Earlier we saw the temple area, the Dome of the Rock, the Garden of Gethsemane, the Tower of Antonia and the Kidron Valley. Now we will see the Gihon Springs, the Pool of Saloam, the Place of the Pavement, the Pool of Bethesda, and many other sites around Jerusalem.
This is the citadel. "Citadel" means "fortress." Herod in the time of Jesus had built a palace here. Josephus has had a great deal to say about it. It had three great towers. These towers were named after his friend, his brother, and his wife. The first and most important of these towers was Hippicus, named after his friend. The second was named after his brother, Phasael, and the third was named after his famous wife Miriamne. Herod killed her because he suspected that she was trying to overthrow him from the throne. This is one of the oldest sections of the wall of the city of Jerusalem. Some of the stones in the citadel came from the time of Herod the Great. Not all of what you see here is from that time, but the foundation stones are from the time of Herod. This would be in the southwest corner of the temple today. Psalms 48:12 says, "Walk about Zion, and go round about her: tell the towers thereof."
We are looking now at the walls between these towers. Most of the walls we see today were built by Suleiman the Magnificent. His name literally means "Solomon the Magnificent". He was a Turkish ruler who lived from 1494 to 1566. He was one of the greatest rulers of Jerusalem. He constructed most of the walls around Jerusalem, and most of what we see today was built by him. The present walls are 2 ½ miles around the city. There are 24 towers still in existence, and there are 8 gates throughout the city. The present walls do not occupy the same area as the walls in the time of Jesus. The city has moved northward. But the present walls do at least give us some idea of where parts of the old wall stood.
This tower is actually the minaret of a mosque. This citadel was first constructed by David, and it was called the "Tower of David". Herod chose this site to build his tower, and when the Romans came in 70 AD and destroyed the city of Jerusalem, this part of the wall was permitted to remain, according to Josephus. The Roman Tenth Army, the Frentensis, was stationed here.
We're looking again at the reconstructed Tower of Antonia. It is in the northwest corner of the temple courtyard. The tower was built by Herod to commemorate his friendship with Mark Antony, a general in Julius Caesar's army. After the death of Julius Caesar, Octavian controlled the western part of the Roman Empire, and Mark Antony controlled the eastern provinces, including Egypt. Mark Antony married Cleopatra in 37 AD. During this period, Herod wisely changed his allegiance from Mark Antony to Octavius, who gained control of the Empire and became Augustus Caesar.
We are looking at more of the temple courtyard area. You will recall this mosque occupies the very center. Solomon's temple and courtyard did not cover nearly this much space. It was enlarged during the time of Herod to its present size of 35 acres or close to 18 hectares.
We are now looking across the courtyard toward the Mount of Olives. The columns you see could be where Solomon's Porch stood. Porches were constructed to provide shelter from rain or the hot sun. This is where the early Christians might have gathered. Peter and the rest of the apostles could have preached in this area on the Day of Pentecost.
In the southeast corner of the courtyard area is an entrance to a stairway that leads to the area beneath the courtyard. This is called "Solomon's Stables". Herod himself probably ordered the excavation that leveled and enlarged the large courtyard we see on top.
On the outside of the southeast corner you can see the dirt that has been cleared away, exposing the large Herodian stones. This type of stone is found also at Hebron, at Caesarea, in the Citadel area, where Herod built his palace, and in the Wailing Wall. No doubt these stones were placed in the time of Jesus. They were probably covered by dirt, and as a result, were not destroyed when Titus, in 70 AD, took the city.
Although Herod was a mad man, he was also a master builder, and we are particularly interested in what he built because it was during the the time of Jesus.
Beneath the temple courtyard is this area known as Solomon's Stables. But Solomon did not construct it. Crusaders probably enlarged what Herod had already built there. There are 13 rows of these vaulted columns. They are 30 feet high. There are 88 poles where horses were tied. The Crusaders used it as a stable for their horses. The floor of the temple courtyard is 40 feet above us.
This Tower of Antonia was built in the northeast corner of the temple courtyard. It was used as a lookout tower by the Romans, so they could watch the activities of the Jews in the temple courtyard. Of course, this would have made the Jews very angry.
This north wall runs all the way to the Brook of Kidron. We have now come outside the wall. We will next visit the Pool of Bethesda. Notice how close it is to the Tower of Antonia.
The pool of Bethesda is authentic. It is mentioned in John 5. Jesus healed a crippled man there. A superstition had arisen that when the waters were stirred up, anyone who entered the pool at that time would be healed. The stirring of the water could have been caused by a spring like the Gihon, which bubbled up from time to time.
Visitors to the Bible Lands today are confused because there are many newer buildings constructed on the original sites of the things we want to see. For example, the Romans built something over the Pool of Bethesda, either during the time of Hadrian, after the Roman occupation or after the destruction of the city of Jerusalem. Other structures may have been built during the Byzantine period. There is evidence of a Byzantine church built over the Pool of Bethesda.
We are looking down 45 feet to the Pool of Bethesda. There is a girl standing in the upper right to give you some idea of the great depth of this pool. Much of the city of Jerusalem is probably 30 to 40 feet higher than where Jesus would have walked while he was here. The reason for this is that when a city was destroyed, a new city would be built on the rubble of the old city. Dirt would be hauled in to cover the ruins and the altitude of the city would be increased with every destruction and rebuilding. Not every place in the city of Jerusalem is at the same height above the original city, but the level of the city during the time of Jesus was about 35 feet below the current street level of today.
"Bethesda" was a name in the Greek of New Testament. "Beth" means house, and with the rest of the word, the meaning could be "house of outpouring," or "the house of the poured-out water." This would lead us to believe that these pools were much like cisterns or large underground water containers. There are cisterns built all over Jerusalem. When the rains came in October and November and again in February and March, the people did all they could to collect as much water as they could. The water supply from springs was very scarce. The main spring giving water for the city was the Gihon.
Some of these buildings may be from Roman times. Certainly the lower levels are from the Roman period. During the Byzantine period, from 400 to 600 AD, many churches were built over sacred sites. There is some evidence that the Pool of Bethesda, with its large amount of water, was used for baptizing. During those early times, baptism was always done by immersion, or dipping the person completely in the water.
The excavation reaches down to the original water level. As you can see, it was a very large pool. Many people would have gathered there in the time of Jesus. It could also have been a place for washing the sheep that were brought for sacrificing at the temple.
In John 5, John records, "Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool." We are looking now at Bethesda, and if we could project ourselves into the right side of this picture, which would be north of the wall area, we would come out to a place that still sells sheep and goats. On Friday of every week, the Arabs bring their sheep and goats to a place not more than 200 feet from this pool.
We look again at the tower of Antonia. Josephus tells us that it was 70 cubits or 100 feet tall, and it overlooked the temple courtyard. You will remember that Paul was speaking from the steps of this tower. He had been rescued by the Roman soldiers from a large group of angry people in the temple courtyard that wanted to hurt him. The Jews believed that he had dishonored the temple by taking two Greeks into the temple with him. The tower was the royal residence of Pontius Pilate, and it was here that the trial of Jesus took place.
This is called the "Ecce Homo Arch". In Latin it means "Behold the Man" or "Hear the Man" or "See the Man." When Pilate brought Jesus out before the mob, he said to them, "Behold the man" (John 19:25). You can see portions of an arch. A wall has enclosed what would have been the other side of the arch. The hidden part of the arch goes down about 30 feet to some Roman stones, where it is anchored. We will be seeing those stones, which are from the time of Herod. This portion of the tower would have enclosed the whole area where the Roman soldiers would have been stationed. Herod and Pilate could allso have stayed there.
John, in the 19th chapter, refers to the Place of the Pavement. Our word pavement is a translation of the Greek word "lithostrotos." "Litho" means "stone" and "strotos" means "spread" - literally, the spread of the stones. "Lithostrotos" is translated "pavement." It was at the Place of Pavement that Jesus was tried before Pilate.
This is a little closer look at the large Roman foundation stones. The whole area beneath this present street of Jerusalem is from the 1st century. We are looking at an area where Jesus might have walked. Most Bible archaeologists believe that this is literally the Place of the Pavement.
Many of these stones are marked. Evidently the Roman soldiers stationed here played games, much like the ones we play today. These games were probably played to help pass the time.
The Romans cut ridges in the stones to enable their horses to walk without slipping, as they did on the smoother stones. So this would have been a street area. The Jews would not have gone into the Praetorium, because that was a Roman enclosure, a Gentile house. Entering a Gentile house would have defiled them. So the Jews who accused Jesus would have stayed out on the street. Pilate, you will remember, brought Jesus out and took Him back in, and then brought Him out again before the crowd of Jews.
These ancient streets of Jerusalem probably follow the same routes as the streets that would have been there in the time of Jesus. These streets are hilly, with steps, and they are narrow, Automobiles can't enter them; they're strictly for walking.
There are many traditions about the route Jesus would have followed from the Praetorium to Golgotha, the Place of the Skull, where He was crucified. Tradition is a part of a number of the narrow streets of the city. The streets are still crowded today. No doubt they would have been even in those early morning hours, as the people heard a procession coming with Jesus to go out of the city to be crucified.
Tradition calls this the "Way of Sorrow", or "Via Dolorosa". We are simply tracing the streets that exist today, where Jesus could have walked.
This continues the "Via Dolorosa" or" Way of Sorrows". We are looking at building and arches that have been there for centuries. This is the old section of the city of Jerusalem.
This is one of the many towers or minarets for mosques that are used by the Arabs to call their Islam worshippers for prayer at certain hours. We must remember that Jerusalem has been occupied by the Jews since 1967 and these street scenes are from the old Arab quarter of the city.
This is commonly called "Golgotha". Most students of the New Testament have seen this picture many times. "Golgotha" is Hebrew or Aramaic, meaning "The Place of the Skull". General Charles Gordon, an Englishman, chose this site as the probable place of Calvary, since it looked more like Golgotha to him than the traditional site. This site is sometimes called "Gordon's Calvary". The traditional site has been covered by a church built by 5 different religious groups.
You can see the 2 deep depressions that look something like eyes, with the top forming the top of the skull. A person with a little imagination can visualize this as The Place of the Skull, or Golgotha.
There is an Arab cemetery on the top of this hill. A cemetery would not have been permitted within the walls in the time of Jesus.
Nearby is the "Garden Tomb". The British Bible Society has owned this for about 100 years. It is probably one of the most popular places for Christians to visit. They come to think of Joseph of Arimathea and his tomb that was the place where Jesus' body was laid after his crucifixion. You can see a groove that would have formed a track from the large stone that was rolled over the doorway to the tomb. This tomb gives us some idea of what a rich man's tomb would have been like - cut out of a rock wall. Many bodies would have been place in such a tomb. In other words, it was a family burial place.
Inside the tomb you can see that several niches have been cut. After one body had been placed in the tomb, a stone slab would be placed over it. This would be where another body could be laid. Where bodies were not buried in the earth, attention had to be given to protect it from wild animals. The stone over the door would provide that protection.
This is a close-up of the groove where the large, wheel-shaped stone would have been rolled into place. Some of these stones that have been found in the Bible Lands weigh about 2,000 pounds. So you can see that the chief concern of the women, who came to Jesus’ tomb early on the morning of the first day, was who would roll away the stone. When they arrived at the tomb, there was an angel seated there, and the stone had been rolled away. The angel said to the women, "Why do you seek the living among the dead?" (Luke 24:5)
This map will give you some idea of what we have seen. At the top of the map you see the Pool of Bethesda, the "Harames Sharif", meaning the"Noble Sanctuary", the temple courtyard, the Dome of the Rock, or the Omar Mosque. Toward the south we see in the lower right hand corner of our map the Spring Gihon, and the Pool of Saloam. We are particularly interested in these two places and in the tunnel that connects them.
This is the entrance to the Gihon Spring. The mother of Constantine renamed it the "Virgin's Fountain", in honor of the mother of Jesus, in the 4th century. The old name, "Gihon" meant “bubbler”. This spring still bubbles and sends forth water that gushes. This was the water supply for Jerusalem. In time of siege the people of the city could not get water from it, because it was outside the walls. When Hezekiah knew that the Assyrian general Sennacherib was planning to besiege the city of Jerusalem, he decided to bring the water from the Gihon through a tunnel into the city and behind the walls.
This is the opening to the pool of Siloam. The present structure was probably built during Crusader times. There is evidence that an ancient church was built over the Pool of Siloam. You can see some of the columns and posts that have been there from ancient times.
Jesus performed at least one miracle at the Pool of Siloam. He anointed the eyes of a blind man with mud and sent him to wash in the Pool of Siloam. King Hezekiah constructed the water tunnel that you see in the shadows. It went all the way to the Gihon Spring that we were looking at earlier. We read of the siege in II Kings 20:20. Sennacherib was the Assyrian general who was trying to take the city of Jerusalem. The 10 tribes to the north had already fallen to the Assyrians. Sennacherib had already taken 46 cities in the country of Judah. Sennacherib wrote on 3 different prisms that he besieged Jerusalem. He said, "I shut up Hezekiah like a bird in his own city."
This picture was made in the late afternoon. This is the entrance to the tunnel Hezekiah built. It is not built on a straight line. It curves in several different places. The tunnel is 1,749 feet long, more than a quarter mile. This was a remarkable feat of engineering for those ancient people. This tunnel brought the water from the "bubbler", the Gihon Spring, inside the city wall to the Pool of Siloam.
If you look within the entrance of the tunnel you will see some columns. These columns may be from an ancient church that was built over the pool.
We are standing on a tall hill south of Jerusalem. Immediately in front of us is Mt. Zion. Keep in mind that the temple was built on Mt. Moriah. Mt. Zion is next to Mt. Moriah and is the taller of the two. It is thought that the field of Akeldama, or the Field of Blood where Judas hanged himself, is to the right of the picture.
All of our pictures from the Mount of Olives were looking to the west. We are now looking north and to the east. If you take the hills in the left of our picture and trace down the center, that is the end of the Mt. of Olives. We are looking now toward the east and the road in this area will lead us on south to Bethlehem. The lowest place in this picture, right in the center, is where the Brook of Kidron and the Hinnom Valley meet. Now they will flow to the right of the picture on down to the Jordan River.
Now you look back toward the Mt. of Olives. In the center of the picture, the tallest point, is the Mt. of Olives. To the far left of our picture you can see the two domes - the silver dome and just at the very edge the gold dome – of the two mosques that have been so important to us in this study. The Brook of Kidron runs just to the right of those two mosques, and here it comes to the lowest part of our picture. In the greenest part of our picture the Brook of Kidron and the Valley of Hinnom meet. This is one of the best views you can get of the Hinnom Valley. It is the left lower quarter of the picture. There are no trees in that part. Do you remember II Chronicles 28:33? Ahaz and Manasseh, Kings of Judah offered worship to Molech, the Canaanite god. They sacrificed children and the children were burned in the fires of Molech. It was good King Josiah, (II Kings 23), who delifed this place so that no one could sacrifice their children there anymore.
Now if your eyes follow the valley all the way back up, this would be the source of the Hinnom. We are looking now to the left of the city of the new part of Jerusalem. The Jewish Sector is over there. The dividing line is this Valley of Hinnom. After the 6 Day War the Jews conquered all this section to the right. What you see on the right is Zion. This is the oldest section of Jerusalem.
We now see the barren area of the Valley of Hinnom. You can see Mt. Zion to the left. I want to read Psalms 137:5-6: "If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither. Let my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth, if I do not remember you, if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy!”
We're now taking a last look at the great city of Jerusalem, the "city of the King", the city from where the Law of the Lord has gone forth into all the world. Jesus loved this city, wept over it and he was crucified and resurrected here. He was taken back to heaven from the Mount of Olives in the right part of our picture. Jesus loved it and we love it today. We're interested in all the things that it has to teach us.
We want to close this section on Jerusalem with a favorite sight in all the Bible lands. The camel was the ancient traveler in and around the city of Jerusalem. And so we look at one of the Arab camels so common around the city of Jerusalem.
Original text and slides from "Bible Cities and Geography", ©1974 Star Bible Publications. Unlawful to duplicate or reproduce in any form or manner. Used by permission. Various edits and new audio recordings by the Bible Study Center 2006-2014.
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