GATE (Hebrew, ; Aramaic, ; more properly "gateway"):

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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. xiii. 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. xl. 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 (Josh. ii. 5, 7; Neh. xiii. 19). The entrance led underneath an upper chamber, and sometimes through a small court(II Sam. xviii. 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 (II Sam. xxiv. 14; II Kings ix. 7; Jer. vi. 17; Ezek. xxxiii. 1 et seq.; comp. II Chron. xxvi. 9). Guards under the command of the chief gatekeeper are also mentioned (II Kings vii. 10-11; Neh. xiii. 19; Jer. xxxvii. 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 (Gen. xix. 2; Judges xix. 15 et seq.; II Sam. xix. 8; I Kings xxii. 10).

The Popular Center.

As the gate protected the whole city, the word came to be used for the city itself (Isa. xiv. 31; Ex. xx. 10; Deut. xvi. 5; Ruth iii. 11). The king's court is also designated as the "gate" (Esth. iii. 2; Dan. ii. 49; comp. Esth. ii. 19 et seq.). The gate and the adjoining open area constituted the market-place (Neh. viii. 16, xiii. 19; Job xxix. 7; II Kings vii. 1); hence such names as "fish-gate," "sheep-gate" (Neh. iii. 1, 3, 32; xii. 39; Zeph. i. 10). The gates offered the main opportunity for social intercourse. The wells were sometimes situated here (II Sam. xxiii. 15-16). Here news from the outside was sure to be announced first (I Sam. iv. 18); private grief or public calamity found "at the gate" ready sympathizers among the assembled throng of idlers (comp. II Macc. iii. 19; Gen. xix. 1; Ps. lxix. 12 [A. V. 13]; Prov. xxxi. 31); matters of public concern were discussed (I Kings xxii. 10; Jer. xxxviii. 7; at the gates of the Temple, Ezek. xi. 1; Jer. xxvi. 10 et seq.), public announcements were made (Jer. xvii. 19 et seq.; Prov. i. 21, viii. 3), and court and council sessions were held here (Job xxix. 7, xxxi. 21; Prov. xxxi. 23; Lam. v. 14; Deut. xvi. 18, xxi. 19 et seq., xxii. 15-16; Josh. xx. 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 v. 12, 15). The heads of slain enemies were probably exhibited in the gates (I Sam. xvii. 51, 54; comp. II Kings x. 8). Criminals were punished outside the gates (I Kings xxi. 13), but near by, while lepers were sent out from the gates (Lev. xiii. 46; II Kings vii. 3), being assigned a settlement beyond the city limits but not too far from the city wall.

Gates and doors were marked with inscriptions (Deut. vi. 9, xi. 20; see Door; Mezuzah). Camps, too, had gates (Ex. xxxii. 26-27). The "gate of heaven"—an old mythological expression—is mentioned (Gen. xxviii. 17), while the Temple's gates are paraphrased as "gates of righteousness" or "gate of the Lord," through which the righteous shall enter (Ps. cxviii. 19-20). "Gates of death" and "gates of thick darkness" occur in poetic phraseology, in many cases with a tinge of mythological coloring (Ps. ix. 14 [A. V. 13]; Job xxxviii. 17, Hebr.). For the gates of Jerusalem see Jerusalem; for the gates of the Temple see Temple.

"Gate" is used allegorically in rabbinical idioms, as the "gates of repentance" (; Pesiḳ., ed. Buber, xxv. 157a), the "gates of tears," and the "gates of prayer" (Ber. 32b; B. M. 59a), which are said to be "open"; i.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.v. Haus, Stadt, Thor;
  • Nowack, Lehrbuch der Hebräischen Archäologie, i. 142;
  • Winer, B. R. 3d ed., ii., s.v. Thore;
  • Hastings, DiCt. Bible;
  • Guthe, Kurzes Bibelwörterbuch, s.v. Thor.
E. G. H.
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