What is Armageddon?  Revelation 16:16

 Revelation 16:16 Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.

“Thus far there has been no satisfactory explanation of the name.” Joachim Jeremias, “Ἃρ Μαγεδών,” TDNT 1:468.

After the sixth bowl of God’s wrath has been poured out on the earth, the nations are deceived by demonic signs gather at a place called Armageddon. The word Armageddon has become part of western apocalyptic vocabulary, but books and films describing the “end of the world” as Armageddon do not reflect the use of the word in Revelation 16:16.

Satan attacks Jerusalem

John tells the reader the word Armageddon (Ἁρμαγεδών) is Hebrew or Aramaic (Ἑβραϊστί can mean either). The Hebrew, presumably, would be Har-Megiddo, or the Mount Megiddo. Megiddo is a well-known location in central Israel, bordering the broad Valley of Jezreel. The valley had been the site of numerous battles, from Egyptian battles in 1500 B.C. to a British conflict in 1917. Those who have visited Megiddo on an Israel tour might recall the lurid video in the visitor’s center suggesting this is the location of the “end of the world.”

But there is no Mount Megiddo. Megiddo was a city and occasionally a plain (2 Chron 35:22; Zech 12:11). Perhaps the Hebrew word could be A’r-Megiddo, the city of Megiddo, but this does not seem likely. John may not intend for Armageddon as a literal place name, but as a metaphor for the conflict between the forces of evil and the forces of God in a final battle.

It is tempting to understand Mount Megiddo as a reference to the Carmel range near Megiddo. The traditional site of Elijah’s confrontation with the priests of Baal at Carmel overlooks the plain of Jezreel (1 Kings 18:16-45). Like the book Revelation, Elijah faces a challenge to the worship of the Lord from Ahab and Jezebel. Who is the God who is worthy of Israel’s worship? Elijah proves it is only the Lord, the God of Israel and not Baal when God sends fire from heaven to consume his sacrifice. The story has a three-year drought, famine, miraculous protect of God’s servant Elijah, and a climactic bloody slaughter of those who worship Baal.  Many of these resonate with the conflict between the kingdom of the Beast and the Lamb in Revelation.

Following a 1938 article by C. C. Torrey, Meredith Kline suggested the word should be read as har môʿēd, “Mount of Assembly.” If this is the case, then Revelation 16:16 would allude to Isaiah 14:13, one of the boasts of the king of Babylon is that he would ascend to heaven and set his throne on the high, “I will sit on the mount of assembly, I the far reaches of the north.” The Hebrew phrase בְּהַר־מוֹעֵ֖ד  (“on the mount of assembly”) is render as ἐν ὄρει ὑψηλῷ (“on the high mountain”) in the LXX. The Greek ὑψηλός refers to a high or lofty mountain, but also to arrogance or presumption (BrillDAG).

Kline points out Isaiah 14:13 has “the far reaches of the north” in parallel to the mount of assembly. The high mountain in the north (צָפוֹן, zaphon) is where the gods lived in Ugaritic mythology. Whatever real-world mountain this might refer to, in Isaiah 14 the king of Babylon is ultimately arrogant in his desire to set his throne in the place of the gods. Rather than sit in the place of the gods, the king of Babylon will be brought down to the pit (Isa 14:14).

Kline then connects Mount Zaphon (the abode of the gods in Canaanite mythology) with Mount Zion, the abode of God. Psalm 48:1 calls Mount Zion God’s holy mountain, “beautiful in elevation” and “in the far north (zaphon).” At least in this psalm, Zion is like Zaphon. But in many other texts Zion is God’s meeting place with his people.

Like the king of Babylon in Isaiah 14, Revelation 16:16 refers to the ultimate arrogant attempt to demand the worship God himself deserves. “Satan will make his last attempt to usurp Har Magedon” (p. 213). For Kline, “The typological Zion/Jerusalem provides the symbolic scenery for prophecies of the climactic conflict in the war of the ages” (p. 213). Kline supports this view by examining Gog and Magog in Ezekiel 38-39.

I find Kline’s suggestion intriguing because the allusion to Isaiah 14 describes an arrogant king of Babylon who will demand to be worshiped as God. This is similar to the arrogant little horn in Daniel 7 as well as the willful king in Daniel 11. In the very next section of Revelation John describes Babylon as a whore drunk on the blood of the saints and the fall of Babylon dominates Revelation 17-19:10. However, it is difficult for me to move from Har Moed to Har Magedon.

The name of the mountain is obscure. Along with Jeremias, BDAG says the interpretation of the word is “beset with difficulties that have not yet been surmounted.” Robert Mounce agrees, the meaning of Armageddon is like the mystery of the name of the beast. There are many suggestions, but few are satisfying.

Whatever Armageddon refers to, the kingdom of the beast will gather for a final confrontation with the Lamb that was slain in order to finally show who is worthy of the worship of the nations.

Bibliography: Meredith G. Kline, “Har Magedon: The End of the Millennium” JETS 39 (1996): 207-223; C. C. Torrey, “Armageddon,” HTR 31 (1938): 237-248.

7 thoughts on “What is Armageddon?  Revelation 16:16

  1. A fascinating discussion is definitely worth comment. I think that
    you ought to write more about this topic, it might not be
    a taboo matter but usually people do not discuss these topics.
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  2. I find it interested how there is not actually a set meaning for Armageddon. I never have thought on the topic besides that I have learned that Armageddon is the end times when the Lamb defeats Evil finally in battle. I have never thought much at all either on the point of the location and the importance of this fact. I think something important to understand in this topic with Revelation is that no one really knows what will happen exactly other than John the writer and God himself. We the audience can only find interpretations and in a lot of ways guess what will really happen. This also means that we cannot fully understand what John meant by Armageddon because we do not have the context of being in the mind of God or John during this writing. I think that the idea of what Armageddon is as a metaphor instead of a literal place is fascinating because I too believe this. When you read these passages to me it seems much more fitting that Armageddon is not necessarily place rather an event that is happening.

  3. Armageddon was a location in Insrael. It was said to have been where there would be a war fought by Christians and angles. This side was going to be led by Jesus and the other side of the war was the anit-christ kings. This was also known as the Beast in the Book of Revelations. There is no definite meaning for Armageddon. The only thing that we do know is that the it does stand for the end times in the sense of the Lamb killing Evil in a war. People make up there own assumptions and theories of this place called Armageddon. Professor Long stated that “John may not intend for Armageddon as a literal place name, but as a metaphor for the conflict between the forces of evil and the forces of God in a final battle.” (Long, 2020) With not having the exact meaning of Armageddon we cannot fully understand what John had to say. It was a place for battle though. I think that it is interesting to research and study Armageddon because there is no certainty for it. I like to picture what it would be like.

  4. I think that Mike Heiser makes a good argument for the gamma in άρμαγεδων being a transliteration of a ע rather than a ג. This would render the phrase not as Mount of Megiddo, but Mount of Mo’ged, or the Mount of Assembly (as used in Isaiah 14:13). This seems to make sense theologically, with the final battle takes place over Jerusalem and between spiritual forces present in the Assembly of the Most High. 1 Enoch (which should not be scripture, but is a good indicator of Jewish tradition and belief), in discusses Jerusalem and the end times in chapter 26, calling it a “holy mountain” and the “center of the earth.” Jerusalem is blessed with rivers and plants, but the land around it is cursed and barren, because – as Sariel explains to Enoch – it is the dwelling place of the cursed. Sariel continues, saying, “Here they [the cursed] will be gathered, and here will be their habitation at the last times, in the days of righteous judgment in the presence of the righteous for all time.” It seems then that Jerusalem (and the land desert around it) was seen as the place where the evil forces of the material and spiritual world would be finally judged and defeated. It makes sense, then, that the final “battle” takes place at Jerusalem, because it is where all things started, and where all things will end.

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