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Saturday, 16 April 2022

MICHAEL HEISER'S ALLEGED LOCATION OF ARMAGEDDON

 (12) ARMAGEDDON Is Not A Battle Fought Where You've Been Taught - YouTube

Michael Heiser is an Old Testament scholar and author. His area of "expertise" is the nature of the spiritual realm in the Bible, namely the Divine Council and hierarchy of the spiritual order. Heiser's podcast is The Naked Bible and he also runs a ministry called Miqlat

Heiser opens this short video with the assertion that the typical understanding of Megiddo as the location Armageddon is false. Megiddo or Megiddon is mentioned several times in the Old Testament. Traditionally this has been taken to be the logical interpretation of Revelation 16:16. I have heard Heiser's view a couple of times recently from different teachers, but I am not convinced. Heiser launches into the above video with the argument that Armageddon must be a transliteration. His thesis is based on two doubtful premises: 1 - the final conflict occurs at Jerusalem; 2 - Megiddo is a plain and not a mountain.

Heiser: "It is crystal clear that the final conflict occurs at Jerusalem, not Megiddo. Megiddo is referenced only to compare the awful mourning that will result. Not only does Zechariah 12 place the final battle where the nations see the risen, pierced Christ at Jerusalem, but verse 11 tells us explicitly that Megiddo is a plain, not a mountain!" {1}

The word Armageddon appears only once in the New Testament:

And they assembled them at the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon. (Revelation 16:16).

There are two possible interpretations of Armageddon: city or mountain.

Bengel's Gnomen: "Magedon or Megiddo was a city, of which there is frequent mention in the books of the Old Testament. The copyists, as it appears, had reference to these passages, who took away the first syllable from the word Ἀρμαγεδὼν in the Apocalypse: but on account of this very syllable, in particular, the word Ἑβραϊστὶ appears to be used. Armagedon signifies either ער, the city Megiddo, as Hiller teaches in Syntagmatis, p. 229, or הר, the mountain Megiddo. for where there is בקעה, a valley, as the valley of Megiddo, 2 Chronicles 35:22, there is also a mountain." {2}

lexiconcordance.com: "Megiddo or Megiddon = "place of crowds" 1) ancient city of Canaan assigned to Manasseh and located on the southern rim of the plain of Esdraelon 6 miles (10 km) from Mount." {3}

Pulpit Commentary: "..possibly refers to Carmel, at the foot of which lay the Plain of Megiddo, which was well known to every Jew as a gathering place for hostile hosts and as the scene of many battles. It is referred to in Zechariah 12:11 as a type of woe, on account of the overthrow and death of Josiah having taken place there (2 Kings 23:29). Ahaziah also died there (2 Kings 9:27); and there also the Canaanitish kings were overthrown (Judges 5:19). The name is, therefore, indicative of battle and slaughter, and intimates the complete overthrow in store for the dragon and the kings of the earth, which is described later on (Revelation 19.)." {4} 

Tel Megiddo, literally "Mound of the Governor" is the site of the ancient city of Megiddo, the remains of which form a tell (archaeological mound). {5} Megiddo is traditionally identified as the site where the kings of the earth prepare to wage war on the forces of God under the satanic leadership of the Antichrist at the end of the present age. Technically Megiddo is a plain. However, Har Megiddo does not necessarily indicate a single mountain or hill; the meaning of har is a mountain or range of hills. Because Har Megiddo is actually situated within a mountain range, it seems likely that this is what John was referring to. In Zechariah 12:11 Megiddo is spelled Megiddon in Hebrew, which appears to corroborate the association with Armageddon. Megiddo is located some 56 miles north of Jerusalem and was originally an ancient fortress city that dominated the Plain of Jezreel. Megiddo was a critical location to the Israelites in that it dominated the Aruna Pass (Wadi Ara or Megiddo Pass) the entrance to one of the few passes through the Carmel Mountains. 

The Valley of Decision

I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. And I will enter into judgment with them there, on behalf of my people and my heritage Israel, because they have scattered them among the nations and have divided up my land.. Multitudes, multitudes, in the valley of decision! For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision. The sun and the moon are darkened, and the stars withdraw their shining. (Joel 3:2, 14-15 cf. Zephaniah 3:8; Revelation 6:12-14).

The grammatical meaning of the Valley of Jehoshaphat is "the judgement of Jehovah". These verses are generally thought to allude to the judgement inflicted on God's enemies by King Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles 20. The location of the Valley of Jehoshaphat has not been identified by historians. The imagery and context of the above verses are eschatological, and Joel confirms that the final battle will be in a valley. It is therefore reasonable to surmise that the location of this "valley" is Megiddo in Revelation 16:16.

The merging of two mountains - Zaphon / Zion  ?

I have no argument with Heiser's basic Hebrew/Greek lesson per se. However, I do have difficulty with his convoluted proposal that Armageddon is a corruption of the Hebrew Har Mo'ed  i.e. mount of assembly as per Isaiah 14:13.

How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! 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 14:12-15).

The interpretation of Isaiah 14:13 has been a matter of considerable discussion amongst bible scholars. In newer bible versions, verse 13 is translated directly as "the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon". (NIV, NAB, NET Bible. NRSB). In other versions, Zaphon not Zion, is identified in the footnote. This difficult verse reveals the haughty thoughts of the king of Babylon (with allusions to Lucifer). As such verse 13 is generally thought to be an allusion to Zaphon, a mythic mountain of the Babylonians.

In Canaanite mythology Mount Zaphon was the most sacred mountain of the storm god Baal or Baal-Hadad, allegedly the site of Baal's royal palace. Zaphon has been identified as Jabal al Aqra’ (known as Kel Dağı in Turkish) and is located about 25 miles north by northeast of Ras Shamra near the mouth of the Orontes River in the border region between the modern states of Syria and Turkey. 

The interpretation that "the mount of the congregation" in Isaiah 14:13 as the mount of the Divine presence, Mount Zion (Exodus 25:22; 29:42–43) was originally challenged by Keil and Delizsch. 

Keil and Delizsch: "The har hammōēd (mount of assembly) cannot be Zion, as is assumed by Schegg and others, who are led astray by the parallel in Psalm 48:3, which has been entirely misunderstood, and has no bearing upon this passage at all. Zion was neither a northern point of the earth, nor was it situated on the north of Jerusalem." {6} 

Cambridge Bible: "The sacred mountain of our God is not in the remote recesses of the north, but in the very midst of the city of His choice. Zion is in reality all that the Assyrians claim for their fabled mount of the gods. Their king too may style himself ‘great,’ but Zion is the citadel of One Who is in truth the great King, for He is the King of all the earth (Psalm 47:2Psalm 47:7). 'The great king' was a title claimed by the king of Assyria (Isaiah 36:4); and the word for ‘great’ is not that used in Psalm 48:1 (gâdôl) but rab, which corresponds to the Assyrian title sarru rabbu (Schrader, Cuneif. Inser. p. 320). ‘City’ (citadel) is not the same word as in Psalm 48:1 (‘îr), but ḳiryâh, a word which does not occur again in the Psalter, but is found several times in Isaiah (Isaiah 22:2Isaiah 29:1Isaiah 33:20). To many commentators it seems inconceivable that the Psalmist should allude to Assyrian mythology. But a writer of Isaiah’s time might easily have become acquainted with the religious ideas of the Assyrians, and the author of the Book of Job does not hesitate to introduce popular mythological ideas. See Prof. Davidson’s note on Job 26:12 : and cp. Isaiah 27:1{7} 

Heiser:  "..in Psalm 68:15–16, Yahweh desired 'Mount Bashan' as his own—that is, he wanted to defeat the forces of darkness and claim their customary abode as his own. The same is true of Zaphon." {1} 

Hesier's skewed interpretation of these verses is antithetical to the meaning of the Psalmist. Zion maintains its honour over against the mountains of Bashan. Bashan looks with hatred, literally, Bashan fumes with envy at Mount Zion. Mountains are often symbols of nations. (Psalm 46:2; 65:6). Bashan is described in grandiose terms compared to the relative low elevation of Zion.

O mountain of God, mountain of Bashan; O many-peaked mountain, mountain of Bashan! Why do you look with hatred, O many-peaked mountain, at the mount that God desired for his abode, yes, where the LORD will dwell forever? Psalm 68:15-16).

The KJV brings out the meaning of verse 15 more accurately: The hill of God is as the hill of Bashan; an high hill as the hill of Bashan. (Psalm 68:15 KJV).

Heiser: "The result in the case of Armageddon is dramatic. When John draws on this ancient Hebrew phrase, he is indeed pointing to a climactic battle at Jerusalem. Why? Because Jerusalem is a mountain—Mount Zion. And if Baal and the gods of other nations don’t like Yahweh claiming to be Most High and claiming to run the cosmos from the heights of Zaphon/Mount Zion, they can try to do something about it." {1} 

Heiser: "Psalm 48 makes a bold theological statement. It evicts Baal from his dwelling and boots his council off the property. The psalmist has Yahweh ruling the cosmos and the affairs of humanity, not Baal. Psalm 48 is a backhanded smack in the face to Baal." {1} 

Great is the LORD and greatly to be praised in the city of our God! 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. Within her citadels God has made himself known as a fortress. For behold, the kings assembled; they came on together. As soon as they saw it, they were astounded; they were in panic; they took to flight. Trembling took hold of them there, anguish as of a woman in labor. By the east wind you shattered the ships of Tarshish. As we have heard, so have we seen in the city of the LORD of hosts, in the city of our God, which God will establish forever. Selah (Psalm 48:1-8).

Zion is indicated in Psalm 48. 

Keil and Delitzsch: "We therefore take the expression 'sides of the north' to be a topographical designation, and intended literally. Mount Zion is thereby more definitely designated as the Temple-hill; for the Temple-hill, or Zion in the narrower sense, formed in reality the north-eastern angle or corner of ancient Jerusalem. It is not necessarily the extreme north (Ezekiel 38:6; Ezekiel 39:2), which is called ירכתי צפון; for ירכּתים are the two sides, then the angle in which the two side lines meet, and just such a northern angle was Mount Moriah by its position in relation to the city of David and the lower city." {8}

Verse 4 refers to "kings of the earth" who are not specifically identified. Some commentators believe them to be Sennacherib’s vassal kings (Isaiah 10:8); others suppose the kings of Ammon, Moab and Edom (2 Chronicles 20:25); yet others suppose Pekah and Rezin (2 Kings 15:37). The kings came intending to attack Jerusalem, but they did not even attempt it ~ they were astounded at the sight of it and fled in terror.

Benson: "Psalm 48:4-6. For lo, the kings were assembled — The neighbouring princes confederate against Jerusalem: see the contents. They passed by — In their march toward Jerusalem. They advanced, and marched on, not doubting but they should presently make themselves masters of the city. Or, they passed away together — Departed without the success which they desired and expected. They saw it — They only looked upon it, but did not enter it, nor shoot an arrow there, nor cast a bank against it, as was said upon this or the like occasion, 2 Kings 19:32. They marvelled — Not so much at the structure or strength of the city, as at the wonderful works wrought by God on its behalf. They were troubled, and hasted away — God impressed such terrors upon their minds as made them retire with precipitation." {9}

Zechariah 12:9-11 does not refer to the conflict at Jerusalem

Heiser: "Zechariah 12:9–11, which plainly sites the conflict at Jerusalem.. Not only does Zechariah 12 place the final battle where the nations see the risen, pierced Christ at Jerusalem. {1}

And on that day I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn. On that day the mourning in Jerusalem will be as great as the mourning for Hadad-rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. The land shall mourn, each family by itself: the family of the house of David by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Nathan by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Levi by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the Shimeites by itself, and their wives by themselves; and all the families that are left, each by itself, and their wives by themselves. (Zechariah 12:9-14).

The above passage does not refer to the conflict at Jerusalem. Rather it refers to God's intention to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem: I will seek i.e. I will make it my aim.. Following the "abomination of desolation" event at the mid point of the 70th week of Daniel, the Antichrist will launch the greatest persecution of all time against the Jewish people. (Daniel 9:27). This marks the time known as "the time of Jacobs trouble" i.e. the great tribulation spoken of by Jesus. (Matthew 24:21). On that day God pours out a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem. This refers to the time when Israel repents and recognizes Jesus Christ as their Messiah. The actual conflict does not occur until the end of the 70th week of Daniel. The nations will not literally see the risen pierced Christ until the sixth seal of Revelation i.e. towards the end of the 70th week. (Revelation 6:15-17). 

But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the city depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it, for these are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written. Alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress upon the earth and wrath against this people. They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive among all nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.(Luke 21:20-24 cf. Daniel 9:27; Matthew 24:15).

Alas! That day is so great there is none like it; it is a time of distress for Jacob; yet he shall be saved out of it. (Jeremiah 30:7 cf. Jeremiah 30:11,22,24).

In the whole land, declares the LORD, two thirds shall be cut off and perish, and one third shall be left alive. (Zechariah 13:8).

Conclusion

The leaders of the whole world and their armies assemble for a specific battle against the Lord of Hosts and his visible armies at the end of the 70th week of Daniel. To assemble or to gather is not to surround. If Jerusalem is intended, this is an odd phrase. The way the phrase is worded does seem to refer to somewhere other than Jerusalem: "..the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon". John clearly identifies Zion in Revelation 14:1 and New Jerusalem in Revelation 21:2. He also identifies Jerusalem in Revelation 11:8. Why would John identify Jerusalem or Zion with a cryptic phrase on this occasion? 

Commentators generally agree that Armageddon alludes to the hill country surrounding the plain of Megiddo where many previous battles were fought by Israel. (Judges 5:19; 2 Kings 23:29; 2 Chronicles 35:22, cf. Zechariah 12:11). The object of the Antichrist's stand at Armageddon is to come against Jesus Christ and His visible armies (Revelation 19:19), it is not to take Jerusalem.

Having read chapter 41 of Heizer's book "The Unseen Realm" a number of times, I find his hermeneutics perplexing and impossible to corroborate biblically. (1 John 4:1). Heiser employs the cosmic mountain motif and refers to Isaiah 14:13 as the "cosmic mountain" or "the cosmic north". Heiser: "It is the place where God is. And not only that, it is the place of the Divine Council". In other words, he identifies "the dwelling place of Yahweh and his divine council—the cosmic mountain" as both Mount Zion/Jerusalem and Mount Zaphon which is on the Syrian–Turkish border. He then identifies this location as Armageddon due to alleged coincidental consonants m-g-d. Heiser substitutes m-g-d with m-'-d and shoehorns it to fit the “mountain of assembly” (har mo’ed). He finds the final nun of the spelling in Zechariah 12:11. I do usually follow logical arguments, but on this occasion I find Heiser's reasoning incomprehensible. 

My observation is that Heiser chips away at the scriptures, and consequently, he chips away at, and undermines, our faith. He often leaves his hearers confused and unsure of their ground. In my view, the plain meaning Megiddo is intended rather than Heiser's convoluted thesis. Heiser presents himself as "cutting edge" and he appears to understand obscure and difficult passages of scripture. However I find many of his speculations are based on questionable eisegesis.

Heiser's  problematic theology

narwatchisrael.info identify a number of red flags associated with Heiser's theology, including his nod to universalism. 

Heiser does not believe in a literal millennium. {10}

Heiser endorses the problematic recapitulation theory regarding the seals, trumpets and bowls:

Heiser: "Revelation may not even be intended to be read chronologically (in linear fashion), but instead as repeating cycles (i.e., the seals, bowls and trumpets all express the ideas in similar, but not identical, ways). One’s willingness to accept this cyclic repetitive view ('recapitulation') depends on being comfortable with 'joining' them instead of 'splitting' them." (11)

1. Excerpt from Dr. Mike Heiser’s Book “The Unseen Realm” | Talmidimblogging (wordpress.com)
2. Revelation 16:16 Commentaries: And they gathered them together to the place which in Hebrew is called Har-Magedon. (biblehub.com)
3. Strong's Number 4023 Hebrew Dictionary of the Old Testament Online Bible with Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, Brown Driver Briggs Lexicon, Etymology, Translations Definitions Meanings & Key Word Studies - Lexiconcordance.com
4. Isaiah 14:13 Commentaries: "But you said in your heart, 'I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, And I will sit on the mount of assembly In the recesses of the north. (biblehub.com)
5. Tel Megiddo - Wikipedia
6. Isaiah 14 Keil and Delitzsch OT Commentary (biblehub.com)
7. Psalm 48 Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges (biblehub.com)
8. Psalm 48 Keil and Delitzsch OT Commentary (biblehub.com)
9. Psalm 48:4 Commentaries: For, lo, the kings assembled themselves, They passed by together. (biblehub.com)
10. (13) Premillennial and Amilllennial: Ruling and Reigning - Michael Heiser - YouTube
11. Seventy Weeks of Daniel (aka, The Pit of Despair) - Dr. Michael Heiser (drmsh.com)

Further Links

The Unseen Realm, A Critique | Think on These Things (tottministries.org)
Is Dr. Michael Heiser’s view of the Divine Council biblical? - Calvary Christian Fellowship of Tucson
Michael Heiser Archives - Truth Watchers
The Unseen Assumptions | SESMichael Heiser: Warning Signals (narwatchisrael.info)
(13) Michael Heiser is Wrong About Deuteronomy 32 - YouTube
(13) Michael Heiser Doesn’t Have the 82nd Psalm Right - YouTube


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