Early Jerusalem: The Spring of Gihon

Water is life, and the Spring of Gihon was the primary reason for the settlement of this otherwise uninviting site over four millennia ago. It gushed into the Kidron Valley, though the local Canaanites eventually carved out rock channels to divert much of the water into a large reservoir. Around 1004 BC, King David exploited a vulnerability in the system to take the city; and it was at the Gihon some 35 years later that his son, Solomon, was anointed as his heir (I Kings 1).

Centuries later—according to a remarkable harmony of biblical and archaeological evidence—King Hezekiah attempted to protect Jerusalem's precious water supply in the face of an imminent Assyrian assault on the capital (701 BC). Racing against time, his men dug a third-of-a-mile-long tunnel through solid rock, one team starting from the Gihon Spring and the other from a new inner-city reservoir. Miraculously, considering the tunnel’s serpentine course, the two teams met in the middle. The chisel marks, the ancient plaster, the zigzags near the halfway point as each team sought the other by sound, and a riveting ancient inscription (since removed) etched into the tunnel wall celebrating the success of the project, bear witness to the ingenuity of the ancients. With the water now diverted into the city, the original opening of the spring was blocked to deny the enemy access, and the siege was soon lifted.

Today you can visit the results of Hezekiah’s efforts at the City of David.

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