Gilgal in the Bible

by | Jan 13, 2024 | Blog | 0 comments

Gilgal is introduced in the Bible in the book of Joshua as a haven where Israelites pitched camp after crossing River Jordan. After this, the name appears numerous times in different contexts. In total, Gilgal is mentioned 39 times in the Bible which underscores its importance and significance in the Bible. So what does it mean?

The word Gilgal is adapted from the Hebrew word galal which means “to remove” or “to roll.” As such, the word Gigal denotes rolling away or removing something undesirable. The modern-day location of Gilgal is still subject of debate but most scholars agree that it is near present-day Jericho. 

The Significance of Gilgal in the Bible

As we have already mentioned, Gilgal has lots of significance in the bible. Here are some of the noteworthy symbolism and significance of Gilgal in the Bible. 

  • Gilgal was the Israelites’ first campground in the Promised Land

Gilgal plays a crucial role in the exodus story of Israel. After spending 40 years in the wilderness, they finally crossed the river Jordan under the leadership of Joshua (Moses was dead at this point). By crossing the river Jordan, Israel officially stepped into the promised land and set their first camp at Gilgal (Joshua 4:19-20). The fact that Gilgal means “rolled away” has huge significance because it signified that God had rolled away Israel’s reproach by finally taking them into their land of promise. 

  •  A Monument to God’s Faithfulness

As a way of memorizing the miraculous crossing, Joshua led Israel in placing 12 huge stones on the riverbed of the Jordan – each stone representing one of the 12 tribes of Israel (Joshua 4:3-9). This was symbolic because it was to be a perpetual reminder to Israel of God’s power and faithfulness. Every time Giglal was mentioned to the Israelites, they would associate it with the miraculous crossing of the Jordan and that would remind them of God’s faithfulness and power. 

  • Renewal of the Covenant

When Israel camped at Gilgal for the first time, they did a symbolic act of renewing the circumcision of all the males that were born in the wilderness (Joshua 5:2-9). When God was establishing the Abrahamic covenant, he gave the symbol of circumcision as an outward sign of the blessing of Abraham. Before Israel took possession of the land that God had promised Abraham, they renewed the covenant through circumcision. As such, Gilgal remained a stark reminder of the importance of living by the dictates of God’s covenant. 

  • A reminder of God’s saving grace

The Passover is one of the most important Jewish festivals. It commemorates the time when Pharoah was playing hardball and God killed all the firstborns of Egypt. However, before this, Israelites were asked to apply the blood of the Passover lamb on their doorposts so that the angel of death would bypass their houses. After this, Israel was commanded to celebrate the Passover every year to remember how God delivered them from captivity with a strong arm. After crossing the river Jordan, Israel celebrated their first Passover in the promised land at Gigal(Joshua 5:10-12). Gilgal can therefore be seen as a symbol of God’s saving grace. 

Lessons from Gilgal for Contemporary Believers

The symbolism of Gilgal in the Bible can serve as an important lesson for the modern-day believer. For starters, Gilgal can remind us of the new beginnings. Just as Israel first camped at Giglal once they crossed over into the promised land, the New Testament believer should look at it as a reminder that they are new creations in Christ and their reproach has been rolled away. 

Just as Israel renewed their covenant with God at Giglal, the New Testament believers must constantly examine themselves to ensure they are in the right standing with God. As Paul admonished the Corinthian church, every believer must “Examine themselves to see whether they are in the faith” or if they need to renew their covenant with God. Granted, the New Testament covenant does not require the outward sign of circumcision but it calls for the circumcision of the heart. 

Moreover, the concept of God’s faithfulness, embodied in the name “Gilgal,” invites believers to anchor themselves in a steadfast trust in God’s promises. Amid life’s uncertainties, the stones of remembrance, much like those erected by Joshua, become our testimonies to God’s unwavering faithfulness. This symbolism encourages us to build our own ‘altars’ of remembrance, recounting the instances where God has proven faithful in our lives.

Challenges to Contemporary Faith

Even though Gilgal has awesome lessons for the modern-day Christian, it also comes with its fair share of challenges. Wandering in the wilderness and eventually crossing the Jordan was not a walk in the park. Just as much, the modern believer is faced with challenges that make the Christian walk hard. However, Gilgal can be a stark reminder of the importance of trusting in God’s providence even in the face of adversity. 

The stones Joshua placed in the middle of Jordan were witnesses of God’s faithfulness but they are also markers of accountability. It can serve as a challenge to the modern-day Christian about the authenticity of our faith. The Israelites were faced with unique challenges which we will never face today but we should avoid getting complacent in our walk of faith. As Galatians 5:25 admonishes, we should always keep in step with the spirit. 

Finally, the concept of ‘rolling away’ or ‘removing’ associated with Gilgal should serve as a call for believers to examine their lives to see if there is anything that needs to be rolled away. In Mathew 4:17, the Bible shows how Jesus began to preach on repentance which was a call for everyone to roll away their sins and past way of living because the kingdom of God was at hand. 

Conclusion

Gilgal’s enduring significance in the Bible lies not only in its historical context but also in the rich symbolism it carries. It serves as a reminder of God’s faithfulness, the importance of covenant renewal, and the ever-present possibility of new beginnings. As we reflect on the story of Gilgal, we are invited to consider our journeys of faith, moments of renewal, and the unwavering presence of God who guides us on our paths.

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About: Ronie

Ronnie Amaya has been actively involved in ministry since his high school and university days where he served as a Christian union leader. After graduation, he worked as an itinerary minister preaching in Schools, Universities, Street Evangelizations, and Churches. In 2018, he led a team in planting a new church in Nairobi, Kenya where he is currently serving as the lead pastor.
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Ronie

Ronnie Amaya has been actively involved in ministry since his high school and university days where he served as a Christian union leader. After graduation, he worked as an itinerary minister preaching in Schools, Universities, Street Evangelizations, and Churches. In 2018, he led a team in planting a new church in Nairobi, Kenya where he is currently serving as the lead pastor.

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