August 19, 2009

Megiddo's Identification in Historical Perspective


--> --> The following article is an example of what my M.A. degree is all about - Historical Geography and site identification. In short it is identifying a historical place name with a physical, geographical location.
Dimensions and Tools of Historical Geography


Before discussing the particular identification of Megiddo, it is important to grasp the dimensions and tools of Historical Geography. To understand the discipline of Historical Geography one must understand the combination of different dimensions Historical Geography operates within. Those dimensions are the following:
· Spatially defined to the Eastern Mediterranean and the Ancient Near East.
· Temporally defined to the exposition of the country’s and people’s experiences over time (history and reflection). This requires the tools of paleography, epigraphy, grammar, syntax and discourse analysis.
· Culturally defined in light of the Ancient Near Eastern culture. The Bible and its contemporary sources must be read and interpreted in light of their local culture.
· Spiritually defined to the fact that religion and everyday life in the ancient world were not separate, religion was integral to everyday living.[1]
These dimensions are the overarching ideas that guide the historical geographer in his quest for identification of sites and reconstruction of history. Besides these overarching dimensions, the historical geographer has certain tools that he can use in his task. Those tools are the following:
· Physical Geography – this includes the subfields of Geology and Orography (geomorphology), Ecology (soils and rocks and flora and fauna), Hydrology (water sources and their utilization), Meteorology (weather patterns), and Cartography (map making).
· Historical Philology – the study of ancient texts that include: Biblical geographical texts, post-biblical sources, and inscriptions.
· Toponomy – the study of place names, the grammatical and syntactical analysis of Arabic and Hebrew places names in connection with sites.
· Archaeology – the scholarly investigation of past human life as it is revealed through material culture.[2]
Process of Identification
The story and methodology behind Megiddo’s identification are very interesting. In fact the process by which people took to identify Megiddo helped develop the dimensions and tools above. Megiddo was a major Bronze Age and Israelite city in the Jezreel Valley. It guards the best gateway into the Jezreel Valley and Carmel Range respectively serving a necessary part in the ancient Great Trunk Route that ran from Egypt to Damascus. Rainey describes its importance this way, “Throughout the three millennia of its existence, Megiddo was one of the most strategic points in Palestine and many crucial battles took place in its immediate vicinity.”[3]
The identification of Megiddo was of great importance. Megiddo appears 12 times in the Biblical text (Josh. 12:21; 17:11; Judg. 1:27; 5:19; 1 Kings 4:12; 9:15, 2 Kings 9:27; 23:29; 23:30; 1 Chr. 7:29; 2 Chr. 35:22; Zech. 12:11), 6 of these references indicate that the city of Taanach is close to Megiddo, particularly Judg. 5:19 which says, “at Taanach, by the waters of Megiddo.” The three candidates for the site are the Arabic village of Lejjun (in the Jezreel Valley), Khirbet el-Mujedda (near Beisan at the foot of Mt. Gilboa), and Tell el-Mutsellim (about half a mile south of Lejjun). Before discussing the merits of the different options for Megiddo it is important to note that the men that are about to be discussed did not have the tool of Archaeology nor the understanding of the nature of a tell. Because of this, the evidence for and against the different candidates was run through the grid of the existing tools of Historical Philology and Toponomy making it an ideal case study for the two disciplines.[4]
Map from George Adam Smith's Atlas of the Historical Geography of the Holy Land (plates 19-20) (markings are mine)
Lejjun
Eshtori Haparhi, a 14th century French Jewish scholar, was the first to try to identify Megiddo, which he did with the Arab city of Lejjun.[5] Much later an anonymous reviewer of Raumer in 1836 also identified Lejjun with Megiddo.[6] In 1838 Edward Robinson also suggested that Lejjun was biblical Megiddo citing its close relationship to Taanach (Philology) and the fact that Eusebius and Jerome “speak of the plain of Legio” (Philology).[7] About Lejjun Robinson stated, “It does not seem probable that the ancient Legio was a city founded by the Romans, but rather that this was a new name imposed on a still older place.”[8] In the line of Robinson and his predecessors William Thompson and George Adam Smith[9] adopted Lejjun as the site of biblical Megiddo. Thompson even went on to say that Lejjun was the site for the Roman city of Legio as well as Megiddo.[10]

Khirbet el-Mujedda
In 1882, C.R. Conder of the Survey of Western Palestine proposed that Khirbet el-Mujedda was biblical Megiddo. Conder’s argument is summarized by Rainey who writes,
1. “Supposed survival of biblical Megiddo in Arabic Kh. el-Mujjeda, the name of a place at the foot of Mt. Gilboa, near Beisan.
2. Megiddo is almost as often mentioned with Beth-shean as with Megiddo.
3. Muqatta the name of the Kishon, is not an accurate reflex of Megiddo.
4. The site in the Jordan Valley suits the narrative of the flight of Amaziah (2 Kings 9.)
5.The “Travels of Mohar” mentioned Megiddo just after Beth-shean (today known as Papyrus Anastasi I).”[11]
In response to Conder’s assertion, Smith shows the fallacies in the argument. Smith basically argues that Mujjeda does not fit the biblical text, especially Jud. 5:19 “Taanach by the waters of Megiddo” and that the argument against Muqatta’s toponomy is invalid.[12] Rainey notes the validity of Smith’s argument as he writes, “C.R. Conder’s objections (against Lejjun and Tell el-Mutsellim) have been successfully refuted by G.A. Smith et al.”[13]

Tell el Mutsellim
The first to propose Tell el-Mutsellim as the site of biblical Megiddo was Van de Velde in 1852. He based his theory on the translation of Tell el-Mutsellim, which means “the Tell of the Governor.” He related the translation of the name of the tell to 1 Kings 4:12 which speaks of Solomon appointing a governor named Baana over “Taanach, Megiddo, and all Beth-shean that is beside Zarethan below Jezreel, and from Beth-shean to Abel-meholah, as far as the other side of Jokneam.”[14] At the turn of the 20th century Charles Wilson came to the same conclusion as Van de Velde saying, “Tell el-Mutsellim is at the end of a spur that runs out from the ridge of Carmel into the plain and is a conspicuous feature in the landscape. This is Megiddo.”[15] Wilson goes on to identify the Arab village of Lejjun with the Roman town of Legio explaining that it took the place of the Canaanite/Israelite town. C. Steuernagel and C. Watzinger confirmed this identification with the excavations of Tell el-Mutesellim from 1903-1905 proving that the site of Tell el-Mutesellim fit the physical geography, historical philology, toponomy, and archaeology related to biblical Meggido. In conclusion and having his own mind changed by the excavations Smith writes,
“But this century excavations upon Tell el-Mutesellim have modified Robinson’s theory by discovering ruins from remote time and down to 350 B.C. which are evidence that the Tell was Megiddo and deserted about that date when presumably the inhabitants moved a mile south to the position which the Romans, when they came, fortified and called Legio, now Lejjun.”[16]
Tell el Mutsellim - Biblical Megiddo



[1] Anson Rainey and Steve Notley, The Sacred Bridge: Carta’s Atlas of the Biblical World, (Jerusalem: Carta, 2006). 9-10.
[2] Taken and adapted from Rainey and Notley, 10-24.
[3] Anson Rainey, A Handbook of Historical Geography, (Jerusalem: American Institute of the Holy Land Studies, 1984). 182. 
[4] Note that all ensuing references were adapted from Anson Rainey, "In Search of Megiddo," SBL and AAR National Conference (Nov. 1988). 1-10.
[5] A.M. Luncz, Caftor va-pherach par Estori ha-Parchi, le premier exlporator de la Terre-Sainte (au treizeeme si├Ęcle), Troisieme edition, (Jerusalem: Imprimerie de l’Editeur Vol. 1, 1897). n.p.
[6] Anonymous, “Review of Raumer,” Palestina in Muncher Gelehrie Anzeigen, (Dec. 1836): 920.
[7] Edward Robinson, Biblical Researches in Palestine, Mount Sinai and Arabia Petraea: A Journal of Travels in the Year 1938 by E. Robinson and E. Smith Undertaken in Reference to Biblical Geography vol. 3, (Boston: Crocker and Brewster; New York: Jona Leavitt; London: John Murray; Halle: Waisenhausbuchhandlung, 1941). 177-180.
[8] Rainey, 177.
[9] George Adam Smith, The Historical Geography of the Holy Land. (London: Hodder and Stoughton; New York: A.C. Armstrong and Son, 1894). 387.
[10] William Thompson, The Land and the Book or Biblical Illustrations Drawn from the Manners and Customs, the Scenes and Scenery of the Holy Land, (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1882). 212-214.
[11] Rainey, 4.
[12] Smith, 268-269.
[13] Rainey, 182.
[14] Carel Willem Meredith van de Velde, Memoir to Accompany the Map of the Holy, (Gotha: J. Perthes, 1858). 333.
[15] Charles Wilson, “Megiddo,” A Dictionary of the Bible, ed. James Hastings, (Edinburgh: T&T Clark; New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1901). 3:334.
[16] George Adam Smith, The Historical Geography of the Holy Land. (London: Hodder and Stoughton; New York: A.C. Armstrong and Son, 1931). 386.

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