Holy Land Pilgrimage in the Footsteps of David



"Stand in the gate of the Lord's house, and proclaim there
this word....Has this house, which is called by my name,
          become a DEN OF ROBBERS in your sight?"      Jeremiah 7:2,11        

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These words of Jeremiah (above) did not exactly endear him to the Temple establishment.  But then again, this was a man already known for his "chutzpah."  He scathingly denounced the worship of idols and was relentless in his condemnation of depravity.  Though by nature timid and shrinking, Jeremiah fearlessly proclaimed the Divine message, whether to ruler, noble, priest or man in the street.  He was one man pitted against the entire nation.  

During most of the 45 turbulent years of his prophetic career, Jeremiah was either "on the run," narrowly escaping death, or imprisoned with charges of treason, collaboration and desertion constantly hurled at him by the authorities.  It comes, then, as no surprise that Jeremiah holds the record in Scripture as the target of the most number of foiled assassination attempts.

One of these plots was to kill Jeremiah by drowning him in a cistern below the courtyard of the king's Jerusalem palace.  During your next tour, I invite you to climb down with me into this very cistern: it’s the perfect spooky place to hear how Jeremiah thwarted his enemies.

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After the Babylonians captured Judah, they exiled all the VIPs including King Jehoiachin to the "rivers of Babylon." Zedekieh, the last king of Judah, ruled as a Babylonian puppet.  But Zedekieh double-crossed the Babylonians by forging a temporary pact with the Egyptians.  Jeremiah, ever the realist, advised the king to reverse his strategy and open the gates of the capital city to the Babylonian army so Judah would survive.

The king’s officials accused Jeremiah of treason and tried to drown him by dropping him into a cistern which they assumed was full.  Luckily for Jeremiah, “there was no water in the cistern, only mud, and into the mud Jeremiah sank.” (Jeremiah 38:6)  Ebed-melech, the king’s Ethiopian servant, feared for Jeremiah’s life and came to the rescue.  He took some torn, worn-out rags (we’ll tie together some red checked “keffiyehs” when we reenact the story) and threw them down with some ropes.  It took no less than thirty men to haul Jeremiah up out of that cistern.  (I wonder how many falafels Jeremiah had eaten beforehand!)
"And Jeremiah stayed in the Court of the Guard until the day Jerusalem was captured."  (Jeremiah 38: 26)

Almond blossoms in the City of David

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

Jeremiah dubbed the almond “the watchful tree” for it blossoms first

My first visit to Jeremiah’s cistern in the winter of 2001 was with a tour leader who so completely identified with Jeremiah that he initially refused to follow me down the 25-foot rickety ladder.  He peered through the narrow opening, saw puddles of water and thought the cistern was full.  (There was NO water!)  Once down, he was astonished to note that the cistern was large -- about fifty feet in circumference.  We explored with a flashlight and detected seven openings to the royal courtyard above us.

The climb down into “Jeremiah’s" cistern doesn't demand physical stamina -- only mental!  Both male and female visitors of all ages have easily managed it.  After maneuvering a narrow opening, we descend an iron-runged ladder into a dark hole containing imaginary creatures.  (It's not as scary as it sounds -- it's GREAT FUN!) And I recommend doing this towards the end of your tour when you’ll have a great selection of dirty clothes. Note: we may be sinking into the mud, just as Jeremiah did!

You'll find this cistern is an awesome place to set the mood of Jerusalem on the eve of the destruction of Solomon’s temple.  Jeremiah 38 perfectly recreates the atmosphere in Jerusalem, with its overtones of treason, double-dealing, intrigue, and confusion as the Babylonian army was making its final assault. 

Area G in the City of David

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

Looking north in the City of David's Area G, behind the yellow pails,
"Jeremiah's cistern" would be to the northwest

Copyright 2005 Gila Yudkin.  Permission needed for any reuse.

2014 Postscript
The above was written in 2005.  Archeologists now believe that "Jeremiah's" cistern is from the 14th century.  That's how archeology goes.  One day a find is "authentic" and a few years later, it's proved to be "traditional" or even hokey.  The cistern, which was once so much fun, is now closed.  But we can still duck and wade through Hezekiah's Tunnel, and then walk down the actual steps of the 2000-year-old Pool of Siloam where Jesus told the man born blind to go wash his eyes.

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

Orange arrow points to the beginning of Hezekiah's Tunnel

Gila Yudkin, who calls herself a former Connecticut Yankee living now in King David's Court, has been guiding in the "City of David" for over 30 years. She thrives on showing veteran tour leaders new, authentic, biblical sites.  (And sometimes fun hokey ones!)  Give her an opportunity and your sermons will be enriched and your colleagues envious....
"Let's climb down into Jeremiah's Cistern" (as text without the photos) was the first in the series of free quarterly e-letters (since 1998!) sent on request to tour leaders, pastors, clergy, teachers, Bible students, colleagues and friends.  If you'd like to receive "Holy Sites: Gila's Highlights", please contact Gila. 


More Jerusalem Fun

Camel riding on the Mount of Olives

Let's walk the Old City ramparts

Let's see where the Priestly Benediction was found

On the Mount of Olives    

Nehemiah and the ramparts

Priestly blessing

If you are planning to come solo (or duo) to Jerusalem soon, then you may want to check out Gila’s unorthodox guide, “Explore Jerusalem’s Soul” for the top ten places to study biblical stories.




Copyright © 2005-2018 Gila Yudkin. All rights reserved.
Holy Land Photography by Gila Yudkin