Biblical archaeology

Archeological digs in the Israelite territories and in parts of Turkey have helped us to understand something about the everyday life of people living thousands of years ago.  However, various wars and terrorist’s actions have slowed down the progress that was being made since the late 19th century.

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Against Gog (Ezek 39:1-39:2)

“You!

Son of man!

Prophesy against Gog!

Say!

Thus says Yahweh God!

‘I am against you!

O Gog!

Chief prince

Of Meshech

With Tubal!

I will turn you around!

I will drive you forward!

I will bring you up

From the remotest parts

Of the north!

I will lead you

Against the mountains

Of Israel!’”

As if one chapter were not enough, Ezekiel has another chapter about Gog.   Yahweh God, as usual, came to the prophet Ezekiel, the son of man. This time, he wanted Ezekiel to prophesy against Gog, who is now called the prince of Meshech and Tubal and not from Magog. Like in the last chapter, Gog was clearly an enemy of Yahweh. Yet Yahweh used him for his own purposes. Yahweh was going to turn Gog around and drive him forward from the remotest parts of the northern area. In fact, Yahweh was going to lead Gog against the mountains of Israel. The only possible historical basis for this Gog, might be the supposedly chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, two 7th century BCE kingdoms in Asia Minor of Turkey.

Against Gog (Ezek 38:1-38:2)

“The word of Yahweh

Came to me.

‘Son of man!

Set your face

Toward Gog,

Of the land of Magog.

The chief prince

Of Meshech

With Tubal.

Prophesy against him!’”

This section represents an example of apocalyptic literature. The emphasis in this type of literature is on a future that would be better compared to the sufferings of the present time. This thinking predominated in Second Temple Judaism after the return from the exile. This Messianic hope prefigured a future victory of good over evil. The prophet Daniel and the Book of Revelation or the Apocalypse are better examples of this apocalyptic literature. As usual, the word of God came to Ezekiel, the son of man. However, this time he was to prophesize against Gog. Who is this Gog? This is the first mention of Gog in the biblical literature, who clearly was an enemy of Yahweh. There appears to be no historical basis for this Gog from Magog. According to Genesis, chapter 10, Magog was descended from Japheth, the son of Noah. Here Gog is a person and Magog is the land where he comes from. However, in later literature they were usually combined into ‘Gog and Magog,’ perhaps due to the Septuagint Greek translation. Magog might have been a code name for Babylon. There were also other legends about Gog and Magog in the later Greek and Roman times. Both are mentioned in later Jewish and Muslim writings. Meshech and Tubal were 7th century BCE kingdoms in Asia Minor or present day Turkey. Gog appears to be the chief prince of these two kingdoms also.

Meshech and Tubal in the grave (Ezek 32:26-32:26)

“Meshech

With Tubal

Are there.

All their multitude

Is there.

Their graves are

All around them.

All of them were

Uncircumcised.

They had been killed

By the sword.

They had spread terror

In the land

Of the living.”

Ezekiel had mentioned both these obscure kingdoms in chapter 27 when he was talking about the trading partners of Tyre. Meshech were the Assyrians in the mountain country of present day Turkey. Tubal seemed to be some Assyrians who had settled in today’s southern Turkey. Like those preceding, these two groups of people were uncircumcised. They, too, had spread terror in the land of the living, but also died by the sword.

The ships of Tarshish (Ezek 27:25-27:25)

“The ships of Tarshish

Traveled for you

In your trade.

So you were filled.

You were heavily laden

In the heart

Of the seas.”

There is the problem of trying to situate Tarshish, which is often mentioned in the biblical literature. It could be Carthage in North Africa, Tarsus in Turkey, or Sardinia, an island in the Mediterranean Sea. This town had a lot of precious metals and important ships, as well as ship building. Thus the trade merchandise of Tyre was on these ships of Tarshish. They were filled with lots of items, as they moved on the high seas.

Trading humans (Ezek 27:13-27:13)

“Javan,

Tubal,

Meshech

Traded with you.

They exchanged

Human beings,

As well as vessels of bronze

For your merchandise.”

Ezekiel mentioned 3 other trading partners of Tyre. Javan, the Ionians or the Greeks was one partner. Tubal seems to be the Assyrians who had settled in today’s southern Turkey. Meshech were the Assyrians in the mountain country of present day Turkey. They all traded with Tyre. Interesting enough there must have been a slave trade, since there was a mention of exchanging human beings. They also traded bronze vessels for all the great things that Tyre had.

The boast of the king of Assyria (Isa 10:8-10:11)

“The King of Assyria says.

‘Are not my commanders all kings?

Is not Calno

Like Carchemish?

Is not Hamath

Like Arpad?

Is not Samaria

Like Damascus?

As my hand has reached

To the kingdoms of the idols

Whose images

Were greater than those of Jerusalem.

They were greater than those of Samaria.

Shall I not do to Jerusalem

As I have done to Samaria?

Shall I not do to her idols

As I have done to the Samarian images?’”

King Tiglath-Pileser III (745-727 BCE), the king of Assyria said that he had commanders in his army that could become kings. He cited the examples of his capture of various towns or cities like Calno in 742 BCE and Carchemish, which is now on the border between Turkey and Syria, but was part of the Syrian empire that was lost in 738 BCE. There also was the capture of other western Syrian town of Hama or Hamath and Arpad that were in this same area that Tiglath-Pileser III captured in 741 BCE. Finally there was Damascus, also in Syria, that was captured in 732 BCE. King Menahem of Samaria was the king of northern Israel from 743-738 BCE, who paid tribute to the King of Assyria, as mentioned in 2 Chronicles, chapter 26, and 2 Kings, chapter 15. Now King Tiglath-Pileser III was thinking of attacking Jerusalem. What he had done to Samaria, he would the same to Judah by destroying their images, since he thought that Yahweh was just another idol god.