Lessons from Megiddo

Dr. Ron J. Bigalke

(Sites of the Bible Series)

Megiddo (modern Tel Megiddo) is an important Old Testament city situated on the Mount Carmel mountain range. It overlooks the Plain of Esdraelon (Valley of Jezreel) and is approximately 18.6 miles (30 km) southeast of the modern Port of Haifa in northern Israel.

The plain (valley) separates the Carmel and Samaria mountain ranges in the south from the northern Galilean hills. If the history of the land of Israel were compared to the game Monopoly, the site Megiddo would be “Boardwalk” (because it would be the most coveted space on the playing board). As real estate agents commonly say, what is most important regarding property is location, location, location (and that is certainly true regarding Megiddo).

Suppose a person greatly desires control of something, such as Megiddo in antiquity. Should it be acquired simply because it is coveted? What occurs in such circumstances, when someone wants what God has given and has commanded to guard? Obviously, a problem arises, and conflict is inevitable. The predicament may even involve a person’s heart, soul, mind, and strength as the coveted prize.

The Significance of Megiddo
Megiddo is one of the most strategic locations in the land of Israel, because it is the lookout of the most important pass through the Mount Carmel range. Its exceptional location made it a site of conflict for the major and minor powers of the region. Whoever controlled ancient Megiddo was able to dominate the trade and traffic routes along the International Highway (the Via Maris) connecting Egypt and Mesopotamia. Megiddo linked the great powers of ancient Mesopotamia with Egypt: Assyria, Babylon, and Persia. Many critical battles occurred at Megiddo, because the city provided both financial and military security.

The first historical reference to Megiddo occurred during the reign of Pharaoh Thutmose III. He conquered the land of Israel, and thus began Egyptian rule over Canaan, which continued for more than 300 years. Thutmose knew the significance of his victory and remarked, “The capture of Megiddo is the capture of a thousand cities.” The immensity of the plain is so remarkable that Napoleon supposedly declared, “All the armies of the world could maneuver their forces on this vast plain. . . . There is no place in the whole world more suited for war than this. . . . [Megiddo] is the most natural battleground on the whole earth.”

The original inhabitants of Megiddo were the Canaanites (Judg 1:27), who remained in the city even when the Philistines conquered it and retained control, until it was subjugated by the Israelites in the time of King David. Approximately 70 years subsequent to Thutmose III, Joshua defeated “the king of Megiddo” (Josh 12:21). God used Deborah to rout Sisera’s Canaanites “near the waters of Megiddo” (Judg 5:19-21). The discovery of horse stables at Megiddo has been attributed to King Solomon, who “had 40,000 stalls of horses for his chariots, and 12,000 horsemen” (1 Kgs 4:26; cf. 10:26), and apparently stationed some of those chariots and horses at the city. Solomon fortified Megiddo by rebuilding its walls: “Now this is the account of the forced labor which King Solomon levied to build the house of the LORD, his own house, the Millo, the wall of Jerusalem, Hazor, Megiddo, and Gezer” (1 Kgs 9:15).

Pharoah Shishak invaded Judah and conquered Megiddo in 923 BC (1 Kgs 14:25). Two kings of the Northern Kingdom—Omri and Ahab—rebuilt on ruins of the city. The economic prosperity and military strength of the Northern Kingdom is displayed at Megiddo more than any other ancient city in Israel, which is evident in the remains of impressive gates, palaces, stables, and water systems. Megiddo was an important Israelite city until 733 BC, when King Tiglath-pileser III of Assyria conquered it. King Ahaziah of Judah died at Megiddo when King Jehu of Israel led a successful rebellion (2 Kgs 9:27). The esteemed King Josiah of Judah was killed there in a battle with Pharaoh Neco (2 Kgs 23:29).

The value of Megiddo cannot be exaggerated, and has a powerful word of application today. The strategic location of Megiddo made it the envy of all who passed through the land of Israel. Whenever someone captured Megiddo, they would frequently rebuild directly on the remains of a different period of habitation (what archaeologists call a tel). Unsurprisingly, today, the towering ruins of Tel Megiddo provide a spectacular view of the Jezreel Valley. Scripture even prophecies of a future battle where opposition to the Messiah will gather at the “place which in Hebrew is called Har-magedon [meaning ‘hill of Megiddo’]” (Rev 16:16). Megiddo became associated with this eschatological battle due to great wars being fought in its vicinity and in memory of the godly King Josiah, who was killed there. The battle of Armageddon will go beyond Megiddo, since it is the place from which all the armies of the earth gather and go forth to fight throughout the entire land of Israel.

Isaiah prophesied of Messiah coming “from Edom” (63:1), and the prophet Joel (3:2) said “all the nations” will be brought “to the valley of Jehoshaphat,” which is near Jerusalem. The final battle will extend from Megiddo in the north to present day Jordan in the south—and through the valley of Jehoshaphat near Jerusalem, which will be the primary focus of interest since God “will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle” (Zech 14:2). Many Jewish and Christian sources regard “the mourning of Hadadrimmon” to be in reference to the grief of the Jewish people at Josiah’s death (Zech 12:12), which anticipates a future time when the nation will mourn for the Messiah as they grieved for Josiah (vv. 10-12). The campaign of Armageddon will involve many battles that will conclude at the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ (Rev 16:13-16; 19:11-19).

The fact that the final battle occurs in relation to Megiddo (cf. Rev 16:16) is significant, because it brings to mind the ridge of Mount Carmel, where the prophet Elijah battled the 450 prophets of Baal. King Ahab and Queen Jezebel promoted Baal worship in Israel, and thereby persuaded the people to engage in gross idolatry. In response, Elijah challenged the people’s compromise in asking, “How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him” (1 Kgs 18:21). With all Israel gathered at Mount Carmel, Elijah forced them to make a decision. They had to choose either God or Baal, and could not continue worshiping both.

Elijah publicly and willingly put God to the test. He offered the prophets of Baal an opportunity to make their god known. Elijah made an altar for his sacrifice, as did the prophets of Baal; yet Elijah called upon the name of the Lord, while the prophets of Baal called upon their god. Whoever answered by fire would prove “He is God” (v. 24). The god of the Baal worshipers failed to answer, so Elijah called upon the true God to reveal Himself by fire, which fell from heaven and consumed the offering and the altar (v. 38). Elijah commanded the prophets of Baal to be seized, and they were brought “to the brook Kishon” (the Jezreel Valley) and slain there (v. 40). Elijah’s extraordinary triumph over the prophets of Baal is a small preview of the great apocalyptic battle at Armageddon, in which God’s power will be manifested in the destruction of His enemies. Just as Baal and his prophets were conquered near Megiddo, so also will Satan and his forces be defeated at “Har-magedon” (the “hill of Megiddo”).

Learning from Megiddo
What is the lesson of Megiddo for us today? First, the Israelites failed to expel the Canaanites from Megiddo (in addition to other locations). Those sites occupied the primary roads by which one would enter the land of Israel. Not to take control of those cities is the equivalent to leaving one’s doors unlocked. Israel’s compromise was disastrous, precisely as God said it would be: “Their gods will be a constant temptation to you” (Judg 2:3). What is amazing is how many altars remain in ruins at Megiddo which face west instead of east (toward the rising sun), as God instructed.

Megiddo proves that it is always easier to accommodate the culture than to oppose its influence; it is always easier to compromise than to guard oneself as God has instructed. Scripture provides specific commands to protect His people from dangers that are not readily evident. Certainly, obedience to God’s commands is challenging, yet it is not as difficult as the results of compromise.

Similar to the time of ancient Israel, the culture fights to control a person’s heart, soul, mind, and strength (what rightly belongs to God). As one considers the influence of a culture that is often contrary to God’s will, it is all the more necessary to “watch [our] life and doctrine [beliefs] closely,” as 1 Timothy 4:16 instructs. Controlling specific cities in Israel meant monitoring significant points of entry into their lives. The issue was not simply military-related; rather, it was spiritual. In a similar manner, believers must guard the vital means of access into their heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Midnight Call - 01/2023

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