Hershel Shanks

Commemorating an awesome feat of ancient engineering, this inscription describes the final moments in the digging of the Siloam tunnel under Jerusalem. Originally incised on the rock wall near the tunnel’s southern exit, the inscription now resides in the Istanbul Archaeological Museum, in an area usually closed to the public. Most photos of the inscription actually show a replica in the Israel Museum, but in this rare picture of the original object you can see the true color of the stone, which is broken in several pieces.

The fine late 8th-century B.C. script says in part, “… while there were still three cubits to be he[wn, there was hear]d a man’s voice calling to his fellow, for there was a crack (?) in the rock on the right and [on the lef]t …. And at the end of the tunneling … there flowed the waters from the spring toward the reservoir. …” The remarkable tunnel, about 1,750 feet long, was dug from both ends at once; following a sinuous trail, the two groups of tunnelers somehow met in the middle.

With the Assyrian king Sennacherib marching on Jerusalem, Hezekiah made preparations for the siege by camouflaging the springs outside the city walls and sending the water by means of this tunnel to a pool inside (2 Chronicles 32:2–4; 2 Kings 20:20).