City of David

The archaeological park of the “City of David” is located south of the old city walls. This is one of the most important archaeological sites in Israel and is claimed to be the ancient biblical city of King David, as conquered from the Jebusites.

For a normal trip to the City of David, the group will spend 2-3 hours maximum here.
The tour would normally start at the lookout and then continue to the short 3D film.
At the Gihon spring, a choice must be made whether or not to go through the 0.5 km wet course/ Hezekiah’s Tunnel. The other option is the dry Canaanite Channel/ tunnel #2. It is also possible to enter the underground passage from the Second Temple Period which runs under the street towards the Davidson’s Center.
You must have correct tickets for the tunnels that you wish to enter as they are site specific. The shuttle service is an extra charge.

Biblical Account:
2 Samuel 5 v 6 -7: The king and his men marched to Jerusalem to attack the Jebusites, who lived there. The Jebusites said to David, “You will not get in here; even the blind and the lame can ward you off.” They thought, “David cannot get in here.” Nevertheless, David captured the fortress of Zion—which is the City of David.
According to the Bible, the Israelites continued to use the city walls and extended the city northward to include the Temple Mount under Solomon: Here is the account of the forced labor King Solomon conscripted to build the Lord’s temple, his own palace, the terraces, and the wall of Jerusalem. 1 Kings 9.15
2 Chronicles 30 v 1-5 “After all that Hezekiah had so faithfully done, Sennacherib king of Assyria came and invaded Judah. He laid siege to the fortified cities, thinking to conquer them for himself. When Hezekiah saw that Sennacherib had come and that he intended to wage war against Jerusalem, he consulted with his officials and military staff about blocking off the water from the springs outside the city, and they helped him. They gathered a large group of people who blocked all the springs and the stream that flowed through the land. “Why should the king] of Assyria come and find plenty of water?” they said. Then he worked hard repairing all the broken sections of the wall and building towers on it. He built another wall outside that one and reinforced the terraces of the City of David. He also made large numbers of weapons and shields.”

2 Chronicles 30 v 30 “It was Hezekiah who blocked the upper outlet of the Gihon spring and channeled the water down to the west side of the City of David. He succeeded in everything he undertook.”

View Point on top of the House of the Tzofeh/ scout/ watchman
The Canaanites (Jebusites) built the City of David first. They had dozens of cities over the country, and every other example is dead today. This one is different, because of David and Solomon. King David was the first to make it his capital and the Tabernacle and later the Temple made it a spiritual center for the Jewish people. Jerusalem is the city where many chapters of the Bible were written, for example Jeremiah and the Prophets. I.e. the core of the spiritual and political life of the Jewish people occurs and is recorded here. The City of David is the ancient core of Jerusalem. There were homes here from 3500 BCE or the Early Bronze Age. The earliest city wall is from the Mid Bronze Age or period of the Patriarchs i.e. the 18th century BCE.

The Gihon Spring was/ is located in the City Of David and was diverted to fill the Shiloach Pool. Silwan comes from the Greek Siloam which comes from the Hebrew Shiloach. In front is the Valley of Kidron, east of the City of David. The valley used to be the border with the desert as well as the location where people were buried.
Between us and the Western Hill are the Tyropean Valley and the Western border of the City of David. The Givati excavation is located over the central valley. The City of David is protected from 3 sides and we are not sure how it was protected on the northern side. In Psalm 123, Jerusalem, i.e. the City of David, is described as being surrounded by mountains.
The Gihon spring gushed with water and was the only major water source for the city.

Why did King David chose this location for his capital?
David was King for 7 ½ years in Hebron. The city of Jebus was not located within the settled territory of any particular tribe. In the Bible, Jerusalem is mentioned as being part of the tribe of Benjamin, but at David’s time was occupied only by the Jebusites. It is also located between Hebron and Giva/ Tel el Ful which was the capital of the former dynasty of King Saul. Because of its location between the northern and southern tribes, it is very strategic. David’s sources of power/ strength would have been Hebron and Bethlehem.

History and Archeology:

In the 19th century people were unaware of where ancient Jerusalem was located, i.e. The City of David, formerly named Jebus. Charles Warren discovered the Warren Shaft System in 1867. It took water from the spring, to a location that must have been within the city, thus indicating that the city was originally outside today’s old city walls.

The Palace of David: This identification is a suggestion and there is ongoing debate. In 2005 Eilat Mazar, granddaughter of Benjamin Mazar, decided to re-excavate, despite the fact that everyone said that she was mad. She insisted, saying that the upper most area in the City of David would have been the acropolis and therefore should be the location of the palace.

Eilat found magnificent, large building stones used to make a wall, 3 courses high, stretching 35m to the west. The structure stretches to the north and south, with the wall to the north being 6 ½ meters thick. These are foundations, with the structure formerly being on top. On top of this layer, potshards were found, and underneath, everything was sealed. Eilat Mazar dated the structure to after the 11th century BCE but before the mid-10th century BCE. According to her understanding, it was within Biblical Jerusalem and could be the Palace of King David, certainly it was a large, public, administrative structure from the time of the Judean Kings.

There is a very small inscription from 600 BCE which was found in the mud. It was on a bulla (seal) and was imprinted into clay. It survived 2600 years and mentions Jehuchal the son of Shelemiah. This name as well as others such as Gedaliahu, were found on seals in this area are found in Jeremiah 37-38 and relate to the First temple period. Bullae were used to seal contracts and letters. The contract itself deteriorated, but the Bullae are still here to tell us a story. In the 1980’s an excavation was done in Area G/ the royal quarter. 51 bullae were found of which 49 bore names from the First Temple Period. One name was also from the book of Jeremiah. From the archeological stratification, we understand that these were from the time of the last days of the First Temple Period when Jerusalem was besieged by the Babylonians.

Area G is one of the most important in the City of David. There were several important finds here, the most important being the stepped stone structure. Today 18m of it is exposed, however it continues further than we can see. It is a retaining wall that supported something big! A neighborhood was built on top of this in the First Temple Period and three houses can still be seen today:

Ahaliel’s home had a courtyard at its center. There were holes found in the pillars for tying animals up. There is also another room to the right, which is adjacent to the courtyard. It had four spaces, three of which were parallel, with one adjoining from the North. It had a unique feature, which is a toilet seat made out of stone, therefore it was a very wealthy family. Pollen from different vegetables was found as well as eggs of intestinal tape worms from the 7th Century BCE. The home was built in the 10th BCE and survived until the destruction of the Babylonians.

The burnt room:
This was ruined with a thick layer of ashes and soot on the walls which gives clear indications of a large fire. Pieces of furniture were found, including a foot which looks like a lions paw which was made of boxwood. This wood was not found here during the First Temple Period; therefore this must have come from Syria. The Arameans in Syria were economic partners of Israel. There were lots of arrow heads found, some were flat and made of iron. Some were triangular which were associated with the invading armies from the North. Their name is Scythian arrow heads, with the flat ones being Judaite. This could be an indication of the final battle of Jerusalem.

The house of the bullae:
51 were found and only 2 had deteriorated, thus 49 names could be read. A recent find near the Gihon Spring unearthed 200 more. Everyone had a seal at that time, so it was not just for the wealthy or the nobility. The most important one found mentions Gemaliyahu, son of Shafan. He was part of the government in the last years of Jerusalem, before the destruction. He was one of the greatest supporters of Jeremiah.

Second Temple Period:
There were two towers and a wall at the top from this period, which are very low. To the left is a huge tower and there used to be another on the opposite side, but Dr Mazar dismantled it to see what was underneath. Coins, bulla and arrow heads were found in its foundations. It was built in the 5th century BCE at the time of Ezra and Nehemiah; i.e. the Persian era.

The Warrens Shaft System is entered through a modern 19th century Turkish building. You come out above the shaft that leads to the spring. Hezekiah’s tunnel is located 20m below. There were three phases to the different ways to reach water safely. 1800 BCE: Canaanite passage above ground which led to the fortress around the spring.

800 BCE: The Israelite phase. They found the shaft. Thousands of dolomite chips were found, as well as pottery lamps where they dug. These were found in a little room to the side. It is amazing as there are two types of rock found here and the chips are only from the dolomite layer, thus we can ascertain exactly where they dug.

Hezekiah’s tunnel:
Before you enter into the shaft system, there is a display case which houses a reconstruction of a hammer, and rock chips and oil lamps from the 8th century BCE. There is also a depiction of an Assyrian relief 9th century BCE, where there is a soldier highlighted in brown. He is cutting a rope holding a bucket, which effectively cuts off the city’s water sources. There is a passage with an 8m high wall from the MBA – 3000 years ago. It is a protected/ fortified corridor. Canaanite ladies would have used it in order to reach the fortifications and reservoir.

Sources for the Canaanite Pool:
Water came into the reservoir from rainwater as it was open to the sky.
Water was also brought here from the Gihon Spring which is 10m away, via a channel which is called channel #2, or the Canaanite channel.
King Solomon was anointed at the Gihon Spring, perhaps even at the platform nearby where we were standing on the wooden raised area. This is described in 1 Kings 1 v 38-39. In the earth fill, magnificent things were found, including 200 bullae, which were not connected with the reservoir.

3 Components:

  • Passage to the water
  • The reservoir
  • A tower to protect the spring which is huge: 200m2. One wall is 7m thick. This structure is from 1800 BCE.

Channel #2 dates from the 18th century BCE and is an important part of the entire system. It starts in the tower, goes underneath the wall and takes water to the Shiloach Pool, on the way feeding the reservoir. In the past, channel #2 was not dry and the water was raised up by blocking it with a wall and causing it to flow differently. The Canaanite Channel is 115-120m long, is lit and the exit is at area E. It is a channel which is dug from the ground surface down. At some places it is a tunnel. It continues for 200m more after reaching the spring, until the Shiloach Pool. It is possible to see the openings to the fields.

Hezekiah’s tunnel is made entirely in the bedrock. In contrast, the Canaanite channel could be penetrated, which gives us the reason why Hezekiah needed to build a new tunnel. Hezekiah’s tunnel is 533m long and is dark and wet, with up to 70cm of water depth. You need flashlights and a change of clothes to enter this tunnel, as well as good shoes. It takes around 40 minutes to walk through and the exit is at the Shiloach Pool. It is possible for children over the age of 5 and you need to use lockers at the entrance for heavy bags. (photo) When you exit Hezekiah’s tunnel, you come out underneath a mosque, near to the Byzantine era reservoir/ pool. In the 4th/ 5th century, a church was built there by Queen Eudocia; named the Church of Silwan.

King Hezekiah (716-687 BC) is mentioned in 2 Chronicles (chapters 29-32) as a king favorable in the eyes of God who reinstituted the celebration of Passover and sacrificed to God in the temple. In addition, Hezekiah prepared Jerusalem to withstand the Assyrian invasion. As part of his preparations, he blocked the water supply from the springs outside Jerusalem so they could not be used by the enemy, Sennacherib. He “”blocked the upper outlet of the Gihon spring and channeled the water down to the west side of the City of David” (2 Chronicles 32:30), to the Siloam Pool (photo)

Area E:
In 1882 a plot of land was bought by benefactors for the Yemenite Jews, next to Silwan. It was called Shiloach and a Jewish village was built there. Between the years 1936-1939, during the Arab uprising 144 homes were abandoned. All the houses remained and today they can be identified by their style, for example the red roofs. In recent years, Jewish organizations are trying to bring the Jews back to this area and this has opened a big debate.

The stone pillars mark the route where Hezekiah’s tunnel goes. At some points, the tunnel is 50m below the path, at others it is just 3m below. Inside the tunnel, an inscription was found that is now in Istanbul; today there is a replica inside the tunnel. In the 19th century it was suggested that the tunnel curves to avoid a particular area, perhaps the tombs of the Davidic Dynasty, which according to the Bible, should be at the Southern end of the City of David.

Stone vessels and the remains of a building were also found at this site, together with inscriptions on a stone slab. It mentions a synagogue built by Theodotus, son of an archi-synagogus, son of an archi-synagogus. It mentions nothing about prayer, but only about carrying out commandments, which is why we think that it is from the Second Temple Period.

The Shiloach Pool/ Pool of Silwan/ Siloam.

The main sewer of the Old City is located in this area. It was broken and needed to be repaired and that is how they found this site. The pool is assumed to be 50m by 60m, being +/- 3 dunams in size. To the left of the #15 sign, there are plastered steps from an earlier period. There was a coin found inside from 100 BCE, or the Hasmonean Period. Beyond the railing, there is a damming wall from the First Temple Period – 8th century BCE. Underneath the bedrock, there is one tunnel with two openings which is channel #2, from the 18th century BCE.

The pool is:
Probably Canaanite: This area would have been outside the walls and the water could have been used for agriculture.
Probably First Temple Period: The damming wall could have been part of the wall going up the hill and including the Temple Mount.
Certainly Hasmonean.
Probably Herodian. During the Second Temple Period, or time of Jesus, it was probably used as a huge Jewish ritual bath or mikveh. There are steps leading from the pool towards the Temple Mount which are long and short, in order to ensure that people making the final ascent to Jerusalem would do so in a respectful manner. We think that there was a plaza in front of the pool, extending for 70m and with a drainage system underneath. In John chapter 9, a blind man is healed at the pool of Silwan. Jesus spits onto the earth and puts the mud onto his eyelids and then tells him to go and wash it off/ to immerse in this pool. We should also mention the water libation ceremony, on the last day of the great feast: John 7 v 37.

The Givati Parking Lot:
At the bottom, the archeologists found the Tyropean Valley going through the center.
There are remnants from the First Temple Period here, which are housing from the 9th century BCE. There is also a glacis and remains of a wall, as well as monumental structures from the time of the Greek King Antiochus Epiphanes 4th. He built a fortification in Jerusalem called the Hakra in Hebrew or Akra in Greek; like an acropolis, in order to subdue those Jerusalemites who were opposed to Hellenisation. Some claim that this is the Hakra while others say that this is part of the wall of Jerusalem from the Hellenistic Period and that it is exactly where we would expect it to be. (Photo) During the Second Temple Period, there were a series of palaces in the Northern part of the city that belonged to a family from today’s Iraq. They were converts to Judaism; Queen Helena and her son. In the late Roman era, a huge Mansion was built here. Rows of bases of pillars can be seen, as well as an area with mosaic floors.

Reference: Eilat Mazar – The Palace of King David and Dr Eyal Meron, historian.


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