The Significance of East

As I’ve re-read Genesis over the past few weeks, I began to notice a trend with the direction east. Consider the following:

  • Adam and Eve banished from the garden and a cherubim placed with a flaming sword guarding the east entrance (Genesis 3:23-24
  • Cain sent eastward as a consequence of murder (Genesis 4:16
  • Humanity travels eastward to build the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:2
  • Lot heads east (toward Sodom) after departing from Abraham (Genesis 13:11
  • The children of Abraham’s concubines are sent east (Genesis 25:6

In all of the above circumstances, it is clear that moving eastward indicates movement away from God. At first, I thought it coincidental, but then realized this is so much more. After doing a word study, I came up with the following as well:

According to most scholars, the entrance of the tabernacle and temples of Solomon and Herod all faced east; therefore movement into the presence of God would have to be westwardly (Ezekiel 8:16). So, a westward movement draws people towards God.

Then, there is the wind from the east. Look at the following verses:
  • “So Moses stretched out his staff over the land of Egypt, and the Lord brought an east wind upon the land all that day and all that night. When it was morning, the east wind had brought the locusts.” (Exodus 10:13
  • "...Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided." (Exodus 14:21
  • "Thou breakest the ships of Tarshish with an east wind." (Psalm 48:7
  • “Ephraim feeds on the wind and pursues the east wind all day long; they multiply falsehood and violence; they make a covenant with Assyria, and oil is carried to Egypt.” (Hosea 12:1
  • “Though he may flourish among his brothers, the east wind, the wind of the Lord, shall come, rising from the wilderness, and his fountain shall dry up; his spring shall be parched; it shall strip his treasury of every precious thing.” (Hosea 13:15
  • “When the sun rose, God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint. And he asked that he might die and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.” (Jonah 4:8
  • “Should a wise man answer with windy knowledge, and fill his belly with the east wind?” (Job 15:2

Clearly, these verses have a common thread among them: God’s judgment comes in the form of an east wind. So, not only does an eastward movement indicate separation from God, but also prompts judgment from God through an east wind. However, we see an opposite direction in Matthew 24:27, a verse of universal hope:

“For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.”

It is in this same westward movement we also see access to the temples and restored unity with God. Remember, Abram’s journey was a westward one towards Canaan and God was with him (Genesis 11:31) as well as with the exiles returning from Babylon (Nehemiah 7:6).

This was an interesting study and I am curious if others have additional insights on this. If so, please share through the comments.