Megiddo
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Megiddo (me·GID·o), or Tel Megiddo (TEL-me·GID·o), an ancient fortified city, is one of the most famous battlegrounds in the world. Historians believe that more battles were fought at this location than anywhere else on earth. "When Edwin Robinson stood on the imposing hill known as Tell el-Mutesellim in 1838, he jotted down in his diary the words, 'I wonder where Megiddo could have been.' Ironically, the mound on which he was standing, rising seventy feet above the surrounding plain and occupying an area of ten acres on its summit (with lower levels even larger) soon proved to be the site of Megiddo" (Pfeiffer, 1966: 375).

Anciently Megiddo's gates and walls witnessed the armed struggles of Assyrians, Canaanites, Egyptians, Greeks, Israelites, Persians, Philistines, and Romans. Although Megiddo was not a fortress in the days of World War I, note that the critical battle enabling the British Field Marshal Edmund Allenby to wrest control of the Holy Land from the Turks occurred at Megiddo where he began his offensive against them on September 18, 1918.

Armageddon

Armageddon (AR-ma·GED·don), the mount of Megiddo, according to the New Testament book of Revelation, is once again to host one of the world's major armies in a immense conflict between East and West (Revelation 16:16). The idea of Megiddo being the venue of humanity's apocalyptic finale, the "final" battle in this war called the "Battle of Armageddon", is a misnomer. The actual battle is to occur at Jerusalem and called "the war of the great day of God, the Almighty" (Revelation 16:14 NASB) or the "Battle of That Great Day of God Almighty" (KJV).

SCRIPTURE SUMMARY

  • Joshua killed the king of Megiddo during the Conquest (Joshua 12:7, 12:21).
  • The city of Megiddo was allotted to the tribe of Manasseh (Joshua 17:11I Chronicles 7:29).
  • Deborah and Barak led the Israelites to victory over the Canaanite armies of Sisera by "the waters of Megiddo" (Judges 5:19-20).
  • Solomon made Megiddo one of his district capitals as well as one of his three main fortress cities (I Kings 4:12; 9:15).
  • King Josiah of Judah died in battle near Megiddo when he tried to thwart pharaoh Necho's attempt to succor the Assyrians at the Battle of Carchemish (II Kings 23:29-30; II Chronicles 35:20-24).
  • Western military forces gather in the Valley of Megiddo, at Armageddon,  and proceed to Jerusalem to engage eastern forces advancing in that direction, and at the height of battle encounter the unforeseen intervention of the Messiah (Revelation 16:16).

At the end of the age, in biblical prophecy, the valley of Megiddo, now known as the valley of Jezreel, will serve as the gathering place for an immense army which will engage the returning messiah, Jesus Christ, and his supernatural army in the Day of the Lord (Revelation 1:10; 16:12-16; 19:19; I Thessalonians 5:2; Joel 1:15; 2:11, 2:31).

Engaged in an all-out struggle for global dominion the armies of a Christian united Europe and its allies ready themselves for battle against a union of armies, probably Islamic nations and their Eurasian allies, from the East (Revelation 16:12). The setting is a time of warfare wherein nuclear exchanges between West and East had already occurred. In the aftermath of a surprise nuclear first strike by the West (Revelation 9:1-11), and a retaliatory nuclear response by the East (Revelation 9:13-21), both sides move major military forces into the Middle East.

Revelation states that it is Satan's demons, through influencing key political and military leaders, who are responsible for inciting this concentration of forces (Revelation 16:13-16). Absent the intervention of God, in the clash between these two great protagonists, the destruction of all living things would occur, presumably, in a final nuclear holocaust and its aftermath (Matthew 24:22).

Western leaders concentrate their combined forces at Armageddon apparently planning to engage eastern forces by a land invasion. The immediate objective appears to be the taking of the rich petroleum fields to the east. The Europeans, moving several armies into the Levant through the Haifa harbor and docks, marshal their forces in the Valley of Megiddo. Armageddon comes from the Greek rendering of the Hebrew name of the place Har Megiddo (the Hebrew prefix Har means hill or mountain). The valley is a large flat plain ideal for the assembling of military equipment and personnel.

Armageddon thereby serves as the gathering place, a natural staging area about 15 miles from the Mediterranean port and industrial area of Haifa, for their military force. From this staging area western forces advance southward toward Jerusalem which they control where a horrendous battle will take place. Rather than proceeding east against Islamic forces the leaders of the western forces had to turn to the south to bolster their forces at Jerusalem, about 55 miles away, and to engage advancing eastern forces. The armies ultimately clash at Jerusalem.

The focal point of the battle is the Valley of Jehoshaphat (Joel 3:2, 3:12), also called the Valley of Decision (Joel 3:14) situated between the Old City of Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives, now known as the Kidron Valley after the brook Kidron passing through it. This valley is a deep ravine having very steep sides. Jehoshaphat means "Judgment of YHWH". Here the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, and his supernatural force will engage both eastern and western forces engaged in battle when he returns and stands, just east of the old city, on the Mount of Olives (Zechariah 14:1-4). A description of the battle is given in Revelation 19:11-21. In the figurative language of Revelation the carnage is to be so great that the blood of the casualties, flowing "without the [old] city" in the Valley of Jehoshaphat, will rise as high as horses' bridles (Revelation 14:20). This defeat of eastern and western allied forces, including the capture and summary execution of the chief political leaders of Europe, leaves the European continent exposed to a successful Eastern invasion. This results in a stream of refugees from Europe into the Levant.

Location

Tel Megiddo, the ruins of the ancient city, about 22 miles north of Shechem and 15 miles south of Haifa, on the southern edge of the Valley of Megiddo (II Chronicles 35:22; Zechariah 12:11). The oval-shaped valley, also known as the Plain of Esdraelon, is now commonly known as the Valley of Jezreel. As Megiddo lay near the point of entry into the Jezreel Valley of the most important pass through the Carmel range, Nahal `Iron (Wadi `Ara), it controlled the "Way of the Sea" or Via Maris. This important highway was the ancient trade route between Egypt and Mesopotamia. Thus, in addition to invading armies, traders from all over the known world passed by its walls and probably through its gates.

Today, a modern kibbutz settlement bearing the name of Megiddo is located a short distance southeast of the tell. Its presence reveals that the strategic importance of this place has not changed. Although the two settlements are separated by millennia, the new settlement continues to fulfill the same role as its more famous namesake.

History & Archaeology

Megiddo was among the first sites excavated in Palestine. Extensive excavations of the mound, revealing not less than 25 strata, commenced in 1925 with work continuing until the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939. One of the most significant finds was the water system, consisting of  a vertical shaft 120 feet deep connected by a tunnel 215 feet long to a spring located outside the city walls, built during the mid-9th century BCE to protect the city's water supply war time.

Although first fortified in the Chalcolithic Period, the oldest surviving record of its name appears in the Temple of Karnak where Thutmose III (1479-1426) of Egypt caused an account of his battle at Megiddo in 1468 BCE inscribed on the walls. Thutmose led his army through the narrow ‘Aruna pass to take the Syrian army by surprise. The defeat of the Syrians fall of the city, after a seven month siege, enabled Thutmose to annex Canaan into his New Kingdom empire as a vassal province. This victory initiated a period of Egyptian suzerainty in Canaan in which Megiddo played an important role for hundreds of years.

Later six of the Armana Tablets (comprising the diplomatic archive of the late 18th Dynasty of Egypt) were letters sent by Biridiya, king of Megiddo, to pharaoh Amenhotep IV (Akhetaton, 1353-1336) in the 14th century BCE. In these letters, Biridiya consistently reaffirmed his loyalty to his Egyptian overlord. He pleaded also for Egyptian military assistance (100 archers!) in order to repel 'Apiru bands which were active in his vicinity. Further mention of the town appears in the records of the Egyptian 19th Dynasty pharaohs Seti I, Rameses II and Merneptah.

In the 13th century Deborah and Barak overcame Sisera near the site (Judges 4).

Archaeological Profile of  Megiddo

The Prevailing View

Chronology
Stratum

early 7th and late 8th centuries

3

New construction in radical new style, including massive palaces, with different geographical orientation. Administrative center of the Assyrian province of Galilee.

DESTRUCTION LAYER  (ca. 732)
Destroyed by Tiglath-Pileser III king of Assyria.

middle and late 8th & 9th centuries 4a Major rebuilding with construction similar to that at Hazor; Inset-offset wall; water system and "stables" similar to those at Hazor. Time period of Omri and Ahab.

DESTRUCTION LAYER (ca. 922)
Destroyed by pharaoh Shoshenq I (Shishak on the Bible).

late & middle 10th century 5a/4b Large monumental construction; casement wall with four entry gate complex similar to those at Hazor and Gezar; architectural plan similar to Syrian palaces of the same period; very prosperous city; generally regarded as the Solomonic city. Time period of King Solomon.

early 11th century 5b Buildings poorly constructed and modest in size; VB no sign of town planning; UNFORTIFIED. Time period of King David.

DESTRUCTION LAYER (ca. 1000)
Probably destroyed by King David.

11th century 6a New, extensive public buildings; some fortifications; gate similar to those in Anatolia and Aegean; absence of Philistine bichromeware and collared-rim jars. Settled by Israelites.

late 12th century 6b Buildings of poor construction; UNFORTIFIED; Sacred area used all during the Bronze Age but now unused; presence of Philistine bichromeware and collared-rim jars. Settled by Philistines.

DESTRUCTION LAYER (ca. 1125)
Destroyed by Philistines.

middle & early12th century 7a Large public buildings; rich treasure; same population as in 7b and 8. Settled by the same people as in 7b.

DESTRUCTION LAYER (1208)
Destroyed by Merneptah

13-14th centuries 7b Wealthy city - though in decline. Settled by Canaanites.

14-15th centuries 8 Large public buildings; rich treasures found in the city. Settled by Canaanites.

DESTRUCTION LAYER (1468)
Destroyed by Thutmose III.

early 15th and 16th century
9 Large influential Canaanite city. Settled by Canaanites.

According to the Hebrew Scriptures, during the Israelite conquest of Canaan Joshua defeated and killed the King of Megiddo (Joshua 12:21). Although allocated to the tribe of Manasseh (Joshua 17:11), this tribe was unable to occupy Megiddo (Judges 1:27). The city remained outside Israelite control until the time of David; the destruction of the city in ca.1000 BCE probably the work of his hand.

Solomon (967-927 BCE) greatly enlarged the city, erected many large public buildings and surrounded it with a casement wall with an elaborate gate complex. It served him not only as a district administrative capital of the United Monarchy (I Kings 4:12), but as one of three major chariot cities used to control movement along the "Way of the Sea". The elaborate fortifications, palaces, and water systems of Israelite Megiddo are among the most  Iron Age architectural remains unearthed in the Levant.

Although destroyed in the campaign of pharaoh Shoshenq (called Shishak in the Bible) in ca.922 BCE, the city it was rebuilt to even greater magnificence by either Omri or Ahab in the middle of the 9th century BCE. The Israelite city fell to Tiglath-Pileser III king of Assyria in 732 BCE. The Assyrians made Megiddo the capital of the Assyrian province of Galilee. The town's street plan, reengineered by the Assyrians, for the first time featured the "modern" grid system.

With the collapse of the Assyrian empire the great religious reformer King Josiah of Judah led his troops to Megiddo to confront Pharaoh Necho II of Egypt. Killed in a clash at Megiddo about 609 BCE Josiah failed in his futile, last minute, attempt to prevent the Egyptian force from joining the crumbling Assyrian army in its last-ditch efforts against the Babylonians (II Kings 23:29). Megiddo then remained an open settlement abandoned sometime in the Hellenistic period.

During the Roman period, the Sixth Legion camped near the tell. The memory of its presence is preserved in the Arabic name of the pass and the village, el-Lejjun, which developed there.

Recent Analysis

Renewed excavations at Megiddo seek to clarify the stratigraphy and chronology of the site, from the Early Bronze Age to the late Iron Age and to shed light on specific problems such as the identification of the stratum representing Solomonic Megiddo. University of Tel Aviv archaeologist Israel Finkelstein, an expedition director of The Megiddo Expedition, challenges the prevailing view of the archeology of Megiddo. He holds that stratum 5a/4b is not the Solomonic city but more properly that of Ahab. The profile below shows an alternate view of the site's chronology based upon some of the preliminary findings released by the expedition directors. The interpretation is ours and should not be blamed on Finkelstein and his colleagues.. The complexity of their argument requires more detailed study and data. Be sure to check out the findings and activities of the current Megiddo Excavations to help you understand the nature and import of this proposal.

Archaeological Profile of  Megiddo

Alternate View

Chronology
Strata

late 700's

3

New construction in radical new style, including massive palaces, with different geographical orientation. Administrative center of the Assyrian province of Galilee.

DESTRUCTION LAYER  (ca. 732)
Destroyed by Tiglath-Pileser III king of Assyria.

  middle & early700's 4a Major rebuilding with construction similar to that at Hazor; Inset-offset wall; water system and "stables" similar to those at Hazor. Time period of Jeroboam II.

DESTRUCTION LAYER
Destroyed by ?

early 800's 5a/4b Large monumental construction; casement wall with four entry gate complex similar to those at Hazor and Gezar; architectural plan similar to Syrian palaces of the same period; very prosperous city. Time of Ahab.

late 900's 5b Buildings poorly constructed and modest in size; VB no sign of town planning; UNFORTIFIED. Time period of Baasha and Asa.

DESTRUCTION LAYER  (ca. 922)
Destroyed by pharaoh Shoshenq I (Shishak on the Bible).

10th century 6a New, extensive public buildings; some fortifications; gate similar to those in Anatolia and Aegean; absence of Philistine bichromeware and collared-rim jars. Time period of King Solomon. Settled by Israelites.

11th century 6b Buildings of poor construction; UNFORTIFIED; Sacred area used all during EM but unused in MB and LB; presence of Philistine bichromeware and collared-rim jars. Settled by Philistines.

DESTRUCTION LAYER  (ca. 1125)
Destroyed by Philistines.

12th century 7a Large public buildings; rich treasure; same population as in 7b and 8. Settled by Canaanites.

DESTRUCTION LAYER (1208)
Destroyed by Merneptah

13-14th centuries 7b Wealthy city - though in decline. Settled by Canaanites.

14-15th centuries 8 Large public buildings; rich treasures found in the city. Settled by Canaanites.

DESTRUCTION LAYER (1468)
Destroyed by Thutmose III.


9 Large influential Canaanite city. Settled by Canaanites.

For additional reading we suggest:

  1. "Megiddo" an article by Yohanan Aharoni and Yigal Shiloh in The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land; and

  2. Back to Megiddo an article by Israel Finkelstein and David Ussishkin published in 1994 in the Biblical Archaeology Review.


Page last edited: 04/06/06 09:18 PM

 


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