The first cardinal direction mentioned in the Bible is East. Genesis 2:8 has God in the east planting a garden, so He must have come from the west. I know this is a simple thought but directions come in pairs – west and east, and north and south. This simple thought is also important – where is the east? You can face the east, something can come from the east, go to the east, or be of the east.
Many important things in the Bible face east – the Temple (especially the one in Ezekiel), the Tabernacle, and I believe the throne of God. The etymology of the word east deals with where the light comes from and how we orient our position on earth. Like many other things in the Bible “modern man” picks and chooses why something is important by current standards. My example here is the direction north – we choose that to be the top of the map or the best/positive direction to go, and it gets the biggest letter on the compass. A study of “east” in the Bible will include many things, with each bring a different significance to the table for discussion. Several examples are:
- In Exodus, the children of Israel went east from Egypt to the Promised Land, and the east wind blew in locust, and the east wind parted the Red Sea. The locust became a plague while at the Red Sea the wind provided deliverance.
- In Israel, east winds are a problem, they come in from the desert and dry the land out.
- The camp around the Tabernacle was laid out with an east/west axis as its prominent feature. The position of a tribe around the Ark showed birthrights and importance. I started a study of that in the post – Marching Order.
- The Christmas star and the Magi also bring east into the discussion. The star “was in” or “it rose in” the east which joins it to Jesus in many ways. The Magi came from the east to worship the newborn King.
- Scripture shows several west to east movements – God to the Garden, Israel leaving Egypt going to the Promised Land, and Jesus, as a young boy, returning to Nazareth.
An important feature of the east/west axis is the light. Starting with Genesis 2 we see the metaphor of west (darkness) and going to the east (light). (No, there is not a problem with the west and it is not a negative “area”. The little cloud that Elijah’s servant saw would have come from the west – it ended the drought. In Israel most rain showers come from west or northwest.) God started in the west heading to the light to plant the Garden. The two trees in the center of that Garden can carry a dark/light context. Knowledge of good and evil led to darkness while the tree of life would have led to the light. Like the study of numbers, the study of directions can add much to your Bible reading, but be sure you are looking EAST.