Siloah, Siloam, or Shiloah

Silo'ah, Silo'am, Or Shilo'ah, a place in the vicinity of Jerusalem, of great importance in some respects both in ancient and modern times.

I. Name. — This occurs in a different form both in the original and in the A.V. as applied to water, in three passages of Scripture, which we here arrange chronologically.

1. "The WATERS OF SHILOAH'' (Heb. Mey hash-Shilo'ach, מֵי הִשַּׁלֹחִ;. Sept. τὸ ὕδωρ τοῦ Σειλωάμ v.r. Σιλω®μ; Saadias, Ain Selwan; Vulg. aquas Siloe), a certain soft flowing stream employed by the prophet Isaiah (Isa 8:6) to point his comparison between the quiet confidence in Jehovah which he was urging on the people, and the overwhelming violence of the king of Assyria, for whose alliance they were clamoring.

There is no reason to doubt that the waters in question were the same that are better known under their later name of Siloam — is the only perennial spring of Jerusalem. Objection has been taken to the fact that the "waters of Siloam" run with an irregular intermittent action, and therefore could hardly be appealed to as flowing "softly." But the testimony of careful investigators (Robinson, Bib. Res. 1, 341, 2;. Barclay, City of the Great King, p. 516) establishes the fact that the disturbance only takes place, at the oftenest, two or three "times a day, say three to four hours out of tile twenty-four, the flow being "perfectly quiescent" during the rest; of the time. In summer the disturbance only occurs once in two or three days. Such interruptions to the quiet flow of the stream would therefore not interfere with the contrast enforced in the prophet's metaphor.

2. "The POOL OF SILOAH" (Heb. Berekdth hash-She'lach, בּרֵכִת הִשֶּׁלִח; Sept. κολυμβήθρα τῶν κωδίων v.r. τῶν θετοῦ Σιλωάμ, XI\' oaiA; Vulg. Piscina Siloe), a locality on the southern wall of the city near "the king's garden" (Ne 3:15). This was possibly a corrupt form of the name which is first presented as Shiloach, then as Siloam, and is now Selwan. The root of them all is doubtless שָׁלִח, shalach, "to send." The meaning of Shelach, taken as Hebrew, is "dart." This cannot be a name given to the stream on account of its swiftness, because it is not now, nor was it in the days of Isaiah, anything but a very soft and gentle stream (Isa 8:6). It is probably an accommodation to the popular mouth, of the same nature as that exemplified in the name Dart, which is now borne by more than one river in England, and which has nothing whatever to do with swiftness, but is merely a corruption of the ancient word, which also appears in the various forms of Derwent, Darent, and perhaps Trent.

3. "The POOL OF SILOAM." (η κολυμβήθρα τοῦ Σιλωάμ, which the, evangelist immediately explains by adding, "which is interpreted Sent," ὅ ἑρμηνεύταιΑ᾿πεσταλμένος, evidently deriving it from שָׁלִח), a bathing place in the vicinity of Jerusalem to which our Lord sent the blind man to wash in order to the recovery of his sight (Joh 9:7-11).

In this connection we may also refer to the only other Biblical occurrence of the name by "the TOWER IN SILOAM" (ὁ πόργος ἐν τῷ Σιλωάμ, Vulg. turris in Siloe), to which Jesus alluded as the cause of a great calamity to certain Jews (Lu 13:4). There is no good reason to suppose a different place to be here meant; but some structure adjoining the fountain is doubtless designated. There were fortifications hard by, for of Jotham we read, "on the wall of Ophel he built much" (2Ch 27:3); and of Manasseh that "he compassed about Ophel" (33:14); and, in connection with Ophel, there is mention made of "a tower that lieth out" (Ne 3:26); and there is no unlikelihood in connecting this projecting tower with the tower in Siloam, while one may be almost excused for the conjecture that its projection was the cause of its ultimate fall.

The above change in the Masoretic punctuation perhaps indicates merely a change in the pronunciation or in the spelling of the word, some time during the three centuries between Isaiah and Nehemiah. Rabbinical writers, and, following them, Jewish travellers, both ancient and modern, from Benjamin of Tudela to Schwarz, retain the earlier Shiloach in preference to the later Shelach. The rabbins give it with the article, as in the Bible (השילוה, Dach, Codex Talmudicus, p, 367). The Sept. gives Σιλωάμ in Isaiah; but in Nehemiah κολυμβήθρα τῶν κωδίων, the pool of the sheepskins, or "fleece pool;" perhaps because, in their day, it was used for washing the fleeces of the victims. In Talmudical Hebrew Shelach signifies "a skin" (Levi, Lingua Sacra); and the Alexandrian translators attached this meaning to it, they and the earlier rabbins considering Nehemiah's Shelach as a different pool from Siloam, probably the same as Bethesda, by the sheep gate (Joh 5:2), the προβατικὴ κολυμβήθρα of Eusebius, the probatica piscina of Jerome. If so, then it is Bethesda, and not Siloam, that is mentioned by Nehemiah. We may observe that, the Targum of Jonathan, the Peshito, and the Arabic versions of 1Ki 1:33 read Shiloah for the Gihon of the Hebrew. The Vulg. has uniformly, both in the Old and the New Test., Siloe; in the Old calling it piscina, and in the New natatoria. The Latin fathers, led by the Vulg., have always Siloe; the old pilgrims, who knew nothing but the Vulg., Siloe or Syloe. The Greek fathers, adhering to the Sept., have Siloam. The word does not occur in, the Apocrypha. Josephus gives both Siloam and Siloa (Σιλωάμ and Σιλωά), generally the former.

II. Identification. — Siloam is one of the few undisputed localities (though Reland and some others misplaced it) in the topography of Jerusalem, still retaining its old name (with the Arabic modification,

Silwan), while every other pool has lost its Bible designation. This is the more remarkable as it is a mere suburban tank of no great size, and for many an age not particularly good or plentiful in its waters, though Josephus tells us that in his day they were both "sweet and abundant" (War, 5, 4, 1). Apart from the identity of name, there is an unbroken chain of exterior testimony. during eighteen centuries, connecting the present Birket Silwan with the Shiloah of Isaiah and the Siloam of John. There are difficulties in identifying the Bir Eyub (the well of Salah-ed-din, Ibn-Eyub, the great digger of wells, Jalal-Addin, p. 239), but none in fixing Siloam. Josephus mentions it frequently in his Jewish War, and his references indicate that it was a somewhat noted place, a sort of city landmark. From him we learn that it was without the city. (ἔξω τοῦ ἄστεως, War, 5, 9, 4); that it was at this pool that the "old wall" took a bend and shot out eastward (ἀνακάμπτον εἰς ἀνατολήν, ibid. 5, 6, 1); that there was a valley under it (τὴν ὐπὸ Σιλαωὰμ φάραγγα, ibid. 6, 8, 5), and one beside it (τῇ κατὰ τὴν Σιλωάμ φάραγγι, ibid. 5, 12, 2); a hill (λόφος) right opposite, apparently on the other side of the Kedron, hard by a cliff or rock called, Peristereon (ibid.); that it was at the termination or mouth of the Tyropoeon (ibid. 5, 4, 1); that close beside it, apparently eastward, was another pool called Solomon's Pool, to which the "old wall" came after leaving Siloam, and past which it went on to Ophlas, where, bending northward, it was united to the eastern arcade of the Temple. In the Antonine Itinerary (A.D. 333) it is set down in the same locality, but it is said to be "juxta murum," as Josephus implies; whereas now it is a considerable distance — upwards of 1200 feet — from the nearest angle of the present wall, and nearly 1900 feet from the southern wall of the Haram.

Jerome, towards the beginning of the 5th century, describes it as "ad radices montis Moriah" (in Matt. 10), and tells (though without endorsing, the fable) that the stones sprinkled with, the blood ("rubra saxa") of the prophet Zechariah were still pointed out (in Matthew 23). He speaks of it as being in the Valley, of the Son of Hinnom, as Josephus does of its being at the mouth of the Tyropoeon (in Jeremiah 2); and it is noticeable that he (like the rabbins) never mentions the Tyropoeon, while he, times without number, speaks of the Valley of the Son of Hinnom. He speaks of Hinnom and Tophet, with their groves and gardens, as watered by Siloam (in Jeremiah 9:6; 32:35). "Tophet, quae est in valle filii Ennom, ilium locum significat qui Siloe fontibus irrigatur, et est amoenus atque nemorosus, hodieque hortorum praebet delicias" (in Jeremiah 8). He speaks of Siloam as dependent on the rains, and as the only fountain used in his day: "Uno fonte Siloe et hoc non perpetuo utitur civitas; et usque in praesentem diem sterilitas pluviarum, non solum frugum sed et bibendi inopiam facit" (in Jeremiah 14). Now, though Jerome ought to have known well the water supplies of Jerusalem, seeing he lived the, greater part of his life within six miles of it, yet other authorities and the modern water provision of the city show us that it could never have been wholly dependent on its pools. Its innumerable bottle necked private cisterns kept up a supply at all times, and hence it often happened that it was the besiegers, not the besieged, that suffered most; though Josephus records a memorable instance to the contrary, when, relating a speech he made to the Jews, standing beyond their darts on a part of the southeastern wall which the Romans had carried, he speaks of Siloam as overflowing since the Romans had got access to it, whereas before, when the Jews held it, it was dry (War, 5, 9, 4). We may here notice, in passing, that Jerusalem is, except perhaps in the very heat of the year, a well watered city. Dr. Barclay says that "within a circuit swept by a radius of seven or eight miles there are no less than thirty or forty natural springs" (City of the Great King, p. 295); and a letter from consul Finn adds, "This I believe to be under the truth, but they are almost all found to the south and southwest: in those directions there does not appear to be a village without springs." Strabo's statement is that Jerusalem itself was rocky but well watered (εὔυδρον), but all the region around was barren and waterless (λυπρὰν καὶ ἄνυδρον, 16:2, 36). We have only to add that Jerome (Comment. in Esa. 8:6), indicating its situation more precisely, also mentions its irregular flow — a very remarkable circumstance, which has been noticed by most subsequent pilgrims and travellers. This assures us that the present fountain of Siloam is that which he had in view, and that it is the same to which the scriptural notices refer there is no reason to doubt.

Soon after Jerome, Antoninus of Placentia, in his Pilgrimage (A.D. 570), gives a similar description, and mentions especially that at certain hours only did the fountain pour forth much water. He also distinguishes between the fountain and the pool where the people washed themselves for a blessing. In the 7th century Antoninus Martyr mentions Siloam as both fountain and pool. Bernhard the monk speaks of it in the 9th century, and the annalists of the Crusades mention its site, in the fork of two valleys, as we find it. Benjamin of Tudela (A.D. 1173) speaks of "the great spring of Shiloach which runs into the brook Kedron" (Asher's ed. 1, 71), and he mentions "a large building upon it" (על), which he says was erected in the days of his fathers. Is it of this building that the present ruined pillars are the relics? Caumont (A.D. 1418) speaks of the Valley of Siloah, "ou est le fonteyne ou le (sic) vierge Marie lavoit les drapellez de son enfant," and of the fountain of Siloam as close at hand (Voyage d'Oultremer en Jherusalem, etc. [Paris ed.], p. 68). Felix Fabri (A.D. 1484) describes Siloam at some length, and seems to have attempted to enter the subterraneous passage, but failed, and retreated in dismay after filling his flasks with its eye healing water. Arnold von Harff (A.D. 1496) also identifies the spot (Die Pilgefahrt [Col. ed.], p. 186). After this the references to Siloam are innumerable; nor do they, with one or two exceptions, vary in their location of it. We hardly needed these testimonies to enable us to fix the site, though some topographers have rested on these entirely.

Scripture, if it does not actually set it down in the mouth of the Tyropoeon as Josephus does, brings us very near it, both in Nehemiah and John. The reader who compares Ne 3:15 with 12:37 will find that the pool of Siloah, the fountain gate, the stairs of the city of David, the wall above the house of David, the water gate, and the king's garden were all near each other. The evangelist's narrative regarding the blind man, whose eyes the Lord miraculously opened, when carefully examined leads us to the conclusion that Siloam was somewhere in the neighborhood of the Temple. The Rabbinical traditions, or histories, as they doubtless are in many cases, frequently refer to Siloam in connection with the Temple service. It was to Siloam that the Levite was sent with the golden pitcher on the "last and great day of the feast" of Tabernacles; it was from Siloam that he brought the water which was then poured over the sacrifice, in memory of the water from the rock of Rephidim; and it was to this Siloam water that the Lord pointed when he stood in the Temple on that day and cried, "If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink." The Lord sent the blind man to wash, not in, as our version has it, but at (εἰς) the pool of Siloam (see Wolfii Curoe, etc. Or εἰς gets its force from ὕπαγε, νίψαι coming between the verb and its preposition, parenthetically, "Go to the pool and wash thine eyes there") for it was the clay from his eyes that was to be washed off; and the evangelist is careful to throw in a remark, not for the purpose of telling us that Siloam meant an "aqueduct," as some think, but to give higher significance to the miracle. "Go wash in the pool of Siloam" was the command; the evangelist adds, "which is by interpretation, sent." On the inner meaning here, the parallelism between "the sent one" (Luke, 4:18; Joh 10:36) and "the sent water," the missioned one and the missioned pool, we say nothing further than what St. Basil said well, in his exposition of the 8th of Isaiah: τίς ουν ὁἀπεσταλμένος καὶ ἀψοφητὶ ῥέων; ὴ περὶ ου εἴρηται, κύριος ἀπέσταλκέ με καὶ πάλιν, οὐκ ἐρισει οδὐὲ κραυγάσει. That "sent" is the natural interpretation is evident, not simply from the word itself, but from other passages where שָׁל ח is used in connection with water, as Job 3:10, "he sendeth waters upon the fields;" and Eze 31:4, "she sent out her little rivers unto all the trees of the field." The Talmudists coincide with the evangelist, and say that Shiloach was so called because it sent forth its waters to water the gardens (Levi, Lingua Sacra). We may add Homer's line

ἐννῆμαρ δ᾿ ἐς τἓχος ἵει ῥοόν (Il. 12, 25).

III. Modern Locality.

1. General Description. — A little way below the Jewish burying ground, but on the opposite side of, the valley, where the Kedron turns slightly westward, and widens itself considerably, is the Fountain of the Virgin, or Um ed-Deraj, near the beginning of that saddle-shaped projection of the Temple hill supposed to be the Ophel of the Bible and the Ophlas of Josephus. SEE EN-ROGEL. At the back part of this fountain a subterraneous passage begins, through which the water flows, and through which a man may make his way, as did Robinson, Barclay, and Warren, sometimes walking erect, sometimes stooping, sometimes kneeling, and sometimes crawling, to Siloam. This rocky conduit, which twists considerably, but keeps, in general, a southwesterly direction, is, according to Robinson, 1750 feet long, while the direct distance between Silwan and Um ed-Deraj is only a little above 1200 feet. In former days this passage was evidently deeper, as its bed is sand of some depth, which has been accumulating for ages. This conduit has had tributaries, which have formerly sent their waters down from the city pools: or Temple wells to swell Siloam. Barclay writes, "In exploring the subterraneous channel conveying the water from the Virgin's Fount to Siloam, I discovered a similar channel entering from the north, a few yards from its commencement and on tracing it up near the Maugrabin gate, where it became so choked with rubbish that it could be traversed no farther, I there found it turn to the west, in the direction of the south end of the cleft or addle of Zion; and if this channel was not constructed for the purpose of conveying to Siloam the surplus waters of Hezekiah's aqueduct, I am unable to suggest any purpose to which it could have been applied" (City of the Great King, p. 309). In another place he tells us something more: "Having loitered in the pool [Virgin's Fouint] till the coming down of the waters, I soon found several widely separated places where it gained admittance, besides the opening under the steps, Where alone it had formerly been supposed to enter. I then observed a large opening entering the rock hewn channel, just below the pool, which, though once a copious tributary, is now dry. Being too much choked with tessera and rubbish to be penetrated far, I carefully noted its position and bearing, and, on searching for it above, soon identified it on the exterior, where it assumed an upward direction towards the Temple, and, entering through a breach, traversed it for nearly a thousand feet, sometimes erect, sometimes bending, sometimes inching my way snake fashion, till at last I reached a point near the wall where I heard the donkeys tripping along over my head. I was satisfied, on subsequently locating our course above ground with the. theodolite, that this canal derived its former supply of water, not from, Moriah, but from Zion" (ibid. p. 523). Lieut. Warren, of the English party exploring Jerusalem, has more recently examined the water passages from the Virgin's Fount, and found several outlets, all blocked up, however, with debris, except one which led up through the rock to the surface on the west. He is inclined to think that the supply of water came from the Temple rock (Jerusalem Recovered, p. 194 sq.). Certain it is, at all events, that the water of both fountains is the same, though some travellers have pronounced the water of Siloam to be bad, and that of the Fountain of the Virgin good. It has a peculiar taste, sweetish and very slightly brackish, but not at all disagreeable. Late in the season, when: the water is low, it is said to become more brackish and unpleasant. The most remarkable circumstance is the ebb and flow of the waters, which, although often mentioned as a characteristic of Siloam, must belong equally to both fountains. Dr. Robinson himself witnessed this phenomenon in the Fountain of the Virgin, where the water rose in five minutes one foot in the reservoir, and in another five minutes sank to its former level. The intervals and the extent of the flow and ebb in this and the fountain of Siloam vary with the season; but the fact, though it has not yet been accounted for, is beyond dispute.

This conduit enters Siloam at the northwest angle; or, rather, enters a small rock cut chamber which forms the vestibule of Siloam, about five or six feet broad. To this you descend by a few rude steps, under which the water pours itself into the main pool (Narrative of Mission to the Jews, 1, 207). This pool is oblong; eighteen paces in length according to Laffi (Viaggio al Santo Sepolcro, A.D. 1678), fifty feet according to Barclay, and fifty-three according to Robinson. It is eighteen feet broad and nineteen feet deep according to Robinson; but Barclay gives a more minute measurement: "fourteen and a half at the lower (eastern) end and seventeen at the upper; its western end side being somewhat bent. It is eighteen and a half in depth, but never filled, the water either passing directly through, or being maintained at a depth of three or four feet. This is effected by leaving open or closing (with a few handfuls of weeds at the present day, but formerly by a flood gate) an aperture at the bottom. At a height of three or four feet from the bottom its dimensions become enlarged a few feet, and the water, attaining this level, falls through an aperture at its lower end into an educt, subterranean at first, but soon appearing in a deep ditch under the perpendicular cliff of Ophel, and is received into a few small reservoirs and troughs" (Barclay, p. 524). This large receptacle is faced with a wall of stone, now greatly out of repair. Several columns stand out of the side walls, extending from the top downward into the cistern, the design of which it is difficult to conjecture. The water passes out of this reservoir through a channel cut in the rock, which is covered for a short distance; but subsequently it opens and discloses a lively copious stream, which is conducted into an enclosed garden planted with fig trees. It is afterwards subdivided, and seems to be. exhausted. in irrigating a number of gardens occupied with fig, apricot, olive, and other trees, and some flourishing legumes.

2. Coincidences with Ancient Accounts. — The small basin at the west end, which we have described, is what some old travellers call "the fountain of Siloe" (F. Fabri, 1, 420). "In front of this," Fabri goes on, "there is a bath surrounded by walls and buttresses, like a cloister, and the arches of these buttresses are supported by marble pillars," which pillars he affirms to be the remains of a monastery built above the pool. The present pool is a ruin, with no moss or ivy to make it romantic; its sides falling in;

its pillars broken; its stair a fragment; its walls giving way; the edge of every stone worn round or sharp by time; in some parts mere debris; once Siloam, now, like the city which overhung it, a heap; though around its edges "wild flowers, and, among other plants, the caper tree, grow luxuriantly" (Narrative of Mission, 1, 207). The gray crumbling limestone of the stone (as well as of the surrounding rocks, which are almost verdureless) gives a poor and worn out aspect to this venerable relic. The present pool is not the original building; the work of crusaders it may be; perhaps even improved by Saladin, whose affection for wells and pools led him to care for all these things; perhaps the work of later days. Yet the spot is the same. Above it rises the high rock, and beyond it the city wall; while eastward and southward the verdure of gardens relieves the gray monotony of the scene, and beyond these. the Kedron vale, overshadowed by the third of the, three heights of Olivet, "the mount of corruption" (1 Kings 10:7; 23:13), with the village of Silwan jutting out over its lower slope, and looking into the pool from which it takes its name and draws its water. This pool, which we may call the second, seems anciently to have poured its waters into a third, before it proceeded to water the royal gardens. This third is perhaps that which Josephus calls "Solomon's pool" (War, 5, 4, 2), and which Nehemiah calls "the king's pool" (Ne 2:14); for this must have been somewhere about "the king's garden" (Josephus's βασιλικὸς παράδεισος, Ant. 7, 14, 4); and we know that this was by "the wall of the pool of Siloah" (Ne 3:15). The Antonine Itinerary speaks of it in connection with Siloa as "alia piscina grandis foras." It is now known as the Birket el-Hamra, and may be perhaps some five times the size of Birket es-Silwan. Barclay speaks of it merely as a "depressed fig yard;" but one would like to see it cleared out.

Siloam is in Scripture always called a pool. It is not an אֲג, that is, a marsh pool (Isa 35:7); nor a גֶּבֶא, a natural hollow or pit (30:14); nor a מַקוֶה, a natural gathering of water (Ge 1:10; Isa 22:11); nor a בּאֵר a well (Ge 16:14); nor a בּוֹר, a pit (Le 11:36); for an עִיַ, a spring (Ge 3:17); but a בּרֵכָה, a regularly built pool or tank (2Ki 20:20; Ne 3:15; Ec 2:6). This last word is still retained in the Arabic, as any traveller or reader of travels knows. While Nehemiah calls it a pool, Isaiah merely speaks of it as "the waters of Shiloah;" while the New Test. gives κολυμβήθρα, and Josephus πηγή. The rabbins and Jewish travellers call it a fountain; in which they are sometimes followed by the European travellers of all ages, though more generally they give us piscina, natatoria, and stagnum.

It is the least of all the Jerusalem pools: hardly the sixth part of the Birket el-Mamilla; hardly the tenth of the Birket es-Sultan, or of the lowest of the three pools of Solomon at El-Burak. Yet it is a sacred spot, even to the Moslem; much more to the Jew, for not only from it was the water taken at the Feast of Tabernacles, but the water for the ashes of the red heifer (Dach, Talm. Babyl. p. 380). Jewish tradition makes Gihon and Siloam one (Lightfoot, Cent. Chor. in Matthew p. 5l; Schwarz, p. 265), as if Gihon were "the bursting forth" (גַּיחִ, to break out), and Siloam the receptacle of the waters "sent." If this were the case, it might be into Siloam, through one of the many subterranean aqueducts with which Jerusalem abounds, and one of which probably went down the Tyropoeon, that Hezekiah turned the waters on the other side of the city, when he "stopped the upper watercourse of Gihon, and brought it straight down to the west side of the city of David" (2Ch 32:30).

The rush of water down these conduits is referred to by Jerome ("per terrarum concava et antra saxi durissimi cum magno sonitu venit," in Isaiah 8:6), as heard in his day, showing that the water was more abundant then than now. The intermittent character of Siloam is also noticed by him; but in a locality perforated by so many aqueducts, and supplied by so many large wells and. secret springs (not to speak of the discharge of the great city baths), this irregular flow is easily accounted for both by the direct and the siphonic action of the water. How this natural intermittency of Siloam could be made identical: with the miraculous troubling of Bethesda (Joh 5:4) one does not see. The lack of water in the pool now is no proof that there was not the great abundance of which Josephus speaks (War, 5, 4, 1); and as to the "sweetness" he speaks of, like the "aquae dulces" of Virgil (Georg. 461), or the Old Test. מָתִק (Ex 15:25), which is used both in reference to the sweetness of the Marah waters (ibid.) and of the "stolen waters" of the foolish woman (Pr 9:17; it simply means fresh or pleasant, in opposite to bitter (מִר; πικρός.). The miracle performed on the blind man gave rise, most probably, to the tradition of the healing qualities of the water. We may here note that the sacredness and efficacy of the water are still held by Jewish tradition, but more particularly at its source, the well of the Virgin. It is the טבילת ר8 ישמעאל the bathing place of rabbi Ismael, where the high priest used to plunge himself, and where the modern Jews of Jerusalem visit as one of their holy places, especially on the first day of their year (Rosh Hashshana) and the day of atonement (Yom Kippur).

The expression in Isaiah, "waters of Shiloah that go softly," seems to point to the slender rivulet, flowing gently, though once very profusely, out of Siloam into the lower breadth of level, where the king's gardens, or "royal paradise," stood, and which, is still the greenest spot about the Holy City, reclaimed from sterility into a fair oasis of olive groves, fig trees, pomegranates, etc., by the tiny rill which flows out of Siloam. A winter torrent like the Kedron, or a swelling river like the Euphrates, carries havoc with it by sweeping off soil, trees, and terraces; but this Siloam fed rill flows softly, fertilizing and beautifying the region through which it passes. As the Euphrates is used by the prophet as the symbol of the wasting sweep of the Assyrianm king, so Siloam is taken as the type of the calm prosperity of Israel under Messianic rule, when "the desert rejoices and blossoms as the rose." The word softly or secretly (לָאט) does not seem to refer to the secret transmission of the waters through the tributary viaducts, but, like Ovid's "molles aquae," "blandae aquae," and Catullus's "molle flumen," to the quiet gentleness with which the rivulet steals on its mission of beneficence, through the gardens of the king. Thus "Siloah's brook" of Milton, and, "cool Siloam's shady rill," are not mere poetical fancies. The "fountain" and the "pool" and the "rill" of Siloam are all visible to this day, each doing its old work beneath the high rock of Moriah, and almost beneath the shadow of the Temple wall.

3. Adjoining Village of the Same Name. — East of the Kedron, right opposite the rough gray slope extending between Deraj and Silwan, above the kitchen gardens watered by Siloam which supply Jerusalem with vegetables, is the village which takes its name from the pool –Kefr-Silwan. At Deraj the Kedron is narrow, and the village is very near the fountain. Hence it is to it rather than to the pool that the villagers generally betake themselves for water. For as the Kedron widens considerably in its progress southward, the Kefr is at some little distance from the Birkeh. This village is unmentioned in ancient times; perhaps it did not exist. It is a wretched place for filth and irregularity; its square hovels all huddled together like the lairs of wild beasts, or, rather, like the tombs and caves in which savages or daemoniacs may be supposed to dwell. It lies near the foot of the third or southern height of Olivet; and in all likelihood marks the spot of the idol shrines which Solomon built to Chemosh and Ashtoreth and Milcom. This was "the mount of corruption" (2Ki 23:13), the hill that is before (east; before in Hebrew geography means east) Jerusalem (1Ki 11:7); and these "abominations of the Moabites, Zidonians, and Ammonites" were built on "the right hand of the mount," that is, the southern part of it. This is the "opprobrious hill" of Milton (Par. Lost, 1, 403); the "mons offensionis" of the Vulgate and of early travellers; the Μοσθάθ of the Sept. (see Keil, On Kings); and the Berg des Aergernisses of German maps. In Ramboux's singular volume of lithographs (Col. 1858) of Jerusalem and its Holy Places, in imitation of the antique, there is a sketch of an old monolith tomb in the village of Silwan, which few travellers have noticed, but of which De Saulcy has given us both a cut and a description (2, 215), setting it down as a relic of Jebusitish, workmanship. The present village of Siloam occupies the site of an old quarry. The houses are often made simply by walling up an excavation, and sometimes they cling to the scarped face of the cliff. Steps are cut in different parts of the village, originally for the convenience of the quarrymen, and now serving as streets (Ordnance Survey, p. 64).

For further details, see Robinson, Biblical Researches, 1, 460, 492-498; Olin, Travels, 2, 153, 154; Williams, Holy City, p. 378, 379; Barclay, City of the Great King, p. 311 sq.; Thomson, Land and Book, 2, 524; Jerusalem Recovered, p. 20; and especially Tobler, Die Siloahquelle und der Oelberg (Berlin, 1852).

Topical Outlines Nave's Bible Topics International Standard Bible Encyclopedia Online King James Bible King James Dictionary

Verse reference tagging and popups powered by VerseClick™.