Yahweh recalls his saving action in Canaan (Mic 6:5-6:5)

“O my people!

Remember now

What King Balak

Of Moab devised!

Remember now

What Balaam,

The son of Beor,

Answered him!

Remember now

What happened

From Shittim

To Gilgal!


You may know

The saving acts

Of Yahweh.”

Yahweh, via Micah, wanted his people to remember his saving acts when they first came to Canaan.  They were to remember King Balak of Moab and his interaction with the prophet Balaam, as in Numbers, chapters 22-24, when they were first approaching Canaan.  Then they were also to remember what happened between Shittim and Gilgal.  Gilgal was the first camp in Canaan, while Shittim was the last camp in their invasion of this country, as outlined in Numbers, chapter 25.  Remembering these events was very important.

Seek Yahweh (Am 5:4-5:6)

“Thus says Yahweh

To the house of Israel.

‘Seek me!


But do not seek Bethel!

Do not enter into Gilgal!

Do not cross over to Beer-sheba!

Gilgal shall surely go into exile!

Bethel shall come to nothing!

Seek Yahweh!



He will break out

Against the house of Joseph,

Like fire.

It will devour Bethel,

With no one to quench it.’”

Amos has Yahweh tell the house of Israel to seek him, so that they might live. However, they were not to seek Yahweh at the religious places of the idols at Bethel or Gilgal, since nothing would come of that. They were not to go to Beer-sheba either, which was south of Judah, like a resort place. Instead, they were to seek out Yahweh, so that they could live. Yahweh was going to break out against the house of Joseph, Ephraim, and devour Bethel, the capital city, with a fire that no one could put out.

The sacrifices at Bethel (Am 4:4-4:5)

“‘Come to Bethel!


Go to Gilgal!

Multiply transgressions!

Bring your sacrifices

Every morning!

Bring your tithes

Every three days!

Bring a thank offering

Of leavened bread!

Proclaim freewill offerings!

Publish them!

You love to do this!

O people of Israel!’

Says Yahweh God.”

Amos has another oracle of Yahweh that was an ironic description of the sacrifices at Bethel and Gilgal. Yahweh wanted them to come to either Bethel or Gilgal, so that they could transgress the law of Yahweh many times. Ironically, he wanted them to bring the daily morning sacrifices and pay their tithes every 3 days. They were to bring thanksgiving offerings and proclaim freewill offerings. The people of Israel loved to do this.

The worthless sacrifices (Hos 12:11-12:11)

“In Gilead,

There is iniquity.

They shall surely come to nothing.

In Gilgal,

They sacrifice bulls.


Their altars shall be

Like stone heaps

On the furrows

Of the field.”

The various idol worship places in Gilead and Gilgal will become useless. Their iniquity will amount to nothing. The altars where they sacrificed bulls in Gilgal will become like heaps of stone in a furrowed field.

Judah should watch out also (Hos 4:15-4:15)

“Though you play the prostitute,

O Israel!

Do not let Judah

Become guilty!

Do not enter

Into Gilgal!

Do not go up

To Beth-aven!

Do not swear!

‘As Yahweh lives.’”

Yahweh, via Hosea, told northern Israel that she had become a prostitute. Now he warned that the southern Judah kingdom should not become guilty. They should not go to Gilgal, that was just east of Jericho. Neither should they go to Beth-aven or Bethel, the place of worship of the northern Israelites. They should not swear by Yahweh.


King Demetrius I sends more troops to Jerusalem (1 Macc 9:1-9:4)

“When King Demetrius heard that Nicanor and his army had fallen in battle, he sent Bacchides and Alcimus into the land of Judah a second time. He sent the right wing of the army with them. They went by the road that leads to Gilgal. They encamped against Mesaloth in Arbela. They took that town and killed many people. In the first month of the one hundred fifty-second year they encamped against Jerusalem. Then they marched off and went to Berea with twenty thousand foot soldiers and two thousand cavalry.”

Now we are back to the problem of King Demetrius I and Judas Maccabeus, since the preceding chapter 8 seems to be an insertion to show how the Romans had been kind to the Jews. With the defeat of Nicanor, the king went back to his faithful duo of Bacchides and Alcimus, who was still the chief priest in Jerusalem in 160 BCE. Gilgal was between Jericho and the Jordan River. This duo camped at Mesaloth and destroyed it. It might have been close to Samaria. Then they went out to Berea, perhaps a town about 10 miles north of Jerusalem called el-Birch. Anyway, they had a large army of 20,000 foot soldiers and 2,000 cavalry.

Rupture between Samuel and Saul (1 Sam 13:8-13:15)

“Saul waited seven days, the time appointed by Samuel. But Samuel did not come to Gilgal. The people began to slip away from Saul. So Saul said. ‘Bring the burnt offering here to me, and the offerings of well-being.’ He offered the burnt offering. As soon as he had finished offering the burnt offering, Samuel arrived. Saul went out to meet him and salute him. Samuel said. ‘What have you done?’ Saul replied. ‘When I saw that the people were slipping away from me, and that you did not come within the days appointed, and that the Philistines were mustering at Michmash, I said. ‘Now the Philistines will come down upon me at Gilgal. I have not entreated the favor of Yahweh.’ So I forced myself. I offered the burnt offering.’ Samuel said to Saul. ‘You have done foolishly. You have not kept the commandment of Yahweh your God, which he commanded you. Yahweh would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom will not continue. Yahweh has sought out a man after his own heart. Yahweh has appointed him to be ruler over his people, because you have not kept what Yahweh commanded you.’ Samuel left. He went on his way up from Gilgal. The rest of the people followed Saul to join the army. They went up from Gilgal toward Gibeah of Benjamin. Saul counted the people who were present with him, about six hundred men.”

Saul waited for Samuel at Gilgal for 7 days as was the agreement with Samuel in chapter 9 of this book. When Samuel did not show up, the troops of Saul disbanded so that he only had about 600 men. Saul then offered a burnt offering sacrifice. When Samuel showed up he was mad a Saul for offering a sacrifice since only a priest or prophet could do that. Samuel claimed that Saul has lost his kingship to a man after Yahweh’s heart. Anyway, they both left Gilgal. Saul went back to Gibeah with his 600 men.

Saul is proclaimed king (1 Sam 11:12-11:15)

“Then the people said to Samuel. ‘Who is it that said. ‘Shall Saul reign over us?’ Give them to us so that we may put them to death.’ But Saul said. ‘No one shall be put to death this day, for today Yahweh has wrought deliverance in Israel.’ Samuel said to the people. ‘Come, let us go to Gilgal and there renew the kingship.’ Then all the people went to Gilgal. There they made Saul king before Yahweh in Gilgal. There they sacrificed offerings of well-being before Yahweh. There Saul and all the Israelites rejoiced greatly.”

They wanted to go after the people who had opposed Saul as king, but Saul said no. This was a day for rejoicing, not killing. They all went to Gilgal to celebrate this great victory. Then Saul is proclaimed king for a 2nd time. This time it seems more real, like an enthronement of a king. There at Gilgal, the original west bank camp, they offered sacrifices with great rejoicing. All looks great now. There is a king and there is peace. What else could you ask for?

Samuel instructs Saul on where to go (1 Sam 10:1-10:8)

“Now this shall be the sign to you that Yahweh has anointed you as ruler over his heritage. When you depart from me today you will meet two men by Rachel’s tomb in the territory of Benjamin at Zelzah. They will say to you. ‘The donkeys that you went to seek are found. Now your father has stopped worrying about them and is worrying about you. ‘What shall I do about my son?’”

Saul was to go to Rachel’s tomb at Zelzah. This is the only mention of this town in biblical literature.   Tourists can find this tomb between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Rachel was, of course, the mother of Benjamin and Joseph. Saul would meet 2 men there who would tell him that the donkeys have been found. However, now his father was worried about him. This was a sign for Saul that he was to be king of Israel.

“Then you shall go on from there further and come to the oak of Tabor. Three men going up to God at Bethel will meet you there, one carrying three kids, another carrying three loaves of bread, and another carrying a skin of wine. They will greet you. They will give you two loaves of bread, which you shall accept from them.”

At the oaks of Tabor would indicate a place further north. It may also mean a Tabor oak tree. Anyway, on with the story, as 3 men, like the allusion to a trinity, will appear on the scene carrying goats, bread, and wine. They will give you 2 loaves of bread, which you shall accept.

“After that you shall come to Gibeath-elohim, at the place where there is the Philistine garrison. There as you come to the town, you will meet a band of prophets coming down from the high place shrine with harp, tambourine, flute, and lyre playing in front of them. They will be in a prophetic frenzy. Then the Spirit of Yahweh will possess you. You will be in a prophetic frenzy along with them. You will be turned into a different person.”

The journey continued. This is the only mention of this place Gibeath-elohim in biblical literature. However, Gibeah is a real place, the home of Saul. It is strange that it is Philistine stronghold and yet these prophets with musical instruments are present here. Here is also the first mention of frenzied charismatic prophets. Saul joined them and became a different person. He was born again.

“Now when these signs meet you, do whatever you see fit to do. God is with you. You shall go down to Gilgal ahead of me. Then I will come down to you to present burnt offerings and offer sacrifices of well-being. Seven days you shall wait, until I come to you and show you what you shall do.”

What is Saul to do after these experiences? God was with Saul. He can do whatever he wants. However, he is to go to Gilgal, the original camp after the Israelites crossed the Jordan. There Samuel will come to him after waiting there 7 days. Then again, Samuel would tell Saul what he is to do. Clearly Samuel is in charge of all this. Samuel, who was so reluctant to have a king in chapter 8, sounds real enthusiastic about Saul being king. Saul, on the other hand, appeared bewildered and just went along with it.