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The Hebrews term most frequently thus rendered is עַיר (ir, literally something raised up, i.e. having walls reared; or from עוּר, to keep guard [Gesenius, Thes. Heb. p. 1004]; Sept. and N.T. πόλις ), a word of very extensive signification, embracing not only the idea of an encampment, as a nomade hamlet (Genesis 4:17), but also that of small fortifications, as watch-posts or watch-towers (comp. Numbers 13:19; 2 Kings 17:9; Isaiah 1:8), and thence extended to regular towns. Nearly equivalent to this is קַרְיָה (kiryah'), which, with a few exceptions (Deuteronomy 2:26; 1 Kings 1:41; 1 Kings 1:45), is found only in the poetic style; and analogous (in sense, as probably also in derivation) to this last is קֶרֶת (ke'reth), found only in Job 29:7; Proverbs 8:3; Proverbs 9:3; Proverbs 9:14; Proverbs 11:11. The word rendered "city" in Ruth 3:11, is שִׁעִר (sha'ar), properly gate. (as it is elsewhere rendered), and there means those assembled in the forum or place of public business at the town gates. The second of these terms (perhaps from קָרָה to approach as an enemy, or rather [Gesenius, Thes. Heb. p. 1236] to fortify), is often "prefixed to the names of towns on both sides of the Jordan existing before the conquest, as Kirjath-Arba, probably the most ancient name for city, but seldom used in prose as a general name for town (Stanley, Palest. App. § 80). The classification of the human race into dwellers in towns and nomade wanderers (Genesis 4:20; Genesis 4:22) seems to be intimated by the etymological sense of both words, Ar, or Ir, and Kirjath, as places of security against an enemy, distinguished from the unwalled village or hamlet, whose resistance is more easily overcome by the marauding tribes of the desert. (See IR-; SEE KIRJATH).

This distinction is found actually existing in countries, as Persia and Arabia, in which the tent-dwellers are found, like the Rechabites, almost side by side with the dwellers in cities, sometimes even sojourning within them, but not amalgamated with the inhabitants, and in general making the desert their home, and, unlike the Rechabites, robbery their undissembled occupation (Judges 5:7; Jeremiah 35:9; Jeremiah 35:11; see Fraser, Persia, p. 366, 380; Malcolm, Sketches of Persia, p. 147-156; Burckhardt, Notes on Bedouins, 1, 157; Wellsted, Travels in Arabia, 1, 335; Porter, Damascus, 2, 96, 181, 188; Vaux, Nineveh and Persepolis, c. 2, note A; Layard, Nineveh, 2, 272; Nin. and Bab. p. 141)." (See VILLAGE).

1. Towns are a natural result of the aggregative principle in human nature. Necessity led the early races of men to build their towns on lofty spots, where, with the aid of the natural advantages of the ground, they could easily protect themselves against beasts of prey and human foes. A town, and a stronghold or fort, would thus be originally identical. As population increased and agriculture spread, so some degree of security came, which permitted the inhabitants of the castle to diffuse themselves over the hill- side, and take up their abode in the valley, and by the side of the stream that lay nearest their acropolis; still the inhabitants kept at no great distance from the center of strength, in order not to be deprived of its protection. The town, however, would thus be enlarged, and as the necessity for self- defense still existed, so would the place soon be surrounded with walls. Thus there would be outer and inner bulwarks, and in some sort two species of community the townspeople, who tilled the ground and carried on trade, and the soldiers, whose business it was to afford protection: these two, however, in the earliest stages of civilization, were one, the peasant and tradesman taking arms when the town was put in danger.

How early towns were formed cannot be determined by any general principle: they were obviously a work of time. The primary tendency in population was to diffuse itself. Aggregation on particular spots would take place at a later period. When, then, Cain is said to have built a city (Genesis 4:17), we have evidence which concurs with other intimations to show that it is only a partial history of the first ages that we possess in the records of the book of Genesis. In the time of the Patriarchs we find towns existing in Palestine which were originally surrounded with fortifications, so as to make them "fenced cities." (See below.) In these dwelt the agricultural population, who, by means of these places of strength, defended themselves and their property from the nomad tribes of the neighboring desert, who then, as they do now, lived by plunder. Nor were works of any great strength necessary. In Palestine at the present day, while walls are in most parts an indispensable protection, and agriculture can be advantageously prosecuted only so far as sheltered by a fortified town, erections of a very slight nature are found sufficient for the purpose, the rather because the most favorable localities offer themselves on: all sides, owing to the natural inequality of the ground. Hence we find that hills or eminences were almost invariably chosen as sites for this purpose, a fact which even grew into a proverb "a city upon a hill." (See Hackett's Illustra. of Script. p. 70.)

Of the ancient method of building in towns and cities we have no accurate knowledge, any farther than we may gather information from the ruins which still lie on the soil of Palestine. But these ruins can afford only general notions, as, though they are numerous, and show that the Land of Promise was thickly peopled and highly flourishing in its better days, the actual remains of ancient towns are to be ascribed to different and very distant periods of history. The Crusades left many strongholds which are now in a state of dilapidation; but the Crusades are of modern days compared with the time of the Savior, which itself is remote from the proper antiquity of the nation. The law of sameness, however, which prevails so rigidly in Eastern countries, gives us an assurance that a modern town in Palestine may be roughly taken as a type of its ancient predecessors. (See Olin's Travels, 2, 423.) To distinguish cities that bore the same name, the name of the tribe was added. In "the latter days," especially under the Herods, it was the fashion to give to ancient towns new Greek names, as Diospolis, Neapolis, Sebaste, Cmesarea, Tiberias. Jerusalem, at a later period, was denominated AElia Capitolina. These innovations indicated the slavish disposition of the age, and were tokens of the bondage in which the nation was held.

Palestine underwent constant changes in regard to its towns from the earliest ages; one consequence of which is, that there are names of towns that belong exclusively to certain eras. The period of the Roman domination gave existence, as to structures of great splendor, so to many towns and fortified places. Galilee was especially rich in towns and villages, which, according to Josephus (Life, 45), amounted in all to the number of 204. The names of the. Palestinian cities, for the most part, have meaning, reference being made to the nature of the locality or the character of the inhabitants. The population of towns cannot now be ascertained with any degree of accuracy, for the materials are not only scanty and disconnected, but in a measure uncertain. (See CENSUS).

2. The earliest notice in Scripture of city-building is of that of the city called Enoch (q.v.) by Cain, in the land of his "exile" (Nod, Genesis 4:17). After the confusion of tongues, the descendants of Nimrod founded Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar; and Asshur, a branch from the same stock, built Nineveh, Rehoboth-by-the-river, Calah, and Resen, the last being "a great city." A subsequent passage mentions Sidon, Gaza, Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboim, and Lasha, as cities of the Canaanites, but without implying for them antiquity equal to that of Nineveh and the rest (Genesis 10:10-12; Genesis 10:19; Genesis 11:3; Genesis 11:9; Genesis 36:37). Sir H. Rawlinson supposes, (1.) that the expedition of Chedorlaomer (Genesis 14) was prior to the building of Babylon or Nineveh, indicating a migration or conquest from Persia or Assyria; (2.) that by Nimrod is to be understood, not an individual, but a name denoting the "settlers" in the Assyrian plain; and (3.) that the names Rehoboth, Calah, etc., when first mentioned, only denoted sites of buildings afterwards erected. He supposes that Nineveh was built about B.C. 1250, and Calah about a century later, while Babylon appears to have existed in the 15th century B.C.

If this be correct, We must infer that the places then attacked, Sodom, Gomorrah, etc., were cities of higher antiquity than Nineveh or Babylon, inasmuch as when they were destroyed a few years later they were cities in every sense of the term. The name Kirjathaim, "double city" (Gesenius, Thesaur. Heb. p. 1236), indicates an existing city, and not a site only. It may be added that the remains of civic buildings existing in Moab are evidently very ancient, if not, in some cases, the same as those erected by the aboriginal Emim and Rephaim. (Compare also the name Avith, "ruins," Gesenius, ib. p. 1000; Genesis 19:1; Genesis 19:29; Genesis 36:35; Isaiah 23:13; see Wilkinson, Anc. Egypt. 1, 308; Layard, Nin. and Bab. p. 532; Porter, Damascus, 1, 309; 2:196; Rawlinson, Outlines of Assyr. Hist. p. 4, 5.) But though it appears probable that, whatever dates maybe assigned to the building of Babylon or Nineveh in their later condition, they were in fact rebuilt at those epochs, and not founded for the first time, and that towns in some form or other may have occupied the sites of the later Nineveh or Calah; it is quite clear that cities existed in Syria prior to the time of Abraham, who himself came from "Ur," the "city" of the Chaldaeans (Gesenius, ib. p. 55; Rawlinson, p. 4).

The earliest description of a city, properly so called, is that of Sodom (Genesis 19:1-22); but it is certain that from very early times cities existed on the sites of Jerusalem, Hebron, and Damascus. The last, said to be the oldest city in the world, must, from its unrivalled situation, have always commanded a congregated population; Hebron is said to have been built seven years before Zoan (Tanis) in Egypt, and is thus the only Syrian town which presents the elements of a date for its foundation (Numbers 13:22; see Stanley, Palest. p. 409; Josephus, Ant. 1, 6, 4; Conybeare and Howson, St. Paul, 1, 94, 96). But there can be no doubt that, whatever date may be given to Egyptian civilization, there were inhabited cities in Egypt long before this (Genesis 12:14-15; see Martineau, Eastern Life, 1, 151; Wilkinson, 1:307; Smith, Dict. of Class. Geog. s.v. Tanis). The name, however, of Hebron, Kirjath-Arba, indicates its existence at least as early as the time of Abraham, as the city, or fortified place of Arba, an aboriginal province of Southern Palestine (Genesis 23:2; Joshua 14:15). The "tower of Edar," near Bethlehem, or "of flocks," indicates a position fortified against marauders (Genesis 35:21). Whether "the city of Shalem" be a site or an existing town cannot be determined; but there can be no doubt that the situation of Shechem is as well identified in the present day, as its importance as a fortified place is plain from the Scripture narrative (Genesis 33:18; Genesis 34:20; Genesis 34:26; see Robinson, 3, 114). On the whole, it seems plain that the Canaanite, who was "in the land" before the coming of Abraham, had already built cities of more or less importance, which had been largely increased. by the time of the return from Egypt. Even before the time of Abraham there were cities in Egypt (Genesis 12:14-15; Numbers 13:22; see Wilkinson, 1:4, 5).

The Israelites, during their sojourn there, were employed in building or fortifying the "treasure cities" of Pithom (Abbasieh) and Raamses (Exodus 1:11; Herod. 2:158; see Robinson, 1:79); but their pastoral habits make it unlikely that they should build, still less fortify, cities of their own in Goshen (Genesis 46:34; Genesis 47:1-11). Meanwhile the settled inhabitants of Syria on both sides of the Jordan had grown in power, and in number of "fenced cities." In the kingdom of Sihon are many names of cities preserved to the present day; and in the kingdom of Og, in Bashan, were sixty "great cities with walls and brazen bars," besides unwalled villages; and also twenty-three cities in Gilead, which were occupied, and perhaps partly rebuilt or fortified, by the tribes on the east of Jordan (Numbers 21:21; Numbers 21:32-33; Numbers 21:35; Numbers 32:1-3; Numbers 32:34; Numbers 32:42; Deuteronomy 3:4-5; Deuteronomy 3:14; Joshua 11, 13; 1 Kings 4:13; 1 Chronicles 2:22; see Burckhardt, Syria, p. 311, 457; Porter, Damascus, 2, 195, 196, 206, 259, 275). On the west of Jordan, whilst 31 "royal" cities are enumerated (Joshua 12), in the district assigned to Judah 125 "cities" with villages are reckoned (Joshua 15); in Benjamin, 26; to Simeon, 17; Zebulun, 12; Issachar, 16; Asher, 22; Naphtali. 19; Daniel 17 (Joshua 18, 19). But from some of these the possessors were not expelled till a late period, and Jerusalem itself was not captured till the time of David (2 Samuel 5:6-9). From this time the Hebrews became a city-swelling and agricultural rather than a pastoral people. David enlarged Jerusalem; and Solomon, besides embellishing his capital, also built or rebuilt Tadmor, Palmnyra, Gezer, Beth-horon, Hazor, and Megiddo, besides storecities (2 Samuel 5:7; 2 Samuel 5:9-10; 1 Kings 9:15-18; 2 Chronicles 8:6). To Solomon also is ascribed by Eastern tradition the building of Persepolis (Chardin, Voyage, 8, 390; Mandelslo, 1:4; Kuran, c. 38). The works of Jeroboam at Shechem (1 Kings 12:25; Judges 9:45), of Rehoboam (2 Chronicles 11:5-10), of Baasha at Rama, interrupted by Asa (1 Kings 15:17; 1 Kings 15:22), of Omri at Samaria (16, 24), the rebuilding of Jericho in the time of Ahab (16, 34), the works of Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 17:12), of Jotham (2 Chronicles 27:4), the rebuilding of Jerusalem, and, later still, the works of Herod and his family, belong to their respective articles.

3. Collections of houses in Syria for social habitation may be classed under three heads: (1.) cities; (2.) towns, with citadels or towers for resort and defense; (3.) unwalled villages. The cities may be assumed to have been in almost all cases "fenced cities," i.e. possessing a wall with towers and gates (Leviticus 25:29; Deuteronomy 9:1; Joshua 2:15; Joshua 6:20; 1 Samuel 23:7; 1 Kings 4:13; 2 Kings 6:26; 2 Kings 7:3; 2 Kings 18:8; 2 Kings 18:13; Acts 9:25); and that, as a mark of conquest was to break down a portion at least of the city wall of the captured place, so the first care of the defenders, as of the Jews after their return from captivity, was to re. build the fortifications (2 Kings 14:13; 2 Kings 14:22; 2 Chronicles 26:2; 2 Chronicles 26:6; 2 Chronicles 33:14; Nehemiah 3, 4, 6, 7; 1 Maccabees 4:60-61; 1 Maccabees 10:45; Xen. Hell. 2, 2, 15). But around the city, especially in peaceable times, lay undefended suburbs (1 Chronicles 6:57 sq.; Numbers 35:1-5; Joshua 21), to which the privileges of the city extended. (See below.) The city thus became the citadel, while the population overflowed into the suburbs (1 Maccabees 11:61). The absence of walls as indicating security in peaceable times, combined with populousness, as was the case in the flourishing period of Egypt, is illustrated by the prophet Zechariah (Zechariah 2:4; 1 Kings 4:25; see Martineau, East. Life, 1, 306).

According to Eastern custom, special cities were appointed to furnish special supplies for the service of the state: cities of store, for chariots, for horsemen, for building purposes, for provision for the royal table. Special governors for these and their surrounding districts were appointed by David and Solomon (1 Kings 4:7; 1 Kings 9:19; 1 Chronicles 27:25; 2 Chronicles 17:12; 2 Chronicles 21:3; 1 Maccabees 10:39; Xen. Anab. 1, 4, 10). To this practice our Lord alludes in his parable of the pounds, and it agrees with the theory of Hindoo government, which was to be conducted by lords of single townships, of 10, 100, or 1000 towns (Luke 19:17; Luke 19:19; see Elphinstone, India, ch. 2, 1, 39, and App. 5, p. 485). To the Levites 48 cities were assigned, distributed throughout the country, together with a certain amount of suburban ground, and out of these 48, 13 were specially reserved for the family of Aaron, 9 in Judah and 4 in Benjamin, and 6 as refuge cities (Joshua 21:13; Joshua 21:42), but after the division of the kingdoms the Levites in Israel left their cities and resorted to Judah and Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 11:13-14). (See below.)

4. The internal government of Jewish cities was vested before the Captivity in a council of elders, with judges, who were required to be priests: Josephus says seven judges, with two Levites as officers, ὑπηρέται (Deuteronomy 21:5; Deuteronomy 21:19; Deuteronomy 16:18; Deuteronomy 19:17; Ruth 4:2, Josephus, Ant. 4, 8,14). Under the kings a president or governor appears to have been appointed (1 Kings 22:26; 2 Chronicles 18:25); and judges were sent out on circuit, who referred matters of doubt to a council composed of priests, Levites, and elders at Jerusalem (1 Chronicles 23:4; 1 Chronicles 26:29; 2 Chronicles 19:5; 2 Chronicles 19:8; 2 Chronicles 19:10-11). After the Captivity, Ezra made similar arrangements for the appointment of judges (Ezra 7:25). In the time of Josephus there appear to have been councils in the provincial towns, with presidents in each, under the directions of the great council at Jerusalem (Josephus, Ant. 14, 9, 4; War, 2, 21, 3; Life, 12, 13, 27, 34, 57, 61, 68, 74). (See SANHEDRIM).

In many Eastern cities much space is occupied by gardens, and thus the size of the cities is much increased (Niebuhr, Voyage, 2, 172, 239; Conybeare and Howson, 1:96; Eothen, p. 240). The vast extent of Nineveh and of Babylon may thus be in part accounted for (Diod. 2:70; Quint. Curt. 5, 1, 26; Jonah 4:11; see Chardin, Voy. 7:273, 284; Porter, Damascus, 1, 153; P. della Valle, 2:33). In most Oriental cities the streets are extremely narrow, seldom allowing more than two loaded camels, or one camel and two foot passengers to pass each other, though it is clear that some of the streets of Nineveh must have been wide enough for chariots to pass each other (Nahum 2:4; see Olearius, Tray. p. 294, 309; Burckhardt, Trav. in Arabia, 1, 188; Buckingham, Arab Tribes, p. 330; Mrs. Poole, Englishwoman in Egypt, 1, 141). The word for "streets" used by Nahum ( רְהֹבוֹת, from רָהִב, broad, πλατεῖαι ) is used also of streets or broad places in Jerusalem (Proverbs 1:20; Jeremiah 5:1; Jeremiah 22:4; Song of Solomon 3:2); and it may be remarked that the thoroughfares (πλατεῖαι ) into which the sick were brought to receive the shadow of Peter (Acts 5:15) were more likely to be the ordinary streets than the special plazze of the city. It seems likely that the immense concourse which resorted to Jerusalem at the feasts would induce wider streets than in other cities (see 1 Kings 20:34). Herod built in Antioch a wide street paved with stone, and having covered ways on each side. Agrippa II paved Jerusalem with white stone (Josephus, Ant. 16, 5, 2 and 3; 20:9, 7). The streets of most cities of Palestine would not need paving, in consequence of the rocky nature of the foundations on which they lay. The Straight Street of Damascus is still clearly defined and recognizable (Irby and Mangles, v. 86; Robinson, new ed. of Res. 3. 454, 455). In building Caesarea, Josephus says that Herod was careful to carry out the drainage effectually (Josephus, Ant. 15, 9, 6). The internal commerce of Jewish'cities was probably carried on as now by means of bazaars (q.v.); for we read of the bakers' street (Jeremiah 37:21), and Josephus speaks of the wool market, the hardware market, a place of blacksmiths' shops, and the clothes market, at Jerusalem (War, 5, 8, 1). (See STREET).

The open spaces (πλατεῖαι ) near the gates of towns were in ancient times, as they are still, used as places of assembly by the elders, of holding courts by kings and judges, and of general resort by citizens (Genesis 23:10; Ruth 4:1; 2 Samuel 15:2; 2 Samuel 18:24; 2 Samuel 21:12; 2 Kings 7:1; 2 Kings 7:3; 2 Kings 7:20; 2 Chronicles 18:9; 2 Chronicles 32:6; Nehemiah 8:1; Nehemiah 8:13; Nehemiah 8:16; Job 29:7; Jeremiah 17:19; Matthew 6:5; Luke 13:26). They were also used as places of public exposure by way of punishment (Jeremiah 20:2; Amos 5:10). (See GATE). Prisons were, under the kingly government, within the royal precinct (Genesis 39:20; 1 Kings 22:27; Jeremiah 32:2; Nehemiah 3:25; Acts 21:34; Acts 23:35).

Great pains were taken to supply Jerusalem with water, both by tanks and cisterns for rain-water, and by reservoirs supplied by aqueducts from distant springs. Such was the fountain of Gihon, the aqueduct of Hezekiah (2 Kings 20:20; 2 Chronicles 32:30; Isaiah 22:9), and of Solomon (Ecclesiastes 2:6), of which last water is still conveyed from near Bethlehem to Jerusalem (Maundrell, in Bohn's ed. of Early Trav. p. 457; Robinson, 1:514 sq.; Olin, 2:119 sq.). Josephus also mentions an attempt made by Pilate to bring water to Jerusalem (Ant. 18, 3, 2). (See CONDUIT). Other cities appear to have been mostly contented with the fountains whose existence had probably led to their formation at the first. (See WATER).

Burial-places, except in special cases, were outside the city (Numbers 19:11; Numbers 19:16; Matthew 8:28; Luke 7:12; John 19:41; Hebrews 13:12). (See GRAVE).

5. A city and its inhabitants are frequently described in the sacred writings under the similitude of a mother and her children; hence the phrase "Children of Zion" (Joel 2:23). Cities are also characterized as virgins, wives, widows, and harlots, according to their different conditions. Thus Jerusalem is called a virgin (Isaiah 37:22); and the term harlot is used of Jerusalem (Isaiah 1:21), also of Tyre (Isaiah 23:16), of Nineveh (Nahum 3:4), and of Samaria (Ezekiel 23:5).

FENCED CITY (seldom simply מְצוּרָה, metsurah', a mound or intrenchment of besiegers; "mount," Isaiah 29:3; "munition," Nahum 2:1), a town with walls of fortification (2 Chronicles 11:11; oftener with עָרֵי, cities of, 2 Chronicles 14:5; or both words in the plur., 2 Chronicles 11:10-11; 2 Chronicles 11:23; 2 Chronicles 12:4; 2 Chronicles 21:3). From the foregoing remarks, it will be understood how the phrases to build a city, and to fortify orfence it, in the Oriental idiom, mean generally the same thing. (See FORTRESS). The fencing or fortification was usually with high walls, and watch-towers upon them (Deuteronomy 3:5). (See FORTIFICATION). The walls of fortified cities were formed, in part at least, of combustible materials (Amos 1:7; Amos 1:10; Amos 1:14), the gates being covered with thick plates of iron or brass (Psalms 107:16; Isaiah 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 (Judges 9:46-52). They were often upon elevated ground, and were entered by a flight of steps (2 Kings 10:2; Isaiah 36:1). (See WALL).

Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'City'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tce/​c/city.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.
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