Holman Bible Dictionary
The term “fortified city” (often “fenced city” or “defenced city” in the KJV) refers to a town with strong defenses, usually a massive wall structure and inner citadels or strongholds. In general the fortified city was a major military or administrative center for a region. Size was not so much the factor, though many of the fortified cities were large cities. Location was much more critical.
The Bible contains two lists of fortified cities, one for Naphtali (Joshua 19:35-38 ), and a list of cities Rehoboam fortified for Judah (2 Chronicles 11:5-12 ). These two lists seem to include most of the walled cities within the tribal area. Among the more important cities in these lists are Hazor in Naphtali and Bethlehem, Tekoa, Hebron, Gath, and Lachish in Judah. At the end of the monarchy, Jeremiah reported that the Babylonians had conquered all the fortified cities of Judah except Lachish and Azekah (Jeremiah 34:6-7 ).
Fortified cities served a strategic function. They could guard a major highway (as did Lachish and Hazor). They could protect mountain passes (Megiddo and Taanach). They could serve as border fortresses (Arad and Hazor). Surely troops would be garrisoned in a fortified city. At times of imminent danger, much of the populace from the surrounding area might find protection in a fortified city (Jeremiah 4:5 ; Jeremiah 8:14 ).
Other closely related terms used in the Bible include chariot cities and store cities (1 Kings 9:19 ). Chariot cities were major military centers where the chariot troops were garrisoned. Store cities probably served as central supply bases for the military. Each had an important role in the defense of the nation. Chariot cities and store cities were probably also fortified cities.
Joel F. Drinkard, Jr.
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