Did You Know?
What was the city gate so often mentioned in Bible accounts?
▪ In Bible times, most cities were surrounded by protective walls. Inside many gates, there were open areas where people gathered to meet others, to trade, and to share news. Here public announcements were made, and here prophets might pronounce their messages. (Jeremiah 17:19, 20) The publication The Land and the Book says that “nearly every public transaction took place at or near the city gates.” In ancient Israel, the city gates were much like the community centers of modern-day towns.
Abraham, for example, purchased property for a family burial site from Ephron “before the eyes of the sons of Heth among all those entering the gate of his city.” (Genesis 23:7-18) And Boaz asked ten elders of Bethlehem to sit at the city gate while, in their presence, he made arrangements for Ruth and her deceased husband’s inheritance, in compliance with the law regarding levirate marriage. (Ruth 4:1, 2) When the older men of a city acted as judges, they would sit at the city gate to hear cases, render decisions, and execute judgments.—Deuteronomy 21:19.
Where was Ophir, which the Bible refers to as a source of gold of superior quality?
▪ The book of Job first mentions “gold of Ophir” and equates it with “pure gold.” (Job 28:15, 16) About 600 years after Job’s day, King David collected “gold of Ophir” for the construction of Jehovah’s temple in Jerusalem. His son Solomon likewise imported gold from Ophir.—1 Chronicles 29:3, 4; 1 Kings 9:28.
According to the Scriptures, Solomon had a fleet of ships constructed in Ezion-geber, on the Red Sea, that brought gold from Ophir. (1 Kings 9:26) Scholars locate Ezion-geber at the head of the Gulf of Aqaba in the general area of present-day Elat and Aqaba. From there, ships could reach any part of the Red Sea or more distant trading posts on the African or Indian coasts, possible locations of Ophir. Others believed, however, that Ophir lay in Arabia, where ancient gold mines have been found and deposits have been exploited even in modern times.
As to whether Solomon’s gold mines were merely legendary, as some would have it, Egyptologist Kenneth A. Kitchen writes: “Ophir itself is no myth. A Hebrew ostracon [or, earthenware fragment] of perhaps the eighth century [B.C.E.] is clearly inscribed with the brief note of account: ‘Gold of Ophir for Beth-Horon—30 shekels.’ Ophir here is a real source of gold, just as with ‘Gold of ‛Amau,’ or ‘Gold of Punt’ or ‘Gold of Kush’ in Egyptian texts—gold in each case, either derived from the land named or from that land’s type or quality.”
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Abraham at the city gate, seeking to buy land
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Hebrew ostracon with inscription naming Ophir
Collection of Israel Antiquities Authority, Photo © The Israel Museum, Jerusalem