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lem. There is no exaggeration amongst Biblical writers with regard to these matters. Indeed, the whole reading world has been surprised at the revelations made by those excavations, and one can only regret that Turkish jealousy and Moslem fanaticism rendered it impossible to carry the explorations farther in some of the most important localities.
Captain Warren established, amongst other discoveries, the important fact that a valley cut across the north-eastern corner of the Haram area, and descended into the valley of the Kidron-from which it is evident that originally the Temple area was an isolated crag or rocky saddle of no great extent; and, further, that Birket Isrâil—the so-called pool of Bethesda—which now looks like an immense fosse to defend the northern end of the area, occupies, in part at least, the bed of this ravine.
There is no reason to suppose that this deep fosse has any connection with that pool of Bethesda so familiar to all from the interesting incident in the history of our Lord recorded in the fifth chapter of John: “Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market [or gate'] a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had. And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years. When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole? The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me. Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk. And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked : and on the same day was the sabbath."2
Birket Isrâîl has received the name of the pool of Bethesda on account of its proximity to St. Stephen's Gate, supposed to occupy the site of the sheep market, or gate by the pool; but it remains : Neh. iii. 1 ; xii. 39.
John v. 1-16.
BIRKET ISRÂÎL.-FORTRESS OF ANTONIA.
509 to be shown that the present Bâb el Ŭsbât is St. Stephen's Gate, and whether this in its turn was the Sheep Gate - all of which identifications are not believed to be correct.
Birket Isrâîl deserves attention on its own account. It was an immense reservoir, three hundred and sixty feet long from east to west, one hundred and thirty wide, and at present it is over seventy feet deep to the rubbish which has accumulated at the bottom. We will not discuss the various theories that have been advocated regarding it. I think it highly probable, however, that it was part of the system of defence connected with the Tower of Antonia, and may have been in part a fosse, and also a reservoir of water for the use of the Roman garrison. It now rarely contains water, but formerly it may have been filled, for it has a lining of cement and small stones upon the sides and on the bottom. At the south-west corner it has two arched vaults extending westwards under the modern houses of the city. Captain Warren found that the southern vault terminates at a wall of masonry one hundred and thirtyfour feet from the entrance; but the northern vault opens, at a distance of one hundred and eighteen feet, into a small arched passage running north and south. This gives to the whole-pool and vaults-an extreme length of nearly five hundred feet.
The present Sarâya, or governor's residence, with its square tower and gloomy vault spanning the Via Dolorosa, where it begins its winding course at the traditional house of Pilate, is supposed to occupy the extreme north-west angle of the fortress of Antonia.
It is plain, from various notices in Josephus, that that fortress, with its courts and camps, occupied a part of the northern area of the Haram ; but how large a portion of it is not easily determined. It must, however, have extended quite across the area, from east to west, if the immense reservoir or moat now called Birket Isrâîl was connected with it as its defensive fosse. Nearly all we know about it is from Josephus, who describes it as a quadrangular fortress, erected first by the Maccabees, and called Baris, and afterwards rebuilt by Herod with great strength and splendor.
He says it was “a rock fifty cubits high, which Herod covered over with smooth pieces of stone from its foundation, both for ornament, and that any one who would either try to get up or go down