The Byzantine Empire inherited the province of Palestine after the division of the Roman Empire in 330AD. Eastern Christianity flourished there and the ancient battlefield of Armageddon lay quiet until the Seventh Century. Thirty years of warfare between the Byzantine and Persian Empires weakened both, allowing a new force, Islam, to emerge in Arabia, consolidate itself, and challenge both empires.
Persian forces under King Chosroes II invaded Syria early in the Seventh Century, bent on avenging recent defeats. Jews in Palestine and Syria rallied to the Persians, and a strong contingent joined the Persian division that marched south across the Plain of Esdraelon to attack the Byzantine stronghold at Jerusalem. Joined by Arabs and more Jews from southern Palestine, the combined force stormed Jerusalem amid great slaughter in July 614. Persians and Jews then ravaged Christian cities and buildings throughout the rest of Palestine, including Esdraelon.
The Jews hoped that the Persians would allow them to form a new commonwealth, but Chosroes merely raised their taxes until the return of the Byzantines after fourteen years. They did not stay long.
The year 570 saw the birth of Mohammed, the future Prophet of Islam, at Mecca. The house of his birth lay within half a mile of the Kaaba, an ancient shrine. Mohammed’s revered grandfather successfully defended the Kaaba from an Abyssinian attempt to destroy it in 570. Mohammed had a vision of the archangel Gabriel in 610 that changed his life. He began preaching three years later, but made slow progress until 620, when he began preaching to pilgrims to the Kaaba. By 622, seventy pilgrim converts pledged their support. From their refuge in Medina, the new Muslims began raiding the countryside, at first to support themselves, and then to make converts. They consolidated their control of the Arabian peninsula by in 630 by occupying Mecca and making the Kaaba the destination of annual pilgrimages.
Mohammed next turned his attention to the Byzantine Empire and led a bloodless expedition to Tebook that resulted in neighboring rulers making peace and paying tribute. He gave orders for a second expedition in 632, but died that June. A year of turbulence followed until Mohammed’s elected successor Abu Bekr reunited Arabia under his rule and resumed Mohammed’s policy of expansion. Within fifty years, the Arab Empire and Islam extended from the Atlas Mountains of North Africa to the Indus River of India.
Jerusalem surrendered to the Arabs during the winter of 637-638, following their victory over the Byzantines at Yarmouk in 636. This great victory won access to the Jordan Valley, the great Vale of Esdraelon, and control of all the routes south to Jerusalem. For the Byzantines, the Arab victory at Yarmouk was a disaster that led to the loss of their empire—an “Armageddon.”