There are some places in the Bible where the text makes a throwaway reference to something the original readers were probably very familiar with; and then people spend the next couple thousand years speculating on what it meant. That's the case with Gog and Magog. Depending on who you ask, they could be giants, or demons, or chieftains, or symbolic representations of foreign nations, or harbingers of the Apocalypse. Take your pick.
The first reference to them is in the Book of Genesis in the geneology of the sons of Noah: "The sons of Japheth were Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech, and Tiras." (Genesis 10:2, KJV). Much later on, in the Book of Ezekiel mentions "Gog of the land of Magog" (Ezekiel 38:2). God commands Ezekiel to prophecy against Gog, predicting that Gog would attack Israel, but that God would utterly destroy him with earthquakes, plagues, hail and fire from the sky, (Ezekiel, chapters 38 and 39). Magog here is described as Gog's place of origin; indeed, the word "Magog" may also be interpreted as "Land of Gog."
The final reference comes from the Book of Revelation in which the writer states: "When the thousand years are over, 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 gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore. They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God's people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them." (Revelation 20:7-9 NIV). This passage seems to equate Gog and Magog with all the nations of the world, arrayed against God's People.
In the Qur'an, Gog and Magog are referred to as Yajuj and Majuj, and it is said that a wise and mighty ruler named Dhul-Qarnayn (the one with two horns) built enormous gates to imprison the two and restrain their destructive armies. Yajuj and Majuj will remained trapped there until the end of the world, and their release shall be a sign of the Armageddon.
Over the centuries, Gog and Magog have been identified with various northern barbarian tribes, ranging from the Scythians to the medieval Goths to the Mongols to the Swedes. According to Irish legend, Ireland was originally settled by descendants of Magog the son of Japeth. Marco Polo placed Gog and Magog as provinces in Central Asia, ruled by Prester John
In British tradition, Gog and Magog are neither nations nor kings; they are giants. The History of the Kings of Britain by Geoffrey of Monmouth recounts a tale of the hero Corinus who wrestles the giant Gogmagog and hurls him over a cliff. Another tradition names Gog and Magog as guardians and protectors of the city of London and images of them are carried in the annual Lord Mayor's Show in November. There's also a set of hills near Cambridge, England, called the Gog Magog Downs, which were the site of a Bronze Age battle.
In a 2003 meeting with French President Jacques Chirac, President George W. Bush referred to Gog and Magog while describing the need for strong action in the Middle East. Chirac didn't get the reference.
Game and Story Use
- They are forces of chaos and harbingers of Armageddon! This looks like a job for the PC's!
- They could be used symbolically, as code names for a doomsday weapon.
- The relatively benign versions that protect the City of London could make an interesting twist on the Giant-as-Menace theme.