Ten gates are mentioned in Chapter 3, and their names are significant. Each is a symbol representing an aspect of our Christian walk.2 Let’s take a walk around the city with Nehemiah and unlock the meaning for each of the gates as we go.
Sheep Gate (Nehemiah 3:1)
Through this gate, sacrificial sheep were brought to the temple. The Sheep Gate represents Christ’s sacrifice as the Lamb of God. Accepting His sacrifice on our behalf begins our walk with Him. Remembering His sacrifice draws us closer to Him and inspires us to serve others.
Fish Gate (Nehemiah 3:3)
Fishermen would bring their catch through the Fish Gate each day in order to sell it. The gate reminds us that we are called to be “fishers of men” and that we should always be mindful of the lost. When you think about it, there’s little reason for Christians to still be on earth after salvation unless God wants us to bring others to Him. Without the Great Commission, we’re just working on our spiritual resumes.
Old Gate (Nehemiah 3:6)
The Old Gate (also known as the Jeshanah Gate) exited to the West of Jerusalem. It represents truth, because God’s truth never changes. We live in a world today that believes truth is relative, but we know that it’s absolute and anchored in Scripture. The Old Gate reminds us to live in the confidence of what God has said is true.
Valley Gate (Nehemiah 3:13)
The Valley Gate opened (appropriately) to a valley, though we are not sure which one. For the Christian, it speaks of the trials and tribulations that Jesus guaranteed we would have (John 16:33). While we don’t typically enjoy our valley experiences while we are going through them, they are God’s tool for making us more like Him. Consider that very little grows above the tree line on a mountaintop, but valleys are lush with growth. Our spiritual lives flourish in the valley.
Dung Gate (Nehemiah 3:14)
The Dung Gate led to the Valley of Hinnom, where all the garbage and animal dung was taken to be burned. God uses our valley experiences to surface our garbage so that He can get rid of it. When a silversmith works with silver, he heats it until it becomes molten. Impure materials (called dross) within the metal rise to the top, and the silversmith skims them off. He continues this process until he can clearly see his image in the metal. God allows us to travel through the valleys to turn up the heat on us spiritually. As our impurities rise to the top, He skims them off and gets rid of them so that He can see His image in us more clearly.
Fountain Gate (Nehemiah 3:15)
This gate was at the end of the Pool of Siloam. It reminds us of the streams of living water Jesus said would flow from those who believe in Him and have the Holy Spirit (John 7:38-39). After God has cleared away our garbage, the Holy Spirit flows from us much more easily. He refreshes us as He pours out His blessings on those around us.
Water Gate (Nehemiah 3:26)
The Water Gate was located at the beginning of Hezekiah’s tunnel and the spring of Gihon. It represents the Word of God, and it’s no coincidence that this is the site where Ezra opened the Book of the Law of Moses (Nehemiah 8:1). We need to wash daily in the Word to prepare us for the trials and tests we will encounter.
Horse Gate (Nehemiah 3:28 )
The Horse Gate was used to take horses out for water. Horses in Scripture represent battle, and this gate is intended to remind us that we are in a spiritual war. We should never let our guard down but build our walls with one hand while we hold a sword in the other. Beginning with this gate, the final three gates also point forward as a symbol of the last days. The Horse Gate reminds us of Jesus coming on a white horse as described in Revelation 19:11.
East Gate (Nehemiah 3:29)
The East Gate faced the Mount of Olives and was important because of the anticipated coming of Messiah (Zechariah 14:4). Of course, we know that His coming will not be His first. The East Gate reminds us that we are to look forward to Christ’s return and live with hope.
Inspection Gate (Nehemiah 3:31)
The final gate opened to a road that led to the Miphkad, or “appointed place.” Here, people were numbered or registered for the temple tax. For Christians, it points to the bema judgment of believers. “Bema” is the Greek word for judgment seat, which is a raised seat on which an official would sit as he decided on legal matters. Scripture tells of a judgment for believers only, where their works will be judged and rewards handed out. (No one is punished at this judgment.) As we walk with the Lord, we are to keep our focus on our heavenly rewards rather than our earthly ones.
Nehemiah’s account in chapter three ends with a second reference to the Sheep Gate (Nehemiah 3:32). As we’ve come full-circle around the city, we should remember that our Christian walk begins and ends with Christ’s sacrifice for our sins. The second mention also promises that Christ’s second coming will be to reign here on earth.
Remember the meaning of the Horse Gate? We shouldn’t expect that Sanballat will just sit back and let Nehemiah build up the walls of Jerusalem unchallenged. In the next chapter, we’ll see what the Enemy plans to do about it.
* For more articles about spiritual gates, check out these links:
2 Gordon, Iain. “Nehemiah: A Study of the Christian’s Life and Warfare.” 1997. 14 March 2007.