Of Gad, Moses said in Deut. 33:20, 21,
20 And of Gad he said, “Blessed is the one who enlarges Gad; he lies down as a lion, and tears the arm, also the crown of the head. 21 Then he provided the first part for himself, for there the ruler’s portion was reserved; and he came with the leaders of the people; he executed the justice of the Lord, and His ordinances with Israel.”
Verse 20 speaks of Gad as a lion eating his prey. Verse 21 pictures him as a military force that is backing the leaders to execute “the justice of the Lord.”
Gad, the Raiders
Earlier, when Jacob blessed Gad in Gen. 49:19, he said,
19 As for Gad, raiders [ghedud] shall raid [gude] him, but he shall raid [gude] at their heels.
Gad means “a troop” (or “raiders”). Gad was named by Leah, but he was actually the son of Leah’s handmaid, Zilpah. The NASB for Gen. 30:11 reads,
11 Then Leah said, “How fortunate!” So she named him Gad.
The name of Gad comes from the Hebrew gude, which usually means a troop, but also means “fortune, or fortunate.” Perhaps Leah had this double meaning in mind when she named him Gad. She was fortunate to have had four of her own sons already, but when she stopped bearing children, she gave Zilpah, her handmaid, to Jacob to obtain more children. Gad was Zilpah’s first, but legally Leah’s fifth son. Hence, she felt fortunate enough to have a whole troop of boys raiding the family.
Jacob’s prophecy over Gad is more of a play on words. The NASB translates Leah’s words “How fortunate,” but then changes to “raiders” when translating Jacob’s prophecy. Moses then pictures Gad as a lion as it “tears the arm” and “the crown of the head.” An arm represents strength, and the crown represents leadership. Gad was to overcome (“eat”) the strength (army) of other people and consume their leaders militarily.
Gad’s Colonies in Spain
We know from history that many of the Israelites formed an early alliance with Tyre and Sidon, and so their destiny was intertwined with the Phoenicians, who dominated the high seas. In fact, the Israelites strengthened the influence of the Phoenicians by their alliance, for they provided sailors and colonists along the Mediterranean Sea and even to Ireland and the British Isles.
A major half-way point from Canaan to Britain was Spain. Spain was anciently known as the Iberian Peninsula. Iberia simply means “Land of the Hebrews.” Likewise, the classical Latin name for Ireland was Hibernia, used by the Roman historian, Tacitus. There was another outpost at the east end of the Black Sea also known as Iberia. It is apparent that the Hebrews had settlements in many places.
A city in Spain, settled by the Hebrews was Gades, or Gadeira in Ionic Greek, which bears the name of Gad. It is today the modern city of Cádiz, located in southern Spain on the Atlantic side. The city is on the Quadalquiver River, which was earlier known as the Wadi al-Hibri, “River of the Hebrews.” It was a major half-way stop for ships carrying tin from Britain to colonies along the Mediterranean Sea. The Wikipedia notes: “The Israeli town Gedera shares a similar etymology” as Gades. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cadiz).
Another Hebrew city was located in southwest Spain and was called Tarshish. It is probably the place where Jonah thought to escape his calling (Jonah 1:3).
Gad, the Enforcer
Moses’ blessing upon Gad makes him the enforcer of divine justice. There is no evidence that Gad was particularly instrumental in such a calling during their sojourn in Israel. Their allotted territory was the pasture land on the east side of the Jordan River, along with Reuben and the half-tribe of Manasseh (Num. 32:33). This was suitable to them, as they had many cattle (Num. 32:1).
It appears that Moses’ prophecy about Gad was actually fulfilled through David’s prophet and seer, whose name was Gad. After David had numbered the people without collecting the half-shekel of silver to cover them, in accordance with the law in Exodus 30:11-16, God sent Gad to announce divine judgment. We read this in 2 Sam. 24:11-13,
11 When David arose in the morning, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Gad, David’s seer, saying, 12 Go and speak to David, “Thus the Lord says, ‘I am offering you three things; choose for yourself one of them, which I may do to you’.” 13 So Gad came to David and told him, and said to him, “Shall seven years of famine come to you in your land? Or will you flee three months before your foes while they pursue you? Or shall there be three days’ pestilence in your land? Now consider and see what answer I shall return to Him who sent me.”
We do not know the prophet’s tribal affiliation, but his name suggests that he was of Gad. Regardless, however, from a prophetic standpoint, his name makes him eligible to fulfill Moses’ prophetic blessing. He administered divine justice upon Israel, which was to be three days of pestilence, in which 70,000 men died (1 Sam. 24:15).
David was the instrument of divine judgment, but God’s anger was directed at the house of Israel as a whole, for we read in 1 Sam. 24:1, “the anger of the Lord burned against Israel.” As I have shown in Secrets of Time, the people had not kept a Sabbath year or a Jubilee since their Jordan crossing, and so they owed God 62 rest years and eight Jubilees, or a total of 70 years. God then judged Israel by executing a thousand Israelites for every rest year that they owed.
Therefore, we can see that Gad “executed the justice of the Lord, and His ordinances with Israel” (Deut. 33:21).