It’s been called the “heart” of the promised land—a 141-square-mile triangle in the north-central area of Israel.
Today, the Jezreel Valley is Israel’s breadbasket. A beautiful plain of fertile fields and winding roads, it’s hemmed in by rolling mountains that offer stunning scenic views.
But its modern-day beauty hides a bloody and violent history.
Here Jezreel’s rulers killed Ahab’s 70 sons, put their heads in baskets, and brought them to Jehu (2 Kings 10:1–11). Queen Jezebel murdered Naboth in his own vineyard in Jezreel (1 Kings 21:1–23) and later died after being thrown from a palace and devoured by dogs. Pharaoh Neco killed King Josiah in the Jezreel Valley (2 Kings 23:30).
No less than 34 battles have occurred in or around this area.1 It was here that:
- Deborah and Barak trounced Sisera at the base of Mount Tabor at the eastern end of the valley (Judges 4–5)
- The Philistines attacked and defeated the Israelites on Mount Gilboa on the valley’s southeastern side (1 Samuel 29:1; 31)
- Gideon defeated the Midianites, Amalekites, and their allies from the east just north of Mount Gilboa (Judges 6–7)
- The Crusaders fought four separate battles in the twelfth century
- Napoleon Bonaparte crushed the Ottomans in 1799
- General George Allenby fought the Ottoman army for control of the area in 1918
For millennia, it’s been like a magnet wooing the nations to war—and for good reason.
The Jezreel Valley, the ‘grand central station’ of Israel
No one traveling north to south or east to west could avoid passing through the Jezreel Valley. It was the main connecting point between the nations, like a giant “X” in the middle of Israel—a grand central station of sorts.
This flat valley and unique and strategic location—combined with two natural water sources—turned this land into the most contested piece of real estate in antiquity.
Perhaps this is why Napoleon called the Jezreel Valley the most natural battleground of the whole earth.3
Where the end begins
The Jezreel Valley tells a sobering story of past rulers and wars, but it’s a future battle mentioned in Revelation 16 that grabs many people’s attention.
In it, the evil rulers of the world will gather to come against the King of kings—and the apostle John says it’s to a specific place:
For they are demonic spirits, performing signs, who go abroad to the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for battle on the great day of God the Almighty. . . . And they assembled them at the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon. (Revelation 16:14–16, emphasis added)
Though the entertainment industry has popularized the word “Armageddon,” it doesn’t refer to the end of the world. Its Greek name, Harmagedon (Ἁρμαγεδών, Harmagedōn) “appears to be a conflation of the Hebrew word for ‘mountain’ . . . and the name Megiddo (מגדו), yielding a translation like ‘mountain of Megiddo.’”4
Interestingly, back in 1903 archaeologists started excavating a “tel” in the Jezreel Valley (one ancient civilization built upon another) and identified it as the ancient Canaanite city of Megiddo, mentioned twelve times in the Old Testament.
Nations that controlled the Jezreel Valley controlled Megiddo; from there, they could keep a watchful eye on all traffic within the valley.
But was John referring to the city of Megiddo in the Jezreel Valley in Revelation 16:16?
Some interpreters hold that John, drawing on Megiddo’s reputation as a battleground, envisaged the whole plain of Megiddo in the greater Jezreel Valley as the site of the world’s final, epic battle.
Others argue “tel Megiddo” is not a mountain, but merely a “tel,” or ancient city. And because the word “Armageddon” in Revelation refers to a mountain, John can’t be referring to the ancient city of Megiddo. Therefore, the Jezreel Valley is not the future gathering place of “the kings of the whole world” (Rev 16:14).5
Still others deny that either place could be the site, as it would not be in keeping with the eschatological outlook of the Hebrew Bible, in which Jerusalem is always the scene of the final battle between God and his enemies (see Psa 48:1–8; Isa 24:21–23; 29:1–8; Joel 3:1–16; Mic 1:11–13; Zeph 3:8; Zech 12:1–9; 14:1–5).6
And some believe “Mount Megiddo” in Revelation 16:16 is merely symbolic of the power of Rome to seduce nations.7
Regardless, John offers his vision of a final war on “the great day of the Lord Almighty” to persecuted Christians then—and to us now—as a word of comfort and hope that evil will never win but is doomed to ultimate destruction.8
And wherever that battle is, it will be the greatest showdown in history.
Understanding the geography of Israel enhances our understanding of the narrative of the Bible.
For more information on the geographical, cultural, and historical settings in the Bible, I recommend The New Moody Atlas of the Bible and the award-winning Lexham Geographic Commentary on the Gospels.
To learn more about the end times, check out Dayton Hartman’s book Jesus Wins: The Good News of the End Times.
Have you been to the Jezreel Valley and Megiddo or studied this area of Israel? Comment in the post!
Karen Engle received her MA in Biblical Studies and Theology from Western Seminary. She is an editor for Faithlife and regularly takes groups to Israel.
- Cline, Eric H. The Battles of Armageddon: Megiddo and the Jezreel Valley from the Bronze Age to the Nuclear Age, University of Michigan Press, 2002, p. 11
- Cline, Eric H. “Contested Peripheries” in World Systems Theory: Megiddo and the Jezreel Valley as a Test Case,” p. 9, file:///Users/karen.engle/Downloads/233-318-1-PB.pdf. Accessed 2019 March 22.
- Rhodes, Ron. Bible Prophecy Answer Book, “The Campaign of Armageddon,” Harvest House Publishers, 2017.
- Barry, John D. Lexham Bible Dictionary, “Megiddo and ‘Armageddon,'” Lexham Press, Bellingham, WA, 2016.
- Elwell, Walter A. Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, “Armageddon,” Baker Academic, 2001.