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Bible Encyclopedias

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia


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gāt (Hebrew normally (over 300 times) שׁער , sha‛ar ; occasionally דּלת , deleth , properly, "gateway" (but compare Deuteronomy 3:5 ); elsewhere the gateway is פתח , pethaḥ (compare especially Genesis 19:6 ); Aramaic תּרע , tera‛ ; Greek πυλών , pulō̇n , πύλη , púlē ; the English Revised Version and the King James Version add סף , ṣaph , "threshold," in 1 Chronicles 9:19 , 1 Chronicles 9:22; and the King James Version adds דּלתים , delāthayim , "double-door," in Isaiah 45:1; θύρα , thúra , "door," Acts 3:2 ):

(1) The usual gateway was provided with double doors, swung on projections that fitted into sockets in the sill and lintel. Ordinarily the material was wood (Nehemiah 2:3 , Nehemiah 2:17 ), but greater strength and protection against fire was given by plating with metal (Psalm 107:16; Isaiah 45:2 ). Josephus (BJ , V, v, 3) speaks of the solid metal doors of the Beautiful Gate ( Acts 3:2 ) as a very exceptional thing. Some doors were solid slabs of stone, from which the imagery of single jewels (Isaiah 54:12; Revelation 21:21 ) was derived. When closed, the doors were secured with a bar (usually of wood, Nahum 3:13 , but sometimes of metal, 1 Kings 4:13; Psalm 107:16; Isaiah 45:2 ), which fitted into clamps on the doors and sockets in the post, uniting the whole firmly (Judges 16:3 ). Sometimes, perhaps, a portcullis was used, but Psalm 24:7 refers to the enlargement or enrichment of the gates. As the gate was especially subject to attack ( Ezekiel 21:15 , Ezekiel 21:22 ), and as to "possess the gate" was to possess the city (Genesis 22:17; Genesis 24:60 ), it was protected by a tower (2 Samuel 18:24 , 2 Samuel 18:33; 2 Chronicles 14:7; 2 Chronicles 26:9 ), often, doubtless, overhanging and with flanking projections. Sometimes an inner gate was added (2 Samuel 18:24 ). Unfortunately, Palestine gives us little monumental detail.

(2) As even farm laborers slept in the cities, most of the men passed through the gate every day, and the gate was the place for meeting others (Rth 4:1; 2 Samuel 15:2 ) and for assemblages. For the latter purpose "broad" or open places (distinguished from the "streets" in Proverbs 7:12 ) were provided (1 Kings 22:10; Nehemiah 8:1 ), and these were the centers of the public life. Here the markets were held (2 Kings 7:1 ), and the special commodities in these gave names to the gates (Nehemiah 3:1 , Nehemiah 3:3 , Nehemiah 3:18 ). In particular, the "gate" was the place of the legal tribunals (Deuteronomy 16:18; Deuteronomy 21:19; Deuteronomy 25:7 , etc.), so that a seat "among the elders in the gates" (Proverbs 31:23 ) was a high honor, while "oppression in the gates" was a synonym for judicial corruption (Job 31:21; Proverbs 22:22; Isaiah 29:21; Amos 5:10 ). The king, in especial, held public audiences in the gate (2 Samuel 19:8; 1 Kings 22:10; Jeremiah 38:7; compare Jeremiah 39:3 ), and even yet "Sublime Porte" (the French translation of the Turkish for "high gate") is the title of the Court of Constantinople. To the gates, as the place of throngs, prophets and teachers went with their message (1 Kings 22:10; Jeremiah 17:19; Proverbs 1:21; Proverbs 8:3; Proverbs 31:31 ), while on the other hand the gates were the resort of the town good-for-nothings (Psalm 69:12 ).

(3) "Gates" can be used figuratively for the glory of a city ( Isaiah 3:26; Isaiah 14:31; Jeremiah 14:2; Lamentations 1:4; contrast Psalm 87:2 ), but whether the military force, the rulers or the people is in mind cannot be determined. In Matthew 16:18 "gates of Hades" (not "hell") may refer to the hosts (or princes) of Satan, but a more likely translation is 'the gates of the grave (which keep the dead from returning) shall not be stronger than it.' The meaning in Judges 5:8 , Judges 5:11 is very uncertain, and the text may be corrupt. See CITY; JERUSALEM; TABERNACLE; TEMPLE .

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Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. Entry for 'Gate'. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. 1915.

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