Throughout our readings thus far, I have come across the names of so many gates. The Sheep Gate, the Fish Gate, the Valley Gate, the Fountain Gate, the Water Gate, and the Horse Gate are just a few that I've encountered while reading; and I can't forget what is perhaps my favorite, and Mrs. Foster's and Brad's favorite, the Dung Gate. While reading through Jeremiah this week, I came upon yet another gate, the Potsherd Gate. I feel like this is the millionth gate I've read about, and I have a feeling it won't be the last one I read about, so I must ask these questions: Why are there so many gates? What purpose do they serve? Why do they have funny names? Also, what gates made it to modern day Jerusalem?
One source says that "in the Ancient Near East city gates were neither merely entrances, nor only used for military protection." Because these gates could be a potentially week point in their defenses, gates in the Israelite walls would typically have three chambers, making four sets of "doors" and defended spaces in between the chambers. It was like a triple construction. In the spaces outside of the gate, market stalls would be erected. The gate, therefore, additionally served as a marketplace where traders could meet to buy and sell goods. Also inside the gate, a space was left without buildings, which served as a communal area for meetings and public justice. "Gates were more than passageways. They served as places for personal business and civic affairs." So, when the Bible mentions a gate, it could mean a number of things: the market, the law court, the public forum, or the town hall.

Today, there are 8 gates of Jerusalem, and you can see a chart of the quarters of Jerusalem below, along with the name of the gates and where they are located.
One source actually lists a 9th gate but says, "The ninth gate, the Eastern Gate, is blocked up and shut, waiting for the arrival of the Messiah."
 
Gates often took their names from the distant cities they faced, like Jaffa, Damascus, and Shechem. This site gives interesting facts about each of the current gates in Jerusalem.
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The Jaffa Gate. Because the Jaffa Gate also faces Hebron, where Abraham is buried, Arabs call the gate “Gate of the Friend.”
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The Zion Gate. Immediately south of this gate sits modern “Mount Zion.” Its Arabic name, “Gate of the Prophet David,” came about because David’s tomb supposedly rests on Mount Zion. A misnomer on all counts, biblical Zion (as well as David’s Tomb) rests east of its modern designation.
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The Dung Gate. The unusual name stems from a gate that stood along the city’s south wall in the time of Nehemiah. The Targum identifies the Dung Gate as the “Potsherd Gate” of Jeremiah 19:2. In antiquity, the city dump lay in the nearby Hinnom Valley, and the Potsherd Gate served as the exit by which the citizens took out the garbage.
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The Golden Gate. Bricked closed for more than 1000 years, this gate is sometimes confused with the “Beautiful Gate” of the Second Temple (Acts 3:10). Muslim tradition holds that a conqueror or the Messiah will enter through this gate. Indeed, the Bible does predict the glory of the Lord will enter the Temple by means of “the eastern gate” (Ezekiel 43:4), but who knows if it refers to this one.
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Stephen's Gate. Christians have identified this gate with Stephen’s name in honor of his martyrdom outside the city (Acts 7:58-60). However, Byzantines placed his death outside a northern gate. Another name, “Lion’s Gate,” comes from the stone reliefs of two lions (or panthers or jaguars) that flank each side of the gate.
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Herod's Gate. Sometimes called the “Gate of Flowers,” this gate took Herod’s name in the 16th or 17th century because pilgrims mistook a Mamluk house near the gate to be Herod Antipas’ palace. In this area the Crusaders penetrated the walls to capture the city in 1099.
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Damascus Gate. This is considered to be the most beautful gate in Jerusalem. Outside the gate, an Arab market offers fresh fruit and vegetables. The Jews call it the “Shechem Gate,” and the Arabs refer to it as the “Gate of the Column.”
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The New Gate. The antiquity of the city walls is betrayed by the “New Gate,” opened in 1887 as a means of convenient northwest access to the Old City.
Jan Case
1/17/2013 04:42:19 am

What an interesting post. I had always pictured the "gates" as mere entrances.

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