CITY

In biblical Hebrew, as in other Semitic languages, a single word, ʿir (עִיר, rendered in this article as "city"), is used usually to designate any permanent settlement. In itself it gives no indication of the size of the settlement, or of the number of its inhabitants, etc., and it may even be applied to what would today be called a village or hamlet. In the poetical style of the Bible various synonyms are employed: qiryah (קִרְיָה; Deut. 2:36; 3:4; Isa. 1:26; 22:2; Lam. 2:11; et al.), qeret (קֶרֶת; Prov. 8:3; Job 29:7); the Moabite term qir (קר), which occurs as a common noun in the mesha stele , is used in the Bible only as a Moabite place name or an element in such a name. Another term, occurring mainly (in the plural) in Deuteronomy and in other passages belonging to the same literary stratum, is shaʿar (שַׁעַר; "gate"), used either as a parallel to ʿir or in its stead (Isa. 14:31; et al.). The etymology of the word ʿir is uncertain, the explanations so far offered being unsatisfactory. The point at which a settlement becomes a "city" is disputed by modern students of urban culture. Nevertheless, there is a large measure of general agreement that in antiquity, including the ancient Near East, a "city" was a settled community with a socially stratified population following a variety of trades and professions, and capable of producing surpluses of food for those of its members who were not engaged in agriculture. In addition, cities possessed physical aspects reflecting the administrative, military, and religious activities of its inhabitants, as well as various manifestations of communal planning (i.e., fortifications and gates; temples, zoning of neighborhoods, etc.). The distinction between a settlement in the pre-urban stage and a city is based on criteria about which, too, there is no complete agreement. This is only to be expected, since the growth of a city out of a pre-urban settlement (or independently of it) is the result of extremely complex economic, social, and technical developments. However, it is generally assumed that the first sign of an urban settlement is the appearance of communal building projects (first of all a temple, followed by a palace, then fortifications and the like), which for their execution require an organized labor force, directed and controlled by a ruling class in accordance with its own needs and those of the whole community. Some authorities would add other distinguishing features, such as commercial activity – the market. Since, for mainly technical reasons, no complete city, with all its historical levels intact, has been uncovered by excavation anywhere in the Fertile Crescent, full   data concerning the stages of ancient urban development are lacking. It is certain, however, that the process of urbanization began in Mesopotamia at about the end of the fifth or the beginning of the fourth millennium B.C.E. The first settlement that displayed distinctive urban features (the existence of a temple) was the city of Uruk. The creators of this urban culture were most probably the Sumerians, who lived in southern Mesopotamia. In Syria and Palestine cities came into being in the third millennium B.C.E., at the same time as a similar process of urbanization in Asia Minor. On various sites, excavations have laid bare city walls (Jericho, Ai, Megiddo, Yarmuth, and elsewhere), palaces (Ai), and religious structures (Jericho, Megiddo). Although massive city walls were found at Jericho and dated to as early as the Pre-Pottery Neolithic period, there is some uncertainty whether these represent fortifications or walls designed to prevent flooding. What is certain is that by the beginning of the third millennium settlements with distinctively urban characteristics became increasingly numerous in Syria and Palestine at the junctions of highways, on the plains, in places easy to defend, and close to natural water supplies. In the first half of the second millennium the process of urbanization was accelerated, both politically and materially, by the historical upheavals of the time. This is clear both from the finds on the main archaeological sites in Palestine (Shechem, Megiddo, Gezer, Lachish, and others), and from Egyptian epigraphic sources which list tens of important cities in the region. All these were large, fortified by methods which had been previously unknown. It seems likely that the development and fortification of these cities were the work of various ethnic elements, Semitic and non-Semitic alike. In the course of the second millennium, there gradually emerged all over Syria and Palestine a type of city known to scholars as the "city-state" or "city-kingdom," which continued in existence, with certain structural modifications and on a reduced scale, in the first millennium B.C.E. This type of city is not to be confused with the classical city-state, the Greek polis, which was quite different in origin, development, and character. The written records discovered at alalakh , ugarit , and el-amarna , covering most of the second half of the second millennium B.C.E., reveal several typical features which characterized the city-kingdoms throughout that period: (1) the territorial, political, and organizational dependence of the outlying settlements on the mother city; (2) relatively restricted territory; (3) monarchic-dynastic or oligarchic rule; (4) a privileged and economically powerful social elite, at first having a military character and later a much more plutocratic, mercantile one; (5) a rigid social and professional hierarchy; and (6) specific rights and obligations of the various classes. It was "cities" of this type that the Patriarchs were said to have come upon in their wanderings. Later, it was these same cities that were apparently stormed by the Israelite tribes struggling to occupy Canaan. The Bible does not describe these cities at any length, the references being for the most part incidental and fragmentary, either because the writers had no proper information about the Canaanite city or because they wanted to adapt their descriptions of these cities to the known Israelite urban reality. The Canaanite cities appear to have made a profound impression on the Israelites, who described them as "fortified and very large" (Num. 13:28), or as "large with walls sky-high" (Deut. 1:28). Embedded here and there in the Bible is a description of a Palestinian city. The account of the purchase of the cave of Machpelah (Gen. 23) contains interesting details about the ethnic makeup of the Hebronites and their political regime, and there are similar details about Shechem in the story of Dinah daughter of Jacob (Gen. 34). Mention of a Canaanite city is also found in the description of Jericho at the time of Joshua's capture of it (Josh. 2–6). Authentic particulars of oligarchic political structure appear to be preserved in what is related about Succoth and Penuel in Gideon's day (Judg. 8), and especially in the story about Abimelech in Shechem, which contains a relatively detailed description of the city's institutions and even of its main buildings – the house of Baal-Berith, the city tower, the Beth-Millo, and the like (Judg. 9). Traces of a special federal alliance of cities, led by elders, are found in connection with the cities of the Gibeonites, who are described in the Book of Joshua as being of Hivite (Hurrite) stock. A careful study of archaeological data, in conjunction with the relevant biblical passages, shows that, with the appearance of the Israelites in Canaan, the city-kingdom ceased to exist in the areas populated by Israelites, i.e., in the central highlands regions, apart from a few Canaanite enclaves. In fact, urbanism developed amongst the Israelites only from the 10th century B.C.E. It is also evident that the original Israelite settlements differed from the Canaanite cities in their political structure and in having larger territorial units attached to them. In the period when the tribes were struggling to occupy the territories allotted to them, the city was a part of the tribal organization and, as such, probably subject to the authority of the tribal leaders. At a later stage, with the establishment of the monarchy in Israel, the city was also brought into close relations with the central power and its administration. When the tribal divisions lost their political significance, only the ties with the central, national monarchy remained. The political power in the city was at first wielded by the heads of the clans and of the whole tribe. There are even signs of an urban autonomy shortly before the establishment of the monarchy, as can be deduced from the account of the negotiations between the elders of Jabesh-Gilead and Nahash the Ammonite (I Sam. 11). After the foundation of the monarchy, the power and influence of the tribal representatives in the city government declined while that of the royal functionaries increased. Nevertheless, it would seem that the participation of the elders in city government continued well into the period of the monarchy, though there are grounds for thinking that the elders among the leaders of the urban settlements were now chosen on the basis of their economic power and not on account of their family and tribal descent. This would mean   that the growth of an independent urban population within the tribal framework went hand in hand with the consolidation of the monarchy. However, the degree of independence allowed to the Israelite city by the monarchy was limited by comparison with that enjoyed by the urban institutions of the Canaanite cities. In the period of the monarchy no really significant changes occurred in the political relations between the city and the central power. On the other hand there was a marked development of the functional and economic specialization of various cities (see below). From the archaeological evidence, it would seem that the monarchy also paid special attention to raising the material standard of the city-dwellers, providing the necessary means for that purpose. It is characteristic that the importance of the city finds no expression in the Bible, perhaps because of the stress placed on the tribal element in the Israelite nation. As already remarked, such descriptions of cities and urban institutions as are found in the Bible relate to non-Israelite cities. On the other hand, the biblical tradition does recognize the antiquity of the city, although, in contrast to the Mesopotamian traditions, it does not regard it as contemporary with the Creation: the establishment of the first city in the world by enoch son of Cain (Gen. 4:17) is represented as following on the quarrel between two brothers, the one a settled agriculturalist and the other a nomad herdsman. As for the Israelite cities, what is emphasized in the accounts of the conquest are their close ties with the tribal portions. This emphasis is to be found in the symbolically schematic genealogical lists of the tribes preserved in the first chapters of I Chronicles, which reflect processes of settlement and tribal movements. In these lists the urban settlements are recorded as part of the tribal structure, as sons of the eponymous tribal ancestor or of one of his descendants, side by side with clans and families: "The sons of Caleb brother of Jerahmeel: Mesha his firstborn, who was the father of Ziph; and the sons of Mareshah, the father of Hebron" (I Chron. 2:42; cf. 2:45, 51; 4:17–19; et al.). Summary descriptions of this kind may relate, at least in part, to organized settlement by clans in a city founded or rebuilt by them: "And the families of Kiriath-Jearim: the Ithrites, the Puthites, the Shumathites, and the Mishraites; from these came the Zorathites and the Eshtaolites" (I Chron. 2:53). By the same system, secondary settlements could be registered as the "sons" of principal cities: "The sons of Hebron: Korah, Tappuah, Rekem, and Shema" (I Chron. 2:43). The close ties linking the small settlements to their nearby economic, administrative, and military center find expression in the Bible in a series of concepts which are also partly based on the tribal terminology. The above relationship is particularly evident in expressions such as "a city and its daughters" (i.e., villages: Judg. 1:27; I Chron. 2:23), "Heshbon, and all its cities" (Josh. 13:17), or "the towns of Hebron" (II Sam. 2:3). It also explains the figurative expression reserved for the great city: "a city which is a mother in Israel" (II Sam. 20:19). Another compound expression which likewise points to the close connection between a city and its environs is: "cities and their ḥaẓerim" (Josh. 15:57; et al.) A ḥaẓer was a group of houses or a temporary settlement close to a city, as is clear particularly from the verse "houses of the ḥaẓerim that have no encircling walls" (Lev. 25:31; cf. "and the field of the city and its ḥaẓerim" (Josh. 21:12)). Apparently, then, the "city" comprised not only the built-up area but also the cultivated fields and the pastureland in the vicinity. The line demarcating this whole urban district was called "the territory of the city" (Judg. 1:18; cf. "…as far as Gaza and its territory" II Kings 18:8), while the district itself was referred to as the "pastureland" (Heb. migrash); "…Pastureland around their towns" (Num. 35:2, 5; cf. "and pasturelands… for the cattle…" (Num. 35:3), "unenclosed land" (Lev. 25:34; II Chron. 31:19), or "the fields of the city" (Josh. 21:12; et al.)). As Gloria London has demonstrated (1992), during the Bronze and Iron Ages in Palestine more than 50 percent of the population were agriculturalists living in the countryside (in hamlets and/or villages). Some of those living in the small cities or towns dealt with the administrative needs of the ruler or members of the ruling class (e.g., as a scribe), or with the religious leaders (e.g., as a priest), or with the military (e.g., as a soldier). However, the masses living in the cities were employed in the sale and production of commodities. Ecological and geo-political conditions, together with political and economic causes, resulted in the emergence throughout the Fertile Crescent of settlements of various types, differing from each other both in function and in outward appearance. In the Bible these various types of settlement appear in contexts relating to the period of the Israelite monarchy – a clear indication of the manifold activity of the Israelite kings in the economic, administrative, and military spheres, and one that is to some extent confirmed by the excavations of sites in Palestine. At the same time, it goes without saying that a city might be classified as belonging to more than one settlement type. The most fundamental and striking way of differentiating between the types of city is on the basis of the external distinction between a walled and an un-walled settlement. The original city was an administrative center and usually a military stronghold, whereas the later city was of only secondary importance. In the Bible "camps" are contrasted with "strongholds" (Num. 13:19), "fortified cities" with "unwalled villages" (I Sam. 6:18). Other expressions are "a town that has gates and bars" (I Sam. 23:7), "open towns" (Esth. 9:19), and "a city to live in" (Ps. 107:36). However, the presence or absence of a wall can only be a secondary differentiating feature of the types of city. Attention should therefore be paid to several terms which provide a clear function definition. Examples include the "store city," in which royal stocks of supplies and equipment were presumably kept (I Kings 9:19; II Chron. 8:6; 11:11–12; 17:12; et al.); the "city for chariots," a center for the chariot corps with the necessary installations and stables (as exemplified by Megiddo where excavation has uncovered chariot-horse stables from the reign of Ahab, king of Israel) and the "city for horsemen," which may   also have contained installations and stables (I Kings 9:19; 10:26; II Chron. 8:6). Some of the cities known from the Bible had specific functions and a special character. Such were the 48 levitical cities (Num. 35:1–8; Josh. 21; I Chron. 6:36ff.) which were traditionally set apart, usually four from every tribe, for the exclusive residence of the levites. Some scholars regard the lists of levitical cities as a utopian ideal; but a more likely explanation is that they were ritual and administrative centers in which the levites were settled as part of their integration into the state apparatus in the reign of David. In some passages six "cities of refuge" are included among the levitical cities (Num. 35:6ff.; Deut. 4:41–43; 19:1–13; Josh. 20; 21:13ff.). The exact nature of these asylum cities is not clear. Still equally unclear is the connection between these and the levite cities. Another expression of this kind may be the term "royal city" as a synonymous name for the capital city (II Sam. 12:26), unless it is supposed that this refers to a part of a city. The Bible does not mention all types of city, as for example "guild" cities whose inhabitants were all trained members of some craft (cf. the "city of merchants" Ezek. 17:4), and perhaps even the "city of priests" (I Sam. 22:19). The structure, extent, population, and layout of the ancient city in Syria and Palestine at various periods are questions to which no complete answer is provided by the written sources or by excavations of the sites in the region. Obviously, there must have been considerable differences between the various cities, resulting from the topographical character of the site, from the city's function, etc., and no less from the fact that sometimes cities were built at the will of kings and did not come into being through a gradual historical process. On the basis of measurements and calculations that have been made, it can be asserted that in general the ancient cities occupied a restricted area. Even partial excavations are sufficient to show that a city covering an area of about 20 acres was considered large and comprised more than 3,000 inhabitants. Cities of medium size had from several hundred to a thousand fewer inhabitants. A few, mainly capital, cities, including Jerusalem and Samaria, had populations of as many as 10,000 or 20,000. Where the city was walled, it seems that one section of the population lived outside the walls and another inside. Many cities in Mesopotamia and Syria, and apparently in Palestine too, were divided into sectors, four of these being a common urban structure. Sometimes the inhabitants of the various quarters achieved a certain degree of administrative independence. The character of a particular quarter seems also in most instances to have been determined by the professional composition and class structure of its inhabitants. Towering above the city, at its most easily defensible point, rose the inner fortified area, the acropolis, which was the center of government and the main military stronghold. The acropolis consisted of a complex of government buildings, including the palace of the ruler or king, the temple, the offices of the senior government officials, storehouses, and the like. This part was called the "tower" (Heb. migdal) or the "citadel" (Heb. ʾofel). Spread out around it were the quarters in which the inhabitants lived, with narrow streets winding between them. There were also a few open spaces (reḥovot in the terminology of the Bible), usually situated close to the inner side of the city gates and known as "the square at the city gate," which served as places for the inhabitants to gather and for public assemblies (Neh. 8:1; II Chron. 32:6). The city gate itself was a meeting place for the elders and ministers, and also the place where lawsuits were heard and legal sentences executed (Deut. 21:19; 22:24; Ruth 4:1ff. et al.). Apparently it was also a center for commercial transactions (Neh. 3:1, 28; 12:39). The business of the city seems to have been conducted in markets (Song 3:2), most probably squares that were open during the day and could be locked at night (Eccles. 12:4). A parallel term to "market" is ḥuẓ ("outside," "street"), which was used specifically for international commercial transactions or as bazaar (I Kings 20:34), but is also commonly found in connection with local trade (cf. "bakers' street," Jer.37:21). -BIBLIOGRAPHY: G. Buccellati, Cities and Nations of Ancient Syria (1967); McKenzie, in: AB, 10 (1959), 388–406; M. Weber, Ancient Judaism (1952); de Vaux, Anc Isr; C.H. Kraeling and R.M. Adams (eds.), City Invincible, A Symposium on Urbanization and Cultural Development in the Ancient Near East… (1960); A.L. Oppenheim, Ancient Mesopotamia (1964); B. Mazar, in: VT Supplement, 7 (1959), 193–205; W. Helck, Die Beziehungen Aegyptens… (1962); J. Pedersen, Israel, its Life and Culture, 1–2 (1926); E. Neufeld, in: HUCA, 31 (1960), 31–53; Malamat, in: JAOS, 82 (1962), 143–50; Aharoni, Land, 94ff. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: E. Jones, Towns and Cities (1966); P. Lampl, Cities and Planning in the Ancient Near East (1968); F.S. Frick, The City in Ancient Israel (1977); A. Kempinski, The Rise of an Urban Culture: The Urbanization of Palestine in the Early Bronze Age (1978); Y. Shiloh, "Elements in the Development of Town Planning in the Israelite City," in: Israel Exploration Journal, 28 (1978), 36–51; G. London, "Tells: City Centre or Home?" in: Eretz-Israel, 23 (1992), 71–79; A. Kempinski and R. Reich (eds.), The Architecture of Ancient Israel: From the Prehistoric to the Persian Periods (1992). (Hanoch Reviv / Shimon Gibson (2nd ed.)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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