The Bible speaks of several different kinds of gates: (1) gate of the camp (Ex. 32:26, 27), (2) gate 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” (Neh. 2:8), (5) temple gates (Acts 3:10) and (6) gate of a house.—Acts 12:13, 14.
Cities usually had as few gates as possible, since these were the vulnerable points of their fortifications, some cities having only one gate. 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 forty-nine to sixty-six feet (some 15 to 20 meters) 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. (Ezek. 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 2 Samuel 18:24, 33.
Ancient fortress cities have been uncovered revealing small postern 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. (Acts 12:10) Babylon’s gateways are said to have had doors of copper and bars of iron. (Isa. 45:2; compare Psalm 107:2, 16.) Some gates were apparently locked with wooden bars. (Nah. 3:13) In Solomon’s day, in the region of Argob, in Bashan, there were “sixty large cities with wall and copper bar.” (1 Ki. 4:13) Some towns in Syria have been found with massive stone doors of single slabs several inches thick and ten feet high (c. 3 meters), 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.—Judg. 16:3.
The “gates” of a city could refer to the city itself, since much of the official business took place there and transactions were recorded there (Deut. 16:11, 14; Ruth 4:10; Ps. 87:2; 122:2), or, in the capital, at the gateway of the palace grounds. (Esther 3:2, 3; 5:9, 13; 6:10, 12) Where the gates (entrances) of the city were desolate the glory was also gone. (Isa. 3:26; 14:31; Jer. 14:2; Lam. 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. (Gen. 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 were usually provided near the gates, such as the public square before the Water Gate in Jerusalem. (Neh. 8:1) There was a threshing floor at the entrance of the gate of Samaria. (1 Ki. 22:10) The gates were the city’s news centers, not only due to the arrival of travelers and merchants, but also because nearly all the workmen went in and out of the gate every day, especially those working in the fields. So the gate was the place for meeting others. (Ruth 4:1; 2 Sam. 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).—Neh. 3:3.
At the city gates the older men of the city sat in judgment. (Deut. 16:18; 21:18-20; 22:15; 25:7) Even kings at times held audiences or sat in judgment there. (2 Sam. 19:8; 1 Ki. 22:10; Jer. 38:7) There important announcements and official proclamations were made. (2 Chron. 32:6-8) It was in the public square before the Water Gate that Ezra read the Law. (Neh. 8:1-3) Because the judges, the prominent men of the city, merchants and businessmen and a goodly number of people were usually at the gate, prophets often went there to make their proclamations. Their messages delivered there would spread much faster. (1 Ki. 22:10; Jer. 17:19) Wisdom is pictured as crying out at the entrances of the gates for all in the city to become aware of its counsel. (Prov. 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.—Prov. 31:31.
Those found worthy of death by the judges were taken outside the city gates to be executed. (1 Ki. 21:10-13; Acts 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. (Lev. 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.
Due to 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; Prov. 31:23) Such a position was no place for a foolish one. (Prov. 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; Prov. 22:22; Amos 5:12) To ‘hate a reprover in the gate’ meant to hate the judge who corrected or condemned one. (Amos 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, and the twelve tribes, three on a side, at a greater distance. This arrangement afforded ample protection for the camp.—Ex. 32:26, 27; Num. chap. 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 in the wall that was built prior to the eighth century B.C.E. and in the wall surrounding the “second quarter.” (2 Ki. 22:14; 2 Chron. 34:22; Zeph. 1:10) The “second quarter” was a part of the city bounded on the W and part of the N by Hezekiah’s wall (2 Chron. 32:5) and joined by Manasseh’s wall, which continued on the NE and E. (2 Chron. 33:14) This was N of the earlier city and wall, but apparently did not extend as far W as the earlier wall.—See accompanying map.
In his account of the reconstruction of the wall of the city (chap. 3), Nehemiah begins at the Sheep Gate, located in the NE part of the wall encompassing the second quarter, 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 (chap. 12), along with gates spoken of in other scriptures, some of which are merely other names for those in Nehemiah’s record.
The Sheep Gate was rebuilt by Eliashib the high priest and associate priests. (Neh. 3:1, 32; 12:39) This fact would indicate that it was near the Temple area. Its location was probably in the N 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. It may also have been called the “Gate of Benjamin” (which see). 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 Bethzatha.
Hezekiah apparently built a part of the wall around the second quarter on the W side as far as the Fish Gate, and Manasseh’s wall building continued from the Fish Gate around to the City of David. (2 Chron 32:5; 33:14) In Nehemiah’s reconstruction and procession accounts, the Fish Gate is placed W of the Sheep Gate, and evidently was in the N wall of the “second quarter,” perhaps W of the “castle” and near the N end of the Tyropean valley. (Neh. 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.—Neh. 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. (Neh. 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.” (Zech. 14:10) If so, this places the First Gate E of the Corner Gate, possibly naming, from E to W, (1) the gate in or near the E corner, (2) the gate at the angle where the walls of the second quarter and the old city meet, and (3) the gate in the NW corner of the old city wall. Hence this would allow for the above-suggested identity of the First Gate with the Gate of the Old City. Others would connect the Gate of the Old City with the “Middle Gate” mentioned at Jeremiah 39:3.
Gate of Ephraim
The Gate of Ephraim was located in the Broad Wall 400 cubits (c. 583 feet [c. 178 meters]) E of the Corner Gate. (2 Ki. 14:13; 2 Chron. 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. (Zech. 14:10) It is thought to be (or correspond to) the Gennath or Garden Gate spoken of by the Jewish historian Josephus. There was a public square near the Gate of Ephraim, in which the people made booths to celebrate the Festival of Booths in Nehemiah’s time. (Neh. 8:16) This gate is not named in Nehemiah’s reconstruction text, evidently because it did not need extensive repairs.
This gate was evidently located in the NW angle of the city wall, 400 cubits (c. 583 feet [c. 178 meters]) along the Broad Wall W of the Gate of Ephraim. (2 Ki. 14:13; 2 Chron. 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. (2 Chron. 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; Zech. 14:10) Some think the Corner Gate is the same as the First Gate, but the statement in the book of Zechariah seems to weigh against this view as to its location, for, apparently describing the E-W limits, Zechariah wrote, “from the gate of Benjamin all the way to the place of the First Gate, all the way to the Corner Gate,” thus evidently placing the First Gate E of the Corner Gate.
There is no other gate described as existing in the W wall from the Corner Gate to the Valley Gate at the S end, this no doubt being because of the steep slope of the Hinnom valley, 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.—Neh. 3:11.
At the SW corner of the city wall, the Valley Gate led to the Valley of Hinnom, and corresponds to the modern Jaffa Gate. Josephus’ “Gate of the Essenes” may have been located here or nearby. Uzziah, in his city-fortification program, built a tower by this gate. (2 Chron. 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. (Neh. 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.—Neh. 12:31-40.
Gate of the Ash-heaps
This gate is also known as the Gate of the Potsherds, and is usually called the Dung Gate. (Neh. 2:13; 12:31) Nehemiah’s description seems to place it 1,000 cubits (c. 1,458 feet [c. 444 meters]) E of the Valley Gate. (Neh. 3:13, 14) It was at the SE corner of the city wall, and led to the Valley of Hinnom near the point where it joined the Tyropean valley. (Jer. 19:2) 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. 19:5, 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 modern 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 Tyropean valley and at the spring En-rogel. (Compare Jeremiah 18:2; 19:1, 2.) The “potter’s field” (Matt. 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.
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 it was at the S tip of the E hill of the city (that is, at the southern end of the “City of David”). (Neh. 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 Tyropean valley and the SW hill of the city.
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. (Neh. 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. (Neh. 12:37-40) There was a public square before this gate in which all the people gathered to hear Ezra read the Law, and where they afterward built booths to celebrate the Festival of Booths.—Neh. 8:1-3, 16.
Repair work above the Horse Gate was done by the priests, which implies that its location was near the Temple. (Neh. 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.” (2 Chron. 23:15; 2 Ki. 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 near the SE corner of the Temple-palace area. (Neh. 3:28) According to Jeremiah, there must have been a corner of the wall near this gate, probably as the wall turned toward the left as one comes up the Kidron valley, thereby following the valley’s contour (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.—Neh. 12:37-40.
Some call the Inspection Gate (Heb., ham-miph-qadhʹ) the Muster Gate. (Neh. 3:31, Ro; RS) At Ezekiel 43:21 miph·qadhʹ (the same Hebrew word without the article ha) is translated “appointed place.” It has been thought to be the same as the Gate of the Guard, or the Gate of Benjamin. Of these possibilities, the Gate of Benjamin is the more likely. (However, see “Sheep Gate,” considered earlier.) 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. 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. (Neh. 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,” AV) the inauguration procession walking SE along the wall left the wall and proceeded to the Temple. (Neh. 12:39, 40) Some think that this gate is identical with the Inspection Gate, but this does not seem to be a likely probability.—See “Inspection Gate,” above.
When the Babylonians breached Jerusalem’s wall, their military officers sat in the Middle Gate. (Jer. 39:3) As has been seen, several possibilities are set forth as to the location of this gate. Probably the most likely is that it is identical with the Gate of the Old City, since this gate was at the convergence of the Broad Wall, the N wall of the old city, and the W wall of the second quarter, and would be a central or commanding position. However, some say that the Middle Gate may have been the Gate of Ephraim. Another suggestion is that it was the Fish Gate, another commanding position, because this gate stood at the point where the valley dividing the city into two parts entered the city.
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) However, some believe that the Gate of Benjamin and the Inspection Gate are identical. The latter identification seems less likely, although it would also have been possible for Jeremiah to travel toward his hometown Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin from the Inspection Gate. Another argument for the Sheep Gate as being another name for the Gate of Benjamin is that 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 suggested 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, not the Inspection Gate, which was apparently on the E side of the Temple area, and not in a particularly vulnerable position.
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. Those supporting the Fountain Gate location say that the exit from the city through this gate led through a fifteen-meter- (c. 49-foot-) long corridor between two strong walls. On the other hand, Dr. J. Simons, who advocates the Gate of the Ash-heaps as Zedekiah’s place of exit, says that the lower part of the Central (Tyropean) valley was enclosed between a supposed SW wall of the city of David and a wall discovered by archaeologist J. Bliss (apparently an old S wall), in which was the Gate of the Ash-heaps. From either of those gates Zedekiah could have fled toward the Arabah and to “the desert plains of Jericho,” where the Babylonians caught him.—2 Ki. 25:5.
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.
East Gate. Nehemiah’s reconstruction account tells us that the keeper of the East Gate shared in the repair work. (Neh. 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.
“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.—2 Ki. 15:32, 35; 2 Chron. 27:3.
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. (Acts 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 fifty cubits (c. 73 feet [c. 22 meters]) in height and having doors of Corinthian brass.
The Jewish Mishnah (speaking of the Temple rebuilt by King Herod the Great) says that there were 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. The Mishnah additionally states that there were seven gates to the Temple Court.—See TEMPLE.
The “gates of righteousness” and “the gate of Jehovah,” into which the righteous enter, are spoken of at Psalm 118:19, 20. (Compare Matthew 7:13, 14.) When one died he was considered as entering the “gates of death.” (Ps. 9:13; 107:18) He went into the common grave for all mankind and so entered the gates of Sheol-Hades. (Isa. 38:10; Matt. 16:18) Since Jesus Christ has the keys of death and of Hades (Rev. 1:18), his congregation had the assurance that these enemies 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. (Acts 2:24, 31) And because of the resurrection assured faithful Christians, death and Hades do not have final victory over Christ’s congregation.—1 Cor. 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 twelve gates named according to the twelve tribes of Israel. (Ezek. 48:30-35) He also reports a detailed vision of a temple with its various gates.—Ezek. chaps. 40-44.
The holy city “New Jerusalem” is pictured as having twelve 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, conquerors, who become kings and priests with Christ, gain entry past the angelic attendants. (Rev. 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.
[Map on page 625]
Gates of Jerusalem
Tower of Hanael
GATE OF THE GUARD
Temple Palace Area
Early North Wall
Tyropean (Central) Valley
CITY OF DAVID
Spring of Gihon
GATE OF THE OLD CITY
GATE OF EPHRAIM
Tower of the Bake Ovens
GATE OF THE ASH-HEAPS
Valley of Hinnom
Torrent Valley of Kidron