Richard Nowitz

Much blood has been spilled on the mound of Megiddo (Biblical Armageddon, shown from the southeast), thanks to its commanding position on one of the foremost trade and military routes of antiquity: the Via Maris, which connected Egypt to Mesopotamia, Syria and Anatolia.

In the summer of 609 B.C.E., Judah’s King Josiah was fatally wounded here when attacking the forces of the Egyptian pharaoh Necho after they passed through Judah to engage the Babylonians. Although Necho had made peaceful overtures to Josiah, the Judahite king—in a costly miscalculation of the balance of power—opted to support Babylon.

As author Abraham Malamat notes, the unpredictable nature of international politics during the last two decades of Judah’s existence required shrewd maneuvering on the part of its rulers. Wedged between Babylon and Egypt, the small state of Judah became enmeshed in a bipolar power struggle, with its very existence dependent on its choice of an ally.