Sunday, June 28, 2009

Israel Trip 2c (April 30) - Megiddo

What does one say about Megiddo, a tell made up of at least 20 different historical periods dating between 4000 and 400 BCE? After fourteen years of archaeological excavations by the Rockefeller expedition (1925-1939), the site now looks like a pile of rubble--at least to the unaided eye. Fortunately, there is a model in the museum that helps make sense of it all:Unfortunately, those of us who stayed behind to take pictures took a wrong turn on the way out. When we rejoined the group, our guide was talking about a Solomon-era gate (see 1 Kgs 9:15):
The palm trees in the distance . . .
. . . overlook the sacred area where archeologists uncovered ruins of four different Canaanite temples. The round altar in the next picture is is dated to 2500 BCE:
Turning around, there is a magnificent view of the Jezreel valley. In the northeast we could see Mt. Moreh on the right, Mt. Tabor barely visible in the centre, and the Nazareth ridge on the left:
In the east we could make out Mt. Gilboa near Beit-Shan, where King Saul was killed (2 Sam 21:12):
Because of its prominent position overlooking the Jezreel valley, Jerome Murphy-O'Connor calls Megiddo "the royal box in one of the great theatres of history":
From time immemorial armies have surged from the surrounding valleys to play their parts on the flat stage of the Jezreel valley. Not surprisingly, Armageddon (= Har Megedon = Mountain of Megiddo) has become the symbol for the battle to end all wars (Rev. 16: 16). Its position at the head of the most important pass through the Carmel range . . . gave Megiddo control of the Way of the Sea, the ancient trade route between Egypt and the east. Traders from all over the known world passed its gates, as did invading armies. - The Holy Land: An Oxford Archaeological Guide (5th ed.; Oxford: 2008), 386.
The real question for me was the identity of this building:
The archaeologists first identified the building (and others like it on the northeastern side of the tell) as Solomon's stables. We know that Megiddo was in Israelite hands by Solomon's time. According to 1 Kings 9:15, he fortified the city; 1 Kings 10:26 says that he collected horses and stationed them in chariot cities. The buildings were identified as stables because limestone troughs were found within them. I saw this example later when I visited the Rockefeller museum in Jerusalem:
The problem is that archeologists later found a palace from Solomon's time underneath the southeastern stables. Apparently most now date the stables to Ahab or Omri's time in the 9th century BCE. O'Connor isn't even convinced they are stables: "if they were stables they must have housed very small, house-broken ponies" (390)!

If you want to find out more about Megiddo, check out the Megiddo Expedition. Better yet, join the archeological dig at Megiddo that is set to begin June 13th, 2010.

This is the 4th post in a series on the 2009 Briercrest Israel Tour:
Israel Trip 1 (April 28-29) - Climate Change
Israel Trip 2a (April 30) - Caesarea
Israel Trip 2b (April 30) - Views from Mt. Carmel

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