Who was Gad?
In the Hebrew Bible or Christian Old Testament, Gad was Jacob's seventh son; Leah's maid Zilpah's firstborn; Asher's brother. Gen. 30:11-13, for "a troop cometh," translated "good fortune cometh," answering to Asher, "blessedness," the name of the next son; Gen. 46:16,18.
In Gen. 49:19 translated "Gad, troops shall troop upon him (Gad, g¦duwd yegudenuw), but he shall troop upon (yaguwd) their rear" in retreat; alluding to the Arab tumultuous tribes near, who would invade Gad, then retire, Gad pressing on them in retreat. Not merely a numerous "troop," but a fierce turbulent band. The tribe's position on march was S. of the tabernacle (Num. 2:14). Eliasaph, Reuel's' son, was their leader.
In Num. 2:10,14, we find Gad united to Reuben on the S. side of the sanctuary. Companionship in arms and hardships in the wilderness naturally led them to desire neighborhood in their possessions; also similarity of pursuits in tending flocks and herds led Gad to alliance with Reuben. And their respective numbers were nearly the same; at the first census, Gad 45,650, Reuben 46,500; at the last, Gad 40,500, and Reuben 43,330.
These undesigned coincidences confirm the truth of the narrative. Like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, of the tribes they two alone remained shepherds still after the intervening centuries since Jacob left Canaan for Egypt.
They therefore received the pasture lands E. of Jordan for their possession (Num. 32), as suited for their "multitude of cattle," but accompanied the nine tribes and a half across Jordan to war with the Canaanites; and only after their conquest and the apportionment of the whole land to their brethren "at the doorway of the tabernacle of the congregation in Shiloh, before Jehovah" (Josh. 19:51; 22:1-8), were they dismissed "to their tents (for still they led a half nomadic life) and the land of their possession."
Gad's allotment lay chiefly about the center of the land E. of Jordan, comprising the high land on the general level, stopping short at the Jabbok, and also the sunk valley of the Jordan itself, the whole eastern side up to the sea of Cinnereth or Gennesaret. The farthest landmark eastward is Aroer facing Rabbah, now Arabian (Josh. 13:25). Half Gilead (Deut. 3:12), and half of the land of Ammon, the mountainous district intersected by Jabbok. Manasseh lay N. and E. (reaching S. as far as Mahanaim), Reuben S., of Gad. Mahanaim the ancient sanctuary was on Gad's northern border; Heshbon lay somewhat S. of its southern border.
From western Palestine the territory of Gad looks like a wall of purple mountain with a marked horizontal outline. On a nearer approach picturesque undulating downs are seen on every side clothed with rich grass; and three rivers, the Yarmuk, Jabbok, and Arnon flow down into the Jordan and Dead Sea by deep ravines which seam the horizontal line of hills. Not the flat sheep walks of Reuben and Moab, but well wooded, especially in the N., with sycamore, beech, terebinth, ilex, cedar, arbutus, and enormous fig trees.
In the official record in the days of Jotham king of Judah, and Jeroboam king of Israel, Gad had extended its possessions to Salcah in Bashan (1 Chr. 5:11,16,17), E. of the Hauran plain, while Manasseh was pushed further N. to mount Hermon (1 Chr. 5:23). Thus Gad and Gilead became synonymous (Judg. 5:17). Jephthah is called "the Gileadite," being a native of Mizpeh of Gad (Judg. 11:31,34; Josh. 13:26).
In Deut. 33:20,21, Moses said of Gad, "Blessed is He that enlargeth (i.e. God who gives a large territory to) Gad; he lieth down as a lioness, and teareth the arm, yea (`aph, not with) the crown of the head (of his foes); and he provided the first part (the first-fruit portion of the land conquered by Israel) for himself, because there was the leader's (Gad's) portion reserved (saphuwn, Gad at the head of the tribes asked Moses for the conquered land E. of Jordan (Num. 32:2,6,25,34, etc.), even as they took the lead above Reuben in fortifying the cities Dibon, etc.
Their name accordingly is prominent on the DIBON stone (see)); and he came with the heads of the people (i.e., he according to his stipulation to Moses went at the head of the tribes to conquer Canaan W. of Jordan, along with them: Num. 32:17,21,32; Josh. 1:14; 4:12), he executed the justice of Jehovah (Moses prophetically foresees Gad will do what Jehovah required of His people as righteousness) and His judgments (in fellowship) with (the rest of) Israel."
Their prowess is vividly portrayed in 1 Chr. 12:8, "men of might and of war, fit, for the battle, that could handle shield and buckler, whose faces were the faces of lions, and as swift as the roes upon the mountains"; "one of the least was a match for a hundred, and the greatest for a thousand." In spite of the Jordan's overflow in the first month, and of the opposition of "all them of the valleys toward the E. and toward the W.," they joined David at Ziklag.
Their war, in concert with Reuben, against the Hagarites, with Jetur, Nephish, and Nodab, resulted in the defeat and utter spoiling of the Hagarites, and the dispossessing them of "their steads." "The war was of God," and the victory was because the Gadites, etc., "cried to God in the battle and He was entreated of then, because they put their trust in Him" (1 Chr. 5:18-22).
Other famous men of Gilead or Gad were the loyal, generous, and unambitious Barzillai (2 Sam. 17:27-29; 19:31-40) and the prophet Elijah. The land of Gad was the battlefield for long between Syria and Israel (2 Kings 10:33). Gad finally was carried captive by Tiglath Pileser, and Ammon seized their land and cities (2 Kings 15:29; 1 Chr. 5:26; Jer. 49:1).
IBSE, (in the public domain) with minor edits.