The Pool of Siloam
Dip into the Pool of Siloam
Location – The southern tip of the City of David
Map Coordinates - 31.771012, 35.234916
Merged Gospels story - 146
In the Gospel of John, chapter 9, there was a man who was born blind. Jesus made clay out of spit and dirt, put it on his eyes, and told the man to wash it off in this pool. When this man washed himself he was instantly healed of his blindness. Afterwards, the Pharisees put the man on trial in the nearby Synagogue of Theodotus, which was just to the northeast of this pool.
There is a mural at this site showing what the Pool of Siloam might have looked like in the first century. The original pool was very large – like a large rectangle – about 225 feet long, and we know that it was here around 700 years before this miracle.
A mural showing the ancient Pool of Siloam.
Where did this large Pool of Siloam get its water? In that day, this was the lowest point of the city of Jerusalem, and there was a spring uphill, called the Gihon Spring, that fed this pool. Sometimes the water level was low. Sometimes it was high, so the stairs around the pool were able to accommodate the ever-changing water levels.
When Jerusalem was destroyed by the Roman army, the first century historian, Flavius Josephus, said that this area was set on fire (Wars of the Jews, book 6, chapter 7:2). At that point, silt and debris started to slide into the pool. Pretty soon it was covered up and totally forgotten. And now, almost 2000 years later, the pool is buried by almost 13 feet of soil.
The original small Pool of Siloam.
The Small Pool.
The Gihon Spring still exists, and the water from it still flows down through what is called Hezekiah’s tunnel. It ends up in a smaller pool about 160 feet from the large one that now gathers the water.
Because the large pool totally disappeared from sight, Christians throughout the centuries came to believe that the smaller pool was the original Pool of Siloam. They even built a church there, which was destroyed by the Persians in the year 614 AD. Then, in 2004, some workers were down here repairing a damaged sewage pipe. When they did these large stone steps were discovered. The archaeologists then came in, and they realized that the large pool was the one that the Bible talked about.
Why did Jesus cover a man’s eyes with clay?
There are a couple of theories, and here’s the one that I believe. The Gospel of John says that this man was not healed until he washed the mud off of his own eyes. If Jesus had not made clay, but instead had healed him instantly, the whole scene that played out with the Pharisees in John Chapter 9 would never have occurred. Jesus’ deliberately intended this trial to happen. And the way He did this was by making clay on the Sabbath.
You see, according to the Pharisees, making clay on the Sabbath was forbidden. This rule did not actually come from their Scriptures. It merely came out of their own tradition. Since neither the Bible, nor their tradition had any prohibition regarding healing people of blindness on the Sabbath, Jesus did something that was prohibited by the Pharisees on the Sabbath – making clay. He was baiting them.
But how did Jesus make sure that the Pharisees would become aware of this miracle? Simple. The miracle was performed during the Feast of Tabernacles (John 7:2), and on this day the Pool of Siloam would have been teaming with crowds of people. Local residents at the pool on this day obviously knew this man (John 9:8,9), and Jesus deliberately made him a spectacle, showing up at the pool with both eyes covered with mud. Being brought before the Pharisees was now inevitable.
By putting clay on the man’s eyes Jesus accomplished two goals: (1) He was baiting the Pharisees to engage in a dialogue where this very important Biblical story was conveyed. (2) He was marking the man, whom the onlookers knew was blind from birth, thus making sure that he would soon be in the presence of the Pharisees.