Where Will the Battle of Armageddon Be Fought?
Although the word Armageddon comes to us via the Bible, it has entered the modern vernacular as a term that refers to doomsday, or a cataclysmic event. Biblically speaking, it is the final battle to end all wars when evil is dealt a decisive blow. In the Book of Revelation, the apostle John describes it this way: “And the sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up so that the way of the kings from the east might be prepared. And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth, and of the whole world to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty….And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon” (Rev. 16:12-14, 16).
Most bible scholars and commentators preoccupy themselves with when Armageddon will occur, based on their understanding of Revelation and end-time events. When asked where the final battle of Armageddon will take place, the usual answer is the valley of Megiddo in Israel. This identification is based on breaking the word “Armageddon” into its two parts. “Ar” is the English equivalent to the Greek and Hebrew rendering which is “Har.” “Har” in Hebrew means “mountain.” The second part of the word “magedon” (one “d” in the Greek, not two) is usually thought to refer to the city of Megiddo. Because the ancient city of Megiddo was built and rebuilt many times over the centuries, a tell or small mound has developed. This is the result of the ancient practice of building one city on top of another. Thus Megiddo has the appearance of being a small hill or mountain as can be seen in the photo to the left. Armageddon, or Harmageddon is thus interpreted to mean “the mountain of Megiddo.”
Could the Equation of Armageddon with Mountain of Megiddo Be Wrong?
In his recent book The Unseen Realm, Bible scholar Michael Heiser argues that Armageddon should be equated with Jerusalem, not Megiddo. (If Heiser is correct, this means I need to revise one of my statements in my post entitled: Tel-Megiddo!) Heiser makes the following points to advance his argument:
- Megiddo is a tell, it is not a mountain.
2. Zechariah 12:9-11 pictures Jerusalem as the place where the final battle against the nations will take place. Interestingly, Megiddo is also mentioned in this passage. Heiser states, “It is crystal clear that the final conflict occurs at Jerusalem, not Megiddo. Megiddo is referenced only to compare the awful mourning that will result.” He continues by also noting, “verse 11 tells us explicitly that Megiddo is a plain, not a mountain!” (p. 370, all italics are the author’s).
3. Heiser’s third point is more complicated and involves knowing a little Hebrew as he attempts to show that the word “magedon” does not come from Armageddon, but from a different Hebrew expression. He points out that there are 2 letters in the Hebrew alphabet that are transliterated with a “g” in Greek and English. Transliteration means writing the letters of another alphabet in the equivalent forms of our alphabet. One of those letters is the Hebrew letter ‘ayin (ע). An ‘ayin is pronounced in the back of the throat like a hard “g” but it is represented in English transliteration as a backwards apostrophe (‘). Heiser notes that the transliteration of the city Gomorrah is ‘amorah. I would add, the same is true for the city Gaza which also begins with an ‘ayin and is transliterated as ‘aza. If the letter “g” in “magedon” is an ‘ayin, then, Heiser argues, that the Hebrew expression would be har mo’ed which means “mountain of assembly.” If you’re unfamiliar with Hebrew, I know that going from “Armageddon” to “har mo’ed” seems like a stretch. But trust me, it works. Heiser notes that this expression is found in Isaiah 14:13. This is a passage usually attributed to Satan’s defiance of God and Heiser treats it fully elsewhere in his book. To fully appreciate his point, it is necessary to read the book. For the full argument on this particular point see pages 370-373.
4. “Jerusalem is a mountain–Mount Zion” (p. 373). Heiser’s point is that when John uses the word Armageddon, he is meaning the mountain of assembly which every one who knew Hebrew would equate with Mount Zion, or Jerusalem.
Megiddo or Jerusalem?
Since David conquered Jerusalem 3,000 years ago, it has been the center and hearbeat of Israelite life. Something rings true to me about the final battle taking place in Jerusalem. After all, even today, Jerusalem remains the focal point of controversy and contention when it comes to the Middle East. Even if it can’t be proven that Armageddon means “mountain of the assembly,” Heiser’s other arguments make sense of an important biblical event that all Christians long to see take place. For more of Heiser’s arguments regarding Armageddon or his book, The Unseen Realm, check out his website at moreunseenrealm.com.