Monthly Archives: August 2013







This is yet another in my series of special original articles written to keep my many friends up to speed on all things Holy Land related. A recent feature in Biblical Archeology Review brought this to mind.


In 1967 when I took my first of now 125 journeys to the Holy Land, I had done a lot of reading in advance and had made a list of experiences that I wanted to have when there. One of them was to go through the famous Hezekiah’s Tunnel. This unique structure was built by King Hezekiah, King of Judah around 700 years before Jesus. Even today it is a marvel.


It was April 1967 about 6 weeks before the 6 day war broke out and the Old City of Jerusalem was still in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.  I was on the hillside of the then largely unexcavated dirt mound called the City of David, or better, the original city of Jerusalem.   Since my visit in 1967 the Israeli archeologists have been hard at work there and finding remarkable things.


As I recall It was a warm and sunny day and I was prepared to get wet. Just how wet I did not know what to expect but I at least knew, from my knees down.


Excited, I was about to enter a specific structure mentioned in the Bible as having been dug by workers commissioned to do so by King Hezekiah about 700 BC. I must admit that this was kind of a kick.


The historical setting for this tunnel is this: Israel had then for 250 years been divided into 2 separate nations: The 10 tribes in the North were now called Israel and the 2 tribes in the south were now called Judah. Since the death of Solomon in the 900s BC, when a civil war divided the once unified nation, they had remained separate and often at war with each other.


Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives

Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives


The capital of Judah was Jerusalem. Hezekiah was its king around 700 BC.


Judah was then under threat of invasion by the conquering armies of Assyria under its  king Sennacherib. (The story is found in 2 Kings 20:20 and 2 Chronicles 32.)  (An interesting aside: The modern descendants of the ancient Semitic Assyrians  are now called Chaldeans or Aramaeans and they are primarily Eastern Orthodox Christians.)


One of the necessities that often dictates the location of proposed cities is ready  access to water. Without water you cannot withstand a siege. Such sieges could go on for months if not years.


Those who have traveled with me to Megiddo will remember how its residents solved their need for a safe source of water by use of a tunnel and camouflage.


The source of water for the city of David was and is a freshwater spring called the Gihon. It still provides water for the Arab  villages that cluster deep in the Kidron Valley south of the Old City of Jerusalem.


In previous articles I have mentioned the Arab village of Silwan where my old friend Ali the taxi driver still lives which is really the location of the City of David and it still relies on the Gihon for irrigation now some 2800 years later.. The Psalms mention this water source without actually naming it when they celebrate the crops and vineyards in Jerusalem  of the time, and speak of walking beside the still water. All of which were dependent upon this one bubbling dependable spring.


Hezekiah faced a formidable challenge. He knew that the invasion by the vastly superior Assyrian forces was inevitable. He knew the importance of water for his people as well as for the Assyrian army. That army was  presently attacking and laying siege to Lachish and that successful siege would be memorialized in a famous stella later discovered and now on display.


It is estimated that the construction of this secret water tunnel would have taken about 4 years working 6 teams of workers around the clock, 3 from each end, and some  Biblical scholars have argued as to whether there was enough time for Hezekiah to complete this task or if someone else deserved credit such as his son Manasseh.


I began my wet walk by purchasing a candle. No lights or electricity and, though spooky, there is just no way you can get lost as there is no other way out except straight ahead and ahead is up to 1750’ ahead and so you just plough on and the new now becomes somewhat  boring and seemingly all the same . It is, of course, interesting to contemplate the significance of the marks of the picks as this tunnel was laboriously carved out 2800 years ago.


At the midpoint, the shape of the marks of the picks left behind  change abruptly as you are now in the section completed by the other team heading towards you.


The mystery of the place can be quickly lost on you it seems as you concentrate on not stumbling on the submerged floor of the tunnel as you make your way in the dark with flickering candle in hand.


What particularly struck me was the fact that the completed tunnel does not go in a straight line and I wondered about that. In fact its course has now been plotted on paper using modern technology and it is rather serpentine in its meanderings.


Hand hewn by teams of workers, its sides and roof and floor are rough and uneven.


It was not built to be beautiful but to be functional.


But how on earth did they find each other in the middle??


Hezekiah’s strategy was twofold: (1) to not only provide water for Jerusalem but also (2) to deny it to the Assyrians.


In order to accomplish these goals  he had to cover over the natural spring source of the water outside of Jerusalem’s walls so the Assyrians could not locate it and then he had to cause to be dug a subteranean  tunnel to connect the outside-the-walls spring  to what we call the Pool of Siloam. Yes the same pool of Siloam where 700+ years later Jesus told the blind man to go wash off the spit/clay mix he had applied to the blind man’s eyes and he was healed miraculously. Imagine that and this is where I emerged into the sunshine after my adventure in the tunnel. You can do the same if you wish.


The two teams of ancient diggers, armed with iron picks, somehow navigated their way underground, blind as to where the other team actually was and somehow after years of digging they miraculously met in the middle.


I remember seeing where that joyous event had occurred and could share their joy.


That under ground meeting of these two teams was memorialized by an inscription in the wall of the tunnel describing the event.


Money got in the way as it often does and around 1880 some Arabs chiseled this inscription off the wall and sold the inscription on the black market and it ended up in Istanbul where it is currently on display. It is called the Siloam Inscription.


Well, as often happens,  the dating of this famous tunnel has come under challenge of late with some scholars questioning its accepted dating to the time of Hezekiah and offering other possible creators,  some predating Hezekiah and some as late as the Hasmonean period in the 200s BC.


Such challenges are not infrequent in the Middle East. Trying to come up with alternative explanations for famous places and items is common and part of the game.


Want to get noticed?


Challenge an established theory about a famous place or event or item and make your case! That is how the game is played.


With recognition and notoriety comes fame and often fortune.


So bottom line, is this something visitors to Israel should put on their to do list?


By all means if you have the time.


Just take a taxi from your hotel to the pool of Siloam and the City of David south of the Old City walls and you will even find locals there who will guide you through the tunnel for a few dollars. Be sure to wear rubber soled shoes that you don’t mind getting wet. Shorts are probably a good idea as well. The depth of the water will vary according to the season.


On our forthcoming February 2014 journey to Turkey, Jordan and Israel we have planned an entire day at leisure to allow our traveling friends the opportunity do something on their own and this is certainly a candidate for that experience. Taxis will take you there and are usually readily available to take you back to your hotel.




This is yet another special article written for you by Dr. Robert Grant the Holy Land Guru.


We invite you to consider traveling with Dr.  Grant and wife Judy.

We also encourage you to PLEASE LIKE     where you will find all of the previous articles Dr. Bob  has written.




For more information you should Google Siloam Inscription and  Hezekiah’s Tunnel and also check out the Biblical Archeology Review.

August 31, 2013



Even though I have been to the Holy Land innumerable times over the past 46 years I have never personally participated in a dig. Sounded like hot, hard work and did not intrigue me all that much. Not my cup of tea.

My wife Judy, on the other hand, is possessed with a kind of curiosity that she always wants to dig when we visit sites like Megiddo .


I well remember one time we were in Philippi (the New Testament book of Philippians) in Northern Greece and she was only stopped from giving in to this compulsion when one of the guards stopped her.

Archeology sounds so glamorous. Just to consider the thought  that you might uncover the ultimate hidden treasure. Think of the Indiana Jones movies and their appeal.

But archeology is just not as glamorous as all that I have found. Much of it has to do with digging in dirt and finding tiny clues from the past, coupled with the skill to recognize when a fragment of pottery ( a shard as it is called) was made, by its historic characteristics. Pottery is the main way that dating is determined. Sometimes major structures, like a 200’ long section of wall recently discovered outside the walls of Old Jerusalem, are uncovered, but that is the exception not the rule.

A recent publication by the Biblical Archeology Society, (BAS) entitled Jerusalem Archeology: Exposing the Biblical City caught my attention as it focused on the daily grind of the detective work we call field archeology.

Since 1967 when Israel captured the Old City of Jerusalem in the 6 Day war, there has been a lot of digging around the temple area. I have written in earlier postings about the discovery there  of the steps leading up to the temple from the southern valley, up which Jesus most assuredly must have walked.                                             (Go to  for the many articles I have posted in recent months to keep my friends up to speed on all things Holy land related)


But there is much more that has been uncovered there  including parts of walls and foundations of buildings that go back 1000 years before Jesus to the time of Solomon the builder of the 1st great temple to stand in that area.

The original City of Jerusalem called the City of David, is located downhill from the walls of the current Old City and is a nondescript muddy mound . It is an active archeological site.

The archeologists have now determined how David’s son Solomon enlarged Jerusalem and enclosed the area from the City of David all the way up to and including the current Temple mount, in his Jerusalem’s environs.

Solomon built his glorious temple on the same general area where the current Golden dome of the Muslim shrine now sits  where also  his great palace probably once stood. The massive current platform we now see was built by Herod the Great at the time of Jesus (later restored by Suleiman the magnificent in the Middle ages,) and is much more extensive than the area used by Solomon 1000 years earlier.

Moved by this account in BAS  I turned to the Biblical account of this event in 1 Kings 6 and, upon re reading it for the umpteenth time, was fascinated by the detail that it contained even tying the date of this construction by King Solomon  to the Exodus from Egypt  480 years earlier. (A side benefit of this is to offer us guidance as to when the Exodus from Egypt actually occurred as well as when the Temple was built)

It took Solomon 7 years to build his temple and 13 years to construct his nearby imposing palace that was 150’ long by 75’ wide and 45’ tall. Among the details incorporated in this grand building was the casting of 2 massive bronze columns 27’ tall and 18’ in circumference.

I find that when I read such Biblical passages against the background of having actually traveled to the place itself, this all takes on a new dimension of reality.

That is why I especially urge pastors to have the experience of travel to the Holy Land such as we offer each year.

This should not be considered a luxury but a source of important knowledge necessary in order to be an accurate teacher of the Word.

Also I might add, reading this Biblical account in a modern language translation like the New Living translation makes this massive project so easy to picture.

So much for background.

This BAS  article on archeology in Jerusalem reports that in 1999 the Muslims who now control the Temple Mount, decided to dig some steps down through the floor of the plateau near the al Aqsa Mosque and connect to an area below mistakenly called Solomon’s Stables.

This is a vaulted area below the South Eastern corner of the temple mount (perhaps the  pinnacle of the Temple as described in the temptation of Jesus by Satan) .

Solomon’s Stables consists of a lower area with a series of columns that support the platform above where the modern mosque is situated.

Dating for Solomon’s Stables is difficult to ascertain as some date this to the Roman Emperor Hadrian (about 130 AD) when he rebuilt Jerusalem (his city was called the Aelia Capitolina ) following its destruction by the 10th Legion 40 years earlier  in 70 AD.

After the rise of Islam in the 600s AD this lower area was made into a Muslim prayer room. Later the Crusaders turned It into a stable and then it reverted back to being a Muslim sacred place.

In order to provide convenient access for visitors to the Al Aqsa Mosque, to this subterranean place now called the Marwani Mosque, the modern Muslim rulers of the Temple mount area decided to create a flight of stairs by opening up a hole in the present  platform and providing step access from above.

In the process of doing this they created stress on the Southern wall and this threatened the collapse of the entire structure. An unsightly emergency repair can now be seen in white on the Southern wall as the result.

Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives

Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives

The BAS article reports how the Muslim diggers just dumped truckloads of artifact laden dirt taken from the excavations, into the Kidron Valley below.

They were oblivious to the damage they were doing and the value of what they just discarded, as their only focus was the building of this set of stairs.

Others had different plans for this pile of dirt: Israeli archeologists viewed this dirt pile as a potential treasure trove and established a nearby  location on Mount Scopus where they began laboriously trucking the dirt and washing down the debris and sifting it for the tiny treasures that subsequently were uncovered and have now added a great deal to our knowledge of the area.

Among the treasures found is a fragment of a 3400 year old clay seal containing the oldest Hebrew writing ever discovered in Jerusalem. It is a part of a clay tablet written in cuneiform (ie with a wedged shaped stick in soft clay that is then fired) that is thought to date back to about 400 years before Solomon when the Canaanites had a city there.

This fragment is thought to be a file copy  of a letter of appeal sent by the Canaanite king who then ruled over this area, (remember this was well before the time of David and Solomon) sent from Jerusalem  to the weird pharaoh Akhnaten, the monotheistic pharaoh from the 1300s BC, asking for help against some of his enemies.

A trove of such correspondence was earlier discovered in Egypt and is called the Amarna letters. Apparently just like us they made file copies of important documents so that they could later refer back to what they had said. How modern does that sound?

And so  truckloads of dirt are brought in and washed and sifted and tiny treasures such as these are retrieved from time to time.

Such is the not so romantic and dirty drudge work that is much of the lot of the modern archeologist.

Bill's corrected Holy Land Pics 299

If you should be one who travels with us on a Holy Land Tour you will see many such digs and excavations.

We invite you to come along with us on one of our personally escorted journeys to Turkey, Jordan and Israel in 2014 and add this rich experience to your bucket list for sure. Special arrangements available for pastors as well.

By Dr. Robert Grant aka The Holy Land Guru   written  August 18, 2013.

We can know much more than you may assume.

The answer to that question is “yes, we can know a lot” thanks to modern technology including the revolutionary 3D printer combined with operational skills.

Now skilled technical people can take a skull recovered from the grave that is  dated to the time of Jesus and actually reconstruct with some accuracy what that person looked like with skin on.

Credit goes to National Geographic and their special for this report. This is yet another example of how the Holy Land Guru site is trying to keep our friends up to speed on all  things related to the Bible lands. We are scheduled for 2 return departures in 2014 and invite you to consider traveling on our personally escorted holy land tours. Special arrangements for pastors are available. Please let us know of your interest. You can call me at home if you wish and I will be happy to take your call at 386 447 9473 and thanks

Please go to BiblicalFaces at this link


There are two  locations in Israel that have been associated with the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Holy Land Tour with the Holy Land Guru

The empty tomb perhaps of Jesus

One is the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, located deep in the heart of the Old City of Jerusalem.

The other is outside the northern walls of the same Old City of Jerusalem, a location called the Garden Tomb or also Gordon’s Calvary. It was named after the British General, Chinese Gordon, who spent a great deal of time in Jerusalem in the mid 19th century.

Gordon was impressed by the naturally eroded image of a skull that he observed on a rough hill side that caught his attention one day  as he walked along the Northern wall  of the  Old City. Added to his growing conviction that this was where Jesus had  died and was raised from the dead, was the further discovery of  the nearby tomb (now called the Garden Tomb) that had the highly  unusual feature of a place for a rolling stone. It was the tomb of a rich man. It appeared to never have been occupied.

Each of these competing traditions for the  place of  the death and resurrection of Jesus  has its proponents and arguments in its favor.

When you go on our holy land tours with the Holy land guru we will usually visit both of these sites. And when we do this  it is always interesting to note the reaction of our friends. They are universally  drawn to the Garden Tomb and usually  repelled by the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.


To be fair it must be acknowledged that  most professional archeologists and mainline religious denominations including the Roman Catholic Church , favor the former of these choices.

All of the arguments seem to circle around the attempt to locate remnants of  the ancient walls of Jerusalem from the time of Jesus.

One would assume that this ought to be a simple matter to determine.  But that is not so. This quest opens up a virtual Pandoras box as those walls were long ago destroyed, particularly at the time of the Roman siege of Jerusalem by the  10th Legion in 70 AD when the city and the temple of Herod were torn down stone by stone.

The search for the old walls is further hindered by the fact that the current crowded  city sits upon what may be left of them.

Hints as to  the location of the  destroyed  walls can be detected here and there  under houses and stores in the Old City. What ads to the complexity of this exercise to locate the walls of Jesus’ day is the fact that  there was more than one set of walls from different periods. And usually all that can be  found  is bits of  the foundations of such and then the archeologists have to make certain leaps and  draw conclusions based upon what they think they have found. Not a very precise matter.

Interestingly, all of  the research begins with the premise that the New Testament description of the location of the place of execution of Jesus  is to be trusted and that  Jesus was indeed executed outside the city walls in a place of execution that could maximize the example the  Romans wanted to make of criminals that defied Rome . Accepting that basic premise, the archeologists must then try to make the evidence fit into that scenario.

The jury is still out in this regard as far as I am concerned.

On the other hand, the arguments for the alternate site, the Garden Tomb, as the place of the death and resurrection of Jesus, can be summed up thus:  It is outside the present walls of the Old City (to be sure not a very compelling case) . It presents the skull like  naturally eroded hill that would seem to explain the name of the place as Golgotha or place of the skull. It has a nearby tomb with a place for  a rolling stone, an unusual feature to be sure. There is also evidence that this  site was the location of an ancient garden as proven  by the discovery of the old olive press found there.

Another more spiritually motivated argument in its favor is interesting to consider. The history of blood sacrifice that runs throughout the entire Old Testament all the way back to the time of Abraham and his almost sacrifice of his son Isaac, 2000 years earlier, concentrates these bloody events on an elevation called  Mount Moriah.

An argument can be made that Gordon’s Calvary is actually  located on the Northern terminus of Mount Moriah and thus provides a purposeful conclusion to the practice of blood sacrifice not only with the destruction of the temple some 30 years later, but also with the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus, the Lamb of God, the final sacrifice for the sins of the world, as the Christian message declares.

Finally the more emotional and least compelling argument is that the Garden tomb area lends itself to a feeling of worship and peace. A subjective argument to be sure. It just feels like it should for whatever that means.

By contrast the competing Church of the Holy Sepulcher dates back to the time of Queen Helena, mother of the Emperor Constantine in the 4th century. It was built by her to memorialize what the locals reported to her, that this was where the events in Jesus’ life had occurred 300 years earlier. Local tradition is important but not infallible. The building  has been destroyed and rebuilt since that original construction some  1800 years ago.

Rather than a place of peace the Church of the Holy Sepulcher  is a place of great conflict and tension with warring Christian sects, jealously guarding their little piece of real estate,  vying for attention and for prominence and control.

The competing Christian sects are so at war with each other there  that the keys to the church are entrusted to a Muslim family. Imagine that. These so called Christians cannot be trusted with the key to the place supposedly built over the tomb  of Jesus, the Prince of Peace.

Something is wrong about that picture don’t you think?

We always leave the final decision concerning this matter up to our traveling  friends to try to sort it out for themselves as to what they conclude about these competing sites.


One thing we also  always do is offer a communion service at the Garden Tomb and we use olive wood cups from Bethlehem and spend a very deeply spiritual period of time considering the sacrifice of Jesus and then we go quietly into the actual tomb itself. That experience forever transforms communion for all. Participation in this service of course is voluntary and no pressure is made to participate. In my more than 46 years of going there I cannot recall a single person not participating.

So what is the bottom line? The jury is till out on that.

Is the Garden Tomb the place?

I don’t know. What I do know is that it certainly feels like it is, and a strong argument can be made in its favor, and it provides the opportunity to think on a deeper level about the events that took place there or close nearby and that is enough for me.

I came across the following video from the Garden Tomb and it wonderfully captures the experience that you will have if you choose to come with us to the Holy Land on a journey conducted for you personally by the Holy Land Guru.