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The Eye of the Needle Gate

Journey to Israel
Where the Bible Comes Alive

I love sharing about my travel experiences in the Holy Land on my Walk Where Jesus Walked tour because the Bible comes alive when you travel through Israel and visit places like the Mount of the Beatitudes nestled next to the Sea of Galilee and walk up the original steps of the Second Temple in Jerusalem.

Whether you've read the Bible or not, undoubtedly you're probably familiar with this verse, "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God." If that's the case, then it sounds like there's no hope for anyone to get into heaven as it would be physically impossible, right? Well, not exactly.

When we hear those words with our 21st century frame of mind we think of a sewing needle and a string or thread. Even for a talented seamstress it can be a challenge to get a tiny thread through the eye of the sewing needle and a camel would be impossible. However, that's not what Jesus was referring to in His first century world.

In Jerusalem, there is an Eye of the Needle Gate. The large green gate in the photo above that is located behind my friends, Roger and Linda, is a larger gate door that would be closed at night, but the little door that is open behind them is called the Eye of the Needle Gate.

The eye of the needle mentioned in the book of Matthew was one of several gates that provided passage through the city of Jerusalem's massive walls. The Needle Gate was used when the city's main gates were closed at night and used for people entering the city "after hours."

It was designed for security reasons so that enemies could not simply ride into the city on their camels and attack. The gate was so small that a man would have to unload his camel of all that it was carrying and then carefully lead his camel through this small gate. It was a slow and quite difficult task. You can see that it would be difficult for a camel to get through that door, but not impossible.

I always think it's important to look at things in context, so here's that famous parable revisited and the event that led up to Jesus using that parable.

The Rich and the Kingdom of God

Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”

“Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”

“Which ones?” he inquired.

Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as yourself.”

“All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”

Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God."

~Matthew 19:26-24

Understand that Jesus did not dislike the young rich man in the parable for being materially wealthy but he did sense his emptiness and search for a greater purpose, even after following all the rules (much like how a number of successful young executives feel today). So, Jesus told the young man that, to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, he needed to disentangle himself from his wealth first like you would have to unload all that was on a camel's back to get through the eye of the needle. Unfortunately, the young rich man in the parable was not willing to unload his back and he missed out on what his heart was looking for.

[Photo Credit:]

The photo above of a similar gate in Nazareth illustrates the eye of the needle gate quite well. You can see that a camel could not pass through the gate unless it first had all its baggage removed and then stooped to get through the gate.

So many times, people have issues with the Bible because of things it teaches like the Matthew "eye of the needle" verse since it seems impossible to live up to these standards. Once confusing passages are explained in context of the first century, it makes a lot more sense. If Jesus were teaching this same concept today, he'd be using modern technology references that we can relate to in our every day world.

I'm so grateful to have had the experience of walking through the Eye of the Needle Gate in Jerusalem since it is just another way the Bible came alive for me in the Holy Land.

Israel is more than your typical vacation spot. Although I was there for a Walk Where Jesus Walked tour, Israel is a beautiful country and once you visit, it's easy to see why it's referred to as the land of milk and honey.

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The reality of "The Needle's Eye" even in the 21st century 
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Related Pages

Spiritual Tourism in Israel

Mt. of the Beatitudes

The Eye of Needle

The Temple Steps

The Upper Room

Garden of Gethsemane

Site of Crucifixion

The Garden Tomb

About Marianne Schwab
TV Travel Show Producer

For over twenty years, TV Travel Show Producer, Marianne Schwab, has been collecting money saving travel tips as a travel producer for high profile television programs. She has flown all over the world and produced live television productions on location from Caesar's Palace on the Vegas Strip to the beautiful island of Oahu. Read more