Text size

The "gutter," or water system mentioned in the Bible as the way King David's men conquered Jerusalem may have been found. Dr. Eilat Mazar, an archaeologist excavating the City of David, the most ancient part of Jerusalem, believes it has, and is to present her findings this evening at a seminar at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

The excavations, carried out under the auspices of the Hebrew University's Institute of Archaeology, are funded by the Shalem Center and the Elad organization that also purchases buildings in the Silwan neighborhood, where the City of David is located, to populate the area with Jews.

Mazar offers a revolutionary interpretation of the "gutter" mentioned in 2 Sam. 5:8. Most scholars believed that David conquered Jebus, which later became known known as the City of David, through the water system.

But Mazar believes the water system served to purify David's warriors, first among them his chief of staff, Joab, after the city had already been conquered.

She says that purification was necessary because the Bible states they had to fight against the "blind and the lame," and in so doing would have become impure. She notes the use in the relevant verse of the Hebrew root naga (touch) in relation to the "gutter," a word usually involving matters of purity.

Archaeologists once believed the "gutter" was the famous water shaft discovered by Charles Warren in the 19th century, but recent finds have disproved this theory.

Mazar says the opening of the channel she believes is the "gutter" was uncovered by chance last winter after a snowfall in the excavation area known as Area G, beneath remains from the end of the First Temple period. Since then, "some 50 meters of the tunnel have been measured. The measurements of the channel are suitable for passage by people," she asserts. "It continues north, in the direction of the Temple Mount, as well as south, and is all within the ancient city and connected to the huge building I identify as David's palace."

Mazar suggests that when what she views as David's palace was built in the 10th century, the channel was apparently incorporated to bring water to a large nearby pool. At the end of the First Temple period (the beginning of the sixth century), according to Mazar, it was transformed for use by Jerusalemites fleeing the Babylonian siege. Whole oil lamps typical of the end of the First Temple period were found in the channel.