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The King’s Garden in Jerusalem: A Lesson in Futility

Solomon’s experience shows us how not to waste our lives.

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Some folks love gardening. For them, nothing compares to the joy of creating and appreciating beautiful landscapes and gardens. It provides them hours of relaxation and satisfaction. Me, not so much.

The King’s Garden in Jerusalem-A Lesson in Futility

(Photo: The King’s Garden began in the Kidron Valley beside the City of David. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

I guess it’s because working with plants requires continual maintenance. Mowing, pulling, watering, trimming—then do it again next week. Then again.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I love the results of the work. It’s tremendously rewarding. But the results are just so short-lived.

King Solomon had a similar experience. He wrote:

I made gardens and parks for myself and I planted in them all kinds of fruit trees; I made ponds of water for myself from which to irrigate a forest of growing trees. (Ecclesiastes 2:5–6)

After all this work—and many other pursuits—Solomon concluded a few verses later:

Thus I considered all my activities which my hands had done and the labor which I had exerted, and behold all was vanity and striving after wind and there was no profit under the sun. (v. 11)

The King’s Garden in Jerusalem offers us some valuable lessons how not to waste our lives.

The Location of the King’s Garden

The Bible describes the location of the King’s Garden best in Nehemiah 3:15:

Shallum [built] the wall of the Pool of Shelah at the king’s garden as far as the steps that descend from the city of David.

The Pool of Shelah (or “Siloam,” which translates the Hebrew shelah, “sent;” see John 9:7) and the City of David are archaeologically confirmed. So, the King’s Garden would have grown approximately where the Hinnom Valley joins with the Kidron Valley south of the City of David.

Map of location of King's Garden

(Map of King’s Garden, bottom center, courtesy of Satellite Bible Atlas)

Several other passages affirm this location and refer to the King’s Garden as the route by which King Zedekiah escaped Jerusalem to flee to the Aravah in the Jordan Valley by Jericho (2 Kings 25:4; Jeremiah 39:4; 52:7).

Amusingly, two modern scholars suggest the King’s Garden lay in a different location—about a half-mile west of the traditional site—at what is today Emek Refaim St. in Jerusalem. But if we accept the biblical record, this location makes zero sense.

The King’s Garden Today

In 2010, the mayor of Jerusalem proposed a building project called “The King’s Garden.”

King's Garden project

(Image: Model of King’s Garden project by Getty Images | AFP | Gali Tibbon)

The plan would allow water from the Gihon Spring to flow through a beautiful park, as well as housing for locals and shopping for tourists—all in the area of the biblical King’s Garden. But because the project would require the deconstruction of some illegally built homes in the Arab neighborhood of Al-Bustan, controversy has kept the project from leaving the drafting table.

Your Life is a Garden

I found it interesting to read of one tradition that says King Solomon penned Ecclesiastes in the King’s Garden. Totally conjecture, but if true, it’s appropriate.

Today the area of the King’s Garden looks dumpy—one of the most unattractive parts of the area south of Jerusalem.

The area of the King's Garden today

(Photo: The area of the King’s Garden today. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Gardening fits well the post-Eden struggle Adam faced until he died, pulling thorns by the sweat of brow (Gen. 3:17-19).

But honestly, gardening offers only one lesson in futility. We have examples everywhere. From brushing our teeth to paying the bills to writing blog posts, much of life—no, most of life—bears the tedium of recurring upkeep. It’s just part of life under the sun.

Solomon’s conclusion in Ecclesiastes goes beyond gardening to every aspect of our lives:

The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. (Ecclesiastes 12:13)

Apart from God as our purpose in life and the sole source of our joy, everything else is lesson in futility.


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