Manners & Customs : City Gates


Ancient Gates Character of gates. The gates of an Oriental city were of course connected with the walls; nevertheless, they were in a sense a structure by themselves. They were usually made of wood or stone, or wood that had been armored with metal. The Psalmist speaks of gates of brass (copper), and gates of iron (Psalm 107:16). Often they were two-leaved (Isaiah 45:1), and were provided with heavy locks and bars (I Samuel 23:7). Sometimes a city or town had two walls and therefore two gates with a space between them. A sentinel was stationed in the tower of the first gate. When David was at Mahanaim awaiting the result of the battle with Absalom, Scripture says: "And David sat between the two gates: and the watchman went up to the roof over the gate unto the wall, and lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold a man running alone" (II Samuel 18:24). This space between the gates was used for many purposes. [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]

Gates and Symbolism Symbolic references to the city gates. The Bible often refers to the gates of the city in a symbolic way. Sometimes the gates are used to represent the city as a whole, as when the LORD said to Abraham, "Thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies" (Genesis 22: 17). The Psalmist was no doubt thinking of the temple gates when he said: "Open to me the gates of righteousness" (Psalm 118:19). It is customary for the city gates to be closed at sunset, and John alludes to this by way of contrast in his description of the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:25). [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]

Gates Were a Place for Justice City gates a place for holding court. One of the most important uses of the gates of an ancient city was for holding court. Stone seats were provided for the judges. Thus Lot sat in the gate as a judge (Genesis 19:1). The city gates of those days would be like our modern courthouse. It was there that Boaz went to redeem the estate of Elimelech and thus receive Ruth to be his wife (Ruth 4:1). The prophet Amos preached to Israel to "establish judgment in the gate" (Amos 5:15). The Mosaic law recognized the city gates as the place of justice: "Judges and officers shalt thou make thee in all thy gates, which the Lord thy God giveth thee, throughout thy tribes, and they shall judge the people with just judgment" (Deuteronomy 16:18). Thus it can be seen that one of the most important places in an ancient city was the gates of that city. [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]

Meeting at the City Gate Gateway as a meeting-place. The gateways of ancient walled cities and the open spaces near them, were popular meeting places for the people. They seemed like large halls that could care for great assemblies of people. Being vaulted, they provided a cool place to meet on a hot day. [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]

Various Purposes for Gates Variety of uses for gates. These city gates had many uses. "The openings of the gates" are described by Proverbs as "the chief place of concourse" (Proverbs 1:21). The city gate was used as a public gathering place for the giving of an address or proclamation. Concerning King Hezekiah it was said: "And he set captains of war over the people, and gathered them together to him in the street of the gate of the city, and spake comfortably to them" (II Chronicles 32:6). David speaks of his persecutors gossiping about him at the city gates (Psalm 69:12). Mordecai sat in the king's gate in order to attract attention from the sovereign (Esther 2:21). The prophets often preached their sermons in the gates of the city. Thus the LORD told Jeremiah, "Go and stand in the gate of the children of the people, whereby the kings of Judah come in, and by the which they go out, and in all the gates of Jerusalem" (Jeremiah 17:19). [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]