So today in our Armageddon Tour we will explore the famous Jezreel valley which means in Hebrew “the fertile valley”. Indeed these days this is the breadbasket of Israel. The Jezreel Valley is a place of firsts: here Thutmose III fought the first battle known in recorded history anywhere in the world; here Gideon conducted the first night campaign; here the Mongols lost their first major battle ever during their sweep across Asia and the Middle East. It is also the place of endings: here Saul fought his last heroic battle (1 Samuel 31); here Josiah met his doom;
The Armageddon Tour: Tel Megiddo
The Site For Major Battles In History
Throughout history, Megiddo and the Jezreel have been a known battling ground that determined the very course of civilization. So it is no wonder that the author of Revelation believed that Armageddon; the penultimate battle between good and evil, would also take place in this region. The name Armageddon derives from the Hebrew Har Megiddo and literally means “Mount of Megiddo.”
They are spirits of demons performing miraculous signs, and they go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty […] Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.(Revelation 16:14-16)
As the current excavators of the site have described, “Megiddo was the Queen of the cities of Canaan/Israel”, replete with massive fortifications walls, impressive architecture and water installations; lavish palaces and important temples. It’s no accident that this was one of the sites on which James Michener based his book The Source.
The Armageddon Tour: Could Mt. Tabor be Mt. of Transfiguration?
The New Testament tells us that Jesus and three of his Apostles, Peter, James and John go to a high mountain (Mt. of Transfiguration) to pray. On the mountain Jesus begins to shine with bright rays of light. Then the prophets Moses and Elijah appear next to him and he speaks with them. Jesus then is called “Son” by a voice in the sky, assumed to be as God The Father.
Even though none of the Gospels Mt. Tabor as Mt. of Transfiguration we have very early traditions that point to this location. Origen in the 3rd century and St. Jerome in the 4th century already mentions Mt. Tabor as Mt. Transfiguration.
The Armageddon Tour: Mt. Tabor in the Hebrew Bible
The mountain is mentioned for the first time in the Hebrew Bible in Joshua 19:22 as the border of three tribes: Zebulun, Issachar and Naphtali. The mountain’s importance stems from its strategic control of the junction of the Galilee’s north-south route with the east-west highway of the Jezreel Valley.
According to the Book of Judges, Hazor was the seat of Jabin, king of Canaan, whose commander Sisera led a Canaanite army against the Israelites. Deborah, the Jewish prophetess summoned Barak of the tribe of Naphtali and gave him God’s command, “Go and draw towards Mt. Tabor, and take with thee ten thousand men of the children of Naphtali and the children of Zebulun” (Judges 4:6). Descending from the mountain, the Israelites attacked and vanquished Sisera and Canaanites.
The Jezreel Valley – Where Biblical Stories Come to Life
Now we will continue on our private tour of the Jezreel Valley via Mt. Gilboa where according to 1 Samuel chapter 31 King Saul had committed suicide or how the Hebrew describes it, where “he fell on his sword”. From the top of the mountain range we could see the entire valley.
The Book of Samuel tells us that the Philistines after seizing the bodies of King Saul and his sons they hung them on the walls of Bet-She’an; we can actually see the Tel from the Top of Mt. Gilboa.
In the modern town today of Beit Shean, one of the most extensive archeological sites is waiting to be explored. The Hebrew Bible narrates that around the 11th century BCE during a battle against King Saul at nearby Mount Gilboa in 1004 BCE, the Philistines prevailed and Saul including his three sons, Jonathan, Abinadab, and Malchishua died in battle.
1 Samuel 31:10 states that “the victorious Philistines hung the body of King Saul on the walls of Beit Shean” no archeological evidence was found of Philistines occupation but it is possible that the force only passed there.
According to the Hebrew Bible, around 1000 BCE the town became part of the larger Israelite kingdom. 1 Kings 4:12 refers to Beit Shean as part of the kingdom of Solomon, though the historical accuracy of this list is debated.
Beit Shean in the Roman Period
In 63 BCE, Pompey made Judea a part of the Roman Empire. Beit-Shean was re-founded and rebuilt by Gabinius. The city prospered and became the leading city of the Decapolis, the only one west of the Jordan River. We’ll explore its Romans Baths; the theatre; main streets and more.