This is Tel Megiddo, where 26 layers of fortified cities were found to have been built and destroyed. Across the Jazreel Valley are the Judean Hills. The road across the valley here was the main road from Egypt to the Euphrates River in what is now Iraq. (click on photographs for higher resolution images).
Megiddo is Hebrew for a “gathering place for soldiers.” The Greeks called it Armageddon. The first well-documented battle took place there almost 3,500 years ago. Bible prophecy tells about the last battle between good and evil being fought at Armageddon.
There is nothing like being there! We spent Thanksgiving week 2009 in the land where Bible events took place. We stood on the cliff where the people of Nazareth tried to kill Jesus. From there, we took the road southeast through the beautiful Jezreel valley. This ancient road from Damascus to the Mediterranean Sea down through the Judean hills was called the “Via Maris” (Latin for ”The Way of the Sea”). We traveled the same paths taken by invaders thousands of year age. Egyptians from the south, Assyrians, Babylonians, Greeks, Persians and Romans, all fought and controlled passage of this road at different times.
Across the relatively small Jezreel Valley stands Tel Megiddo. A tell is an artificial mound built up over centuries and sometimes thousands of years when a city was built, destroyed, and rebuilt on the rubble of the destruction. Megiddo is mentioned thirteen times in the Bible. Command of this ancient town controlled the most direct passage through the Mount Carmel Mountains to the Sea. Archaeologist have identified between 25 and 30 settlement levels here dating back several thousand of year before the birth of Jesus Christ.
The earliest well-documented battle here was in the 15th century B. C. Even at that early date the city was well fortified with strong walls. A coalition of Canaanite and Mitanni (Syrian) kings declared their independence from Egyptian domination. The king of Kadesh on the Orontes River headed the allied Canaanite kings. Pharaoh Thutmose III (circa 1504-1450 B.C.) marched out to retake the land. It appears that the kings had gathered together and were preparing for an attack. Thutmose III had slightly exaggerated inscriptions erected at Karnak in Egypt: “All the princes of all the northern countries are cooped up within it. The capture of Megiddo is the capture of a thousand towns.” Only the leader managed to escape from Megiddo during a long siege that ensued and he was later captured in his kingdom to the north.
The year was about 1468 B.C., when Thutmose III marched for ten days, with a force of 10,000 to the city of Gaza, which had remained loyal to the Egyptians. From Gaza through the Mount Carmel mountain range, there were three choices. The Pharaoh took “the least most traveled” pass. It was the most direct, but also the most dangerous route through a narrow ravine. The defenders of Megiddo were, for the most part, stationed at the passes to the north and south of the city. Thutmose and his army marched to surround Megiddo with little resistance. A seven-month siege followed until there was no food within the walls.
Each side were said to have had at least 1,000 chariots. The temple carvings at Karnak describe what the Egyptians captured at Megiddo:
(1) 340 living prisoners.
(2) 2,041 mares.
(3) 191 foals.
(4) 6 stallions.
(5) “A chariot wrought with gold, it pole of gold, belonging to that foe.”
(6) “A beautiful chariot, wrought with gold belonging to the Chief of Megiddo.”
(7) “892 chariots of his wretched army.”
(8) 924 chariots.
(9) “A beautiful suit of bronze armor belonging to that foe.”
(10) “A beautiful suit of bronze armor belonging to the Chief of Megiddo.”
(11) “200 suits of armor belonging to his wretched army.”
(12) 502 bows.
(13) “7 poles of mry wood wrought with silver belonging to the tent of the foe.”
(14) 1,929 large cattle/
(15) 2,000 small cattle.
(16) 20,500 white small cattle.
(17) 200 leather coats of armor.
Although monument inscriptions were often exaggerated, we see that a large and prosperous city was located here almost a century and a half before the birth of Jesus Christ.
Another Karnak inscription lists what was “afterwards taken” from Megiddo by the Egyptians: (1) “38 Lords of theirs”
(2) 87 children of that foe and of the chiefs who were with them.”
(3) “5 Lords of them.”
(4) “1796 male and female slaves with their children, non-combatants who surrendered because of famine with that foe.”
(5) 103 men.
Thutmose III expanded Egyptian territory to its greatest extent. It is recorded that he conquered 350 cities. He had a great army and never lost a battle. For almost a thousand years, battles continued in this fertile valle.
The Visitor's Center model of Tel Megiddo
The Battle of Deborah and Barak
Another great battle took place near Megiddo about the year 1125 B.C.
Never underestimate what a couple of girls can get done. Joshua and the Israelites came from slavery in Egypt and conquered many cities in the promised land of milk and honey. The Canaanites in the Jezreel Valley and the fortified city of Megiddo kept the Israelites in the hill country to the east.
Ancient history seems to have been a man’s world, but somehow Deborah became the leader of Egypt. We are not told how she came to that position of power. It was about the year 1,125 before the birth of Jesus Christ. The Lord told Deborah that He would give the Canaanites into her hands. She called on her general Barak to assemble 10,000 fighting men on Mount Tabor.
The Canaanites gathered near the cities of Taanack and Megiddo. They had 900 iron chariots and the Israelites had none. But the Lord won the battle.
And here is the rest of the story from Judges chapter five beginning with verse 20:
20 From the heavens the stars fought,
from their courses they fought against Sisera.
21 The river Kishon swept them away,
the age-old river, the river Kishon.
March on, my soul; be strong!
22 Then thundered the horses’ hoofs—
galloping, galloping go his mighty steeds.
23 ‘Curse Meroz,’ said the angel of the LORD.
‘Curse its people bitterly,
because they did not come to help the LORD,
to help the LORD against the mighty.’
24 “Most blessed of women be Jael,
the wife of Heber the Kenite,
most blessed of tent-dwelling women.
25 He asked for water, and she gave him milk;
in a bowl fit for nobles she brought him curdled milk.
26 Her hand reached for the tent peg,
her right hand for the workman’s hammer.
She struck Sisera, she crushed his head,
she shattered and pierced his temple.
27 At her feet he sank,
he fell; there he lay.
At her feet he sank, he fell;
where he sank, there he fell—dead.
28“Through the window peered Sisera’s mother;
behind the lattice she cried out,
‘Why is his chariot so long in coming?
Why is the clatter of his chariots delayed?’
29 The wisest of her ladies answer her;
indeed, she keeps saying to herself,
30 ‘Are they not finding and dividing the spoils:
a girl or two for each man,
colorful garments as plunder for Sisera,
colorful garments embroidered,
highly embroidered garments for my neck—
all this as plunder?’
31 “So may all your enemies perish, O LORD!
But may they who love you be like the sun
when it rises in its strength. Then the land had peace forty years. "
The Kishon River flows northeast near Taanack and Megiddo to the northwest east of the Carmel Mountain range. The Lord sent a flood, which made the iron chariots useless, and the Israelites killed all of Barak’s men, except the leader Sisera. The Bible tells us here that another woman took care of Sisera, who was leading the Canaanites. Here is another verse which tells about Sisera's death:
“Barak came by in pursuit of Sisera, and Jael went out to meet him. "Come," she said, "I will show you the man you're looking for." So he went in with her, and there lay Sisera with the tent peg through his temple—dead.” (Judges 4:22 – NIV).
The Bible tells us that there was peace for 40 years after this important battle. That was a true miracle for that time and that part of the world.
King Josiah Fatally Wounded At Megiddo.
Just over 500 years later, another there was another battle near Megiddo. King Josiah started out young. He became king when he was eight years old and reigned for 31 years from 641-609 B.C.
In the spring of 609 B.C., Pharaoh Necho II of Egypt led his large army towards the Euphrates River to aid the Assyrians. They took the best path through Mount Carmel, which made Megiddo such an important and strategic city.
Josiah’s Judean army was there at Megiddo and tried to block the Egyptians. It was a fatal mistake. In 2nd Chronicles 35:21, the Bible tells us “But Necho sent messengers to him saying, ‘What quarrel is there between you and me, o King of Judea? It is not you I am attacking at this time, but the house with which I am at war. God has told me to hurry; so stop opposing God, who is with me, or he will destroy you.” (22) ‘Josiah, however, would not turn away from him, but disguised himself to engage him in battle. He would not listen to what Necho had said at God’s command, but went to fight him on the plain of Megiddo.’ (23) ‘Archers shot King Josiah, and he told his officers, ‘Take me away, I am badly wounded.’ (24) ‘So they took him out of his chariot, put him in the other chariot he had and brought him to Jerusalem, where he died. He was buried in the tombs of his fathers, and all Judah and Jerusalem mourned for him.”