Bible prophecies center around three desolating sieges of Jerusalem: the Babylonian, the Roman, and the Russian. Only the Russian siege of Jerusalem is still pending. This post-millennial siege of the Jewish metropolis is prophesied by John. "And when the thousand years are finished, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, and shall come forth to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to the war: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they went up over the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down out of heaven, and devoured them" (Rev. 20:7-9). But how reliable is the historical foundation which supports this identification of "the land of Magog" with Russia?

Josephus was a Jewish contemporary of the apostle John. In his Antiquities of the Jews, he contends, "Magog founded those that from him were named Magogites, but who are by the Greeks called Scythians" (Gen. 10:2; Antiquities I. vi. 1). In his Wars of the Jews, Josephus records while "Titus was lying at the siege of Jerusalem, a great multitude of the Germans were in commotion, and tended to rebellion; and as the Gauls in their neighborhood joined with them, they conspired together ... that they should free themselves from the dominion of the Romans... At the very same time with the forementioned revolt of the Germans did the bold attempt of the Scythians against the Romans occur; for those Scythians who are called Sarmatians ... transported themselves over the Danube into Mysia, without being perceived; after which, by their violence, and entirely unexpected assault, they slew a great many of the Romans that guarded the frontiers; and as the consular legate Fonteius Agrippa came to meet them, and fought courageously against them, he was slain by them. They then overran all the region that had been subject to him, tearing and rending everything that fell in their way; but when Vespasian was informed of what had happened, and how Mysia was laid waste he sent away Rubrius Gallus to punish these Sarmatians" (Josephus, Wars VII. iv. 2-3).

In A.D. 70, these Scythians (aka. Sarmatians, Magogites) were just as real and terrifying to Roman provincials as the Germans and the Gauls. Writing in 1962, Tamara T. Rice explains, "The Scythian nomads ... roamed the vast, almost crescent-shaped steppe which stretches from the confines of China to the banks of the Danube. Today, practically the whole immense expanse of natural grassland belongs to the U.S.S.R..." (Rice, The Scythians, 17). -DEL