Gilead (Bible)

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Name and Etymology[edit]

Gilead (Hebrew gil‛âd) may mean hill of testimony. It is derived from galyêd, which in turn comes from gal (heap, mound, hill) and ‛êd (witness, testimony).[1] There also exists an alternative theory that it means rocky region.[2]

Gilead as a Person and Tribal Group[edit]

Gilead was, according to the Book of Numbers, the son of Machir, and hence the grandson of Manasseh,[3] great-grandson of Joseph and greatx4 grandson of Abraham and Sarah. He also may have been the founder of the Israelite tribal group of Gilead, which is mentioned in Biblical passages which textual scholars attribute to early sources.

Textual scholars regard the genealogy in the Book of Numbers, which identifies Gilead as Machir's son, as originating in the priestly source, a document written centuries after the early JE source, in which the Gilead and Machir tribal groups are mentioned, and possibly having been written to rival the JE source.[4][5] Biblical scholars view the biblical genealogies as postdiction, an eponymous metaphor providing an aetiology of the connectedness of the group to others in the Israelite confederation;[6] the identification of Gilead as an aspect of Manasseh was the traditional explanation of why the tribal groups of Machir and Gilead are mentioned along with northern tribes in the ancient Song of Deborah, while Manasseh is absent from it.[7]

The text of the Book of Numbers appears to portray Gilead as the father of Asriel, but the Book of Chronicles states that Manasseh was the father of Asriel;[8] it is possible for there to have been two different Asriels, though Manasseh is only indicated as having had one son – Machir – in the genealogy of the Book of Numbers.

Gilead as a Location[edit]

In addition to being used as the name of a person, Gilead is also used as the name for a location in various parts of the Bible. The first time it is used in the Bible is called "the mountain of Gilead."[9] Later it is just called "Gilead,"[10] or the "land of Gilead."[11] According to Easton's Bible Dictionary,[12] all three of these expressions refer to a region in Transjordan, approximately 20 by 60 miles in area. The cities of Gilead, according to Numbers 32, were inhabited by the tribes of Gad and Reuben after the Israelite invasion of Transjordan, after the expulsion of the native Amorites.

In addition to the references to Gilead as a "land" or "mountain," Gilead is called a city in Hosea 6:8: "Gilead is a city of those who work iniquity; it is stained with blood."[13]


  1. ^ Hebrew Dictionary, appendix to Strong's Concordance of the Bible, Reference #5707
  2. ^ Smith's Bible Dictionary, entry for "Gil'e-ad"
  3. ^ Numbers 26:29
  4. ^ Richard Elliott Friedman, Who wrote the Bible?
  5. ^ Peake's commentary on the Bible
  6. ^ Peake's commentary on the Bible
  7. ^ Jewish Encyclopedia, Machir
  8. ^ 1 Chronicles 7:14
  9. ^ Genesis 31:21
  10. ^ Genesis 37:25, et al.
  11. ^ Numbers 32:1, et al.
  12. ^ Easton's Bible Dictionary, "Gilead."
  13. ^ World English Bible

See also[edit]