(Heb. Gilgal, גַּלגִּל, a wheel, as in Isa 28:28; according to Jos 5:9, a rolling awvay; with the article a prop. name, Sept. τὰ Γάλγαλα, but Γολγόλ v.r. Γαλγάλ in De 11:20 and Jos 14:6), the name of at least two places in Palestine.
1. The site of the first camp of the Israelites on the west of the Jordan, the place at which they passed the first night after crossing the river, and where the twelve stones were set up which bad been taken from the bed of the stream (Jos 4:19-20; comp. 3) SEE STONE; where also they kept their first passover in the land of Canaan (5:10). It was in thee "end of the east of Jericho" (בַּקצֵה מַזרִח י A.V. "in the east border of Jericho"), apparently on a hillock or. rising ground (verse 3; compare 9) in the Arboth-Jericho (A.V. "the plains"), that is, the hot, depressed district of the Ghor which lay between the towns and the Jordan (verse 10). Here the Israelites who had been born on the march through the wilderness were circumcised, an occurrence from which the sacred historian derives the name: "'This day I have rolled away (gallo'thi) the reproach of Egypt from off you.' Therefore the name of the place is called Gilgal to this day." The meaning does not seem to be that a new name was given, but rather that a new meaning and significance were attached to the old name. The word Gilgal means a "circle," and also a "rolling away." A similar play upon a word was noticed in the case of GILEAD SEE GILEAD ; and Bethel is an example of an old name having attached to it a new significance (Ge 28:19; Ge 35:15). By Josephus (Ant. 5:1, 11) it is said to signify "freedom" (ἐλευθέριον). It would appear that Gilgal was the name of the place before the Exodus, for Moses describes the Canaanites as dwelling "over against Gilgal" (De 11:30). The difficulties connected with this passage have already been explained under EBAL SEE EBAL . Keil supposes that this Gilgal was near Shechem (Comm. on Joshua, pages 219, 232). The camp thus established at Gilgal remained there during the early part of the conquest (Jos 9:6; Jos 10:6-7,9,15,43); and we may probably infer from one narrative that Joshua retired thither at the conclusion of his labors (Jos 14:6; comp. 15). Saul, when driven from the highlands by the Pheilistines, collected his feeble force at the site of the old camp (1Sa 13:4,7). The tabernacle appears to have remained there at least until its removal to Shiloh (Jg 18:1). It was one of the places to which Samuel regularly resorted, where he administered justice (1Sa 7:16), and where burnt-offerings and peace-offerings were accustomed to be offered " before Jehovah" (1Sa 10:8; 1Sa 11:15; 1Sa 13:8-12; 1Sa 15:21); and on one occasion a sacrifice of a more terrible description than either (1Sa 15:33). The air of the narrative all through leads to the conclusion that at the time of these occurrences it was the chief sanctuary of the central portion of the nation (see 1Sa 10:8; 1Sa 11:14; 1Sa 15:12,21). But there is no sign of its being a town; no mention of building, or of its being allotted to the priests or Levites, as was the case with other sacred towns, Bethel, Shechem, etc. In the history of David's return to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 19), the men of Judah came down to Gilgal to meet the king to conduct him over Jordan, as if it was close to the river (2Sa 19:15), and David arrived there immediately on crossing the stream after his parting with Barzillai the Gileadite (2Sa 19:40). After the erection of the Temple, Gilgal appears to have been utterly neglected. Perhaps, when Jericho was rebuilt, the traditional sanctity of Gilgal was transferred to it, and there a school of the prophets was established and remained until a late period (2Ki 2:5). SEE JERICHO. How Gilgal became appropriated to a false worship we are not told, but certainly, as far as the obscure allusions of Hosea and Amos can be understood (provided that they refer to this Gilgal), it was so appropriated by the kingdom of Israel in the middle period of its existence (Ho 4:15; Ho 9:15; Ho 12:11; Am 4:4; Am 5:5). These idolatrous practices are specially mentioned by Epiphanius and others (Reland, Palaest. page 782 sq.). The utter desolation of its site, and the whole surrounding region, shows how fearfully the prophecies have been fulfilled.
The place is not mentioned in the Apocrypha nor the N.T. Later authorities are more precise, but unfortunately discordant among themselves. By Josephus (Ant. 5:1, 4) the encampment is given as fifty stadia, rather under six miles, from the river, and ten from Jericho. In the time of Jerome the site of the camp and the twelve a memorial stones were still distinguishable, if we are to take literally the expression of the Epit. Paulae (§ 12). The distance from Jericho was then two miles. According to Eusebius, the spot (Γαλγὠλ) was left uncultivated, but regarded with great veneration by the residents (Onomast. s.v. Γάλγαλα). When Arculf was there at the end of the 7th century, the place was shown at five miles from Jericho. A large church covered the site, in which the twelve stones were ranged (Early Travels in Pal. page 7). It is probable, however, that the ecclesiastical architects had not been very particular about topography (Robinson, Research. 2:287). The church and stones were seen by Willibald thirty years later, lent be gives the distance as five miles from the Jordan, which again he states correctly as seven from Jericho. The stones are mentioned also by Thietmar, A.D. 1217 (according to whom it was to these that John the Baptist pointed when he said that God was "able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham," Peregr. 31); and, lastly, by Ludolf de Suchem a century later. These specifications, show that Gilgal must have been near the site of the modern village of Riha (Porter, Handbook for Sinai and Palestine, page 196). In Van de Velde's Map (1858)., a spot samed Moharfer, a little south-east of er-Riha, is marked as probable. Schwartz (Physical Description of Palestine, page 128) asserts that there is at present found near the Jordan in this vicinity a hill, which appears like a heap of stones, and is called by the Arabs Galgala; but this lacks confirmation. It is probably this Gilgal that is called GELILOTH in Jos 18:17, where, as well as in the parallel passage, 15:7, the position is given with more minuteness than elsewhere.
2. A royal city of the Canaanites, whose sovereign ("king of the nations of Gilgal," or, rather, perhaps the "king of Goim-at-Gilgal," מֶלֶךאּגּוֹיַם לגַלגָּל) is mentioned in the catalogue of the chiefs overthrown by Joshua (Jos 12:23), appears to have been situated on the western plain, as it is connected with the "region of Dor" (verse 22). Eusebius and Jerome (Onomast. s.v. Γελγέλ, Gelgel) say that it was in their time a village called Galgulis (Γαλγουλῆς), about six Roman miles north of Antipatris (Kefr Saba); and this is probably the present ruined village Ji'ulieh of the same neighborhood (Robinson, Researches, 3:47; Schwarz,
Palest. page 92), although this is only two miles from Kefr Saba, and east- south-east (E. Smith, in the Bibliotheca Sacra, 1843, page 492), rather than the Kilkilieh, about two miles east of Kefr Saba (Robinson, Later Researches, pages 136, 138).
The Goim, or original inhabitants of this place, evidently were in some distinctive sense heathen (q.v.). "'By that word (Jg 4:2) or 'nations' (Ge 14:1) the name is usually rendered in the A. Vers. as in the well-known phrase, 'Galilee of the nations' (Isa 9:1; comp. Mt 4:15). Possibly they were a tribe of the early inhabitants of the country, who, like the Gerizites, the Avim, the Zemarites, and others, have left only this faint, casual trace of their existence there" (Smith, s.v.). SEE GALILEE.
3. A town, evidently in the mountainous interior, whence Elijah and Elisha are said to have gone doon to Bethel (2Ki 2:2), which is itself 3000 feet above the Gilgal in the Jordan valley. It was perhaps here that Elisha rendered the pottage harmless (2Ki 4:38); he may even have resided here (2Ki 2:1; 2Ki 4:38). It lay in the vicinity of Baal-shalisha (2Ki 4:42). This is probably the BETH-GILGAL (A.V. "house of Gilgal") mentioned (Ne 12:29) as occupied by the Levitical singers after the exile; and it is evidently also the Galgala (Γάλγαλα) on the route of the victorious Bacchides (1 Macc. 9:3). SEE GALALA. Keil (Comment. on Joshua p. 219, 232) and Van de Velde (Memoir, page 316), after Winer (s.v.), unnecessarily identify this with the Gilgal of Joshua's camp, etc. It is doubtless the Galgala (Γάλγαλα) stated by Eusebius and Jerome (Onomast. s.v.) to be located near Bethel; and is the large village Jiljilia, one hour west of Sinjil, on the road from Jerusalem to Nablus, situated so high on the brow of the central mountain tract as to afford an extensive view of the great lower plain and the sea, and even a view of Mount Hermon (Robinson, Researches, 3:81).