Continuing on with the afternoon of our first day, after leaving Caesarea, we continued on to Tel Megiddo National Park, an ancient fortress ranging from 7000 B.C. to 332 B.C. The word “tel” means a hill created by many generations living and rebuilding in the same spot. Megiddo was one of the strongest and most important cities of Canaan. The remains of the palaces, temples, gates, and the sophisticated water system of the city are evidence of its great power, including the days of David and Solomon.
Since 1903 different archeological excavations have revealed at least twenty cities buried here, one on top of the other. It is the location of the first major battle recorded in history. Many battles have taken place at this site, including the improbable victory of the Israelite over the Canaanite forces which was celebrated in the oldest poem in the Bible, “Deborah’s Song” (Judges 5).
In order to make the water supply more accessible and less vulnerable to attack, a 98 foot shaft and 230 foot tunnel was built to the spring. We were able to access this shaft and tunnel using modern steps located to the right of the still visible ancient steps. Our guide, Mike, gave everyone the choice of taking an easy shortcut back to the bus, or taking the longer and more difficult passage through the tunnel. Of course Bill and I took the more difficult route. I just wish Mike had been a little more descriptive of what the harder route was like. We descended 187 steps that were narrow, worn stone steps into a dark vertical shaft. The stone stairs at some point were replaced by open metal stairs with just enough light to see down into the shaft which gave one a sense of vertigo. We exited by climbing up 77 steps that left us winded.
Megiddo was conquered 25 times so it is seen as the likely location of Armageddon, the last great battle between good and evil at the End of Days when the forces of good will triumph over evil as described in Revelation. The word Armageddon is a combination of two words, Har Megiddo. Har means mountain or in this case Tel. Thus, Armageddon is Tel Megiddo. The name Megiddo appears eleven times in the Bible.
Leaving Tel Megiddo we passed through Nazareth on our way to Mount Precipice. We walked on part of The Gospel Trail, a 40 mile historical path that Jesus is believed to have taken when he left his childhood home in Nazareth for Capernicum on the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee, which became the center of his ministry. The main section of the trail begins at Mount Precipice, a steep hill on the southern outskirts of Nazareth. We climbed a steep path to the top, and with a beautiful view of Jezreel Valley, our pastor read scripture and we sang several hymns. For Christians, Mount Tabor is believed to be the place of the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ, where Jesus began to radiate light and conversed with Moses and Elijah.
Mount Precipice is the location described in the New Testament (Luke 4:29-30) where Jesus angered the congregation of the synagogue in Nazareth when he hinted he was the Messiah. The people led him out of the city and were going to throw him from the top of Mount Precipice but he managed to escape and reach safety. After this, Jesus left Nazareth and headed to the Sea of Galilee. This is where the beginning of Jesus’s ministry really began.
Our last stop of the day was at a baptism site on the Jordan River. Anyone who wanted to be baptized or rededicated could have this done by our pastor, assisted by Pastor Don Piper. Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River, closer to the Dead Sea. Our baptism site was not the location of Jesus’s baptism. Years ago our pastor baptized people at the actual site but that section of the Jordan River is more polluted and unsafe. The last time our pastor used that site he slipped on a metal rail and badly cut his foot. It became infected and he was hospitalized. Now he uses a different site that is cleaner and safer with nice facilities. For $15 per person we received the use of a baptism gown as well as clean dressing rooms with restrooms and showers. Bill and I had both been baptized before, so this was technically a rededicating of our life to Jesus. I went first and then stood nearby while Bill was rededicated and we walked out of the water together. We had all been warned the water was very cold, and it was! It was a beautiful, meaningful experience and 85 people from our group were baptized or rededicated!
Our first day ended at Tiberias, where we would spend two nights. As you can already tell, our days were very full, usually up at 5:45 or 6:00 A.M., finishing each day around 5:00 or 5:30. We had been told when we signed up for the trip that it would involve lots of physical activity. But I think everyone, us included, was surprised at the amount of physical exertion expected of us every day. Usually 5+ miles a day of walking over hilly or unlevel terrain, cobblestone walkways and many, many stairs.
Next up: Day 2: a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee, the Beatitudes and City of Magdala