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Encyclopedia of The Bible – Castle

CASTLE. Six different words are tr. “castle” in the KJV OT.

1. טִירָה, H3227, (Gen 25:16; Num 31:10; 1 Chron 6:54). The ASV and RSV render “encampment” or “settlement.”

2. אַרְמﯴן, H810, (Prov 18:19). Applies to any building of eminence, and is rendered “palace” in 1 Kings 16:18; Psalm 48:3.

The climactic parallelism of Proverbs 18:19 is suggestive of the strong inner citadel of a city: “A brother helped is like a strong city, but quarreling is like the bars of a castle.” The citadel was the highest area within the fortifications. A strongly-built structure, manned by picked troops, would be even more difficult to take than the outer city.

3. מִגְדָּל֒, H4463, (1 Chron 27:25; 2 Chron 27:4). The word properly means “tower,” though “castle” is retained by ASV; “tower” in RSV.

The reference is to guardhouses, units in a chain of fortresses in sparsely-settled areas, for security and watch-points. The tower is associated with “forts” (2 Chron 27:4). For details of the structure and function of such forts see Y. Aharoni, “The Negeb” in Archaeology and Old Testament Study, edited by D. Winston Thomas, Oxford U.P. [1967], 385-403.

4. מְצָד, H5171, (1 Chron 11:7) and מְצוּדָה֮, H5181, (1 Chron 11:5) refer to structures for defense; rendered “stronghold” in RSV. The two words seem to be synonymous and are equated with the term “city of David.” This use may designate the inner citadel or upper city, as distinguished from the rest of the city (cf. v. 8). For the location of the “city of David” see Macmillan Bible Atlas, p. 74.

5. בִּירָנִיֹּ֖ות (2 Chron 17:12; 27:4) is rendered “forts,” “fortresses” in RSV.

The occurrences of “castle” in NT (KJV) represent παρεμβολή, G4213, (Acts 21:34, 37; 22:24; 23:10, 16, 32). In each case the reference is to the Rom. fort of Antonia in Jerusalem. W. F. Albright (The Background of the NT and Its Eschatology, pp. 158, 159) calls attention to the work of L. H. Vincent who proved that Gabbatha-Lithosfrōton of John 19:13 lies in the court of the tower of Antonia. The splendid Rom. pavement presently found under the church of the Dames de Sion is thought by Vincent and Albright to be John’s Gabbatha. Archeologically its significance is that the reference in John must reflect correct information of an eyewitness or tradition. The foundation of structures of the Hadrianic Aelia Capitolina were laid over the pavement which had previously been covered with debris at and subsequent to a.d. 66-70. The location thus would have been obscured, and the place could not have been known or described as John does without a reliable source of information.