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Article Info
published: 3/31/13

Gilgal in the Bible



Gilgal in the Old Testament

File:Jordan River.jpg
The Jordan River
Gilgal was the first camp of Israel after crossing the Jordan (Josh 4:19; 5:9,10; 9:6; 10:7; 14:6; 15:7; Dt 11:30). According to Josh 15:7 it lay to the North of the valley of Achor, which formed the border between Judah and Benjamin.

Here 12 memorial stones taken from the bed of the river were set up by Joshua, after the miraculous crossing of the Jordan; and here (Josh 5:5 ff) the people were circumcised preparatory to their possession of the land, when it is said in Josh, with a play upon the word, "This day have I rolled away the reproach of Egypt from off you."

Whereupon the Passover was celebrated (Josh 5:10) and the manna ceased (Josh 5:12). To Gilgal the ark returned every day after having compassed the city of Jericho during its siege (Josh 6:11). Hither the Gibeonites came to make their treaty (Josh 9:3 ff), and again (Josh 10:6) to ask aid against the Amorites.

Gilgal was still the headquarters of the Israelites after the battle with the Amorites (Josh 10:15); again after Joshua's extensive victorious campaign in the hill country of Judea extending to Kadesh-barnea and Gaza (Josh 10:15 ff); and still later upon his return from the great battle at the Waters of Merom (Josh 14:6). At the conclusion of the conquest (Josh 18:1), the headquarters were transferred to Shiloh on the summit of the mountain ridge to the West.

Gilgal reappears frequently in subsequent history. Samuel (1 Sam 7:16) made it one of the three places where he annually held circuit court, the other places being Bethel and Mizpah. The Septuagint text adds that these were holy places. The place continued as one of special resort for sacrifices (1 Sam 10:8; 13:8,9,10; 15:21), while it was here that Samuel hewed Agag to pieces before the Lord (1 Sam 15:33), and that Saul was both crowned (1 Sam 11:14,15) and rejected as king. It was at Gilgal, also (2 Sam 19:15), that the people assembled to welcome David as he returned from his exile beyond Jordan during Absalom's rebellion. The early prophets refer to Gilgal as a center of idolatry in their day (Hos 4:15; 9:15; 12:11; Am 4:4; 5:5). Micah (6:5) represents Gilgal as at the other end of the Dead Sea from Shittim.

In 1874 Conder recognized the name Gilgal as surviving in Barker Jiljuilieh, a pool beside a tamarisk tree 3 miles East of old Jericho. The pool measures 100 ft. by 84, and is surrounded with a wall of roughly hewn stones. North of the pool Bliss discovered lines of masonry 300 yds. long, representing probably the foundations of an ancient monastery. South of the pool there are numerous mounds scattered over an area of one-third of a square mile, the largest being 50 feet in diameter, and 10 feet in height. On excavation some pottery and glass were found. These ruins are probably those of early Christian occupation, and according to Conder there is nothing against their marking the original site. Up to the Middle Ages the 12 stones of Joshua were referred to by tradition.

2) According to 2 Ki 2:1; 4:38, Elisha for a time made his headquarters at Gilgal, a place in the mountains not far from Bethel identified by Conder as Jiljilia, standing on a high hill on the North side of the Wady el-Jib. It is lower than Bethel, but the phrase in 2 Ki 2:2, "they went down to Beth-el," may refer to their initial descent into the wady. It could not have been said that they went down from Gilgal to Bethel in the Jordan valley. The place seems to be referred to in Neb 12:29 as Beth-gilgal.

(3) Gilgal of the nations: In Josh 12:23 Gilgal is mentioned as a royal city associated with Dor, evidently upon the maritime plain. Dor is identified with Tantura, while Conder identifies this Gilgal with Jiljuilieh, 30 miles South of Dor and 4 miles North of Anti-patris.

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Source:

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, which is in the public domain (with minor edits).