Russia and Iran in Bible Prophecy

What's In A Name? - Part 2




John Hoole - February 27, 2011





All of us have been outside and have looked down to see our own shadow on the ground in front of us.  All of us know, however, that the shadow is not us - not our substance.  In some ways it resembles us, but in many other ways, not at all.  Yet it is a sign.  For instance, when you see John Hoole's shadow, you can count of John Hoole being near at hand.  It may not be moving quickly, but with certainty.


In the same way, coming events often cast their shadow upon this world before they arrive.  This is what Jesus called "signs of His coming" or "signs of the times."  Future events are beginning to cast their shadow in the world today.


These shadows seem to be everywhere, but nowhere are they more evident than in the current scenes in the Middle East.  The alignment of nations are coming together exactly as the Bible prophesied would happen.  The Bible tells us that in the final days, the seed of Ishmael will join forces with a number of allies, including the nation of Russia.  They will invade the nation of Israel to take spoil and wipe Israel from the earth.


For the past couple of weeks, we have been identifying the players involved in this invasion of Israel.  In the first 6 verses of Ezekiel 38, God, through the prophet Ezekiel presents 10 names of this alliance.  As of last week, we have discussed who is represented by the first half the list.  We look at the final five today.


Let's read Ezekiel 38:1-6 NAS


1       And the word of the LORD came to me saying,

2       "Son of man, set your face toward Gog of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him

3       and say, 'Thus says the Lord GOD, "Behold, I am against you, O Gog, prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal.

4       "I will turn you about and put hooks into your jaws, and I will bring you out, and all your army, horses and horsemen, all of them splendidly attired, a great company with buckler and shield, all of them wielding swords;

5       Persia, Cush and Put with them, all of them with shield and helmet;

6       Gomer with all its troops; Beth-togarmah from the remote parts of the north with all its troops — many peoples with you.


Verse 5 & 6 give us the final 5 names of those having part in this invasion of Israel.




The first name is probably the easiest to identify.  The nation of Persia existed until March 1935, when its name was changed to Iran.  In 1979, with the Ayatollah Khomeini and the overthrow of the Shah, its name changed again to The Islamic Republic of Iran.


Let me quote from a prophecy book that was written back in the 1930s.  I found its comments very interesting.


“There must be a shifting of the international scene and a realignment of nations in order for Bible prophecy to be fulfilled.  This is a most troublesome issue for those of us who take the Bible literally.  For instance, Togarmah, which is traced to Turkey, is bound to France and Great Britain.  Persia is tied to Great Britain by mutual interest and treaties, and it’s hard to imagine that Persia could ever be tied to the Soviet Union.”


70 years later, it’s all changed.  Iran used to be a friend of the United States – no longer.  Anyone following the news headlines of the last few years are aware of the cozy relationship that has come to exist between Iran and Russia.  Russia has been a willing supplier of all the equipment necessary for nuclear development.  Iran has ordered billions of dollars worth of support for developing their nuclear reactors.  It is clear that Iran aspires to control the entire middle east


Regardless of how future events unfold, there is no doubt that Russia and Iran are developing a relationship that could easily become what is described in Ezekiel 38 & 39.


Since 1979, Iran has been one of the world greatest troublemakers.  The Iranians are 80% Shiite Muslims (as opposed to the Sunni branch of Islam) and the Shiites are the most radical branch of Islam in the world today.  If you believe Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran, they would jump at a chance to invade and annihilate Israel.  Iran is probably the strongest ally of Russia in this invasion into Israel.  There is no doubt about this part of the scenario as depicted in Ezekiel 38 & 39.                               




There are two North African nations mentioned in Ezekiel’s list.  The first is Cush.  This name is found 30 times in the Hebrew Old Testament.


Ancient Cush was called Kusu by the Assyrians and Babylonians,


         •  Kos or Kas by the Egyptians,


         •  and Nubia by the Greeks.


Some Bible translations, like the KJV, NKJV, NAS, translate this country as Ethiopia.  Most, however, do not translate it, leaving it as Cush.  The ancient nation of Cush in Ezekiel’s day was the nation directly south of Egypt on the Nile River.  Today, the nation that occupies that land is Sudan.  The Nile River does not go through any part of Ethiopia.  One Encyclopedia defines Cush or Nubia as Northern Sudan and southern Egypt.


Following a successful military coup-d'état in 1989, Sudan became a militant Islamic nation.  Sudan supported Iraq during the first Gulf War, and gave refuge to Osama bin Laden from 1991 to 1996.


The nations are coming together just as Ezekiel prophesied 2600 years ago.  Ezekiel places Persia and Cush next to each other in verse 5, as allies together with many other nations in this invasion into Israel.  This is incredible because Iran and Sudan today have a very close relationship.


Northern Sudan is Iran’s best Islamic ally.  Iran has supplied Sudan in the past with much military supplies, oil, and military training.  Sudan, in return, gives Iran docking rights at Port Sudan on Red Sea shipping routes.  This unholy alliance is being fulfilled right before our eyes.


Something has just recently happened in Sudan during our time of study of Ezekiel 38 & 39.  A voting took place in Sudan, beginning January 9, ending January 15, 2011.  The vote was by southern Sudanese citizens on whether to secede from North Sudan.  This divides the largest country in Africa in two.


Northern Sudan is militantly Islamic, while the new Southern Sudan is primarily Christian.  On February 7, 2011, the Islamic President of the north, Omer Hassan al-Bashir accepted the final vote of the southern referendum (98% YES vote).


After the vote was made final, the Christians in the south are rejoicing and are pointing to Isaiah 18.  They believe that the prophecies mentioned in this chapter are ready to be fulfilled.


Isaiah 18:1-2 NIV


1       Woe to the land of whirring wings  along the rivers of Cush,

2       which sends envoys by sea in papyrus boats over the water. Go, swift messengers, to a people tall and smooth-skinned, to a people feared far and wide, an aggressive nation of strange speech, whose land is divided by rivers.


This is a pronouncement of judgment of Cush.  It is a short chapter that seems to indicate the judgment coming to some of the people of Cush, which will be followed by the rest of the people bringing gifts to Zion.  Could God have a plan for the over-comers in Southern Sudan?  Will He bless them as a new nation?  The Christians of Southern Sudan believe so.  They believe Bible prophecy is coming to pass right before their eyes.




The next ally of Gog mentioned in Ezekiel 38 is called Put or Phut.  Like Cush, Put was a son of Ham, Noah’s second son (Genesis 10:6; 1 Chronicles 1:8).  The name PUT occurs in the Old Testament six times outside Ezekiel 38.


The most commonly accepted placement of Put is modern Libya.  In ancient times, it was the land just west of Egypt.  The ancient Babylonian Chronicles inscription records that Nebuchadnezzar did battle with Egypt in his 37th year and penetrated as far as Puta.  The direction Nebuchadnezzar’s penetration would have been from the east of Egypt, so this would suggest that Puta was the western neighbor of Egypt, or modern Libya.  The Septuagint, which is a Greek translation of the Old Testament, renders the word PUT as Libues.


Ever since the rise of Colonel Mu’ammar al-Gadhafi to power in 1969, the nation of Libya has been a constant source of trouble for Israel and the West.  I believe Libya would jump at the chance to join forces with Russia, Sudan, Iran, Turkey and others.




Gomer is the first son of Japheth, the son of Noah.  We have already looked at three of Gomer's brothers - Magog, Meshech, and Tubal.  Outside the references in Ezekiel, the only biblical references to Gomer are in Genealogies.  That would be Genesis 10:2 & 3 and 1 Chronicles 1:5.  There is, however, one use of the name Gomer that has nothing to do with descendants of Noah's grandson.  Hosea's promiscuous wife was named Gomer.


The view that some prophecy students have held is that the descendants of Gomer eventually made their way to Europe.  This view held that they migrated primarily to Germany and eastern Europe.  Reference was made in the Jewish Talmud where Gomer is stated to be the Germani people.  Similarity of the sound of names were cause to associate the Germani with German.


Providing additional reasoning to this thought was the fact that Eastern Germany was allied with the Soviet Union.  Some went as far as to extend it to all of Eastern Europe and the Warsaw Pact nations.  But when the Soviet Union fell apart and the Iron Curtain was ripped in many pieces, the view that Gomer is Eastern Europe has been ripped in half.


This is another clear example of why students of Bible prophecy should not interpret Scripture in light of current events.  Rather, we should interpret current events in light of the Bible.  God's Word is sensational enough by itself and doesn't need our help.  We are, however, called to understand the times in which we live, and carefully discern God's prophetic program.


This brings us back to properly identifying the people of Gomer.  Ancient history clearly identifies biblical Gomer with the Akkadian Gi-mir-ra-a and the Armenian Gamir.  The Cambridge Ancient History states that the Assyrian Gimirrai is the Hebrew Gomer.  Another name that is a common descriptor of Gomer is the people know as Cimmerians.  This is a name derived from the Greek word Kimmerioi.  The Cimmerians, whose name appears in Homer's Odyssey, at one time occupied the southern Russian steppe along the north shore of the Black Sea.  In the eighth century B.C., the Scythians (Magog) invaded this territory north of the Black Sea, and forced the Cimmerians out of southern Russia.  They fled to the south, crossed the Caucasus Mountains and poured into the area of eastern Anatolia (modern Turkey).  In the following century, the Cimmerians were pushed westward by the Assyrians.


Josephus identified the people of Galatia with Gomer.  He says that the people the Greeks called the Galatians were the Gomerites.  Galatia was still in existence during the ministry of the apostle Paul.  The province of Galatia is in the west-central part of present-day Turkey.




Most Bible versions translate the word “beth.”  The NIV and NAS versions leave it as part of the proper name.  The word “Beth” means “House,” and most translations render this verse to say “house of Togarmah.”


I really can understand why they might want to leave it as part of the name.  We have other biblical names where “Beth” is part of the name, names like Bethlehem, Bethel, Bethsaida.


                   Bethsaida means:            House of Fish


                   Bethel means:                  House of God


                   Bethlehem means:         House of Bread


The name Togarmah appears in the Old Testament only three times outside Ezekiel 38.  According to Genesis 10:3, Togarmah was the third son of Gomer – or a great-grandson of Noah.  Both references in Ezekiel are to Beth-togarmah rather than just Togarmah.


The only biblical passage that gives us some information about Togarmah is Ezekiel 27:14.  In that verse, we find that Beth-togarmah traded with ancient Tyre in work horses, war horses and mules.  Togarmah's claim to fame was their horse trading.  This tells us something of what the people of Togarmah did.


Herodotus, the 5th century B.C, historian mentions Togarmah as famed for its horses and mules.

Mark Hitchcock writes: "Most Bible scholars and scholars of ancient history relate biblical Togarmah to the ancient Hittite city of Tegarma."  Tegarma was an important city in eastern Cappadocia (modern Turkey). Hitchcock traces the migration of Togarmah as follows:


"Togarmah was both the name of a district and a city in the border of Tubal in eastern Cappadocia.  Togarmah was known variously in history as Tegarma, Tagarma, and Takarama.  The ancient Assyrians referred to this city as Til-garimmu.  One of the maps of the Cambridge Ancient History locates Til-garimmu on the northeast border of Tubal in the northeast part of modern Turkey."


Gesenius, the Hebrew scholar, identified Togarmah as a northern nation abounding in horses and mules, located in ancient Armenia.  The ancient area of Armenia is located in the eastern modern nation of Turkey.


While scholars have differed slightly on the exact location of Ancient Togarmah, it is always associated with a city or district within the boundaries of the modern nation of Turkey.


Ezekiel 38:6 identifies Togarmah as coming "from the far north with all its troops."  Note that it says "far north."  The NAS translates it as "remote parts of the north"  The New Living Translation renders it:  "the distant north."  The RSV is: "the uttermost parts of the north."  Each of these are translated from two Hebrew words.


These same two Hebrew words are used in Ezekiel 38:15, which speaks of Gog, the leader of this group, as also being from the remote north.  The same Hebrew phrase is used again of Gog in Ezekiel 39:2.  This has led some writers of prophecy to use this phrase to identify Gog as being from Russia, because you cannot go any farther north from Israel than Russia.  Does that mean that Togarmah must be part of Russia, since the same Hebrew phrase is used?  This is where we need to be careful.  All historians locate Togarmah in eastern modern Turkey.  There is no question about that.  So, what are we to make of the phrase speaking of the "remote north."


The phrase represented by these two Hebrew words are found five times in the Old Testament.  We have already noticed that 3 are found in Ezekiel 38 & 39.  So, do we gather any additional information from the remaining two?  Those two are Isaiah 14:13 and Psalm 48:2.


Let's take a look at the Isaiah passage first - which addresses the subject of the fall of Lucifer (Satan).


Isaiah 14:12-13 NKJV


12     "How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, You who weakened the nations!

13     For you have said in your heart: 'I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north;


The last phrase of verse 13 is where the two word phrase occurs.  This is one of the five "I will's" uttered by Lucifer in his revolt against God.  This verse doesn't seem to add information that is useful in locating Togarmah or Gog, unless you believe that God's Heaven is located at the far north of the universe.


Now let's take a look at Psalm 48:2.  This verse is part of a song we use to sing - Great is the Lord.


Psalms 48:1-2 NKJV


1       Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in His holy mountain.

2       Beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth, is Mount Zion on the sides of the north, the city of the great King.


The NAS renders part of verse 2 as: " Mount Zion in the far north."  Mount Zion certainly isn't far north from Israel.  But Jerusalem was located at the northern extremity of Mount Zion.  I think this certainly helps us to be careful in what we take as "remote north" of Israel.


While I do believe that Russia is what is designated by the Hebrew word, ROSH, in Ezekiel 38:2, it is not necessary to use the phrase "remote north" as proof of such identity.  Neither does it mean that we locate Togarmah in Russia.  Although Togarmah is not as far north as Rosh, it was indeed a great distance in ancient times.  The words do not necessarily imply the extreme north geographical region.


We have completed our identification of God’s “10-most-wanted” list.  But when you look at our map, all of them are some distance from Israel.  None of them border Israel.  Those that border on Israel – Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon are not mentioned.  Neither is Iraq or Saudi Arabia are among the nations invading Israel.


Let's Talk Turkey


Let's talk about the modern nation of Turkey.  Changes are taking place at a rapid rate in this country.  Four of the ten names we have address find their location in the modern nation of Turkey.  That would be Meshech, Tubal, Gomer and Beth-Togarmah.  For the last 77 years of the 20th century, Turkey was a pro-western government.  Although they have been a 99% Sunni Muslim country, their government was more democratic.  And their economy was primarily driven by free markets.


In 1952, Turkey became a member of NATO.  In 1964, they became an associate member of what would later be called the European Union (EU).  In 2005, Turkey applied for full membership into the EU.  During the Gulf wars, Turkey sided with the West against Iraq.  They were considered a very important link in those wars.


It is believed that one of the reasons thus far why Turkey has not been admitted to full membership in the European Union is that there is freedom of movement by people among the E.U., and there is a fear that Turkey will be a conduit for millions of Muslims to flood all European nations.  But, the fact of the matter is that this is already happening without Turkey having EU membership.


Over the past few years, I have been seeing movements within the government of Turkey.  There has been a growth in government towards a Muslim majority in their parliament.  Also, with the breakup of the former USSR in the early 1990s, there was a shift in attention given to the former southern republic that were now free.


Earlier, we identified that Magog is made up primarily of five former USSR republics.  That would be Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan.  Not one of these republics are Arabic - but all of them are Muslim.


While Turkey has been drawn to these former Soviet republics for economic reasons, they also share a linguistic tie.  All of these nations speak Turkic languages except for Tajikistan, which has a language similar to the Iranian Farsi.


In the last couple of years, Turkey has taken a stronger stance against the nation of Israel.  They are now beginning to turn from the West.  They have entered into a summit with Russia, and they have tried to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza.  And the Arab world has lauded their new-found zealotry.


Following the flotilla that tried to break the Israeli Gaza embargo on May 31, 2010, The Rabbinical Council of Judea and Samaria issued a statement saying the aftermath seemed to "place us at the beginning of the Gog and Magog process where the world is against us..." (statement made on 6/22/2010)


The current Prime Minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has begun courting the likes of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and the Russian Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin.


On January 19, 2011, Joel Rosenberg wrote:


"Historically, the nations of Turkey and Iran have not been close.  Iranians, by and large, are ethnically Persian and religiously Shia Muslims.  Turks are neither ethnically Persian nor Arab, and religiously they are generally Sunni Muslims, who see the world dramatically different than do Shias."


"Yet now, despite millennia of deep differences, Iran and Turkey are becoming more than friends.  They appear to be becoming strategic allies.  And they are becoming allies at the same time that they are forming strategic alliances with Russia, and just as they are growing increasingly hostile and threatening towards Israel."


The players identified in Ezekiel 38 & 39 are quickly falling into place exactly as the Bible predicted some 2,600 years ago.