The Brook Kidron and Hezekiah’s Tunnel




The Brook Kidron and Hezekiah’s Tunnel

2 Kings 20v20 states that Hezekiah ‘Made the Pool and the conduit and brought water into the city’

and in 2 Chronicles 32v30 that he closed the upper outlet of the waters of Gihon and directed them down to the West side of the City of David.

This refers to the tunnel which connects the ‘Spring of Gihon’, through the rock to the reservoir called the Pool of Siloam.

It was found in 1838 when it was explored by the American traveller, Edward Robinson, and his missionary friend Eli Smith.

They first attempted to crawl through the tunnel from the Siloam end but found that they were not suitably dressed to crawl through the narrow passage. Three days later and dressed in only a wide pair of Arab drawers, they entered the tunnel from the ‘Spring of Gihon’. And advanced much of the way on their hands and knees and sometimes flat on their stomachs, they went the full distance.

They measured the tunnel and found it to be 1750 ft in length. The tunnel was full of twists and turns. The straight line distance from the Spring of Gihon to the Pool of Siloam is only 762 ft, less than half the length of the tunnel.

In 1867 Captain Charles Warren also explored the tunnel. He also excavated ‘Warren’s Shaft. which was the earlier tunnel through which the people of Jerusalem were able to obtain water.

In 1880 a boy, in the tunnel noticed an inscription on the walls and reported it to his school teacher Herr Conrad Schick who made the information available to schollars. It was written in old Hebrew (Canaanite), and said “..when (the tunnel) was driven through, while ….were still…..axes. Each man towards his fellow, and while there were still three cubits to be cut through there was heard the voice of a man calling to his fellow for there was an overlap in the rock on the right. And when the tunnel was driven through, the quarrymen hewed each man towards his fellow, axe against axe, and the water flowed from the spring towards the reservoir for 1200 cubits’.(Ancient Near Eastern Text). In 1890 a vandal entered the tunnel and cut the inscription out of the rock, and it was found, later, in several pieces, in the possession of a Greek in Jerusalem who had bought it off an Arab. At least two other conduits were built from the Spring of Gihon into Jerusalem before the Siloam Tunnel.

There had been a tunnel at that place since David’s time, and possibly before the Israelites conquered the Promised Land, because when David wanted the City as his capital city, the Bible records that it was still in the possession of a tribe of Canaanites called the Jebusites, and David conquered the city from the Jebusites by taking his soldiers from the Spring, through the tunnel, under the walls and into the Jebusite City.

The Gihon Spring is not at the bottom of the valley but is on the Western slope, from the City walls down to the Brook Kidron. (The water comes out of the limestone a little way up the valley slope). This seems to suggest that there is an underground, natural watercourse which collects the rainwater which falls on Mount Moriah (Jerusalem), travels under the City, errupts at the spring Gihon, in the valley of Kidron, only to be taken back into the City through both the ancient and Hezekiah’s tunnel.

There are deep wells within the City, (Captain Warren had to block one of these off, for safety reasons, when he was excavating Hezekiah’s tunnel). These wells could have been one of the reasons why Jerusalem was built there in the first place, way back in antiquity.

Hezekiah’s works were two-fold.
1. To improve the access to the water from the Gihon.
2. To hide the spring Gihon from attackers.

Before Hezekiah, the people in Jerusalem used to walk about 30 yards to a shaft where they lifted up the water using a bucket. (see the OPHEL diagram).

Jerusalem is on a hill and the Siloam Pool is on the lower slope of the hill and is lower than the Gihon Spring.

This picture shows the elevation of Hezekiah’s Tunnel and Warren’s Shaft in relation to the Gihon Spring and the Pool at Siloam.
See this site
Hezekiahs Tunnel

Some accounts say that Edward Robinson discovered Hezehiah’s Tunnel in 1838.
Some accounts say that Sir Charles Warren found Hezekiah’s Tunnel in 1867.
There are THREE known tunnels from the Spring Gihon, and a very good, and scollarly account, which questions whether the tunnel was built by Hezekiah at all, is given at this site
The Biblical Archaeologist

In 1880, a boy found the ‘Siloam Inscription’ in the tunnel entrance to Hezekiah’s tunnel.

This photo of the Pool of Hezekiah was taken in approx 1937

This shows Hexzekiah’s tunnel at the Siloam Exit in 1937

This photo was taken in approx 1890 and shows the Pool of Siloam before the tunnel was discovered.

This shows the Pool of Siloam. The Bible gives the dimensions as 55ft square. In 1937 it measured18ft wide, 53 ft long and 19ft deep. The opening of the tunnel can be seen on the left. Its original height was increased by cutting done in the fifth century AD


Plan of Hezekiah’s Tunnel (165K)

The ‘Companion Bible’ has this account

If, as it has been confidently asserted, the Spring Gihon (or the Fount of the Virgin) is the only spring in the immediate vicinity of Jerusalem, then it would have been the one that was used by people before King David conquered the City from the Jebusites. That the Jebusies had access to this well or spring from within their walls is clear, but in the end it proved their undoing, for David’s men obtained possession of Jerusalem, (then called Jebus), by means of the ‘Zinnor’, (AV = gutter) i.e. the channel and shaft leading from the well to the City. The spring is intermittent, overflowing periodically, thus pointing to the existence of either a natural chasm or reservoir, or a man-made reservoir (made in antiquity), whose site is unknown. Possibly it is under mount Moriah itself. Tradition has much to say about a deep well within an unfailing water supply beneath the Temple area. It could have been one of the chief reasons why the City was built in that place originally. Somehow this well must have been forgotten and the people had to rely upon the Spring Gihon.

Before the time of Hezekiah, the City of David was dependant upon this source for its water supply in times of danger threatened from without in the same manner that the Jebusites were. The Jebusites were descended from Ophel by means of rock hewn passages with steps and slopes (still in existence) till they reached the top of ‘Warren’s Shaft’, and by means of buckets drew their water from the unfailing well spring some 40 to 50 feet below. At the top of this shaft is still to be seen the iron ring employed for this purpose.

Warrens Shaft

Elevation of ‘Warren’s Shaft’ (147K)

The rock hewn conduit and tunnel discovered by Sir Charles Warren in 1867 conveyed the overflow water from the Spring to the Pool of Siloam. (Before Hezekiah’s time the overflow wate rmust have escaped from the Virgin’s fountain at a lower level than is now possible and flowed out and down the lower end of the Kidron Valley, past the King’s Garden, possibly being the feeder for Joab’s Well.)

Hezekiah, before the Assyrian invasion in 603 BC constructed the tunnel and brought the water from Gihon to a new pool that he had made for the purpose. (2 Kings 20v20). This pool henseforth became known as the King’s Pool (Neh 2v14). When the Assyrian Army approached, Hezekiah stopped the waters from the fountains that were without the City (he concealed their extra mural approaches and outlets.

The ‘Siloam Inscription’ discovered in 1880 on a stone on the right wall of the tunnel about 20ft from its exit into the Pool of Siloam is undoubtedly the work of Hezekiah. An interesting fact with regard to its inscription is that it giveds the length of the conduit in cubits which being compared to the modern measurement in English feet yield a cubit of 17½ inches.

Sir Charles Warren wrote “It is impossible that any of the plans of the aqueduct can be rigidly correct because the roof is so low that your head is horizontal in looking at the compass so that you can only squint at it. It is necessary to remember this warning coming from such a source. Never-the -less the figures as above shown are highly interesting.”

The Siloam Inscription is graven in ancient Hebrew characters similar to those of the Moabite Stone on occupies six lines the translation of which is given below.

Line 1. [Behold] the excavation. Now is the history of the breaking through. While the workmen were still lifting up

Line 2. The pickaxe, each towards his neighbour, and while three cubits still remained to [cut through, each heard] the voice of the other calling.

Line 3. To his neighbour, for there was an excess (or cleft) in the rock on the right.And on the day of the

Line 4. Breaking through the excavators struck, each to meet the other, pickaxe against pickaxe, and their flowed

Line 5. The waters from the spring to the pool over [a space of] one thousand and two hundred cubits. And…

Line 6. Of a cubit was the height of the rock above the heads of the excavators.

The Zondervan Pictoral Bible Dictionary has this

Through the Kidron Valley ran a winter torrent but was dry much of the year. The earliest knowledge of the tunnel dates from 1838 when it was explored by the American traveler and scholar Edward Robinson.and his missionary friend Eli Smith. They first attemped to crawl through the tunnel from the Siloam End but found that they were nt suitably dressed to crawl through the passages. Three days later dressed only in a wide pair of Arab drawers they entered the tunnel from the spring of Gihon and advancing much of the way on their hands and knees and sometimes flat on their stomachs they went the full distance. They measured the tunnel and found it to be 1750ft in length.

The tunnel is full of twists and turns. The straight-line distance from the Spring Gihon to the Pool of Siloam is only 762 feet, less than half the length of the tunnel. Why it follows such a circuitous route has never been adequately explained. Grollenberg suggests that it may have been “to avoid at all costs any interference with the royal tombs, which were quite deeply hewn into the rock on the eastern slope of Ophel” (Atlas of the Bible, New York: Nelson, 1956, p. 93).

In 1867 Captain Charles Warren also explored the tunnel, but neither he nor Robinson and Smith before him, noticed the inscription on the wall of the tunnel near the Siloam end. This was discovered in 1880 by a native boy who, while wading in the tunnel, slipped and fell into the water. When he looked up he noticed the inscription. The boy reported his discovery to his teacher, Herr Conrad Schick, who made the information available to scholars. The inscription was deciphered by A. H.

Sayce, with the help of others. It consists of six lines written in Old Hebrew (Canaanite) with prong-like characters. The first half of the inscription is missing, but what remains reads as follows:

“[… when] (the tunnel) was driven 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 fellow, 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 1,200 cubits, and the height of the rock above the head(s) of the quarrymen was 100 cubits”

(Ancient Near Eastern Texts ed. James B. Prichard, Princeton ‘1 University Press, 1955, p. 321).

In 1890 a vandal entered the tunnel and cut the inscription out of the rock. It was subsequently found in several pieces in the possession of a Greek in Jerusalem who claimed he had purchased it from an Arab. The Turkish officials seized the pieces and removed them to Istanbul where they are today.

The Siloam tunnel was not the only conduit which had been built to bring water from the Spring of Gihon into Jerusalem. At least two others preceded it, but neither was adequately protected against enemy attack. It was probably to one of these former conduits that Isaiah referred in the words, “the waters of Shiloah that flow gently” (Isa. 8:6).

The New Bible Dictionary has this

SILOAM. One of the principal sources of water supply to Jerusalem was the intermittent pool of Gihon (‘Virgin’s Fountain’) below the Fountain Gate (Ne. iii. 15) and ESE of the city. It fed water along an open canal, which flowed slowly along the south-eastern slopes, called Siloah (Is. viii. 6). It followed the line of the later ‘second aqueduct’ which fell only ~ inch in 300 yards, discharging into the Lower or Old Pool (mod. Birket ei~!5Iamra) at the end of the central valley between the walls of the south-eastern and south-western hills. It thus ran below ‘the svall of the pool of Shiloah’ (Ne. iii. 15) and watered the ‘king’s garden’ on the adjacent slopes.

This Old Pool was probably the ‘Pool of Siloam’ in use in New Testament times for sick persons and others to wash (Jn. ix. 7—il). The ‘Tower of Siloam’ which fell and killed eighteen persons – a disaster well known in our Lord’s day (Lk. xiii. 4)—was probably sited on the Ophel ridge above the pool which, according to Josephus (BJ v. 4. 1), was near the bend of the old wall below Ophlas (Ophel). According to the Talmud (Sukkoth iv. 9), water was drawn from Siloam’s Pooi in a golden vessel to be carried in procession to the Temple on the Feast of Tabernacles. Though there are traces of a Herodian bath and open reservoir (about 58 feet x 18 feet, originally 71 feet x 71 feet with steps on the west side), there can be no certainty that this was the actual pool in question. It has been suggested that the part of the city round the Upper Pool (‘Am Silwdn) 100 yards above was called ‘Siloam’, the Lower being the King’s Pool (Ne. ii. 14) or Lower Gihon.

When Hezekiah was faced with the threat of invasion by the Assyrian army under Sennacherib he ‘stopped all the fountains’, that is, all the rivulets and subsidiary canals leading down into the Kedron ‘brook that ran through the midst of the land’ (2 Ch. xxxii. 4). Traces of canals blocked at about this time were found by the Parker Mission. The king then diverted the upper Gihon waters through a ‘conduit’ or tunnel into an upper cistern or pool (the normal method of storing water) on the west side of the city of David (2 Ki. xx. 20). Ben Sira tells how ‘Hezekiah fortified his city and brought the water into its midst; he pierced the rock with iron and enclosed the pool with mountains’ (Ecclus. xlviii. 17—19). Hezekiah clearly defended the new source of supply with a rampart (2 Ch. xxxii. 30). The digging of the reservoir may be referred to by Isaiah (xxii. 11).

In 1880 bathers in the upper pool (also called hirket siht’dn) found the entrance to a tunnel and about 15 feet inside a cursive Hebrew inscription, now in Istanbul, which reads:

” was being dug out. It was cut in the following manner . . . axes, each man towards his fellow, and while there were still three cubits to be cut through, the voice of one man calling to the other was heard, showing that he was deviating to the right. When the tunnel was driven through, the excavators met man to man, axe to axe, and the water flowed for 1,200 cubits from the spring to the reservoir. The height of the rock above the heads of the excavators was 100 cubits’ .


(The Bible as History romances this story but gives an eye witness account of walking through the tunnel. It says…

Two Arab boys were playing there, one of them fell in. Paddling for all he was worth he landed on the other side where a rock wall rose above the pool. Suddenly it was pitch black all round him. He groped about anxiously and discovered a small passage. The name of the Arab boy was forgotten but not his story. It was followed up and a long underground tunnel was discovered. A narrow passage about 2ft wide and barely 5ft high had been cut through the 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’. As experts were examining the passage they noticed by the light of their torches old Hebrew letter on the wall. The inscription which was scratched on the rock only a few paces from the entrance at the pool of Siloam reads as follows….”The boring through is completed and this is the story of the boring. While yet they plied the pick each towards his fellow and while yet there were three cubits to be bored through there was heard the voice of one calling to the other that there was a hole in the rock on the right hand and on the left hand, And on the day of the boring the workers in the tunnel struck each to meet his fellow, pick upon pick. Then the water poured from the source to the pool twelve hundred cubits and a hundred cubits was the height of the rock above the heads of the workers in the tunnel.”

The Turkish Government had the inscription prized out before the First World War. It is now exhibited in the museum at Istanbul.

During a siege the number one problem is that of drinking water. The founders of Jerusalem, the Jebusites, had sunk a shaft through the rock to the Fountain of Gihon. Hezehiah directed its water, which would have otherwise flowed into the Kidron Valley through the mountain to the west side of the City. The Pool of Siloam lies inside the second perimeter wall which he constructed.

There was no time to lose. Assyrian troops could be at the gates of Jerusalem overnight. The workmen therefore tackled the tunnel from both ends. The marks of the pickaxes point to each other as the inscription describes.

Oddly enough the canal takes an ‘S’ shaped course through the rock. Why did the workmen not dig this underground tunnel the shortest way to meet each other, that is in a straight line. The wretched job would have been finished quicker. 700ft of hard work would have been saved out of a total of 1700ft.

Locally there is an old story which has been handed down which claims to explain why they had to go the long way round. Deep in the rock between the spring and the pool are supposed to lie the graves of David and Solomon. Archaeologists took this remarkable piece of folk-law seriously and systematically tapped the walls of the narrow damp tunnel. They sank shafts into the rock from the summit, but they found nothing.


When this remarkable Judean engineering feat was excavated the marks of the picks and deviations to effect a junction midway were traced. The tunnel traverses 1,777 feet (others 1,749 feet), twisting to avoid constructions or rock faults or to follow a fissure, to cover a direct line of 1,090 feet. It is about 6 feet high and in parts only 20 inches wide. It has been suggested that this or a similar tunnel was the gutter (sjnndr) up which David’s men climbed to capture the Jebusite city (2 Sa. v. 8). Modern buildings prevent any archaeological check that the upper pool is the ‘reservoir’ (bereicd) of Hezekiah or that from this the waters overflowed direct to the lower pool.


The New Bible dictionary has this…

Below the southern wall, in the bill opposite the village of Silwan (Siloam) where the old Jebusite stronghold stood that afterwards became the city of David, the famous Siloam inscription was found cut in Hebraic characters of the time of King Hezekiah on the rocky side of the water channel made by this monarch, when he “turned the upper water course of Gihon and brought it straight down to the west side of the city of David” The piece of rock bearing this inscription has recently been removed and broken, but was fortunately recovered, and now rests in the Ottoman Museum at Constantinople. Another inscription of almost equal importance was found at the north-west corner of the Haram enclosure, on a tablet that formerly served as a notice forbidding strangers to enter the Temple Courts on pain of death. Built in the wall over the Double Gate on the south side of the Temple Area, is a Latin inscription that originally belonged to a statue of Hadrian. On this, the south side of the city, but further west, below Neby Daud, where excavations are being carried on at the present time, old Jebusite houses have been brought to light. Other work is in contemplation that will probably settle the position of the city of David and open the tombs of the Kings of Judah.

The Kidron is the only stream of water in Jerusalem the people of Jerusalem ever see without setting out on a day’s journey. It appears at rare intervals of one or two years, and then only after a plentiful supply of rain. As soon as the water begins to flow the news spreads over the City and men women and children flock to see it, In their anxiety to see most of the wonder they picnic there all day long and hold a general holiday.

It now runs only from ‘Bir Eyub’ (Job’s Well) when this overflows; but in the days of old, when Hezekiah was King, and compelled to keep constant watch over his Assyrian enemy, Sennacherib, it ran all down the valley from Ain Umm ed Deraj (Spring of the Mother of Steps), the Virgin’s Fountain, and was known as ‘the brook that overflowed in the midst of the land’. (2 Chron 32v4).

Its course was, however, perverted by the primitive Jewish Engineers in order to provide for the wants of the City, and cut off the water supply of the besieging army. (see 2 Chron 32v30).

“The same Hezekiah also stopped up the upper watercourse of Gihon and brought it straight down to the west side of the City of David”.

The channels that were made for this purpose have since been found and one contained the famous Siloam inscription, one of the most valuable and interesting ever discovered. It has lately been removed and broken but a photograph of a squeeze with a translation is sold by the Palestine Exploration Fund. This practically settles the site of the ‘City of David’. ‘the stronghold of Zion’, the hill above the spring through which these channels were cut from the Virgin’s Fountain, (the upper watercourse of Gihon).in the Kedron Valley.on the East to the ‘King’s Pool.’ ‘The Pool of Hezekiah’ now the ‘Pool of Siloam’ in the Tyropean Valley on the ‘west side’.

The upper watercourse of Gihon that played such an important part in the reign of Hezekiahis an intermittent spring in the Kedron Valley below the southern wall of the City. It is now known to Europeans as the ‘Virgin’s Fountain. And to the natives as ‘Ain Umm ed Deraj’. The peasants call it also the ‘Dragon’s Well’ because they believe a dragon lives in the bottom who swallows up the water, which can only escape when he is asleap. This spring has been a subject of many a conroversy, and is still, but has fairly proven to be the ‘Upper Watercourse of Gihon’, and is claimed by some to be ‘En Rogel’. mentioned in Joshua 15v7.and again in 18v16 as well.

“And the border came down to the end of the mountain that lieth before the valley of the son of Hinnom to the side of Jebusi on the South and descended to En Rogel

The identification of the large stone near the ‘Virgin’s Fountain’ on the rocky side of the village of Silwan (Siloam) by M. Clermont-Gannneau now called in Arabic ‘Zehwele’ with the ‘stone of Zoheleth’ naturally assisted in identifying this as the mark of the tribal border of Judah and Benjamin.

But, unfortunately, its position does not answer the requirements of the text quoted above, “to the end of the mountain that lieth before the valley of Hinnom to the side of Jebusi on the south.” “The end of the mountain” is lower down the valley, below the Pool of Siloam, where the Tyropeon joins the Kedron, and near to this is “Bir Eyub” (Job’s Well), “before the valley of the son of Hinnom.”

Before the water of the “upper watercourse of Gihon” was turned by the Jewish king to the Pool of Siloam (the lower pool of Gihon’), it flowed straight down the valley to Job’s Well (En Rogel), and watered the King’s gardens that lay between, where now the best vegetables are grown for the Jerusalem market.

Job’s Well (Bir Eyub), or, as it is often termed, Joab’s Well, on account of its identification as En Rogel, has never been properly examined. It was opened by the Crusaders in 1184 A.D., and during the 15th and 16th centuries was known as the well of Nehemiah. There can be no doubt that it is in some way connected with an intermittent spring, as the flow from it after heavy rains is more than enough to empty the well itself. The hillside on the east of this well has the same rocky character as that above the Virgin’s Fountain When Adonijah was making his feast (1 Kings 1v9), on being proclaimed King, the noise of the revellers was heard in the city. So Bathsheba, the mother of Solomon, went to the aged King David, and told him what was taking place, reminding him at the same time of his promise of the kingdom for her son. After seeing the prophet Nathan, he said: “Cause Solomon, my son, to ride upon mine own mule and bring him down to Gihon.” He was there anointed King, and the sound of rejoicing that went through the city was heard also by Adonijah and his adherents, but a bend in the valley hid the scene from view. Soon, however, the news was carried to him that Solomon had been anointed king in Gihon. This could very easily have been the lower Gihon if the En Rogel is the “Upper Gihon,” as one is on the eastern side of the hill, and the other on the “west side.”

(See 1 Kings 1.)

The most reasonable conclusion to be drawn is that Bir Eyub is En Rogel, and the spring further up the valley, Virgin’s Fountain, is the upper watercourse of Gihon, The pool on the “west side” of the hill, that separates the Kedron Valley from the Tyropeon, is the lower pool of Gihon, the pool of Hezekiah,’ “King’s Pool” (of Nehemiah), and the pooi of Siloam, in the time of our Saviour.

See (Joshua 15. 7 and 17v16, 2 Chron. 17v4-30, I. Kings 1)

The Brook Kedron (2 Sam. 15v23, 1. Kings 15v13, 2 Kings 23v6, 2. Chron. 29v16, Jer. 31v40, John 18v1)

is now a dry torrent bed, except what is seen in the picture, and that, as before mentioned, appears only once or twice in as many years. It runs along the eastern side of Jerusalem, commencing some distance to the north-east, broad and shallow at first, deepening only as it separates the city from the slope of the Mount of Olives. Between the south-east corner and the village of Silwan (Siloam) it becomes a deep ravine, widening out again towards the Virgin’s Fountain (Mn Umm ed Deraj) into the King’s gardens, where it is joined, after passing the Pool of Siloam on the west, by the Valley of Hinnom, close to Bir Eyub, and afterwards pursues its course towards the wilderness of the Dead Sea, as Wady en Nar, i.e., the Valley of Fire.







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