City gates played a significant role in ancient life. Because openings in city walls created a weak place, ancient people strengthened their gates to prevent their city from being easily invaded. Building a gatehouse inside the city wall became a customary practice. Also, the sewer channel under the main street could run out below the city gate.

During peacetime, city gates became the focal point for social and commercial activity. The chambers operated as a city hall where legal matters and business transactions were conducted. The room above the chambers served as a guardhouse (2 Sam. 18:33); the towers provided added protection and a lookout point (2 Sam. 18:24); and the area outside the gate became a marketplace.

The city gate became a gathering place for prophets, kings, judges, and other officials. These leaders would “sit in the gate.” For example, Jehoshaphat (king of Judah) and Ahab (king of Israel) sat on their thrones in the gate of Samaria (1 Kings 22:10).

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