Standing atop the mound of Tel Megiddo, a sweeping view of the largest valley of the ancient Biblical landscape in Israel opens as an unforgettable vista for any visitor to the land. The grain fields and cotton plants rooted in this rich soil of the “bread basket” of Israel belies the violent history of this place. It was the quintessential battleground of the Bible, surrounded by the slopes of mountains filled with Biblical history. From Thutmose III’s defeat of the Canaanite rulers (recorded at the Temple at Karnac, Egypt) in about 1468 BCE to General Edmund Allenby’s lauded cavalry exploits to rout the Ottoman Turks in September of 1918, this peaceful valley has been the staging grounds for dozens of major battles.
From this platform we can turn westward and view the height of Mount Carmel, where every visitor can recall the powerful ministry of the Prophet Elijah before the hundreds false prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18). The entire scene, complete with the “slaughter to the River Kishon” is easily in our view. We can easily follow the line of the path of the prophet’s run to the city of Jezreel, miles east of our panorama viewpoint. A simple ribbon of asphalt roadway marks the line of an ancient road at the base of the Samaritan hills, as they meet this open valley at the southernmost point of the Galilee.
The road is not only important for the “Elijah marathon” story, but for an account from the Gospels as well. It was along the road “between Galilee and Samaria” (Luke 17:11) that Jesus encountered ten lepers. Though ten were healed by the teacher in the story, only one came back to say a word of thanks. This road fits the description and is a great visual setting to this simple story I learned as a youth.
Megiddo’s elevation affords us another important view to the north – the Nazareth ridge. A bustling Galilee city today, this city has become everything the ancient village with this same name was not. Once an obscure and probably un-walled village with a distant spring and tiny cave-style houses, the archaeology of the village has been important for Christian pilgrims since the days of the Byzantine Empire. The boyhood home of Jesus – it is no surprise that several thriving churches dot the landscape of the city, including Greek Orthodox and Catholic shrines. These churches service the largest Arab Christian community in the region.
Further east, as our eyes move across the panorama of the valley we cannot help but see the abrupt incline of the free standing Mount Tabor. Rising nearly 600 meters above the surrounding plain – this mountain was considered a symbol of strength by the ancient Psalmist (Psalm 89:12). Bible students immediately associate the mound with thee mustering place of the tribes of Isaachar, Zebulun and Naphtali to battle the king of Hazor (Judges 4:6). The ancient battle of the Israelites under Barak and the victory song of Deborah stirs even the modern visitor in the shadow of this mountain. Our vista also includes the swell of the hill of Moreh, a gentle slope that appears to peak (from our view) just above the modern city of Afula. The villages of the ancient hill are also the setting for memorable Bible stories. The Prophet Elisha stayed for a time in the chamber of a Shunemite woman (a village on the south slope of the hill), and even raised the child of this generous woman after he collapsed and died (2 Kings 4:32). Much later, the Gospels record a similar miracle by Jesus in the village of Nain, along the northern slope of the mountain.
On the extreme eastward view of our bird’s eye perch, we end our panorama visit at the steep slopes of Mt. Gilboa. From Gideon to Saul, this mountain was the southern barrier of a number of significant battles. The limestone mountain is now a forest with several etched quarries – a beautiful green mountain rising off the Jezreel plain. How can anyone view this mountain and not recall the great battle that brought both the death of King Saul and his three sons (1 Samuel 31)?
From every direction, the Bible history of this landscape beckons young and old to reread these stories with new excitement and deeper understanding. Many places in this land do that, but perhaps none so effective as the panorama over this valley of history. It is a full day tour from one single perch!