BY ANGEL MANUEL RODRIGUEZ
ould you tell me the meaning of the word “Armageddon” in
Revelation 16:16? I keep getting different answers.
You will continue to hear different opinions, I’m afraid.
Sometimes we confront biblical information that is ambiguous and subject to
several possible interpretations, making it difficult to interpret the one that
expresses for certain what the biblical author intended to say. In those cases
we simply have to examine the possibilities, identify those that are compatible
with the immediate context, and accept our limitations as interpreters by acknowledging
that lack of information gives us several ways of reading a particular passage.
The meaning of “Armageddon” is one of these situations.
I will comment briefly on the components of the name, and
then on the two main possible interpretations of it.
1. Components of the Name: The noun
Armageddon, written in Greek as Harmagedon, designates the place where
the forces of evil gather to fight the Lord. The text states that it is a Hebrew
name. Hence, most interpreters find in the name the combination of two Hebrew
words. The first is har, which in Hebrew means “mountain, mount.” But
the second part of the word, magedon, is the bone of contention. Is there
a Hebrew word that corresponds to the Greek spelling?
2. Mount of Megiddo: The traditional
solution has been to find in the term magedon a reference to the ancient city
of Megiddo in Israel. The name of that city is spelled in the Greek translation
of the Old Testament as Mageddo (Joshua 17:11) or as Magedon (2
Chron. 35:22), the same spelling we find in Revelation 16:16. The same spelling
would support this interpretation. The problem is that we do not find in the
Old Testament the noun Megiddo preceded by the term har (“mountain”). There
is no such place as Har-Magedon.
Some have attempted to partially solve the problem suggesting
that “mountain” refers to the mountain that was in front of the city of Megiddo,
namely, Mount Carmel. That was the mountain on which Elijah confronted the prophets
of Baal and the Lord revealed Himself as the true object of worship. In context
that would mean that Armageddon is Satan’s last attempt to become the sole object
of worship on Planet Earth. That function of the name nicely fits the message
of Revelation, but the explanation of the name itself is far from certain.
3. Mount of Assembly: The other main
possibility is to find in Harmagedon a reference to Isaiah 14:13, where we find
the Hebrew phrase har moced, usually rendered “mount of assembly.” The
main problem here is again a linguistic one. The g of magedon
is absent from moced, as well as the ending on. The vowels are not exactly
the same, but that is not a major problem, because the Hebrew script did not
have vowels. The g is not a major problem.
Confused? Let me explain. The raised c in moced
represents a sound absent in English and Greek languages. When writing Hebrew
names the Greeks tended to use the letter gamma (English: g) to represent
it. Therefore, maged could be the way moced was written in Greek.
Are you still with me?
What about the on ending (Armageddon)? It is argued that
the ending was added to the Hebrew word in order to make the noun sound like
a Greek word. Possible, but we cannot be absolutely certain that John had that
in mind when he used the word “Armageddon.”
However, that interpretation of the term nicely fits the
context. Isaiah 14:13 describes Lucifer’s intention to sit enthroned on the
“mount of assembly,” that is to say, in God’s heavenly dwelling, as if he were
God. Revelation uses that language in order to demonstrate that Lucifer has
not given up his plans and that he will try again to occupy God’s place on this
planet. The battle of Armageddon is Lucifer’s last attempt to occupy the mount
of assembly, to be like God.
Even though we have two different interpretations of “Armageddon,”
they both reach basically the same conclusion concerning the message encoded
in that term. They’re both compatible with the message of the book of Revelation.
Therefore, one could chose one over the other and still agree in terms of its
meaning in the book. So please, do not be dogmatic.
Angel Manuel Rodríguez is associate director of the Biblical
Research Institute of the General Conference.