by Cunningham Geikie, D.D.

Notes on Revelation Online Books

 

Chapter 23 | Contents | Chapter 25


The Holy Land and the Bible
A Book of Scripture Illustrations gathered in Palestine

Cunningham Geikie D.D.

With a Map of Palestine and Original Illustrations by H. A. Harper
Special Edition

(1887)

CHAPTER 24—ROUND ABOUT JERUSALEM
The Summit of Mount Zion—Professional MournersQuick Burial"Tomb of David" and "Room of the Last Supper"The Sultan's PoolThe Valley of Hinnom and its AssociationsThe Hill of Evil Counsel; AceldamaCheesemakers' ValleyPool of SiloamAn Ancient InscriptionThe Virgin's Well; A Curious PhenomenonThe Royal GardensEn Rogel; "God Save King Adonijah"Hill of OffenceValley of Jehoshaphat; The Village of Silwan (Siloam)

 

The Joppa Gate lay nearest to my hotel, and was, hence, that by which I commonly passed outside the walls. The Valley of Hinnom sank, at first, very gradually, to the south-east. About 500 yards to the west, upon rising ground at the side of the road to Gaza, was the leper hospital; on the left, from its deep, broad ditch, rose a mass of huge walls and low towers, forming the citadel, over which floated the Turkish flag. A minaret towered up proudly beyond, while from the gardens inside the crenelated rampart rose some olive-trees, and the outside sloping walls of the Titanic base were feathered everywhere with the creeping plants which in Palestine take the place of our ivy. The whole constituted a grim, forbidding Bastille, with memories red with blood. A broad, bare space west of it, looking down the valley, is a favourite spot for the tents of travellers. Clumps of ancient olive-trees, growing on the open slopes, dot the gradual descent, and are in great favour with camel-drivers for their shade, in which the beasts can rest, and they themselves eat their simple meals. As we descend the valley, the east side, which is Mount Zion, sinks, almost at once, quite steeply, while on the west the slope is gentle. The prevailing colour of the barren hills is yellow, but the young spring green of some small fields down the valley, and a sprinkling of olive-trees on the west, and the dark foliage of the poplars rising from the Armenian gardens, over the weather-worn city wall, soften the wildness of the view. Yet, as Strabo said in the generation before Christ, Jerusalem is very stony, and the environs are both barren and parched.* The road was enlivened with travellers of all nations—Arabs and their camels; asses with every possible form of load; turbaned pedestrians; veiled women, and pilgrims of both sexes, coming back to Jerusalem, or setting out from it. How much men freely undergo in the hope of earning heaven, so long as the self-denial leaves their inner lives untouched! There were almost as many women as men among these far-travelled visitors to the holy shrines; but while all had expended so much "bodily exercise which profiteth little" in honour of their religion, how many worshiped in spirit and in truth, having begun by purifying the temple of the soul? A good many, let us hope, but yet------!

* Strabo, Geog., p. 880, ed. 1570.

Passing downwards under the proud towers and walls of the citadel, one reaches a path leading to the top of Mount Zion by a steep ascent. The summit is flat, or at most gently undulating, between the city wall and the steep side of the hill. Most of the surface is used as the Christian cemetery, different strips being set apart for Latins, Greeks, Armenians, and foreigners, who sleep peacefully under the rubbish of the ancient Jerusalem. The English Protestant cemetery is distinct from this; the former opens from the grounds of Bishop Gobat's schools, and is sacred, already, with the dust of not a few of our countrymen. Some women were sitting beside a new grave in the larger burial-ground, weeping loudly and almost convulsively, so that one would have supposed them overwhelmed with sorrow for the loss of a dear friend or relation. But it appeared that all this to-do was only professional acting, duly hired for so much coin, and meant no more than the groans and weeping of so many stage damsels in a theatre. It seems strange that such simulated grief should find a market, but is it much more unreal than the palls, bands, feathers, and other hideous fripperies which our undertakers furnish at a fixed scale of prices?

The most touching feature in burials in the East is the quickness with which they follow death. As dissolution approaches a sick-chamber is still thronged, as it was in the troubled home of Jairus (Matt 9:24; Mark 5:38), with a crowd of neighbours and friends, all frantic with grief. Mr. Mills* mentions one case of a poor dying woman whom he visited. Her brother supported her, and the rest pressed round, raising their hands and bursting out into agonising shrieks; the noise and the crowd being themselves enough to kill her. Indeed, she died in the midst of the tumult, just perhaps as the daughter of Jairus did. She breathed her last about eleven in the morning, and her funeral took place at three the same afternoon. The friends assembled at the hour and bore away the body, which was simply shrouded in white calico, without any coffin, and laid on a bier much like our own, except that it had a high border round it to prevent the corpse from being shaken off. The women took the foremost place in the funeral procession, but in this case there were no hired mourners, as there are in Mahommedan funerals, for the deceased was a Christian, and the real sorrow of those who attended her to the grave needed no art to deepen the sadness of the cries which broke continually from them. The grave was dug without any shovel or other tool, simply by hand, with the aid of a chance stone. As the corpse lay awaiting interment, it was still quite warm, but a doctor, sent for by Mr. Mills, pronounced life extinct. The grave was only about two feet deep, with a layer of stones on the bottom and at the sides, barely leaving room enough to cover the body. When it had been laid in its shallow bed, large stones were put across, resting on those at the sides, so as to make a kind of coffin-lid, to protect the dead from the small stones and earth, which were gathered with hands and feet into a low mound over her form. She had been full of mirth the evening before, but now! The females, to the number of a dozen or more, remained all night at the dead woman's house, almost continually lifting up their voices in mournful lamentations, and early next morning went out to the grave, to sit there and weep, as the Jews supposed Mary had done in the case of Lazarus (John 11:31). This they continued to do for nine successive days. In the evening of the burial-day food was prepared by neighbours and consumed in a funeral meal by the afflicted household, who ate together. This is the counterpart to the "cup of consolation" which Jeremiah speaks of, as given to comfort mourners for the loss of their father or mother (Jer 16:7), and the "bread of men" which Ezekiel was forbidden to eat when his wife died (Eze 24:17; 2 Sam 3:35, 12:20).

* Mills, Nablus, p. 152.

The Tomb of David
The Tomb of David
Click pic for larger view

Near the cemetery is an old Christian church, the successor of one which stood on Mount Zion before the erection of the Church of the Sepulchre; that is, at least as early as 300 years after Christ's birth. In the times of the Crusaders apparently it was rebuilt, but in its present form it dates only from AD 1333, when it had come into the hands of the Franciscans. For 300 years back, however, the Mahommedans have taken it into their possession, and they guard what they think its more sacred parts with almost greater jealousy than they show about the so-called Mosque of Omar. The Tomb of David was one of the holy places in the church as long ago as the reign of the Frankish kings, and it is still claimed as a glory of the spot by its present custodians, who say it is underground, and let no unbeliever see it. Probably there are ancient tombs below the present surface, but this is not apparently the place to look for the tomb of the Psalmist-king. A long, bare room, up a flight of steps in the building, is, however, open, on payment of a small fee, its attraction being the tradition that here Christ ate the Last Supper with His disciples. But the Jerusalem of Christ's day, I need hardly repeat, is buried below thirty feet of rubbish.

From the edge of the hill there is a fine view of the Sultan's Pool, known as the traditional Lower Pool of Gihon—a huge reservoir, 245 feet broad at its upper, and 275 feet at its lower end; 592 feet long, and about forty feet deep. It has been made by building great dams across the valley, but they are of very little use, as there was no water in the pool when I saw it, though it had rained only a day or two before. The camels and other beasts of burden, however, were the better for the showers, for the bottom was covered with delicious fresh green, on which some were feasting as I passed. To get down from the cemetery I had followed the line of some low and rough stone walls dividing the hill-side into different properties, but it was by no means a pleasant descent, so steep was the slope of about 100 feet. In summer the bottom of the pool is in great request as a threshing-floor, for which it is admirably fitted when the heat has withered up the grass which, in spring, covers its rocky surface. The pool has been made by removing the earth between the lower and upper dams, across the valley, leaving the rock in its natural state, so that it slopes down irregularly at the sides, with a narrow channel in the middle. A road crosses the dam at the lower end, the side walls of which are very much broken. In the centre there is a fountain—once fed by the aqueduct from Solomon's Pools near Bethlehem, which crosses the valley immediately above the upper end of the pool. The pool itself lies so low that it could only have been used to irrigate gardens lower down the valley though, when watertight, it must have spread fertility far and wide, as it would contain about 19,000,000 gallons. The dam at the upper end is only slight. The present name of this huge reservoir is due to its having been repaired by Sultan Suleiman, but the excavation is very ancient, Robinson supposing it to be the Lower Pool mentioned by Isaiah (22:9). Nine small arches, spanning the valley, preserve the memory of the aqueduct which once poured its clear waters into the great cisterns on Mount Moriah: an incalculable benefit to a city so naturally deficient in its water-supply. It was to repair this artery of the common life that Pilate took funds from the Temple treasury, and thereby roused the fury of the priests at what they were bold enough to denounce to the ignorant multitude as a robbery of the Church. As if the gold lying idle in the Temple vaults could have been better used! Under the Turks, who do nothing for the good of any country unfortunate enough to be under them, and leave everything to go to destruction, this monument of the wise beneficence of antiquity is of no benefit to Jerusalem.

On the western side of the pool stands a row of fine almshouses, built within the last few years for poor Jews by their rich brethren in the West. A garden stretches out before them, but the soil is very rocky, and requires much labour for small results. On the brow of the slope over the houses, and belonging to the same charity, a stone windmill breaks the monotony of the view by its great, slow-circling vans.

South of the Sultan's Pool the valley leads to the east and becomes very narrow, steep rocks forming its wall on the under side, while on the upper side Mount Zion descends in steps like terraces, but very steeply. Olive and almond trees cast their soft shadows over the rising green of the little stony fields in the hollow and on the rocky sides of the hills, while on the east the walls of Jerusalem look down into the ravine. The whole scene is beautiful in its quiet repose. Yet it was in this narrow valley, now filled with budding fruit-trees and springing grain and sweet flowers, that the Israelites once offered their children to Moloch, and these very rocks on each side have echoed the screams of the innocent victims, and reverberated with the chants and drummings of the priests, raised to drown the cries of agony. It is well called the Valley of Hinnom—"the Valley of the Groans of Children":* a name which perpetuates the horror once excited by the scenes it witnessed; especially, it would seem, in this lower part. Here, under Ahaz, Manasseh, and Amon, the hideous ox-headed human figure of Moloch—the summer sun in his glowing and withering might—was raised in brass or copper, with extended arms, on which were laid, helplessly bound, the children given up by their parents "to pass through the fire" to him; a heated furnace behind the idol sending its flames through the hollow limbs, till the innocents writhed off into a burning fire beneath. Ahaz and Manasseh had set a royal example in this horrible travesty of worship, by burning alive some of their own children (2 Kings 16:3, 21:6); and what kings did commoners would be ready to copy. Yet who can tell the agony of soul it must have cost a father or mother, among a race where sons were so great a glory, to give up one to such a death, as a religious act? How many among ourselves would be capable of a tribute of devotion to the true God fit to be mentioned alongside of this, as a surrender to Him of all that the heart loves best?

* Mn@hiyg"b: yg" (2 Kings 23:10). Strictly, "of the Children of Groaning."

It was not till within less than thirty years of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Chaldæans, that the idol and its accessories were swept away from the valley by the good Josiah (2 Kings 23:10; Isa 30:33; Jer 7:31, 19:6,11,2,13), and the place so defiled that it could never again be desecrated by this frightful worship. But so deeply had the horrors of the past printed themselves on the popular mind, that henceforth the spot bore the name of Tophet—"the Abomination"—"the Place to be Spat upon"; and in later times the very words Ge-Hinnom—"the Valley of Hinnom"—slightly changed into Gehenna, became the common name for hell. The destruction of Assyria is pictured by Isaiah as a huge funeral pile, "deep and large," with "much wood," "prepared for the king," and kindled by the breath of Jehovah, as if by "a stream of brimstone" (Isa 30:33). Jeremiah speaks of "high places" in this valley, as if children had been burned on different altars; and he can think of no more vivid image of the curse impending over Jerusalem than that it should become an abomination before God, like this accursed place.

The Hill of Evil Counsel rises on the south from the Valley of Hinnom; it owes its name to a tradition that the house of the high priest Caiaphas, in which the leaders of the Jews resolved on the death of our Lord, stood there. Beneath it the steep rocky sides of the valley are pierced with a great number of tombs, showing that this spot was used by the Jews in ancient times as a cemetery.* Some of these sepulchres are cut into domes in the rock and ornamented, others are mere holes for bodies, hewn in the face of the hill; some have many such holes dug out in the sides of a larger or smaller chamber, most of the entrances to these appearing to have been closed by a stone door, turning on a socket hinge, and secured by bolts. Wandering amidst these graves, once full, but now long empty, one feels himself surrounded by a city of the dead, the beginnings of which run back to the grey antiquity of the early Jewish kings. Close at hand, but a little higher up the valley, is a spot with the evil name of Aceldama—"the Field of Blood" (Acts 1:19), on which rises an old ruin thirty feet long and twenty wide, one side partly the naked rock, the other drafted stone, the whole forming a flat-roofed cover to a dismal house of the dead. Two caverns open in the floor, their rocky sides pierced with holes for bodies; and galleries of tombs run into the hill from the bottom. Holes in the roof are still seen, through which the corpses were let down by ropes, and there are marks of steps by which the tombs were entered. Here, say the local traditions, was "the Potters' Field," bought for the burial of strangers by the high priests with the thirty pieces of silver for which our Saviour was betrayed. Clay from around it is still used by the potters of Jerusalem.

* Some think the tombs Christian.

About a hundred steps from Aceldama Hinnom merges into another valley running along the south side of the city. Where the two thus join, the Tyropœon or Cheese-makers' Valley, from between Mounts Moriah and Zion, also opened out, in ancient times, on the north side before it was filled up by the wreck of the city and Temple. In those days both it and the Valley of Hinnom girdled Mount Zion from the west to the south-east, where the hill descends in huge steps, here and there rocky; the steps plentifully strewn with stone, and pitted with cisterns and small caves, in which the goats sleep at night, but veiled in part by olive, almond, and pomegranate trees. In David's time Zion was surrounded by a wall, forming the original city; but under Solomon Moriah was encircled by a second wall, and ultimately the Tyropœon was incorporated with the two, by a rampart across the mouth of the valley to Ophel, the south-east spur of Moriah, which sinks down from the height of the great Temple wall in several broad shelves and steep slopes, the last of which is not more than forty feet above the bottom of the valley. Rough, stony, and swift in its descents, the surface is, however, diligently cultivated wherever possible—of course in a rude Oriental way. On the lower of these slopes and terraces the Nethinim, or Temple slaves, lived in olden times (Neh 3:26, 11:21), while on those higher up and nearer the Temple were some of the houses of the priests (Neh 3:21-26). The fortifications enclosing Ophel had grown old in the days of Jotham and Manasseh, and were consequently repaired, heightened, and strengthened by them (2 Chron 27:3, 33:14), while they were rebuilt by Ezra and Nehemiah after the return from Babylon, a lofty watch-tower being added (Neh 3:25-27), the foundations of which, projecting from the main line of defence, have been discovered by the Palestine Fund explorers.* Shafts sunk near these show how stupendous the labour spent by the Hebrew kings on fortifying Jerusalem must have been, for the wall is yet standing to the height of sixty-six feet below the rubbish of ages, and the face of the hill was found to have been cut away, where needful, into perpendicular scarps from forty to sixty feet high.

* Recovery of Jerusalem.

Rounding the southern end of Ophel, and turning a little way north, you reach the famous Pool of Siloam, on the western side of the valley. It is fifty-two feet long and eighteen wide, some piers, like flying buttresses, standing on its north side, while part of a column rises in the middle of it. These are the remains of an old church, built over it thirteen hundred years ago, or of a monastery, erected at a spot so sacred, in the twelfth century. It was apparently to this pool that Christ sent the blind man to wash his eyes (John 9:7), and the miracle which followed naturally invested it with such peculiar sacredness that baths were erected under the ancient church, to let the sick have the benefits of the wondrous stream. You go down eight ancient stone steps to reach the water, which is used by the people for drinking, for washing their not particularly clean linen, and for bathing. Everything around is dilapidated: the stones loose, and in many cases fallen; the approach rough as the bottom of a quarry. At the north end a small tunnel opens in the rock, bringing the water from the Spring of the Virgin, which lies 1,700 feet higher up the valley. This ancient engineering work is about two feet wide, and from two to sixteen feet in height, with a branch cut due west from it to a shallow basin within the line of the ancient walls, where a round shaft more than forty feet deep has been sunk to reach it. On the top of this a great chamber hewn in the rock, with a flight of steps leading down to it, made it possible for the citizens, by covering over and hiding the spring outside, to cut off the supply of water from an enemy, while themselves, by means of this striking arrangement, enjoying it in safety, without leaving their defences. A notable discovery connected with the cutting of the main tunnel, which, as we have seen, is nearly one-third of a mile long, was made in 1880, by a youth, while wading up its mouth. Losing his footing, he noticed, as he was picking himself up, what looked like letters cut in the rocky side, and these on inspection proved to be an inscription left by the workmen, when they had finished their great undertaking. It appears that they began at both ends, but as engineering was hardly at its best three thousand years ago, their course was very far from being exactly straight, windings of more than 200 yards, like the course of a river, marking their work.* There are, in fact, several short branches, showing where the excavators found themselves going in a wrong direction, and abruptly stopped, to resume work in a truer line. When at last they met they proved to be a little on one side of each other, and had to connect their excavations by a short side cutting.

* The tunnel measures 570 yards, the straight course would have been only 368 yards.

The inscription, as translated by Professor Sayce, is as follows:—"Behold the excavation! Now this is the history of the tunnel. While the excavators were lifting up the pick, each towards the other, and while there were yet three cubits to be broken through...the voice of one called to his neighbour, for there was an excess (?) in the rock on the right. They rose up...they struck on the west of the excavation—the excavators struck—each to meet the other, pick to pick. And then flowed the waters from their outlet to the Pool, for the distance of a thousand cubits and [three-fourths?] of a cubit was the height of the rock over the excavation here."*

* Pal. Fund Rept., 1881, p. 284.

Professor Sayce thinks that this undertaking, so wonderful for such an age and for so small a people, dates from about the eighth century before Christ, and Professor Muhlau refers it to the reign of Hezekiah,* while others think it, in part at least, a relic of the early inhabitants of Jerusalem before David.** The depth of the tunnel below the surface, at its lowest, is 156 feet. The slope is very gentle, so that the water must always have flowed with an easy leisure from the spring to the pool, a characteristic which reminds us of the words of Isaiah in his prophecy of the result of Israel's allying itself with Syria, instead of trusting in God, or, as he expresses it, in "the waters of Shiloah that go softly" (Isa 8:6). This unworthy confederacy would bring on the nation the overwhelming Euphrates-flood of an Assyrian invasion, terrible to imagine as a contrast to the placid flow of their gentle spring. The one stream was a symbol of the peacefulness of the kingdom of God, established in Israel; the other, of the stormy and violent kingdoms of the world. The present pool, into which the water still flows, was not originally, however, the only reservoir supplied by it. The remains of four other basins have been discovered, which were apparently once connected with it; and a little way from it, down the valley, is an ancient "Lower Pool," which lies to the east of the upper one, but now has its bottom overgrown with trees, the overflow from the higher pool having for centuries trickled past it instead of filling it. This lower pool, known as the Red Pool—from the colour of the soil—is famous for an old mulberry-tree, carefully guarded by stones, marking the spot on which, according to tradition, the great Prophet Isaiah was sawn asunder by Manasseh.

* Riehm, p. 1478.

** Pal. Fund Rept., 1884, p. 75.

The Virgin's Well, from which the whole supply comes, lies at the bottom of two flights of stone steps—thirty in all—broken and partly ruined, and has the glory of being the only spring rising in the Temple Mount. Its basin is about twelve feet long, and five wide, and the bottom is covered with small stones; but it is no longer worthy of its fine name, for two men were bathing in it when I saw it last. The waters have the curious feature of overflowing into the tunnel only at intervals: from three to five times a day in rainy winter, twice a day in summer, and only once a day in autumn, while after a dry winter the overflow takes place only once in three or four days. Explanation is easy. A deep natural basin in the interior of the rocks is fed by numerous streamlets, but it has only one narrow outlet, which begins near the bottom of the basin, and after rising above the top of it again descends, outwards. Whenever the stream rises to the bend in the outlet it begins to flow through it, and continues to flow, on the principle of the syphon, till the water in the hidden rock-basin has been lowered to below the point at which the bend commences. It is very possible that this peculiarity marks it as the Dragon's Pool of Nehemiah (Neh 2:13); popular superstition supposing that the intermittent gush of waters was due to a gigantic water-monster in the hill, which drank up the stream and vomited it forth, in turn. The taste of the water is slightly salt and very unpleasant, from its having filtered through the vast mass of foul rubbish on which the city stands, and which has been soaked with the sewage of many centuries. The sides of the tunnel are covered, to a height of about three feet, with thin red cement, very hard, and full of pounded potsherds, and exactly like that with which, under the name of "homrah," cisterns in Palestine are lined at this time. The bottom is covered with a black slimy deposit, two or three inches thick, which makes the water still worse at Siloam than at the Virgin's Well. Still, from time to time water-carriers come to the one or the other to fill their water-skins; and women, with their great jars on their shoulders, like Hagar (Gen 21:14), repair to them, likewise, for their household supply. Yet Siloam must have been far livelier than now in the olden times, when a fine church rose over the spring, and pilgrims bathed in a great tank beneath it. Where this was there are now gardens. Already, in the days of Christ, perhaps from the thought of the healing powers of the pool as issuing from Mount Moriah, it must have been the custom to wash in it, else the blind man would hardly have been directed in so few words to do so (John 9:7). But even if washing was then common, one can only hope it was a little more thoroughly carried out than it is to-day.

South of Siloam there is an open space at the union of the Kedron, Tyropœon, and Hinnom valleys. Here, in ancient times, David and Solomon had their royal gardens,* and Jerome tells us that in his time it still boasted of delightful gardens, watered by the Fountain of Siloah.** To-day, the hollow, and even the lower slopes at the sides, are still covered with gardens, watered by countless rills from the pool, so that every bed of flowers or plants is constantly moist. When the heat of summer has burned up the landscape, till rock and soil alike are mere yellow stone, these gardens and terraces, fed and quickened by the never-ceasing flow, are richly green. Such cool, refreshing verdure, springing up in the hot months in the midst of universal barrenness, must have been a delight age after age, filling the soul of the godly Israelite of old with sweet imagery, such as the race has always loved. It may have been from these very gardens that Jeremiah, who lived most of his life in Jerusalem, had the touching words suggested to him: "Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit" (Jer 17:7,8). It was the opening spring when I gave myself up to the impressions of the spot. The mighty light filled the heavens; Ophel and Moriah rose in long slopes or huge steps on the one side of the valley, and the village of Siloam, with its flat-roofed stone houses clinging to the bare hill, on the other; old walls of loose stone stretched, apparently without any plan, hither and thither over the hollow of the valley; the fruit-trees of these regions were putting forth their fresh leaves; the gardens were beautiful with tender green; the soft murmur of flowing water carried one over land and sea to his distant home; and, as a setting to this fair picture, there was enough of barrenness on the hills around to heighten its charms by contrast. After the long cold months all the seeds of life were quickening, at once, in the sunshine. One could realise the description of spring in the Song of Songs: "Lo! the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land" (Song 2:11,12).

* Neh 3:15. Jos. Ant., vii. 14, 4, ix. 10, 4.

** Comm. in Jer. vii. 30.

A short distance south of the gardens is En Rogel, "the Fountain of the Scout," or, as the Targum has it, "the Fuller's Spring," which Josephus tells us used to be in the king's gardens.* Its present Arab name is "Job's Well," though the patriarch had never, of course, any connection with it. Through how many ages it has been used by man, may be in part realised from the fact that it is mentioned, under the name En Rogel, in Joshua, as the boundary between the tribes of Judah and Benjamin (Josh 15:7). Round this spot a very tragic history gathers (1 Kings 1:9). It was here that Adonijah "slew sheep and oxen and fat cattle," and invited to the feast all his brothers, David's sons, and all the officers of his father, intending through their help to seize the kingdom and exclude Solomon. It was only natural that he should have expected to reign, for after Absalom's death he was the eldest living son of David, having been born in Hebron, before his father's accession to the throne of Israel. Like Absalom, he was at once handsome and ambitious, and resembled him also in being heartless, for he did not wait for his father's death to get the throne, but tried to supplant him while he lived. Surrounded, like a king, with a bodyguard, and followed by a strong force of retainers, he fancied all would prosper, now that David was sinking to his death. Had he not, moreover, the support of Joab, the head of the king's fighting men, and of Abiathar, the high priest? But the energy of Nathan the prophet spoiled the finely-contrived plot, and the wassail shouts—"God save King Adonijah!"—were rudely interrupted at En Rogel by the huzzas of the multitude at Gihon hailing Solomon as the new monarch. That this was their meaning was hastily told by runners from the scene. It was enough. The guests vanished, every man rising, in mortal terror, and going his own way. Joab and Adonijah escaped, for the time, through the new prince's clemency, but they could not leave off plotting, and, ere long, fell victims of a new attempt to seize the throne (1 Kings 2:13, ff.).

* Jos. Ant., vii. 14, 4.

The well is lined with masonry down to the rock, and is 125 feet deep in all, with a huge rock-hewn reservoir at the bottom, to collect the water running over the lower hard limestone, which we have seen so frequently elsewhere. The pit appears, indeed, to have been deepened at some unknown time, for a second chamber is found, thirteen feet above the lower one. The well is entirely dependent on the rainfall, but, deep though it be, it overflows after four or five days of winter rain. During the wet winter of 1873-4 a steady brook flowed from it, down the Kedron valley. When I saw it it had about thirty feet of water, and it scarcely ever quite dries up. Towards autumn, when many cisterns in Jerusalem have but little water, and that very bad, a great quantity is obtained from En Rogel, hundreds of asses being employed daily in carrying filled water-skins up to the city, which lies from 600 to 700 feet above it, on the other side of the narrow valley. Women and maidens, also, resort to it, and have done so for immemorial ages, for it was by taking advantage of this that the faithful "wench" came and told the spies of David—Jonathan and Ahimaaz, sons of the high priest—that Absalom had rejected the counsel of Ahithophel (2 Sam 17:17-22). The villagers of Siloam, upon the hill to the north-east of the well, drive a trade of their own in carrying water up to the city for sale to the poorer people; but they are a sorry set of cheats, often filling their skins, more or less, with air. Their extreme poverty is their only excuse, for they get not more than from a penny to sixpence for a skinful of water delivered in the city. It might have been thought that, with a valley between it and the town, the water would be sweet, but, though much better than that of Siloam, it still shows traces of sewage.

The view from En Rogel is very striking. The hills rise high, to both east and west. On the north are the outlying slopes of Zion and Moriah, with part of the city walls, overhead, and to the south the eye follows the course of the valley to its south-eastern bend. There, the hill, which sinks gently southwards, offers a pleasant view of luxuriant olive-trees and springing fields, but the one east of the well is as rough and barren as the other is attractive. It bears the ominous name of the Hill of Offence, from the belief that it was here that Solomon built temples to Chemosh, the abomination of the Moabites, and to the other heathen gods of the neighbouring peoples (1 Kings 11:7). The Hill of Evil Counsel, opposite, is far less uninviting, for its slopes show patches of grain between the outcroppings of rock, though the solitary weird-looking tree on its bare top is hardly a pleasant landmark.

A mass of ruinous walls, apparently very ancient, rises beside the mouth of En Rogel, but its history is unknown. Wall-plants hang from between the rows of large square stones in long waving festoons, and the low roof, once resting on stone arches, has partly fallen in, while grass and weeds cover what remains. Deep though it be, there is no way of drawing the water except by hand, as in the case of the well of Samaria, in the days of Christ (John 4:11).

The Kedron valley runs northwards, past the Mount of Offence, which is east from it, though indeed the valley, strictly speaking, begins only from the south-east corner of Moriah, stretching for nearly a mile and a half, first north, with Mount Moriah on its western and the Mount of Olives on its eastern side; then west. It is best known as the Valley of Jehoshaphat, though indeed, as it sweeps past the Temple Hill, it is a ravine rather than a valley. Opposite Ophel, perched on a very steep and slippery scarp cut in the face of the hill, lies the village of Silwan, or Siloam. There could hardly be a better defence than its difficult approach, which must at all times have made it a striking feature in the valley. Names cling age after age to the same spots, in the East, and to this steep face of rock the villagers may be heard still giving the name Zehweileh, "the Slippery Place," which seems to be only a slight change from Zoheleth, the name for the great "stone," or "rock," near En Rogel, close to which Adonijah held his ill-fated banquet (1 Kings 1:9). I could not pretend to descend it, and was glad to take an easier road down to the valley, after having looked into the village, which is a curious place, part of the inhabitants living in large caves and tombs of great antiquity. There are some houses, but they are of the rudest: generally mere hovels, built at the mouths of tombs that form part of the ancient cemetery of the Jews of which so many remains are seen in the Valley of Hinnom, or, possibly, of a still more ancient burial-place. Here, truly, one is face to face with antiquity. On one spot M. Ganneau discovered an illegible inscription thought to contain the words "Beth Baal." The cliff, once evidently a quarry, rises high behind the houses and cave dwellings, so that the village is as inaccessible from above as from below. Everything is filthy in the extreme, even for the East, and the villagers, as becomes such a place, have a bad name for dishonesty. Very strangely, about a hundred of them are called Men of Dibon, and form a distinct body, apparently the descendants of a colony of Moabites sent from Dibon, in Moab, perhaps in connection with the altar of Chemosh, built by Solomon on the hill on which Siloam stands. The village may thus mark the spot where high places were built on "the Mount of Corruption" for "Ashtoreth, the abomination of the Zidonians, and for Chemosh, the abomination of the Moabites, and for Micom [Moloch], the abomination of the children of Ammon" (2 Kings 23:13).

From whatever stock they are derived, the villagers are as industrious as they are churlish or given to larceny. I noticed two or three poor little oxen which had been let out to pick what they could get from between the stones on the steep hill-side: a rare sight in Palestine. A goatherd was playing on his monotonous reed pipe before his black flock, as they followed him along the side of Mount Moriah. A bare-legged, turbaned figure, in a loose white shirt, was guiding a primitive plough: one hand on its handle; the other holding a long goad, like a clumsy fishing-rod, with which to quicken the speed of his slow oxen. Near En Rogel some sheep were grazing. The Siloam poultry scratched the dust before the hovels of their owners, and crowed lustily against others at a distance. Some women in blue cotton passed with baskets of vegetables on their heads, and a knot of idlers gossiped under the shade of a fig-tree. A picture, one could not help thinking, of how it must have been in ancient Israel.

Making my way down the steep path, I crossed over to the Virgin's Fountain, to remind myself of the fantastic legend from which the place takes its name—that here the Virgin washed the swaddling-clothes of our Lord—and to listen once more to the murmur of the water, and then went down the two flights of steps to the opening of the tunnel which conducts it to Siloam, the favourite bathing-place of the men and boys of the neighbourhood.

Chapter 23 | Contents | Chapter 25

 

Notes on Revelation | Judeo-Christian Research

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