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The Pool of Siloam - First Century Jerusalem

The Pool of Siloam in the Second Temple Model at the Israel Museum
The Pool of Siloam in the Second Temple Model at the Israel Museum

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bar-kochba-coin-small.jpgThe Pool of Siloam was located on the south side of the Lower City, the City of David in the Tyropoeon Valley. It was a man-made reservoir and the only permanent water source for the city of Jerusalem in this period, being fed by the waters of the Gihon Spring diverted through Hezekiah's Tunnel, built in the 8th century BC.. The Pool of Siloam is clearly distinguishable in the Second Temple model of Jerusalem. During the time of Jesus the poor people, and sick people would come here to bathe. It is very interesting that Jesus chose this place to send the blind man (John 9:6-7), for it was recorded among the writings of the oral law that this was the Messiah's pool. The Old Testament clearly identifies the Messiah as the "sent one" numerous times, and Siloam is the same word in the Hebrew and the English transliteration is the word apostle, or missionary.

 

Also see: Pool of Siloam

 

SILOAM

SILOAM, POOL OF (si'lo-am). The expression "pool of Siloam (which is translated, Sent)" (John 9:7) is found three times in Scripture-Neh. 3:15, "Pool of Shelah"; Isa 8:6, "waters of Shiloah"; John 9:7, "pool of Siloam." If we compare Neh 3:15 with 12:37, we find that the Pool of Shelah, the stairs that go down from the city of David (southern portion of the Temple mount), and the king's garden were in close proximity. Josephus frequently mentions Siloam, placing it at the termination of the Valley of the Cheesemongers or the Tyropoeon Valley (Wars 5.4.1)-but outside the city wall (Wars 5.9.4)-where the old wall bent eastward (Wars 5.6.1), and facing the hill upon which was the rock Peristereon, to the E (Wars 5.12.2). From these descriptions it is quite evident that Josephus speaks of the same place as the present Birket Silwan, on the other side of the Kidron.

Further, the evangelist's account (John 9:7) of the blind man sent by Jesus to wash at the pool of Siloam seems to indicate that it was near the Temple. It was from Siloam that water was brought in a golden vessel to the Temple during the feast of Tabernacles; our Lord probably pointed to it when He stood in the Temple and cried, "If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink" (7:37).

The pool of Siloam is fed by a conduit that is cut for a distance of 1,780 feet through solid rock, and which starts at the so-called Virgin's Spring (see En-rogel). The reason for which it was cut is unmistakable. The Virgin's Spring is the only spring of fresh water in the immediate neighborhood of Jerusalem, and in time of siege it was important that, while the enemy should be deprived of access to it, its waters should be made available for those who were within the city. But the spring rose outside the walls, on the sloping cliff that overlooks the valley of Kidron. Accordingly, a long passage was excavated in the rock, by means of which the overflow of the spring was brought into Jerusalem; the spring itself was covered with masonry, so that it could be "sealed" in case of war. That it was so sealed we know from 2 Chron 32:3-4. The following account of the channel and its inscription is from Major C. R. Conder (Palestine, pp. 27 ff.). "The course of the channel is serpentine, and the farther end near the pool of Siloam enlarges into a passage of considerable height. Down this channel the waters of the spring rush to the pool whenever the sudden flow takes place. In autumn there is an interval of several days; in winter the sudden flow takes place sometimes twice a day. A natural siphon from an underground basin accounts for this flow, as also for that of the 'Sabbatic river' in North Syria. When it occurs the narrow parts of the passage are filled to the roof with water.

"This passage was explored by Dr. Robinson, Sir Charles Wilson, Sir Charles Warren, and others; but the inscription on the rock close to the mouth of the tunnel was not seen, being then under water. When it was found in 1880 by a boy who entered from the Siloam end of the passage, it was almost obliterated by the deposit of lime crystals on the letters. Professor Sayce, then in Palestine, made a copy, and was able to find out the general meaning of the letters. In 1881 Dr. Guthe cleaned the text with a weak acid solution, and I was then able, with the aid of Lieutenant Mentell, R.E., to take a proper 'squeeze.' It was a work of labor and requiring patience, for on two occasions we sat for three or four hours cramped up in the water in order to obtain a perfect copy of every letter, and afterward to verify the copies by examining each letter with the candle so placed as to throw the light from right, left, top, bottom. We were rewarded by sending home the first accurate copy published in Europe, and were able to settle many disputed points raised by the imperfect copy of the text before it was cleaned."

The inscription records only the making of the tunnel; that it began at both ends; that the workmen heard the sound of the picks of the other party and were thus guided as they advanced, and that when they broke through they were only a few feet apart. The character of the letters seems to indicate that the scribes of Judah had been accustomed for a long time to write upon papyrus or parchment.

The pool itself is an oblong tank, partly hewn out of the rock and partly built with masonry, about fifty-three feet long, eighteen feet wide, and nineteen feet deep. The water has a peculiar taste-somewhat brackish-but not disagreeable, though becoming more so with the advance of the hot season.

The Pool of Siloam Painted Sketch
The Pool of Siloam Painted Sketch

 

THE POOL OF SILOAM

 

The expression "pool of Siloam (which is translated, Sent)" is found 3 times in Scripture-- (Neh 3:15, "Pool of Shelah"; Is 8:6, "waters of Shiloah"; Jn 9:7, "pool of Siloam").

 

Josephus frequently mentions Siloam, placing it at the termination of the Valley of the Cheesemongers or the Tyropoeon Valley (Wars 5.4.1)--but outside the city wall (Wars 5.9.4)--where the old wall bent eastward (Wars 5.6.1), and facing the hill upon which was the rock Peristereon, to the E (Wars 5.12.2). From these descriptions it is quite evident that Josephus speaks of the same place as the present Birket Silwan, on the other side of the Kidron.

 

John's account (Jn 9:7) of the blind man sent by Jesus to wash at the pool of Siloam seems to indicate that it was near the Temple. It was from Siloam that water was brought in a golden vessel to the Temple during the feast of Tabernacles; our Lord probably pointed to it when He stood in the Temple and cried, "If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink" (7:37).

 

The pool of Siloam is fed by a conduit that is cut for a distance of 1,780 feet through solid rock, and which starts at the so-called Virgin's Spring (En-rogel). The reason for which it was cut is unmistakable. The Virgin's Spring is the only spring of fresh water in the immediate neighborhood of Jerusalem, and in time of siege it was important that, while the enemy should be deprived of access to it, its waters should be made available for those who were within the city.

 

But the spring rose outside the walls, on the sloping cliff that overlooks the valley of Kidron. Accordingly, a long passage was excavated in the rock, by means of which the overflow of the spring was brought into Jerusalem; the spring itself was covered with masonry, so that it could be "sealed" in case of war.

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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)

First Century Jerusalem

Table of Contents

Introduction to First Century Jerusalem

Overview

City of Jerusalem Illustration

The Second Temple Model (Aerial View)

Quotes About Jerusalem

The Land of Jerusalem

Destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.

Recent History of Jerusalem

Encyclopedia - Jerusalem

Heart Message

 

Adiabenian Palaces

Akeldama - Field of Blood

Antonia Fortress

City of David (Tomb)

Court of the Gentiles

Damascus Gate

Dyers Quarter

Gihon Spring

Golden Gate

Hasmonean Palace

Herod's Barracks

Herod's Bridge

Herod's Three Towers

Herod's Palace

Herod's Theater

Hezekiah's Tunnel

Hill of Calvary

Hinnom Valley

Hippicus Tower

Hippodrome

Houses of the Lower City

Huldah Gates

Hyrcanus Monument

Jerusalem Model

Jerusalem Roads

Jerusalem Temple

Jerusalem Walls

Kidron Valley

Lower City

Mariamne Tower

Market Pavilions

Monument of Alexander Jannaeus

Mount of Olives

New City

Palace of Annas

Palace of Caiaphas

Phasael Tower

Pilate's Aqueduct

Pool of Bethesda

Pool of Siloam

Psephinus Tower

Robinson's Arch

Royal Porticoes

Serpent's Pool

Synagogue of the Freedmen

Temple Facade

Tomb of Absalom

Tomb of David

Tomb of Huldah

Tyropoeon Valley

Upper Agora

Upper City

Western Wall

Wilson's Arch

Women's Gate

Xystus Market