Model (at Megiddo) showing how the city would have looked, along with finds at different strata
Megiddo (alt. Megiddon in KJV) was a major Canaanite city located in north central Israel. Archaeological evidence identifies it as one of the oldest known cities in the world. Situated at a major crossroads overlooking the Jezreel Valley, it subsequently became a major center for Israel after they gained control of this strategic location. Excavation of this major Tell (Tell el-Mutesellim) has produced ruins and artifacts which date to numerous eras, as the city appears to have been built and rebuilt more than 20 times. *
map showing Megiddo overlooking the Jezreel Valley
Older Aerial photo of the Tell
In Scriptures, early mention of Megiddo has it listed as one of the cities defeated (and kings killed) by Joshua on the west side of the Jordan.
View of the Tell
During the subsequent division of the land, Megiddo was specifically given to the tribe of Manasseh. From the Biblical text it becomes clear that even though Megiddo's king had been killed and the city technically defeated, the Canaanites had retained (or quickly regained) control of the city.
Megiddo, due to its strategic location, and nearby flat valley (Jezreel) which is ideal for fighting battles, was the site of many throughout history. In the time of the Judges, as Israel celebrated their defeat of the Canaanite king Jabin, from Hazor, and his commander Sisera, the area of Megiddo was singled out as the location of the battle.
King Solomon ** understood the need to control Megiddo, specifically placing it under the control of one of his twelve district governors, along with Beth Shan.
The Bible, in noting that King Solomon used conscripted labor for a number of his major building projects, specifically lists Megiddo as one such place. It is likely that general fortifications, storage buildings and stables would have all been part of his building projects.
palace against city wall. Scholars dispute whether all or some of
Diagram of northern palace: Red = Palace. Left side = Stables. Top side = City wall
Early during the divided kingdom, extra-biblical sources tell us that Rehobam was unable to defend Megiddo from Egypt ***. Later still, King Ahaziah of Judah met his demise at Megiddo following his association with Joram, King of Israel.
Another of the great battles fought in the shadow of Megiddo saw the King of Judah, Josiah, trying to exert control over this region (which had been under Assyrian control for more than eight decades). He rightly understood that whoever controlled these major roads controlled the region. This led to Judah attempting to block Egypt from traveling through their land to go to the aid of Assyria - a proposition that ended badly for King Josiah.
The prophet Zechariah uses a historic reference to the mourning that took place at the death of good king Josiah and uses it as a picture of the mourning that will take place for the Messiah.
Megiddo's bloody history certainly enhances the imagery of prophecy found in the New Testament book of Revelation - at least when someone figures out that the name Armageddon is built on the name Megiddo. The name Megiddo, itself, means "place of gathered troops". "Armageddon" is then a Greek contraction and corruption of two Hebrew words "Har" "Megiddon" - meaning "Mount (or Hill) of Megiddo".
The valley stretching before Megiddo, the valley of Jezreel (sometime called by its Greek name "the Plain of Esdraelon"), would be where any battle would be fought - a fact testified to by multitude of battles fought there throughout history ****. For most (perhaps all) of these battles the outcome was decisive; whoever controlled the area controlled the country. Likewise, the imagery in Revelation would say "He who defeats all the kings of the earth here, controls the earth!"
Valley (composite photo causes curve of horizon). View from Megiddo
For a view of the valley from Nazareth click here
grain silo from the time of King Jeroboam II (8th century BC)
Another view of the grain silo. Notice stairs down the far side.
Southern Stables (dating to the time of Ahab)
Diagram of Southern Stables
Horse trough at Southern Stables. Stones with hole to tie up horses.
* Megiddo was already a large urban center by the early Bronze Age before suffering a time of minimal inhabitation following one of its' many destructions. In the Middle Bronze Age (1950-1550 BC), a new city with direct ties to Egypt arose on the ruins of Megiddo, as evidenced by statues and stelae that have been found.
Canaanite circular altar (Early Bonze Age)
Canaanite high place and religious complex surrounding (Early Bronze Age)
Model (at Megiddo) of pagan worship at Canaanite circular high place
By the Late Bronze Age (1550-1250 BC) Egypt actively began to try and exert outright control over the region. Pharaoh Thutmose III (1504-1450) claims to have surprised defenders surrounding the Valley of Jezreel by taking the direct (or central pass) into the valley (versus two other passes that were expected). The ensuing battle in the shadow of Megiddo (circa 1468 B.C.) resulted in an Egyptian victory, but the Canaanites fled to Megiddo and refused to capitulate until after a seven month siege. Megiddo resumed its role as a base of Egyptian power in the region. The Pharaoh who succeeded Thutmose III, Amenhotep II, records encamping at Megiddo to quell rebellions elsewhere in the region.
Northern gate: 15th century B.C.
During the time of the conquests of Joshua (early to mid 14th century B.C.), the Egyptian Amarna archives show that all was not well at Megiddo. The ruler of Megiddo was complaining of abuses by Egyptian officers, even though he had tried to please the Egyptians. The Egyptian garrison had been removed and the ruler of Megiddo was having trouble protecting his sheepshearers from raiders, not to mention his city from military advances by the prince of Shechem. The letters show the ruler of Megiddo appealing to Egypt for one hundred archers to defend the city. Certainly these and subsequent similar problems, plus a waning influence by Egypt in the region, helped to weaken Megiddo, enabling it to be brought under Israel control by the time of the monarchy.
Artifact and inscription displayed at Megiddo (note spelling of "probably")
** The Philistines prevented Saul from maintaining control over this region (see 1 Samuel 28:4). It was likely David that first subjected Megiddo to ongoing forced labor (i.e. Joshua 17:13), with a pair of administrative structures found there (one north, one south) being attributed to his reign. By the time of Solomon's refortifications, large storehouses and support structures were in place to support troops.
*** In approximately 918 B.C., Pharoah Shishak invaded the territory of Jeroboam I (in his fifth year). Egyptian inscriptions list Megiddo as one of the towns conquered, plus a stele of Shishak was found in excavations at Megiddo. Rehoboam (Judah) didn't fair much better, the same Egyptian records also include Arad and Jerusalem (see 1 Kings 14:25-26; 2 Chronicles 12:9).
**** Wars fought at Megiddo but not recorded in Scriptures; include one by Napoleon and, much more recently, the British battle against the Ottoman Turks in 1918 which led to British rule over Palestine (ending four centuries of rule by the Turkish Empire).
to the great shaft and water tunnel (composite photo, perspective is distorted)
Modern stairs to descend the great shaft
Modern walk-way through ancient water tunnel
Main water pool at far end of tunnel (tunnel exit was behind girls (upper left of photo)
Looking up to concealed entrance outside of city walls.
Concealed entrance to spring outside of city walls
Pivot stone (with water in it) that would have held a large door