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Meaning and etymology of the Hebrew name Gilead

Gilead Gilead

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). Israel occupies this area in Numbers 21 and later it's assigned to Reuben, Gad and Manasseh. This Gilead is also the birth area of the prophet Elijah (1 Kings 17:1) and the territory of Gilead probably received its name from a grandson of Manasseh named Gilead, who in turn became the ancestor of 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). The famous balm of Gilead is mentioned by the prophet Jeremiah in a sermon addressed to Judah (8:22).

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 Mannaseh, probably east of the Jordan (Judges 21:8, 2 Samuel 2:4). Finally, a man from Gad was called Gilead (1 Chronicles 5:1) and the father of the judge Jephthah (whose mother was a prostitute) was named Gilead as well (Judges 11:1).

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.

NOBS 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 galal (galal), meaning to roll some object on, upon, away (see the name Gilgal for a better look at this verb). NOBS Study Bible Name List ignores 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 gulla (gulla), meaning spring or basin (Joshua 15:19). For the second part Jones goes to the particle 'ad ('ad), meaning perpetuity (Isaiah 26:4). This word comes from the verb 'ada ('ada), meaning to go on, pass by or remove (Job 28:8). Other derivatives, which are quite similar to the one mentioned, are: 'ad ('ad), meaning booty or prey (Genesis 49:27); 'ad ('ad), meaning as far as, even to, until or while (Exodus 32:20).

Then there is the word 'ed ('ed), which means witness. See the name Galeed for a better look at this word.

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.

Also see the names Galeed and Gilgal.



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