The first biblical reference to a city is in Genesis 4:17. The Hebrew verb indicates that Cain “was building” the city. Probably he did not complete it, nor did he permanently reside there; he had earlier been condemned to a vagabond’s existence (Gn 4:12).
The Genesis account, affirming that city life came early in human existence, is internally consistent. The first human offspring, Cain and Abel, were involved in food production (Gn 4:2). Cain was an agriculturist and Abel tended domesticated flocks. Genesis 4 shows both the prerequisite of food production and the resulting specialization.
A city is defined by a settled group of people living in permanent dwellings and bound together by political, economic, and often kinship ties. The Bible does not generally distinguish between city, town, and village. City was distinguished from other communities by a wall.
The emphasis upon walls (Lv 25:29–31) and fortifications (Jos 19:35), with repeated references to towers, gates, and sieges, indicates that cities provided the primary security for the surrounding towns and villages.
The existence of settled communities depended upon a controlled food supply. In contrast to the city dweller, the nomad lived in a portable tent, appropriate for a never-ceasing search for food.
As city dwellers became more adept in farming adjacent land, the harvests increased, leading to increased population and social stratification. When the entire population was no longer needed for food production, some individuals became specialists in a growing number of occupations: pottery making, metal working, stone masonry, and carpentry. Their products in addition to farm surpluses made the ancient city the center of trade and commerce.
It is apparent that cities have been with us from ancient times. In our time cities have been the source of what has been called the global economy. Remember that Paul made it a point to evangelize cities in his missionary journeys.