Hunting for the Biblical Pool of Siloam from Hezekiah’s time
Where is the original Siloam Pool, the water pool that fed Jerusalem in the First Temple period and is mentioned in the Bible (2 Kings 20:20; 2 Chronicles 32:2–4)? Although the Second Temple-period Siloam Pool—which appears in John 9 where Jesus heals a blind man—was discovered in 2004, the earlier Siloam Pool remains unknown. BAR Editor Hershel Shanks investigated a possible location for the Biblical Pool of Siloam from King Hezekiah’s time in the article “The Pool of Siloam Has Been Found, but Where Is the Pool of Siloam?” published in the January/February 2017 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.
What do we know about the original Siloam Pool? In the Bible, we see that this pool was constructed during King Hezekiah’s reign in the late eighth century B.C.E. It sat inside the city’s walls at the end of the Siloam Tunnel, which is also attributed to Hezekiah in the Bible (2 Kings 20:20). The tunnel connected the Siloam Pool with the Gihon Spring, Jerusalem’s main water source that was outside the city’s walls. Hezekiah built the tunnel and pool in response to the threat of an attack by the Assyrian monarch Sennacherib (2 Chronicles 32:2–4). The new water system brought water from the Gihon Spring safely inside the city, so that the inhabitants of Jerusalem would have ready access to water even during a siege.
Archaeology has not yet uncovered this Siloam Pool—the Biblical Pool of Siloam from King Hezekiah’s time. However, the second Siloam Pool—the later Second Temple-period pool that also appears in the Bible—has been unearthed. This pool was discovered in 2004 southeast of where the Siloam Tunnel empties into yet another pool (the third Siloam Pool; see below). The second Siloam Pool is the location of the Biblical miracle from John 9, where Jesus heals a man who had been blind since birth. Jesus spits on the ground, makes mud and puts this mud on the man’s eyes. Then he tells him to wash in the Pool of Siloam. In the Bible it records that after washing in the Siloam Pool, the man receives his sight.
A third Siloam Pool dates to the Byzantine period. The construction of this pool as well as that of the Church of Siloam just north of the pool are generally attributed to the empress Eudocia in the fifth century C.E. Located at the end of the Siloam Tunnel, the third Siloam Pool was built to commemorate the miracle from John 9—since the earlier two pools were already covered up by this time.
Although no one definitively knows the location of the first Siloam Pool, several archaeologists have suggested possibilities. BAR Editor Hershel Shanks adds to the chorus, proposing that the original Siloam Pool is underneath the second Pool of Siloam or possibly in the orchard located south of the second pool. The only way to determine if this location is correct would be to dig some probes, and only time will tell if that is a possibility.
To read more about the hunt for the original Siloam Pool, read “The Pool of Siloam Has Been Found, but Where Is the Pool of Siloam?” by Hershel Shanks in the January/February 2017 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.
This Bible History Daily feature was originally published on January 23, 2017.
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