Megiddo: what it means



Armageddon. Whether you’ve read your Bible (Rev. 16.16) or seen a cheesy sci-fi movie, you know that word. But to what does that word refer? What’s it about?

Imagine a fortified city in ancient times. It’s overlooking a valley. In fact, the city has a commanding view of the entire valley and beyond. And running through that valley is an exceedingly important highway.

Can you see it?

Now locate that valley in north-central Israel. Carve that valley, the Jezreel Valley, as a pass through the Mount Carmel range of hills and mountains. Place two significant mountains roughly 10-12 miles away from it (Mount Carmel to the NE, not far from the Mediterranean Sea, and Mount Tabor to the NW, halfway to the Sea of Galilee). Make the highway running through the valley one of the two main arteries in that region for commerce, trade, and military mobility; arteries connecting the perennial power in the south, Egypt, and the ever shifting great powers in the north, Syria and beyond. And call that highway the Via Maris (aka: the Way of the Sea).

Can you picture it?

Think about it as you picture it. Consider how whoever commands the city controls it all. The valley. The pass. The highway. The trade. The economics. The movement of people. The means to war and to make war. Yes, to own the city is to own not just that city, but to effectively influence and control a great many things, even far and away.

Get it?

What would you name that city? Try this one on for size: Megiddo. That means “mountain of troops” or “the place of rendezvous.” “Megiddo” as in “Armageddon” (Harmagedon), meaning “mountain of Megiddo.” Not that it’s a natural mountain, but that it’s a tel, a small “mountain” that’s been created by successive layers of building by various civilizations of people across time. Or as in Megiddo’s case, over two dozen distinct layers.

And those layers mean one thing: the city traded hands many times. Many times it built with control, power, and strategy in mind. Many times it was torn down violence, blood, and death. Many times, many people, from many places in history met here to fight, kill, and die, all for the sake of power and control. Many, many times.

That’s Megiddo, a name best written in red for all the blood that has been spilled there. And it’s from Megiddo that the pics we’ll share here the next several days will come.

Caesarea Maritima: the high-level aqueduct


Herod the Great constructed a high-level aqueduct to sustain the growth of the population of Caesarea Maritima. The source for the aqueduct’s water was Mount Carmel, located seven miles away to the north-northeast. However, this aqueduct was about much more than the delivery of water to a thirsty city.

On the surface, it would appear that the purpose of aqueducts like the one pictured above near Caesarea was to simply bring a steady stream of fresh water to the city. But the construction of such aqueducts served additional purposes, not the least of which would be the constant, graphic display of Rome’s apparent power over the very products of the heavens and time. Marianne Sawicki explains:

… when Herodian engineers built the massive aqueduct systems to support cities like Caesarea … they accomplished something more than civic improvements. They secularized the water. It no longer came from heaven; it came from Rome. “From Rome” means that Roman engineering brought it into homes and courtyards from far-off mountain springs, conveniently, automatically, without regard to the natural vicissitudes of the weather or the seasons, and without any apparent assistance from divine providence. … Aqueducts as such were by no means a Roman innovation in … Galilee. … But, unlike … earlier installations, the Herodian- and Roman-era aqueducts were monumentally built and called attention to themselves by their size and design. They matched the civic architecture of theaters, colonnaded avenues, temples, and so forth that constituted the “urban overlay” of the Greco-Roman cities in Galilee.

While I could share quite a few more pictures of sites I was privileged to see in Caesarea Maritima this spring, most of them would be of matters dating from the time of the Crusades. So, we’ll leave Caesarea now, having focused primarily on matters pertaining to the first century A.D.

Where do you guess we might be in our photo tour of Israel when posting resumes here on Sat., Sept. 28? Come and see!

links to the land


Aramaic: The Last of the Aramaic Speakers

“The most fluent speakers are all beyond retirement age, and the language is expected to die within a generation. … What makes the effort so difficult is that modern Aramaic is not one language but more like a family of languages, with up to 150 different dialects. None of them sound like the language of the Babylonian Talmud or of Jesus. According to Professor Otto Jastrow, professor of Arabic in the department of Middle East and Asian studies at the Estonian Institute of Humanities of the Tallinn University, ‘a speaker from biblical times wouldn’t understand a single word, or even recognize it’s Aramaic.'”

Beersheba: The Reforms of Hezekiah

“The reforms of King Hezekiah of Judah (716/15–687/86 B.C.; Thiele) are described in 2 Kings 18.”

Google: Google Street View of 7 Biblical Sites

“… until your first (or next) trip, you might enjoy a virtual walk through a few biblical sites via Google Street View. I have chosen 7 biblical sites that allow you to do a little exploring. … Ceasarea … Mount Tabor … Mount Arbel … Sea of Galilee … The Western Wall in Jerusalem … The Temple Mount … [and a] Panorama from the Mount of Olives.”

Military service & ultra-Orthodox Jews: Israel’s Internal Battle Over Ultra-Orthodox Soldiers

“… they are excused from military service in Israel. This exemption to the otherwise universal draft for Israeli Jews has been in existence for as long as Israel has been a country — part of.”

Mount Carmel: Mount Carmel—Three Passes Along the International Highway

“…  geography played a critical role in ancient Israel. God placed the land of Israel in a position as the only intercontinental land bridge between the superpowers of the ancient world. The strategic International Highway, sometimes called the Great Trunk Road or the Via Maris (“Way of the Sea”), ran from the Fertile Crescent all the way to Egypt—the full length of the land of Israel.”

Nabi Samwil (Har Shmuel; Naby Samuel): Nabi Samwil: Just Beneath the Surface, a Thick Layer of Injustice

“The traditional connection, dating to at least the medieval period (but almost surely incorrect), is to the Prophet Samuel — it has been held to be biblical Mizpah and/or Samuel’s burial place. In any event, it has long been important to Jews, Muslims and Christians alike. The Crusaders had a major presence here and called it “Mount Joy”, where pilgrims coming up from the coast gained their first glimpse of Jerusalem. There are remains from many periods, going back to the Iron Age, but the top-most, best preserved level represents an Israeli destruction carried out mere decades ago.”

Nahal Peratzim: Photo of the Week – Nahal Peratzim

“A popular day trip from Jerusalem is to do Masada and Ein Gedi and then end the day with a float in the Dead Sea. I guided a family on this route last week. In thinking about it I want to suggest a different Judean desert trip. Visit the pools and waterfalls at Ein Gedi but instead of doing the crowded Nahal David (a nahal is a dry stream bed) hike to the hidden waterfall in Nahal Arugot, do Masada in the afternoon and end the day with a walk through Nahal Peratzim as the sun sets and the moon rises, a great family hike.”

Pergamon: City of Science … and Satan?

“…  the commanding panoramic view from Pergamon’s 1,000-foot-high perch makes it easy to understand how this city once dominated the entire region.”

Synagogue: One of the Best Preserved Ancient Synagogues in Israel

“Umm el–Q/Kanatir (The Mother of the Arch) is a site located on the upper reaches of the Wadi Samekh, 5 mi. [8.5 km.] east of the Sea of Galilee on the Golan Heights.  It boasts one of the best-preserved ancient synagogues in the land—90% of the remains (collapsed) were still in place after the earthquake of AD 749.  It is in the process of being reconstructed …”