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PART 16: ENOCH, THE WATCHERS, AND THE FORGOTTEN MISSION OF JESUS CHRIST—The 144,000 as Mirror Reversal of the Watchers’ Transgression

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EDITORS COMMENT: This new series is being offered in memoriam of Dr. Michael Heiser who’s truly groundbreaking research on the Divine Council and Enochian Worldview (based on the book of Enoch and its connection to Hebrew theology before and at the time of Jesus) opened the door for a richer understanding of the Life of Christ than previous generations could have imagined. This series reflects content from the leading-edge books published by Defender Publishing for Dr. Heiser—Reversing Hermon: Enoch, the Watchers, and the Forgotten Mission of Jesus Christ as well as his two volume book set titled, A Companion to the Book of Enoch: A Reader’s Commentary, Volume 1: The Book of the Watchers and Vol II: The Parables of Enoch. PLEASE NOTE: ALL PROFITS FROM THE SALE OF DR. MICHAEL HEISER’S BOOKS FROM SKYWATCHTVSTORE.COM WILL BE  DONATED TO HIS FAMILY DURING THIS SERIES.

Many readers will be familiar with the 144,000 introduced in Revelation 7. How it relates to the transgression of the Watchers is difficult to discern on the surface. The passage reads:

4And I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel:

512,000 from the tribe of Judah were sealed,

12,000 from the tribe of Reuben,

12,000 from the tribe of Gad,

612,000 from the tribe of Asher,

12,000 from the tribe of Naphtali,

12,000 from the tribe of Manasseh,

712,000 from the tribe of Simeon,

12,000 from the tribe of Levi,

12,000 from the tribe of Issachar,

812,000 from the tribe of Zebulun,

12,000 from the tribe of Joseph,

12,000 from the tribe of Benjamin were sealed.

Revelation 7 is not the only passage that describes the 144,000. Revelation 14:1–5 provides a key for discerning how the role of the 144,000 can be understood in light of the sin of the Watchers.

1Then I looked, and behold, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. 2And I heard a voice from heaven like the roar of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder. The voice I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps, 3and they were singing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders. No one could learn that song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. 4It is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins. It is these who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These have been redeemed from mankind as firstfruits for God and the Lamb, 5and in their mouth no lie was found, for they are blameless.

It is important to note how the 144,000 are cast in this passage. They are in the heavenly Zion, the throne room of God, having been specially marked for close proximity to the presence of God and the service of God (v. 3). Verses 4–5 mark them as virgins—specifically, male virgins who “have not defiled themselves with women.”

Why are the 144,000 portrayed as a heavenly priesthood? Why the specific note that they are male virgins, especially when Israelite priests could be married?

A recent scholarly study on this passage has drawn attention to the fact that this description presents the 144,000 as a positive analogy to the Levitical priesthood and a negative, reverse analogy to the sexual defilement of God’s other holy ones who defiled themselves by sexual engagement with women—the fallen sons of God/Watchers of Genesis 6:1–4:

Not only are the 144,000 positively identified in the call and function of the Levitical system of the Old Testament; but John also employs negative imagery that still builds on the choice of the Levitical identification…. This is evidenced in the contrasted allusion to the negative qualities of the Levites that John employs from the Watcher Myth, who abandoned their calling as God’s [children], and engaged in marital practices that went contrary to God’s commands. John’s allusion to the purity of the 144,000 is the key to him, applying the Watcher Myth as an anti-image, where the fallen angels lusted after the daughters of men and took for themselves wives, thus defiling themselves and abandoning God’s order…. In terms of the commentary in 1 En[och] 15:3–12, the angels should not have taken wives from the daughters of men because (a) they have thereby defiled themselves, (b) they have thereby begotten strange children in terms of 1 En[och] 10:9, and (c) angels in any case have no need of wives since they are immortal, while men need them to perpetuate the species…. John borrows this negative imagery from the erring Enochic Levites to create an anti-image of the representative 144,000 undefiled virgins…. [The 144,000] are…an anti-image, not only to the followers of the beast mentioned in the preceding chapter and Rev[elation] 14:6–20 (cf. Rev[elation] 17–18); but also to the fallen angels of 1 Enoch 1–36 in their ritual purity.

The theological point is that the 144,000 holy ones who fight the Beast (Antichrist) are counterpoints to the holy ones who rebelled and defiled themselves with human women. John telegraphs that these holy ones will help their earthly compatriots defeat the Beast and rectify the impurity brought to earth by the Watchers.

The Antichrist from Dan—But Which Dan?

We need to return to the statement that introduces the 144,000. Revelation 7:4 introduces the 144,000 as “sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel.” The statement is interesting because it is transparently inaccurate. A close reading of the tribes listed in the passage reveals that isn’t the case. There are two tribes missing. Many tribal lists in the Old Testament do not include Joseph, for example, replacing him with the two “half tribes” of Ephraim and Manasseh, the two sons of Joseph. In Revelation 7, Manasseh and Joseph are present, but not Ephraim.

The omission that has drawn the most attention, though, is Dan. The tribe is nowhere to be found in Revelation 7.

Dan had a checkered history. The tribe forsook its allotted inheritance in the south of Canaan and migrated north, appropriating the priest of Micah the Levite, who kept household gods and an idol in his house (Joshua 19:40–48; Judges 18). The Danites eventually conquered the city of Laish and renamed it Dan (Judges 18:27, 29). This city became a cult center to Baal in later Israelite history. Earlier in Israel’s history, instead of receiving a blessing from the dying Jacob like his brothers, the patriarch pronounced, “Dan shall be a serpent in the way, a viper by the path, that bites the horse’s heels so that his rider falls backward” (Genesis 49:17). Deuteronomy 33:22 contains the cryptic note that “Dan is a lion’s cub that leaps from Bashan.”

These failures and passages associate Dan with rebellion against God, the region of Bashan, whose name in Canaanite would have been bathan (“serpent”),[i] and Baal worship at a location at the foot of Mount Hermon. It is no wonder that some early church writers believed that the reason Dan was omitted from Revelation 7 was because the Antichrist—the enemy of the 144,000—would come from the tribe of Dan. C. E. Hill explains:

Our first explicit mention of a Jewish Antichrist comes in the writings of Irenaeus, where it occurs already in tandem with the opinion that he will also spring from the tribe of Dan (AH 5.30.2)…. Somewhat surprisingly, Irenaeus brings forth but two scriptural passages in support of Antichrist’s Danite origin. The first is Jer[emiah] 8: 16 (LXX) “We shall hear the voice of his swift horses from Dan; the whole earth shall be moved by the voice of the neighing of his galloping horses: he shall also come and devour the earth, and the fulness thereof, the city also, and they that dwell therein.” He finds further support for this in the omission of Dan from the list of the twelve tribes of the sealed in Rev[elation] 7:5–7…. Antichrist from the tribe of Dan…makes his first known appearance in Irenaeus, but it is in Hippolytus that he finds his most scrupulous and eloquent biographer. Hippolytus’ copious description proceeds on the principle that “the deceiver seeks to liken himself in all things to the Son of God.” As Jesus was the lion from the tribe of Judah—referring to Jacob’s blessing on Judah in Genesis 49:9—Antichrist will be the lion from the tribe of Dan—referring to Moses’ blessing on the tribe of Dan in Deut[eronomy] 33:22.[ii]

As readers will recall, I have argued for a Gentile template for the Antichrist.[iii] For reasons that will become apparent in this chapter, I think too much is read into these passages about the tribe of Dan. However, the northern region of Bashan associated with the city of Dan is meaningful for discerning connections between the Antichrist and the Watchers’ transgression. When it comes to the omission of Dan from the 144,000, their spiritual apostasy likely played a role, but Revelation 7 says nothing about the identity of the Antichrist. There is, in fact, something else to see in the tribal listing that plays off Enoch’s story of the Watchers.



Gog: Interpretive Pitfalls and Errors

Most readers would likely presume that one of the end-times connections leading back to the demons and the giants would be Gog of Magog,[iv] the mysterious figure of Ezekiel 38–39. While there is no direct exegetical evidence that the biblical Gog is to be associated with the Watchers, the demonic Watcher-spirits (the giant Rephaim) and Mount Hermon, Gog is part of the matrix of ideas which includes all of those items.

The identification of Gog in Ezekiel 38–39 has proven to be one of the more vexing problems in Old Testament study. The chaotic textual situation in Second Temple Period sources informs us that ancient interpreters found it just as much of a conundrum.

Scholars have pursued several options for identification. Perhaps the most straightforward is the attempt to see a historical human tyrant, the leader of an ancient empire, behind the mysterious figure. Johan Lust notes in this regard:

In an attempt to identify Gog as a historical person, attention has been drawn to a city prince Gâgi mentioned in the annals of Ashurbanipal (Cylinder B iv 2), a powerful ruler of a belligerent mountain people not far to the north of Assyria. More frequently, though, Gog is identified with Gyges (Gûgu in the Rassam-Cylinder, II 95), king of Lydia. Note, however, that the Gog of Ezekiel has the Cimmerians or Gomer as his ally, whereas the same Cimmerians appear to have attacked and defeated Gyges of Lydia. Such data suggest that Gog can hardly be identified with Gyges. Alternatively, Gog has been said to be the name of a country, Gaga or Gagaia, allegedly mentioned in the El Amarna Letters (El Amarna 1:38). It has become clear, however, that the writing ištēn kurGa-ga-ya is erroneous for ištēn kurGa-ašga-ya, ‘one Kashkaean’, so this identification must be abandoned as well.[v]

This interpretive strategy is based, in part, on an effort to associate the geographic places named in Ezekiel 38–39 (e.g., Meshech) and then combing historical sources for “tyrant candidates.” At other times, historical identification of Gog has been attempted by playing with the Hebrew words and creating false linguistic connections with the names of historical figures. In this regard Lust observes that the Septuagint renders the phrase נְשִׂיא רֹאשׁ )nesiʾ rōʾsh) as archonta Rōs (“commander of Ros”), and so modern readers can easily mistake the phrase as pointing to Russia.[vi]

An equation with Russia is exegetically indefensible and incoherent. Of its many problems,[vii] the most lethal is its violation of Hebrew grammar. There are two possible readings allowed by Hebrew syntax for the phrase nesiʾ rōʾsh: (1) “Gog, the prince, the chief” (of Meshech and Tubal), and (2) “Gog, chief prince” (of Meshech and Tubal). Both options translate rōʾsh as “chief” and thus eliminate understanding it as a place name. Consequently, “Russia” has no exegetical basis according to Hebrew grammar.[viii]

The Septuagint (LXX) translator of Ezekiel also misunderstood the grammatical limitations of nesiʾ rōʾsh, leading to several mistakes in translation.

In Numbers 24:7, part of the Balaam oracle, the traditional Masoretic Hebrew text reads, “[Jacob’s] king shall be higher than Agag, and his kingdom shall be exalted.” The point is that Israel’s (eventual, Davidic) king will defeat the king of his enemies (in this case, a reference to Agag of the Amalekites in 1 Samuel 15). But the Septuagint—created long after the days of Samuel and Agag—does something quite surprising with this passage. Instead of “than Agag” (Hebrew: mʾgg) the Septuagint has “his kingdom shall be higher than Gog.” The effect is to transform the prophecy of Balaam into a remote, end-times prophecy pitting Gog against the Davidic Messiah, as opposed to an Israelite king having victory over Agag in the early days of Israel’s monarchy.

How are we to understand this dramatic difference between the traditional text and the Septuagint? The LXX translation is only textually explainable if the Hebrew text being used by the Septuagint translator read mgwg instead of the Masoretic Text’s mʾgg. However, it is more likely that the Septuagint translator may have been confused by mʾgg and invented “from Gog” as a translation solution.

The reason that confusion seems to be the best answer to the odd situation in Numbers 24:7 is that the Septuagint translator certainly blunders elsewhere with respect to Gog. Compare the traditional text with the Septuagint at the end of Amos 7:1:

Masoretic TextSeptuagint
This is what the Lord God showed me: behold, he was forming locusts when the latter growth was just beginning to sprout, and behold, it was the latter growth after the king’s mowings (gzy).Thus the Lord showed me and behold, an early offspring of grasshoppers coming, and behold one locust larva, Gog (gwg) the king.

Lust notes in regard to this verse, “In Amos’ vision of the plague of locusts (7:1), the LXX translator read gwg for gzy (mowings?), focusing on Gog as the leader of a threatening army represented as a swarm of locusts.”[ix] It’s very hard to follow the logic of the Septuagint translator. The waters get muddied a bit more when we discover that the Septuagint translator arbitrarily transforms Og of Bashan in Deuteronomy 3:1, 13 and 4:47 to “Gog” in his translation. Even more confusing is the fact that at least one Septuagint manuscript does the reverse—swapping in Og for Gog in Ezekiel 38:2.[x]

One certainty arises out of this messiness: At least some Second Temple Jews were comfortable associating Gog with the giant of Bashan/Hermon and the great eschatological enemy. The question is: Why?

Gog and the Mythic, Supernatural North

In terms of physical geography, the region of Bashan constituted the northern limits of the Promised Land. Biblical people of course knew there were enemy cities and peoples beyond Hermon. It is of no small consequence that when enemies from these northern regions invaded the land of Israel, they came “from the north.”[xi] The physical north, therefore, was associated with the terror of tyrants bent on Israel’s destruction.

The “tyrant from the north” factor is one of the reasons why Antiochus IV has become the prototype for the final end-times Antichrist. Antiochus IV, whose violent career tracks closely with events of Daniel 8–11, was ruler of Seleucid Syria, just north of Bashan. It was he who invaded Jerusalem in the Second Temple Period, forced Jewish priests to sacrifice unclean animals on the temple altar, and saw himself as an exalted deity. It is therefore understandable that a figure like Gog, the invader from “the uttermost parts of the north” (Ezekiel 38:6, 15; 39:2) is viewed by scholars as a foreshadowing of Antiochus.



But these observations merely scratch the surface. There’s much more to see. As readers will recall, Bashan was the land of the Rephaim, the region associated with gateways to the realm of the dead, and home to the city of Dan, the central cultic site for the worship of Baal, the lord of the underworld. The foot of Mount Hermon overlapped the northern boundary of the region of Bashan. As I wrote in The Unseen Realm:

The word “north” in Hebrew is tsaphon (or zaphon in some transliterations). It refers to one of the common directional points. But because of what Israelites believed lurked in the north, the word came to signify something otherworldly. The most obvious example is Bashan. We’ve devoted a good deal of attention to the connection of that place with the realm of the dead and with giant clan populations like the Rephaim, whose ancestry was considered to derive from enemy divine beings. Bashan was also associated with Mount Hermon, the place where, in Jewish theology, the rebellious sons of God of Genesis 6 infamy descended to commit their act of treason. But there was something beyond Bashan—farther north—that every Israelite associated with other gods hostile to Yahweh. Places like Sidon, Tyre, and Ugarit lay beyond Israel’s northern border. The worship of Baal was central in these places…. Specifically, Baal’s home was a mountain, now known as Jebel al-Aqra’, situated to the north of Ugarit. In ancient times it was simply known as Tsaphon (“north”; Tsapanu in Ugaritic). It was a divine mountain, the place where Baal held council as he ruled the gods of the Canaanite pantheon. Baal’s palace was thought to be on “the heights of Tsapanu/Zaphon.”… In Ugaritic texts, Baal is “lord of Zaphon” (baʿal tsapanu). He is also called a “prince” (zbl in Ugaritic). Another of Baal’s titles is “prince, lord of the underworld” (zbl baʿal ʾarts)…. It is no surprise that zbl baʿal becomes Baal Zebul (Beelzebul) and Baal Zebub, titles associated with Satan in later Jewish literature and the New Testament.[xii]

An ancient reader would therefore not only have feared the north because of the threat of invading tyranny, but for supernatural-theological reasons. This is the conceptual grid through which Gog of Magog must be understood.

The failure to find any secure historical referent for Gog and the fact that the “far north” from which Gog hailed was so clearly associated with dark supernatural powers have led many scholars to consider Gog as a supernatural terror. This trajectory is in fact more coherent.

Several scholars have proposed that Gog could be viewed as a personification of darkness, based on the meaning of the Sumerian gûg (“darkness”).[xiii] This view has found little acceptance,[xiv] but its detractors have offered next to nothing in the way of evidence for rebuttal. A supernatural figure of darkness actually comports well with Revelation 20:7–10, which mentions Gog and Magog along with Satan and human armies arrayed against Jerusalem (the “holy city”). It would also certainly fit with some sort of “Baal personified” figure from the cosmic north, Zaphon. As I have written elsewhere:

The prophetic description in Ezekiel 38–39 of the invasion of “Gog, of the land of Magog” (Ezek[iel] 38:1–3, 14–15) is well known and the subject of much interpretive dispute, both scholarly and fanciful. One of the secure points is that Gog will come from “the heights of the north” (38:15; 39:2). While many scholars have focused on the literal geographic aspects of this phrasing, few have given serious thought to its mythological associations in Ugaritic/Canaanite religion with Baal, lord of the dead. Gog would have been perceived as either a figure empowered by supernatural evil or an evil quasi-divine figure from the supernatural world bent on the destruction of God’s people…. A supernatural enemy in the end times would be expected to come from the seat of Baal’s authority—the supernatural underworld realm of the dead, located in the heights of the north. Gog is explicitly described in such terms.[xv]

The connection to Gog as personified evil (which, as we argued in the previous chapter, is a way of talking about the antichrist) is made clear when we discover that the term “Armageddon”—which John says is Hebrew—does not refer to the city of Megiddo, but to Zion.[xvi] The Hebrew equivalent of “Armageddon” is actually har moʿed (“mount of assembly”), a phrase whose significance is illumined by where it appears in the Hebrew Bible. That passage is Isaiah 14:12–14, where the shining one, the son of the dawn (Hebrew: Helel ben Shachar; Latin Vulgate: Lucifer) sought to exalt himself above God and His council, the stars of God (cp. Job 38:7–8) to “be the Most High.” Armageddon is about a cosmic rematch, where the original divine rebel seeks to overthrow Yahweh from Zion.

It is no coincidence that Daniel’s description of the Antichrist prototype uses the same language of self-exaltation above God.

And the king shall do as he wills. He shall exalt himself and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak astonishing things against the God of gods. He shall pay no attention to the gods of his fathers, or to the one beloved by women. He shall not pay attention to any other god, for he shall magnify himself above all. (Daniel 11:36–37)

Significantly, it is the king of the north being described in these verses. Gog is described in the same terms—the great destroyer from the north. As noted earlier, the immediate historical referent of Daniel 11 is the Seleucid King Antiochus IV. It was Antiochus IV who invaded Jerusalem in the Second Temple Period, desecrated the temple and its altar, and exalted himself above its God, Yahweh. Gog, the king of the north, is thus cast as an imitator or personification or agent of the lord of cosmic evil.

UP NEXT: Gog, the Rephaim-Titans, and Typhon

[i] See G. Del Olmo Lete, “Bashan,” Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible (ed. Karel van der Toorn, Bob Becking, and Pieter W. van der Horst; Leiden: E. J. Brill; Eerdmans, 1999) 161–163.

[ii] C. E. Hill, “Antichrist from the Tribe of Dan,” Journal of Theological Studies (new series) 46:1 (April 1995): 102–104. This perspective on the tribe of Dan was not shared by rabbinic commentators. Hill writes elsewhere in his study (pp. 111–113): “The strongest Old Testament footing for a Danite Antichrist would have to be the mention in two passages of a serpent or serpents in close proximity to the mention of the name of Dan (Gen. 49:17; Jer. 8:17). Yet the latter passage does not seem to have played any part in rabbinic comment on Dan, and Jewish exegesis of Gen. 49:16–18, Jacob’s blessing of Dan, turns out to be overwhelmingly positive. Gen. 49:16–18 reads, ‘Dan shall judge his people as one of the tribes of Israel. Dan shall be a serpent in the way, a viper by the path, that bites the horse’s heels so that his rider falls backward. I wait for thy salvation, O Lord.’ The Jewish interpretation of these verses centered virtually exclusively on the figure of Samson who, with all his faults, was more a Christ than an Antichrist figure. Even the comparison with the serpent is explained in terms of Samson’s exploits against the Philistines by Targum Onkelos, glorified by Philo through a linking with Moses’ healing brass serpent (Allegoriarum ii), and even when allusion is made to the serpent in Eden in Genesis Rabbah 98.14 there is no apparent disapproval: ‘As the serpent is found among women, so was Samson the son of Manoah found among women. As a serpent is bound by an oath, so was Samson the son of Manoah bound by an oath [citing Judg. 15: 12]. Just as all the serpent’s strength resides in his head, so it was with Samson’…. Samson, as the biblical text in Judges makes abundantly clear, was a Danite. His father, Manoah, was a Danite. But when Jacob says that Dan will judge his people ‘like one of the tribes of Israel’, the tribe he will judge ‘like’ is the pre-eminent tribe of Judah (Num. Rabbah 14. 9). And according to R. Joshua b. Nehemiah, although Samson’s father was a Danite, Samson’s mother was from the tribe of Judah. Thus in Samson were the two tribes united. In Genesis Rabbah Jacob is said to have been so impressed with Samson in his vision that he thought this prodigious warrior was the Messiah! ‘But when he saw him dead he exclaimed, ‘He too is dead! Then I wait for thy Salvation, O God’” (ibid. 98. 14). This assertion that Samson, the one great Danite, had a mother descended from Judah helps explain the saying of R. Hama b. R. Hanina, on Gen. 49: 9, Jacob’s blessing of Judah: ‘This alludes to Messiah the son of David who was descended from two tribes, his father being from Judah and his mother from Dan, in connection with both of which “lion” is written: Judah is a lion’s whelp; Dan is a lion’s whelp (Deut. xxxiii,22)’, a saying which, however, cannot have been intended to refer to Samson, as the Messiah here is expressly the son of David. Thus in the claim of a royal, Judahite paternal descent and Danite maternal descent we finally have a Jewish exegetical warrant for, not an Antichrist to be sure, but a Christ from the tribe of Dan.”

[iii] I have argued for a Gentile Antichrist template in several places in earlier chapters, but see appendix V as well.

[iv] Revelation 20:7–10 has “Gog and Magog” as the end-times enemies of Jerusalem as though the two were separate entities. This is not a necessary conclusion. If, as seems quite likely, Gog is a person and Magog a country or region, saying Gog and Magog were gathered for battle in Rev. 20:8 can semantically point to the figure of Gog leading his hordes, gathered from the four corners of the earth, against Jerusalem. One could refer to “Patton from the U.S.” as an enemy of the Nazis and “Patton and the U.S.” making war against the Nazis without changing the meaning—Patton the general led an army of U.S. soldiers against the Nazis. Magog is a person in the Table of Nations of Genesis 10, but that passage is designed to explain the national geography deriving from the post-Flood family of Noah. Lust summarizes the evidence for Magog being a place, not a person: “Magog is mentioned in the table of nations in Gen 10:2, and in 1 Chr 1:5, as one of the seven sons of Japheth. Three of these sons occur in Ezekiel’s Gog section as three countries or nations over which Gog is lording (Gomer, Tubal, Meshech: 38:3, 6; 39:1). In Gen 10:3, Togarmah is listed as a son of Gomer. His name returns in Ezek 38:6 as Beth-togarmah alongside with Gomer. See J. Lust, “Magog,” Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible (ed. Karel van der Toorn, Bob Becking, and Pieter W. van der Horst; Leiden: E. J. Brill; Eerdmans, 1999) 536.

[v] J. Lust, “Gog,” Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible (ed. Karel van der Toorn, Bob Becking, and Pieter W. van der Horst; Leiden: E. J. Brill 1999) 373–374.

[vi] This perspective is found with some frequency among dispensationalist evangelicals. See Paul Tanner, “Daniel’s ‘King of the North’: Do We Owe Russia an Apology?” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 35:3 [Sept 1992]: 315–328.

[vii] For example, there is no such place-name as roʾsh known in the ancient world. As Astour has noted, the closest geographical correlation that could be argued is “Raʾshi (or Araʾshi) of Neo-Assyrian records, a district on the border of Babylonia and Elam…which had nothing in common with Meshech and Tubal” (M. C. Astour, “Ezekiel’s Prophecy of Gog and the Cuthean Legend of Naram-Sin,” Journal of Biblical Literature 95 [1976]: 567, note 4). Further, the place-name “Rosh” would have had no meaning to an ancient Hebrew audience, since “the name Rus was first brought to the region of the Kiev by the Vikings in the Middle Ages” (E. Yamauchi, Foes from the Northern Frontier: Invading Hordes from the Russian Steppes [Wipf & Stock Publishers; 2003], 23). Rus and the longer Russia are of course Indo-European words, while Hebrew is from the Semitic language family. Consequently, a Rosh:Russia equation is a linguistic fallacy (false etymology). Additionally, aside from Genesis 10’s placement of Meshech and Tubal in Anatolia, Ezekiel’s own descriptions of those places in Ezek 27:12–15 have them located among nations adjacent to Anatolia.  The place-names are thus not the Russian cities, but ancient ethnic groups firmly situated in the ancient near eastern geographical reality of the Hebrew Bible.

[viii] Block argues for the first option in the second volume of his lengthy scholarly commentary on Ezekiel (see Daniel Isaac Block, The Book of Ezekiel, Chapters 25–48 [The New International Commentary on the Old Testament; Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1997–] 435). The latter position follows the explanation of Gesenius and Waltke-O’Connor, where the second noun in the Hebrew construct phrase (רֹאשׁ) functions adjectivally, as an “adjectival genitive” (See B. Waltke and M. O’Connor, Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax [Eisenbrauns, 1990], 148; Friedrich Wilhelm Gesenius, Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar [Edited by E. Kautzsch and Sir Arthur Ernest Cowley; 2d English ed.; Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1910], par. 127).

[ix] Lust “Gog,” 373.

[x] The LXX mistakes appear to be behind the supposition of Gressmann, mentioned by Zimmerli, that Gog was a mythological “locust giant after the manner of the scorpion man in the Gilgamesh Epic.” See Walther Zimmerli, Frank Moore Cross, and Klaus Baltzer, Ezekiel: A Commentary on the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel (Hermeneia—a Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1979–) 300. Zimmerli cites H. Gressmann, Der Messias (FRLANT 6; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1929), p. 129 n. 1. Block includes reference to this same idea and source on p. 433, footnote 31. The idea is almost certainly a conflation of the Septuagint translation errors related to Gog: LXX Amos 7:1 and the swapping in of “Gog” for “Og” in certain LXX passages. While data such as these takes the reader’s mind directly to the locust army of Revelation 9 released from the Abyss, it is unwise to consider such a move exegetically legitimate. Revelation 9 never identifies a leader and never cites Amos 7:1. Likewise it is tenuous to identify Gog as a giant given the transparent textual confusion in the Septuagint. Put simply, one cannot use the confusion of the translators as evidence for any identification of Gog.

[xi] As I wrote in Unseen Realm (pp. 359–360): “The Bible records a number of such incidents. But the most traumatic incursions into Canaan were always from the north. In 722 B.C. Assyria conquered the ten tribes of the northern Israelite kingdom and deported them to many corners of its empire. In a series of three invasions from 605 to 586 B.C., Babylon destroyed the southern kingdom, comprising only two tribes, Judah and Benjamin. Both Assyria and Babylon invaded Canaan from the north, since they were both from the Mesopotamian region. The trauma of these invasions became the conceptual backdrop for descriptions of the final, eschatological judgment of the disinherited nations (Zeph 1:14–18; 2:4–15; Amos 1:13–15; Joel 3:11–12; Mic 5:15) and their divine overlords (Isa 34:1–4; Psa 82). It is hard to overstate the trauma of the Babylonian invasion. The northern tribes, too, had met an awful fate, the outcome of which was well known to the occupants of the kingdom of Judah. But Judah was David’s tribe, and Jerusalem the home of Yahweh’s temple. As such, the ground was holy and—or so the kingdom of Judah thought—would surely never be taken by the enemy. But Zion’s inviolability turned out to be a myth. Jerusalem and its temple were destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C. The incident brought not only physical desolation but psychological and theological devastation. The destruction of Yahweh’s temple and, consequently, his throne, would have been cast against the backdrop of spiritual warfare by ancient people. The Babylonians and other civilizations would have presumed that the gods of Babylon had finally defeated Yahweh, the God of Israel. Many Israelites would have wondered the same thing—or that God had forsaken his covenant promises (e.g., Psa 89:38–52). Either God was weaker than Babylon’s gods or else he had turned away from his promises.”

[xii] Heiser, The Unseen Realm, 360–361.

[xiii] Block (p. 433) cites one source for this possibility: P. Heinisch, Das Buch Ezechiel übersetzt und erklärt (Heilige Schrift des Alten Testaments 8; Bonn: Hanstein, 1923) 183.

[xiv] Lust, for example, rejects it as “highly implausible,” but offers no reasons why it ought to be dismissed.

[xv] Heiser, The Unseen Realm, 366. Whether Rev. 20:7–10 includes the Antichrist (and, so, the notion that Gog is the Antichrist) depends on the interpretive approach to the book of Revelation one adopts. Many who read Revelation as a linear chronology (the “futurist” view) also understand Gog of Ezekiel to be the Antichrist—yet they somehow miss the fact that the Antichrist’s demise (in a linear futurist reading) precedes the Gog and Magog defeat of Rev. 20:7–10. The Beast is captured and thrown into the lake of fire in Rev. 19:20. This means that, for a futurist approach to Revelation’s events, Gog can’t be identified with the Antichrist (Beast). Those who see recapitulation (recycling) in what Revelation describes and not a linear chronology of events do not have this problem, for the judgment at Armageddon in Rev. 17–19 and the battle of Rev. 20:7–10 are viewed as the same event. This allows an identification (whatever that might be) of Gog with the Beast. For the evidence aligning Armageddon of Rev. 17–19 with Rev. 20:7–10, see Meredith G. Kline, “Har Magedon: The End of the Millennium,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 39:2 (June 1996) 207–222.

[xvi] The term “Armageddon” has been fundamentally misunderstood by most prophecy teachers and enthusiasts, who presume the term points to a battle at Megiddo. As I wrote in The Unseen Realm (pp. 369–372): “Anyone who has ever investigated the term has undoubtedly read that it refers to a battle that will take place at or near Megiddo, the presumed geographical namesake for the term Armageddon. Further research would perhaps detect the fact that in Zechariah 12:11 the place name ‘Megiddo’ is spelled (in Hebrew) with an ‘n’ on the end, tightening the association between that place and the term Armageddon. As coherent as all that sounds, it’s wrong. As we’ll see in this chapter, an identification of Armageddon with Megiddo is unsustainable. With respect to the word itself, the scriptural description of the event, and the supernatural concepts tied to both those elements, the normative understanding of Armageddon is demonstrably flawed…. John, the author of Revelation, tells us explicitly that ‘Armageddon’ is a Hebrew term. John does that in part because the book of Revelation is written in Greek. There’s something about the Greek word ‘Armageddon’ that required, for Greek readers, clarification that the term had been brought into the verse from Hebrew. Those who can read Greek, or at least know the alphabet, will notice that the Greek term (Ἁρμαγεδών) would be transliterated into English characters as h-a-r-m-a-g-e-d-o-n. If you don’t know Greek, you’ll wonder right away where the initial ‘h’ in the transliteration comes from. The ‘h’ at the beginning of the term corresponds to the superscripted apostrophe before the capital ‘A’ in the Greek letters—what is known as a rough breathing mark in Greek. The Greek language had no letter ‘h’ and so instead used this mark to convey that sound. As a result, the correct (Hebrew) term John uses to describe the climactic end-times battle is harmagedon. This spelling becomes significant when we try to discern what this Hebrew term means. The first part of the term (har) is easy. In Hebrew har means “mountain.” Our term is therefore divisible into har-magedon, “Mount (of) magedon.” The question is, what is magedon?” Megiddo, of course, is not a mountain, and so the idea that the battle of Armageddon will be at Megiddo is deeply flawed. The Greek term har-magedon retroverts back into Hebrew as har moʿed, the “mount of assembly” at which Yahweh lives and where his divine council serves him. That mountain is Zion—Jerusalem. Armageddon is a battle for God’s dominion over Jerusalem at Jerusalem.

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