Valley of Jehoshaphat
Where Will All Nations Be Gathered?
The concept of a "gathering of all nations" to the final battle between good and evil is a common one in biblical prophecy. Seven different Old Testament prophecies refer to this event, as well the well-known reference to "Armageddon" in the book of Revelation.
However, while there are numerous references to such a gatheringand, being in end-time prophecies, they all appear to refer to the same eventthere is a lack of agreement as to the typical location to which they are to be gathered. Three specific geographic localities in Israel are mentioned as the focal point for this confrontationMegiddo, the Kidron valley outside of Jerusalem, and the Valley of Jehoshaphat. It is the aim of this article to examine these three localities, the similarities that join them and the differences between them.
"For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty. . . . And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon."Revelation 16:14, 16
There is wide-spread agreement that the coined term "Armageddon" refers to the fortress city of Megiddo. In the opening paragraph of the 1912 Foreword to The Battle of Armageddon, we find reference to four Old Testament battles at this site(1) Gideon and his band of 300 versus the Midianites; (2) the defeat of King Saul by the Philistines; (3) the death of King Josiah in his battle with Pharaoh Necho; and (4) the dwelling of the wicked King Ahab and his wife Jezebel in the nearby city of Jezreel (Jud. 7:19-23; 1 Sam. 31:1-6; 2 Chron. 35:22-25; 2 Kings 9:30-37).
To these can be added the conflict between Barak and the forces of Sisera; the death of King Ahaziah at the hand of Jehu; and the death of King Zechariah, the last of the Jehu dynasty by Shallum (Jud. 4, 5; 2 Kings 9:27; 15:10, The Living Bible). Three other important battles, not recorded in the Old Testament, which occurred at this fortress were victories under the Egyptian pharaohs Thutmose III, Seti I, and Sheshonk I (the Shishak of 1 Kings 14:25). It was here also that the apocryphal book of Judith has the Israelitish forces stopping the Assyrian general Holofernes at the pass of Megiddo which was wide enough "for two men at the most" (Judith 4:7). It was also here, in more modern times, where General Edmund Allenby fought the decisive battle which led to the end of the Ottoman empire in 1917.
Each of the biblical battles at Megiddo adds certain details to the overall picture of the prophesied Armageddon conflict. In the battle of Deborah and Barak versus Sisera we see how God fights through the overflowing of the river Kishon. Similar symbology is used of the final battle in Isaiah 28:15-18. The Gideon battle illustrates how the army on the Lords side is pared down to the small number of faithful and watching ones. The death of Ahaziah was the final overthrow of the wicked dynasty of Omri and Ahab, illustrating the overthrow of Papacy. The revenging dynasty, that of Jehu, met its final end at the same place when Shallum killed King Zechariah.
Even the non-biblical battles of Thutmose III and that recorded in the book of Judith give us details of geography that show the strategic importance of Megiddo. The successful attack of Thutmose was the result of a surprise entry of his army through what was considered an impossible pass from the heights of Mount Carmel into the Jezreel valley. The book of Judith refers to still another mountain pass, that of the Via del Maris as it ascended into the Galilean highlands near the city of Nazareth. These two incidents, combined with the death of Ahaziah in the "ascent of Gur" (2 Kings 9:27), show how fitting was the expression "the mountains (Greek, Har) of Megiddo" in the phrase "Armageddon.
But it is the battle of Josiah that appears to be the focal point of the Megiddo illustration. This was the only one of the Megiddo battles to be picked up in the prophetic writings of the Old Testament. It is to that incident that Zechariah refers when predicting the eventual conversion of Israel, "And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn. In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning of Hadad-rimmon in the valley of Megiddon" (12:9-11).
The account of this battle is given in 2 Chronicles 35:20-27. At first reading, it may appear that Josiah became foolishly involved in this battle. However it must be remembered that the god of Necho is not the God of the Israelites, and that God had given Josiah an unconditional promise that he would go to the grave in peace (2 Chron. 34:28). It therefore appears that Josiahs intervention was justifiable and, though he died in warfare, he had the peace of mind in knowing that he had died for the right cause.
The net effect of the battle was to encourage the Babylonians to cross the Euphrates some four years later in retaliation for Nechos battles. It may be more than coincidental that the Armageddon battle of Revelation has one effect of drying up the Euphrates, "that the way of the kings of the east may be prepared" (Rev. 16:12). However it must also be remembered that the primary reference in the Revelation text is most probably to the diverting of the Euphrates by Cyrus when he overthrew Babylon in the days of Belshazzar (Dan. 5:30). Although challenged by the Encyclopedia Brittanica, this diversion of the waters is supported by the noted historian of the fifth century B.C., Herodotus.
The Kidron Valley
Far the greatest number of references to a "gathering" of all nations in the Old Testament, refer, not to Megiddo, but to the Kidron valley, separating Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. The most prominent of these is found in Zechariah 14:2-4, "For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south."
It was here that Nebuchadnezzar set siege against Jerusalem and gathered "all the kingdoms of earth of his dominion" (Jer. 34:1). This is referred to in retrospect as the gathering of "many nations" in Micah 4:11. It was also here that Sennacherib gathered his multi-national army against Hezekiah. Jerusalem also appears to be the backdrop of Zephaniahs prophecy, "Therefore wait ye upon me, saith the LORD, until the day that I rise up to the prey: for my determination is to gather the nations, that I may assemble the kingdoms, to pour upon them mine indignation, even all my fierce anger: for all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy" (3:8). And it is probable that this same scene was formed the setting for the famous end-time prophecy of the "gathering of the armies of the north" against Jerusalem in Ezekiel 38 and 39.
In the Kidron valley prophecies we see the other side of the coin from that which is shown in the pictures of Megiddo. In the latter we see the outcome of the battle as being victorious for Israel, while in the former we see one purpose of the battle is for the chastisement of Gods chosen people.
The Valley of Jehoshaphat
Of all the geographical settings for the final conflict of the ages, the most difficult to decipher is "the valley of Jehoshaphat." In Joel 3:2, we read: "I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat, and will plead with them there for my people and for my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations, and parted my land."
Both Bible Students and commentators are divided in their opinion as to which valley is meant in this passage. Some, noting verse 14 where it is termed "the valley of decision," assume that this is a play on words for the name Jehoshaphat, meaning "Jehovah has judged," that is, "God has made his decision." However, the Hebrew word rendered "decision" is not etymologically related to "Jehoshaphat" and is open to a wide number of translations, as removed as "threshing instrument" and "gold" from the thought of "decision," though that appears to be a legitimate rendering in the verse under study.
A second opinion is that this term relates to the Kidron valley which has been called "the valley of Jehoshaphat" for centuries. This appears remote however, since that designation was not popularly given to the Kidron until the fourth century A.D. and has been historically advocated by Muslim expositors who feel that the final judgment of the dead will literally take place in this valley. Further, the Kidron is always called a nachal, or sharp ravine, and never an emek, a broad valley, as is used in the Joel text.
As an interesting side note, the following comment from the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia should be noted: "It is impossible not to suspect that there is some connection between the name Jehoshaphat and the name of a village near the head of this valley Shaphat; perhaps at one time it was Wadi Shaphat, which name would readily suggest the traditional one."
The Valley of Berechah
A third opinion favored by many Bible Students is the valley [emek, broad valley] of Berechah, between Jerusalem and Hebron, where the forces of Jehoshaphat met in battle with the combined armies of Ammon, Edom [Mt. Seir], and Moab. In this battle, in answer to an impassioned prayer by Jehoshaphat, he was able to assure the people that "that battle is not yours, but Gods" (2 Chron. 20:15). The Hebrews were then told to play instruments and sing hymns and God would fight the battle for them. The method used by the Lord was to "set ambushments" against them. This probably means that the enemies had set up ambushes and became confused and killed each other in a cross-fire, or more likely, that bands of local marauders had established ambushers, or, as many translations put it, "liers-in-wait."
The parallels between this and Zechariah 14 are manifest. In both cases God is the one to fight the battle and gain the victory and in both instances the tool used was by causing anarchy amongst the enemies of the Lords people. This also forms a striking parallel with the battle of Gideon versus Midian (Jud. 7:22).
Ramoth-Gilead of Gad
However there is still another valley connected with the battles of Jehoshaphat. This one is recorded in 1 Kings 22. In this confrontation, Ahab, king of Israel, seeks to make an alliance with Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, to fight the Assyrians at Ramoth Gilead in Gad. Before agreeing to the alliance, Jehoshaphat asks Ahab for some confirmation of victory from a prophet of the Lord. Ahab calls his paid prophets who conveniently predict such a victory. However, still being unconvinced, he seeks counsel from "a prophet of the Lord." One Micaiah, a true prophet who had been imprisoned for speaking ill of Ahab is brought forth and correctly predicts the death of Ahab in the battle. As Micaiah had prophesied, Ahab was killed in the battle.
The correspondences between this confrontation and the sixth plague of Revelation are striking. In both scenarios there is an alliance of three forcesbeast, dragon, and false prophets in Revelation and Ahab, Jehoshaphat, and the false prophets in the Kings account. In both the force which draws them into the battle is the message of the false prophets. The death of Ahab and, presumably, of the false prophets is paralleled in the details of the sixth and seventh plague in Revelation 19, where the beast and false prophet are thrown into the bottomless pit (Rev. 19:20).
Ramoth-Gilead of Gad as Armageddon
Hugh Schonfeld in his The Bible Is Right even makes a case for the derivation of the name Armageddon in Revelation from Ramoth-Gilead of Gad. His thesis is based on the observation that the most reliable Greek manuscripts in Revelation spell Armageddon with only one "d", whereas Megiddo has two "ds." However the argument is greatly weakened by noticing that the Septuagint version of the Old Testament not only spells "Megiddo" with but one "d" on occasion, but also spells it both "Megado" and "Megaddo" as well. The spelling appears to be arbitrary to the translator.
However, we note for the consideration of the reader, the steps Schonfeld suggests to move from Ramoth Gilead of Gad to Armagedon (with one "d").
The Meaning of Armageddon
In closing this examination we want to look briefly at the definition of Armageddon in the original Hebrew language, for so it is attributed in the Revelation 16 account. Strongs concordance defines it as either the mountain (Har) or the city (Ar) of Megiddo. The Hebrew for Megiddo is further defined as place of crowds or spot of rendezvous. However others, including Pastor Russell in his 1912 foreword to Volume 4 of Scripture Studies gives it as "mount of destruction."
The discrepancy in definition is easy to explain. While Professor Strong defines it as a place of meeting or rendezvous, he ascribes the root for Megiddo to be gadad (Strong'ss 1413) which means to gash and come, in turn, from number 1464, guwd, meaning "to attack." Both meaning blend well into the realities of the Armageddon picture.
In summary, the name of Armageddon for the final battleground seems particularly chosen, not only for its primary allusion to the many decisive battles at Megiddo, but also is can be combined with other symbols where the same "gathering" concept is used in order to illustrate further details of the climactic skirmish which will end the present world order and fully introduce the Messianic kingdom.