Ezekiel 38 & 39 (Part 4)

Dr. Thomas Ice

"Son of man, set your face toward Gog of the land of Magog, theprince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal, and prophesy against him."

-Ezekiel 38:2

Fifth, the most impressive evidence infavor of taking Rosh as a proper name is simply that this translation is themost accurate. G. A. Cooke, aHebrew scholar, translates Ezekiel 38:2, "the chief of Rosh, Meshech andTubal." He calls this "the most natural way of rendering the Hebrew."[1] Why is it the most natural way of renderingthe Hebrew? Rosh appears in construct form in the Hebrew withMeshech and Tubal meaning that the grammar forms a list of three nouns. Some want to say that rosh is a noun functioning as an adjective sincethere should be an "and" if it were intended to be a list of three nouns. The same exact Hebrew constructionappears in Ezekiel 38:5, as well as 27:13 and these are clearly recognized as alist of three nouns by grammarians even though "and" does not appear in eitherlist. Normal Hebrew and Arabicgrammar supports rosh as anoun (see also 38:3 and 39:1). Actually, Hebrew grammar demands that rosh be taken as a noun. No example of Hebrew grammar has ever been cited that wouldsupport taking rosh as anadjective. Instead, in Hebrewgrammar one cannot break up the construct chain of the three nouns that havethis kind of grammatical arrangement.[2] Hebrew scholar Randall Price says, "onlinguistic and historical grounds, the case for taking Rosh as a proper noun rather than a noun-adjective issubstantial and persuasive."[3]

In light of such overwhelmingevidence, it is not surprising that Hebrew scholar James Price concludes thefollowing: It has been demonstratedthat Rosh was a well-knownplace in antiquity as evidenced by numerous and varied references in theancient literature. It has alsobeen demonstrated that an adjective intervening between a construct noun andits nomen rectum is highlyimprobable, there being no unambiguous example of such in the HebrewBible. Furthermore, it has beendemonstrated that regarding Roshas a name is in harmony with normal Hebrew grammar and syntax. It is concludedthat Rosh cannot be anadjective in Ezekiel 38-39, but must be a name. Therefore, the only appropriatetranslation of the phrase in Ezek 38:2, 3, and 39:1 is "prince of Rosh,Meshech, and Tubal."[4]

Clyde Billington says, "the features of Hebrew grammar . . . dictate thatRosh be translated as a proper noun and not as an adjective, . . . It should, however, be noted that thegrammatical arguments for the translation of 'Rosh' as a proper noun in Ezekiel38-39 are conclusive and not really open for serious debate."[5] What would Gary DeMar say about suchevidence? I do not know, since Ihave never seen him address these arguments. DeMar is merely prone to making dogmatic statements to thecontrary based upon no real evidence for his position.

Therefore, having established that Rosh should be taken as a proper name of ageographical area, the next task is to determine what geographical location is inview.Historical andGeographical Support For Rosh as RussiaClyde Billington has written a series of three scholarly articles in atheological journal presenting extensive historical, geographical and toponymic[6]evidence for why Rosh should be and is traced to the Russian people of today.[7] He interacts with the leadingcommentaries and authorities of the day in his research and presentation. Billington notes, "it is also clear that Jerome, in deciding to translateRosh as an adjective rather than a proper noun, based his decision on anongrammatical argument, i.e. that a people called the Rosh are not mentionedeither in the Bible or by Josephus."[8] However, there is considerablehistorical evidence that a place known as Rosh was very familiar in the ancientworld. While the word appears in amultitude of various languages, which have a variety of forms and spellings, itis clear that the same people are in view.

It is very likelythat the name Rosh is actually derived from the name Tiras in Genesis 10:2 inthe Table of Nations. Billingtonnotes the Akkadian tendency to drop or to change an initial "t" sound in a nameespecially if the initial "t" was followed by an "r" sound. If you drop theinitial "T" from Tiras you are left with "ras."[9] It makes sense for Ras or Rosh to belisted in Genesis 10 since all the other nations in Ezekiel 38:1-6 are alsolisted there. This means Jerome'sclaim that Rosh did not appear in the Bible or in Josephus is erroneous. Since Tiras and his descendantsapparently are the same as the later Rosh people, then Rosh does appear in boththe Table of Nations and Josephus.

Rosh (Rash) isidentified as a place that existed as early as 2600 b.c. in Egyptian inscriptions. There is a later Egyptian inscription from about 1500 b.c. that refers to a land called Reshuthat was located to the north of Egypt.[10] The place name Rosh (or its equivalentin the respective languages) is found at least twenty times in other ancientdocuments. It is found three timesin the Septuagint (LXX), ten times in Sargon's inscriptions, once inAssurbanipal's cylinder, once in Sennacherib's annals, and five times inUgaritic tablets.[11] Billington traces the Rosh people fromthe earliest times in recorded history up to the days of Ezekiel, as theyappear multiple times throughout this historical period.[12]

Clearly, Rosh orTiras was a well-known place in Ezekiel's day. In the sixth century b.c.,the time Ezekiel wrote his prophecy, several bands of the Rosh people lived inan area to the north of the Black Sea. As we approach the eighth century, Billington cites a number ofhistorical references showing that "there is solidevidence linking one group of Rosh People to the Caucasus Mountains."[13] From the same general period of time,Billington notes: "There is even one cuneiformdocument from the reign of the Assyrian King Sargon II (ruled 722-705 b.c.) whichactually names all three peoples [Rosh, Meshech, Tubal] mentioned by Ezekiel38-39."[14] Billington concludes this section ofhis historical studies as follows:

Therefore, there isirrefutable historical evidence for the existence of a people named Rosh/Rashuin 9th-7th century b.c. Assyriansources. These same Assyriansources also mention Meshech and Tubal whose names appear in conjunction withthe name Rosh in Ezekiel 38-39. Clearly the Assyrians knew of the Rosh people, and so also did theprophet Ezekiel. It should benoted that Ezekiel wrote the Book of Ezekiel only about a 100 years later thanextant Assyrian texts which mention the Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal peoples.[15]

Does The Name RussiaCome From Rosh?

The ancient Roshpeople, who have been traced back to Tiras, a son of Japheth (Gen. 10:2), whomigrated to the Caucasus Mountains in Southern Russia, are one of the geneticsources of the modern Russians of today. However, does the name for Russia come from the Biblical word Rosh asused in Ezekiel 38:2? We have seenthat Marvin Pate and Daniel Hays have said categorically, "The biblical termrosh has nothing to do with Russia."[16] Their statement is typical of thesentiment of many critics today. But is such a conclusion where the evidence leads? I do not think so! Here's why.

First, we need toknow that the Hebrew Old Testament was translated some time in the thirdcentury b.c. and it is known asthe Septuagint (LXX is the abbreviation). The Septuaginttranslates the Hebrew word Rosh in all its uses by the Greek word "Ros" or"Rhos." The early church moreoften than not used the Septuagint as their primary Old Testament. It is still used in the Greek speakingworld today as their translation of the Old Testament. Billington tells us: "early GreekOrthodox writers, using the LXX's spelling [Ros] of the name Rosh, identifiedthe Rosh people of Ezekiel chs. 38-39 with the northern Rus people of Russiaand the Ukraine."[17] These people would be ones that livednear, but north of the Greek speaking peoples. Such close proximity would mean that they would have beenclear in whom they were identifying and they identified them with the Roshpeople. Maranatha!

(ToBe Continued . . .)


[1] G. A. Cooke, A Critical and ExegeticalCommentary on the Book of Ezekiel,The International Critical Commentary, ed. (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1936),pp. 408-09. John B. Taylor agrees. He says, "If a place-name Rosh could be vouched for, RV's prince of Rosh,Meshech, and Tubal would be thebest translation" John B. Taylor, Ezekiel: An Introduction & Commentary, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, gen. ed. D.J. Wiseman (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-varsity Press, 1969), p, 244. Therefore, this is the superiortranslation. For an extensive,thorough presentation of the grammatical and philological support for takingRosh as a place name, see, James D. Price, "Rosh: An Ancient Land Known toEzekiel," Grace Theological Journal6:1 (1985), pp. 67-89.

[2] Grammatical summary derived from Jon MarkRuthven, The Prophecy That Is Shaping History: New Research on Ezekiel'sVision of the End (Fairfax, VA:Xulon Press, 2003), pp. 21-23.

[3] Randall Price, "Ezekiel" in Tim LaHaye & EdHindson, editors, The Popular Bible Prophecy Commentary (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2007), p.190.

[4] Price, "Rosh: An Ancient Land," pp. 88-89.

[5] Clyde E. Billington, Jr. "The Rosh People inHistory and Prophecy," (Part One), Michigan Theological Journal 3:1 (Spring 1992), p. 56.

[6] Toponymic means the study of place names.

[7] Billington, "The Rosh People," (Part One), pp.55-65; Clyde E. Billington, Jr., "The Rosh People in History and Prophecy (PartTwo)," Michigan Theological Journal 3:2 (Fall 1992), pp. 144-75; Clyde E. Billington, Jr., "The RoshPeople in History and Prophecy (Part Three)," Michigan Theological Journal4:1 (Spring 1993), pp. 36-63.

[8] Billington, "The Rosh People," (Part One), p. 56.

[9] Billington, "The Rosh People," (Part Two), pp.166-67.

[10] Billington, "The Rosh People," (Part Two), pp.145-46.

[11] Price, "Rosh: An Ancient Land," pp. 71-73.

[12] Billington, "The Rosh People," (Part Two), pp.143-59.

[13] Billington, "The Rosh People," (Part Two), p. 170.

[14] Billington, "The Rosh People," (Part Two), p.170.

[15] Billington, "The Rosh People," (Part Two), p.172.

[16] C. Marvin Pate and J. Daniel Hays, Iraq-Babylonof the End Times? (Grand Rapids:Baker Books, 2003), p. 69.

[17] Billington, "The Rosh People," (Part Three), p.39.