Israel Trip Journal- Day 6 pt. 1: Megiddo

Thursday, March 17th, 2011Megiddo

Raouf was kind enough to leave us all the usual 6 am wake up call even though he was no longer with us. Since this was our last night at Hotel Leonardo, we had to put our bags out in the hall by 6:30 am and be at breakfast at 6:45 am. We were on the bus and on our way by 7:45 am.

We drove south to Megiddo. On the way, we passed through a very modern large city, Afula, which is south of Nazareth. We didn’t pass back through Nazareth, as we took Hwy 60.
Megiddo is located at the southwest end of  the Jezreel Valley which –the valley, not the tel–we saw from the Mount of Precipice in Nazareth on Tuesday. As mentioned in Day 4- The Galilee: Nazareth , Jezreel is the bread basket of Isreal. It is picturesque, lush and green. Jezreel means ‘El sows’ or ‘God sows.’ The part of the Jezreel Valley where Megiddo lies, is often called the ‘valley of Megiddo.’ 
Beginning of trail up to the tel-Megiddo.
When we arrived at Megiddo (a national park and UNESCO World Heritage Site) we were ushered into the Visitor’s Centre where we watched a movie about the history of Megiddo. Then Susannah gave us a brief overview of the displays of Tel-Megiddo. Next, we headed out to the tel. Although the tel is rocky and dry, the area surrounding it is green and fertile.
Megiddo is one of the largest city mounds in Israel. It is referred to as Tel-Megiddo (Hebrew) or Tell al-Mutesellim (Arab). Called a ‘tel’ because it is a man-made mountain caused by this successive rebuilding– always the more recent one just inside of the border of the former which leads to a ‘step’ type of formation. There have been 26 settlements on this mound (per our guide; some sources list less or more).
The City Gate (late Bronze Age)

It has become an important archaeological site, yielding much information about city planning in antiquity.  It also has a long and rich biblical history, having been continuously occupied from 3,000 to 300 BC.

Megiddo guarded the most important highway of the ancient world–the Via Maris (the ‘Way of the Sea’), which linked Egypt to Mesopotamia. Since this was such a lucrative trade route, Megiddo has been the site of many important battles and sieges throughout its history. There have been references to the city in Egyptian inscriptions from the 15th to the 13th century BC, as well as in the Old and New Testaments.

Manger (feeding trough) at tel-Megiddo

Solomon is associated with Megiddo as it is listed as one of his royal cities (1 Kings 9:15). This location was where he would have administered the northern part of his kingdom. Though Megiddo was one of his main administrative centers, he usually lived in Jerusalem.

Ruins of south horse stables

There is some debate among scholars as to whether the stables here were built by Solomon (10th century BC) or later by Ahab (9th century BC).

Solomon is renowned for his love of horses and chariots, and in I Kings 10:26 it states that he accumulated 1400 chariots, which he kept in chariot cities throughout his kingdom. Remains of Solomon’s palace, administrative buildings and storehouses have been found here and in all three chariot cities mentioned in the 1 Kings 9:15 passage.

Iron Age Tunnel under Tel-Megiddo

Megiddo was destroyed by Pharoah Shisak (aka Sheshonk I or Sheshonq I) in 926 BC, and later rebuilt as a royal chariot city by Ahab with walls 11 1/2  ft thick. Ahab also restored the Solomonic city gate.

And, like Hezekiah’s Tunnel, which I describe in Day 3 pt. 2 of this blog, Ahab dug a tunnel under Megiddo to give the inhabitants safe access to the spring outside the fortress walls. Similarly, it was dug from either end until the workers met in the middle. This subterranean water system consists of a shaft connected by a tunnel that leads to the spring. It is 230 feet long and 98 ft deep.

This huge hole in the ground was a
grain silo used during times of siege

The fortess city of Megiddo was still in use during the reign of Jeroboam II (13th king of Israel) as attested by an inscription excavated there stating: ‘to Shema, servant of Jeroboam.’

Megiddo is also the place where Ahaziah, king of Judah–not to be confused with his uncle Ahaziah king of Israel–died from his wounds (2 Kings 9:27). King Josiah also died here (2 Kings 23:29-30). Although Josiah was a good king– unlike Ahaziah–it is assumed by many Bible commentators that his death was judgement for allying himself with the wicked Assyrians and ignoring Pharoah’s warning (2 Chronicles 35:20-23).

The name Armageddon is thought to be a corruption of Har- Megiddo (the hill of Megiddo). Megiddo, or more specifically, the Jezreel Valley, is the future site of the ‘Battle of the End of Days’ (Revelation 16:16). Joel refers to the final battle in Joel 3:10-14, as does Revelation 16:14, although there is some disagreement about whether the terms ‘valley of Jehoshaphat’ and ‘valley of decision’ actually refer to the valley of Megiddo.

Mt. Gilboa (scene of Saul’s defeat & suicide- 1 Samuel 31:1-6);
Jezreel Valley in foreground as seen from tel-Megiddo

Some commentators believe that the ‘valley of Jehoshaphat’ refers to the Kidron Valley (between the Old City of Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives). Especially given Zechariah’s prophecy in Zechariah 14:1-9. Others believe it to be a symbolic reference due to the fact that Jehoshaphat means ‘Jehovah is judge,’ or ‘the Lord judges.’ Thus Joel could still be referring to0 Armageddon–which will be a place of judgement.

Still others believe that this is a double entendre: not only in reference to the name’s literal translation, but also to the miraculous event the Lord wrought on Jehoshaphat’s behalf  in the Valley of Berakah (2 Chronicles 20:1-30). Since the Valley of Berakah is southwest of Jerusalem (Megiddo is northwest, and the Kidron Valley is east of  Jerusalem), it furthers the belief that Joel’s reference to the ‘valley of Jehoshaphat’ and ‘valley of decision’ is a figurative references to this end time event.  


Palace remains at tel-Megiddo

Many people are familiar with the prophecy in Isaiah 2:4 (and Micah 4:3): “He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation,  nor will they train for war anymore.” Which is inscribed on a statue outside the United Nations complex. In these two passages, weapons of war are converted into peacetime tools.

However, rarely does anyone reference Joel 3:10, which states the opposite: “Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears. Let the weakling say, ‘I am strong!’” Thus, Joel’s prophecy envisions the people of the earth beating peacetime tools into weapons of war, being gathered to a great battle, where they think they will conquer Israel, but instead be judged by the Lord for their wickedness.

Circular altar or ‘high place’ from the Canaanite period

Although the passages seem to contradict one another (beating into and out of swords), all  three refer to this final judgement of the nations. However, Joel refers to the war that precedes the judgment, while Isaiah and Micah comfort us with the ultimate end result of Jesus’ coming judgement: Peace. Though it is noble for mankind to pursue peace, it will never be accomplished by the UN or through any other human effort. John 14:27 states: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” 

Next post: Day 6 pt. 2: Mt. Carmel & Caesarea