Dec 11, 2019 | Diggings Online | 0 comments

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As part of the continuing attack on the veracity of the Bible, sceptics have claimed that the Siloam tunnel was not the work of Hezekiah, as mentioned in 2 Kings 20:20. For some reason the date they favour is 500 BC, when a band of impoverished exiles had only recently returned from Babylon. Logic would indicate that these people had no need to divert the water and no means to fund such an ambitious project – but I fear that logic plays very little part when discrediting the Bible is the aim.

These revisionists are hindered by the presence of the Hezekiah’s Tunnel Inscription, chiselled from the walls of the tunnel not long after its discovery and containing what appears to be a contemporary account of its creation. The style of writing is definitely archaic, which prevents the sceptics suggesting an even later date than 500 BC, otherwise, no doubt, they would be happy to attribute the tunnel to Herod or the Romans.

However there are not all that many inscriptions in ancient Hebrew, so the stylistic argument does not allow us to be as definite as we could wish. It is good news, then, that Israeli scientists have this week confirmed the traditional date for the tunnel.

Their first line of approach was to investigate the stalactites that have grown up on the roof of the tunnel. Towards the end of the tunnel the roof is twenty feet or so above water level, so these stalactites have grown there, undisturbed, ever since the tunnel was built.

Like tree rings, stalactites commonly have rings formed by the difference between the wet of the rainy season and the dryness of summer when the newly deposited lime dries out. These rings are extremely fine and can only be counted under a microscope: nevertheless the Israelis have carefully sectioned a couple and done the counting.

The second approach depended on the fact that in a couple of places faults in the rock were filled with water-proof plaster and likewise the stones that covered the entrance to the so-called Virgin’s Fountain were held in place with plaster. Plaster or cement is commonly mixed on the ground and vegetable matter often gets incorporated into the mix. The scientists were able to identify some of this ancient vegetable matter and test it for radio-carbon (C-14).

The result of both approaches was more or less the same: the Siloam Tunnel was constructed around the year 700 BC, so from now on we can confidently call it by its traditional name – Hezekiah’s Tunnel.

What is particularly interesting is that the tunnel, which winds for nearly half a mile through solid rock, bears evidence of having been cut in haste, just as the Bible describes. One can imagine a small workforce labouring away on the project for several decades, but to cut such a tunnel in a short space of time implies a large workforce, which in turn implies considerable organisation and the wealth to back it up.

Neither, of course, would have been available if the kingdom of Judah had not existed or had been a mere petty city state. The new finding, therefore, adds considerable weight to the traditional view, which is that there existed a rich and well organised kingdom of Judah, the twin of the kingdom of Israel in the north.

December 2003

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