My DH and I were reading from Isaiah chapter 22 in conjunction with the Sunday School assignment. We came to the verses 9, 10, 11 and I exclaimed (with excitement—after all, how often does Isaiah make sense to the average non-scholar?) “I know what this is about!” Because my enthusiasm is still bursting, I decided to share with you. It’s a bit about defense, a bit about priorities, and mostly about where we place our trust.
Background: Jerusalem was originally captured by King David. It was more of a fortress on a hill. It’s location was chosen because this hill had the Gihon Spring at the base of the eastern side. The Gihon Spring was the main source of fresh water for the City of David. Solomon expanded by building the temple to the north on Mt. Moriah. He extended the wall from the City of David’s hill, around Mt. Moriah, and built his palace on the slope down from the temple, but still higher than the main city. It was now Jerusalem.
The Gihon Spring had 3 ways to access it. 1st, through a tunnel that led to a shaft above the waters of the spring, Some speculate it was up this shaft that David’s army gained access to the fortress to capture it. And though the pool below was protected by the Pool Tower, the tower was crumbling, and even if strong, would not stand long as a defense to protect that possible access to the city.
Secondly, the spring was accessed by the Water Gate, but a person would have to walk outside the city wall to get to the Spring Tower for water. This was not a secure route if the city were under siege.
Thirdly, the spring was diverted through a conduit that ran along the base of the eastern hill to the Siloam Pool located south of the city. Many people came daily to this pool for water. But it was below the city and outside the wall. Again, vulnerable.
In the days of Hezekiah, Jerusalem had already begun to grow beyond the borders of its walls, particularly to the west. Then Assyria invaded Israel to the north and carried away the ten tribes of that land. Refugees fleeing to Jerusalem swelled the city even more. Hezekiah also withheld the payment of tribute to Assyria. The probability that Assyria would come after Judah, especially her capital city, Jerusalem, was fairly certain.
Hezekiah began to prepare. A chief concern was protecting the Gihon Spring. After several considerations, a tunnel was built that carried the waters from the spring beneath the city of Jerusalem to emerge at the south end into a small pool. There the water was channeled east again to the Pool of Siloam. Then by extending the city wall around the Pool of Siloam, and sealing off all other access to the Gihon Spring, the waters were protected.
This brings me to Isaiah 22:9, “Ye have seen also the breaches of the city of David, that they are many; [repairing and building walls was a priority for Hezekiah at this time] and ye gathered together the waters of the lower pool.” The Siloam Pool was the “lower pool.”
Verse 11 also references the water flowing from the small pool at the end of the new tunnel, through the channel (or ditch as Isaiah refers to it) to the Siloam Pool: “Ye made also a ditch between the two walls for the water of the old pool.” Remember, the wall around the south of the City of David is now opposite the new wall that extends further west. So the “ditch” runs between two walls.
This new wall stretched west to encompass the western hill, (not giving his enemy the high ground) and then returned to join the western wall at the side of Mt. Moriah. Hezekiah built the wall about the new growth of the city to protect the people. Archeologist call this Hezekiah’s “broad wall.”
But time was short. The Assyrians were already moving upon the land of Judah. There wasn’t time to remove houses that were in the path of the new wall. They were simply destroyed and the materials used. Archeologist have found that within the wall were stones that would have been used in houses rather than a wall. (Perhaps different size or more finely cut?). So now we have verse 10: “And ye have numbered the houses of Jerusalem, and the houses have ye broken down to fortify the wall.”
And then comes the sting. Isaiah says at the end of verse 11, “but ye have not looked unto the maker thereof, neither had respect unto him that fashioned it long ago.” I don’t think Isaiah was telling Hezekiah that he shouldn’t have done all he could to protect his people by building the wall and diverting and protecting the waters of the spring. I think Isaiah was reprimanding him for relying only on the strength of man and forgetting to look to him that created the spring long ago.
Now Hezekiah was a good king, he had reestablished temple worship and many other worthy things among the people of Judah. Perhaps he just got so caught up in building his defenses that his personal worship had slacked. Certainly he had forgotten to ask God for his aid and counsel at this time. I also think Isaiah is reminding him that it is not the strength or preparations of mortals that protects or saves us. It is God we must turn to.
I’m not going to give away the ending, but the lesson is justified. I’ve included the link to a wonderful video that takes a walk through Hezekiah’s tunnel. The lesson from this video is that while we are waiting for God’s miracle, that we need to work hard. However, don’t forget the lesson of Isaiah, that while we are working hard, we still need to remember to counsel with God. A mere routine, brush of the knees with the floor is not going to defeat the Assyrians.