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GAD (Heb. gādh, fortune). 1. Jacob’s seventh son, firstborn of Zilpah, Leah’s handmaid (Gen.30.9-Gen.30.11). Of his personal life nothing is known except that he had seven sons at the time of the descent into Egypt (Gen.46.16).

The Gadites numbered 45,650 adult males at the census at Sinai (Num.1.24-Num.1.25), but at the second census their number had fallen to 40,500 (Num.26.18). Their position on the march was south of the tabernacle, next to Reuben. These two tribes and the half-tribe of Manasseh remained shepherds like their forefathers, and because of their “very large herds and flocks” (Num.32.1) they requested of Moses the rich pasture lands east of Jordan for their possession. This was granted (Josh.18.7) on the condition that they accept their responsibility and accompany the nine and a half tribes across Jordan in warfare against the Canaanites. The warriors of these two and a half tribes took the lead in the conquest of western Palestine (Josh.1.12-Josh.1.18; Josh.4.12) and returned to their families with Joshua’s blessing (Josh.22.1-Josh.22.9). Fearing that the Jordan would alienate their children from the fellowship and faith of the western tribes, they erected a huge altar called “Ed” in the KJV (“witness”) as evidence of their unity in race and faith (Josh.22.10-Josh.22.34). A satisfactory explanation removed the thought of war, which seemed inevitable at first over a schismatic religion.

The territory of Gad, difficult to define, was formerly ruled by Sihon, king of the Amorites. It lay chiefly in the center of the land east of Jordan, with the half-tribe of Manasseh on the north and Reuben to the south. The northern border reached as far as the Sea of Kinnereth (Josh.13.27); the southern border seems to have been just above Heshbon (Josh.13.26), though cities below this were built by Gad (Num.32.34). One of these is Dibon, where the famous Moabite Stone was found.

2. The seer or prophet of King David. He advised David to get out of the stronghold and flee from Saul into Judah (1Sam.22.5). Later he gave David his choice of punishment from the Lord for his sin in numbering the soldiers of Israel (2Sam.24.11-2Sam.24.17; 1Chr.21.9-1Chr.21.17) and told him to build an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Araunah (2Sam.24.18). Gad assisted in arranging the musical services of the temple (2Chr.29.25) and recorded the acts of David in a book (1Chr.29.29).

3. A Canaanite god of fortune, seen in compound names such as Baal Gad (Josh.11.17; Josh.12.7; Josh.13.5) and Migdal Gad (Josh.15.37).——AMR


GAD găd (גָּד, H1514; LXX Γάδ, G1122, fortunate, good fortune, perhaps after the god of fortune, Gad, גָּד, H1514). A son of Jacob and his descendants, the tribe of Gad.

The seventh son of Jacob (Israel).

The first-born of Zilpah (Gen 30:10, 11), Leah’s maid. His younger full brother was Asher. He was born to Jacob during his sojourn with Laban in Paddan-aram during the seven years he was working to pay for his second wife, Rachel. When Gad was born Leah exclaimed, “With good fortune!” (KJV “a troop cometh” following qere) whence the name “Gad” (good fortune).

Nothing is known of the life of Gad other than that which is known of the family as a whole (see Jacob). At the time when he went with Jacob and his family down to Egypt to sojourn, Gad had seven sons: Ziphion (Zephon), Haggi, Shuni, Ezbon (Ozni), Eri, Arodi (Arod), and Areli (Gen 46:16, variants from Num 26:15, 16). On his deathbed, Jacob blessed Gad, “Raiders (mg. ‘a raiding troop’; the Heb. גְּד֣וּד, ‘troop,’ ‘raiders,’ is to be considered a play on words, being similar to the word ‘Gad’) shall raid Gad, but he shall raid at their heels” (Gen 49:19). The tribe would be subject to attacks by raiding parties (prob. the Ammonites) but Gad would return them.

The tribe of Gad, descendants of the son of Jacob

In the wilderness.

At the first census (Num 1:24, 25), males twenty years old and upward fit for military service numbered 45,650. This is out of a total for Israel of 603,550 (vv. 44-46), which number did not include the tribe of Levi. At the end of their wanderings in the wilderness, the Gadites numbered 40,500, a substantial decrease (26:15-18). The number of non-Gadite Israelites during the same period increased slightly, the total (including Gad) was 601,730 (Num 26:51; see also 1 Chron 5:18).

The leader of Gad at the beginning of the wilderness wanderings was Eliasaph (Num 2:14; 10:20) the son of Deuel (2:14, Reuel). He was appointed to assist Moses in the first census (1:14). He brought the representative offering from the Gadites for the dedication of the altar (7:42-47).

In the encampment, Gad was a member company of the camp of Reuben, which camped to the S of the tent of meeting. Reuben camped next to the tent of meeting followed by Simeon with Gad on the outside (2:10-14). In the marching formation, the camp of Judah led, followed by the Gershonites and Merarites who carried the Tabernacle. Then came Reuben, Simeon, and Gad, followed by the Kohathites carrying the holy things, and then the rest of Israel (10:11-21).

When Moses sent men to spy out the land of Canaan the representative from Gad was “Geuel the son of Machi” (13:15).

The time of the conquest.

After the defeat of Sihon, king of the Amorites, and Og, king of Bashan, the Gadites, along with the Reubenites, who were very rich in cattle and needed grazing land, saw that this land (Gilead, Transjordan) was good for cattle, and they requested from Moses that it be given to them as their inheritance (Num 32:1-6). This was given to them upon the promise that their fighting men accompany the children of Israel over the Jordan River, and help to drive out the inhabitants of Canaan until the task was done (32:28-32). Of this Moses later said, “He [Gad] chose the best of the land for himself, for there a commander’s portion was reserved” (Deut 33:21). The relationship of Reuben and Gad prob. stemmed from their position at the S of the Tabernacle where Gad was part of the camp of Reuben. The other member, Simeon, received his inheritance to the W of the Jordan as the southernmost of the tribes (Josh 19:1-9).

At the entrance to Canaan, just before crossing the Jordan, Joshua (after the death of Moses) reminded the two and one-half tribes that the men of war were to accompany the rest of Israel W of the Jordan (1:12-18). When the children of Israel passed over the Jordan before the conquest of Jericho, the armed forces of Reuben, Gad, and the halftribe of Manasseh who went with them, leaving their children behind, amounted to about 40,000 (4:12, 13).

After the defeat of Ai, the Israelites stood by Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal for the blessing and the curse (8:33-35), according to the words of Moses (Deut 27:11-14). Gad and Reuben were among those designated for Mount Ebal.

After the conquest, Joshua officially released the Gadites to return home (Josh 22:1-6). When they crossed back over the Jordan with the Reubenites and the half-tribe of Manasseh, they built an altar of great size by the Jordan. When the rest of the Israelites heard of it they gathered together to make war with the two and one-half tribes. The explanation was that this was not an altar for worship of false gods but was a witness that these tribes belonged with the commonwealth of Israel and were always to be included in the worship of the Lord. The explanation pleased the rest of the Israelites and a civil war was prevented (Josh 22).

Tribal inheritance.

Israel’s possession E of the Jordan, esp. that of Gad and Manasseh, was called Gilead (q.v.), a geographical term not clearly defined. At times Gilead was used in place of the tribal name (Judg 5:17).

The cities for the Levites from the tribe of Gad were Ramoth, Mahanaim, Heshbon, and Jazer (Josh 21:8, 38, 39; 1 Chron 6:63, 80, 81). Of these, Ramoth in Gilead was a city of refuge (Deut 4:43; Josh 20:8).

The time of Saul and David.

During the reign of Saul, when the Philistines oppressed Israel, some of the Israelites crossed the Jordan and migrated to the land of Gad (1 Sam 13:6, 7). The two and one-half tribes are tied together again in 1 Chron 5. They produced an army of 44,760 and defeated the Hagrites “because they trusted in” God (vv. 18-21). If this is the same event as v. 10, it happened during the reign of Saul, who, because of lack of trust, was losing his battles.

When David was in exile at Ziklag building up a following of trained fighting men, there came Gadites to join him, “mighty and experienced warriors, expert with shield and spear, whose faces were like the faces of lions, and who were swift as gazelles upon the mountains” (1 Chron 12:8). Earlier, Moses had said of Gad, “Gad couches like a lion, he tears the arm, and the crown of the head” (Deut 33:20). Bani the Gadite was one of David’s thirty mighty men (2 Sam 23:36). The Reubenites, Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh are listed together as sending a contingent of 120,000 armed men to David’s coronation. (Other tribes were listed individually.) Moses had said, “...he [Gad] came to the heads of the people” (Deut 33:21). Gad is included in the numbering of the children of Israel by Joab at David’s command (2 Sam 24:5). David appointed Jerijah, chief of the Hebronites, along with his brethren, 2,700 men of ability, to the oversight of Trans-Jordan, including the Gadites, for matters “pertaining to God and for the affairs of the king” (1 Chron 26:29-32). A number of these men had been found in Jazer in Gilead (perhaps formerly from Hebron).

Later history.

During the time of Israel’s monarchy, the Gadites are not usually referred to separately but share in the history of Gilead. When Hazael, king of Syria, defeated the Israelites, he took much of Trans-Jordan, including the territory of Gad (2 Kings 10:32, 33); Ramoth-gilead had fallen earlier (2 Chron 22). The region was prob. restored under Jeroboam II (2 Kings 14:23-28), but the two and one-half tribes were taken captive by Tiglath-pilneser III (744-727) and were transplanted into parts of his kingdom (1 Chron 5:26). Later, the Ammonites moved into the Gadite territory (Jer 49:1).

Gad is included in the division of the land mentioned in the restoration (Ezek 48:27) and also as the name of one of the gates of the city (48:34). Among the 144,000 Israelites sealed are 12,000 Gadites (Rev 7:5).


N. Glueck, “Explorations in Eastern Palestine, III,” AASOR, XVIII-XIX (1939), 151-251; Id. IV, XXV-XXVIII (1951); D. Baly, The Geography of the Bible (1957), 217-231.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

(gadh, "fortune"; Gad):

1. The Name:

The seventh son of Jacob, whose mother was Zilpah (Ge 30:11), and whose birth was welcomed by Leah with the cry, "Fortunate!" Some have sought to connect the name with that of the heathen deity Gad, of which traces are found in Baal-gad, Migdal-gad, etc. In the blessing of Jacob (Ge 49:19) there is a play upon the name, as if it meant "troop," or "marauding band." "Gad, a troop shall press upon him; but he shall press upon their heel" (Hebrew gadh, gedhudh, yeghudhennu, wehu yaghudh `aqebh). Here there is doubtless a reference to the high spirit and valor that characterized the descendants of Gad. The enemy who attacked them exposed himself to grave peril. In the blessing of Moses again (De 33:20 ) it is said that Gad "dwelleth as lioness, and teareth the arm, yea, the crown of the head." Leonine qualities are ascribed to the Gadites, mighty men of valor, who joined David (1Ch 12:8,14). Their "faces were like the faces of lions, and they were as swift as the roes upon the mountain." Among their captains "he that was least was equal to a hundred, and the greatest to a thousand."

2. The Tribe:

Of the patriarch Gad almost nothing is recorded. Seven sons went down with him into Egypt, when Jacob accepted Joseph s invitation (Ge 46:16). At the beginning of the desert march Gad numbered 45,650 "from twenty years old and upward, all that were able to go forth to war" (Nu 1:24). In the plains of Moab the number had fallen to 40,500 (Nu 26:18). The place of Gad was with the standard of the camp of Reuben on the South side of the tabernacle (Nu 2:14). The prince of the tribe was Eliasaph, son of Deuel (Nu 1:14), or Reuel (Nu 2:14). Among the spies Gad was represented by Geuel son of Machi (Nu 13:15).

See Numbers.

3. The Tribal Territory:

From time immemorial the dwellers East of the Jordan have followed the pastoral life. When Moses had completed the conquest of these lands, the spacious uplands, with their wide pastures, attracted the great flock-masters of Reuben and Gad. In response to their appeal Moses assigned them their tribal portions here: only on condition, however, that their men of war should go over with their brethren, and take their share alike in the hardship and in the glory of the conquest of Western Palestine (Nu 32). When the victorious campaigns of Joshua were completed, the warriors of Reuben and Gad returned to their possessions in the East. They halted, however, in the Jordan valley to build the mighty altar of Ed. They feared lest the gorge of the Jordan should in time become all too effective a barrier between them and their brethren on the West. This altar should be for all time a "witness" to their unity in race and faith (Jos 22). The building of the altar was at first misunderstood by the western tribes, but the explanation given entirely satisfied them.

4. Boundaries:

It is impossible to indicate with any certainty the boundaries of the territory of Gad. Reuben lay on the South, and the half-tribe of Manasseh on the North. These three occupied the whole of Eastern Palestine. The South border of Gad is given as the Arnon in Nu 32:34; but six cities to the North of the Arnon are assigned in 32:16 ff to Reuben. Again, Jos 13:26 makes Wady Chesban the southern boundary of Gad. Mesha, however (MS), says that the men of Gad dwelt in Ataroth from old time. This is far South of Wady Chesban. The writer of Nu 32 may have regarded the Jabbok as the northern frontier of Gad; but Jos 13:27 extends it to the Sea of Chinnereth, making the Jordan the western boundary. It included Rabbath-ammon in the East. We have not now the information necessary to explain this apparent confusion. There can be no doubt that, as a consequence of strifes with neighboring peoples, the boundaries were often changed (1Ch 5:18 f). For the Biblical writers the center of interest was in Western Palestine, and the details given regarding the eastern tribes are very meager. We may take it, however, that, roughly, the land of Gilead fell to the tribe of Gad. In Jud 5:17 Gilead appears where we should naturally expect Gad, for which it seems to stand. The city of refuge, Ramoth in Gilead, was in the territory of Gad (Jos 20:8). For description of the country see Gilead.

5. History:

Gad formed the main theater of the long struggle between Israel and the Syrians. At Ramoth-gilead Ahab received his death wound (1Ki 22). Under Jeroboam II, this country was once more an integral part of the land of Israel. In 734 BC, however, Tiglath-pileser appeared, and conquered all Eastern Palestine, carrying its inhabitants captive (2Ki 15:29; 1Ch 5:26). This seems to have furnished occasion for the children of Ammon to occupy the country (Jer 49:1). In Ezekiel’s ideal picture (Eze 48:27,34), a place is found for the tribe of Gad. Obadiah seems to have forgotten the tribe, and their territory is assigned to Benjamin (1:19). Gad, however, has his place among the tribes of Israel in Re 7.

David’s seer (chozeh, 1Ch 21:9; 29:29; 2Ch 29:25), or prophet (nabhi’; compare 1Sa 22:5; 2Sa 24:11). He appears

(1) to advise David while an outlaw fleeing before Saul to return to the land of Judah (1Sa 22:5);

(2) to rebuke David and give him his choice of punishments when, in spite of the advice of Joab and the traditional objections (compare Ex 30:11 ff), he had counted the children of Israel (2Sa 24:11; 1Ch 21:9 );

(3) to instruct David to erect an altar on the threshing-floor of Araunah when the plague that had descended on Israel ceased (2Sa 24:18; 1Ch 21:18); and

(4) to assist in the arrangement of Levitical music with cymbals, psalteries and harps (compare 2Ch 29:25).

Of his writings none are known, though he is said to have written a history of a part of David’s reign (1Ch 29:29).

A god of Good Luck, possibly the Hyades. The writer in Isa 65:11 (margin) pronounces a curse against such as are lured away to idolatry. The warning here, according to Cheyne, is specifically against the Samaritans, whom with their religion the Jews held in especial abhorrence. The charge would, however, apply just as well to superstitious and semi-pagan Jews. "But ye that forsake Yahweh, that forget my holy mountain, that prepare a table for Fortune, and that fill up mingled wine unto Destiny; I will destine you to the sword, and ye shall all bow down to the slaughter." There is a play upon words here: "Fill up mingled wine unto Destiny" (meni) and "I will destine manithi, i.e. portion out) you for the sword" (Isa 65:11,12). Gad and Meni mentioned here are two Syrian-deities (Cheyne, Book of the Prophet Isaiah, 198). Schurer (Gesch. d. jud. Volkes, II, 34 note, and bibliography) disputes the reference of the Greek (Tuche) cult to the Semitic Gad, tracing it rather to the Syrian "Astarte" worship. The custom was quite common among heathen peoples of spreading before the gods tables laden with food (compare Herod. i. 181, 183; Smith, Rel. of Semites, Lect X).

Nothing is known of a Babylonian deity named Gad, but there are Aramean and Arabic equivalents. The origin may have been a personification of fortune and destiny, i.e. equivalent to the Fates. The Nabatean inscriptions give, in plural, form, the name of Meni. Achimenidean coins (Persian) are thought by some to bear the name of Meni. How widely spread these Syrian cults became, may be seen in a number of ways, e.g. an altar from Vaison in Southern France bearing an inscription:

"Belus Fortunae rector, Menisque Magister."

Belus, signifying the Syrian Bel of Apamaea (Driver). Canaanitish place-names also attest the prevalence of the cult, as Baal-gad, at the foot of Hermen (Jos 11:17; 12:7; 13:5); Migdal-gad, possibly Mejdel near Askalon (Jos 15:37); Gaddi and Gaddiel (Nu 13:10 f). In Talmudic literature the name of Gad is frequently invoked (compare McCurdy in Jewish Encyclopedia, V, 544). Indeed the words of Leah in Ge 30:11 may refer not to good fortune or luck but to the deity who was especially regarded as the patron god of Good Fortune (compare Kent, Student’s Old Testament, I, 111). Similar beliefs were held among the Greeks and Romans, e.g. Hor. Sat. ii.8, 61:

".... Fortuna, quis est crudelior in nos te deus?"

Cic. N.D. iii.24, 61:

"Quo in genere vel maxime est Fortuna numeranda."

The question has also an astronomical interest. Arabic tradition styled the planet Jupiter the greater fortune, and Venus the lesser fortune. Jewish tradition identified Gad with the planet Jupiter, and it has been conjectured that Meni is to be identified with the planet Venus.

See, however, ASTROLOGY, 10.

Used once in Jer 2:36, "Why gaddest thou about so much to change thy way?" of going after Egypt and Assyria.

Additional Material

GAD (DAVID’s SEER), găd (גָּד, H1514; LXX Γάδ, G1122, good fortune). A prophet, or seer, who served King David. He was with David when David sought refuge for his father and mother in Moab during the time he was hunted by Saul. Upon Gad’s advice, David left the stronghold in Moab and entered the forest of Hereth in Judah (1 Sam 22:3-5).

After he had ill-advisedly conducted a census of the people, David became consciencestricken and confessed his sin to the Lord. The next day Gad brought David a message from the Lord. He was to choose one of three punishments—three years of famine, three months of defeat at the hand of his enemies, or three days of pestilence. David chose to suffer by pestilence, and 70,000 men perished. God relented just as the angel of the Lord was standing on the threshing floor of Araunah (Ornan the Jebusite, 1 Chron 21:15). Gad directed David to build an altar to the Lord on that very spot. After David had offered sacrifices, the plague was stopped (2 Sam 24:10-25; 1 Chron 21).

Gad wrote a document recording the life and activities of David (1 Chron 29:29) and assisted David in establishing arrangements for the Temple musicians (2 Chron 29:25).

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