The Hebrews had several terms which include the idea of military walls, and which are variously rendered in the Auth. Vers., as "fort," "fortress," "fenced city," "castle," "strong-hold," mound," "trench," etc., all of which see in their places.
Inventions for the defense of men in social life are older than history. The walls, towers, and gates represented on Egyptian monuments, though dating back to a period of fifteen centuries before the Christian aera, bear evidence of an advanced state of fortifications of walls built of squared stones, or of squared timber judiciously placed on the summit of scarped rocks, or within the circumference of one or two wet ditches, and furnished alone the top with regular battlemen to protect thee defenders (see Wilkinson, 1:407 sq.). All these are of later invention than the accumulation of unhewn or rudely chipped uncemented stones, piled on each other in the form of walls, in the so-called Cyclopean, Pelasgian, Etruscan, and Celtic styles, where there are no ditches, or towers, or other gateways than mere openings occasionally left between the enormous blocks employed in the work. As the first three styles occur in Etruria they show the progressive advance of military architecture, and may be considered as more primitive, though perhaps posterior to the era when the progress of Israel, under the guidance of Joshua, expelled several (Canaanitish tribes, whose system of civilization, in common with that, of the rest of Western Asia, bore an Egyptian type, and whose towers and battlements were remarkably high, or, rather, were erected in very elevated situations. When, therefore, the Israelites entered Palestine, we may assume that the "fenced cities" they had to attack were, according to their degree of antiquity, fortified with more or less of art, but all with huge stones in the lower walls, like the Etruscan. Indeed, Asia Minor, Armenia, Syria, and even. Jerusalem, still bear marks of this most ancient system, notwithstanding that this region. the connecting link between Asia and Africa, between the trade of the East and the West, and between the religious feelings of the whole earth, has been the common battlefield of all the great nations of antiquity, and of modern times, where ruin and desolation, oftentimes repeated, have been spread over every habitable place. Stones from six to fifty feet in length. with suitable proportions, can still be detected in many walls of the cities of those regions, wherever quarries existed; from Nineveh, where, beneath the surface, there still remains ruins and walls of huge stones, sculptured With bas-reliefs, originally painted, to Babylon, and Bassorah, where bricks, sundried or baked, and stamped with letters, are yet found, as well as in all the plains of the rivers where that material alone could be easily procured. SEE ARCHITECTURE.
As among the Hebrews there was no system of construction strictly so called, but simply an application of the means of defense to the localities, no uniformity of adaptation existed, and therefore we refer to the foregoing as specimens of the numerous illustrations of this subject that occur on the Egyptian and Assyrian monuments and to other explanations which are given under the several. terms in other parts of this work. SEE CITY; SEE SIEGE; SEE WAR, etc.
The wall, חוֹמָה, chomah', was sometimes double or triple (2Ch 32:5), successively girding a rocky elevation; and "building a city" originally meant the construction of the wall. SEE WALL. Before walltowers, מַגרָּלוֹת, migdaloth', were introduced, the gate of a city, originally single, formed a kind of citadel, and was the strongest part of all the defense: it was the armory of the community and the council-house of the authorities. "Sitting in the gate" was, and still is, synonymous with the possession of power, and even now there is commonly in the fortified gate of a royal place in the East, on the floor above the doorway, a council- room with a kind of balcony, whence the sovereign sometimes sees his people, and where he may sit in judgment. Hence the Turkish government is not unfrequently termed the Porte, and in this sense allusion to gates often occurs in the Scriptures. The tower, צרַיחִ, tseri'ach, was another fortification of the earliest date, being often the citadel or last retreat when a city was taken; or, standing alone in some naturally strong position, was intended to protect a frontier, command, a pass, or to be a place of refuge and deposit of treasure in the mountains, when the plain should be no longer defensible. This was the kind of citadel which defended passes, and in the mountains served for retreat in times of calamity, and for the security of the royal treasures; and it was on account of the confined space within, and the great elevation of the ramparts, that private houses frequently stood upon their summit, as was the case when the harlot Rahab received Joshua's spies in Jericho (Jos 2:1). Watch-towers, מַזפָה, mizpah', and טַירָה, tirah', used by shepherds all over Asia, and even now built on eminences above some city in the plain, in order to keep a look-out upon the distant country, were already in use, and occasionally converted into places of defense (2Ch 26:10; 2Ch 27:4). SEE TOWER. The gateways were closed by ponderous folding doors, שִׁעִר, sha'ar, the valves or folds, רּלָתִים, delatha'yim, being secured by wooden bars: both the doors and bars were in after times plated with metal. SEE GATE. A ditch (? חֵיל, cheyl), where the nature of the locality required it, was dug in front of the rampart, and sometimes there was an inner wall, with a second ditch before it. SEE DITCH. As the experience of ages increased, huge "counter forts," double buttresses, or masses of solid stone and masonry (not bulwarks), were built in particular parts to sustain the outer wall, and afford space on the summit to place military engines (2Ch 26:15). SEE FENCED CITY; SEE MUNITION.