Lesson Five - The Gates of the City (Part I)

The book of Nehemiah is a book of restoration, a record of the rebuilding of the walls and gates of natural Jerusalem. But it is also a picture of the work God is doing in the restoration of His Church - the spiritual City of God (Hebrews 11:10; 12:22). The edict for the rebuilding of Jerusalem was issued by Artaxerxes in 445 BC (Nehemiah 1:1-4; 2:5). The Temple had been rebuilt under Ezra, but the walls of the city itself lay in ruin (Nehemiah 2:17).

The city of Jerusalem had twelve gates, each with a significance in the daily life and historical experience of natural Jerusalem. Each gate has a spiritual counterpart, for they are a "shadow" of the reality that was to come (Hebrews 8:5; 10:1; read also Revelation 21:10-13). Each gate in the New Jerusalem is a single pearl (Revelation 21:21). Jesus is the pearl of great price (Matthew 13:45-46) and the only entrance into the City (John 10:9; 14:6). Each gate therefore depicts aspects of the finished work of the Cross of Christ, outworked in our experience.

The Sheep Gate

"Eliashib the high priest and his fellow priests went to work and rebuilt the Sheep Gate. They dedicated it and set its doors in place, building as far as the Tower of the Hundred, which they dedicated, and as far as the Tower of Hananel" Nehemiah 3:1.

The Sheep Gate was the first to be restored, and was rebuilt by the High Priest and his fellow priests (see Hebrews 4:14-15; 7:24-8:2). It was called the Sheep Gate because it led out to the sheep markets, where lambs were sold for sacrifice in the Temple (see John 1:29; 1 Corinthians 5:7). This gate also led to Golgotha, the path Jesus took to the crucifixion.

The Sheep Gate represents the experience of salvation made available by the Cross. This spiritual gate is the first to be built in our lives and was the first restored truth in the Reformation.

The Fish Gate

"The Fish Gate was rebuilt by the sons of Hassenaah. They laid its beams and put its doors and bolts and bars in place" Nehemiah 3:3.

This gate had been one of the main entrances into Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 33:14; Zephaniah 1:10). Merchants brought fish to the fish market through this entrance. The Fish Gate represents our witness, the Church reaching out to the world (Matthew 4:19).

The Jeshanah Gate

"The Jeshanah Gate was repaired by Joiada son of Paseah and Meshullam son of Besodeiah. They laid its beams and put its doors and bolts and bars in place" Nehemiah 3:6.

The word "jeshanah" means "old". The elders of the city would meet at the gate to discuss matters of community importance and issue judgment on disputes (Joshua 20:4; Ruth 4:11; Proverbs 31:23). This gate represents both the eldership of the city (the leaders of the Body) and their guidance in the "ancient paths" of God (Jeremiah 6:16) in spiritual growth. Of interest, two men are picked out as rebuilders of the Jeshanah Gate: Uzziel, the goldsmith, and Hananiah, the perfume-maker (see 1 Peter 1:6-7; 2 Corinthians 2:14-15). Pastoral elders are the goldsmiths and perfume-makers of the Body!

The Valley Gate

This gate led to two main valleys that defined Jerusalem geographically and historically. The Hinnom Valley separated Mount Zion from the Hill of Evil Counsel and the "plain of Rephaim" to the south (Deuteronomy 2:20-21; 2 Samuel 21:16-22). Solomon erected high places for Molech in this valley (1 Kings 11:7), to whom children were sacrificed by fire (2 Kings 16:3; 23:10; 2 Chronicles 28:3; 33:6; Jeremiah.7:31). Josiah rendered the valley "ceremonially unclean" by spreading human bones over it (2 Kings 23:10,13-14). From then it became the garbage tip of the city. Because of its ceremonial defilement and its history of human sacrifice by fire, this valley came to be called "Ge Hinnom" or "Gehenna" - the name used for hell itself, the Lake of Fire (Matthew 5:22; 10:28; 23:15,33).

The second valley was called the Kidron, which means "turbid, dusky, gloomy". It was across this valley that Jesus crossed to go to the Garden of Gethsemane (John 18:1). It was into this valley that the pagan altars and images were burned during the cleansing of Jerusalem (1 Kings 15:13; 2 Kings 23:4-12; 2 Chron.15:16; 29:16; 30:14).

The Valley Gate represents firstly what we have been taken out from, snatched from the fires of hell by the grace of God; and secondly, a valley we enter by choice, the valley of suffering and cleansing (Psalm 23:4; 84:6-7).

The Dung Gate

"The Dung Gate was repaired by Malkijah son of Recab, ruler of the district of Beth Hakkerem. He rebuilt it and put its doors and bolts and bars in place" Nehemiah 3:14.

The Dung Gate was the exit for city refuse and rubbish. Spiritual "dung" represents two things:

  1. The shame of the old life (Romans 7:24; 6:1-4,6; Revelation 21:27; 22:14-15).
  2. The glory of the old life (Philippians 3:7-10).

As God's new creation, we count both the shame and the glory of the old life as "dung" compared to knowing and experiencing the glory of Christ. We dump all this refuse out the Dung Gate.

The Fountain Gate

"Then I moved on toward the Fountain Gate and the King's Pool, but there was not enough room for my mount to get through" Nehemiah 2:14.

The Fountain Gate appeared to be the gate in most ruin, so much so that it blocked Nehemiah's midnight inspection. This meant that, in the natural, the Fountain Gate must have been a centre of concentrated attack during the siege of Jerusalem by the Babylonian army (2 Kings 25:4). Likewise, this gate's spiritual counterpart is a target of concentrated Satanic attack.

"The Fountain Gate was repaired by Shallun son of Col-hozeh, ruler of the district of Mizpah. He rebuilt it, roofing it over and putting its doors and bolts and bars in place. He also repaired the wall of the Pool of Siloam, by the King's Garden, as far as the steps going down from the City of David. Beyond him, Nehemiah son of Azbuk, ruler of a half-district of Beth Zur, made repairs up to a point opposite the tombs of David, as far as the artificial pool and the House of the Heroes...Next to him, Ezer son of Jeshua, ruler of Mizpah, repaired another section, from a point facing the ascent to the armoury as far as the angle" Nehemiah 3:15-19.

A number of places are associated with and accessed by the Fountain Gate:

The Fountain Gate derived its name from the fact that it was the primary access to the Fountain - the Gihon Spring, Jerusalem's sole perennial source of water. This fountain represented the life source of God Himself (Psalm 36:9; Isaiah 8:6). Prior to the captivity, Jeremiah prophesied:

"My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water" Jeremiah 2:13.

Of all the sins of Jerusalem, these two were singled out by God as the most severe. These two sins remain the most severe in the Church too:

  1. Forsaking the spring of living water (Jeremiah 17:5-8,13).
  2. Building broken cisterns (Jeremiah 14:3-4; 38:6; Genesis 37:24; Zechariah 9:11).

A cistern was like a well, built into the ground, but had no independent source of water. Water was brought from another source to the cistern, which held it in storage for later use. The Lord likens those who trust in their own resources to those who build broken cisterns - their lives leak joy, peace, faith and strength. Jesus encouraged us to come to Himself - the spring of living water (John 4:10-14).

"On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, 'If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him' John 7:37-38 (see also verse 39; Revelation 7:17; Psalm 23).

This is the experience accessed by the Fountain Gate - the living water, and its resulting fruitfulness (Genesis 49:22). Further, it is at the spring of living water that the Holy Spirit is looking for the Bride (as pictured in Genesis 24:16,42-45; see also Revelation 22:17).


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