The Jezreel Valley. The Plain of Esdraelon. Armageddon.

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. *

Topographical map showing Megiddo overlooking the Jezreel Valley
and all its major trade routes.

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.

Joshua 12:7-8, 21b These are the kings of the land that Joshua and the Israelites conquered on the west side of the Jordan, from Baal Gad in the Valley of Lebanon to Mount Halak, which rises toward Seir (their lands Joshua gave as an inheritance to the tribes of Israel according to their tribal divisions- 8 the hill country, the western foothills, the Arabah, the mountain slopes, the desert and the Negev - the lands of the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites): ... 21 ... the king of Megiddo [,] one (NIV)

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.

Joshua 17:10-13 On the south the land belonged to Ephraim, on the north to Manasseh. The territory of Manasseh reached the sea and bordered Asher on the north and Issachar on the east. 11 Within Issachar and Asher, Manasseh also had Beth Shan, Ibleam and the people of Dor, Endor, Taanach and Megiddo , together with their surrounding settlements (the third in the list is Naphoth). 12 Yet the Manassites were not able to occupy these towns, for the Canaanites were determined to live in that region. 13 However, when the Israelites grew stronger, they subjected the Canaanites to forced labor but did not drive them out completely. (NIV) [See also 1 Chronicles 7:29]

Judges 1:27-28 But Manasseh did not drive out the people of Beth Shan or Taanach or Dor or Ibleam or Megiddo and their surrounding settlements, for the Canaanites were determined to live in that land. 28 When Israel became strong, they pressed the Canaanites into forced labor but never drove them out completely. (NIV)

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.

Judges 5:1, 19-21 On that day Deborah and Barak son of Abinoam sang this song: ... 19 "Kings came, they fought; the kings of Canaan fought at Taanach by the waters of Megiddo, but they carried off no silver, no plunder. 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! (NIV)

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.

1 Kings 4:7-8a, 12 Solomon also had twelve district governors over all Israel, who supplied provisions for the king and the royal household. Each one had to provide supplies for one month in the year. 8 These are their names: ... 12 Baana son of Ahilud - in Taanach and Megiddo, and in all of Beth Shan next to Zarethan below Jezreel, from Beth Shan to Abel Meholah across to Jokmeam; (NIV)

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.

1 Kings 9:15-19 Here is the account of the forced labor King Solomon conscripted to build the Lord's temple, his own palace, the supporting terraces, the wall of Jerusalem, and Hazor, Megiddo and Gezer. 16 (Pharaoh king of Egypt had attacked and captured Gezer. He had set it on fire. He killed its Canaanite inhabitants and then gave it as a wedding gift to his daughter, Solomon's wife. 17 And Solomon rebuilt Gezer.) He built up Lower Beth Horon, 18 Baalath, and Tadmor in the desert, within his land, 19 as well as all his store cities and the towns for his chariots and for his horses-whatever he desired to build in Jerusalem, in Lebanon and throughout all the territory he ruled. (NIV)

Northern palace against city wall. Scholars dispute whether all or some of this structure
date to the time of Solomon (10th century BC) or Ahab (9th century BC)
Traces of an earlier structure underneath are thought to possibly be from David's era.

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.

2 Kings 9:27-29 When Ahaziah king of Judah saw what had happened [that Joram, son of Ahab and Jezebel, had been killed], he fled up the road to Beth Haggan. Jehu chased him, shouting, "Kill him too!" They wounded him in his chariot on the way up to Gur near Ibleam, but he escaped to Megiddo and died there. 28 His servants took him by chariot to Jerusalem and buried him with his fathers in his tomb in the City of David. 29 (In the eleventh year of Joram son of Ahab, Ahaziah had become king of Judah.) (NIV)

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.

2 Kings 23:29-30 While Josiah was king, Pharaoh Neco king of Egypt went up to the Euphrates River to help the king of Assyria. King Josiah marched out to meet him in battle, but Neco faced him and killed him at Megiddo. 30 Josiah's servants brought his body in a chariot from Megiddo to Jerusalem and buried him in his own tomb. And the people of the land took Jehoahaz son of Josiah and anointed him and made him king in place of his father. (NIV)

2 Chronicles 35:20-24 After all this, when Josiah had set the temple in order, Neco king of Egypt went up to fight at Carchemish on the Euphrates, and Josiah marched out to meet him in battle. 21 But Neco sent messengers to him, saying, "What quarrel is there between you and me, O king of Judah? 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 Neco 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. (NIV)

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.

Zechariah 12:10-11 "And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son. 11 On that day the weeping in Jerusalem will be great, like the weeping of Hadad Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. (NIV)

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".

Revelation 16:16-17 Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon. (NIV) [Revelation 17:14; Revelation 19:17-21]

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!"

Jezreel Valley (composite photo causes curve of horizon). View from Megiddo
Click here or photo above for larger.

For a view of the valley from Nazareth click here


Public grain silo from the time of King Jeroboam II (8th century BC)
Silo had a 450 cubic meter capacity. Straw was found between the stones.

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.


End Notes

* 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).


Entrance to the great shaft and water tunnel (composite photo, perspective is distorted)
Dated to Solomon's Era, though some say older at 12th century BC
Note the ancient stone stairs going down outside of railing area

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