Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

In the English Bibles, the word "pool" stands for three Hebrew words: (1) 'agam means properly a pond of stagnant water; in Ex., vii, 19; viii, 5, it designates probably sheets of water left in low places by the Nile from the inundation; (2) miqveh signifies originally "the gathering together" of the waters ( Genesis 1:10 ), hence a place where waters flowing from different directions are collected together, a reservoir being usually formed by damming up the valley; (3) berekah (comp. Arab. birket ) is an entirely artificial reservoir generally excavated in the rock and covered inside with a lining of masonry to prevent leaking. These three words convey a fair idea of the way the natives of Palestine and neighbouring regions have at all times secured a sufficient supply of water, a precaution by no means unimportant in countries where dry weather prevails for the greater part of the year. Natural pools of the kind described in Scripture by the name 'agam are practically unknown in Palestine. If importance be attached to the vocabulary of the sacred writers, we might be justified in supposing that most pools were wholly artificial, for all are indiscriminately styled berekah in the Hebrew Bible. Yet there can be no doubt that some were reservoirs obtained by building a dam across valleys; such was, at any rate, the Lower, or Old, Pool ( Birket el-Hamra , south of Jerusalem ), which, before the Upper Pool ( 'Ain Silwan ) was constructed, was filled from the Gihon (the Virgin's Fountain) by a surface conduit, along the eastern slope of the spur of Ophel, and later was fed from the surplus water overflowing from the Upper Pool.

The other pools in or about the Holy City were all entirely artificial, being excavated in the rock. Those mentioned in Scripture are: (1) the Pool of Siloe (A. V. Siloah; Nehemiah 3:15 ; John 9:7 ), or Upper Pool ( 2 Kings 18:17 ; Isaiah 7:3 ; 36:2 ), or the King's Pool ( Nehemiah 2:14 ), built by Ezechias "between the two walls" ( Isaiah 22:11 ), to bring into the city through an underground conduit, the Siloe tunnel, the water of Gihon; (2) the Pool of Bethsaida (A. V. Bethesda; John 5:2 ); the exact location of this pool is to this day an object of dispute; commonly but quite groundlessly it is identified with the Birket Israil, north of the Temple and southwest of St. Stephen's Gate ( Bab Sitti Maryam ); others (Conder, Paton etc.) see it in the pool at the Fountain of Gihon ( 'Ain Sitti Maryam ), southeast of the Haram---the berekah 'asuyah (i.e. "well made") of Neh. (II Esd.) iii, 16; others finally think it should be sought some distance north of the Birket Israil and west of St. Ann's Church and recognized there in old constructions still suggesting the form of porticoes; (3) the Berekah 'asuyah of II Esd. has just been mentioned; it was the reservoir of the intermittent spring of Gihon; (4) we should perhaps cite also the Dragon Fountain of II Esd., ii, 13, which lay between the Valley Gate (practically the modern Jaffa Gate) and the Dung Gate (about due west of the southern end of the Birket es-Sultan ); probably connected with the Dragon Fountain was the Serpent's Pool mentioned by Josephus (Bell. Jud., V, iii, 2), but the site of both is now a mere matter of conjecture. Despite the historical interest attached to them, it is needless to recall here the various pools of the Holy Land more or less incidentally mentioned in Scripture : the Pool of Gabaon, which witnessed the bloody encounter of the servants of David with the defenders of Saul's dynasty; the Pools of Hesebon, and finally the pools alluded to in Eccl., ii, 6 as being the work of Solomon. These are supposed by some to be the famous Pools of Solomon (about eight miles south of Jerusalem ) from which several winding aqueducts, one forty-seven miles long, brought the water into the city.


More Encyclopedia

The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed in fifteen hardcopy volumes.

Catholic Encyclopedia

Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.

No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.

Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912

Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online


Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Isaiah 55:6-9
6 Seek out Yahweh while he is still to be found, call ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 145:2-3, 8-9, 17-18
2 Day after day I shall bless you, I shall praise ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 20:1-16
1 'Now the kingdom of Heaven is like a landowner ... Read More

Reading 2, Philippians 1:20-24, 27
20 all in accordance with my most confident hope and ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for September 21st, 2014 Image

St. Matthew
September 21: St. Matthew, one of the twelve Apostles, is the author of the ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter