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Posts Tagged ‘Biblical Archaeology’

 

How it might have been:

Edward’s fingers followed the pick-ax marks carved in a left-to-right direction.  He marveled at the skill and perseverance of long-ago workmen to create a tunnel of such length–a tunnel he thought might be the one ordered by King Hezekiah 2,500 years previously.

 

 

Suddenly Edward drew in a sharp breath. The markings abruptly changed direction. Instead of left-to-right blows, they became right-to-left, and an astonishing thought occurred to him.

“Eli,” he called. “Look at this. What do you make of it?”

His explorer-companion came alongside and fingered the wall as Edward had done. “How strange. All of a sudden the pick-ax marks change direction.”

“I’m thinking there must have been two teams of workmen, Eli—each working toward the middle from opposite ends. That would cut in half the time necessary to create such a tunnel.”

Time would have been of the essence to King Hezekiah as the Assyrians threatened to attack Jerusalem. No water source existed within the city walls. So the king ordered the tunnel be constructed in order to redirect the Gihon Spring into the city, and deprive the enemy of water at the same time.

 

 

Edward Robinson and Eli Smith continued sloshing through shallow water along the twisting, two-feet wide tunnel. Could it be that, behind the silt that had built up for centuries, they had indeed rediscovered Hezekiah’s tunnel, referred to in 2 Kings, 2 Chronicles, and Isaiah? Curiosity kept them going.

In fact it was curiosity that had brought Edward to Palestine in the first place. His Puritan upbringing in the early 1800s had instilled in him a love for scripture, which he studied with a passion, along with Hebrew, Greek, and Latin.

Now age 44, he was finally exploring the beloved land of the Bible, for the purpose of creating the first systematic survey of biblical geography (1). God had provided Edward with a knowledgeable guide and translator, Eli Smith, a missionary of the region.

After a thirty-minute trek through the underground stream, Edward and Eli found the tunnel did lead to the Gihon Spring outside Jerusalem’s walls.

But the Bible says nothing of two teams working from either end. How could such a feat have been achieved, 140 feet below ground at some points, long before the compass had been invented?

In addition, the tunnel twists and turns for 1,738 feet. A straight line from pool to spring would have shortened the distance considerably, to slightly more than 1,000 feet. Why did the foreman of the crew choose a winding route when an Assyrian invasion loomed at any time?

 

 

Edward Robinson’s idea of two teams working toward the middle remained a theory until 1880 when several boys playing in the Siloam Pool (as it came to be known) decided to explore the tunnel for themselves.

About 20 feet from the entrance, one boy spotted an inscription in the wall. The find was reported to authorities, and Professor A. H. Sayce, a resident in the area at the time, was sent to study the ancient writing. He reportedly sat for hours in mud and water, transcribing the inscription by candlelight (2).

 

This is a replica; the original resides

in the Istanbul Archaeological Museum.

 

The inscription included the following information:

    1. While stone-cutters worked toward each other, and while three cubits of rock remained to tunnel through, a workman’s voice was heard, because of a fissure in the rock.
    2. On the final day of tunneling, each stonecutter struck the stone forcefully in order to meet his co-worker. And then the water began to flow toward the pool.
    3. The full distance of the tunnel: 1200 cubits. The height of the rock above the stone-cutters’ heads: 100 cubits. (3).

After more than forty years, Edward Robinson’s theory was proven correct.

But Hezekiah’s name is not mentioned.  How can we be sure the tunnel dates to the time of the ancient king?

In 2003, archaeologists implemented modern radiometric dating, based on the decay of radioactive elements. They determined the excavation of Hezekiah’s tunnel did occur about 700 years before Christ, the era of the Judean king’s reign (4).

As for the winding route, some speculate that workers followed natural fissures in the rock as well as cracks that already seeped water, making the process easier and faster.

Last, how did workmen meet in the middle so far underground? That is still a mystery and source of wonder. It would seem God himself brought the two teams together.

 

 

Notes:

  1. Robinson completed a three-volume work, Biblical Researches in Palestine, Mount Sinai, and Arabia Petraea that laid the groundwork for a new realm of study: biblical archaeology. https://www.vision.org/digging-faith-370
  2. https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/101-hezekiahs-tunnel
  3. https://www.bibleodyssey.org/en/places/related-articles/siloam-inscription-and-hezekiahs-tunnel (translated by Christopher Rollston).
  4. https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2003-09/huoj-dok090903.php

 

Other sources:

  1. Archaeological Study Bible, Zondervan, 2005, p. 564
  2. https://www.hopechannel.com/au/read/siloam-inscription
  3. http://www.land-of-the-bible.com/Hezekiah_Tunnel
  4. http://www.land-of-the-bible.com/node/854

 

Art and photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.pickist.com (2); http://www.wikimedia.org (2), http://www.canva.com.

 

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