War of Words – ‘ARMAGEDDON’

with Marc DeSantis

‘Armageddon’ came to English, via Greek, from Hebrew har megiddo, meaning ‘mountain of Megiddo.’ According to the Book of Revelation 16:16, it is the place where, at world’s end, on Judgement Day, Heaven’s forces will defeat the armies of evil in a final battle.

The word can be found in an 1811 letter of the English Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley: ‘several others of the Armageddon-Heroes maintain their posts.’ It has often been used as an allusion to any last, tremendous, struggle, as in Rudyard Kipling’s 1896 A Song of the English: ‘In the day of Armageddon, at the last great fight of all.’ On occasion, it has been employed to describe nuclear war.

In ancient times, Megiddo, located in the Jezreel Valley, was a strategically important city that sat astride the primary route leading into southern Syria. It was the scene of the Battle of Megiddo, one of the most famous of the whole of the Bronze Age.

Megiddo, or Tel Megiddo, is the site of an ancient city in Jezreel valley. Image: Wikimedia Commons/israeltourism.

In 1485 BC, the warrior pharaoh Tuthmosis III moved against it. He was opposed by an alliance of Canaanite rulers.

There were three routes to the Plain of Esdraelon, upon which stood Megiddo. His officers counselled Tuthmosis to avoid the third, the narrow Aruna road, as it would make the Egyptian army vulnerable on the march, and the other two were easier. Yet the Aruna offered a straight passage to Esdraelon, and would allow his army to appear less than a mile from Megiddo.

Tuthmosis also believed that the Aruna’s obvious difficulty would work to convince the enemy to guard the other two roads, and leave it uncovered.

Thus the pharaoh chose the Aruna road, and his move indeed surprised the hostile coalition. The Egyptians deployed without trouble onto Esdraelon, and the next day crushed the enemy in battle.