Tel Megiddo stands over the Valley of Armageddon in northern Israel. This Tel, meaning hill, is not a naturally occurring hill, but rather was made through the building of cities across 28 civilizations with the last city dating back to before the time of Jesus. What that means is that looking through Tel Megiddo we get a snapshot of what life was like in 28 different cultures from Antiquity. What an amazing opportunity to better understand how folks lived thousands of years ago!
Tel Megiddo is amazing because it was one of the fortified cities that was built by King Solomon to protect the unified kingdom of Israel that he had inherited from his father, King David. When walking along the top of the Tel you can also see the floor of part of the Palace of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. You can also walk over the area where King Ahab’s horses were kept. They were on the Tel for military purposes, the King was never far from his calvary.
A tour of Megiddo begins after a short climb around the edge of the Tel to the gates. These gates were built according to the instructions of Solomon so that they would be capable of standing up to earthquakes which have occurred in this area of Israel. When you look at the gates, which are inset to allow for better protection, you can see this clearly in the three layers of stones and one layer of wood separating the three layers. This provided for some ability to withstand the shaking of an earthquake.
Gates were important to any ancient city. They keep out enemies, so they were always built strong to withstand a rush from those enemy warriors. In the ancient world you also see them built with rooms built into the gates which were used to house troops for the city. Thus, it created a stronger block to soldiers attempting to enter the city. Rulers, or judges, often sat at the gates of a city also. They would pass judgment on issues that affect the city while allowing the people to interact with their rulers.
Take a few minutes and explore the gates. The tendency is to get on up into the site, after all, who wants to look at the gates, but it is worth your time to feel the walls, see the wood Solomon instructed to be built into the walls, step into the enclaves and think about being a soldier guarding the entrance to your home city.
At the top of the hill to the left is remains of the Palace of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. The remains are merely some of the shells that were used as flooring for their Palace. The Palace looked out over the upper end of the Valley of Armageddon.
Next, you will come to the edge of the Tel overlooking the Valley of Armageddon. This huge valley is the one talked about in the Book of Revelation as where the final battle for the world takes place. Here seven valleys come together in one broad, open plain. It is amazing to stand and look out over the valley, contemplating future events that are coming to this valley.
From here you will work yourself to the opposite side of the Tel where there are metal outlines of horses standing. This is the area where King Ahab’s stables were inside the city on the Tel. He was serious about having his military close at hand. From here, if you look directly off the Tel you are looking at Mt. Carmel where Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal.
Every trip needs a good tour guide. Someone who knows the accurate history of the site. Someone who is good at presenting that information. And someone who knows when to stop talking and let the group explore. Matthew Finstein is just such a guide. He has become a great friend and is featured on this blog from time to time.
At the back end of the Tel Megiddo is the cistern where their water was stored. Remember, Israel is mostly desert, or extremely arid land, water was critical to the country in Antiquity and today. You can actually exit the site by climbing down the stairs into the heart of the cistern and follow the tunnel back to your bus.
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