City Gates in the Bible
Since gates were the center of city life, it is not surprising that scripture writers often described important officials as "sitting in the gate." Understanding the important role of city gates brings new light to many biblical stories:
- When God's angels arrived in Sodom, Lot was "sitting in the gateway," apparently serving as an influential judge in that evil city (Gen. 19:1, 9).
- Parents of a rebellious son who wouldn't submit to their discipline were told to take him to the city gate and present him to the elders there. The males of that city would stone him to death. And because the gate was at the center of city life, word of what happened would spread quickly and the people of Israel would be less likely to do evil (Deut. 21:18-21).
- Boaz went to the town gate to settle legal matters regarding his marriage to Ruth (Ruth 4:1-11).
- When a soldier arrived at Shiloh and reported that Philistines had captured the ark of the covenant, Eli, as a prominent city official, was sitting in the gate. When he heard the news, he fell off his chair, broke his neck, and died (1 Sam. 4:10-18).
- King David stood by the gate when giving last minute instructions to his army, before their fight against Absalom. After Absalom's death, David returned to his place at the gate, and the people came to him (Sam. 18:1-5; 19:1-8).
- Mordecai learned of plans to assassinate the king while "sitting at the king's gate," which indicates that he was a community leader. He told Queen Esther, who in turn told the king (Esther 2:5-8, 19-23).