199. The Gate a Place of Justice

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Deuteronomy 21:19. Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place.
As the vicinity of the gate was a place of popular resort, (see note on Genesis 19:1, #15) it became a convenient place for the administration of justice. Here courts were held, and disputes were settled. See Deuteronomy 16:18; 25:7; Joshua 20:4; Ruth 4:1; Job 5:4; 31:21; Psalm 127:5; Proverbs 22:22; 31:23; Jeremiah 38:7; Lamentations 5:14; Amos 5:12; Zechariah 8:16. From the fact that princes and judges thus sat at the gate in the discharge of their official duties, the word gate became a synonym for power or authority. This is illustrated in Matthew 16:18, where the expression “gates of hell” means powers of hell. We find it also in the title given to the government of the Turkish Empire, “the Ottoman Porte” or “the Sublime Porte”; (porta, a gate.) “The Gate of Judgment” is a term still common among the Arabians to express a court of justice, and was introduced into Spain by the Saracens.
Modern Oriental travelers speak of the existence at this day of the custom mentioned in the text.