Dictionary of Bible Names

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Bible Meaning: A wheel, rolling
Strong's Concordance #H1537

Several cities named Gilgal may have existed in Canaan after the Israelites entered the Promised Land.

The most significant city (region) named Gilgal is the first place the children of Israel camped after crossing the Jordan River under Joshua (Joshua 4:19 - 20). It is also the location where the people kept the Passover for the first time in thirty-nine years since they last observed it in the wilderness of Sinai (Numbers 9:1 - 5).

Before the nation could partake of the Passover, however, more than 600,000 Israelite males had to be circumcised. This rather painful procedure took place, in mass, near Gilgal on "the hill of the foreskins" (Joshua 5:3).

The city became the Israelites' military base of operations during their battles to take the land God promised to them (Joshua 9:6, 10:6, 14:6).

It is also where the prophet Samuel anointed Saul as the first human king over Israel (1Samuel 11:12 - 15). King Saul also lost the kingdom in Gilgal when he willfully refused to obey God (1Samuel 13:7 - 14, 15:12 - 33).

Location of Gilgal in the land of Canaan
Location of Gilgal Near Jordan River

Unique Prophets

Both Elijah and Elisha spent a considerable amount of time in Gilgal, a city possibly located in a place different from Israel's first encampment. The city hosted its own school for prophets and was the place where Elisha set up his base of operations (2Kings 2:1, 4:38).

Important Verses

Joshua 4:17, 19 - 20
Joshua therefore commanded the priests, saying, Come ye up out of Jordan . . .

And the people came up out of Jordan on the tenth day of the first month, and encamped in Gilgal, in the east border of Jericho.

And those twelve stones, which they took out of Jordan, did Joshua pitch in Gilgal.

Joshua 5:8, 10
And it came to pass, when they had done circumcising all the people, that they abode in their places in the camp, till they were whole . . .

And the children of Israel encamped in Gilgal, and kept the passover on the fourteenth day of the month at even in the plains of Jericho.

1Samuel 11:14 - 15
Then said Samuel to the people, Come, and let us go to Gilgal, and renew the kingdom there . . . and there they made Saul king before the Lord in Gilgal: and there they sacrificed sacrifices of peace offerings before the Lord: and there Saul and all the men of Israel rejoiced greatly.

1Samuel 13:3 - 4
And Jonathan smote the garrison of the Philistines that was in Geba, and the Philistines heard of it. And Saul blew the trumpet throughout all the land, saying, Let the Hebrews hear.

And all Israel heard say that Saul had smitten a garrison of the Philistines, and that Israel also was had in abomination with the Philistines. And the people were called together after Saul to Gilgal.

1Samuel 15:10 - 12, 21, 33
Then came the word of the Lord unto Samuel, saying, It repenteth me that I have set up Saul to be king: for he is turned back from following me, and hath not performed my commandments . . .

And when Samuel rose early to meet Saul in the morning, it was told Samuel, saying, Saul came to Carmel, and, behold, he set him up a place, and is gone about, and passed on, and gone down to Gilgal . . .

But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the chief of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice unto the Lord thy God in Gilgal . . .

And Samuel said, As thy sword hath made women childless, so shall thy mother be childless among women. And Samuel hewed Agag in pieces before the Lord in Gilgal.

Additional Studies

Dictionary of Biblical Names
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Series Notes
References are based on the
King James Bible translation (KJV).