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Hezekiahs tunnel 3Hezekiah’s Tunnel is the most remarkable engineering project from biblical times that is still intact.

Most scholars believe King Hezekah’s ordered its construction in anticipation of an Assyrian assault which indeed occured in 701 BC.

Forgotten in the Middle Ages, Hezekiah’s tunnel was rediscovered in the 19th century and is a popular tour attraction today.

Hezekiah and Hezekiah’s Tunnel

In 705 BCE, the king of Assyria, Sargon II, died in Turkey. Hezekiah, king of Judah, saw here an opportunity to evade the heavy Assyrian taxes and form an alliance with Egypt. Yet Sargon’s son and successor, Sennacherib, was determined to to maintain the Assyrian empire’s might, and punish tax evaders heavily. Realizing this, Hezekiah prepared his kingdom for the assault.  According to the Bible, he formed significant storage buildings and filled them with produce (2 Chr. 32:28). He also completed Jerusalem’s walls (2 Chr. 32:5) and had its water secured to a pool –

They gathered a large group of people who 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 32:4)

In summarizing Hezekiah’s kingship in the Book of Chronicles, his water tunnel is mentioned again –

 “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..” (2 Chronicles 32:30)

Mentioning the water tunnel twice seems to echo the grand scale of this project, but its true dimensions would be discovered only in modern times.

Rediscovering Hezekiah’s Tunnel

In Roman times, aqueducts supplied water to Jerusalem from the Hebron Mountains. The Gihon Spring and the Pool of Siloam at the end of the tunnel lost their significance and were eventually left outside the city walls. Only in the 19th century scholars start suggested that the spring and the pool relate to biblical events, and in 1866 Charls Warren documented the tunnel for the first time.

The Siloam Inscription

siloam inscriptionIn 1880, kids noticed a Paleo-Hebrew inscription engraved on the tunnel’s wall near its end. It recorded the joy of the teams digging the tunnel when they completed it. Although King Hezekiah is not mentioned in the inscription, the style of its letters dates to his time. Unfortunately the Ottomans carried away the inscription, which is today on display at the National Archaeological Museum in Istanbul. However, a replica of the inscritpion was installed in the tunnel, next to where the original one stood.

Walking Through Hezekiah’s Tunnel

hezekiahs tunnelToday, Hezekiah’s tunnel is part of the City of David National Park. It is accessed at the Gihon Spring and ends near the Pool of Siloam. Walking through it is quite a popular experience, especially among youth groups. It’s recommended to set flashlights and sandald or watershoes for the walk, and towel to dry off after the walk.

A tour of Hezekiah’s Tunnel can integrated with a day tour of the City of David and Jerusalem.

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