The Hebrews, in speaking of the different quarters of the heaven, always suppose the face to be turned towards the east. Hence "before," or "forwards," means the east; "behind" is the west; the right-hand is south, and the left hand, north. Besides the ordinary meanings of the word east, Jos 4:19; Ps 103:12, the Jews often used it to designate a large region lying northeast and southeast of Palestine, including Syria and Arabia near at hand, and Babylonia, Assyria, Armenia, etc., with the whole region from the Caspian sea to the Arabian gulf, Ge 29:1; Nu 23:7; Jg 6:3; 7:12; 8:10. The wise men who visited the infant Savior dwelt somewhere in this region; and being "in the east," saw his star-not east of them, but in the direction to guide them to Jerusalem, Mt 2:1-2.
(1.) The orient (mizrah); the rising of the sun. Thus "the east country" is the country lying to the east of Syria, the Elymais (Zec 8:7).
(2). Properly what is in front of one, or a country that is before or in front of another; the rendering of the word kedem. In pointing out the quarters, a Hebrew always looked with his face toward the east. The word kedem is used when the four quarters of the world are described (Ge 13:14; 28:14); and mizrah when the east only is distinguished from the west (Jos 11:3; Ps 50:1; 103:12, etc.). In Ge 25:6 "eastward" is literally "unto the land of kedem;" i.e., the lands lying east of Palestine, namely, Arabia, Mesopotamia, etc.
qedem, literally, "before"; for in describing the points of the compass the person faced the E. or sunrise (Greek anatolee, the E.), which was thus before or in front of him; the S. was on his right, and so is called in Hebrew "the right hand"; the N. was on his left, and so is called in Hebrew "the left hand." Job 23:8-9, "forward," i.e. eastward; "backward," i.e. westward; "on the left hand," i.e. to the N.; "on the right hand," i.e. in the S. So the Hindus call the E. para, "before "; the W. apara, "behind "; the S. doschina, "the right hand"; the N. bama, "the left." Mizrach, "the sunrise," is used when the E. is distinguished from the W.
Qedem is also used to designate the lands lying immediately E. of Palestine, namely, Arabia, Mesopotamia, Babylonia. Ge 25:6; trans. "unto the land of Qedem, for unto the E. country"; Ge 29:1, Haran. Mizrach is used of the E. more indefinitely. The Greek plural anatolai, "the sunrisings," is used of the E. indefinitely, the eastern point of the compass (Mt 2:1); but hee anatolee, "the sunrising," singular, is used of a definite locality. So Qedem with the article (Ge 10:30) expresses the definite country S, Arabia; "Sephara mount of the E.," a seaport on the coast of Hadramaut. More generally said of N. Arabia and Mesopotamia. Job 1:3; "the children of the E." are mentioned with the Midianites and Amalekites (Jg 6:3,33; 7:12).
Gideon and his servant understood their talk, showing that theirs was a Semitic dialect akin to the Hebrew, before it had greatly diverged from the common parent tongue. In Eze 25:4 "the men of the E." are the wandering Bedouin tribes of Arabia Deserta; "they shall set their palaces in thee" (Ammon); irony; where thy palaces once stood, they shall set up very different "palaces," namely, nomadic encampments and mud-surrounded folds (Jer 49:28-29). Arab is the Old Testament name for "the children of the E." (See ARAM.) Isa 2:6, "replenished from the E., i.e., filled with the superstitions of the E., namely, the astrology and sorceries of Chaldea.
Several words are used to express the East, which imply 'going forth,' 'rising,' 'that which is before,' having reference to the sun and its rising. Nearly all the references in scripture to the East or to other quarters are of course reckoned from Palestine; so that 'children of the East,' 'men of the East,' point out Assyria, Babylon, etc.
The Hebrew term kedem properly means that which is before or in front of a person, and was applied to the east form the custom of turning in that direction when describing the points of the compass, before, behind, the right and the left representing respectively east, west, south and north.
The term as generally used refers to the lands lying immediately eastward of Palestine, viz., Arabia, Mesopotamia and Babylonia; on the other hand mizrach is used of the far east with a less definite signification.
EAST, one of the four cardinal points of the world; namely, that particular point of the horizon in which the sun is seen to rise. The Hebrews express the east, west, north, and south by words which signify before, behind, left, and right, according to the situation of a man who has his face turned toward the east. By the east, they frequently describe, not only Arabia Deserta, and the lands of Moab and Ammon, which lay to the east of Palestine, but also Assyria, Mesopotamia, Babylonia, and Chaldea, though they are situated rather to the north than to the east of Judea. Balaam, Cyrus, and the wise men who visited Bethlehem at the time Christ was born, are said to come from the east, Nu 23:7; Isa 46:11; Mt 2:1.