TOWER (Heb. mighdāl, mighdōl, bāhan, misgāv, pinnâh, Gr. pyrgos). A lofty structure used for purposes of protection or attack: to defend a city wall, particularly at a gate or a corner in the wall (2Chr.14.7; 2Chr.26.9); to protect flocks and herds and to safeguard roads (2Kgs.17.9; 2Chr.26.10; 2Chr.27.4); to observe and to attack a city (Isa.23.13); to protect a vineyard (Matt.21.33).

The usual word for tower is מִגְדָּל, H4463, the other Heb. words connoting some sort of particular function or rarity. Towers fall into classes according to usage: the tower in the vineyard (Isa 5:2) to guard its contents, and the defensive tower. The latter is the most important usage and has roughly three types: one, the solitary kind (Judg 9:51) that served both defensive and refuge purposes, which in this case became a trap. They also appeared occasionally along the highway for the travelers’ protection (2 Kings 17:9; cf. Daugherty, Arabia Deserta, I:9, 13). A second type of a defense tower was built as a part of the city wall. A third type was the large hollow structures flanking city gates or situated as wall corners (Yadin, Art of Warfare, I, 160).

Towers varied in size as they served only for watchtowers or defensive towers. Tell el-Farah (Tirzah?) exhibits a gate with thick-walled towers on either side, having rooms within, provided with a stair to the top to repel attackers (ibid., I, 54). In Gibeah (Tell el-Ful), Saul’s citadel had rectangular towers with inner spaces at each corner and was constructed of rough hewn stones in casemate style. A later fortress in smaller scale replaced it, but was soon abandoned when Jerusalem became the capital. The most spectacular tower is that Neolithic tower of Jericho of c. 7800 b.c., surviving to approximately twenty-seven ft. high, with a small tight stair to the ground.

A tower as a stronghold was a specially built type of structure, prob. of some size or inaccessibility (1 Sam 23:14, 29).

The tower of ivory Song of Solomon is the tower of (the) Lebanon that reflected the grandeur and beauty of Mt. Lebanon whereas the figure of tower bespeaks the line of facial beauty of the Shulamite.

The Tower of Shechem, destroyed by Abimelech (Judg 9:46, 47), was not outside the town, but was the citadel within, on the highest part of the town. See Babel.


Y. Yadin, The Art of Warfare in Bible Lands (1963).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)