Day 5 – City of David
Saul was the first king of Israel. And after him came David. He defeated the Jebusites and took over their fortress in Jerusalem and called it the City of David. (2 Samuel 5:6-10) That’s where we visited today!
Ariel calls this day of our trip the “Beginnings of Jerusalem.” We go back in time BEFORE the Temple Mount was built, before there was a wall with gates.
If you could picture the Temple Mount as the top of someone’s head and that head is looking south, Ariel would describe the City of David as the nose of the face. It slopes downward toward the south.
David walled his City to fortify it, and some of those walls still exist today.
The City of David is on a ridge that has the Kidron Valley to the east and the Valley of the Cheese Makers (because it lined the poorer section of Jerusalem, whose inhabitants were called the cheese makers) to the west.
When I saw a model of the City of David in relationship to the Temple Mount, it reminded me of the Florida Peninsula…if that helps.
Today the City of David is mostly neighborhoods, so it was difficult to distinguish where we were, but with the help of maps, pictures, and explanations, the pieces of the puzzle began falling into place. I think.
We pulled into an area that had signs saying “City of David,” but it looked more like a garden spot with a gift shop. Upon further inspection, however, I realized that UNDER all that was an archaeological site where parts of the wall and two tunnels exist. We followed a natural shaft DOWN into the earth, under what would have been the city walls, to the Gihon Spring. From there, two tunnels led to the Siloam Pool, which was inside the walls.
Confused yet? Maybe with some history it’ll make a little more sense. Maybe.
In the days of Israelite King Hezekiah, word got to Jerusalem that the Assyrians were going to attack the city. Hezekiah knew the importance of water to his people, so the Gihon Spring became a focal point as Jerusalem prepped for the coming invasion. (see 2 Kings 20:20, 2 Chronicles 32:1-5)
The Jebusites that David conquered LONG before had constructed a tunnel from the Spring, but it no longer functioned, so Hezekiah commissioned the building of a new tunnel that would redirect the spring water to the city so that Jerusalem would have a water source that could not be cut off or poisoned when under siege.
To this day both tunnels exist. The brave ones in our group took the “wet” Hezekiah tunnel to the Pool of Siloam; the rest of us took the “dry,” much shorter Jebusite tunnel. The Pool itself doesn’t really exist anymore, but we were able to imagine what it would have been like as we sat on the steps that had led to it.
Some famous biblical events that happened at the Pool of Siloam: Solomon was anointed as King of Israel after David at the Pool (1 Kings 1:32-40), and Jesus healed a man after he washed in the Pool (John 9:7).
Let me just say that Hezekiah and his men were able to dig this 1,750 foot tunnel by starting at either end, chiseling out BEDROCK a few inches at a time, and meet in the middle. Perfectly. In 701 BC. Incredible!
I mentioned that the City of David is mostly residential. Well, it’s an Arab neighborhood called Silwan, Arabic for Siloam! As we left the City of David I saw that name spray painted on a wall. I think they were claiming their village!
From there we went to a church, Church of St. Peter of Gallicantu, built on the spot where the High Priest, Caiaphas, of Jesus’ day had lived and where the disciple, Peter, denied Christ the night of His arrest. The church and its grounds were absolutely beautiful.
The church was built in 1931, and its name, “gallicantu,” means “cock-crow” in Latin. In Matthew 26:74, Peter fulfills Jesus’ prediction that he would deny Jesus three times that night before the cock crowed. And Peter did.
Under the church were some caves that had served in the Roman era as water cisterns, baths, and cellars. One of these seemed more of a pit. Tradition has it that after Jesus’ arrest, He was throw into that very pit under Caiaphas’ house.
Our group squeezed into that pit while our pastor read Psalm 88. For many in our group, it was a deeply moving experience. Imagining our Christ thrown into that deep, cold place was more than most of us could fathom.
After reading the Psalm, our pastor reminded us that we face “pits” of our own every day. And while we may feel alone, in the dark, God never leaves us, never casts us aside. No matter what.
It was a great reminder of the grace we live under.
Our next stop was the Israel Museum. It held two important features that we spent all our time on: the model of Jerusalem and the Shrine of the Book.
When I heard “model,” I thought it would be a nice glass-encased toothpick model of the city. What I didn’t expect was a nearly true-to-life limestone model that was a 50:1 replica of the city at the time of Jesus. The model was the creation of a professor from the Hebrew University before all of our recent excavation discoveries, so much of his model came from older histories and his imagination.
Amazingly, he got most of it right.
And I can’t begin to tell you how very helpful it was to see the big picture all at once. We moved clockwise from the east, Temple Mount, side all the way around with Ariel pointing out much of what we’d already seen, giving us great perspective and filling in some of our “blanks” as we went.
Also at the Museum was a special building, called Shrine of the Book, dedicated to the Dead Sea Scrolls, which are ancient animal skins with original Hebrew writing — scrolls containing all but two books of the entire Old Testament. These scrolls date back to the 1st and 2nd centuries BC, the oldest manuscripts on record. Their discovery has had significant impact on the Jewish and Christian churches because they offer further historical support for the Bible.
The scrolls were found in large alabaster jars with chocolate-chip-shaped lids. The fantastic thing about this Shrine was that it was built to feel as if you’ve walked into one of those alabaster jars. Rounded walls. A giant scroll handle pointing upward toward the chocolate-chip-shaped “lid” (ceiling). Fascinating. Amazing.
Today’s adventures don’t end here! Join in for our Jeep ride through the Judean Desert in the next post!