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Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary

Gilgal

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a celebrated place situated on the west of Jordan, where the Israelites encamped some time after their passage over that river, and where Joshua pitched twelve stones taken out of Jordan as a memorial. A considerable city was afterward built there, which became renowned for many events recorded in the history of the Jews. Gilgal was about a league from Jordan, and at an equal distance from Jericho. It received its name from the circumstance of the Hebrews being there circumcised; for when by divine command that rite had been performed upon them, the Lord said, "This day have I rolled away from off you the reproach of Egypt,"

Joshua 5:2-4 , &c.—The word Gilgal signifies rolling. Here the ark was long stationed, and consequently the place was much resorted to by the Israelites. It seems to have been the place in which Jeroboam or some of the kings of Israel instituted idolatrous worship; and hence the allusions to it by the prophets, Hosea 4:15; Amos 4:4 . It is probable that there were idols at Gilgal as early as the days of Ehud, who was one of the judges; for it is said that, having delivered his presents to the king, "Ehud went away, but returned again from the quarries that were by Gilgal,"

Judges 3:19 . The margin of our Bibles reads, "the graven images," or idols set up by the Moabites, the viewing of which, it is thought, stirred up Ehud to revenge the affront thereby offered to the God of Israel. At this same place, the people met to confirm the kingdom to Saul, 1 Samuel 11:14-15 . It was at Gilgal, too, that Saul incurred the divine displeasure, in offering sacrifice before Samuel arrived, 1 Samuel xiii; and there also it was that he received the sentence of his rejection for disobeying the divine command, and sparing the king of Amalek with the spoils which he had reserved, 1 Samuel 15.

It has been supposed that the setting up of stones, as at Gilgal and other places, gave rise to the rude stone circular temples of the Druids, and other Heathens. The idea, however, appears fanciful, and there is an essential difference between stones erected for memorials, and those used to mark sacred, or supposed sacred, places for worship.

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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Gilgal'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/wtd/g/gilgal.html. 1831-2.

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