The Fish Gate is mentioned several times in the Bible, most notably in the Old Testament books of Nehemiah and Zephaniah. But what was the Fish Gate, and what is its spiritual meaning and significance?

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: The Fish Gate in the Bible was one of the gates of ancient Jerusalem. Spiritually, it represented the entry point for gospel ministry and missionary work, as the early Christians used this gate to spread the gospel message.

The Physical Fish Gate in Ancient Jerusalem

The Location and Purpose of the Fish Gate

The Fish Gate was located on the northern side of ancient Jerusalem’s wall, west of the Sheep Gate and north of the Ephraim Gate (Neh. 3:3; 12:39). It was likely named the “Fish Gate” because merchants would bring fish caught from the Sea of Galilee and the Mediterranean through this gate to sell in the city.

The Fish Gate served as an entrance point for traders bringing goods into Jerusalem to sell at its busy marketplaces. In addition to seafood, merchants likely brought fruit, vegetables, livestock, grain, spices, pottery, wines, oils, metals, and other wares to trade.

The gate was an integral part of Jerusalem’s economy and commerce. Located near the open-air fish market, it enabled access for fishermen and fishmongers. The gate also symbolized God’s provision, as access to diverse foods and goods was vital for the city’s inhabitants.

The Rebuilding of the Fish Gate Under Nehemiah

When Nehemiah led efforts to rebuild Jerusalem’s walls and gates after the Babylonian destruction, the Fish Gate was restored along with the other city entrances:

“Next to them, Meremoth son of Uriah, the son of Hakkoz, repaired another section, from the entrance of Eliashib’s house to the end of it. The repairs next to him were made by the priests from the surrounding region.” (Nehemiah 3:4-5)

The priests rebuilt the Fish Gate itself, highlighting its importance:

“The Fish Gate was rebuilt by the sons of Hassenaah. They laid its beams and put its doors and bolts and bars in place.” (Nehemiah 3:3)

The gate likely looked similar after its reconstruction to how it did originally – strong wooden doors set into stone walls, with bars and bolts to secure it at night or in times of threat.

Rebuilding the Fish Gate enabled trade, economy, and provision to flow freely again to Jerusalem’s inhabitants after years of exile. Its restoration was key for accessing food, goods, and livelihoods from outside regions.

The Spiritual Meanings and Symbolism of Gates in the Bible

Gates as Entry Points and Places of Judgment

In the Bible, gates often represented entry points, both literally and symbolically. City gates were places where elders would gather to make decisions and judge matters brought before them (Ruth 4:1-2). So gates were seen as places of judgment, authority, and leadership.

Spiritually, gates can picture access and entry into God’s presence. Jesus said, “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved” (John 10:9). Christ is the narrow gate that leads to eternal life (Matthew 7:13-14). So Jesus Himself is the entry point to salvation and a relationship with God.

The Significance of City Gates in Scripture

In ancient cities, gates were important parts of the fortifications and defense system. City walls with strong gates helped protect inhabitants from enemies or wild animals. Gates would be closed at night or in times of danger but opened for normal comings and goings of people (Nehemiah 13:19).

The Bible mentions many city gates like the Fish Gate in Nehemiah 3:3. These entryways each had historical and spiritual significance. For example:

  • The Fish Gate in Jerusalem may have been where fishermen brought their catches to sell.
  • The Sheep Gate was likely where sheep were brought for temple sacrifices (Nehemiah 3:1).
  • The East Gate was where glory departed the temple (Ezekiel 10:19) but will return via the east gate (Ezekiel 43:1-4).

So biblical city gates often had practical functions related to commerce, sacrifices, or defense. But they also had symbolic meanings pointing to Jesus as the entryway to salvation, the new Jerusalem to come, and access to God’s presence and glory.

The Spiritual Significance of the Fish Gate

The Fish Gate as an Entry Point for Gospel Work

The Fish Gate in Jerusalem is rich with symbolic meaning for Christians. As one of the entry points into the city in Nehemiah’s time, the Fish Gate represents an access point for spreading the gospel message to people within the city (Encyclopedia of the Bible).

Just as fish were likely brought through this gate to feed the city residents, the Fish Gate reminds believers that they can enter through this spiritual “gate” to feed others the message of salvation.

Jesus referenced the concept of “fishing for people” to describe evangelism work (Matthew 4:19). Christian ministries today are essentially fishing for souls, drawing people into the Kingdom of God. The Fish Gate represents the entry point for this gospel work, setting the foundation for impactful ministry.

Parallels Between Fishing and Evangelism

There are some clear parallels between fishing in the natural realm and “fishing for people” through evangelism:

  • A fisherman may cast a wide net to draw in an abundant catch of fish. Similarly, evangelists preach broadly to reach as many souls as possible.
  • Fishing requires great patience, as a fisherman may wait a long time for fish to take the bait. Evangelism also necessitates perseverance in spreading the message.
  • Fishing gear must be maintained in good working order through mending nets and sharpening hooks. Likewise, believers must continually strengthen their spiritual preparation for ministry.

As the Fish Gate symbolized an entry point for natural fish to enter Jerusalem, this “gate” spiritually represents the access point for evangelists to hook souls and draw them into the Kingdom of God.

Just as fish were vital nourishment for ancient Jerusalem residents, leading souls into salvation nourishes the citizens of Christ’s Kingdom.

The Fish Gate in Bible Prophecy and Eschatology

The Fish Gate in Zephaniah’s Prophecies

The Fish Gate holds profound prophetic meaning in the Book of Zephaniah. Located in the north wall of Jerusalem, this gate obtained its name from the fact that fish imported from the Mediterranean Sea were sold there by fishmongers (Bible Study Tools).

However, Zephaniah’s ominous prophecies about the Fish Gate carry spiritual significance far beyond seafood commerce.

In the midst of pronouncements foretelling divine wrath against Jerusalem’s sins, Zephaniah delivers an astonishing prophecy: “The second day you will be pierced to the heart, and on the third day I will reach into your evil stronghold. On that day you will be exposed to My full anger” (Zeph. 2:2-3).

Bible scholars believe “the second day” and “the third day” in this startling text symbolically point to two epochs: the first coming of Jesus Christ to offer redemption to mankind through His atoning death on the cross, followed by His second coming in power and glory to judge the world.

“The Bible’s ancient words still speak today with compelling relevance.”

The Restoration of the Fish Gate and Second Coming Symbolism

The Scriptures furthermore reveal that prior to the return of Jesus Christ, God will commission His people to rebuild the ruined walls and gates of Jerusalem (Isa. 58:12). Significantly, when Nehemiah undertook the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls in the 5th century BC, the Fish Gate was specially singled out (Nehemiah 3:3).

Over two and a half millennia later, the restoration of Jerusalem’s ancient walls and gates continues. Just this summer, the Jerusalem municipality completed renovations on—you guessed it—the Fish Gate!

The specific mention and restoration of the Fish Gate leads many Bible experts to view it as deeply symbolic of end-time prophecies regarding God’s kingdom work through spiritual “fishers of men” (Matt. 4:19).

Additionally, the Fish Gate points to Jesus Christ’s second coming when He will separate mankind into righteous and wicked, even as fishermen separate good fish from bad fish in their net (Matt 13:47-50).

Clearly, the Fish Gate bears far richer prophetic meaning than merely equating it with its long-forgotten fish market!


In summary, while the Fish Gate served a practical purpose in providing entry into ancient Jerusalem, it carried spiritual symbolism as well. As fishing represents gospel ministry and evangelism in the Bible, the Fish Gate reminds believers that we are called to carry the gospel message through the entry points God provides, working to expand God’s kingdom until Christ’s return.

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