Photography by the Author

On Monday, June 26, 1995, the sixth day of a seven day visit to Jerusalem, my wife Sharon and I started the morning with a walking tour through the Armenian Quarter and the Zion Gate to Mt. Zion where we visited the Dormition Abbey, the Last Supper Room and David's Tomb. Then we walked along the outside of the south wall of the Old City, eventually arriving at the City of David. (The City of David is a fascinating archaeological site and it was our second visit since arriving in Jerusalem the previous week. 

We first visited the stepped-stone structure and the house of Ahiel, then we went into Warren's Shaft, and finally down to the Gihon Spring at the bottom of the Kidron Valley for a walk through Hezekiah's Tunnel. The walk was an authentic time tunnel experience.

The account of the construction of Hezekiah's water tunnel under Jerusalem by King Hezekiah shortly before the city was besieged by Sennacherib in about 701 BC is described in 2 Kings 20:20 and 2 Chronicles 32:2-4, 30. Archaeologists discovered the tunnel in the 19th century. It is a third of a mile long, mostly less than three feet wide, and, in a few places, less than five feet in height. It winds under the City of David from the Gihon Spring, an important site in Old Testament Jerusalem, to the Pool of Siloam, an important New Testament period site.

My wife and I, along with five other people, went through the entire tunnel, lit only by our flashlights, wading through chest-high water (the water level in the tunnel was at an extremely high level for several months during 1995). It was one of the highlights of our trip!

Here are the Biblical accounts describing the construction of the tunnel:

    As for the other events of Hezekiah's reign, all his achievements and how he made the pool and the tunnel by which he brought water into the city, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Judah? 2 Kings 20:20
    When Hezekiah saw that Sennacherib had come and that he intended to make war on Jerusalem, he consulted with his officials and military staff about blocking off the water from the springs outside the city, and they helped him. A large force of men assembled, and they blocked all the springs and the stream that flowed through the land. "Why should the kings of Assyria come and find plenty of water?" they said.2 Chronicles 32:2-4
    It was Hezekiah who blocked the upper outlet of the Gihon spring and channeled the water down to the west side of the City of David. He succeeded in everything he undertook. 2 Chronicles 32:30

The builders of the tunnel left their own account of the work carved into the rock wall near the tunnel outlet into the Pool of Siloam. The inscription (called the Siloam Inscription) was found in 1880 and is now in the Istanbul Museum. It reads:

    "... the tunneling through. And this is the account of the tunneling through. While [the workmen raised] the pick each toward his fellow and while there [remained] to be tunneled [through, there was heard] the voice of a man calling to his fellow, for there was a split in the rock on the right hand and on [the left hand]. And on the day of the tunneling through the workmen stuck, each in the direction of his fellow, pick against pick. And the water started flowing from the source to the pool, twelve hundred cubits. And the height of the rock above the head of the workmen was a hundred cubits."

Sennacherib wrote his own account of his siege of Jerusalem:

    "As to Hezekiah, the Jew, he did not submit to my yoke, I laid siege to 46 of his strong cities, walled forts and to the countless small villages in their vicinity, and conquered [them] by means of well stamped [earth-]ramps and battering-rams brought [thus] near [to the walls] [combined with] the attack by foot soldiers, [using] mines, breeches as well as sapper work. I drove out [of them] 200,150 people, young and old, male and female, horses, mules, donkeys, camels, big and small cattle beyond counting, and considered [them] booty. Himself I made a prisoner in Jerusalem, his royal residence, like a bird in a cage."The siege of Jerusalem and the campaign of Sennarcherib are recorded on the University of Chicago Oriental Institute's Prism of Sennacherib.

Join us for a virtual walk through Hezekiah's Tunnel. We hope you enjoy it....

This view, from near the bottom of the V-shaped Kidron Valley, looks southeast across the valley toward the Palestinian village of Silwan. The entrance to the Gihon Spring and Hezekiah's Tunnel are to the right of the building in the lower right corner of the photo.

Looking up the west side of the Kidron Valley at the City of David excavations you can see remnants of walls dating back to the Jebusite period - before David captured Jerusalem.

Our guide Michael is explaining to our group that (a) there is water in the tunnel, and (b) he's not going into the tunnel with us. He says he will meet us at the other end. Four people in the group decided not to venture into the tunnel.

My wife, Sharon, and writer Bill
Jamison from Maine go down the
steps to the Gihon Spring. It was
Bill's second time in the tunnel so
he took the lead.

Hezekiah's Tunnel
Continues on Page 2

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