History of Tel Megiddo
Megiddo is the only site in Israel mentioned by every great power in the Ancient Near East and is widely regarded as the most important biblical period site in Israel. Biblical Megiddo was the scene of several battles that decided the fate of all Asia west of the Euphrates. Surrounded by mighty fortifications, outfitted with sophisticated water installations, and adorned with impressive palaces and temples, Megiddo was the queen of cities of Canaan and Israel.
At the dawn of urbanization in the 4th millennium BCE (ca. 3500) Megiddo began to dominate the surrounding countryside. By the 2nd millennium, Megiddo was a center of Egyptian administration in Canaan. When the city-states of Canaan revolted against the pharaohs, it was at Megiddo that they assembled to do battle. The Egyptian army, led by Pharaoh Thutmose III, surprised the rebels by choosing the most dangerous route of attack -- through the narrow ‘Aruna pass. After routing out the Canaanite forces and capturing rich booty, Thutmose III laid siege to the city for seven months. This decisive victory enabled him to incorporate Canaan as a province into the empire of the New Kingdom.
In the 14th century BCE archive of el-Amarna in Egypt, six letters sent by Biridiya, King of Megiddo, to the Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten were discovered. The letters indicate that Megiddo was one of the mightiest city-states in Canaan. The magnificent ivories found in the Late Bronze Age palace at the site also attest to the city’s wealth and grandeur and its varied cultural contacts in this era.
According to the Bible, King Solomon in particular left his stamp on Megiddo’s architecture. By the 10th century BCE, it had become the center of a royal province of the United Monarchy. The rulers of the Northern Kingdom refitted the fortress even more elaborately than before. The palaces, water systems and fortifications of Israelite Megiddo are among the most elaborate Iron Age architectural remains unearthed in the Levant.
The Egyptian Pharaoh Shishak later took the city. His conquest of the site is affirmed both in his inscriptions at the Temple at Karnak and in a stele erected at the site.
By the mid-8th century BCE, the Assyrian King Tiglath-Pileser III had annexed the region as a royal province and made Megiddo its capital. With the fall of the Assyrian empire the great religious reformer King Josiah of Judah led his troops to Megiddo to confront Pharaoh Necho in an attempt to stop him from joining the crumbling Assyrian army in its last-ditch efforts against the Babylonians (II Kings 23:29).
In the modern era Megiddo has also played a decisive role in battles for the control over the Jezreel Valley. In World War I, British Field Marshal Edmund Allenby, leading an Australian cavalry division and the Tenth Indian infantry, dislodged from the advantageous heights of the tel a group of about 100 Turkish fighters who defended the last vestiges of the Ottoman Empire. Allenby used tactics similar to those of Thutmose III (over 3000 years earlier), by cutting through the 'Aruna pass and catching the Turks unaware. The historical significance of the site prompted Allenby to include the name of the tel in his family’s hereditary title.
Because of Megiddo’s great significance for both Christians and Jews, the site served as the historic meeting place of Pope Paul VI with Israel’s president Zalman Shazar and Prime Minister Levi Eshkol in 1964, the first visit of a pope to the Holy Land.
Megiddo’s military importance and long history as an international battleground is aptly reflected in the Apocalypse of John in the Book of Revelations (16:14-16). Armageddon (meaning "the mount of Megiddo") is designated as the site where, at the end of days, the demons will gather the hosts of the nations for the ultimate battle against the forces of God.