Try out the new BibleStudyTools.com. Click here!

Gilgal in Deuteronomy 11:30: what that place was.

That which is said by Moses, that "Gerizim and Ebal were over-against Gilgal," Deuteronomy 11:30, is so obscure, that it is rendered into contrary significations by interpreters. Some take it in that sense, as if it were near to Gilgal: some far off from Gilgal: the Targumists read, "before Gilgal": while, as I think, they do not touch the difficulty; which lies not so much in the signification of the word Mul, as in the ambiguity of the word Gilgal. These do all seem to understand that Gilgal which the people of Israel took the first night after their passage over Jordan, Joshua 4:19; which, as Josephus relates, was distant only fifty furlongs from Jordan; but which the Gemarists guess to be fifty miles and more. For "they say, the journey of that day was more than sixty miles, to wit, from Jordan to Gilgal." And this they say, that they may fix Gilgal near Gerizim and Ebal; where they think the people encamped the first night after their entrance into the land of Canaan, from those words of Moses, Deuteronomy 27:2, "In the day, wherein thou shalt pass over Jordan, thou shalt set thee up great stones, and shalt plaster them with plaster," &c. Now those stones, say they, are set up in Gerizim and Ebal. Hence is that of the Gemarists, "The Lord said, I said, When ye shall pass Jordan, ye shall set up stones; but you have spread yourselves as far as sixty miles." And, "Gerizim and Ebal were sixty miles distant from Jordan."

But certainly by that Gilgal, of which Moses in those words speaks, "Are not Gerizim and Ebal over-against Gilgal?" is to be understood some other than that which Joshua named by that name, Joshua 5:9. For when Moses spoke those words, the name of that Gilgal, near Jericho, was not at all: nor can that which is spoke in the book of Joshua concerning the nations of Gilgal, Joshua 12:23, be applied to that Gilgal, when it had obtained that name. Therefore, in both places, by Gilgal seems to be understood Galilee; and that as well from the nearness of the words,--for Gilgal, and Galil, are of the same root and etymology,--as from the very sense of the places. For when, in Joshua, some kings of certain particular cities in Galilee--Kedesh, Jokneam, Dor, &c.--are reckoned up, the king of the nations of Gilgal, or Galilee, is also added, who ruled over many cities and countries in Galilee.

So also the words of Moses may very well be rendered in the like sense, 'Are not those mountains, Gerizim and Ebal, beyond Jordan, over-against Gilgal, or Galilee?'

These things following strengthen our conjecture:--I. The version of the LXX, who render The nations of Gilgal, by Gei of Galilee. II. The comparing Josephus with the book of the Maccabees, in the story of Demetrius. "He pitched his tent (saith Josephus), 'in Arbel, a city of Galilee'"; but, 1 Maccabees 9:2, "They went forth the way that leadeth to Galgala, and pitched their tents before Mesaloth, which is in Arbel." In one Arbel is in Galgala or Gilgal, in the other it is in Galilee.