The Gihon Spring - First Century Jerusalem

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bar-kochba-coin-small.jpg The only permanent water source of the city in this period, the monumental Pool of Siloam, is clearly distinguishable in the model. It was fed by waters of the Gihon Spring diverted through Hezekiah's Tunnel, built in the 8th century BC.

 

The intermittent spring that constituted Jerusalem's most ancient water supply, situated in the Kidron Valley just below the eastern hill (Ophel). This abundant source of water was entirely covered over and concealed from outside the walls and was conducted by a specially built conduit to a pool within the walls where a besieged city could get all the water it needed. "Why should the kings of Assyria come and find abundant water?" the people queried in the time of Hezekiah (2 Chron 32:2-4). Hezekiah's Tunnel, 1,777 feet long, hewn out of the solid rock and comparable to the tunnels at Megiddo and Gezer, conducted the water to a reservoir within the city. From the top of Ophel the ancient Jebusites (c. 2000 BC) had cut a passage through the rock where waterpots could be let down a 40-foot shaft to receive the water in the pool 50 feet back from the Gihon. Early excavations at Jerusalem by the Palestine Exploration Fund under the direction of Sir Charles Warren (1867) resulted in finding the 40-foot rock-cut shaft. It is now known as Warren's Shaft. Conrad Shick in 1891 discovered an ancient surface canal that conveyed water from the Gihon Spring to the old pool of Siloam, located just within the SE extremity of the ancient city. Isaiah seems to have alluded to the softly flowing waters of this gentle brook when he spoke poetically of "the gently flowing waters of Shiloah" (Isa 8:6).

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Map of Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus (Click to Enlarge)

Ancient Jerusalem - First Century Jerusalem Market Pavilions Hill of Calvary (Golgotha) Phasael Tower Hippicus Tower Mariamne Tower Hyrcanus Monument Herod's Barracks Click here to view the illlustration Herod's Palace Upper Agora Hasmonean Palace Xystus Market Palace of Annas Herod's Theater Palace of Caiaphas Tomb of King David Dyers Quarter Wilson's Arch Robinson's Arch Western Wall Adiabenian Palaces Synagogue of the Freedmen Sports Hippodrome Pool of Siloam Huldah Gates Tomb of Huldah Temple Facade Antonia Fortress Pool of Bethesda Alexander Jannaeus Monument Jerusalem Roads Tomb of Absalom Gihon Spring Tunnel of Hezekiah Hakeldama - Field of Blood First Century Jerusalem - Roads Serpent's Pool Western Road Hinnom Valley Kidron Valley Tyropoeon Valley New City Upper City Jerusalem's Lower City City of David Mount of Olives Damascus Gate New City Kidron Valley Pilate's Aquaduct Herod's Bridge Jerusalem Temple Court of the Gentiles Court of the Gentiles Golden Gate Introduction Kidron Bridge Walls Walls Jerusalem's Walls Walls Lower City Walls Hyrcanus Monument Jerusalem Walls Jerusalem Walls Walls Jerusalem Walls Pinnacle of the Temple

"Whoever has not seen Jerusalem in its splendor has never seen a fine city."? Babylonian Talmud (Succah, 51b)

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Primary Sources for the Study of First Century Jerusalem: Josephus, The Mishnah, The New Testament, Pliny.

First Century Jerusalem

The Jerusalem of Herod the Great

 

The Jerusalem Jesus knew nowhere near resembled the city David conquered in the tenth century BC. At that time, it had been a small, isolated hill fortress, valued more for its location than its size or splendor. Yet from that time on it was known as the City of David, and the kings of David's dynasty, especially his son Solomon, had enlarged and beautified it.

 

In the sixth century BC, the army of Nebuchadnezzar leveled Jerusalem and drove its citizens into exile. During the long years of captivity in Babylon, the Jews in exiles' prayers and longings focused on the distant Holy City. But the city rebuilt by the Jews who returned a century later was far inferior to its former splendor. It was, ironically, the hated tyrant Herod the Great who restored Jerusalem to its former grandeur.

 

In the 33 years of his reign (37-4 B.C.), Herod transformed the city as had no other ruler since Solomon. Building palaces and citadels, a theatre and an amphitheatre, viaducts (bridges) and public monuments. These ambitious building projects, some completed long after his death, were part of the king's single-minded campaign to increase his capital's importance in the eyes of the Roman Empire.

 

No visitor seeing Jerusalem for the first time could fail to be impressed by its visual splendor. The long, difficult ascent from Jericho to the Holy City ended as the traveler rounded the Mount of Olives, and suddenly caught sight of a vista like few others in the world. Across the Kidron Valley, set among the surrounding hills, was Jerusalem, "the perfection of beauty," in the words of Lamentations, "the joy of all the world."

 

The view from the Mount of Olives was dominated by the gleaming, gold-embellished Temple which was located in the most holy spot in the Jewish world and really God's world. This was the Lord's earthly dwelling place, He mediated His throne here and raised up a people to perform rituals and ceremonies here that would foreshadow the coming of His Messiah kinsman redeemer who would be the lamb of God, slain for the sins of the whole world.

 

The Temple stood high above the old City of David, at the center of a gigantic white stone platform.

 

To the south of the temple was THE LOWER CITY, a group of limestone houses, yellow-brown colored from years of sun and wind. Narrow, unpaved streets and houses that sloped downward toward the Tyropean Valley, which ran through the center of Jerusalem.

 

Rising upward to the west was THE UPPER CITY, or Zion, where the white marble villas and palaces of the very rich stood out like patches of snow. Two large arched passageways spanned the valley, crossing from the Upper City to the temple.

 

A high, thick, gray stone wall encircled Jerusalem. It had been damaged, repaired and enlarged over the centuries, and in Jesus' day it was about 4 miles in circumference, bringing about 25,000 people into an area about a square mile. At intervals along the wall were massive gateways. Just inside each gate was a customs station, where publicans collected taxes on all goods entering or leaving the city.

 

First Century Jerusalem

Bible History Online


? Bible History Online (http://www.bible-history.com)

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