From BiblePortal Wikipedia

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [1]

In the language of the Bible any organized human settlement may be called a city. This applies whether the settlement was large or small ( Genesis 4:17;  Genesis 13:12;  Deuteronomy 21:3;  Jonah 1:2).

Larger cities were walled, with a central fortress to provide the citizens with defence against attack ( Numbers 13:28;  Joshua 6:5;  Judges 9:51;  2 Samuel 5:7;  1 Kings 4:13;  2 Kings 14:13). During an attack, people living in the farming villages around the city took refuge inside the city walls ( Numbers 35:2;  Joshua 17:11;  1 Samuel 6:18). In some cases farmers had their fields outside the city and their homes inside. They worked in the fields during the day, but returned to the city before nightfall, when the gates were shut ( Joshua 2:5;  Judges 9:43-44; see also War ).

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [2]

CITY. —In the East the city developed from the necessity of protection from hostile invasion, and its characteristic was the wall or rampart. It was the wall that originally constituted the πόλις, though in later times its position amongst the Jews was determined by its ability to produce ten men qualified for office in the Synagogue (see Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible, art. ‘City’). The κώμη was the village or hamlet, without walls, and was generally a dependency of some neighbouring city. In  Mark 1:38 the word κωμόπολις is used, apparently as a designation of a large unwalled village or town. Bethlehem and Bethsaida, though generally classed as cities, are spoken of as κῶμαι in  John 7:42,  Mark 8:23;  Mark 8:26, the natural inference from which is that the words ‘city,’ ‘town,’ and ‘village,’ though having, as with us, a technical signification, were occasionally used in a looser and less precise manner.

The government of the πόλις was modelled on that of Jerusalem, where the Sanhedrin (wh. see) was the supreme authority on all matters which, after the Roman domination, did not fall within the province of the Roman governor. According to the Talmud (Mish. Sanh. i. 6), in every Jewish city there was a Council of twenty-three which was responsible to the Sanhedrin ( Matthew 5:22). Josephus knows nothing of such a Council. The Court which he mentions ( Ant . iv. viii. 14) consisted of seven judges, who had each two Levites as assessors. The College of Elders who presided over the Synagogue had also judicial functions, but what was its relation to the Council is not easy to determine. The gates of the city were places of public resort; the money-changers facilitated trade; and the various guilds of artisans had special districts allotted to them.

In the time of our Lord, Palestine was a land of cities. Galilee, measuring fifty miles north and south, and from twenty-five to thirty-five east and west—about the average size of an English shire—is said by Josephus ( BJ iii. iii. 2) to have had a population of 3,000,000. Allowing for patriotic exaggeration, the fact that the soil was so fertile as to make it a veritable garden, and that it was traversed by the three main trade routes of the East, would account for an exceptional density of population. Round the Lake of Galilee there were nine cities with not less than 15,000 inhabitants, some of them with considerably more, so that there must have been along its margin an almost unbroken chain of buildings. The blending of the Jewish with the Greek civilization must have given to these cities a striking picturesqueness alike in manners, customs, attire, and architecture. Tiberias, built by Herod Antipas, was a stately city, whose ruins still indicate a wall three miles long. Its palace, citadel, and public buildings were of the most imposing description, but it was almost wholly Gentile, no Jew who had the pride of his race setting foot within the walls of a city polluted alike by the monuments of idolatry and by its site on an ancient burial-place. Cities like Bethsaida and Capernaum, again, were preponderantly Jewish. Taricheae, not mentioned in the Gospels, is described by Pliny ( HN v. xv. 11) as one of the chief centres of industry and commerce, and by Josephus ( Ant . xiv. vii. 3) as a stronghold of Jewish patriotism. Everywhere in Galilee there was an intense civic vitality. The problems of a complex civilization were presented with peculiar force. The Gospel narrative stands out from a background of a richer and more varied life than probably ever existed elsewhere in an organized community, and it reflects in a wonderfully accurate manner all its various phases. This is, indeed, one reason of its universal applicability. It is the application of absolute principles of conduct to typical situations of the most complex character.

This density of population passed over the Lake of Galilee to the region eastward. The Decapolis ( Matthew 4:25) consisted of a group of ten or more cities east of the Jordan, united in a league for purposes of defence. These were Greek cities in the province of Syria, but possessing certain civil rights, such as coinage, etc., granted them by Rome. The cities constituting the Decapolis are variously named. Pliny ( HN v. xviii. 74) enumerates them as follows: Scythopolis, Hippos, Gadara, Dion, Pella, Gerasa, Philadelphia, Canatha, and, with less probability, Damascus and Raphana. To the north of Galilee again lay the Phœnician cities of Tyre and Sidon ( Matthew 15:21). Tyre, even in its decline, was a noble city, with a teeming population. The circumference of its walls is given by Pliny as nineteen Roman miles. Inland, Caesarea Philippi nestled at the base of Mt. Hermon, in a situation of remarkable beauty and fertility. This city received its name from Herod the Great, who built there a temple to Augustus. It was in its neighbourhood that Peter made his striking confession ( Matthew 16:13 ff.). The cities of Samaria to the south occupy no large place in our Lord’s mission. Though Jesus passed through Samaria ( John 4:4), it is not recorded that He visited its capital, and the disciples were specially enjoined to refrain from preaching the gospel in any city of the Samaritans ( Matthew 10:5). Samaria was itself a beautiful city—one of the cities rebuilt on a magnificent scale by Herod the Great owing to its strategic situation—the population being mixed, half-Greek, half-Samaritan, wholly alien, therefore, in sympathy from the Jews, alike through the Samaritan hostility and the Greek culture. The city of Sychar ( John 4:5), the scene of our Lord’s conversation with the Samaritan woman, is generally identified with the modern ‘Ain ‘Askar , at the foot of Mt. Ebal, about a mile from Nâblus (Shechem). Judaea, with its desolate mountain ranges, was never rich in cities. Jericho lay on its borders, situated in an oasis of remarkable fertility, a city of palms, in striking contrast to the stony and barren region of which it was the gateway. Jericho was rich in the natural wealth of the East, but singularly poor in heroic memories.

But to the Jew the city of cities—the city that symbolized all that was highest alike in his political and religious aspirations—was Jerusalem. Twice in St. Matthew’s Gospel is Jerusalem called ‘the holy city’ ( Matthew 4:5;  Matthew 27:53), and as such it was enshrined in every Jewish heart through the noble poetry of the Psalter. It was the city where God had His chosen seat, and round which clustered the heroic traditions of the Hebrew race—the city, indeed, with which was intertwined the very conception of Judaism as a national religion, for in the Temple of Jerusalem alone could God be worshipped with the rites He had Himself ordained. The cities of Galilee owed their greatness and importance to commercial or political causes. Though some were preponderantly Jewish, and others, such as Tiberias, almost exclusively Gentile, there was yet in them all a mingling of races and a tolerably free and humane intercourse. Samaria was a great Roman stronghold, dominating the main trade-route from Caesarea on the coast to the East. But Jerusalem remained a city of the Jews, cherishing its own ecclesiastical traditions, and holding its patriotic exclusiveness with a narrowness all the greater from the pressure of the Roman subjection. It had almost complete autonomy under the Sanhedrin. Caesarea was the seat of the Roman Procurator, except during the great Jewish feasts, when he found it necessary to reside at Jerusalem to restrain the turbulence of a fanatically patriotic people who were ready to court martyrdom for the national cause. It is perhaps significant, as showing the ecclesiastical character of the population of Jerusalem, that it was a priest and a Levite who first passed the man lying wounded and bleeding on the road to Jericho ( Luke 10:31 f.).

In the time of our Lord, then, the Jews had made the transition from a life mainly pastoral and agricultural to the more advanced life of the city. The Twelve and the Seventy are sent to preach the gospel in cities, and when they are persecuted in one city they are to flee to another ( Matthew 10:1 ff.,  Matthew 10:23,  Luke 10:1). Jesus, after He had given instructions to the Twelve, departs to preach and to teach in their cities ( Matthew 11:1). The conception of the city as the flower and fruit of the highest civilization is emerging, and the civitas Dei is taking the place of the regnum Dei , and thus bringing Hebrew into line with Greek ideals. This fact is very significant for the modern presentation of the gospel. It is sometimes assumed that Christianity is possible only for a primitive community, and many modern ideals of communal life are based on the supposition that the city is wholly an artificial product, and that the way of true progress lies in reverting to village communities. All through the Christian centuries there has been a tendency on the part of many who have felt with singular intensity the influence of Jesus, to seek the cultivation of the Christian life either in isolation or in withdrawing themselves from the strenuous civic activities. The Christian ideal of saintship has been largely that of the cloister. But it is becoming more and more realized that Jesus lived His life in a crowd, that He was so seldom alone that occasions when He sought solitude are specially noted, and that it was the sight of great masses of people that most powerfully touched His emotions ( Matthew 14:14,  Luke 19:41). The gospel of Jesus is essentially a social gospel. Its ideal is a civic ideal. Its precepts have no meaning and no applicability except to those who are living in a community. Its ultimate goal is the ‘holy city, new Jerusalem, descending from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband’ ( Revelation 21:2). The fact is noteworthy as showing the place and influence of Christianity in the natural evolution of humanity. For the history of civilization is the history of cities. Babylon, Nineveh, Jerusalem, Athens, Rome, Alexandria, Venice, Florence, and the mediaeval cities all mark stages in the development of the higher culture of the race. The modern city, indeed, still lacks its raison d’être . It is as yet a huge amorphous entity, presenting problems which, so far from finding solution, are only now beginning to be fully faced. And the supreme test of the Divine power of the religion of Jesus in our day will lie in its capability of giving to the city rational meaning, of transmuting the blind force of economic pressure to the law of reciprocal harmony, of so applying the principles of the gospel to the marvellous complexities of our civic life as to educe the noblest faculties of the individual while securing the unity of communal existence.

Literature.—Schürer, HJ P [Note: JP History of the Jewish People.] ii. i. 154 ff., 160 f.; G. A. Smith, HGH L [Note: GHL Historical Geog. of Holy Land.] pp. 420–435; Fairbairn, City of God , pp. 349–370; Westcott, Hebrews , pp. 386–389.

A. Miller.

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [3]

CITY . The surprisingly large number of places in the ‘least of all lands’ which receive in Scripture the honourable designation of ‘city’ is in itself evidence that the OT ‘cities,’ like the NT ‘ships,’ must not be measured by modern standards. The recent excavations in Palestine have confirmed this conclusion. In his recent work, Canaan d’après l’exploration récente (1907), the Dominican scholar, Father Vincent, has prepared plans on a uniform scale of the various sites excavated (see op. cit. 27 ff. with plate). From these the modest proportions of an ancient Canaanite or Hebrew city may be best realized. The area of Lachish, for example, did not exceed 15 acres; Taanach and Megiddo each occupied from 12 to 13 acres an area about equal to the probable extent of the Jehusite city on Ophel captured by David (  2 Samuel 5:6 ff.). Gezer, at the time of its greatest expansion, did not exceed 23 acres, or thereby, the circuit of its outer wall being only 1500 yards, about 1 / 3 of the extent of the present wall of Jerusalem.

With the exception of cities on the sea-board, the situation of the Canaanite city was determined, as elsewhere in that old world, by two supreme considerations the presence of an adequate water-supply and the capability of easy defence against the enemy. ‘The cities of Canaan,’ says Vincent, ‘were almost invariably perched upon a projecting spur of a mountain slope, or upon an isolated eminence in the plain: Megiddo, Gezer, Tell-es-Safy [Gath?] not to mention the hill of the primitive Jerusalem are characteristic examples of the former site, Taanach and Lachish of the latter.’ With this well-known fact agrees the mention of the ‘cities on their mounds’ ( Joshua 11:13 RV [Note: Revised Version.] ,   Jeremiah 30:18 RVm [Note: Revised Version margin.] [Heb. tillîm , the Arabic tell , now so common in the topographical nomenclature of Western Asia]).

The relation between the city and the dependent villages was regarded as that of a mother ( 2 Samuel 20:19 ‘a mother in Israel’) and her daughters, a point lost in our rendering ‘villages’ ( e.g.   Joshua 15:32;   Joshua 15:36;   Joshua 15:41 and passim ), though noted in the margins. From these the city was outwardly distinguished by its massive walls (cf.   Numbers 13:28 ,   Deuteronomy 1:28 ‘walled up to heaven’), on the construction of which recent excavation has thrown a flood of new light (see Fortification). Close to, if not actually upon, the walls, houses were sometimes built, as we learn from   Joshua 2:15 (cf.   2 Corinthians 11:33 ).

The streets are now seen to have been exceedingly narrow and to have been laid out on no definite plan, ‘a maze of narrow crooked causeways and blind alleys,’ as at Gezer. Only at the intersection of the more important streets, and especially near the city gates, were broad places (  Jeremiah 5:1 ,   Nehemiah 8:1;   Nehemiah 8:3;   Nehemiah 8:16 RV [Note: Revised Version.] where AV [Note: Authorized Version.] , as often, has ‘streets’) the markets (  Matthew 11:16 ,   Luke 11:43 ) and market-places (  Matthew 20:3 ,   Luke 7:32 ) of NT where the citizens met to discuss public affairs, the children to play, and the elders to dispense justice. The importance of the gates , which were closed at nightfall (  Joshua 2:5 ), is treated of in art. Fortification and Sieoecraft, § 5. During the night the watchmen mounted guard on the ramparts, or went ‘about the city’ (  Song of Solomon 3:3 ,   Isaiah 62:6; cf.   Psalms 127:1 ). A feature of an Eastern city in ancient as in modern times was the aggregation in a particular street or streets of representatives of the same craft or occupation, from which the name of the street or quarter was derived (see Arts and Crafts, § 10 ).

The houses were absurdly small to Western ideas (see House), for the city folk lived their life in the courts and streets, retiring to their houses mainly to eat and sleep. Every city of any importance, and in particular every royal city, had its castle , citadel, or acropolis, as the excavations show, to which the inhabitants might flee as a last defence. Such was the ‘ strong tower within the city’ of Thebez (  Judges 9:51 ). Indeed the common term for city ( ‘ir ) is often used in this restricted sense; thus the ‘ stronghold of Zion’ is re-named ‘David’s castle’ or citadel (  2 Samuel 5:7 , AV [Note: Authorized Version.] ‘city of David’), and the ‘city of waters’ (  2 Samuel 12:27 ) at Rabbath-ammon is really the ‘water fort.’

As regards the water-supply , it was essential, as we have seen, to have one or more springs in the immediate vicinity, to which ‘at the time of evening’ (  Genesis 24:11 ) the city maidens went forth to draw (see Well). Against the long rainless summer, and especially against the oft-recurring cases of siege, it was not less necessary that the city should be provided with open pools and covered cisterns for the storage of water. Mesha, king of Moab, tells in his famous inscription how, as there was ‘no cistern in the midst of’ a certain city, he ‘said to all the people: make you each a cistern in his house’ (cf. Cistern).

In the internal affairs of the city the king in Canaanite days was supreme. Under the Hebrew monarchy and later, law and justice were in the hands of ‘the elders of the city’ (  Deuteronomy 19:12;   Deuteronomy 21:3 ff.,   Ruth 4:2 etc.). In addition to freemen, possessing the full rights of citizenship the ‘men of the city’ par excellence with their wives and children, the population will have included many slaves, mostly captives of war, and a sprinkling of sojourners and passing strangers (see Stranger).

No city, finally, was without its sanctuary or high place , either within its own precincts, as in most cities of note (see High Place), or on an adjoining height (  1 Samuel 9:12 ff.). With due religious rites, too, the city had been founded in far-off Canaanite, or even, as we now know, in pre-Canaanite days, when the foundation sacrifice claimed its human victim (see House, § 3 ). A survival of this wide-spread custom is almost certainly to be recognized in connexion with the rebuilding of Jericho, the foundation of which was laid by Hiel the Bethelite, ‘with the loss of Abiram his first born,’ and whose gates were set up ‘with the loss of’ his youngest son, Segub (  1 Kings 16:34 RV [Note: Revised Version.] ).

A. R. S. Kennedy.

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [4]

Cain first founded one ( Genesis 4:16-17). The material civilization of the Cainite race was superior to that of the Sethite. To the former belonged many inventions of useful arts and luxury ( Genesis 4:20-22). Real refinement and moral civilization are by no means necessary concomitants of material civilization; in these the Sethites took the lead ( Genesis 4:25-26). The distinction between tent or nomadic and town life early began. The root meaning of the Hebrew terms for "city," 'Ar or 'Ir (from 'Ur "to keep watch"), and Kirat (from Qarah "to approach as an enemy,"  Genesis 23:2) implies that a leading object of gathering into towns was security against marauders.

So, "the tower of Edar," i.e. flocks ( Genesis 35:21). Of course, the first "cities" would be mere groups of rude dwellings, fenced round together. Sir H. Rawlinson supposes Rehoboth, Calah, etc., in  Genesis 10:11, denote only sites of buildings afterward erected. The later dates assigned to the building of Nineveh, Babylon, etc., refer to their being rebuilt on a larger scale on the sites of the primitive towns. Unwalled towns are the symbol of peace and security ( Zechariah 2:4). Special cities furnished supplies for the king's service ( 1 Kings 9:19;  1 Kings 4:7;  1 Chronicles 27:25;  2 Chronicles 17:12). So, our Lord represents the different servants having the number of cities assigned them in proportion to their faithfulness ( Luke 19:17;  Luke 19:19).

Forty-eight cities were assigned to the Levites, of which 13 were for the family of Aaron, nine were in Judah, four were in Benjamin, and six were cities of refuge. The streets of eastern cities are generally narrow, seldom allowing more than two loaded camels to pass one another. But Nineveh's admitted of chariots passing, and had large parks and gardens within ( Nahum 2:4). Those of one trade generally lived on the same street ( Jeremiah 37:21). The Gates are the usual place of assembly, and there courts of judges and kings are held ( Genesis 23:10;  Ruth 4:1).

Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words [5]

‛Iyr ( עָיַר , Strong'S #5892), “city; town; village; quarter [of a city].” Cognates of this word appear in Ugaritic, Phoenician, Sumerian, and old Arabic. This noun occurs about 1,092 times and in every period of biblical Hebrew.The word suggests a “village.” An unwalled village is represented by the Hebrew word chatser .— Qiryat ,—a synonym of ‛ı̂yr is an Aramaic loanword.

But ‛ı̂yr and its synonym do not necessarily suggest a walled city. This usage is seen in Deut. 3:5, where ‛ı̂yr may be a city standing in the open country (perhaps surrounded by dirt or stone ramparts for protection): “All these cities were fenced with high walls, gates, and bars; beside unwalled towns a great many.” A comparison of Lev. 25:29 and Lev. 25:31 shows that ‛ı̂yr can be used as synonym of chatser  :—“And if a man sell a dwelling house in a walled city, then he may redeem it within a whole year after it is sold; … but the houses of the villages [ chatser ] which have no wall round about them shall be counted as the fields of the country.…”

‛Iyr can signify not only a “village consisting of permanent houses” but also one in a permanent place, even though the dwellings are tents: “And Saul came to a city —of Amalek, and laid wait in the valley” (1 Sam. 15:5).

In Gen. 4:17 (the first occurrence), the word ‛ı̂yr means a “permanent dwelling center” consisting of residences of stone and clay. As a rule, there are no political overtones to the word; ‛ı̂yr simply represents the “place where people dwell on a permanent basis.” At some points, however, ‛ı̂yr represents a political entity (1 Sam. 15:5; 30:29).

This word can represent “those who live in a given town”: “And when he came, lo, Eli sat upon a seat by the wayside watching: for his heart trembled for the ark of God. And when the man came into the city, and told it, all the city —cried out” (1 Sam. 4:13).

‛Iyr can also signify only “a part of a city,” such as a part that is surrounded by a wall: “Nevertheless David took the stronghold of Zion: the same is the city of David” (2 Sam. 5:7). Ancient cities (especially larger ones) were sometimes divided into sections (quarters) by walls, in order to make it more difficult to capture them. This suggests that, by the time of the statement just cited, ‛ı̂yr normally implied a “walled city.”

Easton's Bible Dictionary [6]

 Genesis 4:17 Numbers 13:22 Exodus 1:11 Genesis 46:34 47:1-11 Numbers 21:21,32,33,35 32:1-3,34-42 Deuteronomy 3:4,5,14 1 Kings 4:13 Joshua 12

A fenced city was a city surrounded by fortifications and high walls, with watch-towers upon them ( 2 Chronicles 11:11;  Deuteronomy 3:5 ). There was also within the city generally a tower to which the citizens might flee when danger threatened them ( Judges 9:46-52 ).

A city with suburbs was a city surrounded with open pasture-grounds, such as the forty-eight cities which were given to the Levites ( Numbers 35:2-7 ). There were six cities of refuge, three on each side of Jordan, namely, Kadesh, Shechem, Hebron, on the west of Jordan; and on the east, Bezer, Ramoth-gilead, and Golan. The cities on each side of the river were nearly opposite each other. The regulations concerning these cities are given in  Numbers 35:9-34;  Deuteronomy 19:1-13;  Exodus 21:12-14 .

When David reduced the fortress of the Jebusites which stood on Mount Zion, he built on the site of it a palace and a city, which he called by his own name ( 1 Chronicles 11:5 ), the city of David. Bethlehem is also so called as being David's native town ( Luke 2:4 ).

Jerusalem is called the Holy City, the holiness of the temple being regarded as extending in some measure over the whole city ( Nehemiah 11:1 ).

Pithom and Raamses, built by the Israelites as "treasure cities," were not places where royal treasures were kept, but were fortified towns where merchants might store their goods and transact their business in safety, or cities in which munitions of war were stored. (See PITHOM .)

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [7]

The towns and cities of Palestine were commonly built on heights, for better security against robbers or invaders. These heights, surrounded by walls, sometimes formed the entire city. In other cases, the citadel alone crowned the hill, around and at the base of which the town was built; and in time of danger the surrounding population all took refuge in the fortified place. Larger towns and cities were often not only defended by strong outer walls, with towers and gates, but by a citadel or castle within these limits-a last resort when the rest of the city was taken,  Judges 9:46,51 . The "fenced cities" of the Jews,  Deuteronomy 3:5 , were of various sizes and degrees of strength; some being surrounded by high and thick stone walls, and others by feebler ramparts, often of clay or sun-dried bricks, and sometimes combustible,  Isaiah 9:10   Amos 1:7-14 . They were also provided with watchmen,  Psalm 127:1 Song of   Song of Solomon 5:7 . The streets of ancient towns were usually narrow, and often unpaved. Some cities were adorned with vast parks and gardens; this was the case with Babylon, which embraced an immense at this day to form any reliable estimate of the population of the cities of Judea. Jerusalem is said by Josephus to have had 150,000 inhabitants, and to have contained, at the time of its siege by the Romans, more than a million of persons crowded in its circuit of four miles of wall. See Gate, Refuge, Cities Of, Watchmen

City Of David usually denotes mount Zion, the southwest section of Jerusalem, which David took from the Jebusites, and occupied by a palace and city called by his name. In  Luke 2:11 , Bethlehem his native city is meant.

City Of God  Deuteronomy 12:5   Psalm 46:4 , and the Holy, Holiness City  Nehemiah 11:1 , names of Jerusalem. Its modern name is El-Kuds, the Holy.

Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary [8]

Which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God, ( Hebrews 11:10) I think it not improper to notice this, in a work of this kind, inasmuch as we meet with the expression frequently in Scripture, both in allusion to the church of God upon earth, and the church triumphant in heaven. (See  Psalms 46:4; Psa 48:1; Psa 48:8; Psa 87:3;  Song of Song of Solomon 3:2-3 and also  Hebrews 12:22;  Revelation 3:12; Rev 21:2-10; Rev 22:19) The city of God in his church upon earth, and in heaven, is one and the same. It is peculiarly called his, because he hath founded it and built it, and dwells in it, and is the governor of it, and grants to the citizens the privileges and immunities of it. It is the Lord's property both by purchase, and by conquest, and he hath the whole revenue of it. And hence, all the inhabitants of this city are, in heart and mind, one and the same. For though the church here below is in a militant state, and the church above, freed from this warfare, is triumphant, yet, equally dear are the citizens of both to the Lord of the country. They all speak the same language, all wear the same garment, Christ's righteousness, all love the same Lord, and his Zion, and prefer her interests above their chief joy. ( Psalms 137:6) Reader, what saith your heart to those characters? (See that Scripture,  Revelation 22:14-15)

Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words [9]

1: Πόλις (Strong'S #4172 — Noun Feminine — polis — pol'-is )

primarily "a town enclosed with a wall" (perhaps from a root ple---, signifying "fullness," whence also the Latin pleo, "to fill," Eng., "polite, polish, politic, etc."), is used also of the heavenly Jerusalem, the abode and community of the redeemed,  Hebrews 11:10,16;  12:22;  13:14 . In the Apocalypse it signifies the visible capital of the Heavenly Kingdom, as destined to descend to earth in a coming age, e.g.,  Revelation 3:12;  21:2,14,19 . By metonymy the word stands for the inhabitants, as in the English use, e.g.,  Matthew 8:34;  12:25;  21:10;  Mark 1:33;  Acts 13:44 .

 Acts 16:13

Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types [10]

 Proverbs 25:28 (a) The Christian is compared to a city filled with treasures, jewels and valuables. His treasures are patience, love, peace, zeal, et cetera, which, unless guarded, will be taken from him by critics, enemies, fault-finders and gossips.

 Revelation 18:10 (a) This city is a figure of the religious-political groups of earth which build huge buildings, manifest outward piety, have a mixture of Christian doctrines with heathen practices. This "city" is engaged in the business of buying and selling every kind of merchandise, and ruling in the affairs of men. Their merchandise includes the bodies and the souls of men (  Revelation 18:13 margin). GOD is telling us here that He will visit such religious movements in judgment, and will pour out His wrath upon them. This "city" is said to be decked or guilded with gold, whereas GOD's true city is said to be pure gold. (Compare  Revelation 18:16 with  Revelation 21:18).

King James Dictionary [11]

CITY, n.

1. In a general sense, a large town a large number of houses and inhabitants, established in one place. 2. In a more appropriate sense, a corporate town a town or collective body of inhabitants, incorporated and governed by particular officers, as a mayor and aldermen. This is the sense of the word in the United States. In Great Britain, a city is said to be a town corporate that has a bishop and a cathedral church but this is not always the fact. 3. The collective body of citizens, or the inhabitants of a city as when we say, the city voted to establish a market, and the city repealed the vote.

CITY, a. Pertaining to a city as city wives a city feast city manners.

Webster's Dictionary [12]

(1): (n.) A large town.

(2): (n.) A corporate town; in the United States, a town or collective body of inhabitants, incorporated and governed by a mayor and aldermen or a city council consisting of a board of aldermen and a common council; in Great Britain, a town corporate, which is or has been the seat of a bishop, or the capital of his see.

(3): (n.) The collective body of citizens, or inhabitants of a city.

(4): (a.) Of or pertaining to a city.

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [13]

The Hebrews term most frequently thus rendered is עַיר (ir, literally something Raised up, i.e. having walls Reared; or from עוּר , to Keep Guard [Gesenius, Thes. Heb. p. 1004]; Sept. and N.T. Πόλις ), a word of very extensive signification, embracing not only the idea of an encampment, as a nomade hamlet ( Genesis 4:17), but also that of small fortifications, as watch-posts or watch-towers (comp.  Numbers 13:19;  2 Kings 17:9;  Isaiah 1:8), and thence extended to regular towns. Nearly equivalent to this is קַרְיָה ( Kiryah' ) , which, with a few exceptions ( Deuteronomy 2:26;  1 Kings 1:41;  1 Kings 1:45), is found only in the poetic style; and analogous (in sense, as probably also in derivation) to this last is קֶרֶת ( Ke'Reth ) , found only in  Job 29:7;  Proverbs 8:3;  Proverbs 9:3;  Proverbs 9:14;  Proverbs 11:11. The word rendered "city" in  Ruth 3:11, is שִׁעִר ( Sha'Ar ) , properly Gate. (as it is elsewhere rendered), and there means those assembled in The Forum or place of public business at the town gates. The second of these terms (perhaps from קָרָה to Approach as an enemy, or rather [Gesenius, Thes. Heb. p. 1236] To Fortify ) , is often "prefixed to the names of towns on both sides of the Jordan existing before the conquest, as Kirjath-Arba, probably the most ancient name for city, but seldom used in prose as a general name for town (Stanley, Palest. App. § 80). The classification of the human race into dwellers in towns and nomade wanderers ( Genesis 4:20;  Genesis 4:22) seems to be intimated by the etymological sense of both words, Ar, or Ir, and Kirjath, as places of security against an enemy, distinguished from the unwalled village or hamlet, whose resistance is more easily overcome by the marauding tribes of the desert. (See Ir-; See Kirjath).

This distinction is found actually existing in countries, as Persia and Arabia, in which the tent-dwellers are found, like the Rechabites, almost side by side with the dwellers in cities, sometimes even sojourning within them, but not amalgamated with the inhabitants, and in general making the desert their home, and, unlike the Rechabites, robbery their undissembled occupation ( Judges 5:7;  Jeremiah 35:9;  Jeremiah 35:11; see Fraser, Persia, p. 366, 380; Malcolm, Sketches Of Persia, p. 147-156; Burckhardt, Notes On Bedouins, 1, 157; Wellsted, Travels in Arabia, 1, 335; Porter, Damascus, 2, 96, 181, 188; Vaux, Nineveh and Persepolis, c. 2, note A; Layard, Nineveh, 2, 272; Nin. and Bab. p. 141)." (See Village).

1. Towns are a natural result of the aggregative principle in human nature. Necessity led the early races of men to build their towns on lofty spots, where, with the aid of the natural advantages of the ground, they could easily protect themselves against beasts of prey and human foes. A town, and a stronghold or fort, would thus be originally identical. As population increased and agriculture spread, so some degree of security came, which permitted the inhabitants of the castle to diffuse themselves over the hill- side, and take up their abode in the valley, and by the side of the stream that lay nearest their acropolis; still the inhabitants kept at no great distance from the center of strength, in order not to be deprived of its protection. The town, however, would thus be enlarged, and as the necessity for self- defense still existed, so would the place soon be surrounded with walls. Thus there would be outer and inner bulwarks, and in some sort two species of community the townspeople, who tilled the ground and carried on trade, and the soldiers, whose business it was to afford protection: these two, however, in the earliest stages of civilization, were one, the peasant and tradesman taking arms when the town was put in danger.

How early towns were formed cannot be determined by any general principle: they were obviously a work of time. The primary tendency in population was to diffuse itself. Aggregation on particular spots would take place at a later period. When, then, Cain is said to have built a city ( Genesis 4:17), we have evidence which concurs with other intimations to show that it is only a partial history of the first ages that we possess in the records of the book of Genesis. In the time of the Patriarchs we find towns existing in Palestine which were originally surrounded with fortifications, so as to make them "fenced cities." (See below.) In these dwelt the agricultural population, who, by means of these places of strength, defended themselves and their property from the nomad tribes of the neighboring desert, who then, as they do now, lived by plunder. Nor were works of any great strength necessary. In Palestine at the present day, while walls are in most parts an indispensable protection, and agriculture can be advantageously prosecuted only so far as sheltered by a fortified town, erections of a very slight nature are found sufficient for the purpose, the rather because the most favorable localities offer themselves on: all sides, owing to the natural inequality of the ground. Hence we find that hills or eminences were almost invariably chosen as sites for this purpose, a fact which even grew into a proverb "a city upon a hill." (See Hackett's Illustra. of Script. p. 70.)

Of the ancient method of building in towns and cities we have no accurate knowledge, any farther than we may gather information from the ruins which still lie on the soil of Palestine. But these ruins can afford only general notions, as, though they are numerous, and show that the Land of Promise was thickly peopled and highly flourishing in its better days, the actual remains of ancient towns are to be ascribed to different and very distant periods of history. The Crusades left many strongholds which are now in a state of dilapidation; but the Crusades are of modern days compared with the time of the Savior, which itself is remote from the proper antiquity of the nation. The law of sameness, however, which prevails so rigidly in Eastern countries, gives us an assurance that a modern town in Palestine may be roughly taken as a type of its ancient predecessors. (See Olin's Travels, 2, 423.) To distinguish cities that bore the same name, the name of the tribe was added. In "the latter days," especially under the Herods, it was the fashion to give to ancient towns new Greek names, as Diospolis, Neapolis, Sebaste, Cmesarea, Tiberias. Jerusalem, at a later period, was denominated AElia Capitolina. These innovations indicated the slavish disposition of the age, and were tokens of the bondage in which the nation was held.

Palestine underwent constant changes in regard to its towns from the earliest ages; one consequence of which is, that there are names of towns that belong exclusively to certain eras. The period of the Roman domination gave existence, as to structures of great splendor, so to many towns and fortified places. Galilee was especially rich in towns and villages, which, according to Josephus (Life, 45), amounted in all to the number of 204. The names of the. Palestinian cities, for the most part, have meaning, reference being made to the nature of the locality or the character of the inhabitants. The population of towns cannot now be ascertained with any degree of accuracy, for the materials are not only scanty and disconnected, but in a measure uncertain. (See Census).

2. The earliest notice in Scripture of city-building is of that of the city called Enoch (q.v.) by Cain, in the land of his "exile" ( Nod,  Genesis 4:17). After the confusion of tongues, the descendants of Nimrod founded Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar; and Asshur, a branch from the same stock, built Nineveh, Rehoboth-by-the-river, Calah, and Resen, the last being "a great city." A subsequent passage mentions Sidon, Gaza, Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboim, and Lasha, as cities of the Canaanites, but without implying for them antiquity equal to that of Nineveh and the rest ( Genesis 10:10-12;  Genesis 10:19;  Genesis 11:3;  Genesis 11:9;  Genesis 36:37). Sir H. Rawlinson supposes, (1.) that the expedition of Chedorlaomer (Genesis 14) was prior to the building of Babylon or Nineveh, indicating a migration or conquest from Persia or Assyria; (2.) that by Nimrod is to be understood, not an individual, but a name denoting the "settlers" in the Assyrian plain; and (3.) that the names Rehoboth, Calah, etc., when first mentioned, only denoted sites of buildings afterwards erected. He supposes that Nineveh was built about B.C. 1250, and Calah about a century later, while Babylon appears to have existed in the 15th century B.C.

If this be correct, We must infer that the places then attacked, Sodom, Gomorrah, etc., were cities of higher antiquity than Nineveh or Babylon, inasmuch as when they were destroyed a few years later they were cities in every sense of the term. The name Kirjathaim, "double city" (Gesenius, Thesaur. Heb. p. 1236), indicates an existing city, and not a site only. It may be added that the remains of civic buildings existing in Moab are evidently very ancient, if not, in some cases, the same as those erected by the aboriginal Emim and Rephaim. (Compare also the name Avith, "ruins," Gesenius, ib. p. 1000;  Genesis 19:1;  Genesis 19:29;  Genesis 36:35;  Isaiah 23:13; see Wilkinson, Anc. Egypt. 1, 308; Layard, Nin. And Bab. p. 532; Porter, Damascus, 1, 309; 2:196; Rawlinson, Outlines of Assyr. Hist. p. 4, 5.) But though it appears probable that, whatever dates maybe assigned to the building of Babylon or Nineveh in their later condition, they were in fact rebuilt at those epochs, and not founded for the first time, and that towns in some form or other may have occupied the sites of the later Nineveh or Calah; it is quite clear that cities existed in Syria prior to the time of Abraham, who himself came from "Ur," the "city" of the Chaldaeans (Gesenius, ib. p. 55; Rawlinson, p. 4).

The earliest description of a city, properly so called, is that of Sodom ( Genesis 19:1-22); but it is certain that from very early times cities existed on the sites of Jerusalem, Hebron, and Damascus. The last, said to be the oldest city in the world, must, from its unrivalled situation, have always commanded a congregated population; Hebron is said to have been built seven years before Zoan (Tanis) in Egypt, and is thus the only Syrian town which presents the elements of a date for its foundation ( Numbers 13:22; see Stanley, Palest. p. 409; Josephus, Ant. 1, 6, 4; Conybeare and Howson, St. Paul, 1, 94, 96). But there can be no doubt that, whatever date may be given to Egyptian civilization, there were inhabited cities in Egypt long before this ( Genesis 12:14-15; see Martineau, Eastern Life, 1, 151; Wilkinson, 1:307; Smith, Dict. of Class. Geog. s.v. Tanis). The name, however, of Hebron, Kirjath-Arba, indicates its existence at least as early as the time of Abraham, as the city, or fortified place of Arba, an aboriginal province of Southern Palestine ( Genesis 23:2;  Joshua 14:15). The "tower of Edar," near Bethlehem, or "of flocks," indicates a position fortified against marauders ( Genesis 35:21). Whether "the city of Shalem" be a site or an existing town cannot be determined; but there can be no doubt that the situation of Shechem is as well identified in the present day, as its importance as a fortified place is plain from the Scripture narrative ( Genesis 33:18;  Genesis 34:20;  Genesis 34:26; see Robinson, 3, 114). On the whole, it seems plain that the Canaanite, who was "in the land" before the coming of Abraham, had already built cities of more or less importance, which had been largely increased. by the time of the return from Egypt. Even before the time of Abraham there were cities in Egypt ( Genesis 12:14-15;  Numbers 13:22; see Wilkinson, 1:4, 5).

The Israelites, during their sojourn there, were employed in building or fortifying the "treasure cities" of Pithom (Abbasieh) and Raamses ( Exodus 1:11; Herod. 2:158; see Robinson, 1:79); but their pastoral habits make it unlikely that they should build, still less fortify, cities of their own in Goshen ( Genesis 46:34;  Genesis 47:1-11). Meanwhile the settled inhabitants of Syria on both sides of the Jordan had grown in power, and in number of "fenced cities." In the kingdom of Sihon are many names of cities preserved to the present day; and in the kingdom of Og, in Bashan, were sixty "great cities with walls and brazen bars," besides unwalled villages; and also twenty-three cities in Gilead, which were occupied, and perhaps partly rebuilt or fortified, by the tribes on the east of Jordan ( Numbers 21:21;  Numbers 21:32-33;  Numbers 21:35;  Numbers 32:1-3;  Numbers 32:34;  Numbers 32:42;  Deuteronomy 3:4-5;  Deuteronomy 3:14; Joshua 11, 13;  1 Kings 4:13;  1 Chronicles 2:22; see Burckhardt, Syria, p. 311, 457; Porter, Damascus, 2, 195, 196, 206, 259, 275). On the west of Jordan, whilst 31 "royal" cities are enumerated (Joshua 12), in the district assigned to Judah 125 "cities" with villages are reckoned (Joshua 15); in Benjamin, 26; to Simeon, 17; Zebulun, 12; Issachar, 16; Asher, 22; Naphtali. 19; Daniel 17 (Joshua 18, 19). But from some of these the possessors were not expelled till a late period, and Jerusalem itself was not captured till the time of David ( 2 Samuel 5:6-9). From this time the Hebrews became a city-swelling and agricultural rather than a pastoral people. David enlarged Jerusalem; and Solomon, besides embellishing his capital, also built or rebuilt Tadmor, Palmnyra, Gezer, Beth-horon, Hazor, and Megiddo, besides storecities ( 2 Samuel 5:7;  2 Samuel 5:9-10;  1 Kings 9:15-18;  2 Chronicles 8:6). To Solomon also is ascribed by Eastern tradition the building of Persepolis (Chardin, Voyage, 8, 390; Mandelslo, 1:4; Kuran, c. 38). The works of Jeroboam at Shechem ( 1 Kings 12:25;  Judges 9:45), of Rehoboam ( 2 Chronicles 11:5-10), of Baasha at Rama, interrupted by Asa ( 1 Kings 15:17;  1 Kings 15:22), of Omri at Samaria (16, 24), the rebuilding of Jericho in the time of Ahab (16, 34), the works of Jehoshaphat ( 2 Chronicles 17:12), of Jotham ( 2 Chronicles 27:4), the rebuilding of Jerusalem, and, later still, the works of Herod and his family, belong to their respective articles.

3. Collections of houses in Syria for social habitation may be classed under three heads: (1.) cities; (2.) towns, with citadels or towers for resort and defense; (3.) unwalled villages. The cities may be assumed to have been in almost all cases "fenced cities," i.e. possessing a wall with towers and gates ( Leviticus 25:29;  Deuteronomy 9:1;  Joshua 2:15;  Joshua 6:20;  1 Samuel 23:7;  1 Kings 4:13;  2 Kings 6:26;  2 Kings 7:3;  2 Kings 18:8;  2 Kings 18:13;  Acts 9:25); and that, as a mark of conquest was to break down a portion at least of the city wall of the captured place, so the first care of the defenders, as of the Jews after their return from captivity, was to re. build the fortifications ( 2 Kings 14:13;  2 Kings 14:22;  2 Chronicles 26:2;  2 Chronicles 26:6;  2 Chronicles 33:14; Nehemiah 3, 4, 6, 7;  1 Maccabees 4:60-61;  1 Maccabees 10:45; Xen. Hell. 2, 2, 15). But around the city, especially in peaceable times, lay undefended suburbs ( 1 Chronicles 6:57 sq.;  Numbers 35:1-5; Joshua 21), to which the privileges of the city extended. (See below.) The city thus became the citadel, while the population overflowed into the suburbs ( 1 Maccabees 11:61). The absence of walls as indicating security in peaceable times, combined with populousness, as was the case in the flourishing period of Egypt, is illustrated by the prophet Zechariah ( Zechariah 2:4;  1 Kings 4:25; see Martineau, East. Life, 1, 306).

According to Eastern custom, special cities were appointed to furnish special supplies for the service of the state: cities of store, for chariots, for horsemen, for building purposes, for provision for the royal table. Special governors for these and their surrounding districts were appointed by David and Solomon ( 1 Kings 4:7;  1 Kings 9:19;  1 Chronicles 27:25;  2 Chronicles 17:12;  2 Chronicles 21:3;  1 Maccabees 10:39; Xen. Anab. 1, 4, 10). To this practice our Lord alludes in his parable of the pounds, and it agrees with the theory of Hindoo government, which was to be conducted by lords of single townships, of 10, 100, or 1000 towns ( Luke 19:17;  Luke 19:19; see Elphinstone, India, ch. 2, 1, 39, and App. 5, p. 485). To the Levites 48 cities were assigned, distributed throughout the country, together with a certain amount of suburban ground, and out of these 48, 13 were specially reserved for the family of Aaron, 9 in Judah and 4 in Benjamin, and 6 as refuge cities ( Joshua 21:13;  Joshua 21:42), but after the division of the kingdoms the Levites in Israel left their cities and resorted to Judah and Jerusalem ( 2 Chronicles 11:13-14). (See below.)

4. The internal government of Jewish cities was vested before the Captivity in a council of elders, with judges, who were required to be priests: Josephus says seven judges, with two Levites as officers, Ὑπηρέται ( Deuteronomy 21:5;  Deuteronomy 21:19;  Deuteronomy 16:18;  Deuteronomy 19:17;  Ruth 4:2, Josephus, Ant. 4, 8,14). Under the kings a president or governor appears to have been appointed ( 1 Kings 22:26;  2 Chronicles 18:25); and judges were sent out on circuit, who referred matters of doubt to a council composed of priests, Levites, and elders at Jerusalem ( 1 Chronicles 23:4;  1 Chronicles 26:29;  2 Chronicles 19:5;  2 Chronicles 19:8;  2 Chronicles 19:10-11). After the Captivity, Ezra made similar arrangements for the appointment of judges ( Ezra 7:25). In the time of Josephus there appear to have been councils in the provincial towns, with presidents in each, under the directions of the great council at Jerusalem (Josephus, Ant. 14, 9, 4; War, 2, 21, 3; Life, 12, 13, 27, 34, 57, 61, 68, 74). (See Sanhedrim).

In many Eastern cities much space is occupied by gardens, and thus the size of the cities is much increased (Niebuhr, Voyage, 2, 172, 239; Conybeare and Howson, 1:96; Eothen, p. 240). The vast extent of Nineveh and of Babylon may thus be in part accounted for (Diod. 2:70; Quint. Curt. 5, 1, 26;  Jonah 4:11; see Chardin, Voy. 7:273, 284; Porter, Damascus, 1, 153; P. della Valle, 2:33). In most Oriental cities the streets are extremely narrow, seldom allowing more than two loaded camels, or one camel and two foot passengers to pass each other, though it is clear that some of the streets of Nineveh must have been wide enough for chariots to pass each other ( Nahum 2:4; see Olearius, Tray. p. 294, 309; Burckhardt, Trav. In Arabia, 1, 188; Buckingham, Arab Tribes, p. 330; Mrs. Poole, Englishwoman In Egypt, 1, 141). The word for "streets" used by Nahum ( רְהֹבוֹת , from רָהִב , Broad, Πλατεῖαι ) is used also of streets or broad places in Jerusalem ( Proverbs 1:20;  Jeremiah 5:1;  Jeremiah 22:4;  Song of Solomon 3:2); and it may be remarked that the thoroughfares ( Πλατεῖαι ) into which the sick were brought to receive the shadow of Peter ( Acts 5:15) were more likely to be the ordinary streets than the special Plazze of the city. It seems likely that the immense concourse which resorted to Jerusalem at the feasts would induce wider streets than in other cities (see  1 Kings 20:34). Herod built in Antioch a wide street paved with stone, and having covered ways on each side. Agrippa II paved Jerusalem with white stone (Josephus, Ant. 16, 5, 2 and 3; 20:9, 7). The streets of most cities of Palestine would not need paving, in consequence of the rocky nature of the foundations on which they lay. The Straight Street of Damascus is still clearly defined and recognizable (Irby and Mangles, v. 86; Robinson, new ed. of Res. 3. 454, 455). In building Caesarea, Josephus says that Herod was careful to carry out the drainage effectually (Josephus, Ant. 15, 9, 6). The internal commerce of Jewish'cities was probably carried on as now by means of bazaars (q.v.); for we read of the bakers' street ( Jeremiah 37:21), and Josephus speaks of the wool market, the hardware market, a place of blacksmiths' shops, and the clothes market, at Jerusalem (War, 5, 8, 1). (See Street).

The open spaces ( Πλατεῖαι ) near the gates of towns were in ancient times, as they are still, used as places of assembly by the elders, of holding courts by kings and judges, and of general resort by citizens ( Genesis 23:10;  Ruth 4:1;  2 Samuel 15:2;  2 Samuel 18:24;  2 Samuel 21:12;  2 Kings 7:1;  2 Kings 7:3;  2 Kings 7:20;  2 Chronicles 18:9;  2 Chronicles 32:6;  Nehemiah 8:1;  Nehemiah 8:13;  Nehemiah 8:16;  Job 29:7;  Jeremiah 17:19;  Matthew 6:5;  Luke 13:26). They were also used as places of public exposure by way of punishment ( Jeremiah 20:2;  Amos 5:10). (See Gate). Prisons were, under the kingly government, within the royal precinct ( Genesis 39:20;  1 Kings 22:27;  Jeremiah 32:2;  Nehemiah 3:25;  Acts 21:34;  Acts 23:35).

Great pains were taken to supply Jerusalem with water, both by tanks and cisterns for rain-water, and by reservoirs supplied by aqueducts from distant springs. Such was the fountain of Gihon, the aqueduct of Hezekiah ( 2 Kings 20:20;  2 Chronicles 32:30;  Isaiah 22:9), and of Solomon ( Ecclesiastes 2:6), of which last water is still conveyed from near Bethlehem to Jerusalem (Maundrell, in Bohn's ed. of Early Trav. p. 457; Robinson, 1:514 sq.; Olin, 2:119 sq.). Josephus also mentions an attempt made by Pilate to bring water to Jerusalem (Ant. 18, 3, 2). (See Conduit). Other cities appear to have been mostly contented with the fountains whose existence had probably led to their formation at the first. (See Water).

Burial-places, except in special cases, were outside the city ( Numbers 19:11;  Numbers 19:16;  Matthew 8:28;  Luke 7:12;  John 19:41;  Hebrews 13:12). (See Grave).

5. A city and its inhabitants are frequently described in the sacred writings under the similitude of a mother and her children; hence the phrase "Children of Zion" ( Joel 2:23). Cities are also characterized as virgins, wives, widows, and harlots, according to their different conditions. Thus Jerusalem is called a virgin ( Isaiah 37:22); and the term harlot is used of Jerusalem ( Isaiah 1:21), also of Tyre ( Isaiah 23:16), of Nineveh ( Nahum 3:4), and of Samaria ( Ezekiel 23:5).

Fenced City (seldom simply מְצוּרָה , Metsurah', a Mound or intrenchment of besiegers; "mount,"  Isaiah 29:3; "munition,"  Nahum 2:1), a town with walls of fortification ( 2 Chronicles 11:11; oftener with עָרֵי , cities Of,  2 Chronicles 14:5; or both words in the plur.,  2 Chronicles 11:10-11;  2 Chronicles 11:23;  2 Chronicles 12:4;  2 Chronicles 21:3). From the foregoing remarks, it will be understood how the phrases to build a city, and to fortify orfence it, in the Oriental idiom, mean generally the same thing. (See Fortress). The fencing or fortification was usually with high walls, and watch-towers upon them ( Deuteronomy 3:5). (See Fortification). The walls of fortified cities were formed, in part at least, of combustible materials ( Amos 1:7;  Amos 1:10;  Amos 1:14), the gates being covered with thick plates of iron or brass ( Psalms 107:16;  Isaiah 45:2;  Acts 12:10). There was also within the city a citadel or tower, to which the inhabitants fled when the city itself could not be defended ( Judges 9:46-52). They were often upon elevated ground, and were entered by a flight of steps ( 2 Kings 10:2;  Isaiah 36:1). (See Wall).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [14]

sit´i ( עיר , ‛ı̄r , קריה , ḳiryāh  ; πόλις , pólis ):

I. The Canaanite City

1. Origin

2. Extent

3. Villages

4. Sites

5. External Appearance

6. General

II. The City of the Jewish Occupation

1. Tower or Stronghold

2. High Place

3. Broad Place

4. Streets

5. General Characteristics

III. Store Cities

IV. Levitical Cities


I. The Canaanite City

1. Origin

The development of the Canaanite city has been traced by Macalister in his report on the excavation at Gezer ( Palestine Exploration Fund Statement , 1904, 108ff). It originated on the slopes of a bare rocky spur, in which the Neolithic Troglodytes quarried their habitations out of the solid rock, the stones therefrom being used to form a casing to the earthen ramparts, with which the site was afterwards surrounded and which served as a protection against the intrusion of enemies. Later Semitic intruders occupied the site, stone houses were built, and high stone defense walls were substituted for the earthen stone-cased ramparts. These later walls were much higher and stronger than those of the Neilithic occupation and were the walls seen by the Israelites when they viewed the country of their promise.

2. Extent

"The people that dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified, and very great" ( Numbers 13:28 ) was the report of the spies sent by Moses to spy out the land of Canaan, to see "what cities they are that they dwell in, whether in camps, or in strongholds" ( Numbers 13:19 ,  Numbers 13:20 ). The difficulties of the task set before the advancing Israelites and their appreciation of the strength of the cities, is here recorded, and also in  Deuteronomy 1:28 : "The people are greater and taller than we; the cities are great and fortified up to heaven; and moreover we have seen the sons of the Anakim there." This assessment of greatness was based upon comparative ignorance of such fortifications and the want of war experience and the necessary implements of assault. It need not, therefore, be supposed that the cities were "great" except by comparison in the eyes of a tent-dwelling and pastoral people. On the contrary, most recent exploration has proved that they were small (see Père Vincent, Canaan , 27, note 3, and Pl. I, where comparative measurements of the areas of ancient cities show that, in nine cities compared, Tell Sandahannah (barely 6 acres) is the smallest). Gezer measures approximately 22 1/4 acres and Tell el-Hesy somewhat greater. By way of illustration, it is interesting to note that the Acropolis at Athens, roughly computed, measures  Deuteronomy 7:1 /4 acres, while the Castle Rock at Edinburgh is about 6 acres, or the same as the whole Seleucidan city of Tell Sandahannah. The Acropolis at Tell Zakarîya measures about 2 acres or nearly one-fourth of the area of the whole city (about 8 1/2 acres). It is unlikely that Jebus (Jerusalem) itself was an exception, although in Solomonic and later times it extended to a far greater area.

3. Villages

Besides the walled cities there were "unwalled (country) towns a great many" ( Deuteronomy 3:5 ), "villages," unfortified suburbs, lying near to and under the protection of the walled cities and occupied by the surplus population. The almost incredible number of cities and their villages mentioned in the Old Testament, while proving the clannishness of their occupants, proves, at the same time, their comparatively small scale.

4. Sites

Traces of similar populations that rise and fall are seen in China and Japan today. As a little poem says of Karakura:

"Where were palaces and merchants and the blades of warriors,

Now are only the cicadas and waving blades of grass."

"Cities that stood on their mounds" ( Joshua 11:13;  Jeremiah 30:18 ) as at Lachish and Taanach are distinguished from those built on natural hills or spurs of hills, such as Jebus, Gezer, Tell es Sail (Gath?), Bethshemesh (see Vincent, Canaan , 26ff). The Arabic name "Tell" is applied to all mounds of ancient cities, whether situated on a natural eminence or on a plain, and the word is common in the geographical nomenclature of Palestine Sites were chosen near a water supply, which was ever the most essential qualification. For purposes of defense, the nearest knoll or spur was selected. Sometimes these knolls were of no great height and their subsequent elevation is accounted for by the gradual accumulation of débris from town refuse and from frequent demolitions; restoration being effected after a levelng up of the ruins of the razed city (see Fig. 2: Tell el-Hesy, Palestine Exploration Fund , which shows a section of the Tell from which the levels of the successive cities in distinct stratification were recovered). Closely packed houses, in narrow alleys, with low, rude mud, brick, or stone and mud walls, with timber and mud roofs, burned readily and were easily razed to the ground ( Joshua 8:1;  Joshua 11:11 ).

It would seem that, viewed from the outside, these cities had the appearance of isolated forts, the surrounding walls being strengthened at frequent intervals, with towers. The gates were approached by narrow roads, which mounted the slopes of the mound at the meeting-point of the meandering paths on the plain below.

5. External Appearance

The walls of Tell ej-Judeideh were strengthened by towers in the inside, and presented an unbroken circuit of wall to the outside view (see Fig. 4, PEF ). Houses on the wall ( Joshua 2:15;  2 Corinthians 11:33 ) may have been seen from the outside; but it is unlikely that any building within the walls was visible, except possibly the inner tower or stronghold. The whole of the interior of the early Jerusalem (Jebus) was visible from the hills to the East, but this peculiarity of position is uncommon. Strong and high walls, garrisoned by men-at-arms seen only through the battlements, showed no weakness, and the gates, with their narrow and steep approaches and projecting defense towers, looked uninviting traps. The mystery of these unseen interiors could therefore be easily conjured into an exaggeration of strength.

6. General

The inhabitants of the villages (בּנות , bānōth , "daughters,"  Numbers 32:42 margin) held feudal occupation and gave service to their lord of the city ( אם , 'ēm , "mother,"  2 Samuel 20:19 ), in defense of their own or in attacks on their neighbor's property. Such were the cities of the truculent, marauding kings of Canaan, whose broken territories lent themselves to the upkeep of a condition, of the weakness of which, the Israelites, in their solid advance, took ready advantage.

II. The City of the Jewish Occupation

After the conquest, and the abandonment of the pastoral life for that of agriculture and general trade, the condition of the cities varied but little, except that they were, from time to time, enlarged and strengthened. Solomon's work at Jerusalem was a step forward, but there is little evidence that, in the other cities which he is credited with having put his hands to, there was any embellishment. Megiddo and Gezer at least show nothing worthy of the name. Greek influence brought with it the first real improvements in city building; and the later work of Herod raised cities to a grandeur which was previously undreamed of among the Jews. Within the walls, the main points considered in the "layout" were, the Tower or Stronghold, the High Place, the Broad Place by the Gate, and the Market-Place.

1. Tower or Stronghold

The Tower or Stronghold was an inner fort which held a garrison and commander, and was provisioned with "victuals, and oil and wine" ( 2 Chronicles 11:11 ), to which the defenders of the city when hard pressed betook themselves, as a last resource. The men of the tower of Shechem held out against Abimelech ( Judges 9:49 ) who was afterward killed by a stone thrown by a woman from the Tower of Thebez "within the city" ( Judges 9:51 ,  Judges 9:53 ). David took the stronghold of Zion, "the same is the city of David" ( 2 Samuel 5:7 ), which name (Zion) was afterward applied to the whole city. It is not unlikely that the king's house was included in the stronghold. Macalister ( Palestine Exploration Fund Statement , 1907, 192ff) reports the discovery of a Canaanite castle with enormously thick walls abutting against the inside of the city wall. The strongholds at Taanach and Tell el-Hesy are similarly placed; and the Acropolis at Tell Zakarîya lies close to, but independent of, the city wall.

2. High Place

The High Place was an important feature in all Canaanite cities and retained its importance long after the conquest ( 1 Samuel 9:12;  1 Kings 3:2;  Amos 7:9 ). It was a sanctuary, where sacrifices were offered and feasts were held, and men did "eat before Yahweh" ( Deuteronomy 14:26 ). The priests, as was their custom, received their portion of the flesh ( 1 Samuel 2:12 ). The High Place discovered at Gezer ( Bible Sidelights , chapter iii) is at a lower level than the city surrounding it, and lies North and South. It is about 100 ft. in length, and when complete consisted of a row of ten rude undressed standing stones, of which eight are still remaining, the largest being 10 ft. 6 inches high, and the others varying to much smaller sizes. See High Place .

3. Broad Place

The Broad Place ( Nehemiah 8:1 ,  Nehemiah 8:3 ,  Nehemiah 8:16;  Jeremiah 5:1 ) seems to have been, usually, immediately inside the city gate. It was not, in early Jewish cities, an extensive open area, but simply a widening of the street, and was designated "broad" by comparison with the neighboring alleys, dignified by the name of street. It took the place of a general exchange. Justice was dispensed (Rth 4:2) and punishment was administered. Jeremiah was put in "the stocks that were in the upper gate of Benjamin" ( Jeremiah 20:2 ), proclamations were read, business was transacted, and the news and gossip of the day were exchanged. It was a place for all classes to congregate ( Job 29:7 m;   Proverbs 31:23 ), and was also a market-place ( 2 Kings 7:1 ). In later times, the market-place became more typically a market square of the Greek agora plan, with an open area surrounded by covered shelters. The present market-place at Haifa resembles this. Probably it was this type of market-place referred to in  Matthew 11:16;  Matthew 20:3 and   Luke 7:32;  Luke 11:43 . The street inside the Damascus gate of Jerusalem today is, in many ways, similar to the Broad Place, and retains many of its ancient uses. Here, Bedouin and Fellahin meet from the outlying districts to barter, to arbitrate, to find debtors and to learn the news of the day. Lying as it did immediately inside the gate, the Broad Place had a defensive value, in that it admitted of concentration against the forcing of the gate. There does not seem to have been any plan of either a Canaanite or early Jewish city, in which this question of defense did not predominate. Open areas within the city were "waste places" ( Isaiah 58:12 ) and were not an integral part of the plan.

4. Streets

The streets serving these quarters were not laid out on any fixed plan. They were, in fact, narrow, unpaved alleys, all seeming of equal importance, gathering themselves crookedly to the various centers. Having fixed the positions of the City Gates, the Stronghold and the High Place, the inhabitants appear to have been allowed to situate themselves the best way they could, without restriction of line or frontage. Houses were of modest proportions and were poorly built; planned, most often, in utter disregard of the square, and presenting to the street more or less dead walls, which were either topped by parapets or covered with projecting wood and mud roofs (see Architecture F ig. 1; House ).

The streets, as in the present day in Palestine,were allocated to separate trades: "bakers' street" ( Jeremiah 37:21 ), place "of the merchants" ( Nehemiah 3:31 ,  Nehemiah 3:32 the King James Version), "goldsmiths," etc. The Valley of the Cheesemakers was a street in the Tyropceon Valley at Jerusalem.

For a discussion of the subject of "cisterns" , see the separate article under the word

5. General Characteristics

The people pursued the industries consequent upon their own self-establishment. Agriculture claimed first place, and was their most highly esteemed occupation. The king's lands were farmed by his subjects for his own benefit, and considerable tracts of lands belonged to the aristocracy. The most of the lands, however, belonged to the cities and villages, and were allotted among the free husbandmen. Various cereals were raised, wheat and barley being most commonly cultivated. The soil was tilled and the crops reaped and threshed in much the same manner and with much the same implements as are now used in Syria. Cities lying in main trade routes developed various industries more quickly than those whose positions were out of touch with foreign traffic. Crafts and trades, unknown to the early Jews, were at first monopolized by foreigners who, as a matter of course, were elbowed out as time progressed. Cities on the seaboard of Phoenicia depended chiefly on maritime trade. Money, in the form of ingots and bars of precious metals, "weighed out" ( 2 Kings 12:11 ), was current in preëxilic times, and continued in use after foreign coinage had been introduced. The first native coinage dates from the Maccabean period (see Madden, Jewish Coinage , chapter iv). Slavery was freely trafficked in, and a certain number of slaves were attached to the households of the more wealthy. Although they were the absolute property of their masters, they enjoyed certain religious privileges not extended to the "sojourners" or "strangers" who sought the protection of the cities, often in considerable numbers.

The king's private property, from which he drew full revenue, lay partly within the city, but to a greater extent beyond it ( 1 Samuel 8:15 ,  1 Samuel 8:16 ). In addition to his private property, he received tithes of fields and flocks, "the tenth part of your seed." He also drew a tax in the shape of certain "king's mowings" ( Amos 7:1 ). Vassal kings, paid tribute; Mesha, king of Moab, rendered wool unto the king of Israel" ( 2 Kings 3:4 ).

See G. A. Smith, Jerusalem , I, chapters v-x, for detailed account of the conditions of Jewish city life. For details of government, see Elder; Judge; Sanhedrin .

III. Store Cities

These were selected by Solomon and set aside for stores of victuals, chariots, horsemen, etc. ( 1 Kings 9:19 ). Jehoshaphat "built in Judah castles and cities of store" ( 2 Chronicles 17:12 ). Twelve officers were appointed by Solomon to provision his household, each officer being responsible for the supply in one month in the year ( 1 Kings 4:7 ). There were also "storehouses in the fields, in the cities, and in the villages" ( 1 Chronicles 27:25 the King James Version).

IV. Levitical Cities

These were apportioned 13 to the children of Aaron, 10 to Kohath, 13 to Gershon, 12 to Merari, 48 cities in all ( Joshua 21:13 ), 6 of which were cities of Refuge ( Numbers 35:6 ); see Refuge , Cities Of . For further details see Architecture; House .


PEFS  ; Bliss and Dickie, Excavations at Jerusalem  ; Macalister, Excavation at Gezer  ; Bliss and Macalister, Excavations in Palestine  ; Sellin, Excavation at Taanach  ; Schumacher, Excavation at Tell Mutesellim  ; Macalister, Bible Sidelights  ; G. A. Smith, Jerusalem  ; Historical Geography of the Holy Land  ; Bliss, Mounds of Many Cities  ; Vincent, Canaan .