Sunday, March 22, 2009

Gog and Magog - part 3

Continuing from the previous post on Gog Umagog, we were quoting Rav Kaplan's explanation on pp. 38-39 on the children of Yefes, whose nations will come with Gog and Magog to wage war in Jerusalem in the end of days.

Tuval. A northern country, see Ezekiel 38:2, 27:13. This is usually identified with Bithynia (Targum Yonathan; Targum on 1 Chronicles 1:5; Yerushalmi, Megillah 1:9). The Talmud also refers to it as Beth-unyaki, which is the Talmudic term for Bithynia (Yoma 10a). This is in the area to the east of the Bospherus (Yov'loth 9:11). Josephus, however, says that the Tuvalites were the Ibers. Some say that these were the people of the Iberian Peninsula, and hence they were the original Spaniards. Indeed, one source says that this is why the Spanish refer to themselves as cen-tuvales (gentualla), literally "people of Tuval" (Abarbanel). However, there was also an Iberian people who lived to the east of the Black Sea.

Meshekh. A northern kingdom; cf. Ezekiel 38:2, 27:13; Psalms 120:5. Most Talmudic sources identify Meshekh with Mysia (see Targum Yonathan; Targum on 1 Chronicles 1:5; Yerushalmi, Megillah 1:9; Yoma 10a; Buber on Peskita Zutratha 26a). This was the land to the west of Bithynia, along the Dardanelles with Mycenae, an ancient city in Greece. Josephus, however, associates Meshekh with Cappadocia, whose capital is Mazak, in what is now central Turkey (see Herodotus 1:72). It is very close to Galatia (see Gomer). Another possibility would be to identify Meshekh with the Massagatae, an ancient people who lived in Russia to the east of the Aral sea (cf. Herodotus 1:201). It was these people who drove the Scythians into Cimeria (Ibid. 4:11). It is also possible to idenitfy Meshekh with the Moschians mentioned in ancient sources (Herodotus 7:78). The name may be related to the Muskeva River, and hence to Moscow. Indeed, there are sources that say the Meshekh was the forerunner of the Slavs (Kesseth HaSofer).

End quote of Rav Aryeh Kaplan.

It is significant to note that these nations that accompany Gog, or that he rules over, seem to be descended from Yefes. It is in his genealogy that we find the names Magog, Meshech and Tuval. The meforshim also say that Gog ends up meriting to be buried in Israel in the merit of Yefes' good act of covering Noach in his shame. Just as Yefes did an act of covering, so Hashem 'covers' Gog in the land of Israel, burying him there.

I also found it interesting that Rav Kaplan notes (on p. 795 of The Living Torah) that in the Septuagint (which was the version of the Torah translated by seventy great Jewish sages into Greek), Agag, king of Amalek, is identified with Gog. A thought I had was that the difference between Gog (גוג) and Agag (אגג) is the change of an Alef to a Vav. This is significant because the letter Vav is related to Alef in the Sefarim Hakedoshim. The connection between Gog and Agag is significant also because Gog is the quintessential person who believes that everything is his own power (as we mentioned in the first post in this series) and totally denies Hashem's involvement in the world. He would be what we could refer to in modern terms as the ultimate left-wing liberal. This is the essence of Amalek (for whom Agag is king). Their entire goal in existence is to prove that all his happenstance, that there is no God and that we come from monkeys (עמלק = עמל קו"ף - the work of monkeys! As per R' Akiva Tatz).

In the next post on this topic, be'H I will quote the Malbim on Yechezkel 38, so we can start to understand how these ancient nations fit in today.

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