Gil'ead (Heb. Gilad', גַּלעָד, generally with the article prefixed, when applied to the region or mountain; properly a stony district, hence, according to Ge 31:41, heap or hill of testimony; Sept. Γαλαάδ), the name of several men, also of a region and mountain, and perhaps a city. The name Gilead. as is usual in Palestine, describes the physical aspect of the country. It signifies "a hard, rocky region;" and it may be regarded as standing in contrast with Bashan, the other great trans-Jordanic province, which is, as the name implies, a "level, fertile tract." The statements in Ge 31:48, are not opposed to this etymology. The old name of the district was גַּלעָד (Gilead), but, by a slight change in the pronunciation, the radical letters being retained, the meaning was made beautifully applicable to the "heap of stones" Jacob and Laban had built up "and Laban said! this heap (גִּל) is a witness (עֵד) between me and thee this day. Therefore was the name of it called Gal-eed" (גִּלעֵד, "the heap of witness"). Those acquainted with the modern Arabs and their literature will see how intensely such a play upon the word would be appreciated by them. This Galeed could not have been far from Mahanaim, and was doubtless one of those rounded eminences to the northward which overlook the broad plateau of Bashan (Ge 31:25; Ge 32:1-2). SEE GALEED.
1. A mountainous region east of the Jordan; bounded on the north by Bashan, on the east by the Arabian plateau, and on the south by Moab and Ammon (Ge 31:21; De 3:12-17), properly extending from the parallel of Rabboth-Ammon on the south to the river Hieromax on the north. The same name, however, was given to the ridge extending between these parallels. With the exception of the narrow strip of plain along the bank of the Jordan, the mountains, in fact, cover the whole region; hence it is sometimes called "Mount Gilead" (Ge 31:25), הִר הִגַּלעָד; comp. De 3:12; Jer 1:19), sometimes "the land of Gilead" (Nu 32:1, אֶרֶוֹ גַּלעָד; compare De 34:1; Nu 34:29; Zec 10:10), and sometimes simply "Gilead" (Ps 60:7; Ge 37:25; Nu 32:40; Jos 17:1; Am 1:3); but a comparison of the several passages shows that they all mean the same thing. There is no evidence, in fact, that any particular mountain was meant by Mount Gilead more than by Mount Lebanon (Jg 3:3) — they both comprehend the whole range, and the range of Gilead embraced the whole province, or group of mountains vaguely stated by Eusebius (Onomast. s.v. Γαλαάδ) to be connected with Lebanon by means of Mount Hermon. It begins not far from the latter, and extends southward to the sources of the brooks Jabbok and Arnon, thus enclosing the whole eastern part of the land beyond the Jordan (Ge 31:21; Song 4:1). According to Michaelis (Mos. Recht, 1:86), this mountain, which gave its name to the country so called, must even be situated beyond the region sketched in our maps, and somewhere about the Euphrates. But this is fanciful. Strictly, the name comprehends the mountainous region south of the river Jabbok, where is the highest part of the mountains east of the Jordan; and one ridge is still named Jebel Jelad or Jelud, from the ruined towns so called upon it (Burckhardt, Travels in Syria, page 348; Robinson's Researches, 2:243, 306; App. page 167). The inhabitants were called Gileadites (Jg 10:3; 2Ki 15:25).
I. Divisions of the Territory. —
(a.) Gilead is usually, therefore, the name of a large district beyond the Jordan, continually mentioned in the Scriptures in contradistinction to, or apart from, Bashan (De 3:13; Jos 12:5; Jos 13:11; Jos 17:1; 2Ki 10:33; 1Ch 5:16; Mic 7:14); though, to judge from its geographical position (as given Nu 32:26; De 3:12), it must have comprised the entire possessions of the two tribes of Gad and Reuben, and even the southern part of Manasseh (De 3:13; Nu 32:40; Jos 17:2-6);
corresponding to the region now called el-Beka and Jebel-Ajlun. Sometimes it is put for the territory of Gad and Reuben alone (Ps 60:9; Ps 108:9); at others for the tribe of Gad only (Jg 5:17; comp. 5:16), although this usage is not constant, and in 1Sa 13:7, the land of Gad and Gilead are joined. The cities Ramoth, Jabesh, and Jazer are usually designated as lying in Gilead.
There is a special descriptive term, which may almost be regarded as a proper name, used to denote the great plateau which borders Gilead on the south and east. The refuge-city Bezer is said to be "in the country of the Mishor" (De 4:43); and Jer 48:21 says, "judgment is come upon the country of the Mishor" (see also Jos 13:9; Jos 16:10,10; Jos 20:8). Mishor (מַשׁוֹר and מַשׂר) signifies a "level plain" or "table-land;" and no word could be more applicable. This is one among many examples of the minute accuracy of Bible topography. SEE MISHOR.
The extent of Gilead in this general sense we can ascertain with tolerable exactness from incidental notices in the Holy Scriptures. The Jordan was its western border (1Sa 13:7; 2Ki 10:33). A comparison of a number of passages shows that the river Hieromax, the modern Sheriat el-Mandhur, separated it from Bashan on the north. "Half Gilead" is said to have been possessed by Sihon, king of the Amorites, and the other half by Og, king of Bashan; and the river Jabbok was the division between the two kingdoms (De 3:12; Jos 12:1-5). The half of Gilead possessed by Og must therefore have been north of the Jabbok. It is also stated that the territory of the tribe, of Gad extended along the Jordan valley to the Sea of Galilee (Jos 13:27); and yet "all Bashan" was given to Manasseh (verse 30). We therefore conclude that the deep glen of the Hieromax, which runs eastward, on the parallel of the south end of the Sea of Galilee, was the dividing line between Bashan and Gilead. North of that glen stretches out a flat, fertile plateau, such as the name Bashan (בָּשָׁן, like the Arabic bashah, signifies "soft and level soil") would suggest; while on the south we have the rough and rugged, yet picturesque hill country, for which Gilead is the fit name. (See Porter, in Journal of Sac. Lit. July 1854, page 284 sq.; compare Ib. January 1852, page 364.) On the east the mountain range melts away gradually into the high plateau of Arabia. The boundary of Gilead is here not so clearly defined, but it may be regarded as running along the foot of the range. The southern boundary is less certain. The tribe of Reuben occupied the country as far south as the river Arnon, which was the border of Moab (De 2:36; De 3:12). It seems, however, that the southern section of their territory was not included in Gilead. In Jos 13:9-11, it is intimated that the "plain of Medeba" ("the Mishor" it is called), north of the Arnon, is not in Gilead; and when' speaking of the cities of refuge, Moses describes 'Bezer, which was given out of the tribe of Reuben, as being "in the wilderness, in the plain country" (i.e., "in the country of the Mishor," אֶרֶוֹ הָמַּישֹׁר), while Ramoth is said to be in Gilead (Deuteronomy 4:43). This southern plateau was also called "the land of Jazer" (Nu 32:1; 2Sa 24:5; comp. also Jos 13:16-25). The valley of Heshbon may therefore, in all probability, be the southern boundary of Gilead. Gilead thus extended from the parallel of the south end of the Sea of Galilee to that of the north end of the Dead Sea —about 60 miles; and its average breadth scarcely exceeded 20.
(b.) While such were the usual limits of Gilead, the same is used in a wider sense in two or three parts of Scripture. Moses, for example, is said to have seen, from the top of Pisgah, "all the land of Gilead unto Dan" (De 34:1); and in Jg 20:1, and Jos 22:9, the name seems to comprehend the whole territory of the Israelites beyond the Jordan. A little attention shows that this is only a vague way of speaking, in common use everywhere.
(c.) The district corresponding to Gilead is now divided into two provinces, separated by the Jabbok. The section lying between the Jabkok and the Hieromax is now called Jebel Ajlun; while that to the south of the Jabbok constitutes the modern province of Belka. One of the most conspicuous peaks in the mountain range still retains the ancient name, being called Jebel Jihad, "Mount Gilead." It is about seven miles south of the Jabbok, and commands a magnificent view over the whole Jordan valley, and the mountains of Judah and Ephraim. It is probably the site of Ramath-Mizpeh of Jos 13:26; and the "Mizpeh of Gilead," from which Jephthah "passed over unto the children of Ammon" (Jg 11:29). The spot is admirably adapted for a gathering-place in time of invasion or aggressive war. The neighboring village of es-Salt occupies the site of the old "city of refuge" in Gad, Ramoth-Gilead (q.v.).
II. History. — The first notice we have of Gilead is in connection with the history of Jacob (Ge 31:21 sq.). That patriarch, having passed the Euphrates, "set his face towards Mount-Gilead;" he struck across the desert by the great fountain at Palmyra; then traversed the eastern part of the plain of Damascus, and the plateau of Bashan, and entered Gilead from the north-east. "In the Mount Gilead Laban overtook him" — apparently soon after he entered the district; for when they separated again, Jacob went on his way and arrived at Mahanaim, which must have been considerably north of the river Jabbok (Ge 32:1-2,22). SEE JACOB.
Gilead is not mentioned again in the patriarchal history; but it is possibly this same region which is referred to under the name Ham (q.v.), and was inhabited by the gigantic Zuzim. The kings of the East who came to punish the rebellious "cities of the plain," first attacked the Rephaim in Ashteroth Karnaim — i.e., in the country now called Hlaurann; then they advanced southwards against the "Zuzims in Ham;" and next against the Emim in Simaveh-Kiriathim, which was subsequently possessed by the Moabites (Genesis 14:5; De 2:9-19). SEE EMIM; SEE REPHAIM.
We hear nothing more of Gilead till the invasion of the country by the Israelites. One half of it was then in the hands of Sihon, king of the Amorites, who had a short time previously driven out the Moalites. Ogr king of Bashan, had the other section north of the Jabbok. The Israelites defeated the former at Jahaz, and the latter at Edrei, and took possession of Gilead and Bashan (Nu 21:23 sq.). The rich pasture-land of Gileads, with its shady forests and copious streams, attracted the attention of Reuben and Gad, who "had a very great multitude of cattle," and was allotted to then. The future history and habits of the tribes that occupied Gilead were greatly affected by the character of the country. Rich in flocks and herds, and now the lords of a fitting region, they retained, almost unchanged, the nomad pastoral habits of their patriarchal ancestors. Like all Bedawin, they lived in a constant state of warfare, just as Jacob had predicted of Gad — "a troop shall plunder him, but he shall plunder at the last" (Ge 49:19). The sons of Ishmael were subdued and plundered in the time of Saul (1Ch 5:9 sq.), and the children of Ammon in the days of Jephthah and David (Jg 11:32 sq.; 2Sa 10:12 sq.). Their wandering tent life, and their almost inaccessible country made them in ancient times what the Bedawi tribes are now — the protectors of the refugee and the outlaw. In Gilead the sons of Saul found a home while they vainly attempted to re-establish the authority of their house (2Sa 2:8 sq.). Here, too, 'David' found a sanctuary during the unnatural rebellion of a beloved son; and the surrounding tribes, with a characteristic hospitality, carried presents of the best they possessed to the fallen monarch (2Sa 17:22 sq.). Elijah the Tishbite was a Gileadite (1Ki 17:1); and in his simple garb, Wild aspect, abrupt address, wonderfully active habits, and movements so rapid as to evade the search of his watchful and bitter foes, we see all the characteristics of the genuine Bedasi, ennobled by a high prophetic mission. SEE GAD.
Gilead was a frontier land, exposed to the firtst attacks of the Syrian and Assyrian invaders, and to the unceasing raids of the desert tribes — "Because Machir, the first-born of Manasseh, was a man of war, therefore he had Bashan and Gilead" (Jos 17:1). Under the wild and wayward Jephthab, Mizpeh of Gilead became the gathering-place of the trans- Jordanic tribes (Jg 11:29); and in subsequent times the ,neighboring stronghold of Ramoth-Gilead appears to have been considered the key of Palestine on the east (1Ki 22:3-4,6; 2 Kings 103:28; 9:1).
The name Galaad (Γαλαάδ) occurs several times in the history of thee Maccabees (1 Macc. 5:9 sq.), and also in Josephus, but generallyc with the Greek termination — Γαλααδῖτις or Γαλαδηνή (Ant. 13:14,2; War, 1:4, 3). Under the Roman dominion the country became more settled and civilized; and the great cities of Gadara, Pella, and Gerasa, with Philadelphia on its south-eastern border, speedily rose to opulence and splendor. In one of these (Pella) the Christians of Jerusalem found a sanctuary when the armies of Titeis gathered round the devoted city (Eusebius, H.E. 3:5). Under Mohammedan rule the country has again lapsed into semi-barbarism. Some scattered villages amid the fastnesses of Jebel Ajluhn, and a few fierce wandering tribes, constitute the whole population of Gilead. They are nominally subject to the Porte, but their allegiance sits lightly upon them. The inhabitants, like the old Gadites, are semi-nomads, whosewealth consists in flocks and herds. Like them, too, they are harassed by the desert tribes; they are inured to arms, and they are noted for their hospitality. The capital of the whole country is es-Salt (Burnkhardt, Trav. in Syria, page 270; Buckingham, Arab Tribes, page 21 sq.; Lord Lindsay's Travels, 2:108 sq.).
III. Description of modern Country. — The great body of the range of Gilead is Jura limestone, but there are occasional veins of sandstone. The oak and the terebinth flourish on the former, and the pine on the latter. The mountains of Gilead have a real elevation of from two to three thousand feet, but their apparent elevation on the western side is much greater, owing, to the depression of the Jordan valley, which averages about 1000 feet. Their outline is singularly uniform, resembling a massive wall running along the horizon. From the distant east they seem very low, for on that side they meet thee plateau of Arabia, 2000 feet or more in height. Though the range appears bleak from the distance, yet, on ascending it, we find the scenery rich, picturesque, and in places even garand. The summit is broad, almost like table-land "tossed into wild confusion of undulating downs" (Stanley, Sinai and Pal. page 314). It is everywhere covered with luxuriant herbage. In the extreme north and south there are no trees, but as we advance towards the center they soon begin to appear, at first singly, then in groups, and at length, on each side of the Jabbok, in fine forests, chiefly of prickly oak and terebinth. The rich pasture-land of Gilead presents a striking contrast to the nakedness of Western Palestine. Except among the hills of Galilee and along the heights of Carmel, there is nothing to be compared with it as "a place for cattle" (Nu 32:1). In passing through the country, one can hardly get over the impression that he is roaming through an English park. The graceful hills, the rich vales, the luxuriant herbage, the bright wild flowers, the plantations of evergreen oak, pine, and arbutus; now a tangled thicket, and now a grove scattered over the gentle slope, as if intended to reveal its beauty; the little rivulets fringed with oleander, at one place running lazily between alluvial banks, at another dashing madly down rocky ravines. Such are the features of the mountains of Gilead. Here, too, we have the cooing of the wood-pigeon, the hoarse call of the partridge, the incessant hum of myriads of insects, and the cheerful chirp of grasshoppers to give life to the scene. Add to all the crumbling ruins of town, village, and fortress, clinging to the mountain- side or crowning its summit, and you have a picture of the country between es-Salt and Gerasa" (Porter, Hand-book for S. and P. page 310). Such a picture, too, illustrates at once the fertility ascribed to it by Jer 22:6; Jer 1; Jer 19, and the judgments .pronounced against it by Am 1:3,13.
Gilead anciently abounded in spices and aromatic gums, which were exported to Egypt (Ge 37:25; Jer 8:22; Jer 46:11). The balm of Gilead seems to have been valued for its medicinal properties from the earliest, times. The Midianitish merchants to whom Joseph was sold were passing through the valley of Jezreel on their way from Gilead to Egypt (Ge 37:17). Josephus often mentions this balm or balsam, but generally as the product of the rich plain of Jericho, for example (Ant.
14:4): "Now when Pompey had pitched his camp at Jericho (where the palm-tree grows, and that balsam which is an ointment of all the most precious, which upon any incision being made in the wood with a sharp stone distils out thence like a juice), he marched in the morning to Jerusalem." Dr. Thomson found in the plain of Jericho some thorn-bushes called the zukum, "which is like the crab apple-tree, and bears a small nut, from which a kind of liquid balsam is made, and sold by the monks as balm of Gilead, so famous in ancient times," and he supposes "that the balm which Jacob sent to Joseph (Ge 47:11), and that which Jer 8:22 refers to for its medicinal qualities, were the same which the trading Ishmaelites were transporting to Egypt, and that it was some resinous extract from the forest trees of (Gilead" (Land and Book, 2:193, 194). See below.