Tower of Siloam

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For the Arab village and neighborhood, see Silwan. For the ancient city and contemporary Jewish neighborhood, see City of David.
James Tissot, The Tower of Siloam
See also: Pool of Siloam

According to the Bible, the Tower of Siloam[1] was an ancient tower in Siloam in south Jerusalem. In Luke 13:1-5, in a discourse on the need for individual repentance for sin, Jesus refers to 18 who died when the Tower of Siloam fell on them. Apparently they were innocent victims of a calamity which was due to no fault of those killed.

The Tower of Siloam itself is mentioned only in Luke 13:4 as part of a larger passage contained in verses 13:1-5.

Biblical reference[edit]

Christ teaching in the Temple

"Some who were present" reported to Jesus that the cruel ruler Pontius Pilate had killed some Galileans while they were worshiping. Their example was particularly gruesome since at the moment the Galileans were killed, they were worshiping God by offering sacrifices according to their Jewish religious law.

Apparently those making the report were looking for Jesus to offer some explanation of why bad things happen to good people—in this case even while they were worshiping.[2] The "sin and calamity" issue involves a presumption often made even today that an extraordinary tragedy in some way must signify extraordinary guilt. It assumes that a victim must have done something terrible for God to allow something so tragic to happen to them.[3]

Jesus responded as though the question was related to the relative sinfulness of the victims, but only in passing. In a sharp retort, he diverted the focus directly onto the interrogators, making it clear that the most urgent issue was not an explanation to their implied question as to why God allowed such a horrible thing to happen to innocent people. Rather, Jesus wanted them to focus on their own souls.[3]

Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” [Lk 13:2-5]

His mention of the fall of the Tower of Siloam added a nuance to his prior point: accidents happen. Therefore, even in the absence of persecution, death can come unexpectedly to anyone, irrespective of how righteous or how sinful they are. He may have been emphasizing that the time granted by God for repentance is limited.[2]

"Repent" and "perish" in the New Testament[edit]

Whether due to persecution or misadventure, repentance is universally strongly and earnestly required by Jesus. The time is short, and therefore the time for repentance is now.[2] In his response to both tragedies, Jesus firmly dismissed personal guilt or causation as the reason they became victims. Instead, he turned the focus onto those wanting to hear "why".

Twice in this brief passage, Jesus declared, "...unless you repent, you too will all perish." Jesus' clear focus is on the need for everyone to "repent" of their sins before God. His answer cannot mean that all unrepentant people will die deservedly. Neither can it mean that people can escape physical death by repenting of their sins since eventually every living person dies. So perish here is something more than just to die a physical death.[3]

The word "perish" in the New Testament very often refers to a terrible judgment following one's physical death. Since Jesus connects it directly to sin and says it can be escaped by repentance, "perish" here most logically refers to the final judgment. For example, in John 3:16 Jesus says, "For God so loved the world that whosoever believes on him shall not perish but have everlasting life." Perishing is the biblical alternative to having everlasting life. Perishing is what happens to those who don't have eternal life. The same principle appears in John 10:28 where Jesus says, "I give them eternal life, and they shall not perish for ever."[3]

Identification[edit]

Bible commentator Matthew Henry references contemporary theologian Dr. Joseph Lightfoot, who identified the Pool of Siloam with the Pool of Bethesda and conjectured that the Tower of Siloam may have been supporting one of the five porches of the Pool of Bethesda mentioned in the Gospel of John,[Jn 5] and that the 18 victims were killed by the falling porch. This was disproved when the real Pool of Bethesda was discovered in north Jerusalem.

Other Bible commentators have speculated that the Tower of Siloam may have been part of a Roman aqueduct connected to the Pool of Siloam.[4] At least two aqueducts are known to have carried water to the pool from the Gihon Spring, but these aqueducts were built into the ground, not on elevated viaducts requiring towers.

It has also been speculated that the tower was a fortress built to defend the city, similar to the Phasael tower.

Archaeology[edit]

Archaeological excavation has revealed what some Biblical scholars believe to be the ruins of the tower; archaeologists believe that the remains are[specify]. If so, it is likely the ruins belong to a second tower that was rebuilt after the first tower collapsed. The ruins are a circular foundation approximately 6 metres across.[5]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "of siloam". Dictionary.reference.com. Retrieved 2014-02-19. 
  2. ^ a b c "» A magnifying glass on the Galileans, the Blood, the Tower of Siloam, and the Vineyard of Luke 13:1-9One Faith, One Church". Onefaithonechurch.com. Retrieved 2014-02-19. 
  3. ^ a b c d Piper, John (1988-06-05). "Unless You Repent You Will All Likewise Perish". Desiring God. Retrieved 2014-02-19. 
  4. ^ Life Application Study Bible, footnote to Luke 13
  5. ^ "The Tower of Siloam". Associates for Scriptural Knowledge. 2003. Retrieved 2008-02-10.