The History of the Identification of Hezekiah’s Pool, the City of David, Gihon, and Akra

It came upon me today to discover the history of this mystery: how was the location of the City of David and its corresponding features moved?

Hezekiah’s Pool was originally identified with what was identified since 70 AD as the Pool of Siloam. Even in 1684, and 1797, this simple fact was still remembered, largely due to the influence of the Peshitta and the Rabbis. However, in the early 19th century, things began to change for error. This error was the Byzantine placing of Zion, that is, the City of David, not, as in fact, in the now-called City of David, but somewhere on the southwestern hill. This led to the misidentification of David’s Palace (now transferred to Herod’s palace) and, correspondingly, the transfer of Gihon to the cisterns of Sultan and Mamilla as, correspondingly, the Lower and Upper pools of Gihon (cf. 2 Chron 32:30). Correspondingly, Akra (placed by Josephus on the hill between the City of David and the Temple Mount) was identified with the eastern end of the hill of the Christian Quarter. The Virgin’s Fountain (the true Gihon, see Jerusalem page for more info) was identified with En Rogel, and correspondingly, the Valley of Kidron with the Valley of Hinnom (although, due to the plain statements of scripture, it was still common to identify the Hinnom with the valley to the south and west of Jerusalem). The Pool of Hezekiah was misidentified with the Towers Pool (Pool of the Holy Sepulchre, see Jerusalem Page of this blog), even though there was no below-ground conduit leading from the Birket Mamilla to the pool. The minority view the then-thought Siloam pool was that of Hezekiah was still preserved. The “western” theory persisted mostly uncriticized until the 1870s, and only really began to take off after June 1880, when the so-called “Siloam Inscription” was discovered. While this inscription added to the credibility of the Virgin’s Fountain as Gihon, some proclaimed that, since Isaiah 8:6 refers to Siloam as a symbol of the waters of Jerusalem before Hezekiah, the “western” interpretation should still be upheld. Others, while accepting the identity of the Virgin’s Fount with Gihon, also accepted its identity with En Rogel (an identification which was later discarded in favor of Bir ‘Ayyub). However, the Isaiah 8:6 objection was answered when Channel 2, of Middle Bronze Date, was found leading from the Virgin’s Well to the pool of Birket el-Hamra, the actual Pool of Siloam, in 1901. The latest (Herodian) masonry of this pool was only exposed in 2004. Due to the fine arguments from the fact En Rogel (“the foot treader’s [fuller’s] spring”) was at the south border of Benjamin, and the fact the root word behind “Gihon” strongly implied the Gihon was not Isaiah’s Shiloah, but a spring, eventually, after plenty of convincing throughout the 1890s and 1900s, the present interpretation was accepted as fact.

Author: pithom

An atheist with an interest in the history of the ancient Near East. Author of the Against Jebel al-Lawz Wordpress blog.

Read the Comment Policy Before Commenting.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: