Skip to main content

Welcome to Armageddon: Meet the city behind the biblical story

Remains of the entrance gate to the ancient city of Megiddo.
Remains of the entrance gate to the ancient city of Megiddo, otherwise known as Armageddon.
(Image: © Shutterstock)

Megiddo is an archaeological site that was inhabited between roughly 7000 B.C. and 300 B.C. Numerous battles were fought near Megiddo during that time, and the Book of Revelation, which refers to the site as Armageddon, prophesied that a final battle at the end of time would take place there. 

"Megiddo is mentioned a dozen times in the Hebrew Bible, and in a multitude of other ancient texts, but it is especially well-known as the setting in the New Testament for the penultimate battle between the forces of good and the forces of evil," wrote Eric Cline, a professor of classical and Near Eastern languages and civilizations at George Washington University, in his book "Digging up Armageddon: The Search for the Lost City of Solomon" (Princeton University Press, 2020).

Related: The 'End of the World' is today. Here's why we're still here. 

The name Armageddon comes from the Hebrew word "Har Megiddo," which means the "mountain of Megiddo," according to Cline. "By the Middle Ages, multiple nationalities, languages, and centuries had added an 'n' and dropped the 'h', transforming Har Megiddo to Harmageddon and thence to Armageddon," Cline wrote. 

A mound of history

Today, visitors to the site will see that much of it is a "tell" (also spelled tel) , or  a mound made from the remains that humans have left behind over thousands of years. 

"Within the mound itself, we now know, are the remains of at least 20 ancient cities, built one on top of another," Cline wrote. "There have actually been numerous Armageddons at the ancient site of Megiddo already, as one civilization, group or political entity gave way to another over the millennia — one world ending and another beginning."

Related: Biblical battles: 12 ancient wars lifted from the bible

Many battles have been fought at, or near Megiddo. For example, Egyptian pharaoh Thutmose III, female pharaoh Hatshepsut's nephew and step-son who succeeded her and  reigned 1479–1425 B.C., defeated a coalition of cities near Megiddo. His victory resulted in Egypt taking over a sizable portion of the eastern Mediterranean. 

Another important battle took place when King Josiah of Judah fought Egyptian Pharaoh Necho II (reign 610–595 B.C.) near Megiddo. It resulted in the defeat of Judah and the death of king Josiah. Judah was substantially weakened and was destroyed a few decades later by Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II. 

Aerial view of what remains of the ancient city of Megiddo.  (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Even in modern times, Megiddo has seen significant battles. In September 1918, during World War I, an allied army led by general Edmund Allenby defeated an Ottoman army near Megiddo. The loss was so crushing that the Ottoman Empire was forced to request an armistice shortly afterward.

Megiddo was a place worth fighting over because the site is located at the crossroads of the Jezreel Valley, an important, strategic location that overlooked several trade routes, wrote archaeologist and The University of Iowa religious studies professor Robert Cargill, in his book "The Cities that Built the Bible" (HarperOne, 2016).

"The valley was extremely important to the ancient world, because whoever controlled Megiddo controlled the trade route between Egypt, Europe and Mesopotamia," Cargill wrote. "These preferred trade routes and the epic battles fought to secure — and tax — them have shaped the history of the Holy Land and are the reason that Megiddo has the reputation it does as a famous battlefield."

In the Book of Revelation, "Megiddo was identified as the location of the end of the world because it had been the epicenter of armed conflict throughout Israel's history," Cargill explained.

Key archaeological discoveries at Megiddo

Many archaeological discoveries have been made at Megiddo over the past century. Some of the most important were made by the University of Chicago's expedition that ran from 1925 to 1939. The story behind the expedition is documented in Cline's book.

One of the expedition's more famous discoveries was a series of "stables," which the excavators thought were built by King Solomon (today, most archaeologists believe that someone other than Solomon built them).

Related: New clues to King Solomon's mines found

Another important find made by the Chicago expedition was the "Megiddo Ivories" — about 382 ivory objects found beside human and animal burials. Some of the ivories have Egyptian hieroglyphic inscriptions on them, such as an ivory pen case which says that it belongs to an Egyptian official named "Nakht-Amon" who was a "king's messenger" during the reign of pharaoh Ramses III (1184–1153 B.C.). Other ivory objects include gaming boards, combs and boxes. The purpose of the large number of ivory goods is a source of debate among scholars, with one possibility being that they are part of a burial. The ivories were carved using a mix of Hittite, Mycenaean, Egyptian, Ugaritic, Canaanite and Assyrian artistic motifs, Cline wrote.

Another important find, made recently by the Tel Aviv University Megiddo Expedition, is a "Great Temple" that dates back to around 3000 B.C. According to the researchers' reconstruction published in the American Journal of Archaeology in 2014, the main building of the Great Temple includes an enormous, rectangular room with two corridors behind it. The researchers also found evidence of cultic activity that took place at the temple. Basalt slabs found inside the temple "appear to have been essential elements in the cult, probably acting as tables for offerings or for placing cult fetishes," the researchers reported. The "Great Temple has proven to be the most monumental structure of the period" in that area of the Eastern Mediterranean, the researchers wrote.

Remains at the site of the ancient city of Megiddo in modern day Israel. (Image credit: Shutterstock)

As a site of so many battles, it's not surprising that multiple archaeological finds reveal that Megiddo was heavily fortified at times. 

The Chicago expedition found an elaborate series of gates that they believed dated to the time of King Solomon, or about 970–930 B.C. "The gates are significant because they incorporate two large towers at the front, which were typically topped with archers, and chambers within the gate that could be filled with soldiers holding lances, spears and swords to greet any enemy lucky enough to make it through the gate's doors," Cargill wrote. When the gate system was erected is a matter of debate among scholars today. 

Related: 10 epic battles that changed history

The Chicago expedition also found a tunnel system that carried water from a nearby spring inside a cave to the site of Megiddo. The tunnel starts down a shaft that's about 100 feet (30 meters) deep, then runs 150 feet (46 m) straight to the spring, Cline wrote. The tunnel system "is perhaps the most impressive engineering achievement at Megiddo," Cargill wrote, noting that the design of the tunnel allowed the inhabitants to have access to water when the city was under siege. 

Archaeological work continues today, and is led by archaeologists from Tel Aviv University in Israel. The site draws thousands of tourists every year, many of them attracted to the site by the prophecy of the end-of-times battle that is supposed to take place at the site. According to Cline, tour guides at the site often greet their guests by saying "Welcome to Armageddon." 

Additional resources: 

  • Kirikagure
    This article has generally nice history but the ridiculous dating methods of 7000 BC are so wrong, and have been heavily inluenced by the false religion of naturalism which has twisted worldviews based on imaginary hypothesies of the darwinism cult that tried to create their own religion on how the world works. Carbondating is one of the pathetic ways that darwinists try to disprove the Bible, even though that dating method has been shown again and again to be ridiculously fallible and the majority of dating methods are heavily in favor of thee Bible. There is a clear account given in the Bible that says which period Megiddo existed and was populated and it is the only one that makes sense both in history and archaeology.

    The Holy Bible is being proven correct all the time when it is being trusted on everything it says, but corrupted followers of the dying darwinism movement will try everything to reject the truth of God's Word for their own false religion of naturalism which is one of the most ridiculous cult religions out there and does not even have a leg to stand on, believing that monkeys transformed into humans despite not even a single evolution fossil was ever found for anything (because they don't exist), believing in millions of years because of no evidence for anything that they try to deceive themselves to believe in and radioactive dating has been proven to be most problematic dating method of all and even the most obnoxious secularists agree that the majority of dating methods are heavily in favor of a much earlier dates, alongside so many other ridiculous garbage such as nothing created everything (scientific impossibility), basically failed endeavours to hide from God out of their own self guilt which always leads to their downfall and eternal torment.
    Reply
  • Nomad113
    Kirikagure said:
    This article has generally nice history but the ridiculous dating methods of 7000 BC are so wrong, and have been heavily inluenced by the false religion of naturalism which has twisted worldviews based on imaginary hypothesies of the darwinism cult that tried to create their own religion on how the world works. Carbondating is one of the pathetic ways that darwinists try to disprove the Bible, even though that dating method has been shown again and again to be ridiculously fallible and the majority of dating methods are heavily in favor of thee Bible. There is a clear account given in the Bible that says which period Megiddo existed and was populated and it is the only one that makes sense both in history and archaeology.

    The Holy Bible is being proven correct all the time when it is being trusted on everything it says, but corrupted followers of the dying darwinism movement will try everything to reject the truth of God's Word for their own false religion of naturalism which is one of the most ridiculous cult religions out there and does not even have a leg to stand on, believing that monkeys transformed into humans despite not even a single evolution fossil was ever found for anything (because they don't exist), believing in millions of years because of no evidence for anything that they try to deceive themselves to believe in and radioactive dating has been proven to be most problematic dating method of all and even the most obnoxious secularists agree that the majority of dating methods are heavily in favor of a much earlier dates, alongside so many other ridiculous garbage such as nothing created everything (scientific impossibility), basically failed endeavours to hide from God out of their own self guilt which always leads to their downfall and eternal torment.

    It's funny that you say "cult religions" when you're the one making false claims and treating God as if her were a moron that knows far less than you. Parts of the Bible are being proved true all the time, but other parts have been proven to be false as well. That's because man wrote the Bible, not God. Man created religion, not God. God is vastly more intelligent than you give Him credit for and in the creation of our universe He created the physical laws scientists are discovering and that you're dismissing. God does not care if you wish a lie to be true, He only cares that you're bearing false witness since it is a sin against Him. Evolution is the adaptation of life and is a process created by God, but nowhere in the theory of evolution is it claimed that "monkeys transformed into humans". That is a phrase created by Satan to steer the weak minded away from God and into Satan's own embrace. Dating methods are proving more accurate as time goes on, and carbon dating isn't the only one used. Human history is far older than creationists claim because God is smarter than they'll ever be. You should embrace His wonders instead of claiming that your version is correct and His is wrong.
    Reply
  • McGee
    So, what you're saying is that the Bible is unreliable. God didn't write it, man did. Parts of it are reliable, but other parts aren't, subject to man's understanding of science (which changes, by the way). The Scripture itself refutes that and claims that "All scripture is inspired by God."(2 Tim 3:16) Literally, "God breathed." Naturally, you'll say that that part of scripture is unreliable, or else that we misunderstand it. Jesus Himself affirmed the Old Testament many times and said that every jot and tittle of it was true. He had the exact same OT as we do, which we know beyond a shadow of any doubt, and especially with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. So, if you mean to say that some of the OT is false, you'll have to contend with Christ, God Himself in in flesh. You repeatedly stated above that God is vastly more intelligent than man. Yet, you deny the testimony of God Himself that every word of the OT is true. So, what you actually believe, regarding the OT, is either that YOU are vastly more intelligent than Christ, or that Christ isn't God, or that Christ didn't say that. You also would have to believe that God is unable to preserve and deliver to us His word, fully intact, without error - a small feat for God - and we know that He did that with the OT just as He did with the new. If one part of scripture is unreliable, how can any part of it be trusted? Each part, then, would be subject to human affirmation of the parts they wanted to believe, and denial of the parts they didn't choose to believe, based on their limited information, crude science, flawed intuition, and inferior intellect. When you subject the Bible to "science," you are stating that human intellect is superior to God, and, thus, you contradict the whole premise of your so-called argument. Besides this, you didn't give one example (because none exist) of an instance where the Bible has been proved inaccurate. It's abundantly clear from the Genesis text, which Jesus, Who is God, as well as the apostles that Jesus commissioned, affirmed the truth of, that the earth was created in six literal, twenty-four hour days ("the evening and the morning were the first day... the evening and the morning were the second day..." so forth). To try and inject, on the basis of some ridiculous so-called "science", millions of years in between Genesis 1 and 3, is ludicrous.

    Another point, is that God clearly creates with maturity, not via a process (which "science" is unable to even explain or define.) That is to say, He created two fully grown people (Adam and Eve), a fully grown garden with fully grown trees, entire seas, rivers, lakes, mountains, a vast array of fully-grown, sexually mature animals - all of which, incidentally, answers the ridiculous question of the chicken and the egg. Genesis says "And God said, Let there be light: and there WAS LIGHT... And the evening and the morning were the first day." And God made the sky and divided the waters which were under the sky from the waters which were above the sky, and IT WAS SO. And the evening and the morning were the second day. So on, and so-forth. No process. No millions of years of evolving species or mountain forming. Just "And it was so". And it's careful to state, after each day's work, that it was done in one literal day; one rotation of the earth on its axis. This is affirmed in Ex 20:8-11: "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor... but the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God... for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day.... wherefore the LORD blessed the seventh day, and hallowed it." You can't get more clear than that. Any other notion is purely and simply unadulterated rebellion against the LORD. Those who adhere to evolution are of their father the devil, who was a liar from the beginning. But, let me tell you something, those that believe in "theistic evolution" or "evolutionary creationism" are even more ugly than godless heathens who outright reject the Bible, because they take a lie of the devil and try to involve God in it. In fact, such a blatant distortion of the truth should give you HUGE pause as to whether or not you're saved.

    You said to Kirikagure above that he was "bearing false witness" and sinning against God ... for BELIEVING GOD! God's own words, which are clearly stated! lol
    You also said to him that he was claiming that "his version" (which is actually God's version) was correct, and God's version (which is actually YOURS) was wrong. Nowhere in the Bible is YOUR version even alluded to, let alone stated. You are a thoroughly mixed up individual.
    Reply