The name Armageddon in the Bible
The name Armageddon is mentioned only once in the Bible, as part of a vision that features seven angels (Revelations 16:16). These seven angels carry the seven plagues that must strike mankind before time ends. The angels are also given one bowl each, and these bowls contains the wrath of God. The angles pour out their bowls one by one.
The first libation results in everybody getting sores (not unlike the sixth plague that struck Egypt just prior to the Exodus — Exodus 9:9). The second one turns the sea into blood so that all sea creatures die (comparable to the first Egyptian plague — Exodus 7:17). Bowl three turns the rivers and springs to blood. Bowl four causes the sun to burn everybody. Bowl five darkens the kingdom of the beast that was introduced in Revelation 13. Bowl six dries up the Euphrates, which then becomes a highway for eastern armies to gather. Bowl seven results in an earthquake, a supernatural hail storm and a rearrangement of the earth's surface.
Armageddon is mentioned under the effects of the sixth bowl (Revelation 16:12-16). The Euphrates dries up, and three frog-like demons appear from the mouths of the dragon, the beast and the false prophet (the Hebrew word for frog seems to literally mean Bird-Knower). These three frog spirits perform great signs and gather up the kings of the earth for the war of the great day of God. This great gathering is centered on what John the Revelator calls Armageddon, and in all honesty, we have no clue to what that means.
Etymology of the name Armageddon
John says that it's a Hebrew word or phrase, and no matter where you look, every scholar will attest that Armageddon is a Greek transliteration of the Hebrew noun הר (har), meaning mountain; and the Hebrew name מגדי; Megiddo, which means Lacerating or Invading (also see the name Gad). The whole name Armageddon would thus mean Mountain Of Lacerating, or Invading Mountain. But as good as it looks, there are a few big problems with this interpretation:
Problems with the traditional interpretation of Armageddon
The Biblical town of Megiddo may have been situated on a bit of a natural elevation, but in the Bible it's predominantly known for sitting smack in the middle of a huge plain, fittingly called the Plain of Megiddo (2 Chronicles 35:22).
In another major eschatological prophesy, the prophet Zechariah also speaks of a pouring out, but of grace this time. God promises to pour out a Spirit of grace over the house of David and on Jerusalem, "so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced" (Zechariah 12:10). The apostle John takes that prophesy to be about the crucified Christ (John 19:37). Zechariah continues, "In that day there will be great mourning in Jerusalem, like the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the Plain of Megiddo."
The word for plain is בקעה (biqa), which comes from the verb בקע (baqa), meaning to cleave or divide. The valley or plain of Megiddo is a valley because of the two mountain rims that envelop it, not because of a mount Megiddo in the middle of it.
The Hebrew word הר (har) means mountain but the elevation upon which Megiddo was situated is nothing but a low hill. The Hebrew word for hill is גבעה (giba), according to HAW Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament referring to "a natural eminence smaller than a mountain..."
The word הר returns in the name Haran, and the name Haran shows up in the Greek New Testament as χαρραν, spelled with a chi and not with an alpha, as is the name Armageddon (Acts 7:2-4).
If John the Revelator had meant to say that the final conflict would transpire in an area around the town Megiddo, he would have written either simply Megiddo, or Biqamegiddon or Gibamegiddon, or even Charmageddon, but not Armageddon. The valley of Megiddo has been the scene of many a battle, but a global war won't be fought on such a relative tiny location. The hill of Megiddo itself is hardly big enough to accommodate a college brawl, let alone a clash of modern superpowers. Which brings us to the gathering of those powers, and the river Euphrates that needs to be dry for that.
The Euphrates is the signature river of Babylon, and it flows from the Turkish heartland towards the Persian Gulf. John says that the dry river bed will be a highway for the kings of the east, but following the river Euphrates would lead them nowhere near Megiddo. Even if the river's dryness would make it easier for them to cross from east to west, they would also have to cross the Tigris, which flows just north of the Euphrates. But John's prophetic vision may be assumed keen enough to also see that in our modern times a river of any size won't stop armies from moving.
Alternative interpretations of Armageddon
It's much more likely that Armageddon is an element of the larger symbolic superstructure of the book of Revelation, in which Babylon has become a representation of a world-wide market: "For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the passion of her immorality, and the kings of the earth have committed acts of immorality with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich by the wealth of her sensuality" (Revelation 18:3). In that sense the river Euphrates might be construed as the global monetary system, which in our day and age is shedding it's coins-and-bills exterior and is becoming a river of numbers. Quite dry, in that sense.
The place where the kings of the earth gather to wage the final war, the War of the Great Day of God, is probably not a physical location, and this Great War is probably not one of soldiers and missiles. Here at Abarim Publications we're guessing that this war will be "waged" between two general reality models, where one model sees the world as a republic and the other sees the world as a kingdom.
The Republicans, of which there are many, believe that man controls his own destiny. If we could only harness the natural forces that run our planet, and write laws that cover everything, and convince everybody that laws are good, then law abiding ultimately will get us out of the dark ages. The Republicans love people and love any human expression, even if those expressions are archaic religions. There'll be freedom of worship and royal funding for whoever wants to build a temple or a mosque or a church. Far from what Mao thought, religion and freedom of creed and conscience are good for societies in general. The Republicans will allow, even promote, a pantheon of gods.
The Monarchists, of which there are few, believe that God controls man's destiny, and that God can not be harnessed. God can also not be fully understood or even described in any religion. Monarchists like freedom of religion too because they need to be able to constantly grow in their convictions and thus perpetually change their beliefs. The Monarchists believe that the pantheon of the Republicans is flawed, and that only God is King. This situation will be not much different from the situation in the first century AD, when the Republic of Rome liberally incorporated every local deity it came across into its bulging pantheon, but could not abide a Deity called Christ — which literally means Anointed, but in practice denotes the sovereign King of Israel.
The core attitude of the Monarchists is Thy Will Be Done. The core attitude of the Republicans is Our Will Be Done.
The Great War will probably not be fought on some battle field somewhere, but rather in the private homes of people, behind computer screens, in school rooms and work spaces. It will largely consist of peer pressure and subtle temptations. But in the end, the greatest struggle will be inside the camp of the Republicans. The Bible seems to suggest that the acknowledgement of divine royalty is a natural need that all people have, and will some day give in to. The struggle of the Republicans will be largely against themselves, as they will either slowly learn or suddenly realize the actual meaning of the Christian phenomenon as something they've always wanted:
- "And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed" — Genesis 12:3.
- "And many peoples will come and say, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that He may teach us concerning His ways, and that we may walk in His paths."" — Isaiah 2:3.
- "Once more in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come." — Haggai 2:7.
- "In those days ten men from all the nations will grasp the garment of a Jew, saying, "Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you."" — Zechariah 8:23.
- "And the nations shall walk by its light and the kings of the earth shall bring their glory into it." — Revelation 21:24.
Which brings us to the puzzling etymology of the name Armageddon. We're guessing that we're looking at something similar to the third creation day, when God gathered the waters into one place, so that dry land appeared (Genesis 1:9, also see Revelation 17:15). Dry land in the Bible always symbolizes security or certainty, whereas the seas symbolize danger and uncertainty. We're guessing that Armageddon denotes a degree of global certainty; a conviction that a large majority of people will one day share, namely the republican reality model.
Alternative etymology of Armageddon
The name Armageddon seems to consist of two parts: Arma and geddon. The first part reminds of the name ארם (Aram), which is generally consider to have come from the common Hebrew verb רום (rum) meaning to be high, rise up:
The name Abram also contains this verb, and speaking of Abram: After he and his family left Ur of the Chaldeans, they split up. Abram went on south to Canaan and his family settled in Paddan-aram, which is an area in Mesopotamia, enveloped by the Euphrates.
BDB Theological Dictionary lists a root which they propose may have been formed from the verb rum, but this root is unused and can't be interpreted. But it has a derivative that has survived: ארמון ('armon), citadel, palace. The use of this word is largely limited to the often returning message that God will burn up the various "palaces" of certain nations (Amos 1:3, 7, 10, 12). Palaces were typically built on elevations, but symbolically they denoted the capital of nations, their apices.
The second part of Armageddon reminds of the name גד (Gad) and even the name גדעון (Gideon). The name Gad means Harrowing Fortune (see our article on that name) and the -on part of Armageddon can be easily explained by the common grammatical form waw-nun that creates a personification of a verb: He Will Be Harrowingly Fortunate. That way the name Armageddon would mean Elevated Harrowing Fortune.
The name Gideon means Down Cutter. Taking that to Armageddon would render Elevated Down Cutter, possibly pointing at the republic's seeming tolerance for religion but effective war against the Monarchists.
It should be noted that directly after the kings of the earth gather towards Armageddon, the seventh angel pours out his bowl and a loud voice comes out of the temple from the throne, saying "It is done!" (Revelation 16:17). That immediately brings us back to the death of Christ on the cross, where His last words were exactly that: "It is done!" (John 19:30).
The name Gideon comes from a verb that means to cut down, which is mostly employed in scenes where rivaling religions destroy each other's shrines. But it's also used to simply describe a chopping down of trees. Perhaps John the Revelator remembered Peter's sermon in which he proclaimed King Jesus' resurrection after His death on a "tree" (Acts 5:30, 10:39). Paul says the same thing in Acts 13:29, and again in Galatians 3:13.
Perhaps not. But it seems likely that Armageddon is not a location in some far away country. Armageddon is everywhere where people deny the Kingdom of God, and the royalty of Jesus Christ.