A visit to the City of David is not complete until you have waded through the waters of the incredible Hezekiah’s Tunnel. And while it does not rank as one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the tunnel is considered to be one of the most extraordinary feats of engineering—particularly during an era when the modern tools of the time would have been viewed as primitive today. It remains an enduring monument to ingenuity.
Discovered in 1838 by famed archaeologist and biblical scholar Edward Robinson, the tunnel’s beginnings were birthed approximately 2,700 years ago (around 710 BC), when Hezekiah was king of Judah, and the Assyrian army under Sennacherib was poised to sack Jerusalem because Hezekiah refused to pay him tribute (2 Kings 18:7). In a strategic move to secure Jerusalem’s main water source, the Gihon Spring, Hezekiah devised a plan to redirect the water’s flow to inside the city walls, thus preventing the Assyrians from using it.
It was Hezekiah who blocked the upper outlet of the Gihon spring and channeled the
water down to the west side of the City of David.
2 Chronicles 32:30
The roughly 1,750-foot tunnel was painstakingly constructed by cutting through solid bedrock by laborers digging from both ends and miraculously meeting in the middle. Scientists and engineers are still confounded by how the tunnel was made so perfectly. According to an inscription—known as the Siloam Inscription—discovered inside the tunnel in 1880, it details how the work began and ended, but nothing is mentioned about the length of time needed to complete the massive project. Experts have suggested it took anywhere from nine months to four years to complete. The inscription was removed and taken to Turkey in 1891, during the Ottoman Empire. It is now on display in the Istanbul Archaeology Museum.
Visitors can experience this same tunnel and wade—sometimes waist-high—in the ancient waters of the Gihon. Tours can last about three hours, and water shoes and flashlights are required.