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Fausset's Bible Dictionary

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Hebrew - Gilgal
Hebrew - Beth-gilgal
Gilgal -

1. Hebrew: "the Gilgal," i.e. rolling. Israel's first encampment W. of Jordan (five miles) where they passed their first night after crossing, and set up the twelve stones taken from the river bed (Joshua 4:3; Joshua 4:19-20). Here they kept the first Passoverin Canaan (Joshua 5:10). On arising ground ("hill," Joshua 5:3; Joshua 5:9) in the hot sunken Ghor between Jericho and the Jordan, one mile and a half E. of Jericho; five miles and a half W. of Jordan (Josephus, Ant. 5:1, 4, 11). On the N. side of wady Kelt, one mile and a third from the tower of modern Jericho (Eriha); toward the E. is a tamarisk, "Shejaret el Ithleh," which tradition makes the site of "the city of brass," whose walls fell on their besiegers marching round them. A pool is 150 yards S.E. of the tree, such as Israel would need in their long encampment at Gilgal; it is built with well packed pebbles without cement.

S.E. of this are twelve or more small mounds, Tell ayla't Jiljulieh, eight or ten ft. diameter, and three or four high, possibly remains of Israel's camp (Conder, Palestine Exploration). The distances stated by Josephus accord with this site. The Israelites born in the wilderness were here circumcised with stone knives (Joshua 5:2 margin; Exodus 4:25), which "rolling" away of the reproach of uncircumcision gave the name. The sons under 20 years, when at Kadesh in the second year of the wilderness journey the murmuring nation was rejected (Numbers 14), had been already circumcised; those born subsequently needed circumcision. As God abrogated at Kadesh the covenant, the sons of the rejected generation were not to receive the covenant rite. The manna and pillar of cloud were not withdrawn, because God would sustain the rising generation with the prospect of the ban being removed, and of the covenant temporarily suspended being renewed.

The sentence was exhausted when they crossed the Zered and entered the Amorites' land (Deuteronomy 2:14; Numbers 21:12-13), when all the sentenced generation was dead (Numbers 26:63-65). Moses, himself under sentence to die, did not venture on the steppes of Moab to direct the circumcision of the younger generation without Jehovah's command. And the rule of divine grace is first to give, then to require; so first He showed His grace to Abraham by leading him to Canaan and giving the promises, then enjoined circumcision; also He did not give the law to Israel at Sinai until first He had redeemed them from Egypt, and thereby made them willing to promise obedience. So now He did not require the renewal of circumcision, the covenant sign of subjection to the law (Galatians 5:3), until He had first showed His grace in giving them victory over Og and Sihon, and in making a way through Jordan, a pledge that He would fulfill all His promises and finally give them the whole land.

The circumcision was performed the day after crossing Jordan, i.e. the 11th day of the first month (Galatians 4:19). The Passover was kept on the 14th (verse 10). The objection that all could not have been circumcised in one day is futile. For the males in Israel at the census in Moab shortly before were 601,730 upward of 20 years old, besides 23,000 Levites of a month old and upward; at the outside all the males would be less than one million. Of these about 300,000 were 38 years old, therefore born before the census at Kadesh and circumcised already; so that only 600,000 would remain to be circumcised. The uncircumcised could easily be circumcised in one day with the help of the circumcised; the latter would prepare and kill the Passover lamb for their brethren whose soreness (Genesis 34:25) would be no bar to their joining in the feast.

The "reproach of Egypt rolled off" is (like "the reproach of Moab" Zephaniah 2:8, and "Syria" Ezekiel 16:57) that heaped on Israel by Egypt, namely, that Jehovah had brought them into the wilderness to slay them (Exodus 32:12; Numbers 14:13-16; Deuteronomy 9:28). This "reproach of Egypt" rested on them so long as they were under the sentence of wandering and dying in the desert. The circumcision at Gilgal was a practical restoration of the covenant, and a pledge of their now receiving Canaan. No village was, or is, at Gilgal. In Micah 6:5, "O My people, remember ... what Balak ... consulted, and what Balaam ... answered ... from Shittim unto Gilgal," the sense is, Remember My kindness from Shittim. the scene of Balaam's wicked counsel taking effect in Israel's sin, from the fatal effects of which I saved thee, all along to Gilgal where I renewed the covenant with Israel by circumcision (2 Samuel 19:15).

2. Gilgal from which Elijah and Elisha went down to Bethel (2 Kings 2:1-2). Clearly distinct from:

3. Gilgal, which is below in the Ghor along Jordan, not above Bethel, which is 1,000 ft. above Jordan. Now perhaps the ruins Jiljilieh, a few miles N. of Bethel. Another Gilgal has been found four miles from Shiloh, and five from Bethel, which is 500 ft. lower; this may be the Gilgal of 2 Kings 2:3. Gilgal not far from Shechem, beside the plains of Moreh (Deuteronomy 11:30). Joshua 12:23, "king of the nations (goim) of Gilgal," i.e. of the nomadic tribes, the aboriginal inhabitants of the country whose center was Gilgal.

4. To the N. of Judah (Joshua 15:7). (See GELILOTH.)


Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from Fausset Bible Dictionary, 1949. Public Domain.

Bibliography Information
Fausset, Andrew R. "Entry for 'Gilgal'". "Fausset Bible Dictionary".
<http://classic.studylight.org/dic/fbd/view.cgi?number=T1411>. 1949.

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