The name Gilead in the Bible
There are quite a few Gileads mentioned in the Bible:
- Probably the most familiar Gilead is the mountainous area east of the Jordan, predominantly between the rivers Arnon and Jabbok but also applied to a larger area (Judges 20:1, 10:4). This Gilead is probably the same as Galeed (Genesis 31:47). Israel occupies this area in Numbers 21 and later it's assigned to Reuben, Gad and Manasseh. This Gilead is also the place of residence of the prophet Elijah the Tishbite (1 Kings 17:1). The famous balm of Gilead is mentioned by the prophet Jeremiah in a sermon addressed to Judah, and apparently it was so potent that it could heal entire nations (Jeremiah 8:22, 51:8).
- The territory of Gilead probably received its name from a grandson of Manasseh named Gilead, who in turn became the ancestor of the גלעדי, the Gileadites (Numbers 26:29).
- When Gideon camps prior to his battle against Midian, the Midianites are camped near mount Moreh, to the north of him, and west of the Jordan. Apparently, Gideon was camped close to a mountain called Gilead (Judges 7:3).
- There was also a town named Gilead somewhere, although we don't exactly know where it might have been (Hosea 6:8). It might be the same as the town Jabesh-gilead, which was a town on the northern border of the area of Manasseh, probably east of the Jordan (Judges 21:8, 2 Samuel 2:4).
- And then there was a man from Gad, who was called Gilead (1 Chronicles 5:1).
- The father of the judge Jephthah (whose mother was a prostitute) was named Gilead as well (Judges 11:1).
Etymology and meaning of the name Gilead
There are a few ways to look at the name Gilead. BDB Theological Dictionary mentions an Arabic equivalent that comes from a root meaning camel, and assumes that the mountain of Gilead was known as Camel Hump.
NOBSE Study Bible Name List and Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names assume that the first part of the name Gilead, like that of the names Galeed and Gilgal, comes from the verb גלל (galal), meaning to roll:
NOBSE Study Bible Name List appears to ignore the second part of the name and renders Rocky or Strong, but the rendition of Strong seems a bit stretchy.
Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names takes the first part of the name Gilead from the noun גלה (gulla), meaning spring or basin (Joshua 15:19). For the second part Jones goes to the particle עד ('ad), meaning perpetuity (Isaiah 26:4):
Note that there are quite a few different words that are spelled עד. One of them is ('ed), which means witness.
Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names renders the name Gilead as Perpetual Fountain, but it means as much Heap Of Booty or As Long As We're Rolling.