The gates of eastern walled towns were usually of wood, Jg 16:3, often covered with thick plates of iron or copper, Ps 107:16; Isa 45:2; Ac 12:10, secured by bolts and bars, De 3:5; 1Ki 4:13, and flanked by towers, 2Sa 18:24,33. A city was usually regarded as taken when its gates were won, De 28:52; Jg 5:8. Hence "gate" sometimes signifies power, dominion; almost in the same sense as the Turkish sultan's palace is called the Porte, or Gate. God promises Abraham that his posterity shall possess the gates of their enemies- their towns, their fortresses, Ge 22:17. So too, "the gates of hell," that is, the power of hell, or hell itself.
In oriental cities there was always an open space or place adjacent to each gate, and these were at the same time the market places, and the place of justice, Ge 23:10-18; Ru 4:1-12; De 16:18; 21:19; 25:6-7; Pr 22:22; Am 5:10,12,15. There, too, people assembled to spend their leisure hours, Ge 19:1. Hence "they that sit in the gate" is put for idlers, loungers, who are coupled with drunkards, Ps 69:12. The woes of a city were disclosed in the mourning or loneliness of these places of resort, Isa 14:31; Jer 14:2. Here too the public proclamations were made, and the messages of prophets delivered, Pr 1:21; 8:3; Isa 29:21; Jer 17:19; 26:10. Near the gate of a city, but without it, executions took place, 1Ki 21:13; Ac 7:58; Heb 13:12. To exalt the gate of a house through pride, increased one's exposure to robbery, Pr 17:19. To open it wide and high was significant of joy and welcome, as when the Savior ascended to heaven, Ps 24:7,9; and the open gates of the new Jerusalem in contrast with those of earthly cities carefully closed and guarded at nightfall, indicate the happy security of that world of light, Re 21:25.
(2.) Of royal palaces (Ne 2:8).
(4.) Tombs (Mt 27:60).
(6.) Caverns (1Ki 19:13).
The materials of which gates were made were,
(3.) Wood (Jg 16:3) probably.
At the gates of cities courts of justice were frequently held, and hence "judges of the gate" are spoken of (De 16:18; 17:8; 21:19; 25:6-7, etc.). At the gates prophets also frequently delivered their messages (Pr 1:21; 8:3; Isa 29:21; Jer 17:19-20; 26:10). Criminals were punished without the gates (1Ki 21:13; Ac 7:59). By the "gates of righteousness" we are probably to understand those of the temple (Ps 118:19). "The gates of hell" (R.V., "gates of Hades") Mt 16:18, are generally interpreted as meaning the power of Satan, but probably they may mean the power of death, denoting that the Church of Christ shall never die.
The oriental resort for business, converse, bargaining, and news (Ge 19:1; 23:10; Ps 69:12), for addresses and reading the law (2Ch 32:6; Ne 8:1,3; Pr 1:21; Jer 17:19), or administering justice (Jos 20:4; Ru 4:1; De 16:18; 21:19). Pr 22:22, "neither oppress the afflicted in the gate," i.e. in the place of justice, in lawsuits. Ps 69:12, "they that sit in the gate speak against Me (Messiah), and I was the song of the drunkards," i.e., not only among drunken revelers, but in the grave deliberations of the judges in the place of justice I was an object of obloquy. Am 5:12, "they turn aside the poor in the gate," i.e. they refuse them their right in the place of justice; (Am 5:10) "they hate him that rebuketh in the gate," namely, the judge who condemns them (Zec 8:16).
Isa 29:21, "they lay a snare for him that reproveth in the gate," i.e., they try by bribes and misrepresentations to ensnare into a false decision the judge who would in public court reprove them for their iniquity, or to ensnare the prophet who publicly reproves them (Jer 7:2). "The Sublime Porte," the title for the Sultan of Turkey, is derived from the eastern usage of dispensing law in the gateway. The king's or chief's place of audience (1Ki 22:10; 2Sa 19:8; Job 29:7; La 5:14). The object of a foe's attack and therefore strengthened especially (Jg 5:8; Ps 147:18), shut at nightfall (De 3:5; Jos 2:5,7; 1Sa 23:7). The market place for country produce (2Ki 7:1; Ne 13:16-19). The open spaces near the gates were used for pagan sacrifices (Ac 14:13; 2Ki 23:8).
Josiah defiled "the high places of the gates in the entering in of the gate." The larger gates had two valves, and were plated with metal and secured with locks and bars. Those without iron plating were easily set on fire (Jg 9:52). Sentences of the law were inscribed on and above them, to which allusion occurs De 6:9; an usage followed by Muslims in modern times. Some gates were of solid stones (Re 21:21; Isa 54:12). Massive stone doors are found in ancient houses of Syria, single slabs, several inches thick, 10 ft. high, turning on stone pivots above and below. The king's principal gate at Ispahan afforded sanctuary to criminals (Chardin, 7:368). In Esther's time "none might enter into the king's gate clothed with sackcloth" (Es 4:2). "The Beautiful Gate" of Herod's temple (Ac 3:2) was the outer one, made of Corinthian brass, surpassing in costliness even nine others of the outer court, which were covered with gold and silver.
It was so heavy that twenty men were required to close it, but it was found open unexpectedly shortly before the overthrow of Jerusalem (Josephus, B. J., 5:5, sec. 3; 6: 5, sec. 3; contra Apion, 2:9). The doorway consisted of lintel, threshold, and side-posts (Ex 12:7,22). In Ge 22:17, "thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies," the sense is, shall sit in judgment on them, as in the Assyrian sculptures the king is represented sitting in judgment upon prisoners. Thus the Persian satrap in the Lycian Xanthus monument sits at the gate dictating terms to the Greek ambassadors, and Sennacherib, at his tent door, gives judgment on the Jews taken at Lachish (British Museum, 59). In front of the larger edifices in the remains at Persepolis and Nineveh (Khorsabad) are propylaea, or "porches," like that "for Solomon's throne where he might judge, even the porch of judgment, covered with cedar from one side of the floor to the other" (1Ki 7:7).
The threshold in the Assyrian palaces is one slab of gypsum with cuneatic inscriptions; human-headed bulls with eagles' wings guard the portals, like and probably borrowed from the cherubim which guarded the gate of Eden; besides there are holes 12 in. square, lined round with tiles, with a brick to cover them above and containing small baked clay idols with lynx head and human body, or human head and lion's body, probably like the teraphim, from Arabic tarf "a boundary," and akin to the Persian "telifin" talismans. (See TERAPHIM.) Thus the place of going out and coming in was guarded, as especially sacred, from all evil by the inscriptions, the compound figured gods outside, and the hidden teraphim. Daniel "sat in" such a "gate" before the palace of Babylon as "ruler over the whole province of Babylon" (Da 2:48-49) The courtiers of Ahasuerus attended him "in the gate" similarly (Es 3:2).
Beside the ordinary use of gates for the protection of a city, 'in the gate' was the place where many important things were transacted. When Boaz wanted the question settled respecting Ruth and the inheritance, he went up to the gate: the subject was debated with a nearer relative, then concluded, and witnessed by the elders. Ru 4:1-12; cf. Jos 20:4; 1Sa 4:18; 2Sa 15:2; Ac 14:13. To 'sit in the gate' was a place of honour: "they that sit in the gate speak against me." Ps 69:12. It should have been the place of true judgement and justice, but was not always so. Isa 29:21; Am 5:10,12; Zec 8:16. It was, at least at times, the king's chief place of audience. 2Sa 19:8; 1Ki 22:10; Job 29:7; La 5:14. From this it would be a symbol of power: thus the gates of hell shall not prevail against the church which Christ builds. Mt 16:18.
The gates of cities were of wood cased with iron to strengthen them and prevent them being burnt with fire. cf. Jg 9:52. The prison at Jerusalem had an outer gate of iron, the only iron one we read of. Ac 12:10.
Doubtless the gates of Solomon's temple were adorned to agree with the rest of the work. In the N.T. we read of THE BEAUTIFUL GATE of the temple, Ac 3:10; and Josephus relates that Herod made an outer gate of Corinthian brass, costing more than those adorned with gold and silver. The gates of the New Jerusalem are described as pearls: "every several gate was of one pearl," Re 21:12-25: the entrances must be in keeping with the rest of the city. The pearls represent the glories of Christ as seen in the church: cf. Mt 13:46.
The gate is used symbolically as the entrance both to life and to destruction: the former is narrow and the way straitened, and alas, there are but few that find it; whereas for the latter the gate is wide and the way is broad, and many there are that enter through it. Mt 7:13-14.
The gate and gateways of eastern cities anciently held and still hold an important part, not only in the defence but in the public economy of the place. They are thus sometimes taken as representing the city itself.
Among the special purposes for which they were used may be mentioned.
1. As places of public resort.
2. Places for public deliberation, administration of Justice, or of audience for kings and rulers or ambassadors.
3. Public markets.
In heathen towns the open spaces near the gates appear to have been sometimes used as places for sacrifice.
comp 2Kin 23:8 Regarded therefore as positions of great importance, the gates of cities were carefully guarded, and closed at nightfall.
They contained chambers over the gateway.
The doors themselves of the larger gates mentioned in Scripture were two leaved, plated with metal, closed with locks and fastened with metal bars.
Gates not defended by iron were of course liable to be set on fire by an enemy.
The gateways of royal palaces and even of private houses were often richly ornamented. Sentences from the law were inscribed on and above the gates.
The gates of Solomon's temple were very massive and costly, being overlaid with gold and carving.
Those of the holy place were of olive wood, two-leaved and overlaid with gold; those of the temple of fir.
GATE is often used in Scripture to denote a place of public assembly, where justice was administered, De 17:5,8; 21:19; 22:15; 25:6-7, &c. One instance of these judgments appears in that given at the gate of Bethlehem, between Boaz and a relation of Naomi, on the subject of Ruth, Ru 4:2; another in Abraham's purchase of a field to bury Sarah, Ge 23:10,18. The gate of judgment is a term still common to the Arabians to express a court of justice, and even introduced by the Saracens into Spain. "I had several times," says Jacob, "visited the Alhambra, the ancient palace and fortress of the Moorish kings: it is situated on the top of a hill, overlooking the city, and is surrounded by a wall of great height and thickness. The entrance is through an archway, over which is carved a key, the symbol of the Mohammedan monarchs. This gate, called the gate of judgment, according to eastern forms, was the place where the kings administered justice." In Morocco, the gate is still the place where judgment is held. "All complaints," says Host, "are brought, in the first instance, to the cadi, or governor, who, for that purpose, passes certain hours of the day in the gate of the city, partly for the sake of the fresh air, and partly to see all those who go out; and, lastly, to observe a custom which has long prevailed, of holding judgment there. The gate is contrived accordingly, being built like a square chamber, with two doors, which are not directly opposite to each other, but on two adjoining sides, with seats on the other sides. In this manner David sat between two gates," 2Sa 18:24. Gate sometimes signifies power, dominion, almost in the same sense as the Turkish emperor's palace is called the Porte. God promises Abraham that his posterity shall possess the gates of their enemies, their towns, their fortresses, Ge 22:17. Jesus Christ says to Peter, "Thou art Peter; and on this rock will I build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it," Mt 16:18. This may mean either the powers of hell, or invisible spirits; or simply death,