Part 2 of a Conference Discourse
Where does the water for the Spring actually originate as it is not dependant on rainwater falling on the sides of the mountain? Keep in mind that while Jesus Christ is like the Gihon Spring from which flows the river of waters of life, Almighty God is the Originator and Ultimate Source, the Fountain of all matter and life. The Spring is thought to be connected to a deeper natural reservoir in the heart of Mt.Ophel and Mt.Zion, and fed by a never-failing stream flowing under Mt.Moriah, the Temple Hill, the Mount of God.
"The streams from God is full of water" says Psalm 65:9, they never fail, never dry up, for with you is the "well of life" the 'fountain' or the 'source' of life (Ps.36:8,9). God is the "fountain of living water" (Jer.2:13; 17:13; see Ps.107:33,35; 114:8). "All my springs are in you" (Ps.87:7 NKJ). God is The Source and Cause.
That Jesus Christ is the everlasting channel of living water, having its ultimate Source with the Almighty Life-Giver and is graphically portrayed in the gospel of John chapter nine involving the Pool of Siloam. But before we can describe what happened King Hezekiah has to set the scene.
Solomon engineered two water systems, one for the city, one for the Temple, and it was his and God's provision of water, which completely transformed a small town into a city of famed magnificence. Hezekiah added a third. It was added out of necessity. Solomon's reign was one of peace, and although he surrounded the city with a double wall, having inner and outer gates, he was not concerned about being attacked. Jerusalem's only source of water was relatively exposed.
One of Solomon's engineering feats was to run a surface canal from the Gihon Spring to the south of the city, outside the city walls, forming Solomon's Pool (Old or Lower Pool; Jos.War.v.4,2; Is.8:6; 22:9,11), and water for the Royal Gardens (1 Kings 15:4; Neh.3:13; Eccl.3:13. See p.39 Underground Jerusalem). But the SE section of the city was the most vulnerable part of its defences. It was vulnerable as far as attack was concerned, for it not only exposed the source of waters, the system lay outside the city walls' protection. Solomon's rule was the Golden Days of the Kingdom, but the eighth and ninth centuries were periods of peril for Israel and Judah. Assyria rose to power, its kings having territorial ambitions. The threat came in a series of waves with each new ruler, culminating in the Northern Kingdom of Israel being taken into captivity after a three-year struggle (2 Kings 18:9,10), and its territory completely annexed by Assyria. This brought the threat very close to Jerusalem for the southern boundary of Israel was about 20 miles north of Jerusalem.
A series of ebbs and flows in Assyrian advances then led to the campaign against Judah by Sennacherib (described in 2 Ch. 32, 2 Kings 18 and 19, and Is. 36 and 37; see Ecclesiasticus 48:17). It was a campaign that reached right up to the walls of Jerusalem, right up to their necks. Hezekiah was able to postpone the siege for about ten years by paying a tribute to Sennacherib (2 Kings 18:13-16; 2 Kings 19:8,9).
During the intervening time he went to work sealing off the opening to the Gihon Spring, blocking and burying its opening with great trouble, also stopping the flow of water from the Spring to the south of the city, that could also be used as an access. It was the only Fountain of Jerusalem, it had to be hidden. It could not just be sealed over like a well for it was a source of running water, it had also to be diverted or it would overflow. The result was Hezekiah's Tunnel. Only then did they repair the Eastern wall protecting the inner access to the water source. Hezekiah's intention was to starve the Assyrians of water during the second invasion (Is.36:2) stating, "Why should they come here and find all this water" (2 Ch.32:2-5).
There is no record of Jerusalem ever having lacked water. In fact it was the besiegers who were apt to want water not the besieged. This was the case here, lack of water would lead to desperate measures resulting in drinking contaminated surface water disastrously leading to disease outbreak. This was Hezekiah's intention, for the Assyrian army could well have taken Jerusalem, but not if they were weakened by disease.
The only other sources of water from the Spring were within the cities walls, and as an act of faith Hezekiah left them untouched, and at this point an angel stepped in and checkmated the invaders, destroying the rest of the Assyrian army. Hezekiah's
Tunnel led water from the Spring to a hewn out cistern called the Pool of Siloam (Upper Pool; Is.7:3). The tunnel is 1,750 feet long, an impressive engineering feat cut through solid rock, and a remarkable achievement of technical skill for Jerusalem's early engineers. The Pool was originally underground, for the construction of an extension to Jerusalem's walls would give the game away (2 Kings 20:20; 2 Ch.32:30; 33:14; see Bible Study Monthly July/August 2000, The Siloam Inscription).
When eventually a twenty-three feet thick wall did enclose the Pool it was opened and became another of Jerusalem's ground Pools, from which people could draw water, and bathe in, because all water from the Spring had curative powers, full of mineral riches (2 Ch.32:5; Is.22:9-11).
The underground corridor, a conduit from the Gihon Spring, transported water form the Eastern valley to the Western valley, feeding the Pool of Siloam. It also had an overflow used to irrigate the Royal, the Kings gardens and agricultural plots just outside the city southern limits. It was this Pool of Siloam that featured in a man's miraculous cure in John 9, the day after the Feast of Tabernacles, a festival having vital connections with water (see John 9:1-7).
We know that the way Jesus often performed cures was often wholly unnecessary to him for the actual healing. At times it was to assist the faith of the person being cured, and certainly it was with compassion upon the person (Mk.7:33; 8:23), also at times to help others who would witness the cure. And it is interesting to note that Jesus told the man born blind, to wash in the pool of Siloam, John drawing vital attention to the fact in verse seven that the word Siloam means 'Sent forth', and is itself derived from a verb 'to send' (Gen.49:10). Siloam derived its name from the fact that its waters were sent from the higher sources of the mountain's water's through channels to the pool. John was drawing attention to the fact that Jesus was the Sent One of God. He was sent by the Father, and in fact he spoke of Himself in this exact way 'the sent one' twelve times during discourses at this feast of Tabernacles in John 7 and 8 (John 7:16,18,28,29,33; 8:16,18,26,29,42; 9:4,7; see also 3:17,34; 4:34; 5:23,24,30,36,37,38; 6:29,38,39,44,57; 10:36; 11:42,44; 12:45,49; 13:16, 20: 14:24; 15:21; 16:5; 17:3,8,18,21,23,25; 20:21) and 32 other times in John's gospel.
Mt. Moriah, where the great Temple stood, and where God resided, was the ultimate source of the water that was sent by a conduit to the pool of Siloam at the foot of the mountain. It well typifies Christ Jesus sent from the Father, sent from God to give healing waters to man. And Jesus Himself, in sending the blind man to the waters of Siloam was demonstrating that out from the Father comes Living healing water that the Father was and is the Source of Jesus' powers. Waters that issue from rock is also an OT image of Christ. And so, you can imagine Jesus crouching down, making this sticky mess of clay with his saliva, smearing it layer by layer onto the blind man's eyes, until it looked like two bulging masses, it would take some time to make and apply. Then he would help the blind man get to his feet, and quietly say to him 'make your way to the pool of Siloam and wash it away.' And then Jesus went on His way.
So the blind man, with his stick, would tap his way to the pool, walking away from the crowd with clay over his eyes. Once at the pool the man would slowly wash the two masses of sticky clay from his eyes. And as he washed the mess away, gradually his sight would come. Bit by bit the first gleams of light would appear, small chinks of light, then a little more and the light would get stronger, bit by bit. Sight would come to him, he'd then begin to distinguish shapes and sizes, then colours, and light reflecting off surfaces, perspective, and what would be to him marvels of light colour and size. For the first time he would see his reflection in the waters. What a wonder it would be to him! Until finally, away from the crowd, his sight would be completely restored. Healing one born blind would also involve activating that part of the brain to do with sight, for seeing has more to do with the brain that the actual organ of sight. For true spiritual sight we must go to the True Siloam, the One who was Sent from the Father. We also have to wash away the dirt!
John chapter nine was a Sabbath day, the days previous were the days of the Festival of Booths or Tabernacles (Lev.23:40-43) or Ingathering (Ex.23:16; 34:22; Deut.16:13,16), which our Lord attended beginning at John 7:10-14. Some dispute with him but he demonstrates that his teaching holds closely to God's law, that he is seeking God's glory. Then on the last day of the festival, the seventh day, something very special and precious takes place (John 7:37).
For the festival 892 Priests and Levites (446 of each) were required for its seven day sacrificial worship, that included 70 young bulls, seven kids, fourteen rams, 198 lambs, meal and drink offerings, worship involving processes we normally associate with the kitchen, water being an absolute necessity.
"The last, the great day of the feast" (John 7:37) was marked by special observances. The people left their picturesque booths on rooftops, courtyards, in public squares and even in the Temple and walked into the Temple courts (Lev.23:40,41; Neh.8:15-17). They were then divided into three companies, some would remain in the Temple to attend the preparation of the Morning Sacrifice. Another band would go in procession to a place called Moza (lit. a going forth, a spring head), a place south of the Temple where the Gihon watered trees (Eccl.2:5,6), and from where the procession gathered willow branches to bring back to the Temple. (See the Talmudic (Babylonian) Tractate Sukkah,on the Feast of Tabernacles; Sukk.4.5; Jerusalem Sukkah 4.3, p.54b)
The third company, holding leafy branches of myrtle, willow and palms, took part in a stupendous ceremony involving water. Priests sounded silver trumpets to begin a procession starting out from the Temple that was led by a Priest holding a Golden Pitcher capable of holding three log (just over two pints). The procession passed through the Temple's Water Gate to Mt.Zion and Mt.Ophel, all part of a single paved way, and from there descended the main steps to the Pool of Siloam (Neh.2:14; 3:15).
Here the white robed Priest filled the Golden Pitcher from its waters, sacred water (2 Cor.4:7). The Pitcher had the emblem of a dove inscribed on its handles (Underground Jerusalem, plate XIII). They then turned around with great ceremony and ascended the steps and back to the Temple . As the Priest, who headed the procession, entered the Water Gate (South side of the Temple) a threefold trumpet peal sounded by priests, and the people recited the words of Isaiah 12:3, "With joy you will draw water from the springs of salvation". It was so timed that they would arrive just as priests were laying the sacrifice on the Altar of Burnt Offering (Tos.Sukk.3.8), toward the close of the Morning Sacrifice. The procession came up through the Temple courts toward the Holy place. As the Priest entered the Court of the Priests another threefold trumpet blast sounded and the people dramatically halted.
Just prior to this, and also timed to perfection and pace, the second division of people had already returned with willow branches also amidst trumpet peals. Priests took the willow branches from the people and created a leafy willow canopy over the entire Altar, a canopy of branches watered by the Gihon Spring. It was the grandest booth of the festival. A magnificent canopy surrounding the Altar of Sacrifice.
Another Priest who carried a pitcher of wine for the drink offering joined the Priest who had entered the Court of Priests carrying the Golden Pitcher full of the living water. The two Priests ascended the steps of the Altar, and turned left. The High Priest with the Golden Flagon of Water walked around the Altar on this the seventh day of the festival seven times. At one corner of the Altar were two silver fluted funnels leading down to the base of the Altar, which led down into channels cut in the virgin rock. Lifting their pitchers high so all the people could see, the water and also the wine were poured into the Altar funnels to the great and ecstatic rejoicing of the people.
Their rejoicing, an especially marked part of the festival, from the highest to the lowest were to rejoice, even for the lowly servant it was a time of rejoicing (Deut. 16:14). It was in direct contrast to the Day of Atonement, five days before the Festival of Tabernacles. The Day of Atonement was marked with great solemnity, and it was said, "a man has never seen sorrow, who never saw the sorrow of that day"; a day some scholars think was the day of the Fall (Bengel, etc), and the day prefiguring the death of Christ.