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Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible


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GILEAD. 1. A person (or personified sept), son of the Manassite Machir ( Numbers 26:29 , 1 Chronicles 2:21 ), and grandfather of Zelophehad ( Numbers 27:1 ). See No. 4 below. 2. A Gadite, son of Michael ( 1 Chronicles 5:14 ). 3. A mountain mentioned in Judges 7:3 in an order of Gideon’s to his followers, ‘Whosoever is fearful … let him return and depart from [mg. ‘go round about’] Mount Gilead.’ The passage is very difficult, and probably corrupt. The trans-Jordanic Gilead will not suit the context, and no other is known. Various attempts have been made at emendation, none of which has commanded acceptance.

4. The name of the territory bounded on the north by Bashan, on the west by the Jordan between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea, on the east by the desert, and on the south by the territory of Moab. It is a lofty fertile plateau, about 2000 feet above the sea-level; its western edge is the precipitous eastern wall of the Jordan Valley. It is an upland country, wooded in places, with productive fields intersected by valleys and streams. It is mentioned first in connexion with Jacob’s flight from Laban; it was the goal at which he aimed, the place where the pursuer overtook him, and where the ‘heap of witness’ was raised ( Genesis 31:1-55 ). Even in the patriarchal period it was famous for its spices, myrrh, and medicinal ‘balm,’ whatever that may have been (cf. Jeremiah 8:22 ; Jeremiah 46:11 ). The Ishmaelite trading caravan which bought Joseph was carrying these substances from Gilead to Egypt ( Genesis 37:25 ). The Amorites were in possession of Gilead under their king Sihon when the Israelites were led to the Land of Promise. When that king was defeated, his territory aroused the desires of the pastoral tribes of Reuben and Gad. Its fitness for pasture is celebrated in the Song of Songs: the Shulammite’s hair is twice compared to ‘goats that lie along the side of Mount Gilead’ ( Song of Solomon 4:6 ; Song of Solomon 6:5 ). On the partition of the land, Gilead was divided into two, the southern half being given to Reuben and Gad, the northern half to the trans-Jordanic half of Manasseh. The Manassite part is distinguished by the name Havvoth-jair, apparently meaning the ‘Settlements of Jair.’ Jair was a son of Manasseh, according to Numbers 32:41 , but he seems in Judges 10:5 to be confused with one of the minor Judges of the same name. Another Judge, Jephthah ( Judges 11:1-40 ), was a Gileadite, whose prowess delivered Israel from Ammon. His subsequent sacrifice of his daughter is indicated as the origin of a festival of Israelite women ( Judges 11:40 ). In a previous stress of the Israelites, Gilead did not hear its part, and is upbraided for its remissness by Deborah ( Judges 5:17 ). In Judges 20:1 Gilead is used as a general term for trans-Jordanic Israel. Here some of the Hebrews took refuge from the Philistines ( 1 Samuel 13:7 ); and over Gilead and other parts of the country Ish-bosheth was made king ( 2 Samuel 2:9 ). Hither David fled from before Absalom, and was succoured, among others, by Barzillai ( 2 Samuel 17:27 ; 2 Samuel 19:31 , 1 Kings 2:7 ), whose descendants are referred to in post-exilic records ( Ezra 2:61 , Nehemiah 7:63 ). To Gilead David’s census agents came ( 2 Samuel 24:6 ). It was administered by Ben-geber for Solomon ( 1 Kings 4:13 ). It was the land of Elijah’s origin ( 1 Kings 17:1 ). For cruelties to Gileadites, Damascus and Ammon are denounced by Amos ( Amos 1:3 ; Amos 1:13 ), while on the other hand Hosea ( Hosea 6:8 ; Hosea 12:11 ) speaks bitterly of the sins of Gilead. Pekah had a following of fifty Gileadites when he slew Pekahiah ( 2 Kings 15:25 ). The country was smitten by Hazael ( 2 Kings 10:33 ), and its inhabitants carried away captive by Tiglath-pileser ( 2 Kings 15:29 ).

R. A. S. Macalister.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Gilead'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. 1909.

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