The Pool of Siloam

IN 2004 A SEWER sprang a leak in Old Jerusalem, and while repairing it the workmen came across a length of buried stone steps. Archaeologists moved in to investigate, and identified that the steps dated to the Second Temple Period (around the First Century ad, that’s the time of Jesus). As the excavation was widened it emerged that they belonged to a mikveh—a ritual bath in which pilgrims visiting the city for religious festivals would purify themselves before heading up to the Temple to offer their sacrifices.

The bath was roughly square, and huge, about the size of two Olympic swimming pools. (The First Century historian Josephus records that over two million people would descend on Jerusalem for the feasts.)

It was soon realized that this was none other than the Pool of Siloam, which is well known to Bible readers because it was here that a blind man was sent to wash and was miraculously cured by the Lord Jesus (John 9:7).

It’s known that the water in the Pool of Siloam was especially pure—hence its value for ritual bathing. It was probably a source of drinking water as well. The reason it was so pure is that it was brought directly into the city from a spring outside the city walls. The Bible records how, around 700 years previously, the Jewish king Hezekiah built a tunnel to bring spring water into the city as a defensive measure against an enemy siege (2 Chronicles 32:2–4 and 2 Kings 20:20). The Pool of Siloam was one of a number of reservoirs that were built during the following centuries to hold this water.

If you visit Jerusalem today you can see the Pool of Siloam and Hezekiah’s tunnel, you can see the past for yourself and you can feel connected to the great events of Bible history. But there’s even more significance to this pool.

Water is precious in Israel, it always has been. The water of the Pool of Siloam played a key role in the life of the city and the rituals of those who worshipped there. One of the most beautiful pictures of the Kingdom of God is the picture we’re given in Ezekiel 47, of a mighty river that will issue from God’s Temple and bring healing everywhere it flows.

Doug Potts