Gates of Jerusalem
Featured Verse: “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; even unto the tower of Meah they sanctified it, unto the tower of Hananeel.” ...Nehemiah 3:1
Nothing is in the Bible by accident. There is an underlying meaning to everything if we will only search for and seek it out.
This includes the gates to the city of Jerusalem.
As time went on, and every time the walls of Jerusalem were expanded outward to accommodate the growth, the appropriate gate would simply follow the wall. However, each gate remained in the same general location as the earlier gate that it replaced.
In the days of King David, Jerusalem was a much smaller city. The walls and gates were much closer together. Four hundred years, later the Babylonian army destroyed the city and left the walls and gates in ruins.
The book of Nehemiah records the rebuilding of the city around 454 bc. In chapter 3, repairs were made to ten gates.
These ten gates are listed in the order of their location beginning with the sheep gate which is near the north eastern reaches of the wall. The sheep gate corresponds to the general proximity of the modern Herod’s gate.
Each gate as listed by Nehemiah is in a counter clockwise rotation. They are 1: the sheep gate (Nehemiah 3:1), 2: the fish gate (verse 3), 3: the old gate (verse 6), 4: the valley gate (verse 13), 5: the dung gate (verse 13), 6: the fountain gate (verse 15), 7: the water gate (verse 26), 8: the horse gate (verse 28), 9: the east gate (verse 29), and finally the miphkad or the inspection gate (verse 31).
On closer examination these gates as given in their particular order tell the story of the gospel during the future disposition of grace.
We will begin our examination of this at the first gate, the sheep gate. The good news of eternal life has to begin with the sacrificial lamb. John the Baptist introduced Jesus as “the lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world.” (John 1:29). The apostle John reminds us of the lamb throughout his gospel and in the book of revelation.
The sheep gate was located near the historical sheep market which is still in business to this very day. Herod’s gate is located in the same general area.
It is possible that Jesus exited through this gate on His route to Calvary instead of bearing His cross through the street known today as the Via Delarosa. Directly west of Herod’s gate, along the northern wall, is the modern Damascus gate. It stands at the approximate location of the ancient fish gate.
Once we leave the story of the sacrificial lamb, we are reminded that our Savior told His disciples that He would make them to become “fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). In fact, a fish became the symbol of New Testament Christianity.
The fish gate represents the publication of the gospel of eternal life. Beginning with the apostles until this very day, we have been fulfilling the prophecies set forth in the fish gate.
Moving further west along Jerusalem’s walls, we come to Nehemiah’s old gate which is the third gate. It is remarkable that today’s modern gate that stands in the same proximity is called the new gate.
The prophecy in the old gate seems to be that men are plagued with a sin nature inherited from Adam. This is the unregenerate man known in Paul’s writing as the “old” man. “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.” (Romans 6:6).
The old gate sets forth the concept that sinful man needs to hear the gospel of the Lamb.
Next, we come to the valley gate. Today’s Jaffa gate seems to have taken its’ place though the western portion of the city wall lies much further west than it did in the city of David and Nehemiah.
It is called the Jaffa gate after the highway that led to the seacoast town of Joppa. The Jaffa gate overlooks the valley of Gehenna. The ancient valley gate overlooked the valley of the cheese makers (Tyropeon Valley).
The prophecy apparent in the valley is that the sinner must be brought down into the valley of humility and conviction before he can call upon the Lord for salvation. This is a necessary step in the process of conversion. This leads the sinner to the next gate at the far south end of the city wall overlooking the Gehenna Valley.
Isaiah wrote that our righteousness is as “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). We must come to the place of repentance where we turn from sin. This is the message of the next gate, the dung gate.
This continues the process in which, as the apostle Paul taught, “Old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (II Corinthians 5:17).
The modern dung gate lies just southwest of the western wall near the southern wall of the temple mount. However, in David’s day, it was located about as far south as the ancient wall would take you. It was right at the bottom of the hill where the valley of the cheese makers meets the dump ground that is known as the Gehenna Valley. In a similar fashion a person must spiritually become about as far down as one can get. We must come to the place where we are willing to turn the corner so to speak and begin the journey back toward the house of God (the Temple).
Once we turn the corner of the lowest and southern most place of Jerusalem’s wall, we come to the next gate. This gate is the fountain gate. Nehemiah’s “gate of the fountain” (Nehemiah 3:15) is located at the entrance of the pool of Soloam. This is the place where Jesus sent the man who had been born blind (John 9:7). The pool meant “sent”. In Biblical days, a large pool with several porches served those who wanted to be spiritually clean before entering the temple compound.
This pool tells us about the work of regeneration in the convert who has come all the way south and has turned the corner from sin to redemption in order to head up the eastern wall toward the eastern gate that entered directly into the court of the temple. The work of regeneration is done by the “Sent” One. This is the Holy Spirit who was promised to the disciples before the death of Jesus, God’s Lamb.
We recall that our Savior said, “Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.” (John 16:7).
The water in the pool of Soloam is symbolic of the work of the Holy Spirit as well as typical of life in general. Running water in Judaism is referred to as living water.
It seems, therefore, that the pool of Soloam represents a place where the repentant sinner, who has been convicted of sin, now receives the “water of life” from which he will never thirst again. From there, the new convert moves north to the next gate.
The next gate, the seventh gate, is the water gate. In Biblical days the water gate was located in the eastern wall in the lower city near the Gihon spring just above the Kidron Valley. It was about half way between the pool of Soloam and the pinnacle of the temple (the south eastern corner of the temple fortress).
The water gate also represents the cleansing, but not for the purpose of regeneration or conversion. That took place at the fountain gate. The water gate and its’ attending Gihon Spring seem to represent a life of fellowship. It is the life of worship that keeps us spiritually in tune to God’s will for our lives.
Just above the water gate, in the Ophel area of the southern temple wall, several mikvahsr baptismal pools had been uncovered by Israel’s archaeologists. That is likely the place where 3,000 people were baptized on the day of Pentecost.
Nehemiah and Ezra gathered all the people at the water gate and read the law of the Moses to them. We are told that the people spent several hours standing to hear the precious word. Revival broke out. Therefore, the water gate became the place of gathering, teaching and fellowship. I would liken that to a local church. A new convert should unite with other believers in worship and service to God who love and care for us. However, that is not all that a believer needs. Thus, the next gate lies very near to the water gate. It is called the horse gate.
In David’s day, the horse gate was used as an entrance to the horse’s stables. Though the area of Solomon’s stables was misnamed, being within the temple compound, it is likely the stables were nearby. Over the centuries, the underground area just inside the temple’s southern wall took on the name of Solomon’s stables because of this gate.
The horse was one of the principle means of transportation. It was a worker for the service of men. Likewise, the spiritual significance in this gate teaches that we are to serve mankind. At the water gate, we worship God while at the horse gate we serve humanity.
Our conversion at the fountain gate prepares us for the high calling of worship and service as seen at the water and horse gate. This is where we show our faith by our works. This is where we lay up treasures in Heaven. These gates represent a lifetime of good works for which we will be glad when we get to Heaven. And that brings us to the most exciting gate of all, the eastern gate.
The next gate, the eastern gate, might have been the “gate beautiful” referred to in Acts 3:2. The eastern gate was certainly the most ornate and important of all the gates. This is the gate that leads into the Temple courtyard and represents our entrance into Heaven’s glory at the end of our earthly life.
When we approach the eastern gate, the Kidron Valley, with all of its sorrows, lies behind us. The Mount of Olives and Gethsemane, with its’ cemeteries, are behind us. As we enter, we notice that it is a double gate. Unlike the others, this gate welcomes us into the presence of God.
It is said that Israel’s long-looked-for Messiah will enter through this gate when He comes. What Judaism does not understand is that their Messiah has already done that. He rode a donkey from the Mount of Olives up to that gate. Historically, that is called the “Triumphal entry”. When we die, our entrance into Heaven’s eastern gate will be a triumphal entry for us.
Sometimes Heaven’s entrance has been called the pearly gates. However, these are the gates into the new Jerusalem. There are twelve of those. Around David and Nehemiah’s Jerusalem there were only ten. What a wonderful message they will bring to us.
It is said that the double entrance of the eastern gate stands for justice and mercy. It will be justice for those who refused the message of the gospel and mercy for those who accepted it.
As nice as the eastern gate is, it is not the final gate. Once we leave this life, we will encounter one more gate. Nehemiah called it the inspection gate.
The tenth and last gate, the inspection gate, is called in Hebrew Miphkad. This is the final gate. Today the lion’s gate (sometimes misnamed the sheep Gate) stands where the inspection gate was located. For believers, it could represent the Judgment Seat of Christ. This will be a time when we will be called upon to give an account of our lives. How well did we serve the Lord? How much treasure did we send on ahead? Were we fishers of men?
The apostle Paul said in I Corinthians 3:13-15, “Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every mans’ work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.”
The author of Hebrews 9:27 added, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.”
For the unsaved, there awaits the great white throne judgment. This is the place where every Christ-rejecting soul will be cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:14).
After receiving the Lamb as our Savior at the fountain gate, we began a journey that will take us from the lowest part of the city overlooking the valley of Gehanna, a place that represents the torments of hell, past the water gate which is the place of worship and through the horse gate, the place of service. On this journey, we should be mindful that we will someday enter Heaven’s eastern gate and be inspected at this inspection gate.
We should so live our lives with a humbleness of spirit, with an integrity of heart and mind and with a boldness for our Lord that when we get to Heaven we will be glad to be there.
Finally, Heaven will not be Heaven because of what is there, but because of who is there. Therefore, it is incumbent upon us to lead our families to serve our Lord.
Indeed, the gates of Jerusalem have
a wonderful prophetic story to tell having been named a thousand years
before the Lamb came.
Glory be to God!
In His Service,
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Copyright © 2004 Craig Morgan