Ancient cities, including Jerusalem, were not unlike fortresses in that they were surrounded by massive stone walls with multiple gates. These gates were the weak points in the city’s defensive walls, and therefore they were constructed and designed to be as strong as possible.
In 587 BC, Babylon attacked Jerusalem. They burned the Temple, the palace, all the houses, and all the important buildings. They broke down the city walls and burned the gates.
Nehemiah 3 gives the student of the Bible an excellent list and description of those ten ancient gates as they existed in Old Testament times. Nehemiah’s account of the ten ancient gates of Jerusalem not only tells us about the gates themselves, but also gives the Bible reader a symbolic picture of the spiritual journey taken during the lives of most Christians.
Let’s first briefly look at the story of Nehemiah, the man who rebuilt the gates of Jerusalem.
In about 466 BC, Nehemiah was an exiled Jew in the service of King Xerxes in Persia. He learned the Jews who remained in Jerusalem were rebuilding the Temple, but that the city’s defensive walls and gates were still destroyed. He prayed to God to be allowed to return to Jerusalem and repair them. The King not only allowed him to go, but gave him financial and other support, as well.
Nehemiah and the people who worked with him overcame many obstacles and opposition. In spite of that, they completely rebuilt the walls and gates in a miraculous fifty-two days!
Chapter 3 in Nehemiah describes the repairs to the gates and the walls. It also tells who made the repairs, and the order in which the work was done. The diagram gives the names of the ten gates and their positions on the city wall. It is the names of these gates, their positions, and the order in which they were repaired that gives us a symbolic view of the stages in the life of the typical Christian.
Let’s look at these ancient gates one at a time. It will not be possible to discuss all ten gates in one blog, so I will finish this discussion in Part 2.
“Then Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brethren the priests, and they builded the sheep gate; they sanctified it, and set up the doors of it; ...” (Neh 3:1 KJV)
The first gate that was rebuilt was the Sheep Gate. Notice on the diagram that it is near the northeast corner of the wall. It was built by the high priest, Eliashib, and called by this name because through this gate the sheep and lambs were brought to be sacrificed in the Temple.
Sheep and lambs are associated with Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God. He, like the lambs and sheep that passed through this gate, was sacrificed on the cross for our sins. Jesus is also the High Priest of the New Covenant.
Building the walls and gates begins with the Sheep Gate in Nehemiah 3, and realizing that Jesus is the Lamb of God, sacrificed for our sins, in the first step in the spiritual life of a Christian. If you read Nehemiah 3, you will notice that the construction begins with the Sheep Gate, and also ends with it. That is because everything in the spiritual life of a Christian begins and ends with the death of Jesus on the cross.
The next gate that was rebuilt was the Fish Gate. It had this name because the fishermen of Galilee would bring their fish through it to be sold in the market. This gate was just west of the Sheep Gate on the wall.
The Fish Gate is the second gate, and the second stage in the life of a Christian is evangelism, which is symbolized by fishermen. It is natural for a Christian to tell others about Jesus after you become saved. First, you are saved by Jesus on the cross, and then you tell your loved ones and those that are around you.
"Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men." (Matt 4:19 NIV)
There are eight more gates to go, but not in this blog. I will continue in Part 2.
Isn’t it a miracle that even the walls and gates of ancient Jerusalem point to the deity of Jesus Christ, and explain how we Christians should seek Him?