Easton's Bible Dictionary
hill of testimony, ( Genesis 31:21 ), A mountainous region
east of Jordan. 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" ( Psalms 60:7 ; Genesis 37:25 ). It comprised the possessions
of the tribes of Gad and Reuben and the south part of Manasseh ( Deuteronomy 3:13
; Numbers 32:40 ). It was bounded on the north by Bashan, and on the south by
Moab and Ammon ( Genesis 31:21 ; Deuteronomy 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 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.
Hitchcock's Dictionary of Bible Names
the heap or mass of testimony
Smith's Bible Dictionary
(1) A mountainous region bounded on the west by the Jordan, on the north by Bashan,
on the east by the Arabian plateau, and on the south by Moab and Ammon. ( Genesis
31:21 ; 3:12 - 17 ) It is sometimes called "Mount Gilead," ( Genesis 31:25 ) sometimes
"the land of Gilead," ( Numbers 32:1 ) and sometimes simply "Gilead." ( Psalms
60:7 ; Genesis 37:25 ) The name Gilead, as is usual in Palestine, describes the
physical aspect of the country: it signifies "a hard rocky region." The mountains
of Gilead, including Pisgah, Abarim and Peor, have a real elevation of from 2000
to 3000 feet; but their apparent elevation on the western side is much greater,
owing to the depression of the Jordan valley, which averages about 3000 feet.
Their outline is singularly uniform, resembling a massive wall running along the
horizon. Gilead was specially noted for its balm collected from "balm of Gilead"
trees, and worth twice its weight in silver.
(2) Possibly the name of a mountain west of the Jordan, near Jezreel. ( Judges
7:3 ) We are inclined, however, to think that the true reading in this place should
(3) Son of Machir, grandson of Manasseh. ( Numbers 26:29 , 26:30 )
(4) The father of Jephthah. ( Judges 11:1 , 11:2 )
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
gil'-e-ad (ha-gil`adh, "the Gilead"):
The name is explained in Genesis 31:46 , 51 , as derived from Hebrew gal, "a cairn,"
and `edh, "witness," agreeing in meaning with the Aramaic yegharsahadhutha'. The
Arabic jilead means "rough," "rugged."
(1) A city named in Hosea 6:8 ; 12:11, possibly to be identified with Gilead near
to Mizpah (Judges 10:17). If this is correct, the ancient city may be represented
by the modern Jil'ad, a ruin about 5 miles North of es-Salt.
(2) A mountain named in Judges 7:3. Gideon, ordered to reduce the number of men
who were with him, commanded all who were "fearful and trembling" to "return and
depart from Mt. Gilead." the Revised Version, margin reads "return and go round
about from Mt. Gilead." Gideon and his army lay to the South of the plain of Jezreel
on the lower slopes of Gilboa. It has been suggested (Studer, Comm., at the place)
that, as the Midianites lay between the men of the northern tribes and their homes,
they were told to cross the Jordan, make a detour through Gilead, and thus avoid
the enemy. Possibly, however, we should read Gilboa for Gilead; or part of the
mountain may have borne the name of Gilead. The last suggestion is favored by
the presence of a strong spring under the northern declivity of Gilboa, nearly
2 miles from Zer`in, possibly to be identified with the Well of Harod. In the
modern name, `Ain Jalud, there may be an echo of the ancient Gilead.
(3) The name is applied generally to the mountain mass lying between the Yarmuk
on the North, and Wady Chesban on the South; the Jordan being the boundary on
the West, while on the East it marched with the desert.
|1. The Land of Gilead:
Mount Gilead--literally, "Mount of the Gilead"--may refer to some particular height
which we have now no means of identifying (Genesis 31:23). The name Jebel Jil`ad
is still, indeed, applied to a mountain South of Nahr ez-Zerqa and North of es-Salt;
but this does not meet the necessities of the passage as it stands. The same expression
in Deuteronomy 3:12 obviously stands for the whole country. This is probably true
also in Song of Solomon 4:1. The name Gilead is sometimes used to denote the whole
country East of the Jordan (Genesis 37:25 ; Joshua 22:9 ; 2 Samuel 2:9 , etc.).
Again, along with Bashan, it indicates the land East of Jordan, as distinguished
from the Moab plateau (Deuteronomy 3:10 ; Joshua 13:11 ; 2 Kings 10:33).
In the North Gilead bordered upon Geshur and Maacah (Joshua 13:11 , 13); and here
the natural boundary would be formed by the deep gorge of the Yarmuk and Wady
esh-Shellaleh. In pre-Israelite times the Jabbok (Nahr ez-Zerqa), which cuts the
country in two, divided the kingdom of Sihon from that of Og (Deuteronomy 3:16
; Joshua 12:2). The frontiers between the tribes of Reuben, Gad and Manasseh cannot
be indicated with any certainty. Probably they varied at different times (compare
Joshua 13:24 ; 1 Chronicles 5:8 , 9 , 11 , 16). It greatly increases the difficulty
that so many of the cities named are still unidentified. But in any case it is
clear that the bulk of Gilead fell to Gad, so that Gilead might stand for Gad
(Judges 5:17). HAVVOTH-JAIR (which see), "the villages of Jair," lay in Gilead
(Judges 10:4). The modern division of the country follows the natural features.
From the Yarmuk to Nahr ez-Zerqa is the district of `Ajlun; and from the Zerqa
to the Arnon is el-Belqa.
The geological formation is the same as that of Western Palestine, but the underlying
sandstone, which does not appear West of the Jordan, forms the base slopes of
the chain of Moab and Gilead, and is traceable as far as the Jabbok. It is covered
in part by the more recent white marls which form the curious peaks of the foothills
immediately above the Jordan valley; but reaches above them to an elevation of
1,000 ft. above the Mediterranean on the South, and forms the bed of the Buqei`a
basin farther East, and 1,000 ft. higher. Above this lies the hard, impervious
dolomite limestone which appears in 'the rugged hills round' the Jabbok and in
Jebel `Ajlun, rising on an average 1,500 ft. above the sandstone and forming the
bed of the copious springs. It also dips toward the Jordan valley, and the water
from the surface of the plateau, sinking down to the surface of their formation,
bursts out of the hill slopes on the West in perennial brooks. It was from the
ruggedness of this hard limestone that Gilead obtained its name. Above this again
is the white chalk of the desert plateau, the same as that found in Samaria and
Lower Galilee, with bands of flint or chert in contorted layers, or strewn in
pebbles on the surface. Where this formation is deep the country is bare and arid,
supplied by cisterns and deep wells. Thus the plateau becomes desert, while the
hill slopes abound in streams and springs; and for this reason Western Gilead
is a fertile country, and Eastern Gilead is a wilderness (Conder, DB, under the
The uplands of Gilead may be described as the crumpling of the edge of the great
eastern plateau ere it plunges into the Ghor. The average height of the range
is about 4,000 ft. above the Jordan valley, or 3,000 ft. above the Mediterranean.
The greatest height is toward the South, where it culminates in Jebel Osh`a (3,597
ft.), to the North of es-Salt. This mountain commands a most spacious view. To
the East of it lies the hollow (an old lake bottom) of el-Buqei`a, fully 1,500
ft. lower. In the North we have Jebel Hakart (3,408 ft.) W, of Reimun. Almost
as high (3,430 ft.) is Jebei Kafkafah, about 12 miles to the Northeast. A striking
point (2,700 ft.) fully 2 miles Northwest of `Ajlun, is crowned by Qal`at er-Rabad,
whence again a view of extraordinary extent is gained.
5. Streams and Products:
The Yarmuk and the Zerqa (see JABBOK) are the main streams, but almost every valley
has its perennial brook. While not so rich as the volcanic loam in the North and
in and the South, the soil of Gilead amply repays the labor of the husbandman.
Of flowers the most plentiful are the phlox, the cistus and the narcissus. Hawthorn,
mastic and arbutus abound, while many a glen and slope is shady with shaggy oak
woods, and, in the higher reaches, with pines. The streams are fringed with oleander.
The monotony of the stony plateau is broken by clumps of the hardy white broom.
In the lower ground are found the tamarisk and the lotus, with many a waving cane-brake.
The scenery is more beautiful and picturesque than that of any other district
of Palestine. The soil is not now cultivated to any great extent; but it furnishes
ample pasture for many flocks and herds (Song of Solomon 6:5).
The Ishmaelites from Gilead (Genesis 37:25) were carrying "spicery and balm and
myrrh." From old time Gilead was famed for its BALM (which see). The loT, translated
"myrrh" in the above passage, was probably the gum produced by the Cistus ladaniferus,
a flower which still abounds in Gilead.
After the conquest, as we have seen, Gilead passed mainly into the hands of Gad.
An Ammonite attack was repulsed by the prowess of Jephthah (Judges 11:1); and
the spite of the Ephraimites was terribly punished (Judges 12:1). Gilead at first
favored the cause of Ishbosheth (2 Samuel 2:9), but after the murder of that prince
the Gileadites came with the rest of Israel to David (2 Samuel 5:1). By the conquest
of the fortress Rabbah, which the Ammonites had continued to hold, the land passed
finally under the power of David (2 Samuel 12:26). David fled to Mahanaim from
Absalom, and that rebel prince perished in one of the forests of Gilead (2 Samuel
17:24 ; 18:6). Joab's census included Gilead (2 Samuel 24:6). Solomon had two
commissariat districts in Gilead (1 Kings 4:13 , 19). Before Ramoth-gilead, which
he sought to win back from the Syrians who had captured it, Ahab received his
death wound (1 Kings 22:1). The Syrians asserted their supremacy in Gilead (2
Kings 10:32) where Moab and Israel had contended with varying fortune (M S). At
length Tiglath-pileser overran the country and transported many of the inhabitants
(2 Kings 15:29). This seems to have led to a reconquest of the land by heathenism,
and return to Gilead was promised to Israel (Zechariah 10:10).
At a later time the Jewish residents in Gilead were exposed to danger from their
heathen neighbors. On their behalf Judas Maccabeus invaded the country and met
with striking success (1 Macc 5:9). Alexander Janneus, who had subdued Gilead,
was forced to yield it again to the king of Arabia (Ant., XIII, xiv, 2; BJ, I,
iv, 3). During the Roman period, especially in the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD, the
land enjoyed great prosperity. Then were built such cities as Gadara and Gerasa,
which are still imposing, even in ruins. The appearance of the Moslem armies was
the signal for its decay. Attempts were made to recover it for Christianity by
Baldwin I (1118 AD) and Baldwin II (1121 AD); and the Crusaders left their mark
in such strong-holds as Kal`at er-Rabad and the castle at es-Salt. With the reassertion
of Moslem supremacy a curtain falls over the history of the district; and only
in comparatively recent times has it again become known to travelers. The surveys
directed by the Palestine Exploration Fund, in so far as they have been carried
out, are invaluable. North of the Jabbok are many villages, and a fair amount
of cultivation. Es Salt is the only village of any importance in the South. It
is famous for its raisins. Its spacious uplands, its wooded and well-watered valleys
have been for centuries the pasture-land of the nomads.
Useful information will be found in Merrill, East of the Jordan; Oliphant, Land
of Gilead; Thomson, LB; and especially in Conder, Heth and Moab, and in Memoirs
of the Survey of Eastern Palestine
(4) A son of Machir, grandson of Manasseh (Numbers 26:29 , 30).
(5) The father of Jephthah (Judges 11:1 , 2).
(6) A Gadite, the son of Michael (1 Chronicles 5:14).
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