Gilead, meaning rugged, was a highland region east of The Jordan River, extending approximately from the southern end of The Sea Of Galilee to the northern end of The Salt Sea, with the Jabbok River roughly marking its mid-point. From its mountains it was known as "the mount, or hill country, of Gilead" (Genesis 31:25), but was also called "the land of Gilead" (Numbers 32:1), or simply "Gilead" (Genesis 37:25). After the God-commanded possession and division of the Promised Land among The Tribes Of Israel, it was held by Gad, Reuben and part of Manasseh (Deuteronomy 3:13-15, Numbers 32:40) - a territory today outside of Israel's national borders, occupied by the Kingdom of Jordan.
Gilead was a very prominent Bible Place in Bible History. The judges Jair and Jephthah (see The Judges), King Jehu of Israel (see Kings of Israel and Judah), and the prophet Elijah were all from Gilead. Many well-known events of The Bible happened in Gilead:
"And Jacob outwitted Laban the Aramean [see Jacob and Laban], in that he did not tell him that he intended to flee. He fled with all that he had, and arose and crossed the Euphrates, and set his face toward the hill country of Gilead. When it was told Laban on the third day that Jacob had fled, he took his kinsmen with him and pursued him for seven days and followed close after him into the hill country of Gilead." (Genesis 31:20-23 RSV)
"the rest of Gilead, and all Bashan, the kingdom of Og, that is, all the region of Argob, I gave to the half-tribe of Manasseh ... and to the Reubenites and the Gadites I gave the territory from Gilead as far as the valley of the Arnon" (Deuteronomy 3:13,16 RSV) (see Division Of The Land)
"And Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo [see Heartbreak Mountain], to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho. And The Lord showed him all the land, Gilead as far as Dan, all Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Western Sea, the Negeb, and the Plain, that is, the valley of Jericho the city of palm trees, as far as Zoar. And The lord said to him, "This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, 'I will give it to your descendants.' I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not go over there." (Deuteronomy 34:1-4 RSV)
"Then all the people of Israel came out, from Dan to Beersheba, including the land of Gilead, and the congregation assembled as one man to The Lord at Mizpah." (Judges 20:1 RSV)
"Then David came to Mahanaim. And Absalom crossed the Jordan with all the men of Israel. Now Absalom had set Amasa over the army instead of Joab. Amasa was the son of a man named Ithra the Ishmaelite, who had married Abigal the daughter of Nahash, sister of Zeruiah, Joab's mother. And Israel and Absalom encamped in the land of Gilead." (2 Samuel 17:24-26 RSV)
Fact Finder: Were many people from "beyond the Jordan" (i.e. Gilead) among the large crowds that followed Jesus Christ?