Armageddon OT Background to the Battle for the Cosmic Mountain 3


First, I would like to offer a quick word about the use of the term myth or mythology.  In popular usage the term has come to mean a story which is necessarily false but that is not the way scholars often use the term. For instance the Pocket Dictionary of Biblical Studies defines myth as, “A story, usually relating the actions of supernatural beings, that serves to explain why the world is as it is and to establish the rationale for the rules by which people live in a given society. In classical Greek, myths were simply stories or plots, whether true or false;” In other words, please do not read into my use of “myth” that I  think the events described have no historical basis. It is my thesis here that the mythologies referenced by the prophets do have a real space time point of reference to actual events whether earthly or cosmic. With that being said, the “mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north” (Is 14:13) was originally a mythological meeting place for the pagan gods and corresponds to Mount Zaphon in Ugaritic (Canaanite) texts. These texts describe Mount Zaphon as Baal’s “holy mountain”, “beautiful hill” and “mighty mountain.”[1] According to John Walton:

Saphon/Zaphon  is identified with a mountain, Jebel al-ʿAqra, or Casius in classical sources (deriving from the Hittite Chazzi), which lies north of Ugarit. It is considered holy because it is capped by Baal’s palace in the Baal Epic and is also the site of his burial. (Walton 2009b, 73)

Isaiah was drawing on imagery from Baal-Athtar mythology to make a point about the king of Babylon as well as a divine usurper we know as Satan. It may seem odd that Isaiah would reference a Canaanite holy mountain, yet the Hebrew prophets were famous for juxtaposing Yahweh against the Canaanite deities. For instance, the biblical account of Elijah pronouncing a drought on the land was an assault on Baal as fertility god (1 Kings 17:1). His subsequent showdown with the prophets of Baal was a further demonstration of their god’s impotence (1 Kings 18:38). In the same way, the prophets appropriate the property of a foreign god to assert Yahweh’s superiority.

Jerusalem was located at a higher elevation than much of the surrounding region. The temple was on a conspicuous summit in Jerusalem, his holy hill Mount Zion (Ps. 2:6; 99:2, 9). Psalm 48 is an explicit example of the connection to Zaphon “…His holy mountain, beautiful in elevation, is the joy of all the earth, Mount Zion, in the far north, the city of the great King.” (Ps 48:1b-2) This “far north” reference connects to the Isaiah taunt song. Heiser notes that,

Yahweh’s sanctuary is on a mountain, Mount Zion (Ps 48:1-2) which is located in the “heights of the north (saphon),” or on a “very high mountain” (Ezek 40:2). Zion is the “mount of assembly” again located in the “heights of the north (saphon),” (Isa 14:13).  (Heiser 2004, 42)

It is important to note that it is described as “in the far north” yet Jerusalem is hardly the extreme geographic north. There is something much bigger going on. The ancient Near Eastern cosmology was a tripartite conception in which the abode of the gods was “the heights of the north.” Thus, the cosmic north is being alluded to designating the divine mount Zion.[2]

Yahweh was associated with a holy mountain from the very beginning in Eden.[3] Ezekiel 28:13-16 equates the garden of God with the mountain of God. Then during in the interim he relocated to Mount Horeb or Sinai (Ex. 3:1). The assembly or mô∙ʿēḏ terminology alludes to the “tent of meeting” which served temporarily and then later the temple proper in Jerusalem on Mount Zion is associated with the mô∙ʿēḏ terminology (Ps.74:4; Lam. 2:6). [4] According to Ezekiel, Yahweh vacated the mountain prior to the temples destruction by the Babylonians (Eze. 10:18).  Lamentations 5:16 describes Mount Zion as utterly desolate. Jesus was the fulfillment of Yahweh’s return for the second temple period. However, the second temple was also destroyed. Still yet, the Shekinah is promised to return to a new temple in the end time after the nation has repented and been cleansed (Eze 43:1-9). It will be argued that this corresponds to what we know about Armageddon and the Day of the Lord.

It seems likely that Armageddon refers to the end time battle for Yahweh’s holy mountain. Mounce comments, “Still others interpret the term in reference to some ancient myth in which an army of demons assault the holy mountain of the gods.”[5] And indeed various texts support the idea that this will be a war with divine, demonic and earthly soldiers. Zechariah describes the Lord returning with his “holy ones” likely angel warriors (Zech. 14:5). Other Old Testament passages also support the idea (Is. 13:16; 24:1-21; Joel 3:9-12). The book of Revelation describes the involvement of demonic hordes (Rev. 16:14) and armies from heaven dressed in white linen which accompany the Lord (Rev. 19:14). Finally, the Dead Sea Scrolls also support this future event. Heiser argues, “The conflict described in the War Scroll involves both men and heavenly beings fighting side-by-side and against one another.”[6]  Accordingly, it seems appropriate to believe that just as Jesus leads an army, the Antichrist or Beast is Satan’s incarnate general.


For the day of the Lord is near upon all the nations.
As you have done, it shall be done to you;
your deeds shall return on your own head.
For as you have drunk on my holy mountain,
so all the nations shall drink continually;
they shall drink and swallow,
and shall be as though they had never been.
Obadiah 15-16
….to be continued with part 4: The Divine Usurper

Get a signed copy of Pandemonium’s Engine here for $10.00

[1]John H Walton, Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary (Old Testament) Volume 5: The Minor Prophets, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009), 362.

[2] H. Niehr, “Zaphon” in Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible DDD, 2nd extensively rev. ed. K. van der Toorn, Bob Becking and Pieter Willem van der Horst (Leiden; Boston; Grand Rapids, Mich.: Brill; Eerdmans, 1999), 927.

[3] Michael S. Heiser, “The Divine Council in Late Cannonical and Non-Cannonical Second Temple Jewish Literature,” (Ph.D. diss., University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2004), 43.

[4] Torrey, “Armageddon,” 246.

[5] Mounce, The Book of Revelation, 301.

[6] Michael S. Heiser, Islam and Armageddon, (Self-published book, 2002):111.



Armageddon OT Background to the Battle for the Cosmic Mountain 2


“And they assembled them at the place that in Hebrew is called Harmagedon.” (NRSV)

This may come as a shock to many of you but a principle tenet of this treatment is that Armageddon has nothing to do with the valley of Megiddo. Bear with me, I realize this might challenge some long held prophetic scenarios but it is actually more coherent with scripture. It involves some technical discussion of original languages but the end result is worth the trouble. The cryptic passage in question reads “And they assembled them at the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.” (Re 16:16)  Remember that the book of Revelation was composed in Greek. The term in Greek, Ἃρ Μαγεδών, is problematic in that it is a transliteration of a Hebrew term yet we find no immediate Old Testament analog. The rough breathing mark before the vowel is an ‘h’ sound. Thus, it is better represented in English as Har Magedon. In fact, the NRSV translation reads “…that in Hebrew is called Harmagedon.” Torrey argued that the division into two words is required by the Semitic trilateral root structure. The former word Ἃρ or “Har” means “mountain”, הַר  in Hebrew.[1] Accordingly, the remainder is Μαγεδών but the last two letters ‘ών’ are merely a suffix for a place name.[2] Hence, all that remains is a Greek transliteration of a Hebrew word for a mountain which was written as Μαγεδ.

Many respected dispensational scholars (Missler; Pentecost; Walvoord; Fruchtenbaum) identify Armageddon with the area of the Galilean city of Megiddo and believe that a literal military battle will be fought in that area. For instance the respected Messianic scholar, Arnold Fruchtenbaum, argues:

Megiddo was a strategic city located at the western end of the Valley of Jezreel, guarding the famous Megiddo Pass into Israel’s largest valley. One can see the entire Valley of Jezreel from the mount upon which the city of Megiddo stood. So what is known as the Valley of Armageddon in Christian circles is actually the biblical Valley of Jezreel. The term Armageddon is never applied to the valley itself, but only to the mount at the western end.[3]

This sounds convincing at first. Yet, the western end of the Jezreel valley consists of Mount Tabor and Mount Gilboa. It is flanked on the south by Mount Carmel. “Mount Megiddo” appears to have been posthumously entitled to fit the interpretation. The thing that sticks out in his comment is “in Christian circles.” Apparently this idea became widely accepted in dispensational scholarship since it appeared in the New Scofield Reference Bible notes for Judges 5:19 and Revelation 16:16.[4]  Don’t get me wrong, I hold a dispensational view. But the difficulty is that there are no scholarly sources that corroborate this naming convention prior to modern dispensationalism. Of course, this view has now become a meme through the bestselling LaHaye and Jenkins Left Behind book series. The idea behind the traditional “Megiddo” rendering is that the Greek appears as if it could be a possible transliteration for מְגִדֹּו (meḡid∙dô), and that it was the site of some important battles in Israelite history (Josh 12:21; Judg 5:19, 2 Kings 9:27, 23:29-30).[5]  However, the problems demonstrably outweigh the advantages.

The ten thousand pound elephant in the room is that there simply is no such place as Mount Megiddo. In the Bible, Megiddo is twice represented as “the plain of Megiddo” (Zech 12:11; 2 Chron. 35:22). The only mountains near it have their own well established names. In truth, during the Apostle John’s day the only actual hill at Megiddo was a measly seventy foot high artificial mound known as a ‘tell’ in archeology.[6] Furthermore, by using Google earth for geographic investigation, one can see that the town of Megiddo is a full 54 miles in a straight line from the Mount of Olives where the Lord defeats the armies in Zechariah 14. Thus a rendering of Megiddo makes the Day of the Lord passages centering on Jerusalem unrealistically distant. In contrast, the Mount of Olives where the Lord lands with his army is a mere one third mile from Mount Zion. Because of the geography and the fact that the text specifies a mountain, the Megiddo plain or Jezreel valley is not a viable option. We now explore the more plausible alternatives which have been suggested for a reverse Hebrew rendering of the Greek Μαγεδ.

The reference is cryptic and has long evaded unambiguous definition. In effect, scholars must now attempt to reverse transliterate from Greek back to Hebrew. The early commentators Origen, Eusebius and Jerome did not even think Armageddon was the name of an actual place.[7]  R.H. Charles ventured,” it is possible that Ἅρ Μαγεδών may be a corruption either for הַר מִגְדּוֹ = ‘his fruitful mountain.’”[8] This connects it to Jerusalem and coheres nicely to Old Testament “Day of the Lord” texts. Another suggestion is that the Hebrew gādad, (a marauding band, troop)[9] appended to har (“mountain”) would mean “marauding mountain” and would perhaps allude to Jeremiah’s “destroying mountain” (Jer 51:25).[10] Another similar idea suggested by Johnson stems from the secondary sense of the Hebrew gādad that means “to gather in troops or bands” because one can make a noun form a verb in Hebrew by adding the prefix ‘ma’ rendering magēd, “a place of gathering in troops,”[11] which coheres nicely with the context of Revelation 16. While these all seem plausible, in seeming frustration, Robert Mounce surmises:

Wherever it takes place, Armageddon is symbolic of the final overthrow of all the forces of evil by the might and power of God. The great conflict between God and Satan, Christ and Antichrist, good and evil, that lies behind the perplexing course of history will in the end issue in a final struggle in which God will emerge victorious and take with him all who have placed their faith in him. This is Har-Magedon. [12]

While this is surely correct, God has given us this strange name for some purpose albeit enigmatic. Still yet, there is a solution which offers more explanatory scope than the above.

Biblical scholar Charles C. Torrey proposed a solution based on Hebrew mythology back in 1938 which is gaining wider acceptance. Torrey refers to an article in the Hastings Dictionary of the Bible that posited an alternate rendering by Hommel. As far back as the nineteenth century German scholars had made a connection to Isaiah 14:13 but ancient Near Eastern scholarship was still in its infancy. He pointed out that interpreters lacking an intimate knowledge of both Hebrew and Greek miss that the Greek letter gamma, ‘γ’ in Μαγεδών or the ‘g’ in Megiddo can represent the Hebrew consonant ayin, ע.  In other words, New Testament interpreters  think only “Megiddo” being unaware of the possibility that John was Hellenizing as well as transliterating. Accordingly, Torrey postulated מֹועֵד (mô∙ʿēḏ) which infers the “Mount of Assembly” mentioned in Isaiah 14:13. The increasing consensus amongst modern scholars suggests that this view has much to commend it. Hebrew Bible and Semitic languages scholar Michael Heiser argues:

The Hebrew letter ע. מֹועֵד (mô∙ʿēḏ) is transliterated with the sign (ʿ ) because the English alphabet does not have this sound or letter in its alphabet. Neither does Greek, and the Greeks used “g” to denote its sound. Hence “Gomorrah” in English letters is spelled עֲמֹרָה in Hebrew. Therefore there is every reason to suspect that “Armageddon” does in fact mean har mô∙ʿēḏ / “Mount of Assembly.”[14]

Thus, we have an actual mountain referenced in the Hebrew Bible which matches John’s transliteration. American theologian and Old Testament scholar Meredith  Kline concurs stating “Representation of the consonant cayin by Greek gamma is well attested. Also, in Hebrew -on is an affirmative to nouns, including place names.”[15] This rendering was also suggested by Mathias Rissi in his Revelation study Time and History published in 1966.[16]  Because of its scholarly support and convincing explanatory scope the “mount of assembly” rendering is the focus of this presentation.

You said in your heart,
I will ascend to heaven;
above the stars of God
I will set my throne on high;
I will sit on the mount of assembly
in the far reaches of the north;
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High.’
But you are brought down to Sheol,
to the far reaches of the pit.
Isaiah 14:13-15.


….to be continued with part 3: The Cosmic Mountain

[1] James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages With Semantic Domains: Hebrew (Old Testament), electronic ed. (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).

[2] Meredith Kline, “Har Magedon: The End of the Millennium.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 39, 2.I (1996): 208.

[3]Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of the Messiah: A Study of the Sequence of Prophetic Events, Rev. ed. (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 2003), 311.

[4] Alan F. Johnson, “Revelation” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 12: Hebrews Through Revelation, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 551.

[5]Johnson, “Revelation,” 551.

[6]Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997), 301.

[7] Torrey, “Armageddon,” 238.

[8]R.H. Charles, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Revelation of St John (Edinburgh: T&T Clark International, 1920), 2:50.

[9]R. Laird Harris, Robert Laird Harris, Gleason Leonard Archer and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, electronic ed. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999, c1980), 150.

[10]Johnson, “Revelation,” 552.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Mounce  Revelation, 302.

[13] Torrey, “Armageddon,” 245.

[14] Michael Heiser, Islam and Armageddon. Self-published book, 2002, 101.

[15] Kline, “Har Magedon,” 208.

[16] Mathias Rissi, Time and History (Louisville: John Knox Press, 1966), 84–85.