“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” -Matthew 23:37 ESV
Summary: Today we went to the city of David (ancient Jerusalem) where we sloshed through a wet tunnel built by Hezekiah. Afterwards, we visited the nearby Ophel, the name of the area that had stairs leading up to the Temple Mount. We then crossed the old city of Jerusalem to visit the garden tomb. Since it is Friday, everything closes a little early so that Jews can prepare for Sabbath, which starts at sundown.
City of David: We started the day in the part of Jerusalem called the “city of David.” In David’s time, Jerusalem was small. This original section is an archeological park immediately below the Temple area. The city sat on a hill with the Kidron valley on one side, the Hinnom valley on the other and large hills on both sides of the valleys. One of the hills is called the “Hill of offense” where solomon set up temples to false gods. Many Psalms used this geography for inspiration.
“Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever. As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people, from this time forth and forevermore.” – Psalms 125:1-2 ESV
They have found evidence of the royal palace at the top of the ancient city. The side of the city has a large stepped structure that is the largest Iron Age structure that has been found, which would have supported the palace. One of the more unique finds is a toilet seat (only the upper class had these). They also found seal impressions used to stamp warm wax used to seal scrolls. 55 Hebrew names have been found. One of those had the name Gemeriah son of Shaphan.
“Then, in the hearing of all the people, Baruch read the words of Jeremiah from the scroll, in the house of the Lord, in the chamber of Gemariah the son of Shaphan the secretary, which was in the upper court, at the entry of the New Gate of the Lord ‘s house.” – Jeremiah 36:10 ESV
Hezekiah’s Tunnel: King Hezekiah fortified Jerusalem ahead of Sennacherib’s invasion . He tore down houses to build walls and dug a tunnel to secure a water supply within the walls. Archeologists uncovered numerous section of his wall which went right through houses and also found the water system he installed. We walked through the tunnel, which has about a foot of water in the bottom of it. The prophet Isaiah rebuked him for trusting in military might rather than God.
“and you saw that the breaches of the city of David were many. You collected the waters of the lower pool, and you counted the houses of Jerusalem, and you broke down the houses to fortify the wall. You made a reservoir between the two walls for the water of the old pool. But you did not look to him who did it, or see him who planned it long ago.” – Isaiah 22:9-11 ESV
The tunnel rerouted water from the spring outside the city wall inside the wall. After emerging from the tunnel, we were at the lower pool, called the pool of Siloam in the New Testament. John chapter 9 shares an miracle that took place here. Jesus healed a man born blind. The religious leaders refused to understand the sign and did a series of interrogations, concluding without evidence that the man was a sinner. The man replies “Though I was blind, now I see.” The point is that it was the Pharisees who were the blind ones in the story, failing to see the sign.
The Ophel: After walking out of the city of David, we next walked to the ophel, an archaeological park along the Southern portion of the Retaining wall built by Herod the Great to expand the Temple Mount. The retaining wall of the Temple Mount is very impressive. The largest stone found is estimated to be 570 tons and is still in place. John 2:20 says it took 46 years to build the temple. We learned about the temple while sitting on the stairs leading up to the gates of the temple looking over the city of David below. There are 15 steps and 15 psalms of ascent which are thought to have been sung from each step as people would make their ascent. Cheerio enjoyed ascending the steps!!
The Garden Tomb:
We pushed and shoved our way through the Muslim quarter of the old city out the Damascus gate as about 30,000 Muslims were leaving noon prayer on the Temple Mount which made for an amazing sea of people! Just outside, we came to the garden tomb, a nice place to reflect on the crucifixion and resurrection. While the archeology does not point to this being the location of Biblical events, it is a beautiful place to reflect. It was discovered by a man named Charles Gordon who loved the Bible and was staying with his friend Horacio Spafford, the author of the hymn “it is well with my soul,” who lived across the street. From his window, he saw a mountain that looked like a skull. The place was called “hill of the skull”(ie Golgotha) by the locals. They raised money and purchased the land and explored it, finding an enormous cistern (holds 1 million liters of water) which would have been used for irrigation, a wine press which supported agriculture, and a tomb carved out of rock, with a trough for a rock to roll in front of the entrance, and a single spot in the tomb that was used. We looked inside and nobody was in the tomb…
Hike the Good Hike!
Sherpa and Porter (and Cheerio)