« PreviousContinue »
There appears to have been a fountain of Gihon, somewhere in the valley, which supplied this pool, and which Hezekiah
stopped, with other fountains without the city, upon the approach of Sennacherib, as we read in the thirty-second chapter of 2 Chronicles; and it must have been at this pool that Rabshakeh uttered that insolent and blasphemous message from “the great king, the King of Assyria, to Hezekiah, King of Judah.'
That may be so, but there are now no indications of such a fountain, and the pool is entirely dependent upon the surface drainage of the surrounding region. It has been lately stated that at
i Isa. xxxvi. 1-22.
LOWER POOL OF GIHON.
one time a high-level canal from the Pools of Solomon brought water to this pool; and this is possible, though I could never discover any traces of such a canal.
The lower pool of Gihon, called by the Arabs Birket es Sultân, is but a short distance below, in the bed of the valley, directly south of the Jaffa Gate, and is supposed to be the one mentioned in Isaiah. Dr. Robinson ventures on its identification, however. He says, “ The probable identity of this tank with the lower pool of Isaiah xxii. 9 rests upon its relative position in respect to the upper pool just described, and upon the fact that no other reservoir is anywhere to be found to which this Scriptural name can so well be applied.” This reasoning is satisfactory only upon the assumption that Birket el Mamilla is certainly the upper pool of Gihon.
This Birket es Sultân is much larger than the upper pool, but in a more broken-down and dilapidated condition.
It is nearly six hundred feet long from north to south, with an average breadth of two hundred and fifty feet, and a depth of more than thirty feet at its northern end, and over forty feet at the south end. It occupies the entire width of the valley; and the bottom is the native rock, which descends rapidly southwards, so that the depth at the lower end is much greater than at the upper. Sultân Suleimân is said to have repaired it in the latter part of the sixteenth century, and from him it takes its present name. The canal from the Pools of Solomon does not enter this reservoir, but runs along the western wall, crosses the valley at its northern end, and thence turning south, it was conducted around the shoulder of Zion to the Temple area.
What was the urgent necessity for the construction of such immense open pools?
They were doubtless made after Jerusalem became the capital of the Hebrew nation and the centre of its religious worship. Their mere existence implies that there were even then no fountains or running brooks that could be relied upon to supply the wants of the multitude assembled here to keep the Passover and the other great feasts, including the numberless paschal lambs and other animals brought for sacrifice. These prodigious reservoirs, which, if in repair and filled, would far transcend the necessities of modern Jerusalem with her pilgrim crowds, corroborate the accounts of the numbers that came up here in ancient times to keep the feasts of the Lord.
This Birket es Sultân lies so low that the water from it could never have been taken into the city; and hence I suppose that it was largely used to irrigate gardens in the valleys of Hinnom and Jehoshaphat, especially where the two unite above the Well of Job. In that vicinity the valley has considerable width, and there are the only gardens to be found near Jerusalem. Some suppose that place to be the site of the king's dale; and the fact mentioned in 2 Samuel xviii. 18, that Absalom reared his pillar in the king's dale, seems to lend some countenance to the idea. Josephus tells us that Absalom erected for himself a marble pillar in the king's dale, two furlongs distant from Jerusalem, which he named Absalom's Hand.'
| Ant. vii. x. 3.