For the sake of clarity, the term “tunnel” will be reserved for horizontal cuttings, “shaft” for vertical ones, and “stepped tunnel” for angling ones.


There are reasons to question this early a dating, but they need not concern us here.


This shaft and tunnel system has been described and illustrated in “Digging in the City of David,” BAR 05:04.


An “inset-offset” wall is one which has periodic zigzag vertical cutbacks along its face. This device gave defenders a line of fire against attackers at the base of their wall; it became popular in Israel in the 9th century B.C.


A casemate wall consists of two parallel walls connected by periodic cross walls. The effect is to create a line of narrow rectangular rooms, but the main purpose probably was to provide a wall system with sufficient space on the top for defenders to maneuver easily. We know that this wall style was most characteristic of Israel in the 10th century B.C.


Sometime after the 9th century B.C. shaft/tunnel system was cut, the tunnel was deepened and graded so that the water then flowed from the spring to the base of the shaft inside the city. This saved steps for the water carriers who no longer had to walk through the tunnel, but the arrangement apparently proved unsatisfactory. Perhaps the water became fouled at the shaft end since it had no place to flow off. So the tunnel floor was again recut and regraded so the spring water no longer flowed to the base of the shaft.


I am not convinced by Dever’s argument against a 9th century date. One of the Iron Age walls which on Macalister’s plan appears above the shaft looks as if it could have been a retaining wall around the top of the shaft steps.



For fullest description see Robert Scott Lamon, The Megiddo Water System (Chicago. 1935).


Yigael Yadin, Hazor: the Rediscovery of a Great Citadel of the Bible (New York, 1975), pp 168, 187–193.


Yadin, Hazor, pp. 207–220.


A stairway of similar concept was excavated by James G. Pritchard at Tell es-Sa’idiyeh in the Jordan Valley in 1964; see Biblical Archaeologist XXVIII:1 (Feb., 1965), 12–14.


Yadin, Hazor, pp. 233–247.


R. A. S. Macalister, The Excavation of Gezer (London, 1912), II, 256–265; III, Plate LII.


Biblical Archaeologist XXXII, 3 (September, 1969), 70.


Ibid., 71–78.


For the fullest description of the Pool and its discovery, see James B. Pritchard’s Gibeon, Where the Sun Stood Still (Princeton, 1962), pp. 64–74.


Edward Robinson, Biblical Researches in Palestine (London, 2nd ed. 1860), Vol. I, pp. 454–456.


Pritchard, Gibeon pp. 45–52.


James B. Pritchard, The Water System of Gibeon (Philadelphia, 1961), p. 8. See this volume for the most complete technical description of both the Pool and the stepped tunnel to the spring at el-Jib.


The same general concept (stepped tunnel through bedrock to already-known spring source) is exhibited in modified form in “Warren’s Shaft” at Jerusalem. An even closer analogy may be the tunnel at Khirbet Bel ‘ameh (ancient Ibleam) near Jenin, but it has not been fully exposed or dated (see G. Schumacher in Palestine Exploration Quarterly, 1910, 107–112, Pl. 2).


If the pool had been used originally as a cistern, we should not necessarily find traces today at the top of the shaft of the channels which led water into the reservoir. When it was converted to its later use the channel endings would have been dismantled to prevent water from flowing into the cavity.


Alternately, the upper shaft may have been a grain silo. A silo of similar shape, complete with spiraling steps, is preserved at Iron Age Megiddo The installation at Megiddo, however, only entailed cutting through earlier earthen debris layers and then lining the silo walls with small stones. It seems unnecessarily ambitious of the Gibeonites to have hewn through solid bedrock merely for grain storage.


Pritchard, The Water System of Gibeon, p. 10.


A secondary cutting of the upper stairs would explain why they appear less worn than those of the stepped tunnel to the spring in spite of the fact that the pool appears to predate the stepped tunnel and yet to have been still in use right up until the city’s destruction at the end of the Iron Age. There is a further reason to suggest that the upper shaft may have been originally a reservoir. The Hebrew word identifying the early 10th century installation at Gibeon in 2 Samuel 2 and translated “pool” (berekah) seems to be used elsewhere in the Bible for places where water is collected: basins into which water flows, natural pools in which rain water collects and so forth, for instance Isaiah 22:9, 11; Ecclesiastes 7:5. I find no place where the meaning is clearly a source of water or a place from which water flows. One verse is particularly striking. In Nahum 2:8 the prophet writes, “Nineveh is like a pool (berekah) whose waters run away.” The implication, of course, is that the waters should not run away from a berekah: they should be held by it.