We are living in prophetic times. For close to 2,000 years, prophecies predicting the return of the Jewish people to the land of Israel were but a dream. But in 1948, the Jewish homeland in the land of Israel was re-established. Israel has a thriving economy, and Jews from all four corners of the earth have returned to the land, fulfilling biblical prophecies of the return of the exiles.
War of Gog and Magog
The prophetic war of Gog and Magog, described in Ezekiel 38-39, has captivated the imaginations of many over the centuries. This biblically foretold battle envisions Gog from the land of Magog and a coalition of nations, rising against Israel at a time when the Jewish people have returned from exile and are living in their land in peace and security (Ezekiel 38:8). It predicts an immense battle that will culminate in God’s victory over the forces of Gog, followed by a worldwide acceptance of God’s supreme authority (Ezekiel 38:23). It ends with a divine promise that God will never again hide His face from Israel and, instead, will pour His holy spirit upon His chosen nation (Ezekiel 39:29).
The war of Gog and Magog has come to be understood as essential to the Jewish vision of the end of days, a final battle between good and evil that will usher in a period of eternal peace. As Maimonides writes, “The simple interpretation of the prophets’ words appear to imply that the war of Gog and Magog will take place at the beginning of the Messianic age.”
War against Hamas
Is the current war between Israel and Hamas a fulfillment of biblical prophecy as well? Is it the biblically predicted war of God and Magog?
The unprovoked barbaric assault by Hamas on October 7 mirrors the initial stages of the war of Gog and Magog described in Ezekiel: an attack on Israel at a time when she has returned from exile and is settled peacefully in her homeland.
Ezekiel’s vision is of an enemy who invades Israel out of sheer malice, seeing Israel’s prosperity as a provocation. God assures the destruction of these aggressors, leading to the sanctification of His name throughout the world. Similarly, Hamas’ attack was provoked simply by Israel’s existence; they can not bear to see Israel prosper. They are willing to risk everything to see her fall, despite Israel’s desire for peace. Israel is fighting a battle of good versus evil, and, as God promises in the Bible, He will not allow for Israel’s destruction.
Furthermore, Iran’s support for Hamas brings to mind biblical Persia’s alliance with Gog (Ezekiel 38:5), although some of the other nations specified in the prophecy do not seem to be playing a role in the current conflict, such as Kush (Ethiopia) and Togarman (according to some, Germany). Moreover, the sages say that the war of Gog and Magog will begin in the Hebrew month of Tishrei, specifically the last day of the holiday of Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) known as Hoshana Rabbah. The current war began on the following day.
Is the current war with Hamas the war of Gog and Magog? We can not say for sure. It certainly has echoes of the biblical narrative, though it does not fit the biblical description in all of its detail. But while it might not precisely match every detail of the physical battle fought in the prophecy in Ezekiel, it does bring into focus how the spiritual battle of Gog and Magog can be fought in the present day.
Spiritual war of Gog and Magog
Not only is the war of Gog and Magog supposed to begin on Sukkot, but we read the chapters in Ezekiel describing the war of Gog and Magog every year on the holiday. Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch explains the connection between the festival of Sukkot and the war of Gog and Magog. The name Gog is related to the Hebrew word gag, meaning roof. Gog represents the ‘roof’ — a symbol of man’s false sense of independence from God. In contrast, the sukkah, the temporary dwelling lived in on the holiday of Sukkot, symbolizes our dependence on God. We leave our sturdy homes and dwell in flimsy huts to remember that God is the one who protects us. He runs the world and we are dependent on Him. Thus, Gog symbolizes the rejection of divine authority, while the Jewish observance represents the acknowledgment of divine dependence—this is the spiritual struggle underpinning the physical battle of Gog and Magog, and this is why the victory over Gog will be followed by a universal recognition of the God of Israel.
What can we do?
The sages teach us that the Messiah will appear either at a predetermined time, or sooner if merited. Consequently, the physical war of Gog and Magog is not the only scenario for the arrival of the Messianic. If we do things right, we won’t need the war of Gog and Magog, and the devastation that comes with it, at all. But the spiritual battle must be fought for the Messiah to come.
What can we do?
As we explained, the arrival of the Messianic era will follow the victory of those who recognize God’s sovereignty in this world over those who deny it. Therefore, we can speed up the coming of the Messiah, and potentially avoid the terrible events of Gog and Magog, by standing against those who reject God and supporting those who believe in Him. If we are successful at making God’s sovereignty known in the world and winning the spiritual war of Gog and Magog, we might even be able to avert the devastation of the war of Gog and Magog predicted by the prophets by making the physical battle unnecessary.
The current conflict, with its echoes of the biblical narrative, invites both reflection and action. While it might not correspond exactly with Ezekiel’s vision, it certainly illustrates how the battle of Gog and Magog can manifest in today’s world. And it reminds us that by supporting Israel, standing up and speaking out against evil and promoting recognition of God, we can help win the battle and pave the way toward peace and the Messianic era.
Only time will tell if the current Israel-Hamas war is the biblical war of Gog and Magog. In the meantime, it is our job to make sure we are on the right side of the conflict, and do what we can to ensure that this will be the final war fought before the Messiah arrives.