In the Torah, just the name Māgōg ( מָגוֹג ) is mentioned in the Book of Genesis, which is the first book of the Torah (the Pentateuch) and the first of the books of Tanakh. It mentions “The sons of Japheth: Gomer, and Magog, and Madai, and Javan, and Tubal, and Mechech, and Tiras” [Genesis 10:2] This is all that is mentioned in the books revealed to Moses. 


THE NAME MĀGŌG is also mentioned in 1 Chronicles 1:5: The sons of Japheth: Gomer, and Magog, and Madai, and Javan, and Tubal, and Mechech, and Tiras. The first and second books of Chronicles in the Hebrew original are a single volume and Jewish tradition holds that their author was Ezra writing during the Babylonian captivity. The work contains a summary of sacred history from the Creation to the Return from the Babylonian captivity in 536 BC. It was placed at the end of the Torah to serve as a summary of sacred history.

Both of the names Gog and Magog are mentioned in Ezekiel 38 and 39, and the book is classified as one of the historical books or ancient prophecies, that is, those completed at an early stage and at a time close to the rule of the judges. The Tanakh is made up of the Torah (the five books of Moses), the Prophets (Nevi’im) and the Writings (Ketuvim). Ezekiel, one of the Hebrew prophets, lived in Jerusalem and was deported by Nebuchadnezzar II to Babylon at the beginning of the sixth century B.C. In Ezekiel 38-39 we have the following text:

“Son of man, set your face against Gog of the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal. Prophesy against him and declare that this is what the Lord GOD says: Behold, I am against you, O Gog, chief prince of Meshech and Tubal …

Therefore prophesy, son of man, and tell Gog that this is what the Lord GOD says: On that day when My people Israel are dwelling securely, will you not take notice of this? And you will come from your place out of the far north—you and many peoples with you, all riding horses—a mighty horde, a huge army.  You will advance against My people Israel like a cloud covering the land. It will happen in the latter days, O Gog, that I will bring you against My land, so that the nations may know Me when I show Myself holy in you before their eyes.

This is what the Lord GOD says: Are you the one of whom I have spoken in former days through My servants, the prophets of Israel, who in those times prophesied for years that I would bring you against them?  Now on that day when Gog comes against the land of Israel, declares the Lord GOD, My wrath will flare up.

In My zeal and fiery rage I proclaim that on that day there will be a great earthquake in the land of Israel. The fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the beasts of the field, every creature that crawls upon the ground, and all mankind on the face of the earth will tremble at My presence. The mountains will be thrown down, the cliffs will collapse, and every wall will fall to the ground.

And I will summon a sword against Gog on all My mountains, declares the Lord GOD, and every man’s sword will be against his brother. I will execute judgment upon him with plague and bloodshed. I will pour out torrents of rain, hailstones, fire, and sulfur on him and on his troops and on the many nations with him.  I will magnify and sanctify Myself, and will reveal Myself in the sight of many nations. Then they will know that I am the LORD.

“As for you, O son of man, prophesy against Gog and declare that this is what the Lord GOD says: Behold, I am against you, O Gog, chief prince of Meshech and Tubal. I will turn you around, drive you along, bring you up from the far north, and send you against the mountains of Israel. Then I will strike the bow from your left hand and dash down the arrows from your right hand.

On the mountains of Israel you will fall—you and all your troops and the nations with you. I will give you as food to every kind of ravenous bird and wild beast.  You will fall in the open field, for I have spoken, declares the Lord GOD. I will send fire on Magog and on those who dwell securely in the coastlands, and they will know that I am the LORD. So I will make My holy name known among My people Israel and will no longer allow it to be profaned. Then the nations will know that I am the LORD, the Holy One in Israel. Yes, it is coming, and it will surely happen, declares the Lord GOD. This is the day of which I have spoken.

Then those who dwell in the cities of Israel will go out, kindle fires, and burn up the weapons—the bucklers and shields, the bows and arrows, the clubs and spears. For seven years they will use them for fuel. They will not gather wood from the countryside or cut it from the forests, for they will use the weapons for fuel. They will loot those who looted them and plunder those who plundered them, declares the Lord GOD.

And on that day I will give Gog a burial place in Israel, the Valley of the Travelers, east of the Sea. It will block those who travel through, because Gog and all his hordes will be buried there. So it will be called the Valley of Hamon-gog. For seven months the house of Israel will be burying them in order to cleanse the land.  All the people of the land will bury them, and it will bring them renown on the day I display My glory, declares the Lord GOD.

And men will be employed to continually pass through the land to cleanse it by burying the invaders who remain on the ground. At the end of the seven months they will begin their search. As they pass through the land, anyone who sees a human bone will set up a pillar next to it, until the gravediggers have buried it in the Valley of Hamon-gog. (Even the city will be named Hamonah.) And so they will cleanse the land.

Ezekiel associated the name Gog with the land of Māgōg with Mechech, and Tubal and the sons of Japheth, and with Gomer and the House of Togarmah[1], Meshech and Tubal are known from Assyrian and later texts as kingdoms in central Anatolia (Mechech and Phrygia), which is now Turkey, and it is agreed that Gomer refers to the Sumerians, a tribe that swept over a large part of the region in the seventh century BC.

In the New Testament, the name Gog and Magog is mentioned in the Book of Revelation of John composed on the island of Patmos around the year 95 AD. This was towards the end of the reign of Domitian, who had exiled a number of Christians to distant provinces. The text in Revelation 20, 7-10 runs as follows:

When the thousand years are complete, Satan will be released from his prison, and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth—Gog and Magog—to assemble them for battle. Their number is like the sand of the seashore.

And they marched across the broad expanse of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. But fire came down from heaven and consumed them. And the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur, into which the beast and the false prophet had already been thrown. There they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

The myth of Gog and Magog was mentioned in a work known as The Alexander Romance dating back to the third century AD by an unknown writer who claimed to be the historian Alexander Callisthenes, and thus known as Pseudo-Callisthenes. The original version of The Alexander Romance was written in Greek in Alexandria, Egypt, and translations of this work emerged from the fourth to sixth centuries AD. It is found in various forms and in many languages, reaching a total of over 80 versions.

The story of Gog and Magog was also contained in a poem known as Nashānā a poem about ‘the pious king Alexander the Great and the gate he built against Gog and Magog’. It has been attributed to Jacob of Serugh and mentions that Dhūl-Qarnayn is Alexander of Macedon. This work appeared in the same period as the revelation of Sūrat al-Kahf, so it cannot be said that it is the source of that sūra.

The mention of Yājūj and Mājūj in Sūrat al-Kahf provided a window through which the narrators of the Isrā’īliyyāt slipped in their legends to slander God and be taken up by the likes of Abū Hurayra and his ilk, who naively believed these superstitions and competed in spreading them. Following him came Aḥmad, al-Bukhārī and Muslim who transmitted those hadiths with ostensibly sound chains of transmission.

The hadiths that feature these legends were narrated from Qatāda ibn Da‘āma, a famous forger. In his work Al-Madkhal ilā Kitāb al-Iklīl (p.46), Imam al-Ḥākim al-Nīsābūrī (d. 405) said the following on the ruling related to forgers:

As for Qatāda ibn Da‘āma, the imam of the people of Basra, if he said: ‘Anas said’ or ‘al-Ḥasan said’, he is famous for forging things about them. Concerning Anas ibn Mālik he said: “Anas became  Muslim in Medina while a young man. Now Sūrat al-Kahf is a Makkan sūra and he became confused towards the end of his life, for which reason Abū Ḥanīfa did not accept his hadiths”. On the authority of Abū Sa‘īd al-Khudrī, Lady ‘Ā’isha is to have said, “Abū Sa‘īd and Anas did not know about the hadiths of the Messenger of Allah, since they were two little boys”.[2] This hadith was also narrated from ‘Imrān ibn Ḥusayn, from Ibn ‘Abbās, from Zaynab bint Jaḥsh and Abū Hurayra, who is known for his fraudulence. In the History of Isfahan by Abū Na‘īm (2/144) citing Aḥmad ibn Yaḥyā ibn Ḥamza, Muḥammad ibn Abān al-‘Anbarī, we have the account that runs: ‘Amr ibn Qays al-Makkī told me, from al-Zuhrī, from ‘Urwa, from Ā’isha, that his train of hadith transmission is obscure and reprehensible: Aḥmad ibn Yaḥyā is an unknown, and Muḥammad ibn Abān, according to al-Dhahabī’s Tārīkh al-Islām is a denier of hadith. ‘Amr ibn Qays is particularly weak.

From the foregoing, we find that everything they wrote comes from the writings of Jewish by Hebrew scribes during their Babylonian captivity. They took most of their stories from the legends circulating at that period, and falsely attributed them to the Prophet so as to control the minds of those they deceived.

[1] Beth Togarmah ( בֵּית תּוֹגַרְמָה ) ‘in the uttermost parts of the north’ (Ezekiel 38, 6), thought to represent some peoples in southeastern Anatolia, due to its resemblance to the Hittite name Tegarama (Assyrian Til Garimmu) (Ed.)

[2] See المعجم الكبير, vol. 1, p. 249.

Main image: the Fortifications of Derbent, often held to be the site of ‘the Caspian Gates’ built by Dhūl-Qarnayn (Alexander the Great).

Read Part One of this essay here