By Mike Willis
The ancient town of Megiddo was destroyed so many times and by so many different conquerors that its name became synonymous with all out war and total destruction. Megiddo overlooks the Jezreel Valley and has been important militarily since ancient times.
The fortified hill of Megiddo is a remarkable tel (settlement mound) where 20 layers of civilization have been uncovered since excavations began in 1903. Megiddo is located in the only pass through the Carmel mountain range. A major trade route that skirted the coast passed through the Carmel range of mountains at Megiddo. Of vital military and trading importance, this highway was named by the Romans Via Maris. Whoever controlled the Jezreel valley controlled northern Israel and the trade routes that passed through it.
About 4000 B.C. Canaanites took over the settlement here and remained there for some 2000 years. A Canaanite temple and fortifications survive. Egyptian records indicate that Pharaoh Thutmose III (1479-1425 B.C.) defeated an Asiatic coalition headed by the king of Kadesh. The name “Megiddo” first appears in the Bible when Megiddo was conquered by the Israelites under Joshua in the 13th century B.C. (Josh. 12:21; 17:11) and given to the tribe of Manasseh (Josh. 17:11). The Philistines subsequently held the city (Judg. 1:27), but it was retaken by David in 1000 B.C. Solomon enlarged the city and there are many remains from that period (1 Kings 9:15). The six chambered gate is from the time of Solomon.
King Ahab built an underground shaft and water tunnel 118 ft. deep and 213 feet long. On the site of Solomon’s palace, he built a chariot stable for 450 horses, chariots, and riders (1 Kings 9:19; 10:26). In front is a large circular grain silo. Conquered by the Assyrians in 733 B.C., the site frequently changed hands and was abandoned in 538 B.C.
Megiddo was the scene of some major battles in the Old Testament. Deborah and Barak defeated Sisera and Jabin, king of Hazor, there (Judg. 5:19). Ahaziah died here when Jehu led a successful rebellion in Israel (2 Kings 9:27). Josiah was killed in a battle with Pharaoh-nechoh (2 Kings 23:29). The battlefield was so renown that Armageddon is used in the book of Revelation to describe a great spiritual conflict.
Significant artifacts found here include:
- In 1903, a seal that said “belonging to Shema, the servant of Jeroboam.” Could this be from the servant of King Jeroboam I or II?
- A collection of 282 ivories from the 13th-12th centuries B.C.
- A circular altar for Canaanite worship.
- A water tunnel belonging to the time of Ahab.
- Solomonic double gateway entrance.
- Ruins for stables from the times of Omri and Ahab. These formerly were thought to be from the reign of King Solomon, but are now generally thought to have been from Omri and Ahab. The stables housed 450 horses. Megiddo