Since I still, at least to a certain extent, have apocalypse on the brain, I draw your attention to Revelation 20:7-10. “When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the Earth—Gog and Magog—and to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore.” So who are Gog and Magog? It’s a pretty interesting study, really. These two were mentioned earlier in Ezekiel 38: “Son of man, direct your face towards Gog, of the land of Magog, the prince, leader of Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy concerning him. Say: Thus said the Lord: Behold, I am against you, Gog, the prince, leader of Meshek and Tubal.” Meshech and Tubal are both mentioned in the Table of Nations in Genesis, and are usually associated with kingdoms in modern-day Turkey. Along the same lines, Gog could be associated with Gyges or Gugu (yes, Oz fans, like the leopard), the king who made Lydia a significant power.
He was dead by the time of Ezekiel, but the prophet could still have been using him symbolically. Indeed, it looks like a fairly popular position that Ezekiel simply chose these countries because they were kind of far away and not particularly well-known in Israel, and hence really just represented foreign powers in general. This certainly seems to be the manner in which the terms are used in Revelation, as “the nations in the four corners of the Earth” referring to Asia Minor wouldn’t have made a whole lot of sense. By the time of the Roman Empire, Asia Minor wouldn’t have been quite as foreign as it had been several centuries before, but the names stuck. As to why it’s now “Gog AND Magog” instead of “Gog OF Magog,” this apparently has something to do with the translation of the Bible into Greek, and the translators seemingly not realizing that one was a person and the other a place.
One historical personage who came to be associated with Gog and Magog was Alexander the Great. As this identification occurred in works that romanticized the life and deeds of Alexander, he wasn’t the invading Gog, but rather someone who personally strove to keep Gog and Magog out of the civilized lands. To this end, he built an impenetrable wall to block off a pass in the Caucasus. The legends refer to the mountains between which the Gates of Alexander were built as the Breasts of the World, but which mountains these actually are remains a mystery. The gates have been identified with everything from the Caspian Gates of Derbent to the Great Wall of China (obviously by someone not particularly skilled at geography in the latter case), but in reality they’re almost certainly entirely fictitious. What’s interesting is that the Quran also makes reference to a wall built to keep out Gog and Magog, which will be destroyed in the last days. The builder of the wall is identified as Dhul-Qarnayn, “the Two-Horned One,” who might or might not have been based on Alexander.
In Britain, Gog and Magog have somehow come to be seen as giants.
Geoffrey of Monmouth mentions the Cornish hero Corin slaying a giant named Gogmagog, and some Irish mythology makes Magog the ancestor of the giants who originally populated Ireland. In the Lord Mayor’s Show in London, the giants Gog and Magog are even now identified as protectors of the city. There was a giant named Og in the Bible, so maybe the association was due to confusion between him and Gog? I really don’t know. Maybe they just liked the names.