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From the Scriptures, "Gilead" means hill of testimony or mound of witness, (Genesis 31:21), a mountainous region east of the Jordan Rivermarker, situated in the present-day Kingdom of Jordanmarker. It is also referred to by the Aramaic name Yegar-Sahadutha, which carries the same meaning as the Hebrew (Gen. 31:47). From its mountainous character it is called "the mount of Gilead" (Gen. 31:25). It is called also "the land of Gilead" (Num. 32:1), and sometimes simply "Gilead" (Ps. 60:7; Gen. 37:25). As a whole, it included the tribal territories of Gad, Reuben, and the eastern half of Manasseh (Deut. 3:13; Num. 32:40). It was bounded on the north by Bashan, and on the south by Moab and Ammon (Gen. 31:21; Deut. 3:12-17). "Half Gilead" was possessed by Sihon, and the other half, separated from it by the river Jabbok, by Og, king of Bashan. The deep ravine of the river Hieromax (the modern Sheriat el-Mandhur) separated Bashan from Gilead, which was about 60 miles in length and 20 in breadth, extending from near the south end of the Lake of Gennesaret to the north end of the Dead Sea. Abarim, Pisgah, Nebo, and Peor are its mountains mentioned in Scripture.

In the Bible, Gilead or Galaad ( , "Heap/mass of testimony/witness", Standard Hebrew Gilʻad, Tiberian Hebrew Gilʻāḏ; ) is the name of three persons and two geographic places. Gilead is divided among the tribes of Gad and Mannaseh.

Specifically, it may refer to:
  • A grandson of Manasseh, ancestor of the Iezerites and Helekites. (1 Chronicles 2: 21-23)
  • A person in the Gadite genealogies. (1 Chronicles 5:11-14)
  • The father of Jephthah.
  • "Gilead" mentioned in Book of Hosea may refer to Ramoth-Gilead, Jabesh-Gilead, or the whole region Gilead, treated below.
  • In Hebrew, Gilead can also mean a memorial site, and is used to name boys, while "Gil" equals joy in Hebrew and "ad" means forever or eternity.
  • The name Gilead ( ) is used in strict sense of the mountainous land extending north and south of Jabbokmarker. It is used more generally for all the region east of the Jordan Rivermarker. It corresponds today to the northwestern part of the Kingdom of Jordan. The name Gilead first appears in the biblical account of the last meeting of Jacob and Laban (Gen. 31:21-22). After king Sihon was defeated, the Tribe of Reuben, Tribe of Gad, and half the Tribe of Manasseh were assigned to the area. Ammon and Moab sometimes expanded to include southern Gilead. King David fled to Mahanaim in Gilead during the rebellion of Absalom. Gilead is later mentioned as the homeplace of the prophet Elijah. King Tiglath-pileser III of Assyria says he established the province of Gal'azu (Gilead).

References in culture

The Old Testament (or Hebrew Bible) repeatedly mentions a mythological or real "balm in Gilead" or "balm of Gilead," references and symbolism which have appeared repeatedly in Western culture, see Balsam of Mecca.

"There Is A Balm in Gilead" is a traditional United Statesmarker African-American spiritual.

In Edgar Allan Poe's poem "The Raven," the speaker asks the spectral bird: "Is there balm in Gilead? Tell me truly I implore."

Balm in Gilead, American dramatist Lanford Wilson's first full-length play, centers on a café frequented by heroin addicts, prostitutes, and thieves.

In the novel The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, the United States has been replaced by a theocratic totalitarian nation, the "Republic of Gilead."

In Stephen King's Dark Tower novels, the protagonist, Roland Deschain, hails from a kingdom called Gilead, which was destroyed by agents of the Crimson King.

In Christopher Paolini's Inheritance Cycle, Gil'ead is a location through which Eragon travels.

Gilead is also the title of the 2004 award-winning novel (2005 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Critics Circle Award) by American writer Marilynne Robinson.

The 1996 film The Spitfire Grill, a story of a young woman's transformation of a community and redemption of her own and her fellow townpersons' past, is set in the small town of Gilead, Maine. The 2001 musical of the same name set Gilead in Wisconsin, perhaps due to its premiere in Milwaukee.

The song “Balsam in Gilead”, based on Jeremiah 8:22[62583], is included in Jehovah's Witnesses' 1984 hymnbook "Sing Praises to Jehovah". The lyrics mention God's provisions for comforting, and also encourage being a comfort to others.

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