†he Burros of Berea

Gog and Magog, Part 1: From Saul and Agag to Mordecai and Haman

Gog and Magog, Part 1: From Saul and Agag to Mordecai and Haman


Copyright © Robert E. Cruickshank, Jr.  (January 7, 2024)

All Rights Reserved 


Key details of Ezekiel 38-39 dovetail with the book of Esther. Ezekiel had just recorded his vision of the Valley of Dry Bones (chapter 37), which speaks of the return from exile and restoration in the land. The attack of Gog, from the land of Magog, comes at a time after this when Israel is “restored from the sword” and its “inhabitants have been gathered from many nations to the mountains of Israel which had been a continual waste; but its people were brought out from the nations, and they were living securely, all of them” (Ezek. 38:8). There really couldn’t be a more apt description of Israel during the time of Esther than what Ezekiel describes here.

This series will attempt to highlight some of these crucial elements in Ezekiel where the connections to Esther can be made. We’ll start with the opening verses of Ezekiel chapter 38:


“The word of the Lord came to me: ‘Son of man set your face toward Gog, of the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him and say, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I am against you, O Gog, chief prince of Meshech and Tubal’” (Ezekiel 38:1-3).


In Ezekiel, Israel’s antagonist is referred to as “Gog,” and his goal was to come in “like a storm,” “like a cloud covering the land,” against God’s People – Israel (Ezek. 38:9; 16), and his aim was to seize spoil and carry off plunder (Ezek. 38:12). In the book of Esther, we’re introduced to Haman, who was “the enemy of all the Jews” (Esth. 8:1; cf. 3:10), and who “schemed against them to destroy them” (Esth. 9:24). Haman’s objective was to “destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews, both young and old, women and children, in a single day: the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, and to seize their possessions” (Esth. 3:13). If we were to do criminal profiling here, Haman fits the profile.


The Agagite and the Son of Kish 

Esther tells us that Haman was an “Agagite” (Esth. 3:1,10; 8:3,5; 9:24), referring to the descendants of Agag – the king of the Amalekites, whom Saul was supposed to kill back in 1 Samuel 15:2-3. But he doesn’t do it, and because of his failure, God regrets that He made Saul king (1 Sam. 15:11). And, of course, Samuel has to finish the job by slaying Agag, king of the Amalekites, to pieces (1 Sam. 15:32-33). This episode in Samuel 15 gives us the background for Haman’s lineage. As an “Agagite,” he was part of the royal bloodline of Israel’s ancient enemy – the Amalekites.

And Saul, who was supposed to kill Agag, was a son of Kish, a Benjamite (1 Sam. 9:1). This becomes very important when we jump to the book of Esther, and Mordecai is introduced. Scholars recognize that his lineage is given “in a level of detail that exceeds the description of any other character in the story.”[1] If a biblical writer includes a genealogy, there is a reason for it. And the reason for this genealogy is huge. Like Saul, Mordecai was “a son of Kish, a Benjamite” (Esth. 2:5). As William McKane writes:


“The writer [of Esther] was deliberately establishing a connection between Saul and Mordecai. Further, Haman, the Agagite, is the counterpart of Agag, king of the Amalekites, and the new situation in the book of Esther is contrasted with the old in 1 Samuel 15. Saul spares Agag, but Mordecai sees to it that the family of Haman is exterminated.”[2]


James Jordan puts it this way: “The conflict between Saul and Agag (1 Samuel 15) is rejoined in Esther.”[3] What’s going on here is this: Esther and Mordecai are redeeming their family name, by doing what Saul failed to do, and ending the Amalekite problem once and for all. “What Esther records,” continues Jordan, “is the last great attack upon Israel by Amalek, and the final destruction of Amalek. Numbers 24:20 states that ‘Amalek was the first of the nations, but his end shall be destruction.’”[4]

And that destruction came at the hands of a young orphan queen and her older cousin who took her in as his own. After centuries of conflict, the Amalekite storyline ends in the book of Esther. As Anne Wetter writes: “Esther and Mordecai, prove to be the worthiest bearers of the Jewish tradition: They have not forgotten to blot out Amalek (Deut. 25,19), and, unlike their forefathers, they have actually managed to perform the deed.”[5]


The Importance of Esther 

And this is so important because we tend to look at Esther as an irrelevant book, tucked away in the corner of Biblical history. It’s not. It’s the thrilling climax of one of the most engaging meta-narratives in the entire Old Testament –including Ezekiel 38 and 39. And Esther and Mordecai emerge as two of the most heroic figures in Israel’s history. But we can’t see this unless we pay attention to the genealogies and understand who Mordecai was and who Haman was. As Rachael Adelman puts it: “Mordecai ‘the Jew,’ as the embodiment of Israel, refuses to bow down to Haman the Agagite, as the embodiment of Amalek.”[6] Everything in the Bible is there for a reason. Mordecai was a descendant of King Saul, and Haman was a descendant of Agag, King of the Amalekites.[7]


Agag = Gog in the LXX

Just on the surface of it, the terms “Agag” and “Gog” appear similar at face value. And, in fact, they are equated in the Septuagint. The Septuagint is the ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, written during the intertestamental period between Malachi and Matthew. The Septuagint is quoted twice as often as the Hebrew Old Testament by the New Testament writers.[8]

With this in mind, Numbers 24:7 is the key text here. In the Hebrew Bible, the verse reads as follows:


“Water shall flow from Israel’s buckets, and his seed shall be in many waters. His king shall be higher than Agag, and his kingdom shall be exalted” (Numbers 24:7 ESV).


Next, here is the verse in the Septuagint:


“A man will come forth from his seed and prevail over many peoples, and he will be raised up higher than the kingdom of Gog, and his kingdom will increase” (Numbers 24:7 LXX).[9]


The key takeaway here is this: if it’s accurate to refer to “Agag” as “Gog,” in light of the Septuagint translation of Numbers 24:7, then it would be equally accurate to refer to an “Agagite” as a “Gogite.” In fact, some Septuagint manuscripts do just this, and refer to Haman as a “Gogite,” instead of an “Agagite,” at Esther 3:1 and Esther 9:24.[10] Simply put, the terms are interchangeable. As Phil Kayser says: “Saying that Haman was an Agagite is (using a different national pronunciation) the same thing as saying that he is a Gogite.”[11]


Of the Land of Magog

Next, Ezekiel tells us that the antagonist, Gog, is “of the land of Magog.” Futurists, such as Ron Rhodes, inform us that “the term ‘Magog’ seems to refer to the geographical area in the southern part of the former Soviet Union,” which includes “military targets like bases, missile silos, radar installations, and the like,”[12] but never tell us how they arrive at this conclusion.

By the phrase, “the land of Magog,” Ezekiel wasn’t expecting his readers to peer into the future and imagine a nation (Russia) that didn’t even exist yet at the time of writing. Rather, he was expecting them to reach into the past and recall the Table of Nations in Genesis 10. This is the list of the 70 nations that descended from Noah’s three sons Japheth, Ham, and Seth. There are 14 descendants of Japheth (Gen. 10:2-5), 30 descendants of Ham (Gen. 10:6-19), and 26 descendants of Shem (Gen. 10:20-29). Notice that Magog is in that first grouping of nations, among the direct descendants of Japheth, as well as Meshech and Tubal – Gog’s allies in Ezekiel 38:2.

Ezekiel is taking his readers all the way back to the very first nations after the flood and informing us that Gog’s lineage can be traced here. Accordingly, Numbers 24:20 tells us that Amalek was “the first of the nations.”[13] Gog’s identity doesn’t lay in the near-future but in the far-distant past.

Making the connection with Haman the Agagite in the book of Esther, Phil Kayser Explains: “An Agagite is “any leader of Amalek (according to the Jewish Encyclopedia). Therefore,” says Kayser, “Haman represents the ancient spiritual struggle between Amalek and Israel. And the Amalekites were descendants of Magog, the son of Japheth.”[14]


Spoken of in the Past 

Concerning this idea of “an ancient spiritual struggle between Amalek and Israel,” we’re going to jump down to Ezekiel 38:17, which is extremely relevant in this regard. It reads:


“This is what the Lord God says: ‘Are you the one of whom I spoke in former days through My servants the prophets of Israel, who prophesied in those days for many years that I would bring you against them?’” (Ezekiel 38:17).


As just about all commentators recognize, this is a rhetorical question and the intended answer is, “yes.”[15] In fact, the Septuagint doesn’t even phrase the verse as a question at all. It reads as follows:


“Thus saith the Lord God, to Gog; Thou art he concerning whom I spoke in former times, by the hand of my servants the prophets of Israel, in those days and years, that I would bring thee up against them” (Ezekiel 38:17 LXX, Brenton’s Translation).


What this means is that this entire concept of “Gog” is something that Ezekiel’s readers would have been quite familiar with, as they would have read about it in the words of the former prophets of Israel. This is more significant than we might realize. While the prophecy gurus of our day rake in the money, selling books identifying Gog with modern-day Russia, the Hebrew prophets had nothing to say about Russia.

They did, however, have much to say about Amalek and/or the Amalekites. This would include: Moses (Ex. 17:16, etc), Balaam (Numb. 24:20), Samuel (1 Sam. 15:1-3,17-23), Deborah (Judges 5:14), Gideon (Judges 6-7), Jephthah (Judges 10:11-14), David (1 Sam. 30) and Asaph (Psalm 83). And they prophesied of multigenerational warfare (Exodus 17:16; Numb. 14:43; 24:20; Deut. 25:17-19; 1 Sam. 14:48; 15:18). The war with the Amalekites begins in Exodus 17:8 and, in Exodus 17:16, Moses says: “The Lord has sworn; the Lord will have war against Amalek from generation to generation.”

Ezekiel gives us many clues as to Gog’s identity, and Haman the Agagite from the book of Esther emerges as the prime suspect.


Recapping the Connections

Just to recap, because these connections are so important: Haman, the enemy and adversary of the Jews in the book of Esther, was an “Agagite” (a term that is synonymous with “Gogite”). And the Agagites were the royal line of the Amalekites, who were descendants of Magog, and of whom Yahweh Himself had sworn to have war “from generation to generation.” So, Amalek and his descendants fit the bill as the ones of whom God spoke, through His prophets, in former times. If we want to nail down the identity of Ezekiel’s Gog of the land of Magog, there’s no need to look to today’s headlines or modern world leaders. There’s no need to look beyond the Book of Esther.

But most Christians today aren’t going to find the fulfillment of Ezekiel and 38 and 39 because, by and large, we are totally unfamiliar with the book of Esther. For most of us, we seem to think that this is some little side story that really has nothing to do with the meta-narrative of Scripture as a whole. It’s not. To quote Jordan again: “Esther is not a specimen of ‘wisdom literature’ that is to the side of covenant history. Rather, the events of Esther are absolutely essential to the development of the kingdom of God from Adam to Christ. Esther is as important as Exodus.”[16]


In the following installments, we’ll continue to look through Ezekiel 38 and 39, as it relates to the book of Esther, and see just how important Esther really is in terms of “the development of the Kingdom of God.”



[1] Adam Silverstein, “The Book of Esther and the Enuma Elish” (Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, Vol.69, No. 2 [2006], pp. 209-223), p. 212.

[2] W. McKane, “A Note of Esther IX and 1 Samuel XV” (The Journal of Theological Studies, Volume XII, Issue 2, October 1961, Pages 260–261), p. 260.

[3] Biblical Horizons » 8_06 Esther: Historical & Chronological Comments (IV)

[4] The Battle of Gog and Magog – Theopolis Institute

[5] Wetter, Anne-Mareike. “How Jewish is Esther? Or: How is Esther Jewish? Tracing Ethnic and Religious Identity in a Diaspora Narrative.” (2011): 602.

[6] https://www.thetorah.com/article/why-did-mordecai-not-bow-down-to-haman

[7] Rachel Adelman, Associate Professor of Hebrew Bible at Boston’s Hebrew College, writes:  “We also read of King Saul’s failure to fulfill God’s decree when he preserves the life of Agag, the Amalekite king (1 Sam. 15 as the Haftorah). Mordecai, a descendant of Saul’s line, son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin (Est. 2:5, cf. 1 Sam. 9:1-2), must then finish off the job, so to speak.” https://www.thetorah.com/article/why-did-mordecai-not-bow-down-to-haman


[8] See: Mogens Muller, The First Bible of the Church: A Plea for the Septuagint (Sheffield, England: Sheffield Academic press, 1996).

[9] Lexham English Septuagint Translation

[10] Lewis B. Paton, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Esther, page 194; Sverre Boe, Gog and Magog, p. 71

[11]  https://kaysercommentary.com/Sermons/Old%20Testament/Esther/battle%20of%20Ezek.md

[12] Ron Rhodes, New Babylon Rising: The Emerging End Times World Order (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2015), ePub edition, p. 50.

[13] Genesis 36:16 tells us that one of Esau’s grandsons was named “Amalek.” But this does not speak to the origin of the Amalekites as they were already a people group in Genesis 14:6-7. As James Jordan writes: “Moreover, Amalek is the name of one of Esau’s grandsons, a mighty chieftain (Gen. 36:16). As Genesis 36 shows, Esau’s sons and grandsons completely merged with the Horites of Mount Seir to become the semi-Canaanite nation of Edom. From Genesis 14:6-7 we learn that the hill country of the original Amalekites was close to the Horites of Mount Seir. By giving his son the name Amalek, Eliphaz, son of Esau, was clearly forging another link. Thereafter, the Amalekites are not only gentiles, but also Edomites. Haman in Esther is not only a spokesman of the gentile opposition to God, but also of the continuing hatred of Esau for Jacob” (Esther in the Midst of Covenant History, Biblical Horizons, 1995 [2001]), page 7.

[14] https://kaysercommentary.com/Sermons/Old%20Testament/Esther/battle%20of%20Ezek.md

[15] Daniel Block would be the one, lone exception – to the best of my knowledge.

[16] https://biblicalhorizons.com/biblical-chronology/8_04/