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Harper’s Bible Dictionary
edited by Paul J. Achtemier (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1985)
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Gihon (Heb., a bursting forth).
1 The second of the four rivers flowing out of Eden to water the garden it is the one which flows around the whole land of Cush (Gen. 2:10, 13). Once Gihon was equated with the Nile on the assumption that Cush meant Abyssinia, but it almost certainly indicates a now unidentifiable irrigation channel in southern Iraq, Cush being the land of the Kassites.
2 A pulsating spring in Jerusalem, south of the temple area on the west side of the Kidron Valley, called in Arabic by the Muslims Ain Umm el-Daraj, spring of the steps, and by Christians Ain Sitti Maryam, the Virgins Fountain. Because of the steepness of the slope the spring was outside the town walls at the summit, and although water was normally obtained by carrying jars down to it, perhaps using donkeys, in times of siege the jars could apparently be lowered down a vertical shaft (Warrens Shaft). Another, less deep, shaft exists, which was perhaps used at an earlier date when the water table may have been higher. Probably Warrens Shaft was the one by which David was able to capture Jerusalem (2 Sam. 5:8).
Gihon is Jerusalems only immediate source of water and could support a population of about twenty-five hundred. As were a great many other springs in a land where water is often scarce, the Gihon fountain was evidently a sacred place, and for this reason Solomon (and probably also later rulers) was anointed king there (1 Kings 1:32-40). That anointing was accomplished to thwart Adonijah, who had offered a sacrifice at En-rogel, a spring somewhat further down the valley (1 Kings 1:9-10). Later in the monarchy the supply of water from Gihon seems to have been supplemented by water brought from a greater distance along a conduit, perhaps to the upper pool, where Isaiah met and rebuked King Ahaz (Isa. 7:3).
Hezekiah, who succeeded Ahaz, was confronted by the danger of Assyrian invasion and therefore sought not only to prevent the invaders from obtaining water in the vicinity of Jerusalem (2 Chron. 32:4) but to ensure the security of the citys own supply. This he did by means of his celebrated tunnel, 1,750 feet (533 m.) long, leading from Gihon to the Pool of Solomon, then possibly an underground cistern. The tunnel was carved from both ends simultaneously and follows a curiously winding course, perhaps to permit cutting a vertical shaft from inside the city to reach the water in a crisis.
Edited for BibleTexts.com by Robert Nguyen Cramer