AN EXCERPT FROM UPCOMING BOOK, ‘The Temple Quest and Gihon Spring’
Copyright: Ian Heard March 25, 2022
The map at left is used with the kind permission of Marilyn Sams, author of 'The Jerusalem Temple Mount Myth'
I have added a red spot indicating an approximate position of Ein Rogel, the Serpent Well.
'Nehemiah exits the City of David (note, City of David is the name used by Nehemiah in 3:15 & 12:37), via the Valley Gate (the ‘valley’ being the Tyropeon Valley) on the west and proceeds (anti-clockwise) in the direction of, or towards, a) the Serpent Well, the approximate location of which I have added to the map with a red spot; and b) the Refuse Gate. Note that the Hebrew word used here by Nehemiah and translated towards or in the direction of, is PANEH meaning to face, or facing. He is giving us the direction he was facing and in which he went and he provides two landmarks. The first is the somewhat distant Serpent Well, so called because it was beside a stone known as Koheleth (serpent) in 1 Kings 1:9. That well is Ein Rogel in the valley south-east of the City of David and it could be accessed by a gate known as the Gate of the Fountain on our map. (Note that it was also known in ancient times as the ‘Well of Nehemiah’). From that gate it was a walk of about 300 metres, perhaps more, to the Serpent Well. The well is within earshot of Gihon—at least for loud trumpet blasts and shouting—although about 600-700 metres from it as Adonijah discovered in his nefarious attempt to gazump Solomon for the throne of David (see the story in 1 Kings 1 and note verses 40 & 41). The Serpent Well was a landmark on the boundary between Judah and Benjamin that was still intact and well-known to Nehemiah and the people of the City of David. He also mentions the Refuse or Dung Gate which you see on the map. He was headed in a south to south-east direction to go around the bottom of the City of David and he then turned northward into the Kidron Valley as verse 15 indicates. He calls it NACHAL in Hebrew, the Valley of the Torrent—another name for Kidron, where the overflow from Gihon ran southward. As he proceeds up the Kidron Valley, he examines the derelict wall (v.15) and then turns back, retraces his steps and re-enters the city by the Valley Gate.
Nehemiah does not tell us how far northward up Kidron he examined, but since he makes no mention of of Gihon but only of the stream bed or wadi into which it flowed—and since he is naming recognised landmarks, we can safely assume he did not need to go past Gihon as explained below.
Since we can be pretty certain of the extent of his reconnaissance—and since his concern, as he stated, was the citadel which pertains to the temple, and the reconnaissance included only the lower half of the City of David and its derelict walls and gates, our conclusion must be that the temple was within that defined area.
Certainly when it came to the repairing and building of the walls and gates the builders encompassed more than that lower section of the City of David and it may be that on his way into Jerusalem from the north, he had already seen in daylight much of the upper section. But it remains clear that Nehemiah’s special interest was that southern area defined as from Gihon on the east to the western valley (near the Valley Gate) and southward which we can therefore reasonably assume ‘pertained’ to the citadel of the temple in which his zeal was invested.
So we come to the reading of the Law in Chapter 8 followed by the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles and then in Chapters 9 through 11, confession of sins and renewal of the covenant and the dedication procession on the repaired wall. But we should take note that it is Ezra the Scribe who is commissioned to read from the Book of the Law. It is a momentous and inspiring event. Ezra would have brought the scroll out of the temple precinct—and where would that reading of the Law to the people of God most appropriately take place? Of course, in the open square right in front of the temple that housed it as we see in Chapter 8. That open square, coincidentally is noted by the writer as being ‘in front of the Water Gate’ (verses 1 and 3), that is, the gate that provided access to Gihon Spring which gurgled and bubbled away beneath the great structure that had been built out and over it enclosing it as part of the City of David; the tower that is described in Nehemiah 3:25, 26 and 27 as the projecting tower (or the tower that juts out).
Something even more noteworthy however, is to be seen in Nehemiah’s account of all these events. It is this: first in Chapter 8, Ezra reads as the people stand in the square and we note in verse 7 that the people stood in ‘their place.’ Again in Chapter 9 where we see the confession of sins and in verses 2 and 3, those of Israelite lineage separate themselves and—note—‘stood up in their place.’ This was a very solemn occasion and this surely can only mean that the people were arranged to take their place within their designated area such as the Court of the Gentiles, the court of the Israelites, the Court of the Women etc. And then we read that Jeshua, Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani, and Chenani stood ‘on the ascent (stairs) of the Levites.’ The location of the Temple is crystallising.
So, we move forward to the extraordinary event of the dedication of the completed wall in Nehemiah chapter 12 and once again the compass of the City of David is seen. One group of choristers and musicians go as Nehemiah had on his reconnaissance tour, to the south and around the bottom of the City of David and the other group, with Nehemiah behind, proceed north and around the top of the City. But, of utmost importance is the location at which the two groups meet. It was at ‘the Beyt-El’ (House of God) as Nehemiah 12:40 tells us—quite certainly where Ezra had read the Law. The group walking around the south, led by Ezra came around the southern tip, past the house of David and proceeded north, halting at the Water Gate on the east, that is, at the tower that juts out—at Gihon. The northbound group marched… ‘past the Tower of the Ovens as far as the Broad Wall, and above the Gate of Ephraim, above the Old Gate, above the Fish Gate, the Tower of Hananel, the Tower of the Hundred, as far as the Sheep Gate; and they stopped by the Gate of the Prison.’
‘So’ writes Nehemiah, ‘the two thanksgiving choirs stood in the Beyt-El.’ The Beyt-El was right there! (It is noteworthy that again in Nehemiah 8:16 the Beyt-El is mentioned in proximity to the open square at the Water Gate during the Feast of Tabernacles).
The tower that juts out is unmistakeably the structure built out and around the Gihon Spring as shown in Marilyn Sams’s map above, the presence of which has been confirmed archaeologically. Clearly the city’s Water Gate was at the Gihon location and from that we are able without contradiction, to pinpoint the Beyt-El.'
 See ‘The Bir Ayyub Well (En Rogel) at Jerusalem: a New Plan and Discussion Based on Maps and Historic Photographs’ Shimon Gibson 2012.
 Of interest here is Psalm 48 where the Psalmist sings of the glory of Zion’s citadels or palaces (plural). Zion contained the palaces of both the heavenly King and the earthly king.