(Giʹhon) [Bursting Forth; Gushing].
1. One of the four rivers that branched out from the river issuing out of Eden, described as “encircling the entire land of Cush.” (Ge 2:10, 13) It is not possible to identify this river today with any degree of certainty. It does not seem likely, at least from a geographic standpoint, that the “land of Cush” referred to here represents Ethiopia, as it frequently does in later accounts. It could refer to the land occupied by Cush prior to the scattering that occurred after the language confusion at Babel. (Ge 11:9) Some would connect the Gihon with the Araxes River (modern Araks River), which takes its rise in the mountains to the NW of Lake Van and has its outlet in the Caspian Sea. Some lexicographers associate the “land of Cush” of Genesis 2:13 with the Kassites (Akkadian, kassu), a people of the plateau of central Asia mentioned in ancient cuneiform inscriptions but whose history remains quite obscure. (Lexicon in Veteris Testamenti Libros, by L. Koehler and W. Baumgartner, Leiden, 1958, p. 429; A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, by Brown, Driver, and Briggs, 1980, p. 469) In another direction, it may be noted that certain Arabians on the Arabian Peninsula were called Kusi or Kushim, as is indicated by Habakkuk 3:7, where Cushan is made parallel to Midian, evidently as the same place or as a neighboring land. Thus there are various possibilities, but because of apparent topographical changes in the earth’s surface as a result of the global Deluge, no positive conclusion can be reached.—See CUSH No. 2.
2. A spring today called Ha Gihon having its fountainhead in a natural cave in the Kidron Valley a short distance E of the upper end of the section of Jerusalem anciently called “the City of David.” (2Ch 32:30) It was a principal source of water for the city in ancient times, there being only two springs in the vicinity. The name Gihon is particularly appropriate for this spring inasmuch as it ‘gushes forth’ intermittently, as much as four or five times a day following a rainy winter, less frequently in the dry season.
The spring of Gihon is generally believed to have been involved in the method employed by General Joab in penetrating the nearly impregnable Jebusite stronghold at Jerusalem, making possible its capture by David. (1Ch 11:6) Although the translation of the Hebrew text at 2 Samuel 5:8 presents certain problems, the usual rendering indicates the presence of a “water tunnel,” referred to by David when promoting the attack on the city. In 1867 C.E., Charles Warren discovered a water channel running back from the cave in which the spring of Gihon rises and, after a distance of some 20 m (66 ft), ending in a pool or reservoir. A vertical shaft in the rock above this pool extended upward 11 m (36 ft), and at the top of the shaft there was a place where persons could stand and let down containers by rope to draw water from the pool below. A sloping passageway led back nearly 39 m (128 ft) from the shaft up into the interior of the city. By this means it is believed that the Jebusites maintained access to their water source even when unable to venture outside the city walls because of enemy attack. Although the spring of Gihon is not directly mentioned in the account, it is suggested that Joab and his men daringly gained entrance to the city through this water tunnel.
Gihon was thereafter the site at which Solomon was anointed king at David’s command. The ensuing noisy procession as the people joyously followed Solomon back to the city, while not visible from the spring called En-rogel about 700 m (2,300 ft) away from Gihon, could easily be heard by presumptuous Adonijah and his guests as they banqueted at En-rogel.—1Ki 1:9, 10, 33-41.
Archaeological excavations also revealed an old surface canal leading from the spring of Gihon southward along the slope of “the City of David.” This canal terminated in a pool at the base of the spur on which the ancient city was first located—at the spur’s southern end, toward the junction of the Tyropoeon Valley with the Kidron Valley. The canal was constructed with a minimal decline or rate of fall, resulting in a very gentle flow of water. This canal is probably the one referred to by Isaiah’s prophecy in the time of King Ahaz (761-746 B.C.E.), its ‘gently-going waters’ being contrasted with the violent flood of invading Assyrians that Isaiah foretold would eventually attack Judah.—Isa 8:5-8.
When Assyrian attack became imminent in Hezekiah’s reign (732 B.C.E.), King Hezekiah took measures to ensure that Jerusalem’s supply of water would not fall into the hands of the enemy. (2Ch 32:2-4) However, possibly with reference to another time, the record at 2 Chronicles 32:30 shows that he shut off the flow of the Gihon through its previous channel and diverted the waters to the western side of “the City of David,” well within Jerusalem’s fortifications. Evidence of the manner in which this was accomplished came to light in 1880 C.E. when an inscription was found carved in the wall of a water tunnel terminating in what is presently known as the Pool of Siloam on the W side of the old “City of David.” The inscription, in early Hebrew script regarded as dating from the eighth century B.C.E., described the excavation of the tunnel through solid rock by the two teams of men working toward each other from opposite ends. When the tunnel was completely cleared in 1910, it was found to measure some 533 m (1,749 ft), with an average height of 1.8 m (6 ft) and at times narrowing to a width of only 0.5 m (20 in.). It seems evident that this remarkable engineering feat is the result of Hezekiah’s measures to protect and maintain Jerusalem’s water supply originating in the Gihon.
King Manasseh, son of Hezekiah, extended Jerusalem’s fortifications during his reign (716-662 B.C.E.), building an outer wall for “the City of David” to “the west of Gihon,” hence not enclosing the spring of Gihon within its limits.—2Ch 32:33; 33:14.
The Gihon’s waters continue to flow today through the “Siloam Tunnel,” credited to Hezekiah.
[Map on page 942]
(For fully formatted text, see publication)
City of David
Pool of Siloam
T.V. of Kidron
[Picture on page 941]
The Pool of Siloam, fed by waters from the Spring of Gihon