Scholars say Daniel and Ezekiel Prophecies Do Not Refer to Russia

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Scholars say that the Cold War is responsible for the idea that Daniel’s King of the North and Ezekiel’s Gog and Magog refer to Russia, but scholars say this is false and a place known as Rosh never existed in the ancient world.

Russia, Rosh and King of the North in Daniel and Ezekiel

Anyone who has heard sermons and discussions on the prophecies of Ezekiel 3839 in Daniel 11:40-45 has probably been told that the Army from the north that will attack Israel near the end times will be from Russia.

Two scholars have laid out the case that the King of the North is not Russia.

The first is Paul Tanner, a professor of Hebrew and Old Testament studies at East Asia school of theology, and a paper titled: “Daniel’s King of the North: Do we owe Russia an apology?

The second scholar is Dr. Michael Heiser, a theologian and expert in ancient languages, who speaks on the topic in a YouTube video entitled “Is Gog and Magog Russia?,” as well as the Naked Bible podcast 152 on Ezekiel 38-39 part 1.

We strongly encourage you to visit the above links for a much more in-depth discussion of the subject, as we will only give an overview and the bullet points here.

Both scholars agree there is no explicit mention of Russia in the New Testament.

King of the North not Russia

Scholars aren’t arguing against the Bible’s prophecy of a northern army attacking Israel in the latter days. They are arguing that the nation leading the charge isn’t Russia.

Tanner points out that Daniel 11:36 does not refer to a “King of the North,” but simply ‘the King.’ “And the king shall do according to his will…” Normally, in chapter 11, it adds the qualifier North or South, but does not do so in this verse.

Further, Tanner says there is a consensus among conservative scholars that “the King” in Daniel 11:36-39 refers to the Antichrist, but divergence on the interpretation of Daniel 11:40-45.

The two-King vs. three-King theory

“And at the time of the end shall the king of the south push at him: and the king of the north shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, and with horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter into the countries, and shall overflow and pass over.”

– Daniel 11:40

Scholars also adhere to the idea that these verses could be discussing two kings (North, South) or three kings (North, South, Antichrist).

3 King theory: “him” = Antichrist

2 King theory: “King of the North” = Antichrist

Conclusion:

Tanner concludes: “I would like to submit that the ‘king of the North’ is a confederation of northern Arab nations that will attack the Antichrist and his forces in this military conflict centered in the Middle East.

“If the King of the South is Egypt and possibly other neighboring countries of North Africa, then Daniel 11:40 may be of prophecy of a combined Arab assault against the forces of the Antichrist with Israel caught in the middle as in the days of the Ptolemies and Seleucids.”

Rosh does not equal Russia

Dr. Heiser argues that Rosh in Ezekiel does not refer to Russia, that this is a mistranslation in some Bible translations, and that a place known as Rosh never existed in the ancient world.

Compare the following two translations:

“And say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against thee, O Gog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal:”

– Ezekiel 38:3 (King James version)

“And say, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, I am against you, O Gog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal.”

– Ezekiel 38:3 (New King James version, NASB 1995/1997).

A mention of Rosh is also found in the American Standard version, Brenton Septuagint translation (as Rhos), literal standard version, New heart English Bible, World English Bible, and Young’s literal translation, among others.

“No one in the ancient world knew of a place named Rosh,” Heiser says. He said the Russian idea became popular in the 1970s as part of the Cold War era.

He further argues that Rosh would have no meaning to the ancient Hebrew audience for which these Old Testament books were written. It would have been utterly meaningless to them, Heiser says.

“The name Rus was first brought to the region of the Kiev (that’s right around the Black Sea there) by the Vikings in the Middle Ages,” Heiser notes.