Water Systems of Ancient Jerusalem -- By: Bryant G. Wood

Journal: Bible and Spade (First Run)
Volume: BSP 04:2 (Spring 1975)
Article: Water Systems of Ancient Jerusalem
Author: Bryant G. Wood


Water Systems of Ancient Jerusalem

Bryant G. Wood

Water was one of the most important considerations in choosing a settlement site in antiquity. The city of Jerusalem was no exception. Its earliest inhabitants, the Jebusites, were no doubt attracted to the site by the generous supply of water provided by the Gihon Spring on the east side of the Hill Ophel.

Over the centuries of occupation at Jerusalem, efforts were made to make better use of and to protect the waters of Gihon, and to provide additional water from other sources. Reference is made at a number of places in the Bible to these water systems and the events associated with them. In this article we shall briefly survey the water systems of Jerusalem in Bible times and point out the biblical allusions to them.

Gihon Spring

Gihon means “gushing forth.” The name evidently stems from the fact that the spring flows intermittently from a natural cave — once or twice a day at the end of the dry season and four or five times a day after a rainy winter. Gradual filling of the Kidron Valley in which it is located has raised the ground level around the spring so that today it is reached by climbing down two flights of stairs.

The Jebusites built their city on the Hill Ophel just above the spring. In order to have access to the spring in time of seige, they chiseled a tunnel back into the hillside and then carved out a staircase and well shaft from above. When David captured the city, his men apparently gained entry through this water shaft (2 Samuel 5:6–10, see Bible and Spade, Autumn 1972, pp. 99-105).

When David grew old, he chose Solomon, son of Bathsheba, to be his heir. Following David’s instructions, Solomon was anointed at the Gihon Spring by Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet:

And King David said, “Call me Zadok the priest, and Nathan the prophet, and

Benaiah the son of Jehoiada.” And they came before the king. The king also said unto them, “Take with you the servants of your lord, and cause Solomon my son to ride upon mine own mule, and bring him down to Gihon and let Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anoint him there king over Israel and blow ye with the trumpet, and say, ‘God save king Solomon.’ Then ye shall come up after him, that he may come and sit upon my throne; for he shall be king in my stead and I have appointed him to be ruler over Israel and over Judah.” ...So Zadok the priest, and Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and the Cherethites, and the Pelethites, went down, and caused Solomon to ride upon king David’s mule, and broug...

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