🔼The name Gilgal: Summary
- A Circle Of Stones, A Wheel, A Rolling Away
- From the verb גלל (galal), to roll.
🔼The name Gilgal in the Bible
There is a bit of a disagreement about how many separate Gilgals are named in the Bible. BDB Theological Dictionary and HAW Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament list five; NOBSE Study Bible Name List mentions two, and Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names goes straight for the payload, the famous Gilgal of Joshua, and disregards the others.
This famous Gilgal is where Israel was circumcised (Joshua 5:9). This is remarkable because Israel had just crossed the Jordan into enemy terrain. With the river in his back, Joshua incapacitated his entire army in obedience to God. Gilgal remained the city out of which Joshua conducted his campaigns.
The lesser known Gilgals are:
🔼Etymology of the name Gilgal
The name Gilgal comes from the Hebrew verb גלל (galal), meaning to roll. After Joshua had circumcised Israel, God said that he had rolled away the reproach of Egypt, and the place where he had done this was called Gilgal ever since (Joshua 5:9). Note that the name Gilgal is spelled the same as the nouns galgal and gilgal that were derived of the verb galal:
The verb גלל (galal) primarily expresses rolling, whirling or heaping and may also denote a broad sweep (of land or time). Noun גל (gal) means heap or pile; גיל (gel), a heap specifically of dung; גלל (galal), dung; גלול (gillul), idols. Noun גלה (gulla) means bowl, basin or spring; noun גלילה (gelila), circuit, boundary or territory. Noun גליל (galil) denotes a supporting cylinder or rod; adjective גליל (galil), probably describes a cylindrical hinge column, noun מגלה (megilla) means scroll. Noun גלגל (gilgal) means wheel; noun גלגל (galgal), wheel or whirlwind. Noun גלגלת (gulgoleth) means skull or head. In cognate languages verb גלל (galal) extends to also describe the nobility of someone who rules a region.
The parallel verb גיל (gil) expresses a circular motion as is mostly associated with expressions of joy and celebration (dance). Nouns גיל (gil) and גילה (gila) mean a rejoicing. Noun גיל (gil) describes a circle or time: an age.
For a meaning of the name Gilgal, HAW Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament gingerly reads A Circle Of Stones (?) (their question mark); BDB Theological Dictionary renders (Sacred) Circle Of Stones. NOBSE Study Bible Name List says A Circle, A Wheel, and Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names, contrary as ever, reads Liberty, Rolling Away.