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Bible Encyclopedias

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

Gad (1)

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(גּד , gādh , "fortune"; Γάδ , Gád ):

1. The Name

The seventh son of Jacob, whose mother was Zilpah (Genesis 30:11 ), and whose birth was welcomed by Leah with the cry, "Fortunate!" Some have sought to connect the name with that of the heathen deity Gad, of which traces are found in Baal-gad, Migdal-gad, etc. In the blessing of Jacob (Genesis 49:19 ) there is a play upon the name, as if it meant "troop," or "marauding band." "Gad, a troop shall press upon him; but he shall press upon their heel" (Hebrew gādh , gedhūdh , yeghūdhennū , wehū yāghūdh ‛āḳēbh ). Here there is doubtless a reference to the high spirit and valor that characterized the descendants of Gad. The enemy who attacked them exposed himself to grave peril. In the blessing of Moses again (Deuteronomy 33:20 ) it is said that Gad "dwelleth as lioness, and teareth the arm, yea, the crown of the head." Leonine qualities are ascribed to the Gadites , mighty men of valor, who joined David (1 Chronicles 12:8 , 1 Chronicles 12:14 ). Their "faces were like the faces of lions, and they were as swift as the roes upon the mountain." Among their captains "he that was least was equal to a hundred, and the greatest to a thousand."

2. The Tribe

Of the patriarch Gad almost nothing is recorded. Seven sons went down with him into Egypt, when Jacob accepted Joseph s invitation (Genesis 46:16 ). At the beginning of the desert march Gad numbered 45,650 "from twenty years old and upward, all that were able to go forth to war" (Numbers 1:24 ). In the plains of Moab the number had fallen to 40,500 (Numbers 26:18 ). The place of Gad was with the standard of the camp of Reuben on the South side of the tabernacle (Numbers 2:14 ). The prince of the tribe was Eliasaph, son of Deuel (Numbers 1:14 ), or Reuel (Numbers 2:14 ). Among the spies Gad was represented by Geuel son of Machi (Numbers 13:15 ). See NUMBERS .

3. The Tribal Territory

From time immemorial the dwellers east of the Jordan have followed the pastoral life. When Moses had completed the conquest of these lands, the spacious uplands, with their wide pastures, attracted the great flock-masters of Reuben and Gad. In response to their appeal Moses assigned them their tribal portions here: only on condition, however, that their men of war should go over with their brethren, and take their share alike in the hardship and in the glory of the conquest of Western Palestine (Nu 32). When the victorious campaigns of Joshua were completed, the warriors of Reuben and Gad returned to their possessions in the East. They halted, however, in the Jordan valley to build the mighty altar of Ed. They feared lest the gorge of the Jordan should in time become all too effective a barrier between them and their brethren on the West. This altar should be for all time a "witness" to their unity in race and faith (Josh 22). The building of the altar was at first misunderstood by the western tribes, but the explanation given entirely satisfied them.

4. Boundaries

It is impossible to indicate with any certainty the boundaries of the territory of Gad. Reuben lay on the South, and the half-tribe of Manasseh on the North. These three occupied the whole of Eastern Palestine. The South border of Gad is given as the Arnon in Numbers 32:34 ; but six cities to the North of the Arnon are assigned in Numbers 32:16 to Reuben. Again, Joshua 13:26 makes Wādy Ḥesbān the southern boundary of Gad. Mesha, however (MS), says that the men of Gad dwelt in Ataroth from old time. This is far South of Wady Chesban. The writer of Nu 32 may have regarded the Jabbok as the northern frontier of Gad; but Joshua 13:27 extends it to the Sea of Chinnereth, making the Jordan the western boundary. It included Rabbath-ammon in the East. We have not now the information necessary to explain this apparent confusion. There can be no doubt that, as a consequence of strifes with neighboring peoples, the boundaries were often changed ( 1 Chronicles 5:18 f). For the Biblical writers the center of interest was in Western Palestine, and the details given regarding the eastern tribes are very meager. We may take it, however, that, roughly, the land of Gilead fell to the tribe of Gad. In Judges 5:17 Gilead appears where we should naturally expect Gad, for which it seems to stand. The city of refuge, Ramoth in Gilead, was in the territory of Gad ( Joshua 20:8 ). For description of the country see GILEAD .

5. History

Reuben and Gad were absent from the muster against Sisera (Judges 5:15 ); but they united with their brethren in taking vengeance on Benjamin, Jabesh-gilead, from which no contingent was sent, being destroyed (20 f). Jephthah is probably to be reckoned to this tribe, his house, Mizpah (Judges 11:34 ), being apparently within its territory (Joshua 13:26 ). Gad furnished a refuge for some of the Hebrews during the Philistine oppression (1 Samuel 13:7 ). To David, while he avoided Saul at Ziklag, certain Gadites attached themselves (1 Chronicles 12:8 ). A company of them also joined in making him king at Hebron (1 Chronicles 12:38 ). In Gad the adherents of the house of Saul gathered round Ish-bosheth (2 Samuel 2:8 ). Hither David came in his flight from Absalom (2 Samuel 17:24 ). Gad fell to Jeroboam at the disruption of the kingdom, and Penuel, apparently within its borders, Jeroboam fortified at first (1 Kings 12:25 ). It appears from the Moabite Stone that part of the territory afterward passed into the hands of Moab. Under Omri this was recovered; but Moab again asserted its supremacy. Elijah probably belonged to this district; and the brook Cherith must be sought in one of its wild secluded glens.

Gad formed the main theater of the long struggle between Israel and the Syrians. At Ramoth-gilead Ahab received his death wound (1 Ki 22). Under Jeroboam II, this country was once more an integral part of the land of Israel. In 734 bc, however, Tiglath-pileser appeared, and conquered all Eastern Palestine, carrying its inhabitants captive (2 Kings 15:29 ; 1 Chronicles 5:26 ). This seems to have furnished occasion for the children of Ammon to occupy the country (Jeremiah 49:1 ). In Ezekiel's ideal picture (Ezekiel 48:27 , Ezekiel 48:34 ), a place is found for the tribe of Gad. Obadiah seems to have forgotten the tribe, and their territory is assigned to Benjamin (Obadiah 1:19 ). Gad, however, has his place among the tribes of Israel in Rev 7.


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Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. Entry for 'Gad (1)'. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/isb/g/gad-1.html. 1915.

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