Posted by: Elena's Israel Blog | 06/16/2012

HEZEKIAH’S TUNNEL

Neither of my two Israel tours included Hezekiah’s Tunnel; however many visitors have walked through it in amazement. Do you know the story of how/why it was built?

In 1838 American biblical scholar Edward Robinson shook up the archaeological world by discovering Hezekiah’s Tunnel. The tunnel was far more spectacular than anyone could have imagined. Two other tunnels had been dug in Israel out of soft chalky rock. The tunnel in Hazor is 82 feet long. The tunnel in Megiddo is 262 feet long. Hezekiah’s tunnel, in comparison, was dug through solid bed rock. What is the length of his tunnel? 1,750 feet! This tunnel takes water from the Gihon Spring and empties out at a place called the Pool of Siloam. Two teams of men, one at each end, cut through the bedrock with no modern day engineering skills or devices, and, trusting in God, began this desperate attempt to bring water to the besieged Jews in Jerusalem. Toward one end of the tunnel, amazingly, an ancient Hebrew inscription was found on the wall. The inscription commemorates the point when two teams, digging from each end, finally met in the middle. The inscription reads:

Today this is in the Istanbul Archeology Museum

“[…when] (the tunnel) was driven through. And this was the way in which it was cut through: While […] (were) still […] axe(s), each man toward his fellow, and while there were still three cubits to be cut through, [there was heard] the voice of a man calling to his fellows, for there was an overlap in the rock on the right [and on the left]. And when the tunnel was driven through, the quarrymen hewed (the rock), each man toward his fellow, axe against axe; and the water flowed from the spring toward the reservoir for 1200 cubits, and the height of the rock above the head(s) of the quarrymen was 100 cubits.”

Such a dramatic moment! The Jews under King Hezekiah accomplished one of the greatest engineering feats of the ancient world. It’s amazing what humans can accomplish when their backs are against the wall. The inhabitants of Jerusalem, facing certain death, found a secret way to get a constant source of water into Jerusalem. The situation was thus: In 701 BC. Sennacherib, King of Assyria, had destroyed nearly every prominent town in the southern kingdom of Judah. Israel lay in ruins. Sennacherib thrust the power of the Assyrian army toward the all-important city of Jerusalem where the God of the Jews resided in the Temple. The defeat of Jerusalem would be a large strategic and symbolic victory.

The Assyrians employed the military strategy of the ‘siege’. The army surrounded the fortified walls of the city, cut off all water and food to the city, and then they waited. The term, “siege” derives from sedere, Latin for “to sit”. Attacking armies were willing to wait weeks, months or even years until the victims grew sick and weak. The plan was that the healthy army would then advance to destroy the city. There are usually only three outcomes of a siege: survive by finding a way to get food and water, surrender or die. However, the godly king Hezekiah had an idea! He trusted in the supernatural power of God to deliver him AND he also employed immense hard work and ingenuity to keep his people alive. The Bible tells us he hid the Jerusalem water supply from the Assyrians and brought it underground into Jerusalem. This is all we know from Scripture. It’s so thrilling to see the physical proof of the Bible accounts!

“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?” 2 Kings 20:20

“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?” 2 Chronicles 32:2-4

“This same Hezekiah also stopped the upper watercourse of Gihon, and brought it straight down to the west side of the city of David. And Hezekiah prospered in all his works.” 2 Chronicles 32:30

Today, if you visit Israel, be sure to include a walk through this tunnel. It’s a little claustrophobic but most people find it quite doable!

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Responses

  1. When we were in Israel, there was about a foot of water in the tunnel,and the tour guide decided, because of the elderly that were with us, we would not walk through the tunnel. Sorry we didn’t! We could clearly see the chip marks made by the axes on the wall; and stood amazed, that without modern engineering, that the two sides knew exactly where they would meet! Indeed something to marvel about!

  2. from Nancy N.: Thanks, Elena, for this good story. I remember well going through Hezekiah’s tunnel when I was 12 and we visited the Holy Land. Very
    interesting to see the chisel marks on the sides of the walls and how
    they started from both ends and then were bit off so cut over to meet
    one another.

  3. from Marjorie C.:
    Elena,
    I was just walking thru this tunnel a week and 1/2 ago. I came thru on the dry side since I didn’t have the proper shoes for the side with the water.
    This was my 9th trip to Israel.

    Thank you for your blog – it’s one of the only ways the Christian world can understand the importance of Israel.


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