Tel Megiddo and What Megiddo Tells Us

Israel's most strategic site offers you a strategic lesson.

If the world wants something so badly, why not let them have it? The problem comes when what they want is what God has given you and commanded you to guard. It becomes a tug of war with your heart as the prize.

The strategic site of Tel Megiddo

(Photo: The strategic site of Tel Megiddo. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

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. Location, location, location . . . 

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. It’s lesson for us has a daily application.

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)

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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.)
Megiddo gate from the time of Solomon

(Photo: Megiddo gate from the time of Solomon. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

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.

Megiddo's northern stables

(Photo: Megiddo’s northern stables. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

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?

Tourism.

Visiting Tel Megiddo

Because Tel Megiddo is a complex site and dense with history, it may help to do some reading before coming.

Tel Megiddo

(Photo: Tel Megiddo. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

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. A good 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.

What Megiddo Tells us Today

The Israelites refused to drive out the Canaanites in Megiddo—as well as in Beth Shean, Taanach, and Gezer. These sites dotted the major roads that represented the front door to Israel. Not taking control of these cities amounted to not locking one’s doors at night.

This compromise produced disastrous results, just as the Lord had it would:

Their gods will be a constant temptation to you (Judges 2:3, NLT).

It always seems easier to mingle with the culture than to oppose its influence—to find the middle ground rather than stand on our own.

God gives specific commands to protect us from dangers we cannot discern on the surface. No doubt, obedience to God’s commandments is tough. It comes at a hard price—but not as hard as the results of compromise.

Just as in the days of Israel, our culture fights to stay entrenched in our hearts—hearts we have given to God. As we consider our culture’s tug today, we must also consider God’s words again. Controlling those key cities in Israel meant monitoring key points of entry into their lives. It wasn’t just a military issue.

It was spiritual.

In the same way, we must guard the critical points of entry into our hearts.

Question: How does the culture try to entrench itself in your heart? To leave a comment, just click here.

Tel Megiddo on the Map:

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I'd love to hear your thoughts. Just keep it kind and relevant. Thanks!

  • Pingback: God’s Commandments—His Rules Have Reasons | Wayne Stiles()

  • Steven

    Hello Wayne, Please help me understand the relationship of (Judges 11:26 and 1 Kings 6:1) to Joshua or Thutmose III. Thanks. Steven

    • That’s a great question, Steve. The reference in 1 Kings 6:1 remains one of the most important verses in Old Testament chronology. Because the dates of Solomon’s reign are firm in history (971-931 BC), we simply need to do the math to get the date for the Exodus.

      “Now it came about in the four hundred and eightieth year after the sons of Israel came out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel” (1 Kings 6:1).

      • 970/971 Solomon’s reign begins

      • 966 Solomon’s 4th year

      • 1446 Date of Exodus (966 – 480 = 1146)

      • 1406 The conquest of Canaan begins (1446 – 40 years in the wilderness)

      Thutmose III (1504 to 1450) conquered Megiddo in 1468 BC, about 70 years before Joshua did.

      Judges 11:26 mentions that Israel had been in the land for several centuries by the time of Jephthah. That fits with the 1446 date of the Exodus.

      Here are some resources that will give you much more than you’ll ever want to know:

      Bruce Waltke, “Palestinian Artifactual Evidence Supporting the Early Date of the Exodus,” Bibliotheca Sacra 129 (1972): 33-47. You can download a free copy here.

      Leon J. Wood, A Survey of Israel’s History, p. 88-109

      Gleason A. Archer, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties (The 1982 edition discusses this issue on p. 223-34, but I’m not sure the pages in the newer edition.)

  • Ulrich Wendel

    For me it is hard to imagine a so called Battle of Armageddon in Megiddo because neither Revelation 16:16 nor Rev 20:7-9 speaks about a “battle”. In Rev 16:16 only a gathering (of troops?) is mentioned. In 20:9 there is an attempt to fight but only a siege is realized before the combatants are abolished. No reason to have fear of an apocalyptic final “battle”.

    • Thanks, Ulrich. It seems Revelation speaks of Megiddo as the place the leaders gather to make a battle plan. The battle (war) itself culminates with Jesus stopping the fight at His Second Coming. But it does certainly involve fighting. See Zech. 14:1-3 ff. Thanks for your insightful comment.

      • Ulrich Wendel

        Thanks für this comment … I have to think about it.

    • Thanks, Ulrich. It seems Revelation speaks of Megiddo as the place the leaders gather to make a battle plan. The battle (war) itself culminates with Jesus stopping the fight at His Second Coming. But it does certainly involve fighting. See Zech. 14:1-3 ff. Thanks for your insightful comment.

    • Thanks, Ulrich. It seems Revelation speaks of Megiddo as the place the leaders gather to make a battle plan. The battle (war) itself culminates with Jesus stopping the fight at His Second Coming. But it does certainly involve fighting. See Zech. 14:1-3 ff. Thanks for your insightful comment.

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  • mark meguid

    Amazing history.

    • Indeed it is, Mark. Megiddo is an amazing place! Thanks for your comment.

  • Pingback: Caesarea, Mount Carmel, and a Great Question | Wayne Stiles()

  • ARM BAR

    Culture try to entrench itself into my heart trough many things Wayne,especially person like me,can be easily influenced by a culture,that’s not easy indeed,we always need God every minute,and i have a question regarding this tel Megiddo ,is it really a literal war in megiddo will happen in the future?,because as we all know the military technologies have reached its most sophisticated and also a very powerful,and why do we think that they are going to gather in that place to make a war?,isn’t easy for them to just send missile or even using weaponize satelite ?,just curious Wayne,that’s so beautiful place tough.

    • While we aren’t sure how it will occur, the Bible does says the leaders will gather at Megiddo. Only in hindsight will we “see” how it occurs. But the Bible has never missed a prediction yet.

  • Felix Moses

    I only wish I had read this before I visited Megiddo in November 2013!!

    • Megiddo isn’t going anywhere, Felix. 🙂 In fact, come with us this fall or spring on one of our tours!