Biblical Definition Of
In the language of the Bible any organized human settlement may be called a city. This applies whether the settlement was large or small (Gen 4:17; 13:12; Deut 21:3; Jonah 1:2). Larger cities were walled, with a central fortress to provide the citizens with defence against attack (Num 13:28; Josh 6:5; Judg 9:51; 2 Sam 5:7; 1 Kings 4:13; 2 Kings 14:13). During an attack, people living in the farming villages around the city took refuge inside the city walls (Num 35:2; Josh 17:11; 1 Sam 6:18). In some cases farmers had their fields outside the city and their homes inside. They worked in the fields during the day, but returned to the city before nightfall, when the gates were shut (Josh 2:5; Judg 9:43-44).
Immediately inside the main gate of the city was an open area where people sat, talked, sold goods and conducted business. It was also the place where the elders of the city sat to decide cases brought before them for legal judgment. This open area was popularly called the ‘gate’ of the city (Gen 19:1; Deut 21:19; Ruth 4:1- 2; 2 Kings 7:1). As commerce grew in Israel, city life became more and more characterized by greed and injustice, the chief offenders being ruthless merchants and corrupt officials. The gate of the city, instead of being a place to find justice and contentment, became a centre of bribery and oppression (Isa 29:20-21; Amos 5:10-15; 8:4-6).
Godly people saw the wickedness of city life as symbolic of the wickedness of humankind in general. To them the world was like one great evil city (Rev 11:8). They pictured human society, organized in arrogant defiance of God, as the great city Babylon, doomed to be destroyed (Rev 18:2-24; cf. Dan 4:30).
By contrast, the eternal city where God will dwell with his people is called new Jerusalem, a city from which all forms of evil are excluded (Rev 21:2-4,22-27). The Bible considers that Christians are already citizens of this heavenly city. In the present world they are considered to be temporary residents, whose real citizenship is in the ‘Jerusalem which is above’ (Gal 4:26; Phil 3:20; Heb 11:13-16; 12:22; 13:14; 1 Peter 2:11).