Megiddo / Armageddon
Megiddo is an ancient city-state located along an important pass of the Via Maris, the international road system that connected Egypt with Mesopotamia. Megiddo was inhabited for several thousand years, during the Canaanite and Israelite periods. Later, as an abandoned site, it was equated by Christianity with ‘Armageddon’, the site of the end of times battle. Today, as a national park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Megiddo is a popular archaeological site and tour destination.
Megiddo and Christianity
The last book of the New Testament, “The Book of Revelation” or “The Apocalypse”, was written in the Greek island of Patmos, as stated in its beginning (1:9). It’s author, “John” describes a series of prophetic visions including characters like “the whore of Babylon”, “the Beast”, and culminates with the second coming of Jesus. Chapter 16 describes the gathering of armies during “the end of times” “to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon” (16:16). This place name appears only once in the New Testament. It seems to be a translation of the Hebrew term “Har Mageddon”. “Har” means a mountain or a ridge. There is no known mountain or ridge in Israel called “Mageddon”, but there is a famous mound of an ancient site called “Megiddo”. The finds from the site seem to reflect the many conflicts and wars this site witnessed in the past, which could possibly explain why it was chosen to be mentioned also in an apocalyptic conflict as well. Furthermore, Megiddo can be seen also from the hills of Nazareth, and so perhaps Jesus himself promoted the roll of Megiddo at the “end of times”, an idea that was put in writing eventually in the “Book of Revelation”.
History and Archaeology of Megiddo
Being along an important road and next to a fertile valley (the Jezreel valley), Megiddo was inhabited continuously for more than 3000 years. It was also the location of many battles, the earliest was between the Egyptian pharaoh Thutmose III and a coalition of Canaanite forces. The Old testament records Solomon fortifying Megiddo, and later how King Ahazyahu and king Josiah died at Megiddo. By the Persian period however the city was abandoned, and even its location was forgotten. Nevertheless, under the name Armageddon, Christianity associated Megiddo with apocalyptic theology.
After centuries of abandonment, even the location of Megiddo was forgotten. The site was identified again only in 1838, by the American Scholar Edward Robinson. It was excavated by several archaeological expeditions since the early 20th century. In current years two expeditions are working at the site. One is working on the mound, while another is exposing, for the first time, the remains of a Roman legionary camp in the fields west of the site.
Visitors to the site today can admire many architectural elements such as restored gates from Canaanite and Israelite times, big stables of the Israelite kingdom, a set of Canaanite cultic centers, and an ancient large shaft leading to a water source next to the site. The citadel also provides beautiful panoramas of the Jezreel valley, the Gilboa, Mount Tabor, and Nazareth. The viewpoint is also a good location to contemplate on the “plains of Armageddon”, where the final battle will take place, at the end of times.
A tour of Megiddo can be combined with a day tour in the north.