How Joab Entered the City

Before David captured ancient Jerusalem, he arrayed his troops at the outskirts of the city and declared: “Whoever attacks the Jebusites first shall be chief and commander” (1 Chronicles 11:6). Joab accepted the challenge and was the first Israelite to enter the city, later renamed the City of David.

But how did Joab get in? David himself provides one clue, telling his troops—in the most common translation of 2 Samuel 5:8—to infiltrate the city by going “up the watershaft (tsinnor).” David may have been referring to Warren’s Shaft (shown below in a section drawing of ancient Jerusalem’s underground water system). A narrow vertical tunnel, Warren’s Shaft drops down 37 feet to a lower tunnel cut into the rock to channel water from the Gihon Spring, ancient Jerusalem’s only source of fresh water. The pre-Davidic Jebusites blocked the spring’s natural outlet to the Kidron Valley, forcing the water to flow along the tunnel towards the shaft, where city residents dropped buckets to collect drinking water. (The portion of the tunnel extending beyond the shaft was constructed centuries later by the Judahite king Hezekiah, who ruled from 727 to 698 B.C.E.)

Possibly Joab crawled along the lower tunnel, shimmied up Warren’s Shaft and climbed the steep tunnel that emerges into Jerusalem—bypassing the Jebusite fortifications.

Or did he enter a different way? Another tunnel (shown in white in the drawing) opening onto the city’s eastern side and looking over the Kidron Valley extends to the top of Warren’s Shaft. If Joab entered via this tunnel, whose opening is today completely blocked by debris, he would not have had to climb the precipitous vertical shaft.

Re-opening this now-blocked tunnel—possibly the key to David’s capture of Jerusalem—would create a wonderful new tourist attraction for the city. What better way to mark the 3,000th anniversary of David’s victory than to make this tunnel accessible once again?