In the days of the Old Testament prophets, the gate of the city was like the county courthouse used to be. It was where the courts were but also where most business was conducted. It was the official gathering place for the town council—the elders in those days.
Even today, if you’re going to foreclose on a piece of property, you have to go down to the steps of the county courthouse and auction it off, right there, on the courthouse steps.
In Old Testament times it would have been the gate. In those days, that’s where the prophet went to pronounce his message, and that’s what you see as you read through the prophets and they talk about
the gate. They’re talking about the courts, they’re talking about the public arena; they’re talking about the place where the public comes together. So when you read in the book of Amos, a statement like,
they hate him that rebukes in the gate or
they hate him that speaks uprightly, you begin to see what he is talking about. This is a time where you go down to the county courthouse, as it were, you put up your little box, and you get up on your soap box and preach. This is what Amos is about to do.