancient Biblical Hebrew, just like any other field of study, are constantly growing and discovering gaining new insights and understanding in their fields. While Gesenius (1786-1842) and Keil (1807-1888) were great Hebrew scholars of their day, advances in the field of Biblical Hebrew since the 19th century have shed much new light on this subject and causing the majority of Hebrew scholars today to reject the translation of rosh as a proper noun. Beyond this, if one reads Gesenius’ efforts to link Rosh to Russia, he relies not primarily on arguments that relate to the Hebrew language of the passage, but instead to arguments from history—namely the testimony of Byzantine and Arab writers who lived close to sixteen hundred years after Ezekiel. But as I have pointed out in several previous articles, the historical-grammatical method of interpretation, as employed by virtually all conservative evangelical scholars today, doesn’t seek to understand how the passage would have been understood a thousand years after the prophet spoke, but rather how Ezekiel himself would have understood the words and names found within the passage. Gesenius’ reliance on what I refer to as the “ancestral-lineage-migration” method of interpretation is rejected by all genuine Biblical scholars today and should be rejected by all serious and responsible students of prophecy as well.

Unlike Gesenius, Keil, argues for the translation of rosh as a proper noun solely on grammatical grounds. Keil however, is far less confident than Gesenius, admitting that the translation of rosh as a proper name is only ‘probable’ at best.

It is important to note that eight years after the release of Keil’s commentary on Ezekiel, his instructor in Hebrew, Ernest W. Hengstenberg, released his own commentary on Ezekiel, coming out and strongly disagreeing with his student. Hengstenberg stated:

Gog is prince over Magog, moreover chief prince, king of the kings over Meshech and Tubal, the Moschi and Tibareni (ch. xxvii. 13, xxxii. 26), who had their own kings, but appear here as vassals of Gog. Many expositors render, instead of chief prince, prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal. But the poor Russians have been here very unjustly arranged among the enemies of God’s people. Rosh, as the name of a people, does not occur in all the Old Testament.

Not only did Hengstenberg disagree with Keil, so also did Frederick Delitzsch, another German Hebraist who co-authored the well-known Commentary On The Old Testament with Keil.

Of course, in all of the many prophecy books that claim that rosh refers to Russia, all cite Gesenius and Keil, but none ever mention either Delitzsch or Hengstenberg.

On the other hand, those who have argued in favor of translating rosh as an adjective point out that of the roughly 600 times that it is used throughout the Bible, it always means chief or head. Scholars have also pointed out that nowhere in Scripture is a place ever referred to as rosh.

Any honest observer of the long-standing conflict between translators will acknowledge that on grammatical grounds, both sides have expressed valid points. But the conflict between the two positions was never fully resolved… until somewhat recently.

After so many years of debate among scholars, finally, Daniel I. Block, a scholar of Hebrew and Old Testament at Wheaton College, the foremost scholar of the Book of Ezekiel in the World, inThe New International Commentary on the Old Testament on Ezekiel, (1998) after considering the many historical arguments as well as various advances in the scholarship of Biblical Hebrew, has very ably offered a solution, satisfying all of the issues raised by both sides of the debate. While Block acknowledges the need to translate rosh as a noun (as Gesenius and Keil argued), he also also calls attention to its appositional relationship to the other names in the text as well as its normal usage throughout the Bible as a reference to ‘chief.’ (as Hengestenberg and Delitzsch argued). And so, having synthesized the strengths of both positions, Block’s translation reads as follows:

“Son of man, set your face toward Gog, of the land of Magog, the prince, chief of Meshech and Tubal”

In the years since Block has set forward this translation, the overwhelming majority of modern Hebrew and Old Testament scholars have embraced his translation. This has not been the case, however, within the world of popular Bible prophecy. Block’s solution has yet to filter down to the average student of prophecy. Because the belief that Ezekiel is speaking of Russia is such a wide-spread and deeply entrenched view, some popular prophecy teachers are still determinedly clinging to an entirely outdated view.

While some of the most up to date Bible commentaries and translations follow Block’s approach, few students of prophecy are even aware of this development. But as students of Bible prophecy begin to catch up with modern scholarship on this issue, it is revolutionizing their perspective on Ezekiel’s prophecy. Despite generations of speculation that Russia would someday lead an invasion of Arab nations against Israel, as it turns out, the prophet Ezekiel is simply not referring to Russia. In my new book, Mideast Beast: The Scriptural Case for an Islamic Antichrist, I walk the reader through all of the historical as well as modern developments concerning this essential prophecy. When this ancient oracle is properly understood alongside other key Biblical prophecies, it is truly shocking how pressing and relevant its message becomes for our day, particularly in light of the present tektonic geo-political shifts taking place throughout the Middle East.” Source – Joel’s Trumpet.

  1. 03/08/2016 at 7:10 PM

    What if “Rosh” was translated (the beginning of)or (start of) as inferred by “chief & head”?

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  2. Brian Kazlauskas
    02/15/2019 at 9:16 AM

    John places Gog and Magog after the millennial reign of Yeshua. Many times he uses references from the OT to place or describe events and people. In the book of Daniel, princes are angelic, such as the prince of Persia, and the prince of Greece. Then there is the prince of the people that destroys the city and sanctuary. Notice, Michael, one of the chief princes is cut off, then the prince of Rome destroys Jerusalem. The chief prince would be the prince of this world over principalities and powers. It seems that the chief prince in Ezekiel would be Satan loosed for a season, to deceive the nations in the four quarters. The nations mentioned surround Israel. All you have to do is draw a line north to south, and east to west through Israel, and the lines land on the nations/peoples listed in Ezekiel 38. the peoples between these lines are the 4 quarters. The main topic in Revelation is a totally different story. God is raising up the eastern nations to destroy the whore in Rome and her principality. The retribution coming on Rome is due to its destruction of Jerusalem and the murder of Gods people. As the Romans went through Judea, they slaughtered without mercy killing 1.1 million people, and took many into captivity. “He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.” This is speaking of the final judgment before Yeshua returns. Satan, the chief prince gave Rome its power, seat and great authority. Rome became Christian Rome, the scarlet colored beast, and has deceived the nations into lawlessness. The Christian practice of believing in Jesus and living contrary to Gods law is whoredom, and is what Satan has accomplished. Notice how all Christian interpretation overshadows all other interpretations. They are at the forefront of false teachings and do not know their own demise. For example, Gog and Magog being Russia and the Muslim nations. They also believe this war happens before the return of the Messiah. This is false. If the 10 horns that were on the head of the Roman beast, to the north of the Roman republic/empire, is symbolic for the 10 lost tribes of Israel, then Satan has set out to destroy them with the Roman empire, and deceive them through lawless Christianity. Of the 10 tribes of Israel, one may be in Russia. The Angel ascends from the east, heading west to seal the servants of God in their foreheads from each tribe of Israel. It is possible that the tribe of Dan is in the east, and is why he is not listed among the tribes in Revelation 7. Dan was told by his father Jacob that he would judge the tribes of Israel. The eastern nations will burn the west and conquer their armies on the plain near the city. The city in Revelation is Rome, or symbolically called Mystery Babylon. The plain near the city is the great plains of Europe. So, Armageddon in the Hebrew is, Tel Megiddo, the plain near the city, which would be, the great plain of Europe near Mystery Babylon, Rome. This war will not be in Israel. The western Christian nations will be destroyed and burned by the kings of the east before the return of Yeshua. This would fulfill Daniel 7:11, the body of the beast destroyed and given over to the burning flame. This is the fourth kingdom Rome, and her principality of lawless Christians. Christian interpretation is proof that God has put people under the delusion because they believe a lie; they believe in lawlessness in the name of the son of God. Gods law is righteousness, but they hate it and cherry pick every verse of the Bible that sounds lawless, and they deceive the masses. A bad day is coming for the western nations.

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