(Gilʹe·ad) [probably derived from Galeed, meaning “Witness Heap”].—Ge 31:47, 48.
2. A Gadite listed in the genealogy of Abihail.—1Ch 5:11-14.
3. Jephthah’s father.—Jg 11:1, 2.
4. A geographic term that is variously employed in the Bible. In a strict sense, Gilead denoted the domelike mountainous region E of the Jordan River that extended N and S of the torrent valley of Jabbok. (Jos 12:2) In the N it was bounded by Bashan; in the S, by the tableland N of the torrent valley of Arnon; and in the E, by the territory of Ammon. (De 2:36, 37; 3:8-10) However, at times “Gilead” or “the land of Gilead” applied generally to the entire Israelite territory E of the Jordan, including Bashan and the tableland N of the Arnon.—Jos 22:9; Jg 20:1, 2; 2Sa 2:9; 2Ki 10:32, 33; see GALEED.
Evidently Gilead was thought of as consisting of two parts. Though simply called Gilead at Numbers 32:40, the territory assigned to the half tribe of Manasseh is more specifically referred to as “the rest of Gilead” (De 3:13) or the “half of Gilead.” (Jos 13:31) Similarly, in a more definite sense, the combined territory of Gad and Reuben S of the area given to the half tribe of Manasseh was called “half of the mountainous region of Gilead.” (De 3:12) Yet this same area is, on occasion, also called simply Gilead, as is the portion thereof assigned to Gad (where the city of refuge Ramoth was located).—Nu 32:29; Jos 13:24, 25; 21:38.
From at least 210 m (690 ft) below sea level at the Jordan Valley, Gilead rises to an elevation of over 1,000 m (3,300 ft). Blessed with abundant rainfall in winter and heavy dews in summer, as well as many springs, this fertile region anciently supported great forests and was well known for its healing balsam. (Jer 8:22; 46:11; see BALSAM, BALSAM OF GILEAD.) Its rolling plateaus were ideal for raising livestock and cultivating cereals. Also, grapes thrived in Gilead.—Nu 21:22; 32:1.
Historical Events in Gilead. Shortly before the Israelites entered the Promised Land, the Amorite king Sihon controlled the section of Gilead S of the torrent valley of Jabbok, whereas Og the king of Bashan ruled over the part to the N. (Jos 12:1-4) Under the leadership of Moses, the Israelites defeated both of these kings, and the tribes of Gad and Reuben, because of their numerous livestock, requested that this region be given to them as an inheritance. (Nu 21:21-24, 33-35; 32:1-5) Their request was granted on the condition that the fighting men of both tribes cross the Jordan and assist in the conquest of the Promised Land. (Nu 32:20-24, 28-30) This they agreed to do, and immediately they rebuilt cities for their families, whom they would leave behind. (Nu 32:25-27, 31-38) The half tribe of Manasseh also received an inheritance E of the Jordan.—Nu 32:33, 39, 40.
En route back to their inheritance in Gilead, the men of Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh built an altar as a memorial of faithfulness to Jehovah. (Jos 22:9, 10, 26-29) Later, they shared in the united tribal action against the Benjamites for shielding the wrongdoers of Gibeah from being brought to justice. (Jg 20:1-48) But in sharp contrast to this, “Gilead” was censured for failing to join Barak in the fight against Sisera. (Jg 5:17) Similarly, at a later period the men of Succoth and Penuel, two cities in Gilead, refused to assist Gideon and his men with food supplies while the latter were pursuing the Midianites.—Jg 8:4-9.
After the death of Judge Jair from Gilead, Israel reverted to idolatry, and 18 years of severe Ammonite oppression followed. Faced with this menace, the men of Gilead abandoned false worship and appealed to Gileadite Jephthah to be their commander in the fight against Ammon. Subsequently the Ammonites were subdued.—Jg 10:3, 5-10; 11:4-11, 32, 33.
Years later, though, Gilead continued to have difficulty with the Ammonites. (Am 1:13) Shortly after Saul had been anointed as Israel’s first king, Nahash the Ammonite laid siege to Jabesh-gilead and would accept the surrender of this city only on the condition that the men allow their right eyes to be bored out. Upon learning this, Saul quickly rallied an army of 330,000 men and defeated the Ammonites. (1Sa 11:1-11) Gilead then seems to have entered a period of relative security that continued even after Saul’s death, as is suggested by the fact that Abner chose the Gileadite city of Mahanaim as the place to make Saul’s son Ish-bosheth king. (2Sa 2:8, 9) However, sometime during David’s reign trouble with the Ammonites broke out anew. Gilead and its vicinity became the scene of the battles that finally resulted in the complete subjugation of Ammon.—2Sa 10:6-19; 11:1; 12:26-31.
Later, during Absalom’s rebellion, King David fled to Gilead and, at Mahanaim, was kindly and hospitably received, particularly by the aged Barzillai. (2Sa 17:27-29; 19:32) Evidently in Gilead the forces of David and of Absalom met in battle. The signal defeat of Absalom paved the way for David to leave Gilead and return to his throne.—2Sa 17:24; 18:6-8.
Not long after the ten-tribe kingdom was established (997 B.C.E.), the Syrians annexed territory from Gilead. Ramoth-gilead, the Gadite city of refuge in eastern Gilead, was in the possession of the Syrians in the time of King Ahab and the Gileadite prophet Elijah. (1Ki 17:1; 22:3) Then, during the reigns of King Jehu and his son Jehoahaz, Gilead lost even more territory and was subjected to a severe threshing experience at the hands of the Syrian kings Hazael and his son Ben-hadad III. (2Ki 10:32-34; 13:1, 3, 7; Am 1:3, 4) However, Jehoash the son of Jehoahaz defeated the Syrians three times and recovered the cities Israel had lost to the Syrians during his father’s reign.—2Ki 13:25.
Finally, in the days of Israelite King Pekah (c. 778-759 B.C.E.), the Assyrian king Tiglath-pileser III carried the inhabitants of Gilead into exile. (2Ki 15:29) Apparently the Ammonites were quick to take advantage of this situation and began to occupy the territory of Gilead. (Ps 83:4-8; Jer 49:1-5) However, through his prophets, Jehovah gave the assurance that in time the Israelites would again be restored to this region.—Jer 50:19; Mic 7:14; Zec 10:10.
5. “A town” mentioned by Hosea as being filled with untruth, bloodshed, and practicers of what is harmful. (Ho 6:8; compare 12:11.) Since Gilead is not identified as a city elsewhere in Scripture, some think that either Jabesh-gilead or Ramoth-gilead is meant. Others suggest that this refers to the entire region E of the Jordan.
[Map on page 943]
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Land of GILEAD
Sea of Galilee
T.V. of Yarmuk
T.V. of Jabbok
T.V. of Arnon