(Har–Ma·gedʹon) [from Heb., meaning “Mountain of Megiddo”].
This name is directly associated with “the war of the great day of God the Almighty.” The term applies specifically to the condition, or situation, to which “the kings of the entire inhabited earth” are gathered in opposition to Jehovah and his Kingdom by Jesus Christ. In a number of versions it is rendered “Armageddon.” (Re 16:14, 16, AT; KJ; JB; RS; TEV) The name Har–Magedon, taken from Hebrew, means simply “Mountain of Megiddo.”
There does not appear to have been a literal place called “Mountain of Megiddo,” either inside or outside the Promised Land, before or during the days of the apostle John, who recorded the vision. Hence, Har–Magedon evidently draws its significance from the events associated with the ancient city of Megiddo.
Megiddo was situated a few miles SE of Mount Carmel, overlooking and dominating the Plain of Esdraelon (Jezreel) and controlling major N-S and E-W trade and military routes. Joshua first conquered this Canaanite city. (Jos 12:7, 8, 21) Near this site Jabin’s army under command of Sisera was later destroyed. Jehovah there employed natural forces to assist the Israelite army under Barak. The account reads: “Barak went descending from Mount Tabor with ten thousand men behind him. And Jehovah began to throw Sisera and all his war chariots and all the camp into confusion by the edge of the sword before Barak. Finally Sisera got down off the chariot and took to flight on foot. And Barak chased after the war chariots and the camp as far as Harosheth of the nations, so that all the camp of Sisera fell by the edge of the sword. Not as much as one remained.”
After the victory, Barak and the prophetess Deborah broke out in song, which went, in part: “Kings came, they fought; it was then that the kings of Canaan fought in Taanach by the waters of Megiddo. No gain of silver did they take. From heaven did the stars fight, from their orbits they fought against Sisera. The torrent of Kishon washed them away, the torrent of ancient days, the torrent of Kishon. You went treading down strength, O my soul. It was then that the hoofs of horses pawed because of dashings upon dashings of his stallions.”
It was at Megiddo that King Ahaziah of Judah died after he was mortally wounded on orders of Jehu. (2Ki 9:27) There King Josiah of Judah was killed in an encounter with Pharaoh Nechoh. (2Ki 23:29, 30) Because of its commanding position, many other nations, according to secular history, warred around Megiddo. ‘Jews, Gentiles, Saracens, crusaders, Egyptians, Persians, Druses, Turks, and Arabs have all pitched their tents on the plain of Esdraelon.’
The Revelation account depicts the combined forces of the kings of the earth as being gathered “to the place [Gr., form of toʹpos] that is called in Hebrew Har–Magedon.” (Re 16:16) In the Bible toʹpos may refer to a literal location (Mt 14:13, 15, 35); to one’s opportunity, or “chance” (Ac 25:16); or to a figurative realm, condition, or situation (Re 12:6, 14). In view of the context, it is to a “place” in the last-mentioned sense that earth’s combined military powers are marching.
“The war of the great day of God the Almighty” at Har–Magedon was not some past event but is depicted in Revelation as future from the time of John’s vision. The gathering of the kings to Har–Magedon is described as being a result of the pouring out of the sixth of the seven bowls containing the “last” plagues that will bring to a finish the anger of God. (Re 15:1; 16:1, 12) Also, indicating that the war at Har–Magedon is closely associated with Christ’s presence is the warning of his coming as a thief, which is placed between verses 14 and 16 of Revelation chapter 16.
The global aspect of the war is emphasized in the context. There the opponents of Jehovah are identified as “the kings of the entire inhabited earth,” who are mobilized by “expressions inspired by demons.”
Farther on, John says: “And I saw the wild beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to wage the war with the one seated on the horse and with his army.” (Re 19:19) This chapter identifies the leader of the heavenly armies, seated on a white horse, as one who is called “Faithful and True” and “The Word of God.” (Re 19:11-13) Therefore, it is Jesus Christ, The Word, who acts as the commander of God’s heavenly armies. (Joh 1:1; Re 3:14) Further showing that Christ leads the heavenly forces is the statement that the earthly forces “battle with the Lamb [who is Jesus Christ (Joh 1:29)], but, because he is Lord of lords and King of kings, the Lamb will conquer them. Also, those called and chosen and faithful with him will do so.”
Since the vision in Revelation chapter 19 reveals only armies in heaven as participating in the warfare as supporters of Jesus Christ, The Word of God, it indicates that none of Jehovah’s Christian servants on earth will participate in the fighting. This is in harmony with the words of Jesus Christ at Matthew 26:52 that his disciples not resort to weapons of physical warfare. (Compare Ex 14:13, 14; 2Ch 20:15, 17, 22, 23; Ps 2:4-9.) The birds that fly in midheaven will dispose of the bodies of those slaughtered.
Har–Magedon is thus seen to be a fight, not merely among men, but one in which God’s invisible armies take part. Its coming is certain and it will take place at the time set by Jehovah God, who “is doing according to his own will among the army of the heavens and the inhabitants of the earth.”