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Chronicling Miracles: A Comprehensive Guide to the Pool of Bethesda

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Visit the pool of Bethesda in 2024

The landscape of Israel is dotted with some of the world's most captivating archaeological sites. One of these is the pool of Bethesda, a place renowned for one of Jesus' most extraordinary healing miracles.

The pool of Bethesda was where people with all kinds of diseases gathered in hopes of receiving healing. The general belief was that the first person to get into the water after it was troubled by an angel would be healed.

Today, the site has become a major tourist site in Israel, attracting hundreds of visitors every year.

In this article, we'll explore the pool of Bethesda, focusing on its historical and biblical significance.

Biblical account of the healing at the pool of Bethesda

The Bible references the pool of Bethesda only once in John's gospel.

John 5:2-9 KJV

2. Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches.

3. In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water.

4. For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had.

5. And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity [for] thirty and eight years.

6. When Jesus saw him lie and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole?

7. The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me.

8. Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed and walk.

9. And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the sabbath.

History and location of the pool of Bethesda 

The original name of the pool of Bethesda varies in different manuscripts. Many texts suggest that the Aramaic word Bethesda means “house of mercy” or “house of grace.” Other manuscripts say the name is a derivative of the Hebrew term for “place of overflowing water.” 

One thing that's for certain is that the pool was near the Sheep gate and surrounded by five porticoes or porches. This Sheep gate, situated in Jerusalem, was so called because it was the entrance for sacrificial lambs entering into the temple compound from the sheep markets.

Nehemiah 3:1 KJV

Then Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brethren the priests, and they builded the sheep gate; they sanctified it, and set up the doors of it; even unto the tower of Meah they sanctified it, unto the tower of Hananeel.

Nehemiah 3:31-32 KJV

After him repaired Malchiah the goldsmith's son unto the place of the Nethinims, and of the merchants, over against the gate Miphkad, and to the going up of the corner. 

And between the going up of the corner unto the sheep gate repaired the goldsmiths and the merchants.

Nehemiah 12:39-40 KJV

And from above the gate of Ephraim, and above the old gate, and above the fish gate, and the tower of Hananeel, and the tower of Meah, even unto the sheep gate: and they stood still in the prison gate. 

So stood the two companies of them that gave thanks in the house of God, and I, and the half of the rulers with me:

Cultural and religious context

Bible scholars believe the pool of Bethesda was used throughout history for ritual baths. The pool is thus sometimes called a “mikveh” or “mikvah,” which refers to a bath used to achieve ritual purity. 

Roman occupiers constructed medicinal baths and pagan temples at the pool site centuries after Jesus’ miracle. However, Christian crusaders later besieged Jerusalem and built churches over the Bethesda pool area. This was done in recognition of the healing miracle Jesus did at the site.

One of these churches was the Church of St Anne which was constructed between 1131 and 1138.

Archaeological excavations and discoveries

The foot of a white marble 

In 1866, the foot of a white marble with the Greek inscription “Dedicated by Pompeia Lucilia” was unearthed from the debris at the Church of St Anne. It was then gifted to the church in recognition of the supposed healing of an unspecified woman's diseased foot at the site. The Jewish museum at the Louvre, Paris later received the marble and put it on display.

Ancient pool

In 1956, a Jerusalem-based German archeologist unearthed an ancient pool-like structure with features similar to the one described in John's Gospel. The archeologist discovered four porticoes initially and then later a fifth one. Some sections of the pool were up to 40 feet deep and other areas featured small caverns and shallow baths.

It became clear almost immediately that this discovery was the pool of Bethesda.

If you're looking to explore the beautiful pool of Bethesda, please contact your travel agent. If you don't have one, reach out to us at Sar-El Tours and Conferences.

Symbolism and possible interpretations

The pool of Bethesda as a symbol carries a deep spiritual meaning. It symbolizes humankind’s need for healing, restoration, and an encounter with God. The stirring of the waters, as mentioned in the story, may represent divine intervention and God's timing.

Also, the pool signifies the opportunity for transformation through faith-driven action. Just as the paralyzed man had to believe in Jesus' words and take action, Christians are encouraged to act on their faith. 

The story again highlights the redemptive power of Jesus, where meeting Him can bring about a profound change in your life. An encounter breaks the chains of sin and offers the hope of a renewed existence. 

Overall, the story symbolizes the invitation for people to come to Christ, believe in His transformative power, and experience a deep, meaningful healing of the soul.

Modern perspectives and tourism 

Current state of the site

Today, the pool of Bethesda is believed to be situated in the present-day Muslim Quarter of the city, close to the Lions' Gate and the Church of St. Anne. Many visitors to Jerusalem tour the area.

Miracle-themed bronze sculpture 

There's a bronze sculpture in New York's Central Park that was built to commemorate Jesus’ Bethesda pool miracle. The “Angel of the Waters” as it is called depicts an angel overseeing four small cherubim atop a tranquil water pool.

The artwork was created by Emma Stebbins, an American artist between 1859 and 1864.

Frequently asked questions

Who was the angel at the pool of Bethesda?

The Bible tells us that an angel would stir the waters and the first person to get in would be healed. However, the Bible didn't give the name of the angel.

Was the pool of Bethesda pagan?

Initially, the pool of Bethesda was an assembly point for sick Jews hoping for healing. However, Roman occupiers built pagan temples at the site centuries after Jesus' miracle.

What did the pool of Bethesda look like?

The pool of Bethesda was near the Sheep gate and was surrounded by five porches. Sections of the pool were several feet deep while others featured small caverns and shallow baths.

Does the pool of Bethesda still exist?

Parts of the pool of Bethesda can still be seen today in the present-day Muslim Quarter of the city, close to the Lions' Gate and the Church of St. Anne. 

Theological reflections: The essence of the Bethesda pool miracle

The pool of Bethesda is a symbol of the healing power of Christ and the transformative nature of faith. The story shows that salvation and restoration come through an encounter with Jesus. 

Symbolically, the pool also represents spiritual healing, emphasizing the fact that encountering Jesus can bring about profound and lasting change.

Today, the Bethesda pool has become a major tourist site, attracting droves of visitors every year.

If you're looking to experience the site for yourself, consider reaching out to Sar-El Tours and Conferences. We provide premium tour services that leave a long-lasting impression. Call us today.

Want to plan a trip to Israel in 2024?

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