ASK Commentary
September 7, 2001 

Water Management in Herod's Temple: An Introduction

AN ATMOSPHERIC "SPRING" WITHIN THE TEMPLE

A trickling water flow was produced by a mechanical super-saturation device that utilized the formation of dew as its water source.

We are informed from eyewitness accounts that there was within the precincts of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem an inexhaustible spring of water (this was stated by Aristeas in the third century B.C.E. and also by Tacitus in the late first century C.E.). The only spring of water issuing from the ground within a five mile radius of Jerusalem both in ancient and modern times is the Gihon Spring. It is located on the west side of the Kedron Valley underneath the former Ophel ridge. This is where David pitched his special tent to house the Ark of the Covenant, and where the Ark remained until Solomon transported it up the slope to place it in his Temple. It follows that the Temples (that were all located on one site at Jerusalem) were built over and around that Gihon Spring.

The later Rabbis of the Talmudic period, however, said there was another type of spring in the Temple of Herod that had its origin at the shrine part of the Temple (issuing forth from the Holy of Holies). This trickling of water resembled that which was related by Ezekiel in his prophetic description of the Temple (Ezekiel 40 to 48). The water that the Rabbis referred to began as a trickle within the area of the Holy of Holies. It was supplied with further small amounts of water from feeder channels until its volume grew more evident as it trickled downhill toward the eastern threshold of the Temple. At that point the trickling descended rapidly to where it emptied into the Gihon Spring reservoir at the bottom of the eastern part of the Temple. It thus mixed with the Gihon waters to become a small stream that flowed down the Kedron into the Dead Sea.

Ezekiel elaborated on this trickling of water in a prophetic sense by increasing is volume through even greater feeder channels. In his prophetic account, the result was a main channel so large that it became a gigantic river that will be able to fill the Dead Sea with fresh water. And while the whole of Ezekielís description of this water source from the Holy of Holies has a thoroughly prophetic significance, we also have the references in early Jewish literature that there was an actual water source originating in the shrine area of Herodís Temple that served as a literal parallel to what Ezekiel described prophetically. In a word, there was such a phenomenon that actually existed within the Temple of Herod and that the trickle of water had sufficient flow to be able to descend into the Gihon reservoir in the lower area of the Temple where the waters mixed with those of the spring itself.

This is all recorded in the authoritative Mishnah (compiled about 200 C.E.) and it is supported by a reference in the Babylonian Talmud. Where did the water come from? This water source that began in the area of the Holy of Holies can be shown to be an engineering device manufactured within the architectural design of the Temple in order to create water from the evening and morning dew that is prominent in the late spring and early summer in the Judean hill country of which the Temple is a part. This architectural feature is described in the tractate Middoth and is referred to elsewhere. Enough water was produced by this means to assure an exceptionally pure and ritualistically clean water supply of the most sanctified type for priestly use in the Temple.

Be looking for this interesting (and even intriguing research article) that shows the wisdom and the engineering abilities of the people to create such facilities in the time of Herod and that of our Lord, Christ Jesus. This brand new research will be posted within a few days at this Web Site as a special article for Internet viewers. Keep a lookout for it

Ernest L. Martin, Ph.D.


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