Pictured above are some of the remains of the eastern wing of the city-gates of the city of Megiddo. These date back to the time of Israelite occupation, probably Solomon, Ahab, or Jeroboam II (Iron Age).
We should note two things regarding the importance of the gates of ancient cities, namely their role in everyday life and their role in time of warfare.
In everyday life, the city-gates were the social hub of the city. If you lived in the city, you were in and out of these gates all of the time. If you were a traveler visiting the city, this is where you got your first look at things. As a result, all sorts of business was conducted at the city-gates: plans were made, items purchased, goods sold, judgments made by officials, news and gossip exchanged by all, etc. In effect, the area around the city-gates functioned something like the equivalent of a modern day mall, city hall, the court, and Facebook all rolled into one.
In time of war, the gates were typically the weakest point in a city’s defense, being easier to breach than the thick, high walls. Thus, the gates were usually constructed in such a way as to make approach and entry something less than easy. A long entrance ramp (often with a hard right turn in it near the gates), protective chambers within the gate house(s), and multiple piers or columns were the norm. To retain control of the city gates was to indeed be strong; your greatest weakness cannot be overcome. To lose control of the city-gates was to lose control of all of the city.
Try this: peruse the many references to “gates” in the Bible with all of the preceding in mind. You’ll find that the city-gates are not so much about stone, but about community and security.