Towers are high structures (relative to their particular surroundings, some towers would "tower" over other towers if they were located together) that during the time of Bible History were used most-often for observation and/or defensive purposes. Jerusalem had such towers (see also The Gates Of Old Jerusalem), as did numerous other towns and cities in Bible Places. Out in the country, towers were used to watch over vineyards and flocks.
Towers In History And Prophecy
Perhaps the most famous tower of the Bible was the unfinished, built in attempted defiance of God, Tower of Babel (which included a city, that also never got finished):
"Now the whole earth had one language and few words. And as men migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar [i.e. central Mesopotamia] and settled there. And they said to one another, "Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly." And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth ... So The Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city." (Genesis 11:1-4,8 RSV)
Towers were familiar sights in the towns and countryside of the land of Israel:
"So Rachel died, and she was buried on the way to Ephrath, that is, Bethlehem, and Jacob set up a pillar upon her grave; it is the pillar of Rachel's tomb, which is there to this day. Israel journeyed on, and pitched his tent beyond the tower of Eder." (Genesis 35:19-21 RSV)
"And Gideon said, "Well then, when The Lord has given Zebah and Zalmunna into my hand, I will flail your flesh with the thorns of the wilderness and with briers." And from there he went up to Penuel, and spoke to them in the same way; and the men of Penuel answered him as the men of Succoth had answered. And he said to the men of Penuel, "When I come again in peace, I will break down this tower." (Judges 8:7-9 RSV)
Defensive towers could become death traps when the area surrounding them was lost to an invader:
"When all the people of the Tower of Shechem heard of it, they entered the stronghold of the house of Elberith. Abimelech was told that all the people of the Tower of Shechem were gathered together. And Abimelech went up to Mount Zalmon, he and all the men that were with him; and Abimelech took an axe in his hand, and cut down a bundle of brushwood, and took it up and laid it on his shoulder. And he said to the men that were with him, "What you have seen me do, make haste to do, as I have done." So every one of the people cut down his bundle and following Abimelech put it against the stronghold, and they set the stronghold on fire over them, so that all the people of the Tower of Shechem also died, about a thousand men and women." (Judges 9:46-49 RSV)
Towers were so well-known that they were even used in parables:
"He digged it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; and he looked for it to yield grapes" (Ezekiel 5:2 RSV)
"Hear another parable. There was a householder who planted a vineyard, and set a hedge around it, and dug a wine press in it, and built a tower, and let it out to tenants, and went into another country" (Matthew 21:33 RSV)
Towers are described in specific places in Prophecy, such as the Tower of Hananel at the time of The Return Of Jesus Christ:
"On that day His feet shall stand on The Mount Of Olives which lies before Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley [see Earthquake!]; so that one half of the Mount shall withdraw northward, and the other half southward. And the valley of my mountains shall be stopped up, for the valley of the mountains shall touch the side of it; and you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then The Lord your God will come, and all the holy ones with Him."
"On that day there shall be neither cold nor frost. And there shall be continuous day, it is known to The Lord, not day and not night, for at evening time there shall be light. On that day Living Waters shall flow out from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea [see The Salt Sea] and half of them to the western sea [i.e. The Mediterranean Sea]; it shall continue in summer as in winter."
"And The Lord will become King over all the earth; on that day The Lord will be one and His Name one. The whole land shall be turned into a plain from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem. But Jerusalem shall remain aloft upon its site from the Gate of Benjamin to the place of the former gate, to the Corner Gate, and from the Tower of Hananel to the king's wine presses."
Fact Finder: What specific tower did Jesus Christ mention in one of His teachings?
This Week's Bible Quiz
What was the Bible Place in this verse? (the first letter of the place name is shown)
1. "the throne of David over Israel and over Judah, from Dan to B_______" (2 Samuel 3:10 RSV)
2. "Now when Jesus was at B_______ in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came up to Him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on His head, as He sat at table." (Matthew 26:6-7 RSV)
3. "Every man serves the good wine first; and when men have drunk freely, then the poor wine; but you have kept the good wine until now." This, the first of His signs, Jesus did at C_______ in Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him." (John 2:10-11 RSV)
4. "leaving Nazareth he went and dwelt in C________ by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled" (Matthew 4:13-14 RSV)
5. "Thus Joseph who was surnamed by the apostles Barnabas, which means, Son of encouragement, a Levite, a native of C_______" (Acts 4:36 RSV)
6. "Now as he journeyed he approached D_______, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed about him. And he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" (Acts 9:3 RSV)
7. "Now there was at J_______ a disciple named Tabitha, which means Dorcas. She was full of good works and acts of charity." (Acts 9:36 RSV)
8. "David took the stronghold of Z________, that is, the city of David." (2 Samuel 5:7 RSV)
9. "Fishermen will stand beside the sea; from E_______ to Eneglaim it will be a place for the spreading of nets; its fish will be of very many kinds, like the fish of the Great Sea." (Ezekiel 47:10 RSV)
10. "he set sail from E_______. When he had landed at Caesarea, he went up and greeted the church, and then went down to Antioch." (Acts 18:21-22 RSV)
For the answers to this July 8 2003 quiz, see the Bible Quiz Answers Page