Rabbi Eliyahu Haim Aboud
The violent war of Gog Umagog forebodes terrible times for the entire world and an especially perilous period for the Jewish Nation in particular. This segment will discuss the prophecies that describe the war and its ultimate purpose in the redemption process.
“Behold, the day of Gd will come… I will gather all the nations to Jerusalem for battle and it will be captured, its homes plundered and its woman abused; half its inhabitants will be evicted but the other half will not… (Zecharya 14:2)
“It will be a time of suffering that has never been, from the birth of our Nation up until this time…” (Daniel 12:1)
The prophet Zecharya describes the gentile nations’ successful conquest of Israel and its capital city, Jerusalem, after which they will neutralize its government and inflict severe pain and suffering upon the Jews. This is the period which the prophet Daniel foresaw as being the harshest period in the Jewish Nation’s history.
The early commentaries explain that only “half its inhabitants will be evicted” because a bitter internal conflict will erupt among the Muslim and Christian conquerors, which will disrupt a campaign of persecution against the Jewish inhabitants. Gd will then visit harsh retribution upon the marauders, until they are finally destroyed.
“And Gd spoke to me saying… turn towards Gog, the land of Magog… and prophesize as follows: So says Gd, sovereign of the world… I will awaken in you [Gog] a strong desire to leave your country – you and your entire army…the nations Paras, Kush and Put accompanying you…and many other nations as well…to converge upon the land recently inhabited by the Jews who have gathered and returned from their many countries of exile to dwell among the mountains of the land of Israel that have always laid desolate…you will ascend upon them as a shoah (a sudden, deafening, dense darkness) covering the land like a tremendous cloud.” (Yehezkel 38:1-9)
It emerges from Yehezkel’s prophecy that the war will be instigated by Gog Umagog, who will convince the other nations of the world to come forth and invade Israel. The primary motivation behind this initiative, the commentaries explain, will be not to harm the Jews living in Israel, but rather to wrest control of the land from them and divide it among several nations. However, once they conquer the land, the invading armies will viciously persecute its Jewish inhabitants .
The commentaries identify the nations of Paras, Kush and Put as the Muslim countries of Persia (which is today Iran), Assyria (which is today Iraq and part of Syria) and Egypt. These nations will not have much ammunition in their arsenals, but Gog will supply them with arms to wage this battle against Israel.
Gd’s Ultimate Retribution
“Behold it will be at the time that I return the captives of Yehuda and Yerushalayim, I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the Valley of Yehoshafat and judge them there for what they have done and exiling my nation…” (Yoel 4:1-2)
During this war, Hashem will visit His final retribution upon the gentile nations that have caused suffering for the Jewish people throughout the exile. According to the Midrash, all the ancient rulers who had persecuted the Jews will be brought back to life during this war to receive their due punishment. These punishments will come in the form of supernatural events that will overshadow even the miracles performed at the time of the Egyptian Exodus. In fact, according to some views, we will no longer be required to remember the Exodus from Egypt, as we will instead praise Hashem for our miraculous salvation during Gog Umagog and for establishing Mashiah as sovereign over the entire world.
This final retribution will take place during the holiday of Sukkot, and every year henceforth, the gentile nations will converge upon Jerusalem on Sukkot to pay homage to Hashem who revealed his glory and awesome strength to the entire world on this day.
The Downfall of the Gentile Nations
“And then prophesize, saying to Gog: So says Gd, sovereign of the world… I have brought you here [to Israel] to make My Name known to all when they beheld the punishment with which I shall afflict you… on that day My anger will be aroused…a tremendous trembling will seize the land…mountains will be flattened, towers and buildings will crumble, and fortified walls will fall to the ground…I will cause chaos and man will strike his fellow brother… and I will strike him [Gog] with torrential downpours and huge hailstones; fire and sulfur will rain down on him and all who joined him, and then I will be recognized and revered and all will know that I am Gd.” (Yehezkel 38:14-22)
“And this will be the punishment that Gd will deliver upon all the nations who have laid siege on Jerusalem: their flesh will melt off their bodies while standing, their eyes will fall from their sockets, and their tongues will fall from their mouths…” (Zecharya 14:12)
Many commentaries assume that the “tremendous trembling that will seize the land” refers literally to a devastating earthquake that will bring chaos to the invading armies stationed in Israel, leaving death and destruction in its wake. The earthquake will occur just east of the Temple Mount, on Har Hazetim (the Mount of Olives), which will be split into two smaller mountains separated by an enormous crater. Interestingly enough, geologists have identified two significant fault line beneath the Land of Israel that have causes a number of earthquakes in Jerusalem and throughout the country. Approximately once every century, the city is struck by a powerful quake, the most recent one having occurred in 1927.
Others, however, explain “the deafening sounds and enormous explosions” as a reference to the heavy exchange of heavy artillery fire between the two armies, who will encamp on either side of Har Hazetim. The sound and force of the ammunition will cause the land to tremble and destroy much of the city.
The commentaries explain the phrase, “and man will strike his fellow brother,” as referring to a bloody conflict that will be waged between armies representing nations of Yishmaelim and nations of Nossrim. These groups are called “brothers” because they descend from the same family: the Yishmaelim descend from Yishmael, and the Nossrim from Yishmael’s nephew, Esav. In fact, Esav married Yishmael’s daughter, thus forming an even closer relationship between the two. But during the war of Gog Umagog, these “brothers” will fight mercilessly against one another to the bitter end.
“And it will be that out of the entire world, Gd says, two thirds will be destroyed and only a third will remain. And I will bring that third through fire and cleanse them…I will test them…and I will answer those who call out in My name…” (Zecharya 13:8-9)
The commentaries explain this prophecy to mean that a minority group of gentile nations will survive the ravages of this war. Which nations will these be?
The prophet Ovadia predicted the complete annihilation of all vestiges of Edom, the descendants of Esav. The commentaries explain that the name “Edom” is used by the prophets in reference to Nossrut, which will be entirely eradicated during the war of Gog Umagog. The survivors, then, will include Yishmaelim and perhaps other non-Nossrim. They will be “tested” and “cleansed” from their allegiances, and only those who call out truthfully in Hashem’s name will merit survival.
The Sages teach that Esav, the father of Edom, never repented and died a wicked man, whereas Yishmael repented toward the end of his life and departed the world in a state of piety. This is one of many reasons why adherents to Nossrut will not merit to see the End of Days while some Yishmaelim will.
Seven Months of Burial
The prophets describe the gruesome sight of hundreds of thousands of bodies, the remains of the fallen gentile soldiers, strewn all over the hills of Jerusalem with no survivors left to bury them. Their bodies will be open prey to the vultures and other wild beasts. The only nation that will merit a proper burial will be that of Gog Umagog, the descendants of Yefet, son of Noah, who will be rewarded for their forefather’s kindness in covering Noah when he found him sleeping unclothed. The Jews will bury them in a valley near Lake Kinneret, in the city of Tiberius, which will then be named, “The Valley of Gog’s Army.” The process of burying these thousands of cadavers will extend over a period of seven months! 
The war of Gog Umagog will differ from the other calamities that have befallen the Jewish people over the centuries, during which righteous Jews were killed together with the sinners. In the war of Gog Umagog, all who remain steadfastly faithful to Torah and missvot are guaranteed to survive the war and behold the final redemption. It therefore behooves us all to properly prepare ourselves for these turbulent times and ensure that we will be worthy of surviving the persecution and living to see Mashiah’s arrival.
The Purpose of Gog Umagog
Three main reasons are clearly outlined by the prophets as to why this catastrophe must precede the Messianic era. For one thing, as mentioned, the destruction wrought upon the gentile nations will serve as divine retribution for persecution of the Jewish people throughout the centuries of exile, and particularly for the destruction of the Bet Hamikdash. Hashem will cause them all to gather in the place of their past misdeeds, in Israel, where they will wage war against each other and ultimately be destroyed.
Additionally, the war will serve to rid the Jewish Nation of the sinners who are not worthy of redemption, and to purify those who are worthy but require atonement for sins they have committed.
Most importantly, however, the miracles that will occur during the war of Gog Umagog will clearly demonstrate to the entire world that Hashem is the true Gd, upon whom we depend and to whom we must dedicate our lives during the Messianic Era. The war will pave the way to Mashiah by allowing all mankind to witness firsthand Gd’s infinite power and the chosen status of Am Yisrael.
Next issue: The Return of the Prophet Eliyahu before Mashiah
 see Abarbanel and Malbim on Zecharya 14:2
 see Yonatan ben Uziel on Parashat Beha’alotecha 11:26
 see Abarbanel and Malbim on Yehezkel 32:17, 38:1-9
 see Sefer Aderet Eliyahu on Parashat Balak, Part 5
 see Tractate Berachot 12b
 see the Tur, Orah Haim 490
 Zecharya 14:17-19, see commentaries
 Ibn Ezra and Radak, on Zecharya 14:2
 Jerusalem Post November, 2007
 Israeli Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure
 Abarbanel and Malbim on Zecharya 14:2 and Yehezkel 19
 See Rashi, Ibn Ezra and Abarbanal..
 Chapter 1:18
 See Abarbanel and Malbim on Ovadia
 Yeshurun (2002), page 766.
 Yehezkel 39:4
 Yehezkel 39:11-12, see commentaries
 Daniel 12:1, see commentaries
 see Malbim on Yehezekel 38:1
 see Tractate Ketuvot 112b and Sefer Massme’ah Yeshua pp. 244-250
 Yehezkel 38:23, 39:21-29