When David became king of a united Israel, he decided to establish a new capital, not in the southern city of Hebron, but in Jerusalem. Jerusalem was held at that time by a people known as the Jebusites, one of the nations that the Israelites had failed to expel from the land during Joshua’s day (Judges 1:11-36).
Jerusalem was located on a marvelous strategic position, high on a spur of hills that could be easily defended if a wall was set along the edge of the cliffs. The city was so secure that its Jebusite inhabitants exhibited a kind of ancient Jebusite trash talk: Their position was so secure, they declared, that “the maimed and the blind” could defend it (2 Samuel 5:6-8). It is a little humorous to think of a city guarded by blind and maimed sentries!
Samuel records that David’s men climbed “up the water shaft” in order to take the city. 1 Chronicles 11:6 adds that the specific warrior to do so was Joab, the son of Zeruiah. How did they do this?
Jerusalem’s only strategic weakness was its water supply. When an enemy besieged the city, how could its residents get water to drink? No doubt the citizens of this Jebusite city insisted on drinking water every day.
The Jebusites’ solution was to take the spring on the eastern slope of the city, and construct an elaborate system of tunnels that brought the water back under the city in a natural cave. From there they dug a vertical shaft that rose 110 feet above water level. Apparently David’s men found the source of the spring outside the city walls and entered into the underbelly of the city from underneath the wall.
Today the visitor to Jerusalem can walk along either of two tunnels under the towering walls of Jerusalem, the older tunnel, initially built by the Jebusites, and an improved one by king Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 32:30). In both cases the tourist will splash through about a foot of water, the remnants of the Gihoin Spring still flowing as it has for three millennia. Upon entering the chamber under the city these days the modern tourist can clamber up a flight of stairs, but it is easy to imagine the muscular Joab clambering up the “water shaft” to enter the city.
The Bible is nonfiction, utterly reliable, and there are numerous occasions when the archaeological record reflects remarkably well the statements of Scripture.