Will you try something with me? Extend your arms out from your sides shoulder high and make a fist. Point your thumbs forward. Close your eyes and move your arms forward until your thumbs touch. How did you do?
Try again, starting with your right arm at two o’clock and your left arm at eight o’clock.
I suspect you may have difficulty performing this simple task consistently; my thumbs seldom arrive on the same level. But, it makes a good illustration to describe King Hezekiah’s predicament in about 701 b.c..
King Sennacherib of Assyria was coming, and he hadn’t been invited. The City of David, on a mountain top, was highly defensible against siege except for one not-so-minor problem. The Gihon (gushing) spring that provided drinking water to the residents was outside the city walls. If King Sennacherib’s men cut off their water supply, it would only be a matter of time until the city fell into enemy hands.
The solution: dig a tunnel to divert the Gihon spring into the pool of Siloam inside the city walls. The problems: two major ones for sure. A mountain of limestone rock stood in the way. And there wasn’t much time to get it done; the war fuse was lit.
Maybe it was King Hezekiah’s idea, or perhaps someone suggested it, but it made sense. Start the tunnel from both ends and meet along the way. It made sense if you could connect those shafts deep beneath the mountain, those thumb-tips, so to speak.
Without the sophisticated instruments of our day, connecting the tunnel ends was going to be an accomplishment of great magnitude. There were elevation problems to solve, water has to run downhill. And the logistics of moving tons of chiseled rock debris out the narrow shafts. With suspended dust and oil lamp fumes fouling the air, and perhaps poisonous gas, the workers would experience breathing difficulty, if not death. Pick axes and copper chisels would required constant repairing.
Prayers, I feel certain, for guidance and success were made before the work commenced.
The tunnels eventually developed a serpentine “S” shape. Two false starts along the way reveal course corrections. Theories abound concerning how the tunnel ends advanced toward each other. Some suggest hammer blows from the surface far above provided direction, other’s discount this as unlikely. Some suggest progress was laid out on top by measurement replicating the course below, but that too is discounted. Others suggest the curvature followed a natural karstic dissolution channel, but that has been disproved.
There is an old saying I like and I think it applies here: “If God leads you to it, He will lead you through it.”
You know the end of the story. The ends met and the tunnel, about one-third mile long, was completed. The Gihon spring was walled up and the water diverted to flow through the tunnel into the pool of Siloam within the city. The City of David, Jerusalem, was secure against a lengthy siege by King Sennacherib.
Among the several lessons this biblical story teaches is this: When we are rightly connected to the source of Living Water, we are secure from siege against the enemy.
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See: 2 Chronicles 32:30, 2 Kings 20:20
The workers left the following inscription (called the Siloam Inscription) chiseled on the tunnel wall:
“[...when] (the tunnel) was driven through. And this was the way in which it was cut through: While [...] (were) still [...] axe(s), each man toward his fellow, and while there were still three cubits to be cut through, [there was heard] the voice of a man calling to his fellows, for there was an overlap in the rock on the right [and on the left]. And when the tunnel was driven through, the quarrymen hewed (the rock), each man toward his fellow, axe against axe; and the water flowed from the spring toward the reservoir for 1200 cubits, and the height of the rock above the head(s) of the quarrymen was 100 cubits.”
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