What does a “troop” mean in Isaiah 65:11? By Jack Kettler
What does the word “troop” mean as translated by the King James Version? Most modern translations use the word “fortune” or some variation of “luck” or “lucky.” Is the Bible teaching there is something called good “luck” or chance? Is Gad one of Israel’s patriarchs named after a pagan deity, the god of fortune?
For context, Genesis 30:11 and 49:19 will be surveyed:
“And Leah said, a troop (ḡāḏ 1409 – 1 Occ.) cometh: and she called his name Gad (gāḏ 1410).” (Genesis 30:11 KJV)
From John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible on Genesis 30:11: “And Leah said a troop cometh… A troop of children, having borne four herself, and now her maid another, and more she expected; or the commander of a troop cometh, one that shall head an army and overcome his enemies; which agrees with the prophecy of Jacob, Genesis 49:19, and she called his name Gad: which signifies a “troop”, glorying in the multitude of her children, that she had or hoped to have.” (1)
“Gad, (gāḏ 1410) a troop shall overcome him: but he shall overcome at the last.” (Genesis 49:19)
From the Pulpit Commentary on Genesis 49:19: “Verse 19. – Gad, a troop shall overcome him: but he shall overcome at the last. The threefold alliteration of the original, which is lost in the received translation, may be thus expressed: “Gad – a press presses him, but he presses the heel’ (Keil); or, “troops shall troop on him, but he shall troop on their retreat’ (‘Speaker’s Commentary’). The language refers to attacks of nomadic tribes which would harass and annoy the Gadites, but which they would successfully repel.” (2)
From Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on Genesis 49:19: “49:19-21 Concerning Gad, Jacob alludes to his name, which signifies a troop, and foresees the character of that tribe. The cause of God and his people, though for a time it may seem to be baffled and run down, will be victorious at last. It represents the Christian’s conflict. Grace in the soul is often foiled in its conflicts; troops of corruption overcome it, but the cause is God’s, and grace will in the end come off conqueror, yea, more than conqueror, Ro 8:37. Asher should be a rich tribe. His inheritance bordered upon Carmel, which was fruitful to a proverb. Naphtali is a hind let loose. We may consider it as a description of the character of this tribe. Unlike the laborious ox and ass; desirous of ease and liberty; active, but more noted for quick despatch than steady labour and perseverance. Like the suppliant who, with goodly words, craves mercy. Let not those of different tempers and gifts censure or envy one another.” (3)
Looking at lexical evidence from Genesis 30:11 and 49:19:
“A troop cometh” (KJV) or “Good fortune has come!” (ESV)
Strong’s Concordance 1409:
gad: fortune, good fortune
Original Word: גָּד
Part of Speech: Noun Masculine
Phonetic Spelling: (gawd)
Definition: fortune, good fortune
Gad, the proper name of a person and tribe, occurs some 70 times (Strong’ 1410). As has been seen is Gad גָּ֖ד (gāḏ)
Noun – proper – masculine singular
Strong’s Hebrew 1410: Gad = ‘troop’ 1) seventh son of Jacob by Zilpah, Leah’s handmaid, and full brother of Asher.
1409 – ḡāḏ; – (גָ֑ד) – How fortunate
“Troop” and the name “Gad” can have different meanings:
“and she called his name Gad (gāḏ 1410).” (KJV) or “so she called his name Gad (gāḏ 1410).” (ESV) (Genesis 30:11)
Strong’s Lexicon 1410:
Noun – proper – masculine singular
Strong’s Hebrew 1410: Gad = ‘troop’ 1) seventh son of Jacob by Zilpah, Leah’s handmaid, and full brother of Asher. 2) The tribe descended from Gad 3) a prophet during the time of David; appears to have joined David when in the hold; reappears in connection with the punishment for taking a census; also assisted in the arrangements for the musical service of the ‘house of God’
Strong’s Concordance 1410 agrees with the lexicon:
Gad: a son of Jacob, also his tribe and its territory, also a prophet
Original Word: גָּד
Part of Speech: Proper Name Masculine
Phonetic Spelling: (gawd)
Definition: a son of Jacob, also his tribe and its territory, also a prophet
Now for the passage under consideration for this study:
“But ye are they that forsake the LORD that forget my holy mountain, that prepare a table for that troop, and that furnish the drink offering unto that number.” (Isaiah 65:11 KJV)
While lengthy, Barnes’ Notes on the Bible explains some of the confusion surrounding this verse of Isaiah 65:11: “But ye are they that forsake the Lord – Or rather, ‘Ye who forsake Yahweh, and who forget my holy mountain, I will number to the sword.’ The design of this verse is to remind them of their idolatries, and to assure them that they should not escape unpunished.
That forget my holy mountain – Mount Moriah, the sacred mountain on which the temple was built.
That prepare a table – It was usual to set food and drink before idols – with the belief that the gods consumed what was thus placed before them (see the notes at Isaiah 65:4). The meaning here is, that the Jews had united with the pagan in thus ‘preparing a table;’ that is, setting it before the idols referred to, and placing food on it for them.
For that troop – Margin, ‘Gad.’ Perhaps there is nowhere a more unhappy translation than this. It has been made evidently because our translators were not aware of the true meaning of the word, and did not seem to understand that it referred to idolatry. The translation seems to have been adopted with some reference to the paronomasia occurring in Genesis 49:19; ‘Gad, a troop shall overcome him’ – יגוּדנוּ גדוּד גד gâd gedûd yegûdenû – where the word Gad has some resemblance to the word rendered troop. The word Gad itself, however, never means troop, and evidently should not be so rendered here. Much has been written on this place, and the views of the learned concerning Gad and Meni are very various and uncertain. Those who are disposed to examine the subject at length, may consult Rosenmuller, Vitringa, and Gesenius on the passage; and also the following works.
On this passage, the reader may consult the Dissertation el David Mills, De Gad et Meni, and also the Dissertation of Jo. Goth. Lakemacher, De Gad et Meni, both of which are to be found in Ugolin’s Thesaurus, xxiii. pp. 671-718, where the subject is examined at length. Mills supposes that the names Gad and Meni are two names for the moon – sidus bonum, and μηνη mēnē. He remarks that ‘on account of the power which the moon is supposed to exert over sublunary things, it was often called the goddess Fortune. It is certain that the Egyptians by Τύχη Tuchē (Fortune), which they numbered among the gods who were present at the birth of man, understood the moon.’ Among the Arabians and Persians the moon is said to have been denominated Sidus felix et faustum – ‘The happy and propitious star.’ See Rosenmuller in loc. Lakemather supposes that two idols are meant – Hecate and Mann Vitringa and Rosenmuller suppose that the sun and moon are intended. Grotius supposes that the name Gad means the same as the goddess Fortune, which was worshipped by the Hebrews, Chaldeans, and Arabians; and that Meni means a divinity of that name, which Strabo says was worshipped in Armenia and Phrygia. Other opinions may be seen in Vitringa. That two idols are intended here, there can be no doubt. For,
1. The circumstance mentioned of their preparing a table for them, and pouring out a drink-offering, is expressive of idolatry.
2. The connection implies this, as the reproof in this chapter is to a considerable extent for their idolatry.
3. The universal opinion of expositors, though they have varied in regard to the idols intended, proves this.
Aben Ezra, Kimchi, and the rabbis generally suppose that by Gad the planet Jupiter was intended, which they say was worshipped throughout the East as the god of fortune, and this is now the prevalent opinion. The word גד gad, says Gesenius, means fortune, especially the god Fortune, which was worshipped in Babylon. He supposes that it was the same idol which was also called Baal or Bel (compare the notes at Isaiah 46:1), and that by this name the planet Jupiter – Stella Jovis – was intended, which was regarded throughout the East as the genius and giver of good fortune, hence called by the Arabians bona fortuna major – ‘the greater good fortune.’ The word ‘Meni,’ on the other hand, Gesenius supposes to denote the planet Venus, called in the East bolla fortuna minor – ‘the lesser good fortune.’ The Vulgate renders this, Fortunae – ‘To Fortune.’ The Septuagint, Τῷ δαιμονίῳ tō daimoniō – ‘To a demon;’ though, in the corresponding member, Meni is rendered by τῇ τύχῃ tē tuchē – ‘To Fortune,’ and it is possible that the order of the words has been inverted, and that they meant to render the word Gad by Fortune. The Chaldee renders it simply, לטעון leṭa‛evân – ‘To idols.’ It is agreed on all hands that some idol is here referred to that was extensively worshipped in the East; and the general impression is, that it was an idol representing Fortune. But whether it was the Sun, or the planet Jupiter, is not easy to determine.
That it was customary to place a table before the idol has been already remarked, and is expressly affirmed by Jerome. ‘In all cities,’ says he, ‘and especially in Egypt, and in Alexandria, it was an ancient custom of idolatry, that on the last day of the year, and of the last month, they placed a table filled with food of various kinds, and a cup containing wine and honey mixed together – poculum mulso mistum – either as an expression of thankfulness for the fertility of the past year, or invoking fertility for the coming year.’ Thus Herodotus (iii. 18) also describes the celebrated table of the sun in Ethiopia. ‘What they call the table of the sun was this: A plain in the vicinity of the city was filled, to the height of four feet, with roasted flesh of all kinds of animals, which was carried there in the night under the inspection of magistrates; during the day, whoever pleased was at liberty to go and satisfy his hunger. The natives of the place affirm that the earth spontaneously produces all these viands; this, however, is what they call the table of the sun.’
And that furnish the drink-offering – In all ancient worship, it was customary to pour out a libation, or a drink-offering. This was done among idolaters, to complete the idea of a repast. As they placed food before the idols, so they also poured out wine before them, with the idea of propitiating them (see the notes at Isaiah 57:6).
To that number – Margin, ‘Meni.’ The phrase, ‘to that number’ evidently conveys no idea, and it would have been much better to have retained the name Meni, without any attempt to translate it. The rendering, ‘to that number’ was adopted because the word מני menı̂y is derived from מנה mânâh, to allot, to appoint, to number. Various opinions also have been entertained in regard to this. Rosenmuller and many others suppose that the moon is intended, and it has been supposed that the name Meni was given to that luminary because it numbered the months, or divided the time. Bynaeus and David Mills have endeavored to demonstrate that this was the moon, and that this was extensively worshipped in Eastern nations. Vitringa supposes that it was the same deity which was worshipped by the Syrians and Philistines by the name of Astarte, or Ashtaroth, as it is called in the Scripture; or as οὐρανίης ouraniēs, the queen of heaven; and if the name Gad be supposed to represent the sun, the name Meni will doubtless represent the moon.
The goddess Ashtaroth or Astarte, was a goddess of the Sidonians, and was much worshipped in Syria and Phenicia. Solomon introduced her worship in Jerusalem 1 Kings 11:33. Three hundred priests were constantly employed in her service at Hierapolis in Syria. She was called ‘the queen of heaven;’ and is usually mentioned in connection with Baal. Gesenius supposes that the planet Venus is intended, regarded as the source of good fortune, and worshipped extensively in connection with the planet Jupiter, especially in the regions of Babylonia. It seems to be agreed that the word refers to the worship of either the moon or the planet Venus, regarded as the goddess of good fortune. It is not very material which is intended, nor is it easy to determine. The works referred to above may be consulted for a more full examination of the subject than is consistent with the design of these notes. The leading idea of the prophet is that they were deeply sunken and debased in thus forsaking Yahweh, and endeavoring to propitiate the favor of idol-gods.” (4)
As Barnes notes, “the word Gad itself, never means troop, and should not be so rendered here.” Barnes’s comment is in line with the previously seen lexical evidence.
Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers on Isaiah 65:11 is an excellent short analysis:
“(11) That forget my holy mountain . . .—The words imply, like Isaiah 65:3-5, the abandonment of the worship of the Temple for a heathen ritual, but those that follow point, it will be seen, to Canaanite rather than Babylonian idolatry, and, so far, are in favour of the earlier date of the chapter. The same phrase occurs, however, as connected with the exiles in Psalm 137:5.
That prepare a table for that troop.—Hebrew, “for the Gad,” probably the planet Jupiter, worshipped as the “greater fortune,” the giver of good luck. The LXX. renders “for the demon” or “Genius.” The name of Baal-Gad (Joshua 11:17; Joshua 12:17) indicates the early prevalence of the worship in Syria. Phœnician inscriptions have been found with the names Gad-Ashtoreth and Gad-Moloch. The “table” points to the lectisternium (or “feast”), which was a prominent feature in Assyrian and other forms of polytheism.
Unto that number. – Here, again, we have in the proper name of a Syrian deity, probably of the planet Venus as the “lesser fortune.” Some scholars have found a name Manu in Babylonian inscriptions; and Manât, one of the three deities invoked by the Arabs in the time of Mahomet, is probably connected with Mëni the it (Cheyne). See Sayce, as in Note on Isaiah 65:4.” (5) Comments in conclusion regarding Isaiah 65:11:
In context, there are three clauses in the passage if noted, help understand Isaiah 65:11. Underlining, along with yellow, red and green highlighting will help emphasis the clauses.
“But you are they that forsake the LORD, that forget my holy mountain,” that “prepare a table for that troop,” (lag·gaḏ – Strong’ 1409) “and that furnish the drink offering to that number” (lam·nî – Strong’ 4507).
The verse is addressed to “you that forsake the LORD,” and who do two things, one, Prepare a table “for that troop” (lag·gaḏ – Strong’ 1409) (“Fortune” possibly the planet Jupiter) and two, who furnish a drink offering “to that number” or (lam·nî – Strong’ 4507) (“Destiny” a Syrian or Arabian deity represented by the planet Venus).
In the passage, there are two false gods, “Fortune” and “Destiny,” and those who prepare a table for “Fortune” and furnish the drink offering for “Destiny.” Those who serve the pagan deities are the “you” that have forsaken the LORD.
Therefore, it is not apparentat all that “Gad” לַגַּד֙ (lag·gaḏ Fortune – Strong’ 1409) in this passage is Israel’s patriarch, גָּ֖ד (gāḏ Strong’ 1410).
There are three Gads mentioned in the Bible:
1. Gad the seventh son of Jacob in Genesis 30:11.
2. Gad a prophet in the time of David in 1Samuel 22:5.
3. Gad refers to an idol in Isaiah 65:11.
As noted, the Hebrew word גָּד ḡāḏ (Strong’ 1409), is distinct from Israel’s patriarch גָּ֖ד gāḏ (Strong’1410). Therefore, in Isaiah 65:11, it is extremely doubtful it is referring to Jacob’s son.
In answer to the first question, if the Bible is teaching or endorsing luck or fortune, no. Just because the Bible mentions something in no wise constitutes an endorsement. The pagan deities “Fortune” and “Destiny” are mentioned not recognized.
In answer to the second question regarding Gad, the patriarch named after a pagan deity, no as seen from the lexical and commentary evidence. Isaiah 65:11, in particular, is not talking about Gad, Israel’s patriarch.
“To God, only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:27) and “heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28-29)
1. John Gill, Exposition of the Old and New Testaments, Genesis, (Grace Works, Multi-Media Labs), p. 529-530.
2. H. D. M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell, The Pulpit Commentary, Genesis, Vol. 1. (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans Publishing Company reprint 1978), p. 528.
3. Matthew Henry, Concise Commentary, Genesis, (Nashville, Tennessee, Thomas Nelson), p. 416-411-412.
4. Albert Barnes, THE AGES DIGITAL LIBRARYCOMMENTARY, Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, Isaiah, Vol. p. 1177-1179.
5. Charles John Ellicott, Bible Commentary for English Readers, Isaiah, Vol. 4. (London, England, Cassell and Company), p. 572.
Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at: www.TheReligionThatStartedInAHat.com
For more study:
Hebrew Dictionary (Lexicon-Concordance) Key Word Studies (Translations-Definitions-Meanings)