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Bible Encyclopedias

The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia


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This denotes not so much a contrivance like a door () for barring ingress and egress, as the passageway and the group of buildings designed for ornament or defense (I Macc. 13:33), together with the open space adjoining to or enclosed by them, at the entrance to a palace, a temple, or a city. The most elaborate description in the Bible of such a gate is that of the eastern structure in the outer Temple court (Ezek. 6-16). Steps led up to it; it had two thresholds, a number of lodges or guard-chambers five cubits apart, and porches and posts, with an open space ten cubits wide, while from the roof of one lodge to that opposite was a breadth of twenty-five cubits; the whole enclosed a court, the walls being broken by windows and the openings spanned by arches.

Probably not quite so elaborate, the common gates were provided with doors consisting of stout wings or leaves of wood fastened with brass or iron bolts ("beriaḥ") or barred with heavy wooden beams covered with brass or iron ("min'al"). These were closed at nightfall and on the Sabbath (Joshua 2:5,7; Nehemiah 13:19). The entrance led underneath an upper chamber, and sometimes through a small court(2 Samuel 18:24,33) to an inner building. The roof over these buildings was flat; and on this, or on a tower connected with it, the gatekeeper ("sho'er") was stationed, giving notice either by loud calls or by blasts upon a horn when any one approached (2 Samuel 24:14; 2 Kings 9:7; Jeremiah 6:17; Ezekiel 33:1 et seq.; comp. 2 Chronicles 26:9). Guards under the command of the chief gatekeeper are also mentioned (2 Kings 7:10-11; Nehemiah 13:19; Jeremiah 37:13), for whose accommodation the lodges or guard-chambers were intended. Close by the city and Temple gates were larger or smaller open squares ("reḥobot"), which were public resorts (Genesis 19:2; Judges 19:15 et seq.; 2 Samuel 19:8; 1 Kings 22:10).

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As the gate protected the whole city, the word came to be used for the city itself (Isaiah 14:31; Exodus 20:10; Deuteronomy 16:5; Ruth 3:11). The king's court is also designated as the "gate" (Esther 3:2; Daniel 2:49; comp. Esther 2:19 et seq.). The gate and the adjoining open area constituted the market-place (Nehemiah 8:16, 13:19; Job 29:7; 2 Kings 7:1); hence such names as "fish-gate," "sheep-gate" (Nehemiah 3:1,3,32; 12:39; Zephaniah 1:10). The gates offered the main opportunity for social intercourse. The wells were sometimes situated here (2 Samuel 23:15-16). Here news from the outside was sure to be announced first (1 Samuel 4:18); private grief or public calamity found "at the gate" ready sympathizers among the assembled throng of idlers (comp. II Macc. 3:19; Genesis 19:1; Psalms 69:12 [A. V. 13]; Proverbs 31:31); matters of public concern were discussed (1 Kings 22:10; Jeremiah 38:7; at the gates of the Temple, Ezekiel 11:1; Jeremiah 26:10 et seq.), public announcements were made (Jeremiah 17:19 et seq.; Proverbs 1:21, 8:3), and court and council sessions were held here (Job 29:7, 31:21; Proverbs 31:23; Lamentations 5:14; Deuteronomy 16:18, 21:19 et seq., 22:15-16; Joshua 20:4).

The Levite, the stranger, the widow that is "within thy gates" (Deut. xvi, 14, et al.) have a legal status and claim to kindly consideration (comp. Amos 5:12,15). The heads of slain enemies were probably exhibited in the gates (1 Samuel 17:51,54; comp. 2 Kings 10:8). Criminals were punished outside the gates (1 Kings 21:13), but near by, while lepers were sent out from the gates (Leviticus 13:46; 2 Kings 7:3), being assigned a settlement beyond the city limits but not too far from the city wall.

Gates and doors were marked with inscriptions (Deuteronomy 6:9, 11:20; see see Door; MEZUZAH). Camps, too, had gates (Exodus 32:26-27). The "gate of heaven"—an old mythological expression—is mentioned (Genesis 28:17), while the Temple's gates are paraphrased as "gates of righteousness" or "gate of the Lord," through which the righteous shall enter (Psalms 118:19-20). "Gates of death" and "gates of thick darkness" occur in poetic phraseology, in many cases with a tinge of mythological coloring (Psalms 9:14 [A. V. 13]; Job 38:17, Hebr.). For the gates of Jerusalem JERUSALEM (2); for the gates of the Temple see Temple.

"Gate" is used allegorically in rabbinical idioms, as the "gates of repentance" (; Pesiḳ., ed. Buber, 25:157a), the "gates of tears," and the "gates of prayer" (Ber. 32b; B. M. 59a), which are said to be "open"; e., repentance or prayer is accepted. Hence the petition in the Ne'ilah service of the Day of Atonement: "Open unto us the gate at the time the gate [of the day] is closing." God is called the "Opener of the gates" (of day, for the sun to rise) in the prayer on Sabbath eve. "Sha'ar" ="gate," or its Aramaic synonym, "baba," is used in later Hebrew literature to designate "chapter" or "section" in a book (e.g., "Baba Batra," etc.; "Sha'ar ha-Yiḥud," in Bahya's "Ḥobot ha-Lebabot").

  • Riehm, Handwörterb. des Biblischen Altertums, 2d ed., s. Haus, Stadt, Thor;
  • Nowack, Lehrbuch der Hebräischen Archäologie, 1:142;
  • Winer, B. R. 3d ed., , s. Thore;
  • Hastings, DiCt. Bible;
  • Guthe, Kurzes Bibelwörterbuch, s. Thor.
E. G. H.

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Bibliography Information
Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Gate'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. 1901.

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