(1.) The "Royal Quarries" (not found in Scripture) is the name given to the vast caverns stretching far underneath the northern hill, Bezetha, on which Jerusalem is built. Out of these mammoth caverns stones, a hard lime-stone, have been quarried in ancient times for the buildings in the city, and for the temples of Solomon, Zerubbabel, and Herod. Huge blocks of stone are still found in these caves bearing the marks of pick and chisel. The general appearance of the whole suggests to the explorer the idea that the Phoenician quarrymen have just suspended their work. The supposition that the polished blocks of stone for Solomon's temple were sent by Hiram from Lebanon or Tyre is not supported by any evidence (comp. 1 Kings 5:8). Hiram sent masons and stone-squarers to Jerusalem to assist Solomon's workmen in their great undertaking, but did not send stones to Jerusalem, where, indeed, they were not needed, as these royal quarries abundantly testify.
(2.) The "quarries" (Heb. pesilim) by Gilgal (Judg. 3:19), from which Ehud turned back for the purpose of carrying out his design to put Eglon king of Moab to death, were probably the "graven images" (as the word is rendered by the LXX. and the Vulgate and in the marg. A.V. and R.V.), or the idol temples the Moabites had erected at Gilgal, where the children of Israel first encamped after crossing the Jordan. The Hebrew word is rendered "graven images" in Deut. 7:25, and is not elsewhere translated "quarries."
- kwor'-iz (pecilim (Jdg 3:19,26
, "graven images"), shebharim (Josh 7:5
, "Shebarim," the Revised Version margin "the quarries")):
Pesilim is elsewhere translated "graven images" (Dt 7:5; Ps 78:58; Isa 10:10; Mic 5:13, etc.) and is a plural form of pecel, "graven image" (Ex 20:4, etc.), from pacal, "to carve." It occurs in the story of Ehud and Eglon and refers to images or hewn stones in the vicinity of Gilgal, Shebharim is plural of shebher, "breach," "fracture," more often "destruction" (e.g. Prov 16:18), from shabhar, "to break." The form shebarim is also found in Job 41:25, "consternation," the King James Version "breakings." In Josh 7:5 Shebarim is the point to which the Israelites were chased after their first attack upon Ai.
Quarries in Palestine are not usually very deep because there is plenty of good stone to be found at the surface. The quarryman seeks a thick stratum of firm limestone which has a favorable exposure. The vertical joint-planes divide the stratum into large blocks which the quarryman dislodges with the aid of crowbars. These great blocks he skillfully cleaves by inserting several wedges in a line in holes made by a pick, and driving the wedges in with a heavy hammer. In these days gunpowder is occasionally used, especially when there are not favorable joint-planes producing blocks capable of being moved by the crowbar.
Another method, which is employed where stones of great size are wanted, is to carve the stones out of the rock by cutting channels around them with the pick. In the limestone quarries of Ba`albek and the granite quarries of Acwan at the first cataract of the Nile, enormous stones may be seen which were abandoned while in process of being removed by this method. The channels are wide enough to admit the body of the workman, and the marks of the picks on the sides of the channels are plainly visible.
Alfred Ely Day