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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Gate (2)

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GATE.—The gate of a city, like the entrance to a tent and the door of a house, was a place of special importance, and its original use gave rise to various associated meanings.

1. Military and protective.—As the weakest place in a walled city, it was the chief point of attack and defence. Its strength was the strength of the city (Genesis 22:17, Judges 5:8, Psalms 24:7; Psalms 127:5, Isaiah 26:2, Jeremiah 14:2). It had a place of outlook over the entrance, from which those approaching could be seen, and intimation given as to their admittance. This was evidently a development of the watch kept at the door of the sheepfold (John 10:1-3). The gates of the city were closed at night, hence in the vision of the city where there is no night they remain unclosed (Revelation 21:25). In the charge to Peter, where the gates of Hades are said to be unable to prevail against the Church of Christ, the original meaning of defensive strength seems to pass into that of aggressive force (Matthew 16:18).

2. Judicial and commercial.—The settlement of matters affecting contested right, transfer of property and internal administration, were attended to at the open space or covered recess behind the gate (Genesis 23:10, Deuteronomy 25:7, Amos 5:12). The litigant was urged to come to terms with the adversary ‘in the way’ before the gate was reached, for there the judge sat, and behind him were the officer, the prison, and the official exactors (Matthew 5:25-26). In times of industrial peace, the protective challenge became a fiscal inspection, and there the tax-collector sat at the receipt of custom (Matthew 9:9).

3. Figurative and religious.—While the gates or doors of public buildings within the city might be lavishly ornamented (Isaiah 54:12, Revelation 21:21; Josephus BJ v. v. 3, vi. v. 3), the gate of brass was the standard of external protection. The larger and more important the city, the more imposing would be its public gate. The Oriental name for the Ottoman Empire is the High Gate, or Sublime Porte. Christ’s allusion to the broad gate that led only to darkness and destruction, and the gate that, though narrow, conducted into a broad place capable of accommodating visitors from all lands (Matthew 7:13-14, Luke 13:24; Luke 13:29), was in keeping with His other statements as to the startling difference between His Kingdom and the Empire conception of the world.

City gates, as well as those at the entrance to gardens and to the open courts around houses, frequently have a small inserted door from two to three feet square by which an individual may be admitted. It has sometimes been thought that this was referred to when Christ spoke of a camel passing through the eye of a needle (Matthew 19:24); but there is nothing either in the sense of the original words or in Eastern custom to support such a supposition. See Camel.

Gates had distinguishing names, indicating the localities to which they belonged or into which they led (Genesis 28:17, Nehemiah 3, Psalms 9:13, Isaiah 38:10, Matthew 16:18), or describing some characteristic of the door itself (Acts 3:2). In the prophetic picture of Zion restored and comforted, the gates were to be called ‘Praise,’ and those which John saw in the New Jerusalem bore on their fronts the names of the ‘twelve tribes of the children of Israel’ (Revelation 21:12).

For meanings connected more especially with the entrance to tents and houses see Door.

G. M. Mackie.


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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Gate (2)'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hdn/g/gate-2.html. 1906-1918.

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