The real Hezekiah of the tunnel
Not being an enthusiast of dark underground tunnels, usually I walk through a dry, well lit tunnel, actually older than Hezekiah's tunnel, being built by the Canaanites many years prior to Hezekiah, while my tourists walk, in Hezekiah's pitch dark tunnel, getting soaking wet up to their knees.
The reason why Hezekiah built this tunnel, according to the Bible, is to ensure a steady, sufficient supply of water for the people in a time of siege, as a preparation of the coming onslaught of the Assyrian army:
"When Sennacherib had come, intent on making war against Jerusalem, Hezekiah consulted with his officers and warriors about stopping the flow of the springs outside the city … for otherwise, they thought, the King of Assyria would come and find water in abundance" (2 Chronicle 32:2–4).
The venture was successful, the Assyrians flee, unable to breach the wall that Hezekiah built and the Jews didn't surrender because of lack of water or food, because Hezekiah has provided for these contingencies, yet the Bible choosed to give all the glory to God and not Hezekiah, as we read here:
"That night the angel of the Lord went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning—there were all the dead bodies! So Sennacherib king of Assyria broke camp and withdrew. He returned to Nineveh and stayed there."
As everyone knows the Bible is the word of God and its objective is to persuade the nation of God omniscience, which is all very well but it would indeed be narrow minded not to consider how Hezekiah's technical skill and material achievements contributed to the victory of the Jews.
The Greek historian, Herodotus (c. 484 BC – c. 425 BC), obviously not wanting to over praise the Jewish God or the technical achievements of Hezekiah, wrote of the invasion and acknowledges many Assyrian deaths, which he claims were the result of a plague of mice. The Jewish historian, Josephus, followed the writings of Herodotus. These historians record Sennacherib's failure to take Jerusalem is "uncontested".*
To this day the tunnel carries water from the Gihon Spring into the Pool of Siloam, but today, thanks to boreholes and pumps Jerusalemites aren't short of water and Hezekiah's tunnel remains for tourists to have a great experience of reliving history.
This time my tourist was Zachary, my 23 year old great nephew, from Toronto, so I walked with him through the dark, wet, tunnel to the Siloam Pool, instead of taking my usual,comfortable, dry stroll, through the Canaanite tunnel and got wet up to my knees and I'm not sorry; my first pleasure came with my first step into the water, gushing from the spring. It was literally ice cold. After traipsing all over the City of David in the hot sun, this was indeed a pleasure.
Step after step I follow Zach, who had the flashlight, there's no overtaking, the tunnel is too narrow for that, but I could stand upright. All I heard was the echo of my sandals sloshing the water and now and again some distant voices of other tunnel walkers, excited people behind me, others in front of Zach, a long line of people walking and sloshing in the dark.
Each walker walks his own path, there's no chance of having a chat with Zachary or anyone else as I walk. I am left to my own thoughts as is each person walking there.
The darkness and solitude accompanied by the slow, rhythmic sloshing sound goes on for about 40 minutes.From time to time Zachary threw the flashlight beam in my direction and I could see the chisel marks of the tunnel diggers of 3000 years ago and could try to put myself in their shoes or sandals.I wondered if they ever took a break for lunch; they certainly couldn't carry their lunch boxes down there with them.
There must have been several laborers behind the diggers, to carry out the excavated stone. Archaeologists estimate that it took the diggers about 4 years to finish the tunnel.
As mentioned above the Canaanites had built a tunnel before Hezekiah. It's not clear who these Canaanites were, but it's clear that the tunnel they built wasn't considered sufficient. It is very narrow, but, as I mentioned, it is dry, being unused since Hezekiah dug his new tunnel.The population had obviously grown significantly in the several hundreds of years, perhaps even 2000 years had passed since the time of the Canaanites. Yet the Bible still finds it necessary to tell us about the Canaanites.Why? Well I think the Bible was impressed with the achievements of the Canaanites even though it's clear that it didn't like their morals.
We are told that Canaan was the grandson of Noah, for example, being the son of Ham, one of the three sons of Noah. (Gen. 9:22). In fact the eleven nations listed in various verses in the Bible, as inhabiting the Land of Canaan are all descended from Canaan.
Again the Bible tells us that the Jews found them here when they came here, (Gen 12:6), in the 13th century BCE and today it's widely accepted that the Canaanites had been here at least since the 18th century BCE.
It's clear from the tunnel they built and other structures, built by them, that they were a clever and strong group of people.
In the days of Hezekiah, then, 2000 years after the time of the Canaanites they were only a memory. Yet the Bible mentions them many times. This can only be because the Bible considers it necessary that we, the readers, never forget that there were Canaanites in the land and it's clear that the Bible succeeded in this, because whatever else was forgotten, it's clear that the Israelites never forgot their legacy from the Canaanites. To this day they are remembered as the original inhabitants of the land and this is only because the Bible says so. No other source gives us this information. It's not even important why the Bible wants us to remember this fact.
It's simply important to understand that the Bible wants us to remember the fact.
In fact our enemies throw this fact in our faces, accusing us of expelling the Canaanites from the land. The fact is that nobody knows what happened to the Canaanites. It is a mystery.
But one thing is for sure, nations don't disappear and the Jews certainly did not expel them from the land, nor was there genocide, a terrible accusation that some of our enemies like to throw at us.
But nations do assimilate and perhaps this is hinted at by the prophet Ezekiel.
Thus says the Lord God to Jerusalem: Your origin and your birth were in the land of the Canaanite, your father was an Amorite, and your mother a Hittite. (Ezek. 16:3).
Could it be that the Canaanites assimilated with the Jews and that is why they don't exist, but exist as Jews.
The Jews, especially Hezekiah are famous for the spiritual heritage of Canaan, which is today the State of Israel. The Canaanites gave the land its material culture. The Bible always emphasizes this difference and that, no matter how important material culture is important, society cannot do without a spiritual culture.
Could it be that Hezekiah is the prime example of the ultimate synthesis of Jews and Canaanites. The synthesis between a material orientated culture and a spiritual one. Hezekiah certainly makes a good job of building the tunnel and other buildings. Surely this is evidence of his multiculturalism, (inherited perhaps from his Canaanite ancestors)? Is not the skill of Jews in the various technical fields as well as spiritual endeavors some small proof of this synthesis.
This conclusion which comes to mind as I walk in the tunnel of Hezekiah, is well put in the Book of Psalms, chapter 127:1
"A song of ascents. Of Solomon. Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain."
Information about the Canaanites comes from an article on this website.
Also check out *Wikipaedia.