Megiddo: the importance of a biblical place known by few people

Many Christians believe that the return of Christ will take place in Isarele to guide believers during the Holy War which will see an eschatological clash between good and evil, and it is precisely the Bible (specifically in the Christian New Testament) that indicates the place of this final battle.

In the last book of the Christian biblical canon, Book of Revelation (chapter 16, 16) there is only a two-line verse that identifies that place chosen by GOD for the final clash between the forces of good and evil, that have been designated as Gog and Magog:

“And they gathered the kings in the place called Armageddon in Hebrew.”

This is written by the Apostle John, or whoever was the author of the prophecy, since the identity is not at all certain. “Armageddon”, is the transliteration into Greek, coming from the Hebrew word HarMegiddo, or Mount Megiddo (Hebrew מגידו, Megido or תל מגידו, Tel Megido; in Arabic تل المستلم, Tall al-Mutasallim or مجيدو, Magīddū; in Greek Μεγιδδώ/Μαγεδδών, Megiddṓ/Mageddṓn in the Septuaginta Bible; in Latin Mageddo).

This place in Israel is famous for theological, historical and geographical reasons. Since ancient Megiddo was an important city-state in a strategic position at the entrance to the pass through the Mount Carmel mountain range, overlooking the Jezreel valley from the south-west. The site was inhabited from 7000 B.C. to 500 B.C. and was the scene of important battles.

History: a strategic place

Megiddo was a site of great importance in the ancient world, as it was located on the western side of a mountain pass in the Mount Carmel mountain range and controlled the Via Maris, an ancient trade route connecting Egypt and Mesopotamia.
A strategic geographical position, like a “north gate”, a hill that opens access to the south of the country (towards Tel Aviv, Jericho and Jerusalem). Named in the Bible Derekh HaYam (Hebrew: דרך הים), or “Way of the Sea”, it became an important route also for armies.

An aerial view of the hill of Meghiddo, in Galilee (Israel)

Megiddo was a Canaanite city-state, often under Egyptian rule, and was conquered by the Jewish people only in the time of King David (around the 10th century BC). After 732 B.C. it became of Assyrian domination and was the capital of the province of Galilee. Because of its strategic location at the crossroads of various roads, Megiddo witnessed many battles. The most famous are:

  • the Battle of Megiddo (15th century BC). It was fought between the armies of the Egyptian Pharaoh Thutmose III, who besieged the city in 1478 B.C., and a large coalition led by the Lords of Megiddo and Kadesh. This was the first battle historically documented: it is described in detail in the hieroglyphics found on the walls of the temple of Thutmose III in Upper Egypt.
  • The battle fought “in the waters of Megiddo” (i.e. on the Kison stream) in the 13th century BC by Debora and Barak against the Canaanite general Sisara. The rain mourned the chariots of Sisara and the victory brought 40 years of peace to the Jewish people.
  • The Battle of Megiddo (609 BC): fought between the forces of ancient Egypt commanded by Wahemibra and the kingdom of Judah. In it was mortally wounded the pious King Josiah, an important reformer of the Jewish cult. In the Jewish and Christian apocalyptic, his death became a symbol of the temporary prevalence of Evil over Good.
  • The Battle of Megiddo (1918): fought during the First World War between the forces of the British Empire, led by General Edmund Allenby, and those of the Ottoman Empire.

The importance today

Today this place remains so mysterious, and in some way feared, that it has become the expression “Armageddon” symbol and synonymous with “end of the world”. Armageddon is mentioned only once in the Greek New Testament (Revelation 16, 16), and Megiddon (or Megiddo) means “a place of crowds”, the name refers to a fortification made by King Ahab (869-850 BC) that dominated the Plain of Jezreel, and it seems that its geological conformation was suitable to gather (and control) a multitude of men, militarily an ideal battlefield.

Megiddo is a mountain, a high hill (תל “hill” in Hebrew) where in ancient times there was a renowned city, a place of bloody wars since the 6th century BC. Many pilgrims come to visit the archaeological remains, which refer to an age much older than that of Christ, during which Megiddo was already uninhabited for centuries.
Many millenarianists came here en masse for New Year 2000, believing that at the stroke of midnight the Apocalypse would begin. They returned home disappointed, not suspecting that nine months later (September 28, 2000) under the name Intifada, an apocalyptic struggle would break out, and that one day Megiddo would be the macabre “theater” of the conflict, when a Palestinian suicide bomber’s car was thrown against an Israeli bus. Rereading now, on the scene of the monstrous attack, the book of Revelation sounds like a prophecy referring to the current reality:

“There was hail with fire mixed with blood falling on the earth… there was lightning and thunder and an earthquake…”.
(Revelation)

But the story of the Apostle John, after the separation of the world into good and evil and the trumpets of the Last Judgment, ends with the triumph of peace and good, with the advent of the “Holy City, the new Jerusalem, the heavenly Jerusalem, illuminated by the glory of GOD”. This is a prophecy that seems not to have been fulfilled yet.


References

  1. Bruno Migliorini, Carlo Tagliavini; Pietro Fiorelli, Il DOP – Dizionario d’ortografia e di pronunzia, 2ª ed., Roma, ERI, 1981.
  2. Megiddo su www.bibarch.com
  3. “Bibletranslation.ws” (PDF).
  4. “Revelation 16:16 And they assembled the kings in the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon”. biblehub.com.
  5. “Amateur Archaeologists Get the Dirt on the Past”, The New York Times
  6. Israeli Prisoners Dig Their Way to Early Christianity
  7. Amihai Mazar, Archaeology of the Land of the Bible (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 476-78.
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