I confess I had no idea. I’ve read through the Old Testament a few times and yet this name was as foreign to me as if I’d never read a word of it in my life. Megiddo even appears eight times in the Old Testament.
The site of at least twenty-six layers of cities, it was built, destroyed, built, destroyed, and built again, on top of the others, twenty six times. It’s apparent they loved this spot atop an elevated plateau. It festered greed and was thus coveted for it’s fresh spring water source, location on a major trade route, and it’s lofty location which made it strategic for defense. Though the fortification of these twenty-six cities didn’t seem to work too well now did it?
The valley below was lovely, hiding dark secrets and a bloody history beneath her verdant green skirts.
King Thutmose III, regarded as one of the greatest of the rulers of ancient Egypt and a military genius, compiled the largest empire for Egypt to date. During King Thutmose reign, (1479-1425 BC), Megiddo was one of the centers of Egyptian rule. They revolted along with Syria, Anatolia and Mesopotamia but his armies crushed the rebels amidst heavy battle. The battle of Megiddo is thought to be the largest in any of Thutmose’s seventeen campaigns, with each side estimated as having upwards of ten thousand warriors. The remaining rebels escaped to Megiddo and Thutmose besieged it for 7-8 months before it fell.
The valley was the scene of countless battles but some think this massive battle was the reason this site was referred to in Revelation. In Hebrew- (Har Megiddo) means the mountain of Megiddo (place of a great battle). Our translation is Armageddon.
Through the years it became a place of raging battles, cruel death and much tragedy.
Then there’s the crazy bravery of one single woman, Jael. Two to three hundred years later, the Israelites were captives of the Canaanites during the time of Judge Deborah and Barak. They marched against Sisera, Captain of the Canaanite army, by the waters of Megiddo (Judges 5:19). However, cowardly Sisera escaped during the slaughter of his men to Jael’s sympathizer husband who harbored the fugitive.
Did Jael’s hand shake? Life and death depended on her stealth as Sisera slept hard from exhaustion. With a tent peg in hand, did she waver before she smashed it through his temple? Did she calmly watch as he jerked shocked and blood gushed? Or did she retch ill as she gawked at her deadly handiwork.
A hundred or so years later Megiddo was captured by beloved King David. Solomon (930-971) used forced labor to build a city here (I Kings 9:15). Massive walls of 12’ wide were unearthed by archeologists, along with the impressive gate, one of the largest found in all Israel. Some scholars attribute it to Solomon, others to Ahab.
I read the sign twice. I was standing at the foot of a palace ruin, a palace built by either Solomon or Ahab and evil Jezebel. Either way it was mind blowing. The bible talks about Solomon’s great stables of horses and found among the ruins were two magnificent stable systems.
Next we descended 183 steps down a steep twisting tunnel to the Megiddo springs. During times of peace the spring could be accessed by stairs outside the city walls. But this was problematic during a siege when the water supply could easily be cut off by the enemy. So King Ahab came up with a brilliant engineering feat. Eighty-two feet deep, a shaft was dug through solid rock along with an adjacent tunnel under the city wall, approximately 229’ long. Thus water could be accessed without ever leaving the city walls.
King Josiah’s story was the saddest of all, a senseless death of one of the few good Kings (2 Chronicles 35:22). Josiah confronted Egyptian King Necho in battle. King Necho said he had no quarrel with Josiah. “God has told me to hurry; so stop opposing God, who is with me, or he will destroy you.” Josiah for some reason wouldn’t listen. Whether he didn’t believe God was directing an Egyptian, had some sort of vendetta, or was simply bull-headed, we don’t know. But we do know that he ignored the warning and disguised himself in battle and met Necho’s troops on the plain of Megiddo. Archers launches pierced him there. He later died in Jerusalem.
And to pull it into the New Testament, Jesus would have journeyed on the major thoroughfare of this valley past or through Megiddo many times as he travelled from Galilee.
A place of massive death, it was easy to see God’s hand and be humbled in the knowledge of God’s sovereign plan throughout history.
And I am comforted in knowing God’s hand is in the plan of my own ordinary life.