Meggido and the Jezreel Valley

Looking down on the broad plain of Esdraelon stretched out from our feet, it is impossible not to remember that this is the greatest battlefield of the world, from the days of Joshua and the defeat of the mighty host of Sisera, till, almost in our own days. Napoleon the Great fought the battle of Mount Tabor; and here also is the ancient Megiddo, where the last great battle of Armageddon is to be fought.

Lieutenant H.H. Kitchener, 1878

Peace is rare in Israel. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the Jezreel Valley. For four thousand years, this region has suffered almost constant warfare. Indeed, one may seriously ask if there has ever been a time when the rulers of the area, whether local or foreign, were not at war. The turbulent history of all Israel, and Judah, Canaan, and Palestine, is reflected in microcosm in this blood-soaked little valley, for virtually every major invader of Israel has had to fight a battle in the Jezreel Valley. At least thirty-four bloody conflicts have already been fought at the ancient site of Megiddo and in adjacent areas of the Jezreel Valley, with the fateful battle of Armageddon possibly still to come. Egyptians, Canaanites, Israelites, Midianites, Amalekites, Philistines, Hasmonaeans, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Muslims, Crusaders, Mamlukes, Mongols, Palestinians, French, Ottomans, British, Australians, Germans, Arabs, and Israelis have all fought and died here.

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 known night campaign; here the Mongols lost their first major battle ever during their sweep across Asia and the Middle East. It is also a place of endings: here Saul fought his last heroic battle; here Josiah met his doom; here Armageddon is expected to take place. The names of the warring generals and leaders who have fought in this small valley reverberate throughout history: they include Thutmose III, Deborah and Barak, Sisera, Gideon, Saul and Jonathan, Shishak, Jehu, Joram, Jezebel, Josiah, Antiochus, Ptolemy, Vespasian, Saladin, Napoleon, and Allenby, to name but a few of the most famous.

The names of those who have died in battle in the Jezreel Valley also strike a familiar chord: they include many of the leaders named already and others, such as Labayu, ruler of Bronze Age Shechem; the Canaanite general Sisera; Saul, first king of Israel; Jonathan, son of Saul and heir to the throne of Israel; Joram, king of Israel; Jezebel, wife of Ahab and queen mother of Israel; Ahaziah, king of Judah; Josiah, king of Judah; the Mongol general Kitbuqa; and a great many others.

Warfare in the Jezreel Valley has always been a combination of open-air fighting and hit-and-run guerrilla tactics. This unholy mixture is a result of the geography of the land. The horses and chariots of the Canaanites and Israelites have given way to the tanks and airplanes of the Israel Defense Forces, and swords and bows have been replaced by machine guns and hand grenades, but the tactics remain similar. Evidence of history repeating itself abounds, therefore, such as General Allenby's successful emulation in the twentieth century of the tactics used by Pharaoh Thutmose III at Megiddo more than thirty-four hundred years earlier.

Throughout history, Megiddo and the Jezreel Valley have been ground zero for battles that determined the very course of civilization. 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 area of the Jezreel Valley can be compared to the meeting place of two tectonic plates, where the stress and strain frequently result in cataclysmic, earthshaking events of immense magnitude, whose reverberations are felt far away, both geographically and temporally. What is it about this area that prompts such a continuous state of warfare? Only continued study of the military history of the region will yield answers to this question. One thing is, however, already crystal clear. Regarding the battles fought in the confines of the Jezreel Valley over the past four thousand years, one might well paraphrase the immortal words of Sir Winston Churchill: "Never in the field of human conflict have so many fought so often over so little space."

The Battles of Armageddon, Eric H. Cline

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