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Pool of Siloam

Siloam (See also wiki article Siloam.)

SILOAM - The name survives in Silwan, the village on the steep E. slopes of the Kidron Valley stretching from opposite 'the Virgin's Fountain' (Gihon) to near Bir Ayyub (En-rogel). The whole of the N. part of the village has been built upon in ancient times, and the whole area is riddled with cave-dwellings, cisterns, rock-cut steps and tombs, among which one, the defaced inscription of which intimates that it was that of a royal chamberlain and his slave-wife, may be that of the official Shebna, whose presumption in having such a tomb prepared for himself Isaiah (22.15ff) stigmatizes. It may be considered as certain that in NT times there was a considerable village here. The 'tower' which fell (Lk.13.4) may have been a building similar to many today built on the edge of the precipitous rocks above the Kidron. The source of the famous 'Pool of Siloam' is the above-mentioned 'Virgin's Fountain,' known to local Moslems as 'Ain ed-Daraj ('the Spring of the Stairway') see GIHON. In 1867 Warren discovered a vertical shaft on the E. slope of the Ophel Hill leading down to a tunnel which connected with the spring in the Kidron Valley, thus making water accessible from the shelter of the city wall. This work and other tunnels at Megiddo, Gezer, and Gibeon no doubt reflect the insecurity in Palestine on the eve of the Iron Age c 1200. A later development is a channel which follows the contour on the E. slope of Ophel, sometimes under the rock, but more often open, until it debouches into an open pool, the city cesspool in Turkish times, but now dry, called Birket el-Hamra, in the depression between the Ophel and the W. hill of Jerusalem. This work, rather for irrigation than drinking, was practicable only in the security of Solomon's reign. This, rather than the Pool of Siloam, may be 'the canalized water' (EV 'waters of Shiloah') of Is.8.6, Birket el-Hamra, insofar as it actually adjoined the city wall, being the 'Pool of Shiloah' (AV Siloah; RV, RSV Shelah) of Neh.3.15, and 'the King's Pool' of Neh.2.14.

The water supply under this arrangement being vulnerable, Hezekiah 'stopped the upper water-course of Gihon and brought it straight down to the west side of the city of David' (2 Ch.32.30; cf 32.4, 2 K.20.20), this being the famous Siloam tunnel. This runs in an extraordinary serpentine course for 1700 ft., debouching in the Tyropoeon Valley under the name of 'Ain Silwan ('the Spring of Siloam') to feed Birket Silwan, the Pool of Siloam. Close to the lower opening of the tunnel was found in 1880 a Hebrew inscription giving an account of the completion of the work, but not naming its author, who was nevertheless probably Hezekiah.

The original Pool of Siloam, of which the present birkeh occupies but a part, was excavated by Bliss, and proved to have been a rock-cut reservoir 71 ft. N. to S. by 75 ft. E. to W. A covered arcade, 12 ft. wide had been built, probably about NT times, round the four sides of the pool, and a division ran across the centre to separate the sexes when bathing. Such was probably the condition of the pool at the events described in Jn.9.7. The water of 'Ain Silwan, like that of its source (Gihon), is naturally brackish and impregnated with sewage; it runs intermittently, a feature which may be indicated in the name of its source, Gihon ('Gusher'). [Article: Dictionary of the Bible, J.Hastings, 2nd Ed., T&T.Clark, 1963 - E.W.G.M. - J.Gr.]