The Real Siloam will Open

Visitors to Hezekiah's Tunnel usually enter it at the Virgin's Fountain, on the east side of the Ophel Hill, then follow the flow of water until at last they see a gleam of light ahead. Shortly after that - if they know what to look for - they can see the rectangular hole from which the Siloam Inscription was removed by a crooked antiques dealer not long after it was discovered. Then, only about 40' further on, they climb out of the tunnel mouth and into the Pool of Siloam.

The supposed Pool of Siloam
A view of the supposed Pool of Siloam from the exit of Hezekiah's Tunnel.

The pool is a rectangular hole in the ground with a broad pavement on the left and half a dozen pillar bases submerged in the water on the right. You squelch along the pavement to allow room for those behind you to emerge, then awkwardly change into dry shoes (if you brought any) before climbing the steps up 30' to the present ground level, from where you can take your photographs of the famous pool where Jesus healed the man born blind.

After that you walk down into the Kidron Valley, past a depression in the ground where there is a large fig tree growing and, apparently, in good health. If you have the misfortune to be with one of the less scrupulous guides, you will be told that this is the fig tree which Jesus cursed.

I don't know how many miles of Kodachrome have been expended on this pool over the years - and I confess I've contributed my share to Kodak's fortunes, however some thirty years ago work needed to be done on a water pipe which crossed this depression and, naturally, archaeologists were called in. To their astonishment they found one side of a large rectangular pool, with three or four steps going down into what had once been water, no doubt from Hezekiah's Tunnel. Coins found in the fill as well as the style of the architecture left them in no doubt that this was from the Roman period, before the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 and therefore this, not the pool higher up the slope, was the pool to which Jesus sent the blind man. That pool has been redated to the Crusader period!

The real Pool of Siloam
The real Pool of Siloam as it was first uncovered by the archaeologists.

For a long time only this one side of the pool was visible. The owner of the depression was unwilling to lose his garden and its fig tree. However it has just been announced that the Israeli authorities are going to excavate the whole of the pool and open it to visitors - a time scale for this opening has not been provided, but I would suggest that it will be several years. Exactly how the former owner has been induced to make the garden available is also not clear - I can but hope that ethical means were employed.

Archaeologists expect to uncover a large pool with colonnades ringing it - a typical Roman amenity. They have also discovered remains of a broad road leading up from the pool to the temple mount and suggest that this was a pilgrim route. If it dates from the time of Christ it means that Jesus was not as mean and unreasonable as has sometimes been supposed in sending a blind man through the narrow streets and down a steep slope followed by a narrow staircase to a little pool. Instead the man was sent along a broad, familiar route to a pool that was easy to access, without any danger of falling from the narrow staircase or tipping into the deep water of the pool.

The only question is why Jesus should have used this complicated method of healing the man, the only incident on record in which He did not heal immediately and by a simple command. John, who tells the story in the ninth chapter of his gospel, notes that it was the Sabbath day and also describes the furore from the legalistic pharisees when the man was healed. It is clear that the healing was a sensation, so it is no wonder that Jesus decided to build a delay into the miracle, during which He could tactfully absent Himself. It was only some time later that Jesus found the man again and revealed Himself to him.

I wonder what has happened to the fig tree? And will visitors be able to wash their eyes in the pool or will it remain dry?

© Kendall K. Down 2023