Megiddo, Megiddon

MEGIDDO, MEGIDDON (mĕ-gĭd'ō, Heb. meghiddô, meghiddôn). A city situated on the Great Road, which linked Gaza and Damascus. It controlled the principal pass through the Carmel Range, connecting the coastal plain and the Plain of Esdraelon. The road was the channel for the flow of peaceful commerce and also the route by which the armies of antiquity marched. One of the best recorded and most interesting military operations of ancient times took place at Megiddo when Thutmose III defeated an Asiatic coalition headed by the king of Kadesh. The importance of the city is reflected in the statement of the Egyptian king that the capture of Megiddo was the capture of a thousand towns. The continuing practicality of the Megiddo pass for the movement of troops is seen from its effective use in a.d. 1918 by Allenby, whose cavalry thus took the Turks by surprise. The first mention of Megiddo in the Bible is in the list of kings defeated by Joshua west of the Jordan (Josh.12.21). In the tribal allotments, Megiddo was in the territory of Manasseh, but this tribe was unable to conquer Megiddo and the other fortress cities that rimmed the plains of Esdraelon and Jezreel (Josh.17.11; Judg.1.27).


The OT has only one reference to Megiddo in the prophetical writings: Zechariah mentions a heathen mourning that took place in the Plain of Esdraelon: “On that day the weeping in Jerusalem will be great, like the weeping of Hadad Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo” (Zech.12.11). The single NT reference to Megiddo is in Rev.16.16, where the word “Armageddon” is compounded from the Hebrew har megiddôn, “hill of Megiddo,” where “the battle on the great day of God Almighty” will be fought (Rev.16.14). The excavation of the mound of Megiddo has provided much information about the history and culture of the city and considerable illumination of the biblical text. The modern name for the site is Tell el-Mutesellim, where the first archaeological work was done by G. Schumacher in a.d. 1903-5.

In a.d. 1925 the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago began a large-scale stratigraphic clearance of the entire mound and continued until 1939. When the work was halted, soundings had revealed twenty strata and the clearance had reached Stratum V. The more important discoveries include the city gate and wall, the governor’s residence, and the stables of Stratum IV; the water system, the temples and palaces of earlier levels; and a remarkable find of ivories (early twelfth century b.c., Stratum VII). Though there are questions concerning the date of Stratum IV, it is usually assigned to Solomonic times. The stables for at least 450 horses illustrate the statements of 1Kgs.9.15-1Kgs.9.19 and 2Chr.1.14. Evidence of similar structures had been found at Tell el-Hesi, Taanach, Gezer, and Tell el-Far’ah. (Megiddo and Gezer are included among the cities in which Solomon engaged in building activities, 1Kgs.9.15, 1Kgs.9.17.) An interesting feature of Stratum IV is the use of the three courses of hewn stone and a course of cedar beams, as described in the building process of Solomon at Jerusalem (1Kgs.7.12). The temples and shrines of the earlier levels and numerous cult objects from various periods shed light on the religious life of the city. Inscriptional material includes some Egyptian cartouches and titles; e.g., a fragment of a stele of Shishak (Sheshonk) appeared early in the work of the Oriental Institute. Schumacher found two seals with Hebrew inscriptions, one reading “[Belonging] to Shema, servant of Jeroboam.” Innumerable small objects also contribute to the knowledge of the art, daily life, and commercial relations of Megiddo.

Soundings by Y. Yadin in 1960 and later years have confirmed, in his view, the Solomonic date of the six-chambered gate (D. Ussishkin has argued that it is later; he notes two similar “later” gates found more recently at Ashdod by Dothan and at Lachish by himself). However, Yadin points out that the date of the Ashdod gate is “nearly identical” to that of the Megiddo according to Dothan, and the Lachish gate is reported by Ussishkin himself as “seeming to be later in date than the period of Solomon.” Further, Hazor, Gezer, and Megiddo have gates further fortified by two outer towers built in direct continuation of the lines of the chambers. This is not true of the two other sites and speaks to the uniqueness of the former three.

Bibliography: J. N. Schofield, “Megiddo,” Archaeology and OT Study (ed. D. W. Thomas), 1967, pp. 309-28; Y. Yadin, Hazor, 1972, pp. 147-64.——CEDV