Russia's Place in the Near East

The success of the Russian arms in Asia Minor and Persia, and the failure of Great Britain's efforts in the same areas are deeply significant and should interest students of prophecy, for Russia has yet to play a prominent and most malevolent part in these very countries before Israel is established without menace or fear in the land promised to her of old by Jehovah.

The prophecies which definitely connect Russia with the scenes of her recent successes are found in Ezekiel 38-39. In the former chapter we read. "Thus says the Lord God, Behold, I am against thee, O Gog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal: and I will turn thee back, and put hooks in thy jaws, and I will bring thee forth, and all thine army, horses and horsemen, all of them clothed in all sorts of armour, even a great company with bucklers and shields, all of them handling swords: Persia, Ethiopia, and Libya (Phut marg.) with them; all of them with shield and helmet; Gomer, and all his bands, the house of Togarmah of the north quarters, and all his bands: and many people with thee" (Ezek. 38:3-6). Of this passage J. N. Darby says: "'The chief prince of Meshech and Tubal' is properly translated Prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal. (This translation, of the correctness of which I have no doubt, is that of the elder Lowth, some hundred and fifty years ago, before these prophetic views were mooted.)" (Coll. Writings, Vol. XI, p.507). And again: "The elder Lowth translated it 'prince of Ross' (or rather 'Rosh'); the most accurate modern translation does too. Gesenius gives it as the unquestionable meaning, and adds that without doubt it means the Russian. In the Middle Ages in the East they had the name of Ross" (Coll. Writings, Vol. VIII, p.453). And again: "If you consult Genesis 10, the generations of the sons of Japheth are named Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Mesec, and Tiras. Of these we get Gomer, Magog, Tubal, Mesec under the same names in Ezekiel 38 as followers of Gog; you will also find Persia, which was united to Media (Madai) . . . These mentioned above are the nations that comprise Russia, Asia Minor, Tartary, and Persia . . . They are described as under the dominion of Gog, prince of Rosh (Russia), Meshech (Moscow), and Tubal (Tobolsk)" (Coll. Writings, Vol. II, p.5I7).

We gather, then, from Ezekiel 38 that Russia will directly rule over, or influence the lands lying east and north of the Holy Land, and her phenomenal successes against the Turks, after surmounting the extraordinary difficulties which the Caucasus Mountains present to modern military operations, seem to be bringing things rapidly into line with the Holy Scriptures.

It is well known that the policy of Great Britain for more than half a century has been to frustrate Russian ambitions in regard to Asia Minor. The Crimean War was fought for this very reason, and in the year 1875 another war with Russia, when she threatened to march on Constantinople, was barely avoided. Now, strangely enough, these two former foes are allied for the overthrow of the power that Britain poured out so much blood and treasure to uphold. But what is so significant is that Russian arms are alone successful. In spite of the gallantry of the British troops in the Dardanelles the campaign there proved to be a complete failure, and the despatches of the generals commanding, describing the failure, leave the impression upon the mind that some unseen force was against them, for nothing seemed to transpire as was intended. But when the decision was made to withdraw the troops everything changed; General Monro's despatch makes remarkable reading in this regard. The AEgean which had been swept by storms became calm, and the moon which was at full was covered with a haze, with the result that the great army was embarked and got away without the loss of a man, a feat that no living man thought possible. It seemed as though God's hand was against the armies of Britain while they remained in territory that must come under another Power according to His Word, but was for them from the moment the decision was taken to withdraw. The advance upon Baghdad and the failure to relieve Kut-el-Mara discloses similar features. It was not the Turkish armies, but rain and flood that stood between the British and victory. Lord Kitchener, in the House of Lords, said:

"Every effort was made to relieve the beleaguered force. To the adverse elements alone was due the denial of success, and constant rain and flood not only impeded the advance, but also prevented, in lieu of turning movements, direct attack on an almost impossibly narrow front.

"No praise would seem extravagant for the troops under Sir Percy Lake and Sir George Gorringe, and that they did not reap the fruit of their courage and devotion was due to the circumstances which fought against them."

But while British plans and hopes fail in a sphere in which she will probably exercise no influence in the great struggle that is yet to come, for she belongs to another group of nations, Russia steadily advances into those lands which are to be her subordinates, or allies according to the sure word of prophecy; and all the land she occupies she will no doubt hold.

We put these remarkable events and the Scriptures that speak of Russia's destiny together, not in a dogmatic way, but as calling attention to them as being worthy of note; and feeling that they indicate that the time cannot be far off when Russia's millions, augmented by the armies that she will gather from these other nations, will be thrown by their rulers into Palestine in order to destroy the nation of the Jews, and overthrow Jerusalem, which is to be a "stone for all people" (Zech. 12:3).

The result of that great invasion is plainly foretold in Ezekiel 38-39. God Himself will deal with it in fierce judgment of fire, and so great will be the slaughter amongst the multitudes of Gog, that seven months will be occupied in the burial of the carcases (39:12); and so shall perish the most persistent and probably the last persecutor of the sons of Jacob — God's chosen people, who are yet to be the centre of blessing for nations on the earth. But for this final battle, e'er all weapons of war are beaten into implements of peace, Israel will be resurrected as a nation by the breath of the Lord according to Ezekiel 37.