Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassion fails not. They are new each morning; Great is Your faithfulness. Lamentations 3: 22-23
Hezekiah, of tunnel fame, was a good king in the history of Israel and the eyes of the Lord. In the 7th century BC, he reigned for 29 years in Jerusalem, the Southern Kingdom’s capital. Facing a vicious Assyrian army, Hezekiah fortified the city and with an attitude of gratitude, assembled the people saying: “Be strong and courageous! Don’t be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria or his mighty army, for there is a power far greater on our side! He may have a great army, but they are merely men. We have the LORD our God to help us and to fight our battles for us!” [2 Chronicles 32: 7-8]
Hezekiah’s Tunnel is one of the most spectacular and engaging Biblical sites in Jerusalem. I love stepping into those waters! The sound of their rushing echoes throughout the tunnel as you walk its winding 1700 foot length. It is an exhilarating feeling to tread where water has flowed for centuries, watering Jerusalem during siege after siege and filling the Pool of Siloam where Jesus sent the blind man to wash away the mud He had smeared on his eyes.
Day At Disneyland
That single file walk through the tunnel is like the best ride at Disneyland. It has twists and turns, dark places, low places, narrow places, and once you start….there is no turning back! Everyone is encouraged to bring a flashlight and wear water shoes. Occasionally the water is knee deep, but for the most part, it stays right around your ankles.
But the dark….that is another story. Somewhere in the middle of the tunnel, it is a tradition to ask everyone to turn off their lights. The darkness is overwhelming, you cannot even see your hand in front of your face and the oppressive nature of total darkness surrounds you. That total absence of light reminds me what it must be like to be separated from God and so thankful for the light at the end of the tunnel.
Only Off By One Foot
Tall tunnel walkers will have to bend over in several places, those like me (5’4″) can walk upright the whole 45 minutes. The tunnel’s walls are smooth and the width is between 3 and 4 feet. How Hezekiah’s men were able to carve the tunnel from both ends and meet in the middle is a mystery that man has tried to solve since its discovery. Where the two sets of carvers met, all those centuries ago, is the widest area of the tunnel and has a slight jog of about a foot….that’s all they were off…One Foot.
The prevailing theory is that the carvers were led by pinging from above, a sort of BC sonar technique. Tel Megiddo has a similar water tunnel, dated from the reign of King Ahab during the 9th century BC, that used the same carving technique.
The Assyrian Empire was the power of Hezekiah’s day and had already made several forays into Judah, attacking and capturing some surrounding cities, so Hezekiah knew an attack on Jerusalem was imminent. Staying strong in the face of the enormous Assyrian army, he went about preparing for the inevitable siege by “repairing all the broken sections of the wall, erecting towers and constructing a second wall outside the first.” [2 Chronicles 32: 5] This second wall was discovered and excavated after the 1967 war, once again proving the Bible’s historical accuracy.
He also organized “a huge work crew to stop the flow of the springs, cutting off the brook that ran through the fields.” [2 Chronicles 32: 4] The Gihon Spring was Jerusalem’s main source of water, bubbling just outside the city walls. After blocking off the spring, the water was channeled into the city through a tunnel carved in the bedrock. [2 Kings: 20: 20] Hezekiah’s Tunnel effectively deprived the invaders of water and allowed Jerusalem to withstand the siege. Take that you nasty Assyrians!
A Rebuke From Isaiah
Hezekiah did what he could to prepare for difficult circumstances but Jerusalem was not saved from the Assyrians by a tunnel or wall fortifications. In fact, the prophet Isaiah rebukes Hezekiah for trusting in this work, so both of them go to the Temple, kneel, and pray “You alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth . . . Now, O Lord our God, deliver us from [the enemy’s] hand, so that all kingdoms on earth may know that you alone, O Lord, are God” (Isaiah 37:16, 20).
The Bible tells us that The Angel of the Lord walked among the sleeping Assyrian army that night, killing 180,000 of them which caused the rest to flee in terror. It is easy to be thankful when skies are blue and the sun is shining. But what about when you are in the tunnel, looking at a siege or attack? Take a cue from Hezekiah, remain thankful that the Lord is always faithful, true and ready to deliver us!