Rosh Means "Head"

The Hebrew term ‘ROSH’ in the book of Ezekiel is not a proper name, but the common Hebrew noun for “head.” 

Certain interpretative schools claim the Hebrew word ‘rosh’ in the 38th chapter of Ezekiel refers to Rus, the name of the medieval kingdom of Kievan Rus. From this, it is argued, Ezekiel’s prophecy refers to modern Russia. However, in the Hebrew Bible ‘rosh’ consistently means “head,” including in Ezekiel 38.

This interpretation is based on the perceived similarities in sound and spelling between the Hebrew term ‘rosh’ and ‘Rus.’

The noun “rosh” occurs over six hundred times in the Hebrew Bible and most often means “head.”  Derivative meanings include “chief,” “top,” “sum,” “first,” “foremost,” and “principal.” Each derived meaning is based on the literal sense of the term or “head” - (rô'shStrong’s - #H7218).


In the Hebrew Bible, “rosh” is not a proper name, with the one possible exception of Genesis 46:21 (“Rosh,” a son of Benjamin). Nowhere does the Old Testament mention any nation, people, territory, or city named “rosh.”

It is the same noun used for the commencement of the Hebrew new year, rosh ha-shanah, namely, the “head of the year.” Likewise, it is applied to the start of the new month or rosh chodesh.

Other examples include the “chief” of a tribe, the “chief priest,” and the “chief prince.” In one verse, Ezekiel also refers to the “head” or ‘rosh’ of the new year - (Deuteronomy 1:15, 5:23, 2 Kings 25:18, 1 Chronicles 7:40, Ezekiel 40:1).

In Ezekiel, “rosh” occurs thirty-eight times, always with the sense “head.” For example, the “heads” of the living creatures. On one occasion, the prophet was commanded to shave his “head.” In chapter 17, “rosh” refers to the “top” of a branch. In chapter 27, we find the “rosh” or “chief of all spices.” And so on - (Ezekiel 1:22, 5:1, 17:4, 17:22, 27:22).

The King James Version renders the opening clause from Ezekiel’s vision as, “set your face against Gog, the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal.” Here, the A.V. has translated ‘rosh’ as “chief,” and correctly so.


In the Hebrew clause in Ezekiel 38:2, “rosh” or “chief” follows the Hebrew noun for “prince” or nasi, the normal word order for a Hebrew clause where one substantive modifies another (the so-called ‘construct state’). In this case, “chief” modifies “prince.” The most natural sense is “chief prince.”

As for any similarity in spelling or pronunciation with ‘rus,’ this may be apparent in English translations but is not real.

Rosh” (ראשׁ) is written with the three Hebrew consonants Resh (ר), Aleph (א), and Shin (ש). In earlier times, it was written only with Resh and Shin (רשׁ). The letter Aleph was added later to mark the long vowel sound or ‘ô’. The single-letter Shin (ש) provides the ‘sh’ sound in ‘rosh.’

Since the ninth century A.D., ‘rus’ has been transliterated into Hebrew as רוס, using the consonants Resh (ר), Vav (ו) and Samech (ס), NOT Resh (ר), Aleph (א) and Shin (ש). And the letter Vav marks the long vowel sound ‘ū.’ Samech is a different Hebrew letter than Shin and, in English, is more akin to the ‘s’ than the ‘sh’ sound. The only sound and letter in common between ‘rosh’ and ‘rus’ are the initial ‘r’ sound from the first letter Resh (ר).


As for “Gog and Magog,” what is decisive in determining its identity is how the book of Revelation interprets Ezekiel’s prophecy - (Revelation 19:10-21, 20:7-10).

It applies the term “Gog and Magog” to the final global effort by all nations to annihilate the “saints.” Rather than being led by the “prince of Rosh,” this force is gathered by Satan “from the four corners of the earth.”

And rather than invade Palestine from the north, it “ascends” over the entire earth, and the attacking force includes the “kings of the earth” and their armies.

Thus, Ezekiel’s vision is used to portray the Devil’s final effort to destroy the church. When it fails, the final judgment before the “Great White Throne” comes next.


Destruction of Babylon

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