When Joshua led the Israelites into Canaan, one of the places and kings conquered was in the land of Megiddo. The ancient Canaanite city is located southeast of Mount Carmel, adjacent to the Valley of Jezreel. Scripture records the tribe of Manasseh being allotted this region (Joshua 17:11). However, they failed at securing the territory and the Canaanites “persisted in living in the land.” The Prophetess and Judge Deborah directed Barak, son of Abinoam to lead an army of soldiers against Sison and his troops, who were under the rule of the Canaanite King Jabin (Judges 4). They were to amass at Mount Tabor and battle at the river Kishon, which is in the valley of Megiddo at the foot of Mount Carmel.
It would appear that Solomon controlled the area (1 Kings 4:12) and even fortified it as a city of Israel (1 Kings 9:15). Yet in the following days of the divided kingdom, King Ahaziah (from Judah) went to check on King Joram (from North Israel) who was recovering from wounds of war with the Arameans (2 Kings 9:15, 16). After agreeing to join forces with one another, they go out to face Jehu, who has just been anointed by God through His prophet Elisha, to be King of Israel. Jehu kills Joram and pursues the fleeing Ahaziah. After being seriously wounded, Ahaziah escapes to Megiddo and subsequently dies there. Good King Josiah also died at Megiddo after Pharaoh Neco (king of Egypt) attacked and killed him there.
The ancient city of Tel Megiddo is also known as Tell el-Mutesellim (Arabic), meaning, “tell of the governor.” It enjoyed an abundant water supply from two springs and was strategically located along the major highway for the area, Via Maris. These items, in conjunction with the locality of a fertile valley, made Megiddo a center of business and attention. The excavation site is a major mound of some 20 levels of identifications that predate the 20thc BC. The prominence of Egyptian domination in the region is evident in many archaeological discoveries. Papyrus records during the reign of Pharaoh Amenhotep discuss grain and beer envoys to various Canaanite cities, including Megiddo. Eight of the el-Amarna letters were sent from Megiddo, which indicate the level of importance placed on the city. Maps will also refer to the area as the Plain of Esdraelon (Greek for “Jezreel”) during the Ptolemaic period of occupation. Farms were established by the Greeks in the premium land for produce, but eventually, the Maccabeans will retake it after the revolution against the Seleucids.
Some mystery surrounds the name “Megiddo” due to a compound word used in Revelation 16:16, “Har-Magedon” (or “Armageddon”). Fiction in movies and literature abound with this in reference to “end-time” events, such as world wars and the destruction of the earth. Those who use a literalist approach to Revelation seek to identify Har-Magedon as a literal location. However, to do so is to ignore that Revelation is of apocalyptic genre. This means if Har-Magedon is literal, then so is Babylon and Euphrates in the apocalyptic sense. In order to be exegetically faithful to the text, Har-Magedon is representative and illustrative instead of being specifically geographical in future reference. Old Testament prophecies are often quoted about a final battle in history to be fought in the immediate city of Jerusalem, Mount Zion and its surrounding mountains. However, it is approximately a 2-day walk north from Jerusalem to Megiddo. Arguments of the contrasting parallels between Revelation 19:17-19; 20:8 and Ezekiel 38-39 abound and what or how Har-Magedon plays into the scene. But for the sake of brevity, this article will remain focused on the actual etymology of the pronoun.
Har-Magedon /Armageddon (Hebrew) literally means, “mount of Megiddo.” This is an anomaly because there is technically no mountain of Megiddo. However, sometimes things local to a point can borrow from the name. For example, the river Kishon is called “the waters of Megiddo” in Judges 5:19, 21. Thus, it is possible (not necessarily probable) that Mount Carmel could have been referred to as Mount Megiddo. Another remote possibility is in relation to the city being built on a “tel” or hill. This is why contemporarily some archaeologist refer to “tel-Megiddo” as “har-Megiddo.” There is also the suggestion that Megiddo could come from a root word meaning “to cut, attack or maraud.” Some LXX traditions translate the word to mean “in the plain to being cut down.”
With all of these things in consideration, these are the simple biblical facts. Megiddo was the place where: kings were defeated who oppress God’s people (Jabin and Ahab); false prophets were condemned to death (Elijah at Carmel and Kishon); and misled kings die (Josiah), which caused deep mourning by the nation. The dualistic events of Ahab (wicked) and Josiah (good) being killed at the same place became a proverb amongst Jews. The Apostle John’s record of the vision given to him in Revelation with these typological and prophetic associations of these events is most likely why “mount of Megiddo / Armageddon” is illustratively used.
Megiddo continues to be one of the largest archaeological discoveries in the Middle East and continues to reveal its historical treasures.
- Joshua 12:7-8, 21
- Joshua 17:11
- Judges 5:19
- 1 Kings 4:12
- 1 Kings 9:15
- 2 Kings 9:7
- 2 Kings 23:29
- 2 Chronicles 35:20-24
- Zechariah 12:11 (Megiddon)
- Revelation 16:16