ZECHARIAH 12 The city of Megiddo (“Map 6”) controlled the pass between the Valley of Jezreel and the Sharon plain. Routes that traveled northwest to the Phoenician coast and east to Damascus were also controlled by this city Many critical battles took place at Megiddo, one of the most strategic cities in the region now called Palestine. An archaeological excavation of Tell el-Mutesellim during the first decade of the twentieth century located the city, including numerous layers of occupation. Megiddo was first inhabited during the Neolithic Age. The Megiddo of the Early Bronze I period boasted the largest known temple in the Levant (Syria-Palestine) for that time period. Excavation
revealed numerous levels of occupation through the Middle Bronze and Late Bronze Ages; some levels indicate periods when the city was prosperous and others when it was impoverished. During the earlier part of the Late Bronze Age Megiddo was under Egyptian domination, having been captured by Pharaoh Thutmose ill in approximately 1479 b.c. Several of the Amarna Letters from the ruler of Megiddo profess loyalty to Egypt.
During the conquest of the promised land Megiddo was allotted to the tribe of Manasseh (Jos 17:11). The king of Megiddo is listed among those defeated by Joshua (Jos 12:21), but Manasseh could not take the city (Jdg 1:27). It appears that Megiddo was subsequently a Canaanite city with a Philistine presence. Apparently David conquered it for Israel. An occupation level from the tenth century b.c., the age of Solomon, indicates that the city was used as a government administrative center for Israel. The level evidences the same kind of multichambered gates and double walls (called casemate walls) found in Hazor and Gezer during the same time period. On the basis of 1Kings 9:15 we can conclude that the style of construction used in these cities was of a sort favored by Solomon’s engineers. Pharaoh Shishak (r.c. 945-924 b.c.) appears to have destroyed Megiddo during a campaign that included an attack on Judah and Jerusalem.
Megiddo was rebuilt and used again as a military or administrative center during the ninth and eighth centuries b.c. However, the city once again fell to a foreign power when Tiglath-Pileser III, king of Assyria, conquered it around 733 b.c., after which it was used as an Assyrian administrative center. With the fall of the Assyrian Empire, Megiddo came under the control of Judah. It was the location of the confrontation between King Josiah and Pharaoh Neco that resulted in Josiah’s death. In Zechariah 12:11 “the weeping of Hadad Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo” probably refers to mourning over this calamity. During the Persian Age the city was abandoned. A number of remarkable archaeological finds have emerged from Medgiddo:
- A large, round sacrificial area from an Early Bronze temple complex
- A plaque depicting a Hittite king standing beneath a winged sun disk
- A fragment of an Akkadian tablet containing a part of the Gilgamesh epic
- Ivory carvings of the Egyptian god Bes and of lotus patterns
- A painted pitcher, called the “Orpheus Jug,” portraying a lyre player leading a procession of animals
- Palace structures dating from the Israelite period (tenth-eighth centuries b.c.) reflecting that the city was for a time a significant Israelite administrative center
- A Stele from Pharaoh Shishak, confirming that this Egyptian monarch did take the city during the time of Rehoboam
- A remarkable jasper seal with a roaring lion and the inscription “of Shema, servant of Jeroboam” (i.e.,Jeroboam II)
- A large building excavated there with three aisles running its length, separated by rows of pillars. (Its function has been debated, with some suggesting a storehouse or barracks, but it was probably a stable for horse from the time of Ahab.)
These finds, from different ages and from across the ancient Near East, attest to the abiding significance of Megiddo.