The city gate (Ruth 4)

Bilderesultat for seat at the gate at Dan

Illustration: Seat at the gate at Dan

The city gate played a key role in the city’s defensive structure. In fact, “to possess the gate” of a city was to possess the city itself (Genesis 24:60). The role of such a gate, however, also extended to the economic, legal and civic spheres of life. In Mesopotamia, neighbourhoods based upon kin or craft may have been organized around the various city gates. Markets, as well as various legal proceedings, were held by the gates (2 Kings 7:1). For example, Abraham purchased the cave of Machpelah (Genesis 23:3 ff) at a city gate, and Boaz was granted the right to obtain both real property and Ruth as a wife at such a location (Ruth 4:1 ff). Kings frequently held public audiences there, and prophets addressed both royalty and commoners at these gates (2 Samuel 19:8, 1 Kings 22:10, Jeremiah 17:19).

At Tel Dan, excavations inside the outer gate complex have uncovered a raised platform for the canopied seat of a king or judge, as well as a bench for the elders. This arrangement illustrates the Biblical descriptions of legal cases being brought before the elders (Deuteronomy 22:15, 25:7) and judgements being carried out (Deuteronomy 17:5, 22:24) at such a location. To sit in the gate among the elders (Job 29:7-8, Proverbs 31:23) denoted honour, while the right to enter a gate indicated citizenship (Genesis 23:10, 18), even in Jerusalem (Revelation 22:14).


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