The earliest mention of city-building is that of Enoch, which
was built by Cain (Gen. 4:17). After the confusion of tongues,
the descendants of Nimrod founded several cities (10:10-12).
Next, we have a record of the cities of the Canaanites, Sidon,
Gaza, Sodom, etc. (10:12, 19; 11:3, 9; 36:31-39). The earliest
description of a city is that of Sodom (19:1-22). Damascus is
said to be the oldest existing city in the world. Before the
time of Abraham there were cities in Egypt (Num. 13:22). The
Israelites in Egypt were employed in building the "treasure
cities" of Pithom and Raamses (Ex. 1:11); but it does not seem
that they had any cities of their own in Goshen (Gen. 46:34;
47:1-11). In the kingdom of Og in Bashan there were sixty "great
cities with walls," and twenty-three cities in Gilead partly
rebuilt by the tribes on the east of Jordan (Num. 21:21, 32, 33,
35; 32:1-3, 34-42; Deut. 3:4, 5, 14; 1 Kings 4:13). On the west
of Jordan were thirty-one "royal cities" (Josh. 12), besides
many others spoken of in the history of Israel.
A fenced city was a city surrounded by fortifications and high
walls, with watch-towers upon them (2 Chr. 11:11; Deut. 3:5).
There was also within the city generally a tower to which the
citizens might flee when danger threatened them (Judg. 9:46-52).
A city with suburbs was a city surrounded with open
pasture-grounds, such as the forty-eight cities which were given
to the Levites (Num. 35:2-7). There were six cities of refuge,
three on each side of Jordan, namely, Kadesh, Shechem, Hebron,
on the west of Jordan; and on the east, Bezer, Ramoth-gilead,
and Golan. The cities on each side of the river were nearly
opposite each other. The regulations concerning these cities are
given in Num. 35:9-34; Deut. 19:1-13; Ex. 21:12-14.
When David reduced the fortress of the Jebusites which stood
on Mount Zion, he built on the site of it a palace and a city,
which he called by his own name (1 Chr. 11:5), the city of
David. Bethlehem is also so called as being David's native town
Jerusalem is called the Holy City, the holiness of the temple
being regarded as extending in some measure over the whole city
Pithom and Raamses, built by the Israelites as "treasure
cities," were not places where royal treasures were kept, but
were fortified towns where merchants might store their goods and
transact their business in safety, or cities in which munitions
of war were stored. (See PITHOM T0002968.)
CIT'Y . It is not very easy to determine by what the Jews distinguished villages from towns, and towns from cities. Probably, at first, a number of tents and cottages formed a village. They were brought together by family relationship, by local attraction, and for mutual defence against more powerful clans or tribes. When their situation became insecure, they began to protect themselves by a ditch or hedge or a wall. The advancement from this rude state to the fortified towns and cities of ancient days was easy and rapid. The first city was built by Cain. Gen 4:17. It may be presumed that cities were always walled. Num 13:28. They were often (if not always) fortified, and many of them were very populous. The streets were crooked and narrow, so that in some of them loaded camels could not pass each other, as is the case to-day in Alexandria, Cairo, Jerusalem, and Damascus. Sometimes, in Asiatic cities, a broad street, or a section of it, is covered for the accommodation of merchants or tradesmen, and such places are called bazaars; and the prominent branch of business transacted there gives the name to the street; as, the woollen-drapers', coppersmiths', etc. Around the gates of cities was the principal concourse of people, Neh 8:1; Job 29:7; and therefore these stations were desirable for booths or stalls for the sale of merchandise. 2 Kgs 7:1. These square or open places are probably intended in 2 Chr 32:6 and Neh 3:16; Neh 8:1, Num 1:3. Some cities were adorned with open squares and large gardens. One-third of the city of Babylon was occupied with gardens. Csesarea, Jerusalem, Antioch, and other of the largest cities, were paved. Fenced City, 2 Kgs 10:2, or Defenced Cities, Isa 36:1, a fortified city. To build a city and to fortify or fence it, in the Oriental idiom, mean the same thing. The fencing or fortification was usually with high walls, and watch-towers upon them. Deut 3:5. The walls of fortified cities were formed, in part at least, of combustible materials, Am 1:7, 1 Kgs 16:10, 2 Kgs 22:14, the gates being covered with thick plates of iron or brass, Ps 107:16; Isa 45:2; Acts 12:10. There was also within the city a citadel or tower, to which the inhabitants fled when the city itself could not be defended. Jud 9:46-52. These were often upon elevated ground, and were entered by a flight of steps. See Gate. At the time when Abraham came into the land of Canaan there were already in existence numerous towns, which are mentioned in the book of Genesis -Sodom, Gomorrah, Zeboim, Admah, Bela, Hebron, and Damascus. This last is probably the oldest city in the world. The spies who were sent to Canaan brought back an account of well fortified cities. In the book of Joshua we read of no less than 600 towns of which the Israelites took possession. When the city of Ai was taken, its inhabitants, who were put to the sword, amounted to 12,000, Josh 8:16-25, and we are told that Gibeon was a still greater city. Josh 10:2. It is commonly calculated that in Europe one-third or one-fourth of a nation is comprised in its cities and towns. Reckoning the Hebrews, then, at 3,000,000, it would give about 1250 for the average population of the towns, and it is probable that half the inhabitants dwelt in towns for greater safety. Now, in Gibeah, Jud 20:15, there were 700 men who bore arms, and of course not less than 3000 inhabitants. By a similar calculation, we conclude that the 48 cities of the Levites contained each about 1000 souls. In the time of David the population of Palestine was between 5,000,000 and 6,000,000, and we may suppose that the towns and cities were proportionately increased. On the great annual festivals Jerusalem presented a sublime spectacle of countless multitudes, when all the males of the nation were required to be there assembled. At such times the city itself was insufficient to contain the host of Israel, and thousands encamped around on its outskirts. After the return from the Babylonish captivity, the population of the towns may have been inconsiderable, but the subsequent increase was most rapid; so that in the time of Josephus the small villages of Galilee contained 15,000 inhabitants, and the larger towns 50,000. At the same period Jerusalem was 4 miles in circuit and had a population of 150,000. The same author tells us that under Cestius the number of paschal lambs was 256,500, which would give about 2,700,000 persons attending the Passover. At the time of the fatal siege of Jerusalem more than 1,000,000 of persons were shut in by the Romans; so that the space included by the 4 miles must have been remarkably economized. But the number may be exaggerated. City of David, 1 Chr 11:5, a section in the southern part of Jerusalem, embracing Mount Zion, where a fortress of the Jebusites stood. David reduced the fortress and built a new palace and city, to which he gave his own name. Bethlehem, the native town of David, is also called, from that circumstance, the city of David. Luke 2:11. City of God, Ps 46:4, was one of the names of ancient Jerusalem, and its appropriateness is evident from Deut 12:5. Holy City. Neh 11:1. The sacredness of the temple extended itself in some measure over the city, and hence Jerusalem itself was called the "Holy City," and is so distinguished in the East at the present day. Cities of the Plain. See Sodom. Cities of Refuge, Deut 19:7, Gal 1:9; Josh 20:2, Josh 20:7-8, were six of the Levitical cities divinely appointed by the Jewish law as asylums, to which those who had been undesignedly accessory to the death of a fellow-creature were commanded to flee for safety and protection. The kinsmen of the deceased, or other persons who might pursue to kill him, could not molest him in one of these cities until his offence was investigated and the judgment of the congregation passed. If he were not within the provisions of the law, he was delivered to the avenger and slain. If he was, then his life was safe so long as he lived within the city or in the circuit of 1000 yards beyond. There he must remain until the death of the high priest during whose term of office the homicide was committed. The custom of blood-revenge was deeply rooted among the Israelites, and continues among the Arabs to this day, and the institution of cities of refuge was wisely designed to check the violence of human passion. Several sections of the Jewish law have relation to this subject. For the size and situation of the cities, see Num 35:4-5, 2 Kgs 22:14; the description of persons and the manner of killing in cases which entitled the slayer to protection, Num 35:15-25; Deut 19:4-13. For the mode of ascertaining whether the offence was worthy of death and the consequences of the judgment, see Num 35:24-33; and for the rules to be observed by the manslayer in order to avail himself of the benefit of the city of refuge, see Num 35:25-28. It is doubtful whether the trial of the manslayer was had at the city of refuge or in the vicinity of the place where the offence occurred. Perhaps there were two processes, one introductory to the other, as we have a preliminary examination to determine if the party accused shall be held to answer for his offence. This first process might have been at the city of refuge. Jewish writers say that signs were erected in some conspicuous place, pointing to the cities of refuge, at every crossroad, on which was inscribed, "Refuge, Refuge," which, with many other similar provisions, were designed to direct and facilitate the flight of the unhappy man who was pursued by the avenger of blood. There were other sacred places of refuge, particularly the temple and the altar of burnt-offerings. Ex 21:14. Cities with Suburbs. Josh 21:41-42. This expression is explained by reference to Num 35:1-5. See Treasure-cities, Walls.
Cain first founded one (Genesis 4:16-17). The material civilization of the Cainite race was superior to that of the Sethite. To the former belonged many inventions of useful arts and luxury (Genesis 4:20-22). Real refinement and moral civilization are by no means necessary concomitants of material civilization; in these the Sethites took the lead (Genesis 4:25-26). The distinction between tent or nomadic and town life early began. The root meaning of the Hebrew terms for "city," 'ar or 'ir (from 'ur "to keep watch"), and kirat (from qarah "to approach as an enemy," Genesis 23:2) implies that a leading object of gathering into towns was security against marauders.
So, "the tower of Edar," i.e. flocks (Genesis 35:21). Of course, the first "cities" would be mere groups of rude dwellings, fenced round together. Sir H. Rawlinson supposes Rehoboth, Calah, etc., in Genesis 10:11, denote only sites of buildings afterward erected. The later dates assigned to the building of Nineveh, Babylon, etc., refer to their being rebuilt on a larger scale on the sites of the primitive towns. Unwalled towns are the symbol of peace and security (Zechariah 2:4). Special cities furnished supplies for the king's service (1 Kings 9:19; 1 Kings 4:7; 1 Chronicles 27:25; 2 Chronicles 17:12). So, our Lord represents the different servants having the number of cities assigned them in proportion to their faithfulness (Luke 19:17; Luke 19:19).
Forty-eight cities were assigned to the Levites, of which 13 were for the family of Aaron, nine were in Judah, four were in Benjamin, and six were cities of refuge. The streets of eastern cities are generally narrow, seldom allowing more than two loaded camels to pass one another. But Nineveh's admitted of chariots passing, and had large parks and gardens within (Nahum 2:4). Those of one trade generally lived on the same street (Jeremiah 37:21). The GATES are the usual place of assembly, and there courts of judges and kings are held (Genesis 23:10; Rth 4:1).