Tel Megiddo National park holds the archaeological remains of the ancient Biblical city of Megiddo, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Megiddo, was one of the most important cities of biblical times.
It was of great strategic importance and numerous battles fought for control of the city are recorded in ancient sources.
The city is mentioned in Egyptian inscriptions, among them in inscriptions describing the campaign of Pharaoh Thutmose III against Canaanite cites which rebelled against him.
Megiddo is also mentioned 11 times in the Bible. In the Book of Judges, it is mentioned as a city that the tribe of Menashe was unable to bequeath.
A total of 20 cities were built at Megiddo, one above the other, over the course of 5,000 years of continuous occupation until the 5th century BCE.
Archaeological finds in the top four layers The finds corroborate written evidence concerning the importance of Megiddo.
It was a royal Canaanite city, then as an Egyptian stronghold and administrative center, later as a “chariot city” of the kings of Israel, and finally as the controlling city of Assyrian and Persian provinces.
A Royal Canaanite City and an Egyptian Administrative Center
The first fortified urban settlement dates from the beginning of the 3rd millennium BCE.
Within its walls was an elongated rectangular temple, with an altar opposite its entrance which was used for animal sacrifice.
Over the next 2000 years, a series of Canaanite temples were built, one on top of the other, on the site of this ancient temple.
At the end of the 3rd millennium BCE, a circular bama (alter) was built with seven steps that led to its top, upon which sacrifices were offered.
This is an excellent example of the cultic bamot (altars) frequently mentioned in the Bible (I Samuel 9:12-15).
From the beginning of the 2nd millennium BCE, Megiddo was an important military center.
The city was surrounded by mighty stone fortifications, strengthened by earthen ramparts.
The area within the walls was carefully planned and divided into several clearly defined quarters:
The royal quarters containing the palaces, the administrative quarter, and the residential quarters.
This plan did not significantly change until the 12th century BCE.
Megiddo is mentioned many times in Egyptian royal inscriptions from the 15th to the 13th centuries BCE.
They attest to the city’s importance as the center of Egyptian administration in Canaan and as a logistical base on the road north.
Inscriptions in the temple of the god Amon at Karnak describe the first military campaign of Thutmose III in Canaan, at the beginning of the 15th century BCE. He conquered Megiddo after a seven-month siege.
However, with the decline of Egyptian control in the 12th and 11th centuries BCE, struggles for power took place among the Canaanites, Philistines, and Israelites.
The city was conquered by King David, who established it as an important regional center of his kingdom.
The monarchic “Chariot City”
Megiddo reached its peak under King Solomon who rebuilt it as a royal city.
The building of Jerusalem, the capital, and of Hatzor, Megiddo, and Gezer, as part of centralized urban planning, is recounted in the Bible.
Architectural features characteristic of the royal centers of the monarchic period have been found in all three cities.
In the Megiddo excavations, such elements were encountered in the palaces, buildings, fortifications, administrative buildings, storehouses, stables and the water system.
During the reign of Solomon, Megiddo was surrounded by two parallel walls with partitions between them, creating rooms, called a casemate wall, like the one in Tel Arad.
The casemates served as barracks for soldiers and for storage of equipment.
Within the city, large palaces were built, and next to them identically planned administrative buildings: a series of rooms around an open central courtyard.
Megiddo was destroyed in the military campaign of Pharaoh Shishak in 926 BCE, and restored during the reign of Ahab, king of Israel, who made it a royal “chariot city.”
It continued to serve as the seat of the royal governor during the reign of Jeroboam II, king of Israel.
This is attested to by a seal bearing the inscription “to Shema, servant of Jeroboam.”
During the rebellion of Jehu, Ahaziah, king of Judah, fled to Megiddo and died there of his wounds. (II Kings 9: 27)
Megiddo was apparently conquered and destroyed in 732 BCE, during the campaign of Tiglath Pilesser III, king of Assyria, against the Kingdom of Israel. (II Kings 15: 29)
The Last Days of Megiddo
The Assyrians made Megiddo the royal city of their province in the north of the conquered kingdom of Israel.
From the battle between King Josiah and Pharaoh Necho it may be concluded that the Kingdom of Judah briefly controlled Megiddo.
From then on, Megiddo fell into decline and was abandoned during the Persian rule, in the 5th century BCE.
Visit Tel Megiddo
For more information, like open hours and entrance fees, see the Tel Megiddo National Park webpage.