upper end of the section of Jerusalem anciently called the “city of David.” (2 Chron. 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 be involved in the method employed by General Joab in penetrating the nearly impregnable Jebusite stronghold at Jerusalem, making possible its capture by David. (1 Chron. 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 fifty feet (15 meters), ending in a pool or reservoir. A vertical shaft cut in the rock above this pool extended upward forty feet (12 meters), 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 hook-shaped, sloping passageway led back nearly 150 feet (46 meters) 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 due to 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 as 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, some 1,400 feet (427 meters) away from Gihon, could easily be heard by presumptuous Adonijah and his guests as they banqueted at En-rogel.—1 Ki. 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 Tyropean 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 (761-745 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 the time of the 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 be cut off by the invading enemy. The record at 2 Chronicles 32:2-4, 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 considered 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 1,749 feet (533 meters), with an average height of nearly six feet (2 meters) and at times narrowing to a width of only twenty inches (51 centimeters). 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.—See SILOAM.
King Manasseh, son of Hezekiah, extended Jerusalem’s fortifications during his reign (716-661 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.—2 Chron. 32:33; 33:14.
The Gihon’s waters continue to flow today through the “Siloam Tunnel,” credited to Hezekiah.
A “mountain” traditionally identified with Jebel Fuquʽah, a crescent-shaped ridge of limestone hills lying E of the Plain of Esdraelon and extending first SE and then S. Ravines divide the range into several plateaus. Much of it is barren rock, with rugged channels in the northern and western parts, where chalk has been eroded. But wheat and barley are cultivated on the gradual western slopes. Also, pastureland, as well as fig and olive trees, can be found there. The northern side is the steepest and highest, rising to about 1,700 feet (518 meters) above sea level. The ancient name “Gilboa” seems to be preserved in the name of the village Jelbun, located on its southern slope, about six miles (10 kilometers) SW of Beth-shean.
Because of its strategic location E of the fertile plain of Esdraelon between the river Kishon and the Jordan valley, Gilboa figured in at least two major battles. At the “well of Harod,” commonly linked with the spring located on the NW spur of “Gilboa,” Gideon and his men encamped. (Judg. 7:1) Later, King Saul gathered his forces to Gilboa, and there suffered defeat at the hands of the Philistines. Three of his sons, Jonathan, Abinadab and Malchi-shua, were slain, and he himself committed suicide there.—1 Sam. 28:4; 31:1-4, 8; 2 Sam. 1:4-10, 21; 1 Chron. 10:1-8.