Zedekiah’s Cave, Jerusalem
Zedekiah’s Cave, also called Solomon’s Quarries, is an impressive-sized cave beneath the Muslim Quarter. Despite its significance and prolonged use in antiquity, it was later lost and rediscovered by chance in 1854. Various traditions suggest intriguing biblical ties to the site, though the archaeological evidence does not support most of these traditions.
The Rediscovery of the Cave
In 1854 by American missionary James Turner Barclay followed the rumors of a cavern near Damascus Gate. About 100 m east of the gate, his dog fell into a pit. Barclay noticed the pit was large but wanted to avoid drawing any attention. At night, he returned with his sons and torches. Sneaking in and operating the lights, they were amazed at its site and first to document it. They also recorded a human skeleton and batches of bats hanging from the ceiling, which kept much of the public from visiting the cave.
History of Zedekiah’s Cave
Several scholars and expeditions surveyed the cave, yet about a third is still debris-filled. Early research suggested the Quarry dates to the time of King Solomon, and so it was called Solomon’s Quarries. Furthermore, the Free Masons order adopted the site, claiming the founders of their order operated here. To this day, they conduct annual gatherings at the site. A local Jewish tradition suggests King Zedekiah escaped from biblical Jerusalem through this cave. Current research indicates the quarry was not used before Roman times, revoking its attribution to King Solomon or King Zedekiah.
Zedekiah and Zedekiah’s Cave
At the advent of the Babylonians to conquer Jerusalem, the Bible records Zedekiah, the king of Jerusalem, sneaking out of the city –
Then, the city wall was broken through, and the whole army fled at night through the gate between the two walls near the king’s garden, though the Babylonians surrounded the city. They fled toward the Arabah, but the Babylonian army pursued the king and overtook him in the plains of Jericho. (2 Kings 25:4-5).
Jewish commentators such as Rashi suggested that King Zedekiah and his army fled out of Jerusalem through a secret tunnel. When the cave was uncovered, the Jews attributed it to Zedekiah’s escape, naming it Zedekiah’s cave. Furthermore, a small trickle of water inside the cave was labeled as Zedekiah’s tears, representing his cry for the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of its temple.
It is uncertain if Herod used the quarry to build the Temple Mount. It was, however, known in late antiquity. Perhaps it provided the building material for Jerusalem when it was re-founded by the Romans as Aelia Capitolina. Another option is that it offered building materials for Jerusalem in the Byzantine Period. The quarry was not used in the Crusaders’ times, but the latest research suggests that the Crusaders installed a secret escape tunnel in parts of the cave.
See Danny “the Digger” presenting the cave on Erick Stackelbeck’s “The Watchman” show –
Is There a Gold Treasure in Zedekiah’s Cave?
In 1968, an Arab from East Jerusalem contacted the Israeli Ministry of Finance and claimed that his grandfather buried three cases of gold in Zedekiah’s cave. Excavations took place where he said the treasure should be, but to the disappointment of all, nothing was found.
Touring Zedekiah’s Cave
The Municipality of Jerusalem maintains the cave and charges a humble admission fee. A broad flight of stairs and lights are installed in the main halls of the cave. At one of its lowest points, a small water flow is identified in Jewish tradition as “Zedekiah’s Tears.” By local tradition, these are the tears of the ongoing cry of Zedekiah for the Babylonian conquest and destruction of Jerusalem. In 2023, a new audio-visual show was installed in the cave, dramatizing its long and intriguing history.
A tour of Zekeiah’s Cave can be integrated into a guided day tour of Jerusalem.