In the Jewish tradition, there has always been a strong belief that one day there will be a messianic era on earth, when mankind will live together in peace and brotherhood, and war and sickness will be abolished. No one can claim to know exactly how the messianic era, as described by the bible, will come about. Nonetheless the bible contains prophecies that detail how these events will occur as the messianic times approach. Furthermore, midrashim-ancient Jewish teachings and traditions-provide further insights into this matter. When all of these sources are combined, and seen through the prism of world events unfolding today, a very interesting picture emerges.
To begin, the book of Ezekiel tells of a powerful leader named Gog from the land of Magog, who will rise up at the end of days with a massive army made up of nations from around the globe, and who will attempt to destroy the state of Israel.
The prophet describes the future circumstances of the land of Israel, as well as Gog’s wicked plans:
“From many days you will be remembered; at the end of the years you (Gog) will come to a land [whose inhabitants] returned from the sword, gathered from many peoples, upon the mountains of Israel, which had been continually laid waste, but it was liberated from the nations, and they all dwelt securely.
And you will ascend; like mist you will come; like a cloud to cover the earth you will be; you and all your wings and many peoples with you.” (Ezekiel 38:8-9)
In these passages, the Jewish people are described as having returned to the land of Israel, having been gathered from many nations, and living there in cities they have rebuilt. As will be shown below, other passages from the bible will indicate that not all Jews will have returned to Israel at this point, though there will be an established Jewish state at this time. There will also be Jews living among the nations who do not even know they are Jewish. This future chain of events is all described as taking place before the advent of the messianic era.
This scenario was described in part by the 16th century kabbalist Moshe Cordovero, who wrote that at the end of days, when Gog will come to attack, Israel will at this time have created a sovereign state for themselves.
The midrashim are rather explicit about world events that lead up to the great final war during which Gog attacks the Jewish state.
The midrash Yalkut Shimoni on Isaiah, discusses the wars that will occur prior to that period.
“When it is the time for the revelation of the Messiah…the king of Persia (Iran) will provoke the king of Arabia, and the king of Arabia will turn to Aram (Syria) for help.”
If looked at from the perspective of modern day events, what this seems to be describing is a Shiite-Sunni war between Persia (Iran) and Arabia (perhaps Saudi Arabia or some other Arab led nation). During this war, Arabia asks Syria for help.
Rashi, the 9th century biblical commentator, adds that this future army of Persia will go to war with Babylonia (modern day Iraq and surrounding areas) just before the great worldwide war led by Gog.
The midrash continues to describe the events of this war:
“The king of Persia will in turn (threaten to) destroy the entire world and all the nations of the world will shout in confusion and be panicked.”
In today’s day and age, it wouldn’t be such a simple task for one country to conquer the entire world through brute force alone. However, what this midrash may be describing is a large Sunni-Shiite conflict that ends with Shiite Iran winning the war-perhaps by attaining nuclear weapons. Iran is currently doing all they can to develop a nuclear weapon. They have apocalyptic beliefs surrounding this quest. Once acquired, Iran would likely force their Muslim neighbors to surrender and convert to Shiite Islam or be killed. They would at the same time threaten nuclear war with any other country that refused to capitulate to their demands.
The midrash concludes with Israel’s reaction to Persia’s threat:
“Israel too will shout in confusion and ask, “where do we flee to, where do we flee to?” God will then say to them, “My children, do no fear!”…The time of your redemption has come!”