Horace Greeley, contemporary of Bro. John Thomas, had the right idea if not the right application. His famous editorial quote advised young men to go west in order to improve their lives. A westerly direction is consistently presented in scripture as being toward God and away from the flesh, beginning with mankind’s ejection from Eden to the east: “So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life” (Gen. 3:24).
This suggests, as Dr. Thomas writes in ElpisIsrael, that Adam and Eve were driven from the Garden and its tree of life in an easterly direction. This would also presume the need to progress in a westerly direction to approach the cherubim as well as the inaccessible tree of life.
This initial westerly direction to approach God sets a precedent that is repeated throughout Scripture. The eastern/away-from-God relationship is repeated with Cain. After Cain murdered his brother he went out from the presence of Yahweh and dwelt in the east in thelandofNod(Gen. 4:16).
In the wilderness
A powerful pattern displaying this principle would be the exclusive direction by which to approach the presence of God during the foundational structuring period of the original kingdom of God. If we were outside the wilderness encampment we would need to approach from the east, traveling west. We would pass through the lead tribe of Judah (which in Hebrew means “praise”) along with Issachar (“recompense”) and Zebulun (“exalted”, Num. 2:3), which were encamped on the eastern part of the outer square. Continuing westward we pass through the tents of Moses and Aaron, encamped on the east of the inner square along with the three divisions of the Levites (Num.3:38). Continuing westward we pass through the only entrance of the tabernacle courtyard, on the east, thereby necessitating a westward approach — just like Adam and Eve to the Cherubim on the east ofEden. Continuing westward we pass the bronze altar of burnt offering and the laver, entering the tabernacle through its only access, which faces east as required by God. We pass the golden lampstand, the golden table of shewbread and the golden altar of incense, now passing westward through the veil into the Most Holy where the glory of Yahweh rests above the mercy seat between the Cherubim.
It is an exclusively westward approach to God with our backs to the east.
Western entrance despite southwest origin
When Abram leftUr, heading for the promised land, he had to go west. Interestingly, this is the specific direction by which his descendants re-entered the promised land under the leadership of Joshua. Despite the fact they had come fromEgypt, far to the southwest, God brought them up all the way around to the east side ofJordan. The overflowingJordan River reversed its standard progression from the sea of life to the sea of death, receding all the way back to the city ofAdam upon the signal of the priests bearing the ark of the covenant stepping into its waters (Josh. 3). This is a picture of the reversal of Adam and Eve’s deportation from the garden with its tree of life. The first couple was sent out eastward. The Israelites, having left upon Joseph’s invitation toEgypt, returned into the promised land westward, coming out of the east.
At Christ’s return
When Christ leads the immortal-ized saints toJerusalem, it will be consistent with the standard westward approach, approaching from out of the east (Ezek. 43:1-5). TheMount of Olives, impeding this approach, cleaves in two (Zech. 14:3,4). An access valley will run east and west where theMount of Olives now rises up in front ofJerusalem. In similar fashion, all the Judean hills from somewhat to the north ofJerusalem and stretching far to the south will prostrate themselves into a plain before the elevated city where God places His name (Zech.14:10).
This geographical prophecy mirrors how the nations around the world will politically prostrate them-selves before the rock that grinds the image to dust and then grows into a mountain filling the earth. Appropriately, Jesus prophetically parallels his return with lightning that just happens to shine from east to west (Matt. 24:27). Thus he leads mankind back to God who had driven them from His presence west to east as they were deported fromEden. Accordingly, those who are not allowed to inherit with the son of the covenant are sent away to the east, as Abraham did with his other seven sons after giving Isaac everything (Gen. 25:5,6).
Lot’s eastern disaster
Lot selected the wrong direction, choosing to separate from Abram and head east (Gen. 13:11), ending up atSodom. Eventually this eastern direction led to the destruction of everyone in his company except three.
There could have been an “ecclesia” of about 500 people withLot. This is reasonable as we know Abram had 318 servants born into his personal group that qualified as trained soldiers (Gen. 14:14), sug-gesting a company of over 1,000 men, women and children.Lot’s group had to be of sufficient size to tax the resources of the land if they stayed together. IfLot’s group were less than a third of Abram’s number their separation would have been in-consequential. If it were not an ecclesia of 500 or more, then at least they had to number in the hundreds. Yet after heading east they were eventually absorbed into the society of the east, indistinguishable except forLot. His righteousness was vexed each day by the extreme wickedness of his eastern environment (2 Pet. 2:7,8). East was a deadly direction forLot to have led his group.
The dispossessed nation ofJudahis also sent away eastward into exile to thelandofBabylonfor their idolatry. When they returned to the promised land, appropriately they had to travel west to come back to the land God had chosen. Likewise the wise men came from the east (therefore traveling in a western direction) seeking the one born to be king (Matt. 2:1).
Earth’s eastern rotation
It is no secret that creation reflects spritual principles. Although the apostate church managed to painfully coerce the scientist Galileo into renouncing his determination that the earth revolves around the sun (opposing church teaching), it didn’t change the facts of creation! Just as the sun’s gravitational influence spins the earth around it, so mankind unknowingly follows the divine presence and purpose. Appropriately, Earth spins eastward. Visually it appears that the sun travels west, but in fact the dust of the earth is always moving east, just like the man made from the dust of the earth moved east after the curse of death was inflicted for sin. Just as men and women born of the dust suffer with sin-prone flesh, so the earth from which we come is compelled to spin eastward. God exhibits to Ezekiel the 25 un-acceptable sun-worshipping Jewish brethren who stood on the temple porch with their backs to the temple, facing east with the rising sun in their faces (Ezek.8:16). It seems very appropriate that in order to enter the temple, people would have to travel west against the rotation of the earth, and with the path of the sun representing enlightenment.
The chastising response to man’s unacceptable behavior is consistently exercised with an eastern tool in scripture. If one chose to continue east with his back to God, then he would suffer the effects of this eastern mental progression by an eastern disciplinary wind.Egypt’s eighth plague of locusts arrived on an east wind (Exod.10:13). It was an east wind that divided the waters of theRed Seainto two walls of water, eventually executing the Egyptian chariot squad (Exod.14:21). It is an east wind that breaks the ships of Tarshish (Psa. 48:7). The seven years of Egyptian famine were depicted in Pharaoh’s dream by grain shriveled by an east wind (Gen. 41:6). Jeremiah prophesies that God will scatterJudahas with an east wind (Jer.18:17). Hosea prophesies God will reverseIsrael’s economic fruitfulness with an east wind (Hos.13:15). In order to instruct Jonah in divine forgiveness, God shrivels the prophet’s sun-shielding gourd with an east wind.
The west-east divine metaphor can also offer value in understanding principles and exhortations when the pattern oddly diverges. The water issuing from the new temple atJerusalem in the millennial kingdom will form a river that heads east, then splits (Zech. 14:8). Half of it descends to the Dead Sea where it heals the sea to the degree that man, beast and plant life can be nurtured by its waters and fish will thrive (Ezek. 47:1-10). The other half of this water flow turns around and heads west to theMediterranean (the hinder sea).
Why would this divinely provided water source, representing positive spiritual implications, seemingly contradict the scriptural pattern traveling east? The pattern maintains that man approaches God from the east, traveling west. However, that would also require us to understand that God, through Christ, will extend Himself eastward in the millennial kingdom. Enlightenment, life and richness of life will issue fromJerusalemin the kingdom age. God will extend Himself through His Son and the immortalized saints to cursed mankind, as depicted in the eastward-traveling living waters from an elevatedJerusalemto heal the dead waters at the lowest geographical point on the face of the planet.
The full context of the picture validates the pattern. In a future article, we plan to examine two more significant applications of the east-west pattern in the context of the sin offering and forgiveness.
Jim Dillingham, Dunbarton, New Hampshire