gat (Hebrew normally (over 300 times) sha`ar; occasionally deleth, properly, "gateway" (but compare De 3:5); elsewhere the gateway is pethach (compare especially Ge 19:6); Aramaic tera`; Greek pulon, pule; the English Revised Version and the King James Version add caph, "threshold," in 1Ch 9:19,22; and the King James Version adds delathayim, "double-door," in Isa 45:1; thura, "door," Ac 3:2):
(1) The usual gateway was provided with double doors, swung on projections that fitted into sockets in the sill and lintel. Ordinarily the material was wood (Ne 2:3,17), but greater strength and protection against fire was given by plating with metal (Ps 107:16; Isa 45:2). Josephus (BJ, V, v, 3) speaks of the solid metal doors of the Beautiful Gate (Ac 3:2) as a very exceptional thing. Some doors were solid slabs of stone, from which the imagery of single jewels (Isa 54:12; Re 21:21) was derived. When closed, the doors were secured with a bar (usually of wood, Na 3:13, but sometimes of metal, 1Ki 4:13; Ps 107:16; Isa 45:2), which fitted into clamps on the doors and sockets in the post, uniting the whole firmly (Jg 16:3). Sometimes, perhaps, a portcullis was used, but Ps 24:7 refers to the enlargement or enrichment of the gates. As the gate was especially subject to attack (Eze 21:15,22), and as to "possess the gate" was to possess the city (Ge 22:17; 24:60), it was protected by a tower (2Sa 18:24,33; 2Ch 14:7; 26:9), often, doubtless, overhanging and with flanking projections. Sometimes an inner gate was added (2Sa 18:24). Unfortunately, Palestine gives us little monumental detail.
(2) As even farm laborers slept in the cities, most of the men passed through the gate every day, and the gate was the place for meeting others (Ru 4:1; 2Sa 15:2) and for assemblages. For the latter purpose "broad" or open places (distinguished from the "streets" in Pr 7:12) were provided (1Ki 22:10; Ne 8:1), and these were the centers of the public life. Here the markets were held (2Ki 7:1), and the special commodities in these gave names to the gates (Ne 3:1,3,18). In particular, the "gate" was the place of the legal tribunals (De 16:18; 21:19; 25:7, etc.), so that a seat "among the elders in the gates" (Pr 31:23) was a high honor, while "oppression in the gates" was a synonym for judicial corruption (Job 31:21; Pr 22:22; Isa 29:21; Am 5:10). The king, in especial, held public audiences in the gate (2Sa 19:8; 1Ki 22:10; Jer 38:7; compare Jer 39:3), and even yet "Sublime Porte" (the French translation of the Turkish for "high gate") is the title of the Court of Constantinople. To the gates, as the place of throngs, prophets and teachers went with their message (1Ki 22:10; Jer 17:19; Pr 1:21; 8:3; 31:31), while on the other hand the gates were the resort of the town good-for-nothings (Ps 69:12).
(3) "Gates" can be used figuratively for the glory of a city (Isa 3:26; 14:31; Jer 14:2; La 1:4; contrast Ps 87:2), but whether the military force, the rulers or the people is in mind cannot be determined. In Mt 16:18 "gates of Hades" (not "hell") may refer to the hosts (or princes) of Satan, but a more likely translation is `the gates of the grave (which keep the dead from returning) shall not be stronger than it.' The meaning in Jg 5:8,11 is very uncertain, and the text may be corrupt.
Burton Scott Easton