As the ancestors of the tribes of Israel, the lives and personalities of each of the twelve sons of Jacob significantly impact on the history and behavior of the tribe members who descended from them.
Jacob’s deathbed blessing to Gad was that “Gad, a troop shall troop upon him; and they shall troop upon their heel” (Genesis 49:19), leading to an understanding that Jacob saw in his son a strong military nature, one which would be of great benefit to the Children of Israel. Indeed, the land of Gad’s descendants included a vast eastern border holding off Israel’s enemies.
How Gad came to dwell in the east is actually the only scriptural story that is related concerning this tribe during the Israelite’s wandering in the wilderness. After the Israelites conquered the land east of the Jordan River (outside the parameters of Israel), the Reubenites and the Gadites requested to settle there, rather than cross the Jordan. Moses' response was “Shall your brothers go to the war, and you sit here?” (Numbers 32:6). The Gadites, along with the Reubenites, then explained that they would first settle their flocks and their families and then join in the war to conquer Canaan.
Before his death, just before the Children of Israel are to enter the Promised Land, Moses blessed the entire nation and each tribe independently. His blessing to Gad was: “Blessed is He who broadens Gad. Like a lioness he dwells, and tears the arm, even the crown of the head. He saw the first portion for himself, because there, the portion of the lawgiver is hidden. And he came at the head of the people; he did what is righteous for the Lord, and what is lawful with Israel.” (Deuteronomy 33:20-21).
Moses' blessing not only describes Gad’s military prowess and ability to take the lead in battle, but also affirms Gad’s decision to settle on the eastern bank of the Jordan where Moses knew that he himself was to be buried.
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