• Bible Passages

LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL

Updated: Jun 2

By John W. Moore (Bible Passages)


Bending down in order to enter the four foot, nine-inch-tall opening to Hezekiah’s tunnel was a little disconcerting. As I entered, cold water rushed around my knees and continued its gradual flow along the small plastered walkway for the entire course of the shaft. The passageway was dark and cramped, my shoulders often scraping along the wall, and in many places the rock

Mat Cain in Hezekiah's Tunnel during a Bible Land Passages filming expedition.

ceiling was so low that it caused me to make nearly half of the trek in a slightly stooped position. Visitor traffic runs only one way, and if you stop to take photos and observe points of interest along the way, this 580-yard walk through history can take up to 45 minutes before you once again see the light of day. Illuminated only by the narrow beam of a single flashlight, I could see and feel the chisel marks made by workers nearly 2,700 years ago. It was as if I had been transported back in time to the days of one of Judah’s greatest kings. As I walked the path of one of Jerusalem’s oldest public works projects, I marveled at how ancient laborers and engineers could have achieved such a marvelous feat.


Siloam Inscription [1]

Designed to channel water from the Gihon spring to within the city walls of Jerusalem, Hezekiah’s tunnel is an engineering marvel cut through the hard limestone rock of a high hill known today as the spur of Ophel. Approximately halfway through, the tunnel widens and makes a crooked hairpin turn that was created when two ancient excavation teams, digging from opposite ends, finally met—having missed a planned rendezvous by mere yards. [2]A record of that meeting and the details surrounding it were inscribed in Hebrew on the tunnel wall near its west entrance. The account is known as the Siloam Inscription, and is today proudly displayed in an Istanbul museum.

Replica of Siloam Inscription: Discovery made below the Arabic town of Silwan.

A replica of the inscription is situated near to where the original was discovered, and as I ran my fingers across the place where that inscription was once found, I could not help but think of the various men and women of the Bible who, for many years after the tunnel’s construction, refreshed themselves in the water it provided. I’ve also considered how we today are blessed by its construction as we consider its testimony to the existence of the nation of Judah, and to the refreshing evidence of the Bible’s reliability.


The Bible’s Accuracy

The construction of this ancient tunnel was commissioned by biblical King Hezekiah some 700 years before the birth of Christ. It was built at a time when the borders of Israel and Judah were being threatened by neighboring countries. Judah, under Hezekiah’s capable leadership, built a reservoir and tunnel to bring water inside the walls of its capital city Jerusalem (2 Ki. 2:20; 2 Ch. 32:3-4, 30). Damming up the Gihon spring outside the city wall and channeling the water through the tunnel served two purposes: it ensured a constant drinking source for the city's inhabitants during any possible forthcoming siege, and it made the drinking water inaccessible to enemies. The preparation paid off when, in the late eighth century B.C., the Assyrian monarch Sennacherib moved through and conquered most of Palestine, encircling Jerusalem and caging it like a bird. He ultimately failed to conquer Jerusalem or weaken its inhabitants, in part because they had a flourishing water supply and could remain indefinitely within the city walls. Jerusalem and the nation of Judah had trusted in the plan of God and were spared, but the nation of Israel to the north was taken captive.

The tunnel on the right leads to Warren's Shaft, and the alleged access point of King David's men when conquering the city from the Jebusites.

The testimony of the ancient tunnel is one among many examples where the Bible and archaeology coincide, giving us detailed and specific information that is verifiable even 2700 years later. Not only does the tunnel exist, just like the book of 2 Kings reveals, but the Bible

accurately pinpoints its location as well. Second Chronicles 32:30 cites the flow of the water from east to west and places its pooling area west of the city of David. On the northeastern slope of this partially excavated ancient city, the tunnel begins at the Gihon Spring and winds its way to a location on the western side of the spur of Ophel. In 2004, on the southwestern side of Ophel, a pool was discovered and identified by archaeologists Eli Shukron and Ronny Reich as having existed in the time of Christ (and was most likely the pool mentioned in John 9). While the extant pool is much newer than the tunnel, it can be surmised that a similar pool from Hezekiah’s time once existed in the same site, and was thus the terminal point for the water being channeled through the mountain.

The testimony of the ancient tunnel is one among many examples where the Bible and archaeology coincide, giving us detailed and specific information that is verifiable even 2700 years later.

A Light to Guide the Way

As I made my way past where the Siloam inscription had been discovered, I soon began to see light at the end of the tunnel, as well as the steps that led to a Byzantine reservoir. Emerging from the tunnel’s exit gave me a bit of relief knowing that I wasn’t going to be trapped (nor the object of some major rescue operation to be broadcast world-wide.) The open air and the light shining around the concrete benches of that Byzantine pool were comforting and gave me a chance to sit and think about the magnitude of what I had experienced. I hadn’t just read about history; I had also experienced it, and what I discovered on that day has been far more comforting.


The light of biblical truth supported by the discovery of Hezekiah’s tunnel has served to deepen my faith and resolve. Its existence, along with numerous other sites and artifacts, testify to many of the accounts, places, and events in Scripture. The Bible is clearly rooted in history. It isn’t fictional, nor are its heroes mythological. The evidence of archaeology, the proofs of fulfilled prophecy, and the unique traits of a superior literary work which exhibits the marks of divine inspiration, all coalesce into a powerful argument for demonstrating the veracity of scripture. Because the prophecy of scripture can be confirmed and its facts of history verifiable, we can believe its message of redemption and hope. Its light has permeated a world of darkness and illuminated our way to life everlasting—the light at the end of tunnel.


Photo Courtesy of Bible Land Passages, World Video Bible School, and Doug Garner


[1] The ancient Hebrew text reads as follows: 1) [. . .] the tunneling. And this is the narrative of the tunneling: While [the stone-cutters were wielding]; (2) the picks, each toward his co-worker,the picks, each toward his coworker, and while there were still three cubits to tunnel through, the voice of a man was heard calling out; (3) to his co-worker, because there was a fissure in the rock, running from south [to north]. And on the (final) day of; (4) tunneling, each of the stonecutters was striking (the stone) forcefully so as to meet his co-worker, pick after pick. And ; (5) then the water began to flow from the source to the pool, a distance of 1200 cubits. And 100; (6) cubits was the height of the rock above the head of the stone-cutters.


[2] “Sound Proof: How Hezekiah Tunnelers Met” https://www.baslibrary.org/biblical-archaeology-review/34/5/13