Megiddo PDF Print E-mail
Written by Stephen Langfur
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Why was Megiddo important?

In order to control the ancient world, one had to control Megiddo. Or in the words of Pharaoh Thutmose III (15th century BC), "The capture of Megiddo is the capture of a thousand cities." Why was it so important?

Answer: This land was a kind of bridge between the great civilizations of Egypt and Mesopotamia, for the simple reason that here the traveler had water to drink. The bridge was about 75 miles wide, extending a few miles east of today's Amman in Jordan. That was the limit of the arable land. Further east lay 400 miles of desert. Travelers followed, therefore, the Fertile Crescent, which narrowed in this land.

But the land bridge was interrupted by a mountain range. It stretches through the center of the country and bends northwest, thrusting into the sea as Mt. Carmel. Travelers avoided climbing mountains if they could. Any pass through the range was therefore crucial. What's more, the north includes a large flat area called the Jezreel Plain. A pass through the mountain that reached this plain would have international importance. There were three such, but people generally preferred the one that reaches the Plain at Megiddo.


At times when no major empire promoted an alternative trade route, the Megiddo pass was preferred. There were several reasons: 

1. Winter posed a problem in the Jezreel Plain. Its corners tilt upward (for example, below the edge of Mt. Carmel in the photo on the right), and there is only the narrow brook Kishon to drain it. Unless special measures are taken (e.g., the reservoirs and fish ponds one sees today) much of the plain becomes mud in the rainy season. But there happens to be a slight basalt ridge stretching across the plain toward Megiddo, starting from a volcanic area near the Hill of Moreh. (Moshav Ha-Yogev and Tell Adashim sit on the ridge today.) By keeping to this rise in the winter, the ancient traveler could stay for the most part above the mud. Anyone who has sampled the mud of the Holy Land knows what this means! The Canaanite general, Sisera, for example, sampled it with his 900 iron chariots: he learned how significant the mud of this plain can be. (Interpreting Judges 4 and 5.)    


2. Megiddo was more important than the cities on the ends of the other passes, because it was more central. The Jezreel Plain has the form of an isosceles triangle with Mt. Tabor at the apex. Megiddo sits near the middle of the base. It functioned as a hub. Through it passed not only the Great Trunk Road between Egypt and Mesopotamia, but also branches to (1) Acco and Phoenicia, Beth Shean and the Kings Highway, as well as the cities of the central range (such as Samaria, Shechem, Jerusalem and Hebron).

3. To continue with the reasons for the importance of this city: the narrow part of the pass to Megiddo is the shortest of the three.

4. Finally, Megiddo was famous for its springs ("the waters of Megiddo" in Judges 5:19). 


No wonder, then that the capture of Megiddo was "the capture of a thousand cities." The campaign of Thutmosis III, around 1469 BC, was the first of many battles to focus on Megiddo and its adjoining plain.