It doesn't matter how many readings, every time I open the Book of Ether (the account of the Jaredite train bound for headlong destruction), it's a new ride. I can never remember which witch was which: which the righteous king, which the bad; nor can I recall whose brother was who. Who's on first?
To any well-instructed Latter-day Saint savvy about Jared's famous but unnamed brother, it still shocks to learn there is also a Brother of Shared. Even more alarming to the potential contestant in Book of Mormon quiz games comes the belated information that the name of the Brother of Shared is Gilead.
Gilead (stone heap or pillar of witness) is an outlier of a name anyhow (see Genesis 31). It stands beetling at the edge of things. And what does this Jaredite Gilead bear witness to? As with the Book of Mormon name Gilgal, Gilead bespeaks unmixed evil: slayer of wine-drenched foes, usurper of a throne, victim of assassination at the hands of his own high priest (Ether 14). Too late for the famous balm, prophesies Jeremiah, "for thou shalt not be cured" (46:11; Gilgal meets Gilead in Hosea 12:11). Jaredite bones become as heaps of earth, an attesting Gilead of once a great nation (see Ether 11 and 14).
Michael Dirda, reviewing Marilynne Robinson's novel, Gilead, for The Washington Post, writes:
Gilead is a land east of the Jordan traditionally viewed as the source of a healing salve: the balm of Gilead. But in the Old Testament this same region carries less pacific associations as well and is sometimes described as a place of war, bloodshed and iniquity. The word Gilead is also linked--through a folk etymology--with the idea of witnessing (Sunday, 21 November 2004, page BW 15).
We witness, among others, Jephthah, son of Gilead--and of a harlot--Israel's antihero, whose victory evaporates into the polluted sacrifice of his own daughter.
Gilead, Hosea intones, "is polluted with blood" (6:8).
Is there no balm in Gilead?
Not in the resolute Book of Ether.
Detailed discussion on the various places, people, and things bearing the name Gilead may be found in the International Study Bible Encyclopaedia, Geoffrey W. Bromley (ed). The Assyrian form of the name is given as Gal'aza.