The Bible speaks of several different kinds of gates: (1) gates of the camp (Ex 32:26, 27), (2) gates of the city (Jer 37:13), (3) gate of the courtyard of the tabernacle (Ex 38:18), (4) “gates of the Castle that belongs to the house” (Ne 2:8), (5) temple gates (Ac 3:10), and (6) gate of a house (Ac 12:13, 14).
Construction. Cities usually had as few gates as possible; some cities had only one gate, since these were the vulnerable points of their fortifications. Where there were inner and outer walls, there were, of course, gates in each wall. Early gateways were L shaped to hinder the enemy’s entry. Later, after the chariot was introduced (c. 18th century B.C.E.), city gates had a straight, direct entrance. In some uncovered ruins the city gate is composed of an entrance flanked by square towers leading into a vestibule about some 15 to 20 m (49 to 66 ft) long. The passage through the vestibule was flanked by as many as six pilasters, which narrowed the passageway at three places. In some cases there may have been two or three sets of doors for these deep gates. Small rooms inside the vestibule walls were used as guard chambers. In Ezekiel’s visionary temple, the gates were provided with guard chambers. (Eze 40:6, 7, 10, 20, 21, 28, 29, 32-36) Some gates had a roof over the vestibule, and some were multistoried, as is evidenced by the stairways found inside.—Compare 2Sa 18:24, 33.
Ancient fortress cities have been uncovered revealing small posterns, or side gates. These were sometimes at the bottom of the rampart and provided easy access for the inhabitants of the city during peacetime. In time of siege they apparently were used as sortie gates through which the defenders could sally forth to attack besiegers and at the same time receive covering fire from their comrades on the walls.
The doors of the gates of a city were usually of wood sheathed with metal plating; otherwise they could be set on fire by the enemy. Some may have been made of iron, as was the case in the days of the apostles. (Ac 12:10) Babylon’s gateways are said to have had doors of copper and bars of iron. (Isa 45:2; compare Ps 107:2, 16.) Some gates were apparently locked with wooden bars. (Na 3:13) In Solomon’s day, in the region of Argob, in Bashan, there were “sixty large cities with wall and copper bar.” (1Ki 4:13) Some towns in Syria have been found with massive stone doors of single slabs about 3 m (10 ft) high, turning on pivots above and below. Samson’s feat of picking up the doors of the gate of Gaza along with its two side posts and bar and carrying them to the top of “the mountain that is in front of Hebron” was, in view of these factors, no mean accomplishment. It was done, of course, through the energizing power of Jehovah’s spirit.—Jg 16:3.
Function. The “gates” of a city could refer to the city itself, since much of the official business took place at the gates and transactions were recorded there (De 16:11, 14, ftn; Ru 4:10; Ps 87:2; 122:2); and in the capital, business was often carried out at the gateway of the palace grounds. (Es 3:2, 3; 5:9, 13; 6:10, 12) Where the gates, the entrances, of the city were desolate, the glory was also gone. (Isa 3:26; 14:31; Jer 14:2; La 1:4) The gates were the points where the besiegers made the strongest effort to break through. Once controlling them, they would have access to the city. And so, to ‘get possession of the gates’ of the city meant to take the city. (Ge 22:17; 24:60) When the wall of Jerusalem was broken through, the princes of the Babylonian king directed the further subjection of the city from a position at one of the city gates.—Jer 39:2, 3.
Gates were the centers of public assembly and public life. Broad places, such as the public square before the Water Gate in Jerusalem, were usually provided near the gates. (Ne 8:1) The gates were the city’s news centers not only because of the arrival of travelers and merchants but also because nearly all the workmen, especially those working in the fields, went in and out of the gate every day. So the gate was the place for meeting others. (Ru 4:1; 2Sa 15:2) The markets were located there, some of the gates of Jerusalem being named evidently for the commodities sold there (for example, the Fish Gate).—Ne 3:3.
At the city gates the older men of the city sat in judgment. (De 16:18; 21:18-20; 22:15; 25:7) Even kings at times held audiences or sat in judgment there. (2Sa 19:8; 1Ki 22:10; Jer 38:7) Because the judges, the prominent men of the city, the merchants, the businessmen, and a goodly number of people were usually at the gate, prophets often went there to make proclamations. Their messages delivered there would spread much faster. (1Ki 22:10; Jer 17:19) Other important announcements and official proclamations were also made there. (2Ch 32:6-8) It was in the public square before the Water Gate that Ezra read the Law. (Ne 8:1-3) Wisdom is pictured as crying out at the entrances of the gates for all in the city to become aware of its counsel. (Pr 1:20, 21; 8:1-3) Inasmuch as the gate was a news center, the good or bad works of the city’s inhabitants would become known there.—Pr 31:31.
It seems to have been a heathen practice to make sacrifices at the gates of a city. (Ac 14:13) This bad practice developed in Judah but was corrected by King Josiah.—2Ki 23:8.
Those found worthy of death by the judges were taken outside the city gates to be executed. (1Ki 21:10-13; Ac 7:58) The carcasses of the sacrificial animals that were offered for sin atonement on the Day of Atonement were taken outside the city and burned. (Le 16:27, 28) Therefore Jesus Christ, the sin offering for the atonement of mankind, was put to death outside the gate of Jerusalem.—Heb 13:11, 12.
Because of the important usages of the city’s gateway, it was a high honor to sit down with the older men of the land in the gates. (Job 29:7; Pr 31:23) Such a position was no place for a foolish one. (Pr 24:7) When David was persecuted, he considered it a serious thing for those sitting in the gates to become concerned about him, especially in an unfavorable way. (Ps 69:12) To ‘crush the afflicted one in the gate’ had reference to judicial corruption, since legal cases were handled there. (Job 5:4; Pr 22:22; Am 5:12) To ‘hate a reprover in the gate’ meant to hate the judge who corrected or condemned one. (Am 5:10) Those who ‘laid bait for the one reproving in the gate’ were ones who by bribes or other pressures tried to cause the judges to pervert judgment or who sought to ensnare a prophet who might stand in the gate to reprove them.—Isa 29:19-21.
Wilderness Camp Gates. The ‘gates’ of the camp of Israel were the ways of entrance. No doubt they were well guarded. The tabernacle was in the camp’s center, with the Levites camping in close proximity to it; and the 12 tribes, three on a side, were at a greater distance. This arrangement afforded ample protection for the camp.—Ex 32:26, 27; Nu 3; see GATEKEEPER.
Gates of Jerusalem. In dealing with the gates of Jerusalem, it is well to remember that, from the time of its capture by David, the city developed and expanded, so that several walls or added portions of walls were built. We shall concern ourselves here mainly with the gates mentioned in the book of Nehemiah, which gives us the most complete description or listing. The gates named in Nehemiah’s record are gates that had been in the wall that was built prior to the eighth century B.C.E. and in the wall surrounding “the second quarter.” (2Ki 22:14; 2Ch 34:22; Zep 1:10) “The second quarter” was a northern part of the city bounded on the W and part of the N by Hezekiah’s wall (2Ch 32:5) and joined by Manasseh’s wall, which continued on the NE and E. (2Ch 33:14) This was N of the earlier city and wall, but apparently it did not extend as far W as the earlier wall.
Nehemiah’s wall. In his account of the reconstruction of the wall of the city (Ne 3), Nehemiah begins at the Sheep Gate and proceeds in a counterclockwise direction. We shall follow this procedure in our listing below, inserting the gates not mentioned in the reconstruction account but named in the description of the inauguration procession (Ne 12), along with gates spoken of in other scriptures, some of which are merely other names for those in Nehemiah’s record.
Sheep Gate. The Sheep Gate was rebuilt by Eliashib the high priest and associate priests. (Ne 3:1, 32; 12:39) This fact would indicate that it was near the temple area. Its location was probably in the wall of the second quarter, the part built by Manasseh (see “Fish Gate” below), at or near the NE corner of the city. This gate may have been so named because through it were brought sheep and goats for sacrifice or perhaps for a market that was located nearby. “The sheepgate” mentioned at John 5:2 is likely this Sheep Gate or a later gate corresponding to it, for it was located in the same vicinity, near the pool of Bethzatha.
Fish Gate. Hezekiah apparently built a part of the wall around the second quarter as far as the Fish Gate. (2Ch 32:5; 33:14) In Nehemiah’s reconstruction and procession accounts, the Fish Gate is placed W of the Sheep Gate, perhaps near the N end of the Tyropoeon Valley. (Ne 3:3; 12:39) It is mentioned in conjunction with the second quarter at Zephaniah 1:10. The name may be due to the gate’s nearness to the fish market where the Tyrians sold fish.—Ne 13:16.
Gate of the Old City. The Gate of the Old City was located on the NW side of the city between the Fish Gate and the Gate of Ephraim. (Ne 3:6; 12:39) In Hebrew, the gate is called simply “Gate of the Old,” the word “city” being supplied by some translators. It is suggested that the name was derived from its having been the main N entrance to the old city. It may have been at the junction of the Broad Wall (that formed a N boundary of the old city) and the S end of the W wall of the second quarter. Some think that this gate is identical with “the First Gate” mentioned by Zechariah. He seemingly refers to the E-W limits of the city in saying “from  the Gate of Benjamin all the way to the place of  the First Gate, all the way to  the Corner Gate,” and to the N-S limits in saying “from the Tower of Hananel all the way to the press vats of the king.” (Zec 14:10) Others would connect the Gate of the Old City with “the Middle Gate” mentioned at Jeremiah 39:3. Some term this Gate of the Old City the “Mishneh Gate” and locate it in the W wall of the second quarter.
Gate of Ephraim. The Gate of Ephraim was located in the Broad Wall 400 cubits (178 m; 583 ft) E of the Corner Gate. (2Ki 14:13; 2Ch 25:23) It was an exit N in the direction of the territory of Ephraim. It, too, has been identified by some researchers with the Middle Gate (Jer 39:3), by others with the First Gate. (Zec 14:10) It is thought to be (or correspond to) the Gennath or Garden Gate spoken of by the Jewish historian Josephus. (The Jewish War, V, 146 [iv, 2]) Near the Gate of Ephraim there was a public square in which the people made booths to celebrate the Festival of Booths in Nehemiah’s time. (Ne 8:16) This gate is not named in Nehemiah’s reconstruction text, evidently because it did not need extensive repairs.
Corner Gate. This gate was evidently located in the NW angle of the city wall, W of the Gate of Ephraim. (2Ki 14:13; 2Ch 25:23) It was on the E side of the Valley of Hinnom, apparently in the W wall of the old city at the point where it joined the Broad Wall. Uzziah built a tower by this gate; whether or not it was the Tower of the Bake Ovens is not stated. (2Ch 26:9) Both Jeremiah and Zechariah appear to refer to the Corner Gate as being on the western edge of the city.—Jer 31:38; Zec 14:10.
There is no other gate described as existing in the W wall from the Corner Gate to the Valley Gate in the SW wall, this no doubt being because of the steep slope of the Valley of Hinnom, making any other gate impractical. The Corner Gate does not appear in Nehemiah’s accounts; again the reason may be that it did not need extensive repairs. The account does speak of repairing the Tower of the Bake Ovens, which seems to have been a part of, or near, the Corner Gate.—Ne 3:11.
Valley Gate. In the SW part of the city wall, the Valley Gate led to the Valley of Hinnom. The “gate of the Essenes” mentioned by Josephus may have been located here or nearby. (The Jewish War, V, 145 [iv, 2]) Uzziah, in his city-fortification program, built a tower by this gate. (2Ch 26:9) It was from the Valley Gate that Nehemiah went out for his inspection of the damaged wall, riding eastward through the Valley of Hinnom and then up the Kidron Valley, finally reentering the city by the same gate. (Ne 2:13-15) Although not named as such, the Valley Gate appears to be the point at which the inauguration procession started, one group marching counterclockwise around the walls past the Gate of the Ash-heaps and the other clockwise past the Corner Gate and the Tower of the Bake Ovens.—Ne 12:31-40.
Gate of the Ash-heaps. This gate is also known as the Gate of the Potsherds and is called the Dung Gate in many Bibles, based on the Greek Septuagint and Latin Vulgate. (Ne 2:13; 12:31; Jer 19:2) Nehemiah’s description seems to place it 1,000 cubits (445 m; 1,458 ft) E of the Valley Gate. (Ne 3:13, 14) It was at the SE corner of the city wall and led to the Valley of Hinnom near where it joined the Tyropoeon Valley. It was from this gate that Topheth in the Valley of Hinnom was reached by those idolatrously burning their children in the fire to Baal. (Jer 19:1-6) It was also the gate through which Jeremiah led some of the older men and priests of Israel and proclaimed calamity to Jerusalem, breaking an earthenware flask to illustrate God’s breaking of the people for their serving of other gods.—Jer 19:1-3, 10, 11.
The name “Gate of the Potsherds” may have been given because fragments of pottery were thrown near there as refuse, or because fragments of pottery were ground there, the dust from which was used to make cement for plastering cisterns (as has been done in more recent times near a pool at the SW corner of the city). Also, there may have been a potter’s industry near this gate, for there was clay nearby in the Valley of Hinnom as well as a water supply at the mouth of the Tyropoeon Valley and at the spring called En-rogel. (Compare Jer 18:2; 19:1, 2.) “The potter’s field” (Mt 27:7, 8) has, since the fourth century C.E., been traditionally considered to be located on the S side of the Valley of Hinnom.
Fountain Gate. This gate was so called because of its giving access to a spring or fountain nearby, perhaps En-rogel, which was below the junction of the Kidron Valley and the Valley of Hinnom. Probably the gate was at the S tip of the E hill of the city (that is, at the southern end of “the City of David”). (Ne 2:14; 3:15; 12:37) The Fountain Gate would afford convenient exit and access to En-rogel for those living in the City of David, while the Gate of the Ash-heaps, not far to the SW, would also lead out toward En-rogel and would likely be a better exit for the residents of the Tyropoeon Valley and the SW hill of the city.
Water Gate. The name of this gate may have been derived from its proximity or at least its access to the spring of Gihon about midway up the E side of the city. This gate was near Ophel, not far from the temple area. (Ne 3:26) The Water Gate was where one of the groups of the inauguration procession left the wall, proceeding from there to the temple, where they assembled with the other group, apparently not traversing that part of the city wall to the E of the temple. (Ne 12:37-40) There was a public square before this gate where all the people gathered to hear Ezra read the Law and where they afterward built booths to celebrate the Festival of Booths.—Ne 8:1-3, 16.
Horse Gate. Repair work above the Horse Gate was done by the priests, which implies that its location was near the temple. (Ne 3:28) Some have held that the Horse Gate was one providing communication between two parts of the temple-palace quarter. They reach this conclusion from the account of Athaliah’s execution, which reports that, on being led out of the temple by the soldiers, “she came to the entry of the horse gate of the king’s house.” (2Ch 23:15; 2Ki 11:16) However, this was likely an entry just to the precincts of the royal palace and not the Horse Gate through which the horses passed in and out of the city itself. Nehemiah definitely includes the Horse Gate in his reconstruction description, indicating that it was a gate in the city wall. It was probably located SE of the temple area. (Ne 3:28; Jer 31:40) The Horse Gate is omitted in the inauguration procession account, evidently because the two parts of the procession left off at the Water Gate and the Gate of the Guard, respectively, and did not walk over the section of the wall E of the temple, where the Horse Gate and the Inspection Gate were located.—Ne 12:37-40.
Inspection Gate. Some call the Inspection (Heb., ham·miph·qadhʹ) Gate the Muster Gate. (Ne 3:31, RS; Ro) At Ezekiel 43:21 miph·qadhʹ (the same Hebrew word without the article ha) is translated “appointed place.” Some have thought it was the same as the Gate of the Guard. Its mention by Nehemiah in his reconstruction account would seem to support the idea that it was a gate in the E wall of the city in front of the temple area and N of the Horse Gate. (Ne 3:27-31) Nehemiah’s statement that there was a corner in the wall beyond the Inspection Gate would place this gate in the E wall, S of where the wall turned (likely in a northwestward direction).
The account tells us that the repair work was done “in front of the Inspection Gate.” Some have understood this to refer to a repair work on the city wall in front of a temple gate by this name. This does not seem to be the correct view, for the same expression is used respecting the Water Gate, which is acknowledged to have been a gate in the city wall. (Ne 3:26, 31) The Inspection Gate is not named in the procession account evidently because the marchers did not traverse the wall E of the temple.
Gate of the Guard. From this gate (called “prison gate,” KJ) part of the inauguration procession left the wall and proceeded to the temple.—Ne 12:39, 40.
Middle Gate. When the wall of Jerusalem was breached by the Babylonians, their military officers sat in the Middle Gate. (Jer 39:3) Most likely this was identical with the Gate of the Old City, since this gate, at the convergence of the Broad Wall, the N wall of the old city, and the W wall of the second quarter, was a central or commanding position. However, opinions differ, and some favor the Gate of Ephraim or the Fish Gate.
Gate of Benjamin. Some identify the Gate of Benjamin with the Sheep Gate. This location would fit the circumstances of Jeremiah’s attempted exit to the territory of Benjamin, evidently toward Anathoth, which lay NE of Jerusalem. (Jer 37:11-13) Zedekiah was sitting in the Gate of Benjamin when approached by Ebed-melech with a plea in Jeremiah’s behalf. (Jer 38:7, 8) It is reasonable that the king would be near the point of greatest concern during the Babylonian siege. The Sheep Gate on the N of the city would be the most seriously threatened by the attacking Babylonians. However, some believe that the Gate of Benjamin was the Inspection Gate.
Other gates mentioned. When King Zedekiah fled from the Babylonians, he went out “by the way of the gate between the double wall that is by the king’s garden.” (Jer 52:7, 8; 39:4) There is much uncertainty as to the identity of “the double wall.” However, from present knowledge, either the Gate of the Ash-heaps or the Fountain Gate might fit the circumstances described in the Scriptures, both of these being near the king’s garden.—2Ki 25:4, 5.
At 2 Kings 23:8 reference is made to “the high places of the gates that were at the entrance of the gate of Joshua, the chief of the city, which was at the left as a person came into the gate of the city.” Here “gate of Joshua” is not the name of a city gate but evidently is a gate within the city walls leading to the governor’s residence, which was at the left as a person entered the city gate.
Temple Gates. East Gate. Nehemiah’s reconstruction account tells us that the keeper of the East Gate shared in the repair work. (Ne 3:29) Thus the East Gate is not designated as a gate in Jerusalem’s wall, as some have thought. The East Gate may have been approximately in line with the Inspection Gate in the city wall. This gate is evidently the one mentioned in 1 Chronicles 9:18 as “the king’s gate to the east,” being the gate where the king went into or came out from the temple.
Gate of the Foundation. A temple gate, the location of which is uncertain.—2Ki 11:6; 2Ch 23:5.
“Upper gate of the house of Jehovah.” This may have been a gate leading to the inner court, possibly “the new gate of Jehovah,” where Jeremiah was tried; also where Jeremiah’s secretary Baruch read the scroll before the people. (Jer 26:10; 36:10) Jeremiah may have called it “the new gate” because it had not been so anciently built as the others; possibly it was “the upper gate of the house of Jehovah” built by King Jotham.—2Ki 15:32, 35; 2Ch 27:3.
“Upper Gate of Benjamin, which was in the house of Jehovah.” Probably a gate leading to the inner court, on the N side of the temple.—Jer 20:2; compare Eze 8:3; 9:2.
Beautiful Gate. A doorway of the temple rebuilt by Herod the Great, the site of Peter’s healing of the man who was lame from his mother’s womb. (Ac 3:1-10) There is a tradition that identifies this gate with the existing Golden Gate in the city wall, but it may be that the Beautiful Gate was an inner gate of the temple area, corresponding possibly to the ancient “East Gate.” Some say that it may have been one of the gates E of the temple building itself, opening upon the Court of Women, a gate described by Josephus as being 50 cubits (22 m; 73 ft) in height and having doors of Corinthian brass.
Other gates mentioned are “the gate behind the runners” and “the gate of the runners.” These are temple gates, the location of which is uncertain.—2Ki 11:6, 19.
The Jewish Mishnah (Middot 1:3), speaking of the temple rebuilt by King Herod the Great, mentions only five gates to the Temple Mount, that is, in the wall surrounding the entire square of the temple area. These were: the two Huldah Gates on the S, the Kiponus Gate on the W, the Tadi (Todi) Gate on the N, and the Eastern Gate, on which was portrayed the Palace of Shushan. Josephus, on the other hand, refers to four gates on the W. (Jewish Antiquities, XV, 410 [xi, 5]) These four gates have now been identified by archaeological investigation. From S to N, they are: the gate that leads over Robinson’s Arch to steps going down into the Tyropoeon Valley; the Barclay Gate at street level; the gate leading over Wilson’s Arch, supporting a bridge over the Tyropoeon Valley; and the Warren Gate, also at street level. The Kiponus Gate may be identified with either the Barclay Gate or the gate over Wilson’s Arch.
The Mishnah additionally states that there were seven gates to the court immediately surrounding the temple.—Middot 1:4; see TEMPLE.
Figurative Uses. “The gates of righteousness” and “the gate of Jehovah,” into which the righteous enter, are spoken of at Psalm 118:19, 20.—Compare Mt 7:13, 14.
When a person died he was referred to as having entered “the gates of death.” (Ps 9:13; 107:18) He went into the common grave for mankind and so entered the gates of Sheol-Hades. (Isa 38:10; Mt 16:18) Since Jesus Christ has the keys of death and of Hades (Re 1:18), his congregation has had the assurance that death and Hades would not hold them forever in bondage. The apostle Paul showed that all of these die, going into death and Hades, as did Christ whom God loosed from the pangs of death and did not leave in Hades. (Ac 2:24, 31) Because of the resurrection, death and Hades do not have final victory over Christ’s congregation.—1Co 15:29, 36-38, 54-57.
Because God’s people when restored to Zion would reestablish pure worship there, her gates would be called Praise. Zion’s gates would be open constantly to bring in the resources of the nations, without fear of being taken under control by the enemy.—Isa 60:11, 18.
Ezekiel was given a vision of a city to be called “Jehovah Himself Is There,” having 12 gates named according to the 12 tribes of Israel. (Eze 48:30-35) He also reports a detailed vision of a temple with its various gates.—Eze 40-44.
The holy city “New Jerusalem” is pictured as having 12 gates of pearl, with an angel stationed at each gate, evidently as a guard. These gates are constantly open, for no night exists to occasion closing them. The glory and honor of the nations are brought in through the city gates. Even though open, no entrance can be effected by those practicing wicked, unclean, or disgusting things. Only those maintaining cleanness as overcomers or conquerors, those who become kings and priests with Christ, gain entry past the angelic attendants. (Re 21:2, 12, 21-27; 22:14, 15; 2:7; 20:4, 6) The peoples of the nations of earth who walk in the city’s light are blessed.
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GATES of JERUSALEM
Numbers represent present-day elevation in meters
FISH GATE 740
GATE OF THE OLD CITY
Early North Wall
Tower of Hananel
Tower of Meah
GATE OF THE GUARD
HORSE GATE 730
Spring of Gihon
Tyropoeon (Central) Valley
CITY OF DAVID 750, 730, 710, 690, 670
Torrent Valley of Kidron
GATE OF THE ASH-HEAPS
Valley of Hinnom 730, 710, 690, 670
VALLEY GATE 730, 750, 770, 770
Tower of the Bake Ovens
GATE OF EPHRAIM