Destination Israel: The Message of Herod’s Aqueduct (Part 20)

Herod's Aqueduct

Herod the Great was an amazing builder and the ruins of much of what he built twenty one centuries ago still remains. At Caesarea Maritima (Caesarea by the sea), he enlarged and renovated a city and built a palace, a forty acre harbor on the Mediterranean, a 3,500 seat theater, and an aqueduct that was capable of supplying water for a population of several hundred thousand people.

Water is essential for life. It really doesn’t matter how luxurious or stunning a city is, if it does not have a sustainable water supply it soon becomes a ghost town There are miles and miles of water on the western front door of Caesarea Maritima, but the problem is, it’s the Mediterranean Sea—striking to look at, filled with a myriad of seafood, but salty and undrinkable. The solution for Herod was simple: build an aqueduct and bring the water to his capital city.

Herod used Roman technology and brought the fresh water from springs of Shummi located on the southern side of Mount Carmel, ten miles to the north of Caesarea Maritima. Herod achieved this amazing feat around 20 BC. The Roman arches supported a terracotta pipe (red clay) so exquisitely graded that the water did not wear away the pipe as it flowed down from the springs to the city on the sea.

Aqueducts are conduits that carry fresh water. Much of the water in Israel came from cisterns (large stone or concrete storage containers) where water was caught after a rainstorm and conserved for later use. If a person had their choice in ancient times, they preferred fresh water over the water taken from cisterns, but often this stale water was all that was available.

Jesus referred to himself as the Water of Life. The Holy Spirit is described as a river of living water flowing up and out like an artesian spring. We belong to Jesus and the Holy Spirit resides within us, therefore we could be compared to an aqueduct. We don’t produce the water, but we are conduits through which the Living Water is to flow freely to those who are dying for a drink of life. But…you and I get to choose—we can be cisterns and keep all the grace to ourselves and like be like the Dead Sea—rich and lifeless. Or, we can be aqueducts of God’s grace and the richness of his life will spring up everywhere we go.

Today, a lonely aqueduct running southward along the Mediterranean Sea reminds us of our awesome privilege and incredible responsibility to give freely of what we have so freely received. This is the message of Herod’s Aqueduct.