Hezekiah’s Tunnel

When the city was defending itself from the approaching Assyrian army in the 8th century BC, King Hezekiah decided to protect the water by diverting its flow deep into the city with an impressive tunnel system.  “Hezekiah also plugged the upper watercourse of the Gihon waters and brought it straight down to the west side of the City of David.  And Hezekiah prospered in all his works.” (2 Chronicles, 32:30)

This engineering feat was accomplished by  digging a 1,750-foot tunnel into the mountain.  Of course, a visit to Jerusalem isn’t complete without walking through this underground meandering river.

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Here we go!

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First, down, down, down. We seem to do a lot of this.

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Looking down “Warren’s Shaft” which, when discovered by archeaologist Sir Charles Warren in 1867 was believed to be the original water access point for the Jebusites living in Jerusalem through which David’s men were able to break into the city and enable him to conquer Jerusalem.  Later, however, other discoveries overturned this idea.  Excavated man-made exterior walls descending to a tower over the Gihon Spring, another early tunnel cut through the rock, and evidence this is a natural fissure not yet uncovered at the time of the Canaanite/Jebusite residents.  Only later did the new Israelite owners cut away more rock from the tunnel exposing this fissure.

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These rocks, now enclosed in a larger building, were the foundation stones for the original Canaanite water tower.

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This is an artist’s reconstruction of the Canaanite water tower over the spring with defensive walls leading to it from the city walls.  This is what David would have faced when taking the city.  Years later, Hezekiah would desire to bring the water supply deep within the city walls, thus requiring the construction of the tunnel.  So off we go through the new and improved water delivery system!

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Getting started.  Actually this is a little ways in, as the first portion of the tunnel is well above the knees and meant wet clothes for all but the tallest travelers.

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Tight fit.  Note the low ceilings here.  There were lower.  some stretches require hunching over to pass through.

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All the while, the cold waters of the Gihon Spring were flowing quickly past our feet.  The average depth was probably mid-calf.

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Sometimes course corrections by the tunnelers would mean a noticeable shift in direction.  Turn left here. How they new where they were going so that two teams coming from either direction could meet in the middle remains somewhat of a mystery despite some theories on how it was done.

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Everybody was equipped with a flashlight because there is NO natural light deep down under Zion.  The light of our Messiah Jesus did shine forth as we sang many a hymn and song during our trek, allowing the music to echo down the tunnel shafts and lighten our hearts under all that heavy rock.

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Note the high ceilings at this point.  Probably 18 or more feet high.

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Somewhere in the middle.

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Finally, after a long, dark, cool walk we exit into the unofficial Pool of Siloam, built at a later period to commemorate the pool that once existed here and where Jesus healed the blind man.

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The portion of our team that took the tunnel challenge.

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Just beyond the “fake” pool of Siloam is the more recently found historic pool.  While no remains have yet been uncovered of the one first built by Hezekiah, the pool from Jesus’ day has now been revealed.

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For those who walked the tunnel, this was one of the highlights of the day.  A unique and amazing adventure through an engineering wonder.

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