In Biblical times, gates served a host of purposes, which I find interesting to think about:
- They were, obviously, an entrance way.
- They were defensive: protection against unfriendly passersby or intruders.
- They were the most public place of the city, and thus were a gathering place for the sick, the needy, the beggars (Luke 16:20); they also were prime choice for ornamental display of killed & captured enemies (Joshua 8:29).
- They hosted religious activities (2 Kings 23:8).
- They were a military garrison and gathering place for launching attacks (Judges 16:2, 18:17, 2 Kings, 11:5-6)
- They served as a judgment seat; a gathering place of the city elders; a place to hold court (Genesis 34:20-24, Deuteronomy 21:18-21, 22:15, 22:24, 25:7, Joshua 20:4ff, Ruth 4).
- They were a place to transact business and trading (2 Kings 7:1).
- They were a dividing line between the "clean" and "unclean." To be outside the city gate was reproachful, and that is where the sick, handicapped, and lawless were cast. To be inside the gate was to belong and have a place in society. (See Deuteronomy 9:10-13, Luke 17:12, Hebrew 13:12)
Genesis 28:17 - When Jacob had his famous dream at Bethel in which he saw angels ascending and descending a stairway and in which God renewed to him the promise of Abraham, he awoke to call the place the "gate of heaven."
Matthew 7:13-14 - Jesus exhorts us to "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it."