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The Last Days Duncan Heaster  
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DIGRESSION 1: The Identity Of Rosh

I am aware that there are many reasons for thinking that rosh in Ez. 38:2 should be merely translated “chief”. Basically, Ez. 38:3,4 has to be read one of two ways. Either it speaks of “Gog, chief prince of Meshech and Tubal”- or, it speaks of four entities: “Gog, Rosh, Meshech and Tubal”. The issue is really resolved for us by considering a simple piece of grammar. ‘Thee’ in the KJV refers to ‘you singular’. And so clearly one, and not four, is being addressed here: “I am against thee O Gog, chief prince of Meshech… I will turn thee back, and put hooks into thy jaws”. It is a singular person or power being referred to, not a plural. However, I would like to make a few comments about another possibility for locating rosh- assuming for the moment that it is indeed to be read as an actual place name. The observation that rosh and ‘Russia’ sound similar, so therefore they are the same place, is to my mind altogether too primitive a way to interpret Scripture. In any case, modern ‘Russia’ is far bigger than any such single area could have been in Ezekiel’s time. The translators of the Septuagint must have known the place, because they transliterated the word as a place name. So, there was a rosh known at least a few hundred years before Christ. And clearly enough, it wasn’t Russia as we now know that country. For ‘Rus land’ or ‘Russia’ wasn’t even spoken of until at least 1500 years after Ezekiel. Ezekiel’s primary audience must surely have known where rosh was; for all the other areas named by him were contemporary nations.

The following two quotations sum up the view of many commentators:

“It is a reflection on evangelical scholarship when some of its spokesmen continue to adhere to the groundless identification of rosh as Russia , and the association of Meshech with Moscow and of Tubal with Tobolsk, when we have had cuneiform texts and discussions of them that provided the true clarification of these names since the end of the 19th century”(1).

“Gesenius suggested Russia , but this name is not attested in the area, and a very distant people named thus early is unlikely in the context. Most follow Delitzsch in identifying Rosh with Assyria, Rasűu on the NW border of Elam (i.e. in Media)”(2).

Even if we insist on reading rosh as a proper noun, it's rather a big jump to make 'Russia' equal 'rosh'. 'Russia' derives from the word Rus, not rosh. And it was the Vikings who introduced the word rus to describe the area around Kiev, Ukraine [not Russia] in the Middle Ages (3). Meshech and Tubal likewise have been identified as areas of Eastern Turkey / Kurdistan (4)- to apply these terms to Moscow and Tobolsk is sheer guesswork. There are records of the Assyrian kings receiving tribute from the Mushki, whose capital was at Mazaca (modern Kayseri) in Eastern Turkey; and of the Assyrians attacking Tabal / Tubal in the Taurus mountains (5). The same sources speak of Sargon II making a treaty with the city of Til-garimmu, the Togarmah of Ez. 38:6 (6).

The Bible is written from the perspective of the land promised to Abraham. An invader from the “sides / boundaries of the north” (Ez. 38:6,15) would correspond to someone who appears from the northern boundaries of that land- i.e. around the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Jer. 6:22; 50:41 and many other passages clearly identify the invader “from the north” as Babylon. Gog’s “place” is from here- perhaps implying that this charismatic leader of latter day rosh will have been born in this area. It is awesome to discover that Saddam Hussein was born in Tigrik- exactly in this area! And further, to discover that this is the very area where it is known that chemical and nuclear weapons are being developed with which to destroy Israel . But in addition to this plain Biblical idenitification, there are other reasons for seeing rosh as being located in the Tigris / Euphrates area, in modern day Iran and Iraq (and therefore not in Russia).

Within the Semitic languages, the same basic word can be repeated in slightly different forms- the word passes through what are called  phonetic shifts. A well known example would be how the Hebrew word shalom becomes the Arabic salaam. When the phonetic shifts and  differences in pronunciation are taken into account, one can find the name Rosh (or its phonetic equivalents) many times in the various ancient documents. It’s rather like how the Latin term Caesar is spelled as “Kaiser” in German, “Cesar” in French, “Kaisar” in Greek, and “Tzar” in Russian. But these are all variants on the same original Latin term.

Other Mentions Of Rosh

The word rosh is found in modern Arabic place names such as Ras Shamra, Ras Naqura, Ras el-Ain, etc. Further, the word is found as a component of many ancient personal names:  Râshi-ili, Ręsh-Adad king of Apishal, Ręsh-beli father of Tubalît-Bini, Ręsh-Dumuzi, Ręsh-Ea, Ręsh -ili son of Sulalum, Ręsh-Irra, Ręsh-Marduk son of Ipqu-Amurru, Ręsh-Nabium, Ręsh-Shamash, Ręsh-Shubula son of Ibn-Adad, Ręsh-Sin, and Ręsh-Zababa. The place name Rosh is found  ten times in Sargon’s inscriptions, once on Assurbanipal’s cylinder, once in Sennacherib’s annals, and five times on Ugaritic tablets.

Following are some samples.

(1) The Annals of Sargon (year 12, 11. 228–316): “Til-Hamba, Dunni-Shamshu, Bubę, Hamanu, strong cities in the land of Râshi, became frightened at the onset of my mighty battle(array) and entered Bît-Imbî.”

(2) Sargon’s Display Inscription: “In the might and power of the great gods, my lords, I cut down all my foes…the lands of Ellipî and Râshi which are on the Elamite border on the banks of the Tigris.”

(3) Sargon’s Display Inscription of Salon XIV: “In the might of Assur, Nabű and Mardu, the great gods, my lords, who sent forth my weapons, I cut down all my enemies…the lands of Râshi and Ellipi which are on the Elamite frontier, the Arameans who dwell on the banks of the Tigris….”

The land of Râshu is mentioned in Assurbanipal’s Texts on the Rassam cylinder, the eighth campaign against Elam (col. IV, 11. 63ff): “In my eighth campaign, at the command of Assur and Ishtar, I mustered my troops, (and) made straight for Ummanaldasi, king of Elam, Bît-Imbî, which I had captured in my former campaign,—this time I captured (together with) the land of Râshi, (and) the city of Manamu with its (surrounding) district.”

The land of Ręshu is mentioned in the annals of Sennacherib: “Afterward Sennacherib marched down to Elam and destroyed…(the country) from the land of Rishi as far as Bit-Burnaki”. There is even one cuneiform document from the reign of the Assyrian King Sargon II which actually names all three peoples [Rosh, Meshech, Tubal] mentioned by Ezekiel 38. Therefore these nations were known in Ezekiel’s time. Sargon II wrote: “I deported (the people) of the lands of Kashu, Tabalu, and Hilakku. I drove out Mite (Midas), king of the land of Muski … the lands of Rashi and Ellipi which are on the Elamite frontier…”.

These references to Rosh (Râshu/Ręshu) demonstrate that it was a well-known land on the banks of the Tigris River, bordering on Elam and Ellipi. George C. Cameron, a specialist in the history of early Iran, identified the land as “the Râshi tribe of Arameans, well known to the Assyrians from Sargon onward and located in the mountains east of Der, where was its capital, Bit Imbi”. Other of its prominent cities were Hamanu, Bube, Bit Bunakki, and Bit Arrabi.

All four  groups of people who lived in  northwest Mesopotamia (the Eblaites, Ugarites, Hittites, and Assyrians) mention a city called “Urshu/ Rish/ Urash” in the area of Aram-Naharaim.  It seems likely that the name of this city is directly connected to the Rosh mentioned in Ezekiel 38–39. Ancient texts from the city of Ebla mention a city named “Urshu.” The exact location of ancient Urshu is unknown. However, Ebla was a city located in northern Syria.

Tubal and Meshech are defined by Bochart in his Geographica Sacra as the Assyrian Tabali and Mushku, Assyrian tribes which existed at the time of Tiglath Pileser I. In passing, note that Bochart is quoted by John Thomas in order to support his assertion that ‘rosh = Russia’- but Bochart’s evidence on this point is disregarded. For Bochart clearly did not see the primitive equation of Meshech and Moscow, and Tubal and Tobolsk. It should be noted that the nations associated with Rosh in Ez. 38- Tarshish, Togarmah, Tubal, Meshesh etc.- all occur in the table of nations of Gen. 10.  Yet this list of nations comprise those inhabiting the land promised to Abraham (i.e. the area repopulated after the flood?). They were all nations known to Israel. Modern Russia clearly wasn’t in the picture.

Cushan King Of Rosh

In Judges 3:8–11 we read that  the  Israelites served “Cushan-Rishathaim” who was the “king of Aram-Naharaim.” I have demonstrated in The Last Days that these times of Arab domination of Israel followed by a Saviour rising to deliver them are all typical of the latter day deliverance of Israel by the arising of the Lord Jesus. Aram-Naharaim is a combination of the name of a people “Aram” [i.e. the Aramaeans] and thename of a place, “Naharaim.” Naharaim means “the land between the two rivers”- Tigris and Euphrates. The Hebrew word “Naharaim” is the exact equivalent of the Greek word “Mesopotamia,” which also translates as the “land between the two rivers.” “Aram-Naharaim,” therefore, means “Mesopotamia where the Aramaeans live.” The Aramaeans originally lived in northwestern Mesopotamia in an area that is today located in northern Syria and Iraq.

Judges 3:8–11 states that in the days of the Judge Othniel, the area of “Aram-Naharaim” was ruled by a king called “Cushan-Rishataim.”  Cushan is the actual name of this king. However, “Rishataim” is not the name of a person, but of a people. The “-im” ending on “Rishataim” is the Hebrew plural ending; in other words, the Hebrew ending “-im” is the same as the English plural ending “s.” The Hebrew word Rishataim, therefore, cannot be a part of King Cushan’s name. The Hebrew “-im” ending clearly indicates that the Rishataim were a people. The name “Cushan-Rishataim, therefore, translates into English as “Cushan of the Rishataim people”. The entire phrase “Cushan-Rishataim king of Aram-Naharaim” found in Judges 3:8 could be translated into English as “Cushan of the Rishataim people, king of Aramaean [northwest] Mesopotamia”. The  Rishataim people of Judges 3:8–11 are almost certainly the same as the Reshet, a variation on the rosh  of which we have spoken. Cushan then becomes a type of Gog, the latter day Israel-hating leader of rosh  spoken of in Ez. 38.

Collossal Conclusions

It can be no accident that the most committed and dangerous enemies of Israel are now Iran and Iraq, Biblical rosh. The pro-Jewish lobby in the USA is urging a major American war with these nations because of their avowed intentions to destroy Israel. They are funding and equipping the Palestinian Arabs and other front line enemies of the Jewish state. There is every evidence that Bible prophecy is coming to its climactic fulfilment in the invasion of Israel by rosh  under the charismatic leadership of the ‘Gog’ figure who will lead it, after the patterns of Sennacherib and Nebuchadnezzar of old. Any moment we could wake up to find that Iran / Iraq, Biblical rosh and the latter day Assyrian and Babylonian, perhaps lead by Saddam Hussein or a figure like him, whose “place” is from exactly this area, have invaded the land. Even if the invasion of Ez. 38 is to come after the Lord’s return, when Israel are dwelling in “peace and safety”. there is ample evidence that rosh, meshech and tubal  and their charismatic “Gog” leader are right now preparing for it. Which means that, with no sense of exaggeration, but in utter soberness and intellectual honesty, we can conclude: that the return of Jesus could truly be imminent. The evidence presented in this article is therefore no mere expositional and historical excursion. For grasping the reality of the fact that our Lord is truly about to return ought to have collosal impact upon our daily living and thinking and being.

(1) Edwin Yamauchi, ‘Meshech, Tubal and Company’, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, Vol. 19 No. 3, Summer 1976. 

(2)The New Bible Dictionary, entry ‘Rosh’.

(3) Magnus Magnusson, Viking Expansion Westwards (New York: Walck, 1974) p. 14; H.R.E. Davidson, The Viking Road To Byzantium (London: Allen & Unwin, 1976) pp. 58-61; Basil Dmytryshyn, A History Of Russia (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1977) pp. 37-41.

(4) Josephus, Antiquities Of The Jews 1.124; I.E.S.Edwards, ed., The Cambridge Ancient History (Cambridge: C.U.P., 1975 ed.) Vol. 2 Ch. 30 pp. 417-442.

(5) A.K. Grayson, Assyrian Royal Inscriptions (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1976) Vol. 2 p. 123.

(6) Grayson op cit pp. 80,81.

A Biblical Case For A Russian Invasion

Jeremiah and other prophets predicted a great invasion of Israel "from the north". These prophecies had some primary fulfillments which pointed forward to the final denouement of the latter days. Around the time of Jeremiah, the Scythians had marauded much of the Middle East, including Israel. Although this is barely recorded in Biblical history, it is a well attested historical fact. When Jeremiah spoke of an invasion from the North, and Ezekiel spoke of marauding bands of Scythian-related tribes attacking the land, everyone would've thought of the recent attacks by the Scythians. As John Skinner put it: "In these events, especially the Scythian incursion into Palestine, most historians have found the suggestion and background of Jeremiah's prophecies of the Foe from the North" (1). Significantly, "Jeremiah's ministry is stated to have begun at approximately the time to which Herodotus assigns the Scythian invasion" (2). It could be argued that Jeremiah and Ezekiel's prophecies of a northern invader had a primary fulfillment in the lives of the prophets in the Scythian invasion, which were then to be understood as a type of the latter day invasion "from the north". This would be in keeping with the Mosaic test of a true prophet- his predictions must come to pass, otherwise he is to be seen as a false prophet. It could therefore be the predictions of the Biblical prophets about a northern invasion had to have a short term fulfillment, which had relevance to their ultimate 'fullerfilment' in the events of our last days. Whilst the prophecies do have some application to the Babylonian invasion of Judah, we must recall that Ezekiel was prophesying after that event, as Israel sat by the rivers of Babylon; and Jeremiah's descriptions of the northern invasion have some elements which fit better with the Scythian incursions than the Babylonian capture of Jerusalem. Not least the sudden, unexpected nature of the attacks is better fitted by far to the Scythians than to the Babylonians. It could be that his prophecies had an immediate primary fulfillment in the Scythian invasions, and then another dim fulfillment in the Babylonian capture of Jerusalem, both of which primary fulfillments look forward to the final denouement in the latter days.

Who, then, were the Scythians? The question is important to understand because their invasions are a shadow of the latter day invasion of Israel. Much Soviet and Eastern European archeological research into the Scythians remains only in Russian and has never been released in English. If it had been, the Scythian invasions would perhaps have featured more prominently in the prophetic thinking of the Western brotherhood. Excavations of Scythian settlements throughout Russia and the Ukraine have yielded various objects which have also been found in the Middle Eastern areas which the Scythians invaded around the time of the Old Testament prophets. The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, the USSR's answer to the West's Encyclopedia Britannica (although much larger), has a wealth of information about these findings. Here are a few examples:

- The Scythians had a very specific style of bronze arrowhead. The Soviet archaeologist A.M. Leskov discovered many of these in sites around Kakhovka and Lubimovka in the Ukraine- incidentally, the location of thriving Christadelphian ecclesias today. The very same style of arrowhead was unearthed in Samaria, Lachish and Amman (Jordan).

- The same goes for Scythian horse bridles and iron axes.

- The Scythians had very specific and distinctive styles of burial. Being horsemen from the steppes of Ukraine and southern Russia, the forerunners of the Cossacks, their leaders were buried with many horses. Thus there was the mass slaughter of horses, which were then buried with the dead leader. Throughout the former Soviet Union, such burial mounds have been unearthed- from the southern Ukraine to the frozen Scythian tombs in Pazryk in the Altai mountains (in Siberia, central Russia) (3).

- The layout of Scythian burial chambers from the Ukraine through Russia and down to modern day Israel and Iran has been found to be identical (4).

The various studies also contain the observation that the Scythian remains in Russia and Ukraine include not only loot they had taken back with them from the Middle East (e.g. Persian carpets preserved in the frozen burial mounds of Scythian villages in Siberia), but also reflect evidence of how the Scythians became influenced by Middle Eastern culture. This indicates how the Scythians made some alliances with some of the local powers during their time 'down South'. In some of the Scythian sites, notably Pazryk in Siberia, there are the motifs of the eagle, gryphon, winged lion etc.- which were all associated with Assyria and Babylon (5). This indicates some degree of co-operation between the Scythians and the Babylonians, rather than raw conflict between them. Indeed, there is both historical and archaeological evidence that the Scythians were mercenaries used by Nebuchadnezzar in his attack upon Jerusalem. Yamauchi reports how Scythian arrowheads have been found around Jerusalem in the same material which dates to the Babylonian destruction of the city and temple (6). That "day of the Lord" was a clear type of the final "day of the Lord" when the Northern armies attack God's people. This could well suggest a latter day coalition between latter day "Babylon" and the latter day Scythians- the inhabitants of Ukraine and Russia. In the early meetings between the Byzantines and the inhabitants of Ukraine and Southern Russia in the 9th century, the surviving records show the Scythian leaders (e.g. Prince Svetoslav) being addressed as "Prince of Rosh" or Rus by the emissaries from Byzantium. Several connections between Rosh / Rus and the Scythians are made by the Byzantine historian Leo the Deacon in his 10th century records; at times he uses the terms interchangeably (7).


Given this background, we can look for the final 'northern invader' to be led by Babylon / Assyria, and yet to be supported by the latter day Scythians. We need to remember that most of the military achievements of Babylon / Assyria were not achieved by their own forces directly; their military and organizational genius was in mustering the support of mercenaries and other fighters. The Scythians played a large part in this when it came to Israel, even if Western versions of ancient history has been relatively quiet about it. Significantly, Ezekiel 38 speaks of the invasion with specific reference to this Scythian element. If we are to interpret the latter day Scythians geographically, then this would lead us to search for their latter day equivalent in the lands of Ukraine, Russia and the steppes of northern Kazakhstan.

(1) J. Skinner, Prophecy And Religion (Cambridge: C.U.P., 1922) p. 39.

(2) H.H. Rowley, as quoted in Edwin Yamauchi, Foes From The Northern Frontier: Invading Hordes From The Russian Steppes (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1982) p. 88.

(3) Evidence for all this was presented in articles over the years in the Soviet academic journal Советская Aрхеология ['Soviet Archaeology']. For example, V.S. Olkhovski, 'Скифские катакомбы в Северном Приерноморе' ["Scythian catacombs in the northern Black Sea region"], Sovetskaia Arkheologia Vol. 4 (1977) pp. 108-128. S.I. Rudenko, the leading Soviet archaeologist at the Pazryk site, later defected to the West and some of his research was published in English in The Frozen Tombs Of Siberia: The Pazryk Burials Of Iron-Age Horsemen (Berkeley: University Of California Press, 1970).

(4) See the articles by the Soviet archaeologist A. Terenozhkin who excavated the burial mounds in Melitopol, Ukraine, in Большая Советская Энциклопедия ['The Great Soviet Encyclopedia'] Vol. 16 p. 100; and V. Bidzilia, who excavated the Gaimanovo graves near Zaporozhye, Ukraine, in Большая Советская Энциклопедия ['The Great Soviet Encyclopedia'] Vol. 6 p. 38.

(5) S.I. Rudenko, Культура населения Горного Алтая в скифское время ["The culture of the Mountain Altai in Scythian times"] (Moscow: AN USSR, 1953) pp. 129-132.

(6) Edwin Yamauchi, Foes From The Northern Frontier (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1982) p. 99.

(7) See information at and in M. Y. Syuzyumov, Leo Deacon And His Time (Moscow: Nauka, 1988)