Yesterday, we saw a number of interpretations offered by the classical commentators for Yaakov’s blessing to the tribe of Gad before his death: “Gad gedud yegudenu ve-hu yagud akeiv” (49:19). While some commentators understood that Yaakov here foresees the tribe of Gad’s role in the conquest of Canaan in the times of Yehoshua, the Ramban, as we saw, suggested that Yaakov speaks of Gad’s frequent need to wage war against marauders, or of the battle led by Yiftach against the nation of Amon (Shoftim 11).
Another approach is taken by the Radak, who claims that Yaakov here prophetically sees the battle which Gad would fight against a people called the Hagri’im, a war which is briefly mentioned in Sefer Divrei Hayamim I (5:18-22). As the Radak notes, the verses there in Divrei Hayamim I speak of all the Trans-Jordanian tribes – Reuven, Gad, and half of Menashe – waging this war together and resoundingly defeating the Hagri’im. However, the Radak asserts that as this war is mentioned specifically in reference to the settlement of the tribe of Gad, it stands to reason that it was waged mainly by Gad, with the other tribes assisting this tribe. The verses there emphasize that the people pleaded to God for help during this battle, and God answered their prayers and granted them victory. Apparently, the Hagri’im posed grave danger to the tribe of Gad, and they were defeated only through God’s miraculous intervention. Thus, according to the Radak, Yaakov prophetically foresees this important battle in his parting words to Gad before his death.
As for the identity of Hagri’im, the Radak writes in his commentary to Divrei Hayamim I (5:10) that this term refers to the descendants of Hagar, Avraham’s concubine who bore Yishmael. Besides the phonetic connection between the name “Hagri’im” and the name “Hagar,” the verses mention that the Hagri’im fought together with the people of Yetur and Nafish – which are the names of two of Yishmael’s sons (Bereishit 25:15). Clearly, then, they were associated with the descendants of Yishmael, and it is thus likely that the name “Hagri’im” stems from “Hagar” and refers to her descendants, or at least to the peoples associated with her descendants.
Yehuda Kiel, in his Da’at Mikra commentary to Sefer Divrei Hayamim, writes that this war likely took place during the reign of Yerovam ben Yoash, king of the Northern Kingdom, who is mentioned in the previous verse (Divrei Hayamim I 5:17). Indeed, we read in Sefer Melakhim II (14:25-28) that the Northern Kingdom’s borders expanded significantly during Yerovam’s reign, and it is likely that the battle against the Hagri’im was an important part of this process. In any event, according to the Radak, this is the war to which Yaakov refers in this prophecy.