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Gilead was a mountainous region east of the Jordan River divided among the tribes of Gad and Manasseh, and situated in modern-day Jordan. It is also referred to by the Aramaic name Yegar-Sahadutha, which carries the same meaning as the Hebrew (Genesis 31:47). From its mountainous character, it is called the mount of Gilead (Genesis 31:25).
It is called also the land of Gilead (Numbers 32:1), and sometimes simply Gilead (Psalm 60:9; Genesis 37:25). As a whole, it included the tribal territories of Gad, Reuben, and the eastern half of Manasseh (Deut 3:13; Num 32:40). In the Book of Chronicles, Segub controlled twenty-three towns in Gilead.1 Chronicles 2:21-22 It was bounded on the north by Bashan, and on the south by Moab and Ammon (Genesis 31:21; Deut 3:12-17).
"Half Gilead" was possessed by Sihon, and the other half, separated from it by the river Jabbok, by Og, king of Bashan. The deep ravine of the river Hieromax (the modern Sheriat el-Mandhur) separated Bashan from Gilead, which was about 60 miles in length and 20 miles in breadth, extending from near the south end of the Lake of Gennesaret to the north end of the Dead Sea. Abarim, Pisgah, Nebo, and Peor are its mountains mentioned in Scripture.
The name Gilead first appears in the biblical account of the last meeting of Jacob and Laban (Genesis 31:21-22). After king Sihon was defeated, the Tribe of Reuben, Tribe of Gad, and half the Tribe of Manasseh were assigned to the area. Ammon and Moab sometimes expanded to include southern Gilead. King David fled to Mahanaim in Gilead during the rebellion of Absalom. Gilead is later mentioned as the homeplace of the prophet Elijah. King Tiglath-pileser III of Assyria says he established the province of Gal'azu (Gilead).
Gilead (Arabic: جلعاد Ǧalʻād) is also used to refer to the mountainous land extending north and south of Jabbok. It is used more generally for the entire region east of the Jordan River. It corresponds today to the northwestern part of the Kingdom of Jordan.
Gilead may also refer to:
- A grandson of Manasseh, ancestor of the Iezerites and Helekites. (1 Chronicles 2:21-23)
- The son of Michael and father of Jaroah, in the Gadite genealogies. (1 Chronicles 5:11-14)
- The father of Jephthah.
In Israeli Hebrew, גלעד (transcribed Gilad or Ghil'ad) is used as a male given name and is often analysed as deriving from גיל (gil) "happiness, joy" and עד (ad) "eternity, forever"; i.e. "eternal happiness".
In popular culture
- The Hebrew Bible repeatedly mentions a "balm in Gilead" or "balm of Gilead," references and symbolism which have appeared repeatedly in Western culture—see Balsam of Mecca.
- "There Is A Balm in Gilead" is a traditional United States African-American spiritual.
- In Edgar Allan Poe's poem "The Raven," the speaker asks the spectral bird: "Is there balm in Gilead? —tell me—tell me, I implore!"
- Balm in Gilead, American dramatist Lanford Wilson's first full-length play, centers on a café frequented by heroin addicts, prostitutes, and thieves.
- In the novel The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, the United States has been replaced by a theocratic totalitarian nation, the "Republic of Gilead." One character sings the spiritual, substituting "balm" with "bomb."
- In Stephen King's Dark Tower novels, the protagonist, Roland Deschain, hails from a kingdom called Gilead, which was destroyed by John Farson.
- In Christopher Paolini's Inheritance Cycle, Gil'ead is a location through which Eragon travels.
- In Samuel R. Delany's 2012 novel, Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders, Gilead is an island off the Georgia (U.S. state) coast from the fictitious town of Diamond Harbor where much of the action early in the novel takes place.
- Gilead is also the title of the 2004 award-winning novel (2005 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Critics Circle Award) by American writer Marilynne Robinson.
- It is also used in the titles and as the name of the main character of two Warhammer Fantasy novels by Dan Abnett and Nik Vincent: Gilead's Blood (published 2000) and the ongoing serialized Black Library eBook sequel, Gilead's Curse (Hammer and Bolter, Issues 13-18+, published 2012).
- The 1996 film The Spitfire Grill, a story of a young woman's transformation of a community and redemption of her own and her fellow townspeople's past, is set in the small town of Gilead, Maine. The 2001 musical of the same name set Gilead in Wisconsin, the location changed most likely due to the fact that Wisconsin was home to the composers.
- The song "Balsam in Gilead," based on Jeremiah 8:22, was included in Jehovah's Witnesses' 1984 songbook Sing Praises to Jehovah. The lyrics mention God's provisions for comforting, and also encourage being a comfort to others. Moreover, their missionary training school is named the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead
- The TV show Sons of Anarchy features an episode named "Gilead" (Season 2 Episode 7).
- There is a music album Balm in Gilead by Rickie Lee Jones, dated 2009.
- The 2012 Flobots song "Wrestling Israel" repeats the phrase "there's a balm in Gilead."
- "Mercy", a song written by Tender Mercies and covered by Counting Crows in their 2012 album Underwater Sunshine (Or What We Did On Our Summer Vacation), contains the lyric "There is a train bound for Gilead."
- Video game character Lara Croft reads an excerpt from three volumes of a book series titled The Trials of Gilead in the video game Tomb Raider: Anniversary, Croft Manor.
- In Margaret Atwood's novel "The Handmaid's Tale" the name for the country the action of the book takes place in is Gilead.