Israel 2022: In This Valley

Battles had been fought here. The site is a strategic one. As we stood at Megiddo and looked out over the Jezreel Valley4, war was just about the furthest thing from my mind. The view was incredibly beautiful. The sky was incredibly blue with soft white clouds scattered to the horizon. In the distance across the valley, we could see farms divided into neat squares either planted with winter crops or being prepared for the summer in ombre layers of green and brown and tan. 

View of the Jezreel Valley from Tel Megiddo

Just to my right I saw a couple of cows grazing with the requisite Cattle Egret which I had to take a picture of, of course. It was a bird, after all, and everyone knows how much I love birds. At that moment, there was only peace; nothing in that place, in that valley, spoke to me of war or battles or the end of time.

How could I not include the photo of the cows & Cattle Egrets?

I was standing on the top of Tel Megiddo1. A “tell” is an archaeological mound built over hundreds of years as cities rise and fall in the location and new cities are built in the same location using the previous ruins as foundations for the new cities. Archaeologists believe that there are about 20 levels or strata of ruins at Megiddo with an overlap of Egyptian, Hittite, Mitanni, Assyrian, and Israeli peoples occupying the site at differing times over the centuries with the primary inhabitants being those of Israel, Philistia, and Phoenicia.

Circular altar in Tel Megiddo’s “High Place” (temple) from the Bronze Era

Megiddo is strategically located near the mountain pass through the Carmel Ridge. This is the ancient trade route called Via Maris2 (“by way of the sea”) taken by traders traveling between Egypt and Assyria and Babylon – from north Africa to Asia. This area has been inhabited since about 7000 BCE (before the common era) or BC (before Christ) to me. The pass was always guarded so Megiddo was always fortified…. it is listed as one of Solomon’s chariot cities where many of his horses were stabled and war chariots were kept. Invariably, as long as this city controlled the pass through the mountains to the east, there would always those who would fight to control it.1   

King Solomon’s (or possibly King Ahab’s) stables at this “chariot city”. This could hold about 30 horses; the northern stables could hold about 300.

Three major battles have been fought in the area that were named the “Battle of Megiddo” (see references 5, 6, & 7 below) and a whole plethora of no-named skirmishes. I got totally caught up in the online reading about these battles and the history of this place. It is such fascinating history. But I will spare you with all the details.

Megiddo City Gate possibly built by “forced” labor (slaves?) during the time of King Solomon

But I am not thinking about all this war stuff when we visited the site. From the top of Tel Megiddo, the peaceful Jezreel Valley was laid out before me. This valley is one of the most fertile spots in all of Israel. When we embarked on this tour, I had a vision of Israel as a dry hot desert – you know the kind of geography – with Jesus walking around in dusty leather sandals in the wilderness hungry & thirsty in the sweltering heat while being tempted by the devil. I suppose I thought that all of Israel would be that way – hot, rocky, dry, and dusty.  

In this valley, you just cannot imagine the devil tempting Jesus – maybe I could see him tempting Adam & Eve to eat of the fruit of the tree up here at Jezreel…. but certainly not tempting the son of God to turn stones into bread (Matthew 4:1). For how could anyone go hungry or thirst up here in the land of plenty? Surely, this is the promised land that Joshua scouted out way back there in the book of Numbers (chapter 14).  This is definitely not the wilderness where Jesus was tempted…not even close.

Old millstone on Tel Megiddo

The land here is good and there is plenty of water from the springs at Carmel.  Even the name “Jezreel” is derived from a Hebrew word, “Yizre’el” meaning “God sows”4. They grow all sorts of things here like oranges and watermelons and wheat and beans and cotton and sunflowers and chickpeas – of course, chickpeas, you just can’t make hummus without chickpeas. I cannot imagine what the restaurants in Israel would do without hummus and pita bread!

And I cannot imagine war here in this peaceful beautiful place.

Flowers in bloom on Tel Megiddo

But this is Armageddon.  The place where it is prophesied that the war to end all wars will be fought. From the Greek “Har” (mount) and “Megiddo”, we get Armageddon9. It is the place noted in Revelation 16:16 where nations will gather in the final confrontation between the forces of good (God) and the forces of evil (Satan) “for the great day of the Lord” from Revelation 16:14. Over the past two thousand years, the word has come to mean any world ending catastrophe, any great conflict that would end life as we know it here on earth. Prophecies about the end times abound throughout the Bible. Yet the only cite in the Bible predicting that last great battle to be fought at the Valley of Jezreel or Armageddon is Revelation 16:16. Some theologians and historians say that the battle to be fought in this valley is all symbolic and not necessarily ever going to happen at all…. that the reference is all about conflict in the middle east in general. 

At Tel Megiddo

But I’m a literalist when it comes to scripture – if the Bible says there will be a final confrontation in this valley at this place, then you had best believe that it’s gonna happen in the Jezreel Valley – right there in that same valley I could see spread out in front of me as I stood on Tel Megiddo.

View of the Jezreel Valley – Armageddon – from Tel Megiddo

Scriptural Cites:

  1. Joshua 12:21 – In the list of kings defeated by Joshua, the king of Megiddo.
  2. Joshua 17:11 & 12 – Megiddo was given to the tribe of Manasseh although Manasseh never conquered the city/land.
  3. Judges 1:27-28 – Manasseh fails to drive the Canaanites out of Megiddo.
  4. Judges 5:19-20 – The victory song of Deborah & Barak speaks of the waters of Megiddo.
  5. Judges 6:33 – Gideon defeats the Midianites, the Amalekites, & the “children of the east” 3 in the Valley of Jezreel.
  6. Joel 3:2 – All nations will be brought to the Valley of Jehoshaphat which is believed to be the Valley of Jezreel.
  7. Zechariah 12:2-11 – On that day, the day of wailing in Jerusalem will be as great as the weeping of Hadad Rimmon in Megiddo.
  8. 1 Samuel 28:4 – Philistines gather against Israel & King Saul at Gilboa in the Jezreel Valley.
  9. 1 Samuel 29:1-6 – King Saul defeated by the Philistines in the Jezreel Valley
  10. 1 Kings 4:12 – King Solomon’s governors include Baana in Taanach & Megiddo.
  11. 1 Kings 9:15 – King Solomon uses forced labor to build cities including Megiddo
  12. 1 Kings 10:26 – King Solomon’s chariots and horses kept at the “chariot cities” one of which was Megiddo
  13. 2 Kings 23:29–30 & 2 Chronicles 35:22 – King Josiah is killed at Megiddo by Necho II of Egypt
  14. 2 Kings 9, King Jehu (10th king of Israel) killed all the family members of the House of Omri (King Ahab & Queen Jezebel) in the Jezreel Valley.
  15. 2 Kings 9:27 – King Ahaziah of Judah in the battle with Jehu escapes to Megiddo, is wounded & dies there.
  16. 1 Chronicles 7:29 – Holdings of the descendants of Ephraim are shown to include Megiddo.
  17. Matthew 4:1 – Jesus tempted in the wilderness.
  18. Revelation 16:12-16 – Place of end times gathering of nations/kings identified as Armageddon
  19. Numbers 14:36-38 – Joshua & Caleb sent to the promised land.

Sources for Additional Information About Megiddo & The Jezreel Valley:

(Other than the Biblical cites listed above, my research comes from Wikipedia as shown below.)

  1. Tel Megiddo – Wikipedia
  2. Via Maris – Wikipedia
  3. Canaan – Wikipedia
  4. Jezreel Valley – Wikipedia
  5. Battle of Megiddo (15th century BC) – Wikipedia
  6. Battle of Megiddo (609 BC) – Wikipedia
  7. Battle of Megiddo (1918) – Wikipedia
  8. Revelation 16 New American Standard Bible (biblehub.com)
  9. Armageddon – Wikipedia
  10. Book of Kings – Wikipedia
  11. Book of Chronicles – Wikipedia

ICYMI (In case you missed it) – Previous blogs in the Israel 2022 series:

Pinch Yourself – April 4, 2022

Israel 2022: Caesarea Maritima – Birding Boomers – April 11, 2022

Israel 2022: Contested on Mount Carmel – Birding Boomers – April 20, 2022

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