Megiddo, Israel / Palestine
October 6, 2019
Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.Revelation 16:16
The drone of a distant fighter jet reverberated throughout Jezreel Valley as I stood at Armageddon, the name derived from Har Megiddo, Hebrew for Mount Megiddo, an actual place located in a kibbutz called Tel Megiddo in Northern Israel. Tel referred to a mound of land, many of which dotted the entire country. In modern times, the historic hill had become a protected archaeological site, Tel Megiddo National Park, containing remnants of ancient settlements dating as far back as 3,500 years ago. Of course, the place was more famously known as the prophesied ground zero of the apocalypse.
The Mediterranean breeze blowing inland stirred the dust blanketing the hill. Only resilient palm trees thrived and gave shade to the tel. It was quite a stretch to imagine this quiet, arid place playing a significant role in ancient history. There were hardly any structures left standing other than stacks of stone. The remains of gates and walls, temples and palaces, though mostly down on the ground, rendered the national park as one of the most important antiquities sites in this historic land.
The mound grew in height over millennia as each settlement built upon the previous one. A cross-section of a wall clearly showed several strata of stone of different cuts and colors representing civilizations long gone. Jerusalem was similarly built. Archaeologists had not completely excavated the filler materials – pottery, weapons, even jewelry – between these layers. This tel still kept many tales to tell.
Two things cemented Megiddo’s place in history: the accessible water table deep within its dry, rocky surface and its strategic location at the crossroad between Egypt in the south and Mesopotamia and Anatolia in the north. It would be both a blessing and a curse. The control of this crucial trade and military route turned the city into one of the most fought-over in the region.
About 1,500 years before the Christ, history’s first fully recorded battle was waged on this hill – between Egyptian Pharaoh Thatmose III’s troops and a coalition of Canaanite armies. Some of the succeeding epic battles in Megiddo figured in biblical narratives: Joshua defeated one of Megiddo’s Canaanite kings. Pharaoh Necho II defeated and killed King Josiah of Judah, which was subsequently finished off by Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar II a few decades later. The city was also listed as among those built by King Solomon.
These skirmishes extended to modern times. The Allied forces of World War I squashed an Ottoman army near Megiddo that brought the empire down to its knees. As there were layers of stone built on this hill so were there layers of blood shed over it through the centuries.
Peacetime Megiddo was an Israelite city and an administrative center for the fertile Jezreel Valley known as “the breadbasket of Israel” for its fields of wheat among other crops. A massive wall and a monumental city-gate were built, generally ascribed to King Solomon, c. 10th century BCE, although some quarters dated the structures earlier to the reign of either King Ahab, c. 9th century BCE, or King Jeroboam II, c. 8th century BCE.
The site held rich archaeological treasures that even predated biblical history. A sacred area that had been unearthed served as a place of worship for over 2,000 years from the Early Bronze to the Iron I periods. The ancient temples stacked on one another were not only those of Abrahamic and pagan religions of biblical times but of pre-historic beliefs. Ancient life could be glimpsed through remnants of the evolving city: its complex tunnels for collecting water, meters-deep granaries, stables for war horses, and altars for its long-forgotten gods.
As the Scriptures stated in no uncertain terms, Megiddo would retain its reputation as a battlefield. The oft-contested place had always unveiled humanity’s lust for power. Of course, the apocalypse as predicted in the Book of Revelations – “a pulling back of the curtain,” as my pastor Herman Moldez put it – was to take place in Megiddo when good and evil would be revealed in black and white. Religious studies professor Robert Cargill explained it succinctly, “Megiddo was identified as the location of the end of the world because it had been the epicenter of armed conflict throughout Israel’s history.”
They will wage war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will triumph over them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings— and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers.Revelation 17:14