Thursday, March 19, 2009
Gog and Magog - part 2
I began this post a few months ago, meaning to complete it pretty soon afterwards, but just had not gotten to it. There is a lot to say about Gog and Magog, and I wanted to give a little idea of what this place is and where it might be, based on some solid sources. Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan gives a wonderful sum up in his translation of Chumash, "The Living Torah," and it is from there I would like to quote.
To start with, the places I am interested in speaking about are the places Yechezkel refers to in chapter 38 in connection with Gog. He speaks about Gog being of the land of Magog, and being the head prince of Meshech and Tuval. It is important to note that we are discussing the ancient locations of these peoples (as per the map above, taken from The Living Torah p. 42), but it is clear that they are no longer located in these places per se. Just as Edom, the descendants of Esav ended up in the area of Rome, these nations moved and migrated to different places. Their precise location now is up for grabs, and as the Malbim says in Yechezkel 38, we will only know who Gog and Magog actually are when they appear on the scene and fulfill what the Navi talks about.
In the Living Torah pp 38-39, Rav Kaplan is giving his explanations on the following passuk (Bereshis 10:2):
"The sons of Yefeth were Gomer, Magog, Madai, Yavan, Tuval, Meshekh, and Tiras."
Magog. Most probably a Teutonic people, living to the north of the Holy Land (cf. Ezekiel 38:2). ome sources identify Magog with Germania (Targum Yonathan; Targum on 1 Chronicles 1:5; Pesikta Zutratha). Others identify them with the Goths (Yerushalmi, Megillah 1:9). These were a Teutonic people who migrated to Scythia, in what is now southern Russia.
It is therefore not contradictory when some sources identify Magog with Scythia (Josephus; Yoma 10A, according to Rabbenu Chananel; Arukh s.v. Germamia). Ancient histories state that the Scythians came from Asia, driven by the Massagetae (cf. Meshekh, and settling enar the Cimerians (Herodotus 4:11; see above note). Linguistically, the Scythians were related to the Iranians, and hence, to the Persians and the Medes. It is therefore significant that there was a Persian tribe known as the Germanians (Herodotus 1:125).
Other sources note that Magog may denote the Mongols, whose very name may be a corruption of Magog. Indeed, Arab writers referred to the Great Wall of China as the "wall of al Magog" (Rabbi Aaron Marcus, Kesseth HaSofer, p. 112a).
Other ancient sources agree with the indentification of Magog as living to the north of the Black Sea (Yovloth 9:8).
To be continued...