Megiddo PDF Print E-mail
Written by Stephen Langfur
 
  
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The Book of Revelation (16:16) locates the future battle of the Great Day of God Almighty at "the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon." This is a compound name: "Ar-" comes from har, meaning mountain, and "-mageddon" refers to the city of Megiddo, whose ruins are today in Israel. Megiddo occupied a hill, not a mountain, but we need not quibble over size. At the time Revelation was written, it had not existed for 400 years. It had earned a reputation, however, that endured long beyond its demise.

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The prophet Zechariah had this reputation in view when he wrote (12:11) : "In that day there will be a great mourning in Jerusalem, like the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddo." We don't know whether "Hadadrimmon" refers to a place in this valley (the Jezreel Valley, pictured above) or to a Canaanite version of Adonis, whose yearly seasonal death was occasion for lament. In any case, Zechariah offers Megiddo as the benchmark of great sorrow.

The ancient rabbis connected the mourning referred to in Zechariah with an event that occurred at Megiddo in 609 BC: the execution of Josiah, King of Judah, at the hands of Pharaoh Neco. In order to take the measure of this trauma, we need to recall, first, the central message of Deuteronomy: that those who obey God's commandments will be rewarded and those who do not will be punished (11:13-17):
 
It shall happen, if you shall listen diligently to my commandments which I command you this day, to love Yahweh your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul,  that I will give the rain of your land in its season, the former rain and the latter rain, that you may gather in your grain, and your new wine, and your oil. I will give grass in your fields for your livestock, and you shall eat and be full. Take heed to yourselves, lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them; and the anger of Yahweh be kindled against you, and he shut up the sky, so that there shall be no rain, and the land shall not yield its fruit; and you perish quickly from off the good land which Yahweh gives you.

Josiah was the arch example of obedience to the commandments. It was he who had established Deuteronomy as law for his kingdom. He had made a thoroughgoing reform in the light of its statutes. The First Testament praises him as it does no other king, using epithets that are applied to only one other leader: Moses. Josiah was the great national hope: through him, it was believed, Judah would regain the status God had promised to Israel.

For a decade or so, this seemed to be the case. Both Egypt and Assyria had weakened. Josiah was able to exploit the resulting vacuum. But in 609 Pharaoh Neco set out to combat the newly rising Babylonians. He marched on the Great Trunk Road, taking the mountain pass that spills out in the Jezreel Plain beside Megiddo, "and king Josiah went toward him; and Pharaoh Neco killed him at Megiddo, when he had seen him" (2 Kings 23:29).  

Here then was the good king, the epitome of virtue, whom God - according to Deuteronomy 11:13-17 - had promised to reward, and such a thing happens to him? Not only to him! The hopes of Judah were crushed. A few years later the Babylonians would sit in the gates of Jerusalem, the Temple would be destroyed, and the Judeans would go into exile. The death of the righteous Josiah, followed by the subjugation of Judah, came as a direct contradiction to the covenant faith as voiced in the Book of Deuteronomy.

Jeremiah lamented for Josiah: and all the singing men and singing women spoke of Josiah in their lamentations to this day; and they made them an ordinance in Israel: and behold, they are written in the lamentations  (2 Chronicles 35:25).

At Megiddo, then, something went awry. If God was just, it must be set right. That is, God would intervene and set it right, just as, long ago, He had intervened at the Reed Sea (the paradigmatic saving event). It makes sense, therefore, that the battle that would set things right, the battle of the Great Day of God Almighty, would occur precisely at the place where things had gone wrong: Megiddo.

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