Gates, Cities And Daughters

IN the Bible we often come across a reference to "The Daughters of..." Quite often this is confused as to what it really means. When this appears next to a persons name it refers to thier offspring, however when it appears next to a place name, the daughters are simply referring to the people of the outlying settlements and villages outside the city walls and is not gender specific. Lets have a look why.

Cities in Biblical times only housed the well off and influential people and contained all the important government buildings, markets and palaces. Normally between 10% and 20% of the population were contained within the walls, with only a gate or two to enter through.

The word Iria or Iriah is a feminine word meaning municipality, so the walls which surround the "mother city" are referred to as skirts. This is where the daughters come in, as the smaller settlements housing the poor and working class are seen as the daughters clinging on to the skirts of the mother city.

This is where we also get the English word "outskirts" from, meaning those which live outside the skirted city wall. We tend to miss this obvious meaning as we no longer have to have walls around our cities to protect us from invading armies and all towns and cities are no longer the exclusivity for the middle and upper classes, as we see plenty of slums and poor people living within our cities.

Psalm 48:11 in King James Let mount Zion rejoice, let the daughters of Judah be glad, because of thy judgments.

This is correctly translated in other versions such as the NIV to villages of Judah.

One verse which is often confused is inMark chapter 28, Jesus is referring to the poor, not the women.

27 And there followed him a great company of people, and of women, which also bewailed and lamented him.
28 But Jesus turning unto them said, Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children.

Other interesting points of life at that time go some way to understanding the scriptures. The gates to the cities were more than just gates, for starters they were well defended and also contained judges chambers, the judges would literally sit at the entrance of the gate deciding who would be allowed in and if they had to pay any taxes etc on goods they are brining in. It would almost be impossible for people of daughter settlements to enter the city unless they were invited to or had legitimate business.

King Solomon always had his gates with 3 chambers on each side ,such as the gate at Gezer West of Jerusalem a minimum of 3 judges sat at gate at all time to avoid a split decision, larger cities had more than 3 sitting at one time.

So now when we read passages such as Genesis 19:1 The two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom.

We should understand this better. Lot was not simply sitting there doing nothing, Lot had managed to gain a position of power in the city, he was sitting at the gate as a judge.

Proverbs 31:31 Which talks about the virtuous wife, that she "is esteemed at the gate" means she is wise and her judgement is valued. s

The poor would work the land and be allowed to store thier produce inside the city walls with promise of protection inside the walls. This of course led to huge injustice , when a hostile army approached, the gate would be sealed and shut with prospect of a long siege, if you were a ruler of the city, would you allow the 80% or more of the rest of your population in? just letting one family into the city would mean a few less days food and water to survive a siege. The daughters were not important to rulers as they had no influence what so ever over thier rule, so there was no political reason to allow them into the city, instead they had to fend for themselves. Often they were used as a tribute payment to an invading army, "here take our wealth and our poor people for slaves and leave us alone".

This is an important theological point, once people had kings, God raised up prophets to remind the kings not to forget the daughters and to protect them. Today our church should also play the same roll, to remind the governments not to forget the poor.

King Hezekiah was one of the few good kings who did not neglect the daughters of Jerusalem. In 2 Chronicles 30 King Hezekiah invites all the daughters of Israel to flee to Judah. Bible does not tell us if they came , however archaeology has shown that Jerusalem grew 10 times in size during the reign of Hezekiah and new villages sprung up around the city during this period . King Hezekiah tried to fit as many of the daughters inside the city as possible, he even had a wells and water systems built to accommodate the people. Look up Hezekiah's tunnel for more info. This is also a good indication to where all the so called missing tribes ended up, they all came to Jerusalem during Hezekiah s reign.

Well I could go on , but I think this is enough to get your teeth into. Anyway I hope this has whetted someone's appetite to pursue more study of this area. So next time you read about judges, gates, people sitting at gates, daughters of cities and prophets turning up at gates, then you should have better understanding what is going on.