The Agora
Bible Articles and Lessons: H

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Hezekiah's tunnel

A tunnel was constructed from the spring at Gihon -- what is now called the Virgin's Fountain -- under the city walls and through the rock to the southern end of the city of Jerusalem, to the pool of Siloam. This would be a difficult feat in these days of sophisticated surveying and measuring equipment. It was even more remarkable for the times of Hezekiah, because the impending invasion meant there was very little time, and gangs of workmen had to start from either end. When the tunnel was complete, the spring outside the city was blocked up and the water flowed into the city.

"And when Hezekiah saw that Sennacherib was come, and that he was purposed to fight against Jerusalem, he took counsel with his princes and his mighty men to stop the waters of the fountains which were without the city: and they did help him. So there was gathered much people together, who stopped all the fountains and the brook that ran through the midst of the land, saying, Why should the kings of Assyria come, and find much water?" (2Ch 32:2-4).
"And the rest of the acts of Hezekiah, and all his might, and how he made a pool, and a conduit, and brought water into the city, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah?" (2Ki 20:20).
The watercourse was a tremendous feat of engineering by any standards. At one time, critics of the Bible said openly that it was impossible, because of the great difficulty of the project: this was another example, they said, of the way in which Bible accounts had become exaggerated and then recorded as historical fact. This argument cannot be used against the Bible today because the watercourse has been discovered.

An Arab boy accidentally fell into the Pool of Siloam and discovered the underwater opening of the tunnel. Just as the new London Bridge has a commemorative plaque marking its official opening, so a plaque had been placed on the wall of the tunnel. This inscription is written in the old Hebrew script of the time of Hezekiah and part of the tablet, which is now in the Istanbul Museum, reads as follows:

'Now this is the history of the excavations. While the excavators were still lifting up the pick, each towards his neighbour, and while there were yet three cubits to excavate, there was heard the voice of one man calling to his neighbour: for there was an excess of rock on the right hand. And when on the day of excavations the excavators had struck pick against pick, one against another, the waters floweth from the spring to the Pool, a distance of 1,200 cubits. One hundred cubits was the height of the rock above the head of the miners'.
We cannot deny the existence of Hezekiah's watercourse because, as Keller describes, it is there --

'a narrow passage about two feet wide and barely 5 feet high... cut through limestone. It can only be negotiated with rubber boots and a slight stoop. Water knee-deep rushes to meet you. For about 500 yards the passage winds imperceptibly uphill. It ends at the Virgin's Fountain, Jerusalem's water supply since ancient times. In Biblical days it was called the Fountain of Gihon.'
[The Bible as History -- Keller, Hodder & Stoughton.]

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