Gog and Magog: An Ecumenical Mystery
by Dr. Robert D. Crane
The myth of Gog and Magog has been exploited for three thousand years to invoke fear of existential chaos and to justify unilateral preemption against it. The Jews and Christians cite Ezekiel 38-39 and the Muslims cite the equivalent, Ya’juj and Ma’juj, in the Qur’an, Surah al Anbiya’ 21:95-96 and Surah al Kahf 18:94. Recent commentators suggest that this refers to Alexander the Great and is merely a garbled account of history centered geographically either in the Caucasus or Central Asia.
Traditional commentators say that this story, which is found in one way or another in all religions, is a symbolic message of reality, whereby Gog represents barbarians who break the barriers of law and order and bring destruction (fasad) throughout the earth. Magog, as the passive participle, represents the values (or lack of values), the resulting societal institutions, and the governing regime or kingdom that in combination inevitably destroy all civilizations. If the story relates to Alexander the Great as a historical figure, then the message is the wisdom in his recognition that the forces of chaos cannot be stopped by human power, and that only reliance on the Will and Power of God can determine the future.
The mystery is not whether such violation of transcendent law exists, has always existed, and always will exist, because this is obvious. Rather the mystery is who, if anyone, is the incarnation of this evil phenomenon. At one time the Christians of Byzantium objectified the symbolism by warning against the Persians. Some Arabs warned against the invading Turks from Central Asia. European Christians joined them by using the Turkish advance as an excuse to bring political unity in Europe by launching the Crusades. In the mid-20th century, all the Abrahamic peoples warned against the assault of diabolical Communism from the north, namely, Russia. At the end of the 20th century, the Israelis started to claim that the barbarian threat came from Islam and the Muslims. Then in the beginning of the 21st century, many Muslims started to claim that the real threat was an alliance among the Financial Illuminati, the Millennarian Christian Fundamentalists, and the secular fundamentalists known as the NeoConservatives, who had met all the criteria that allegedly will mark the impending end of the world.
Until Barack Obama overwhelmingly defeated George W. Bush as president of the United States of America, some Muslims even claimed that Bush was the Messiah al Dajjal or anti-Christ, whose beasts or minions would bring on Armageddon. Christian Zionists, before the Iranian elections of 2009, preferred to gave this distinction to President Ahmadinejad.
Since myth is a traditionalist human means to express higher truth through symbolism, people still use myth to explain reality even in a mechanistic era when symbolism has been rejected as a source of truth. Although the NeoCons reject such symbolism, they are not averse to using myth as a means to promote alliances with those who can be persuaded by it.
Rumors have been spreading for years about unpublished and unreported talks by George W. Bush to “Left Behind” devotees before he became president. The latest along this line is a story by Clive Anderson in CounterPunch on May 25th, 2009, redistributed by AlterNet, http://www.alternet.org/story/140221 Cliv.e Hamilton is a Visiting Professor at Yale University.
Under the title, “Bush’s Shocking Biblical Prophecy Emerges: God Wants to ‘Erase’ Mid-East Enemies ‘Before a New Age Begins’,” Anderson writes:
“The revelation this month in GQ Magazine that Donald Rumsfeld as Defense Secretary embellished top-secret wartime memos with quotations from the Bible prompts a question. Why did he believe he could influence President Bush by that means?
“The answer may lie in an alarming story about George Bush’s Christian millenarian beliefs that has yet to come to light.
“In 2003 while lobbying leaders to put together the Coalition of the Willing, President Bush spoke to France’s President Jacques Chirac. Bush wove a story about how the Biblical creatures Gog and Magog were at work in the Middle East and how they must be defeated.
“In Genesis and Ezekiel Gog and Magog are forces of the Apocalypse who are prophesied to come out of the north and destroy Israel unless stopped. The Book of Revelation took up the Old Testament prophesy: ‘And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them’.
“Bush believed the time had now come for that battle, telling Chirac: ‘This confrontation is willed by God, who wants to use this conflict to erase his people’s enemies before a New Age begins’.
“The story of the conversation emerged only because the Elysee Palace, baffled by Bush’s words, sought advice from Thomas Romer, a professor of theology at the University of Lausanne. Four years later, Romer gave an account in the September, 2007, issue of the university’s review, Allez savoir. The article apparently went unnoticed, although it was referred to in a French newspaper.
“The story has now been confirmed by Chirac himself in a new book, published in France in March, by journalist Jean Claude Maurice. Chirac is said to have been stupefied and disturbed by Bush’s invocation of Biblical prophesy to justify the war in Iraq and ‘wondered how someone could be so superficial and fanatical in their beliefs’.
“In the same year he spoke to Chirac, Bush had reportedly said to the Palestinian foreign minister that he was on ‘a mission from God’ in launching the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and was receiving commands from the Lord.
“There can be little doubt now that President Bush’s reason for launching the war in Iraq was, for him, fundamentally religious. He was driven by his belief that the attack on Saddam’s Iraq was the fulfillment of a Biblical prophesy in which he had been chosen to serve as the instrument of the Lord.
“Many thousands of Americans and Iraqis have died in the campaign to defeat Gog and Magog. That the U.S. President saw himself as the vehicle of God whose duty was to prevent the Apocalypse can only inflame suspicions across the Middle East that the United States is on a crusade against Islam. ... “
The significance of this story should be its warning to Muslims not to appropriate the myth of Gog and Magog to demonize America by copying the Islamophobes, who use it to justify their designs against Muslims. The danger is that the blind will lead the blind and the once sighted will morph into them.