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Gad and His Tribe

by Nissan Mindel

Talks and Tales

  

Library » History » Patriarchs, 12 Tribes | Subscribe | What is RSS?


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Gad was one of the twelve sons of Jacob, making up the twelve tribes of Israel. Gad was the son of Zilpah, one of Jacob's four wives, who was also the mother of Asher.

According to tradition, Gad was born (and died) on the tenth day of this month, Cheshvan (Shmot Rabbah 1: 5). He was named Gad by Leah, who had been Zilpah's mistress. "Gad" means Mazal Tav, "good luck" (Rashi). According to another opinion (Ibn Ezra), "Gad" means a "troop" (as Gedud), and this is what Leah meant when she said Ba Gad-for her sons now made up a whole "troop" (Gen. 3 0:11) .

At the time when Jacob and his family of seventy souls came to live in Egypt, Gad was the father of seven sons. When our Patriarch Jacob blessed his sons before his death (Gen. 49:19), he prophesied that the tribe of Gad will provide brave troops who will lead the children of Israel to victory in the conquest of the Promised Land, then return to their inheritance on the eastern side of the Jordan.

Mosheh Rabbenu, when blessing the Tribes before his death, likened Gad to a lion. This was an allusion to the mighty warriors of this tribe who will strike down Israel's enemies. He also prophesied that in Gad's portion would be hidden his (Mosheh's) grave (Dent. 33:20-21).

It was especially important for the tribe of Gad to be strong, for it received its share of land on the border, and guarded the north-eastern flank of the country.

It was especially important for the tribe of Gad to be strong, for it received its share of land on the border, and guarded the north-eastern flank of the country
In the Desert

When the children of Israel were counted in the Desert of Sinai on the first of Iyar, 2449, in the second year after their Exodus from Egypt, Gad was the third tribe to be counted (after Reuven and Shimon). The males, from the age of twenty and up, numbered 45,650 (Num. 1:24, 2 5). The prince, or head of the tribe (Nassi), was Elyasaf ben Reuel (1:14; 2:14).

In the arrangement of the camp and order of the march, the tribe of Gad was placed under the Staff of Reuven, together with Shimon, south of the Sanctuary (Num. 2:10, 14). Upon the erection and dedication of the Sanctuary on the first of Nissan (2449), when each of the princes of the tribes brought identical offerings for the dedication of the Mizbe'ach (Altar) on successive days, Elyasaf ben Reuel's turn was on the sixth day (sixth of Nissan).

Among the twelve spies, each representing a tribe, which Mosheh Rabbenu sent to spy out the Promised Land, the tribe of Gad was represented by Geuel ben Machi. In this case, Gad is mentioned last (Num. 13:15).

At the second census in the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho, nearly 40 years after the first census, the number of men of military age (twenty and up) of the tribe of Gad fell short of the first count. Their number was now only 40,500 (Num. 26:18).

After the Eastern or Transjordanic part of Canaan was captured from the Amorites (Num. 21:21-3 5), the tribes of Reuven, Gad, and half of Menasheh desired to settle in that part. These tribes had large herds of cattle and sheep, and when they saw that the lands of Jazer and Gilead, east of Jordan, were very suitable for grazing, they approached Mosheh, Elazar, and all the princes and requested that this area be given to them as their share of the Promised Land. This seemed, at first, like another rebellion, and Mosheh sternly rebuked the Reuvenites and Gadites: "Shall your brethren go to war, and you will sit here?" he said, reminding them of what happened to the people when they were swayed by the evil report of the spies. However, the leaders of Reuven and Gad assured him that they were not only willing to accompany the other tribes and help in the conquest of Canaan, but would march in the forefront of the battles. Accepting this offer and making it a firm condition, Mosheh granted their request. Then the Reuvenites and Gadites were permitted to build fortified cities in Transjordan for the women and children, and sheepfolds for their flocks, while the fighting men of these tribes would cross the Jordan with the other tribes to lead in the conquest of Canaan. The tribes of Gad and Reuven built a number of cities, while the clan of Machir, the son of Menasheh, went and conquered the land of Gilead from the Amorites dwelling there, and received it as their inheritance (Num. ch. 32).


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Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Moshiach
The Messiah. Moshiach is the person who will usher in an era of peace and tranquility for all of humanity when there will be no jealousy or hate, wars or famine. This is a fundamental Jewish belief.
Kohanim
Plural form of Kohain. Priests of G-d. This title belongs to the male descendants of Aaron, brother of Moses. The primary function of the Kohain was to serve in the Holy Temple. Today the Kohain is still revered and it is his function to recite the Priestly Blessings on certain occasions.
Rashi
Acronym for Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (1040-1105). Legendary French scholar who authored the fundemental and widely accepted "Rashi commentary" on the entire Bible and Talmud.
Joshua
1. Assumed the leadership of the Jewish people after Moses died in 1267 BCE. He split the Jordan River and led the Jewish people in their conquest of the Promised Land. 2. One of the 24 books of the Bible, which chronicles Joshua's leadership.
Nissan
The first month of the Jewish calendar. This month, which falls out in early spring, is known for the holiday of Passover which starts on the 15th of Nissan.
Iyar
The second month on the Jewish calendar, normally corresponding to April-May. The 18th of this month is the holiday of Lag b'Omer.
Cheshvan
The eighth month of the Jewish calendar, normally corresponding to October-November.
Jacob
Third of the three Patriarchs and father of the Twelve Tribes. Lived most his life in Canaan and died in Egypt in 1505 BCE. Also known by the name of "Israel."
Leah
Fourth of the four Jewish matriarchs. Elder daughter of Laban, wife of Patriarch Jacob, and mother of six of the Tribes, including Levi and Judah.
Canaan
The land which G-d promised to give to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Named after the Tribe of Canaanites who dwelt there at the time. Eventually, when the Israelites conquered the land in 1272 BCE, it was renamed the "Land of Israel."
Jerusalem
Established by King David to be the eternal capital of Israel. Both Temples were built there, and the third Temple will be situated there when the Messiah comes.
Judah
1. The fourth son of Jacob and Leah. He was blessed by Jacob to be the leader of the tribes. Consequently, the Davidic royal dynasty is from the tribe of Judah. 2. The southern part of Israel which was occupied by the Tribes of Judah and Benjamin, and always remained under the reign of the kings from the tribe of Judah.
Saul
First king of Israel, anointed by the prophet Samuel in 878 BCE. Was dethroned because he failed to carry out G-d's command, and the royal crown was transferred to King David and his descendents.
David
King of Israel who succeeded Saul, becoming king of Israel in 876 BCE. Originally a shepherd, he became popular after he killed the Philistine strongman, Goliath. He is the progenitor of the Davidic royal dynasty -- which will return to the throne with the arrival of King Messiah.
Ezekiel
1. Major Jewish prophet who lived in the 5th century BCE. 2. One of the 24 books of the Bible, containing the prophecies which Ezekiel transmitted.
Ezra
1. A Hebrew priest and scribe, who, together with Nehemiah, revived Judaism in the 4th century BCE. He was instrumental in the building of the 2nd Temple. 2. One of the 24 books of the Bible, which describes the events of Ezra's lifetime.
Exodus
1. The miraculous departure of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage in 1312 BCE. 2. The second of the Five Books of Moses. This book describes the aforementioned Exodus, the giving of the Torah, and the erection of the Tabernacle.
Levi
1. Name of Patriarch Jacob's third son. 2. A Levite -- a Jew who is a patrilineal descendant of Levi. Levites had special duties in the Holy Temple, and are still accorded special respect.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.