Column: Visiting the ruins of Megiddo


In our continuing trip through Israel and the Palestinian Territories, we visit the excavated ruins of Megiddo, above the Jezreel Valley about 15 miles southwest of Nazareth in Israel.

The Jezreel Valley, an inland valley south of the Sea of Galilee, has been part of an important trade route between Egypt and the empires of southwest Asia for thousands of years. The Romans called it the “way of the sea.” Empires trying to control intercontinental trade have fought at least 34 battles in the Jezreel Valley, the first one in the 15th century B.C., when Pharaoh Thutmose III fought the King of Kadesh.

Since about 7,000 B.C., Megiddo has controlled access to the Jezreel Valley. The Bible reports that King Solomon fortified Megiddo, along with the cities of Gezer and Hazor. Excavations at Megiddo have uncovered a 10th-century B.C. chambered gate very similar to those found at Hazor and Gezer, lending support to that account. Archaeologists, digging through 26 layers of ruins, have also found evidence of administrative buildings and storehouses from the time of Solomon and a concealed tunnel built in the ninth century B.C. that gave Megiddo residents access to their water supply during sieges. Megiddo was permanently abandoned after 586 B.C. when the Babylonians captured Jerusalem.

The Book of Revelation reports that unnamed kings will be gathered together at “Armageddon” before the return of Jesus, presumably to prepare for battle. The word Armageddon is a transliteration of the Hebrew “har megiddo,” or “mountain of Megiddo,” an apparent reference to the large tell that eventually formed over the abandoned Megiddo ruins. Relying on this passage, Christians since the first century have predicted one final battle between good and evil in the Jezreel Valley, almost always involving the most hated regimes of their eras, from the Romans to ISIS.  The wait continues.