layout. And, since centuries of passing time have made little change, certain cities today are very much as they were two or three millenniums ago. On entering the gates one found himself in a large open place, the city’s marketplace, the public square, where all kinds of selling and buying were carried on, and where contracts were made and sealed before witnesses. (Gen. 23:10-18; 2 Ki. 7:1; Nah. 2:4) Here was the public forum where news was received and passed on (Neh. 8:1, 3; Jer. 17:19), where the elders and city judges held court (Ruth 4:1-10) and where the traveler might spend the night if perchance private hospitality was not extended to him. (Judg. 19:15-21) Sometimes other accommodations were available in the city for the visitor.—Josh. 2:1; Judg. 16:1; Luke 2:4-7; 10:35; see INN.
Certain cities were built to serve special functions, as, for example, Pithom and Raamses, built by Israelite slave labor as storage places for Pharaoh (Ex. 1:11), also Solomon’s storage cities, chariot cities and cities for his horsemen (1 Ki. 9:17-19), as well as Jehoshaphat’s storage cities. (2 Chron. 17:12) Forty-eight cities were set aside for the Levites, thirteen of which were for the priests, and six were designated refuge cities for the unintentional manslayer.—Num. 35:6-8; Josh. 21:19, 41, 42; see CITIES OF REFUGE; PRIESTS’ CITIES.
The size of many ancient cities can be figured from the remains of their walls, but population figures can only be estimated. Archaeologist W. F. Albright estimated that Debir covered seven and a half acres (3 hectares), having 150 to 250 houses. If this is taken as a basis, Megiddo with 13 acres may have had a population between 3,500 and 5,000, and Lachish with 18 acres, between 6,000 and 7,500. On the other hand, we are told that Nineveh was a very large metropolis: “Nineveh the great city, in which there exist more than one hundred and twenty thousand men who do not at all know the difference between their right hand and their left.”—Jonah 4:11; 3:3.
The name given to cities mentioned in the Bible usually had meaning and purpose—locality, character or ancestry of the inhabitants, even prophetic significance is disclosed by many of their names. (Gen. 11:9; 21:31; Judg. 18:29) Sometimes to distinguish one city from another of the same name, the tribal location was added, as in the case of “Bethlehem in Judah,” for there was also a Bethlehem in Zebulun. (Judg. 17:7; Josh. 19:10, 15) Enclave cities were those belonging to one tribe that lay in the territory of another tribe.—Josh. 16:9; see ENCLAVE CITIES.
In the Hebrew Scriptures, cities are used figuratively. (Prov. 21:22; Jer. 1:18) We find Jesus employing cities in his illustrations (Matt. 12:25; Luke 19:17, 19), and Paul likewise in a figure of speech. (Heb. 11:10, 16; 12:22; 13:14) In Revelation cities are used to illustrate a number of things: “the holy city” trampled by the nations (11:2), “the great city” called Sodom and Egypt in a spiritual sense (11:8), the “great city, Babylon” (18:10-21; 17:18), and “the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God and prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.”—21:2-27; 22:14, 19; 3:12.
[Gr., gram·ma·teusʹ, a scribe, a man of letters].
In the municipal government of the free cities in Asia Minor under the Roman Empire, the city recorder was the most important public officer. He was apparently elected to office by the people and functioned as the leading member of the municipal government. We might compare him in some respects to a modern-day mayor, as some translations render the term. Consequently, he was very influential in city affairs, and his dignified office was held in esteem by the people to a greater degree than is implied by the word “clerk” or “town clerk,” as used in several Bible translations at Acts 19:35, where gram·ma·teusʹ appears in a setting and connotation differing from its usual usage as applied to the Jewish scribes. The influence the city recorder wielded is shown by the manner in which this official in Ephesus quieted the mob that gathered against Paul and his companions.—Acts 19:35-41.
The city recorder had direct access to the proconsul of the province and served as the liaison between the city government and Rome’s provincial administration of which Ephesus was one of the centers. This enabled the recorder to act as a buffer between the power of the Roman authorities and the people of the city.
His duties and responsibilities included (1) supervision of the city archives, reading all legal and state papers that were to be made public at the assemblies, recording the minutes of senate and assembly sessions, properly recording and filing copies of decrees as well as treaties and edicts from Roman officialdom and, in general, attending to all the miscellaneous paper work associated with administering the affairs of the city. (2) He might draft into proper form the official decrees of the city council or senate before they were presented to the public assembly, and would preside as chairman at the assemblies.
As an executive officer, the city recorder also had charge of public funds, a responsibility that included administering the endowment for doles to the citizens, and, after the first century C.E., he had charge of the distribution of money gifts from the city treasury on the birthday of the Roman emperor Antoninus Pius. Another task he had was the supervision of the erection of monuments to various men that the senate and people decided to honor.
The high station of the city recorder is attested to by many inscriptions and coins. They reveal that he was allowed to mint coins for the city with his name on them. On occasion, he assumed some of the responsibilities of the commissioners of festivals and games.
In the Asian cities, the city recorder was held accountable by the Roman authority for maintaining law and order within his jurisdiction. This accounts, in part at least, for the concern expressed by the city recorder when the people of Ephesus had been stirred up by the Ephesian silversmiths over the preaching done by the apostle Paul. It was a disorderly mob, an illegal assembly in the theater. There was the liability of a charge of sedition, as the city recorder pointed out to the people. He feared that the Romans would hold him personally responsible.
In Grecian cities outside Asia Minor, there were public servants who had the title gram·ma·teusʹ, but they did not have the rank and dignity of those in the free cities of Asia Minor. Instead, they were true menial clerks or secretaries and, in many cases, were slaves.
A large social group having a common inheritance, and resembling a tribe in magnitude.
In all three instances where the Hebrew word ʼum·mahʹ occurs, it refers to a large group of non-Israelites and is translated “clan” (NW). Descendants of Ishmael’s twelve sons, for example, are described as “clans” early in the history of that ethnic group. (Gen. 25:16) The same is true of the descendants of Midian. (Num. 25:15) The term is also found in Hebrew poetry at Psalm 117:1, where it appears in a parallelism with “nations.”
The Hebrew word sheʹvet, which is usually rendered “tribe,” is translated “clan” at Numbers 18:2 (NW). This is an exceptional instance to show the distinction the Hebrew text makes, for in this verse two different words (mat·tehʹ and sheʹvet) appear, both of which are normally rendered “tribe.”