We walked about a quarter of a mile down the hill into the City of David National Park. This is the site of the ancient Jebusite city that King David claimed for his capital (2 Sam. 5:6–9). The city itself was very small, only a seven-minute walk from north to south. After our group watched an animated 3D film on the history of David’s city and Hezekiah’s Tunnel, we continued toward the main point of interest for me, the tunnel, which was built under the direction of Judah’s King Hezekiah in order to keep the city’s water supply—outside the city walls––from being cut off by the Assyrians. “This same Hezekiah also stopped the upper water outlet of Upper Gihon, and brought the water by tunnel to the west side of the city of David…” (2 Chron. 32:30). It is said to be one of two of the greatest works of water engineering technology in the pre-Classical period of the world!
First, we entered Warren’s Shaft, an underground tunnel leading to a fortified pool that some believe was the watercourse that King David’s men used to take the Jebusite city. This was found by and named after British archaeologist Charles Warren in 1867. Descending into the coolness of a cavern-type room, our guide explained the big pictures of artifacts that had been found there. Among them were some small idols, which our guide said were as small and numerous as cell-phones are in Israel today. In the time of the prophet Jeremiah, there were many idols in the Land of Israel, and the God of Israel was not too happy with what His people were doing (Jer. 32:29–30). Could these have been the very idols Jeremiah spoke about?
In the shaft, there was a sign hanging from a rope that said, “To the Dry Route,” “To the Wet Route.” We followed the sign to the wet route. Our guide told us that the source of the water is from the Gihon Spring, a karstic spring that emerges from an underground cave. The word gihon means “bursting” or “gushing.” The Gihon is the only natural spring of pure water within five miles of Jerusalem. We find a reference to it in 1 Kings 1:38–39, where Solomon was anointed king.
Walking Through the Tunnel
As we descended more steps towards the tunnel and saw the entrance, we realized our group of 28 would have to go in single file. I was trailing behind the group to take pictures, so I found myself at the end of the line. We turned our flashlights on as we entered. When we stepped into the water, one of the ladies screamed in shock at the unexpected coldness of the water. At the entrance, the water was deeper than we anticipated, at about two feet, but gradually became more shallow, to just above our ankles. The tunnel was as high as 15 feet (4.5 meters), but at one point, it was so low we had to walk bent over to avoid hitting our heads on the stone above. Thankfully none of us were claustrophobic, as the passage was very narrow as well.
The 2,800-year-old, 1,750-foot (530-meter) tunnel went in a zigzag course. To carve the tunnel out of rock, two digging parties started at opposite ends and met in the middle. They were instructed to zigzag, so that they were sure to meet! If the seventh-century “engineers” had dug in a straight line, the tunnel would have been 40% shorter! The famous Siloam Inscription, found on one of the tunnel’s walls—now in a museum in Turkey—describes how the two groups met “ax against ax.” When we were in the middle of the tunnel, I found that the three ladies ahead of me were a bit more adventurous than I expected when we switched off our flashlights to see how dark it was!
We were in the tunnel for almost an hour when we finally reached the end where the water flows into the pool of Siloam. If you recall, that’s where Yeshua (Jesus) sent the man who was born blind, “Go, He told him, wash in the pool of Siloam, so the man went, and washed and came home seeing” (John 9:7).
There was so much history surrounding the tunnel that I wanted to soak it all in. At the end of the adventure, I had soggy sandals, a camera loaded to the max with pictures, and a head full of thoughts about kings, prophets, and a blind man receiving his sight. We covered a lot of historical ground in just three hours!
By Daniel Kirchhevel
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