International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
dor'-kep-er (sho`er): The gates of an oriental city and of the temple courts so closely resembled the door of a house that the same Hebrew word was used for doorkeeper and gatekeeper. It is often translated by the less definite word "porter". In the preexilic writings (2 Samuel 18:26 2 Kings 7:10, 11) reference is made to porters at the gates of the cities Mahanaim and Samaria. In these early writings there is also mention of a small number of "keepers of the threshold" of the temple, whose duties included the gathering of money from the people for temple purposes, and the care of the sacred vessels (2 Kings 12:9; 2 Kings 22:4; 2 Kings 23:4). They held an honorable position (2 Kings 25:18), and occupied chambers in the temple (Jeremiah 35:4). The same term is used to describe officers in the household of the king of Persia (Esther 2:21; Esther 6:2).
Differing from these "keepers of the threshold" in some respects are the doorkeepers or porters mentioned in Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah. These formed a numerous sacred order (1 Chronicles 9:22; 1 Chronicles 23:5) from the time of David. Their duties and the words describing them in two passages, "keepers of the thresholds" (1 Chronicles 9:19) and "porters of the thresholds" (2 Chronicles 23:4), connect them in some measure with the "keeper of the threshold" referred to above. They guarded the gates of the house of Yahweh (1 Chronicles 9:23), closing and opening them at the proper times (1 Chronicles 9:27) and preventing the unclean from entering the sacred enclosure (2 Chronicles 23:19); they had charge of the sacred vessels and of the free-will offerings (2 Chronicles 31:14), and dwelt in the chambers about the temple (1 Chronicles 9:27). They were Levites, and came in from the Levitical villages every seventh day for service in their turn (1 Chronicles 9:25). Their office was honorable, ranking with the singers, after the priests and Levites (Ezra 2:42 1 Chronicles 15:18).
In Psalm 84:10, "I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God," the word is not used in its technical sense. the Revised Version, margin gives "stand (the King James Version margin "sit") at the threshold," to an eastern mind a situation of deep humility (compare title of the Psalms and 1 Chronicles 9:19).
In the New Testament the order of temple doorkeepers is not referred to. But a doorkeeper (thuroros) is mentioned in connection with a private house (Mark 13:34), with the high priest's house (John 18:16, 17), and with sheep-folds (John 10:3), a maid serving as doorkeeper in some cases (Acts 12:13).
George Rice Hovey