Location, location, location . . . If history ever compared the land of Israel to the game of “Monopoly,” the site of Tel Megiddo would be Boardwalk. It was the most coveted spot on the playing board.
Tel Megiddo’s tremendous value came from its strategic location as the sentinel of the most important pass through the Mt. Carmel range.
Whoever held Tel Megiddo in the ancient world controlled the traffic and trade along the International Highway to and from Egypt. That meant both military and financial security.
Taking Megiddo is like capturing a thousand cities. —Pharaoh Thutmose III
Its value simply can’t be exaggerated.
Tel Megiddo—Looking Back
Geography doesn’t change.
That’s why Tel Megiddo’s strategic location remained for centuries the envy of all who passed through the land of Israel.
When someone conquered the site, they often would rebuild directly on top of the rubble of the previous inhabitants. It’s no wonder today that Tel Megiddo’s towering ruins offer a stunning view of the Jezreel Valley.
(All pics courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)
Tel Megiddo Yesterday and Tomorrow
The site’s name first appeared on the pages of history when Thutmose III chiseled it on the walls of the Karnak Temple. Thutmose III journeyed north through the Mount Carmel range by means of the Megiddo Pass, conquering the fortified city in 1468 BC.
- Whenever I travel on the Megiddo Pass (modern Route 65), I try to imagine the chariots of Pharaoh Thutmose III (1504-1450 BC) as they rumbled north through Joppa to battle the Canaanites at Megiddo.
- Thutmose III was the Pharaoh who oppressed the enslaved Hebrews (see Exodus 2:23.)
Biblical history affirms Tel Megiddo’s significance:
- When Joshua defeated the king of Tel Megiddo about seventy years after Thutmose III (Judges 11:26 and 1 Kings 6:1), the site had already stood strong for a millennium.
- Solomon fortified the city during his empire, building a gate that can still be seen today—similar to the gates he built at Hazor and Gezer (1 Kings 9:15).
- Pharaoh Shishak sacked the city in 923 BC, and the Israelite kings Omri or Ahab rebuilt on its ruins.
- About two hundred years later, the Assyrians took the city.
- King Josiah of Judah was killed there after facing off against Pharaoh Neco (2 Kings 23:29).
More recently, Tel Megiddo has witnessed the strategic victory of General Allenby against the Ottomans in 1918.
The Bible predicts a battle to come where the opposition to the Messiah will gather at the “place which in Hebrew is called Har-magedon”—meaning, “the hill of Tel Megiddo” (Revelation 16:16). The battle of Armageddon will culminate at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
Archaeology at Tel Megiddo
For more than one hundred years, archaeologists have picked through the past at Tel Megiddo.
- Roughly twenty-six layers of occupation lie buried beneath its topsoil.
- The archaeologist’s spade has uncovered numerous finds, including city gates from multiple eras, a sacred area with a Canaanite altar, a grain silo, a water system, and buildings from the time of Ahab that were likely stables (though some argue they were storehouses).
- At the nearby Megiddo prison, a beautiful mosaic was discovered in 2005 that many believe dates to an early Christian church.
- If you want to participate in an archaeological dig at Tel Megiddo, contact the Tel Megiddo Expedition or Tel Aviv University.
Although scholars disagree sharply over the chronology of the archaeological record (big surprise!), Tel Megiddo remains an invaluable location even today.
Its buried treasures tell the story of those who lived there and those who died there defending the strategic pass along Israel’s International Highway.
Megiddo’s biggest contribution to Israel today?
Visiting Tel Megiddo
Because Tel Megiddo is a complex site and dense with history, it may help to do some reading before coming.
Anyone unfamiliar with Tel Megiddo’s historical or geographical significance should plan to stop first at the visitors center. A model of the tell gives a bird’s eye view of the city as it appeared in King Omri’s day.
Any visit should include the gate area (including gates from multiple eras), the sacred area, the grain silo, the stables (yes, I think they are stables), and a walk through the water system.
Question: Is it hard to imagine that the Battle of Armageddon will include this site? To leave a comment, just click here.