In 722 BC, the Northern Kingdom of Israel fell to the Assyrians. The Assyrian king, Sennacherib, pressed on to the south and also attacked the Southern Kingdom of Judah. We read in the Bible about the efforts that King Hezekiah made in preparation for the anticipated siege of Jerusalem. A key construction project had to do with carving out a tunnel to carry water from the Gihon Spring, located just outside of the city walls.
Hezekiah also stopped the water outlet of Upper Gihon, and brought the water by tunnelto the west side of the City of David.
2 Chronicles 32: 30
This would ensure that water would still be accessible by the Jerusalem’s inhabitants even though it was besieged. In 1938, an American explorer by the name of Edward Robinson located this tunnel. This channel covers a distance of about 1750 feet and lies ≈ 100 feet below the surface. Here is a diagram showing a cut-out of the mountain:
In order to build the tunnel, laborers dug from each end and met in the middle in what is a great example of water engineering technology in the pre-Classical period.
The tunnel was commemorated shortly after its completion ( ≈ 701 BC) with an inscription that was found in 1880 about 30 feet away from the Pool of Siloam. Below are the remains of this inscription (which incidentally was broken at the time of removal). It now resides in the Istanbul Archeological Museum in Turkey…
This Siloam Inscription translates as follows:
The tunneling was completed… While the hewers wielded the ax, each man toward his fellow… there was heard a man’s voice calling to his fellow… the hewers hacked each toward the other, ax against ax, and the water flowed from the spring to the pool, a distance of 1,200 cubits…
Did You Know?
In 1830, British Colonel named Taylor was able to acquire an important artifact that had been excavated from the ruins of Assyria’s capital city of Nineveh. A six-sided hexagonal prism had been uncovered that was inscribed with Acadian writing. This dated to 689BC. It turned out to be the annals of King Sennacherib himself. On the Sennacherib Prism, as it would come to be known, he boasts about the siege of Jerusalem and how he was able to trap Judah’s King Hezekiah:
“(Hezekiah) himself, like a caged bird I shut up in Jerusalem, his royal city…I added to the former tribute, and I laid upon him the surrender of their land and imposts – gifts for majesty. As for Hezekiah, the terrifying splendor of my majesty overcame him…To pay tribute and to accept servitude, he dispatched his messengers.”
This prism confirmed the Biblical account. II Kings 18: 13 – 19: 37 and Isaiah 36: 1 – 37: 38 mention the Assyrian siege under Sennacherib. It is interesting that the prism never says that Jerusalem was taken by Assyria – again, this is in keeping with the Scripture. It just says that King Hezekiah agreed to pay tribute to Assyria. This too is consistent with the Bible (see II Kings 18: 13 – 16).