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The Revelation - Book 6

A study of Revelation 16. This is book 6 of an 8 part book series.

Category - Bible Commentaries

Chapter 10

The Battle of Armageddon

Revelation 16:16 says,

16 And they gathered them together to the place which in Hebrew is called Har-Magedon.

Many names have been transliterated from Hebrew into Greek with a few changes. Elijah thus becomes Elias, Judah becomes Judas, and in the case above, Megiddo is written as Magedon. The change in language does not change its original meaning, but we should always keep in mind that Hebrew is being expressed in Greek for the sake of the Greek readers who were unfamiliar with the Hebrew language.

Har means “mountain or hill,” referring to the hill on which the fortress had been built. Magedon is “a place of crowds.” The root of Magedon is gadad, which means either to cut oneself or to gather together (rendezvous) in troops or crowds. As for the city itself, the creator of the Online Bible says,

“ancient city of Canaan assigned to Manasseh and located on the southern rim of the plain of Esdraelon 6 miles (10 km) from Mount Carmel and 11 miles (18 km) from Nazareth.

Meggido, or Magedon, had been a Canaanite city ruled by King Taanach (Joshua 12:21), but after it was conquered by Joshua, its territory was given to the half tribe of Manasseh (Joshua 17:11). The city was really a walled fortress situated on a strategic hill overlooking the Valley of Jezreel and guarding the pass of Wadi Arah, on the main trade route connecting Egypt with Mesopotamia.

King Josiah

One of the great tragedies of Scripture occurred at Meggido just before the Babylonian captivity. As the Babylonian armies were advancing toward Israel, the Egyptian army under Pharaoh Neco marched north through Israel to stop them. Their intention was to “make war at Carchemish on the Euphrates” (2 Chron. 35:20). The Babylonians had taken Nineveh in 612 B.C. and were continuing their westward advance. The Egyptians believed it would be better to confront Nebuchadnezzar at the Euphrates, rather than to fight them at the border of Egypt.

Josiah’s army then took a stand against Pharaoh at Megiddo. Pharaoh, who had already bypassed Jerusalem, tried to dissuade Josiah from fighting him, telling him in 2 Chron. 35:21,

21 … “I am not coming against you today but against the house with which I am at war, and God has ordered me to hurry. Stop for your own sake from interfering with God who is with me, that He may not destroy you.” 22 However, Josiah would not turn away from him, but disguised himself in order to make war with him; nor did he listen to the words of Neco from the mouth of God, but came to make war on the plain Megiddo.

Josiah was killed needlessly in the battle, and “then Jeremiah chanted a lament for Josiah” (2 Chron. 35:25). The people put his son Joahaz on the throne for three months, while Pharaoh continued his march to Carchemish. The Egyptians were attacked unexpectedly and defeated by the Babylonians, but on the return trip, he took control of Judah. No doubt he was angry with Judah for delaying him and giving the Babylonians time to plan their strategy. So he reversed the will of the people and installed Jehoiakim, the older son of Josiah, on the throne to rule Judah as a vassal king of Egypt.

However, this arrangement lasted only until the Babylonians arrived in 604 B.C., and Jerusalem gave up without a fight.

The point is that Megiddo was a strategic military fortress on the main road from Egypt to Mesopotamia. The most famous biblical battle was where Josiah, the godly king, was needlessly killed on account of his inability to hear the word of the Lord through an Egyptian king. It seems that he did not realize that God can speak through anyone, including unbelievers. His lack of discernment caused him to fight Egypt at Megiddo, where he then met his untimely death.

This story is connected to John’s prophecy in Revelation 16, where the unclean spirits are pictured as frogs coming out of the mouths of the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet. The people who are being deceived by these “frogs” obviously lack true spiritual discernment. That problem causes them to be drawn into a battle, where many good people are killed needlessly.

Ahab and Jezebel in Jezreel

Another prophetic story that occurred in the Valley of Jezreel—and thus also by extension involving Megiddo—comes to us when Ahab and Jezebel stole the vineyard of Naboth, the Jezreelite (1 Kings 21:1). This was a prophetic type of men usurping the Kingdom, because in the Song in Isaiah 5:7, “the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel.”

Jezreel itself means “God scatters” and “God sows.” It is one of the main topics in the prophecies of Hosea, referring to the scattering of Israel into the field in order to “sow her for Myself in the land” (Hosea 1:4; 2:23). That, of course, is another large aspect of the prophecy of Jezreel.

Ahab and Jezebel were judged by God for usurping God’s Kingdom, and He raised up Jehu to be their executioner.

Naboth means “fruits,” showing that Ahab and Jezebel had usurped the fruits of the Kingdom. This ties the story to Jesus’ parable in Matt. 21:33-41, where the stewards of God’s vineyard usurped its fruits for themselves. They were even willing to kill the prophets and finally the Son Himself to accomplish their goal. The point of that parable was given in Matt. 21:43, where the Kingdom of God was to be taken from them and given to a nation who would render the fruits to God.

Ahab and Jezebel serve as prophetic types of the Kingdom’s usurpers. Ahab was later killed in battle, and Jezebel was thrown out the window and was eaten by dogs, according to the prophecy in 2 Kings 9:10,

10 And the dogs shall eat Jezebel in the territory of Jezreel, and none shall bury her…

In the book of Revelation, Jezebel is seen as the great harlot of Babylon (Rev. 17:5), the false bride, who is ultimately eaten by her own dogs (the “beasts” in Rev. 17:16).

Elijah on Mount Carmel

Another mountain a few miles northwest of Megiddo is Mount Carmel. It is where Elijah had his famous showdown with the prophets of Baal, whom Ahab supported through the influence of Jezebel. Josiah was the king of Judah, but Ahab was the king of Israel. Scripture thus gives us prophetic precedents from both Judah and Israel.

The false prophets were given the first opportunity to call down fire from heaven upon their altar on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18:20). They prayed at the time of the morning sacrifice (1 Kings 18:26) without success. Then at the time of the evening sacrifice (1 Kings 18:29), Elijah “repaired the altar of the Lord which had been torn down” (1 Kings 18:30). His prayer was successful, and the fire of God came down in the sight of all present as God accepted his sacrifice.

A small but significant detail in this story connects it to the gathering at Armageddon. Speaking of the false prophets and their prayers, 1 Kings 18:26 says,

26 Then they took the ox which was given them and they prepared it and called on the name of Baal from morning until noon saying, “O Baal, answer us.” But there was no voice and no one answered. And they leaped [pasach] about the altar which they made.

The two daily sacrifices prophesied of the two comings of Christ. The first, that is, the morning sacrifice, was fulfilled at Passover (Pesach), while the second, the evening sacrifice, is yet to be fulfilled at Tabernacles. The false prophets “leaped about the altar,” and this has more than one layer of meaning. The word “leaped” is from the Hebrew word pasach, which means “to hop, leap, pass over”—or Passover. It shows that they were unable to receive the revelation of Passover.

Secondly, it shows the action of a frog. The Hebrew word for “frog” is tsefardeah, which means “to dance, to leap.”

In other words, the false prophets of Baal, who leaped over the altar in their frenzied dance, were acting like frogs, and this prophetically connects them to the three frogs, or “unclean spirits,” in Rev. 16:13. Just as their false teachings had led the prophets of Baal to their doom on Mount Carmel, so also do the false teachings lead the people to the nearby plain of Armageddon in Rev. 16:13-16.

When the prophets of Baal leaped and danced for three hours without success, Elijah mocked them, saying in 1 Kings 18:27, “Call out with a loud voice, for he is a god; either he is occupied or gone aside [i.e., to the toilet], or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and needs to be awakened.”

They were probably somewhat fearful by this time, but they renewed their religious froggie dance and added a new feature:

28 So they cried with a loud voice and cut themselves [gadad] according to their custom with swords and lances until the blood gushed out on them.

Recall that Megiddo comes from the root word gadad, which has a double meaning: “to cut oneself” and “to gather together.” Hence, hidden in the showdown is not only the three frogs, but also the root word for Megiddo. The prophets of Baal not only did a froggie dance (tsefardeah), but they also cut themselves (gadad). Of course, Elijah had also called this gathering, a rendezvous at the mountain (1 Kings 18:19, 20).

By combining these layers of meaning, we see that the rejection of Christ at Passover, along with usurping the fruits of the Kingdom, were the result of spiritual “frogs” coming out of the mouths of the rabbis, priests, and false teachers. This occurred at the first coming of Christ, prophesied in the morning sacrifice.

The result was that they induced men to gather (or rendezvous) at Armageddon for destruction at “the great day of God Almighty” (Rev. 13:14) in conjunction with the second coming of Christ—pictured by the evening sacrifice. The showdown of Elijah, then, contained elements of both comings of Christ, but the story ends with the destruction of the prophets of Baal near Meggido, or Har-mageddon.

This “great day of God Almighty” is the fall of Mystery Babylon, prophesied in so many ways throughout Scripture. This leads us to the seventh bowl of wine poured out as a final word of judgment upon that great city.