Faith & Reason ... a mystery

Monday, September 2, 2013

So many of us want to GO...maybe we are being sent!

"After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes.  “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing." -John 9:6-7

The cultural milieu of John 9:1-12 is Jewish. That is to say the text has a combination of individual perceptions of politics and intentions as well as the community of persons perceptions of politics and under the influence of social culture of the Jews. There were some Greco-Roman influences in the time period, but in this text we only see evidences of the Jewish culture and its traditions. Thus, I have chosen to focus this study on the Pool of Siloam.

Waterways were very important in the ancient cultures. Just as in today, we need a fresh supply of water for the basic needs of life: to drink, to cook, to clean, and to bath. In our text of John 9, we learn that Jesus uses water to test the blind man’s faith. The Archaeological encyclopedia of the Holy Land states of a pool:
In prehistoric and early historic times man was very limited in his choice of sites for dwelling places, since he had to be in the immediate vicinity of permanent sources of water such as rivers, springs or freshwater lakes. But he learned at an early date to excavate cisterns in order to store water for long periods, thus greatly increasing the number of places where he could settle. In the biblical period, however, rivers, lakes and springs were still the most important sources of water, though artificial devices gradually came into use.1
The pool of our text has a great deal of historical significance and it was well known for providing for the well being of the community around it.

It should also be noted that it took a great deal of effort to collect water in the Palestinian region. The geographical location is well known for being a dessert like terrain even today. In the early New Testament time period things were not much different. The New Bible Dictionary described the work that went into the collection of such water. It states, “During the summer, water which had collected in pools during the winter and spring formed an important source of supply. The ability to collect and keep water in artificial pools enabled the Israelites to settle uninhabited parts of Palestine (*Cistern). Artificial pools were dug inside walled cities (the *Moabite Stone records one) often fed through a tunnel leading from a spring outside, ensuring a supply in time of siege”2 Thus, unlike our modern culture of running water through a focet in the kitchen or restroom, the people of this culture understood the necessity of water and the work that it took to get a pool.

Many pools were made of tunnels and used to flow water to a larger group of people. Siloam was no different. Siloam can also be known as Shiloah or translated as sent.3 Siloam was is recorded in the New Bible Dictionary as:
One of the principal sources of water supply to Jerusalem was the intermittent pool of Gihon (‘Virgin’s Fountain’) below the Fountain Gate (Ne. 3:15) and ESE of the city. This fed water along an open canal, which flowed slowly along the SE slopes, called šilôa (‘Sender’; lxx Silōam, Is. 8:6). It followed the line of the later ‘second aqueduct’ (Wilson) which fell only 5 cm in 300 m, discharging into the Lower or Old Pool (mod. Birket el-amra) at the end of the central valley between the walls of the SE and SW hills. It thus ran below ‘the wall of the Pool of Shelah’ (Ne. 3:15) and watered the ‘king’s garden’ on the adjacent slopes.
This Old Pool was probably the ‘Pool of Siloam’ in use in NT times for sick persons and others to wash (Jn. 9:7–11). The ‘Tower of Siloam’ which fell and killed 18 persons—a disaster well known in our Lord’s day (Lk. 13:4)—was probably sited on the Ophel ridge above the pool which, according to Josephus (BJ 5.145), was near the bend of the old wall below Ophlas (Ophel). According to the Talmud (Sukkoth 4. 9), water was drawn from Siloam’s pool in a golden vessel to be carried in procession to the Temple on the Feast of Tabernacles.4

Within the Jewish culture, the Pool of Siloam was a significant place. Jesus’ choice to use it for the man to wash the spit/mud combination is interesting to note. Jesus grants the man an opportunity to exercise his faith and follow through with what Jesus told him to do. It worked and the man eyesight was restored. The water did not save him, but that he was willing to be sent and then followed through demonstrated his belief that he could be made to see. The special location of Siloam heightens our appreciation in that we too are sent and need our faith by following through.

Have a great day! Together we can seek out, reach out, and step out on faith to where Jesus is sending us. You know I love ya, Don


1 Negev, A. (1996). The Archaeological encyclopedia of the Holy Land (3rd ed.). New York: Prentice Hall Press.
2 Wood, D. R. W., & Marshall, I. H. (1996). New Bible dictionary (3rd ed.) (941). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press.
3 Cornwall, Dr. Judson & Smith, Dr. Stelman (1998). The Exhaustive Dictionary of Bible Names. Gainsville, FL.: Bridge-Logos.
4 Wood, D. R. W., & Marshall, I. H. (1996). New Bible dictionary (3rd ed.) (941). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press.

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