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Where The Land And The Day End
The English word "west" originated from an old Anglo-Saxon and Gothic (the Goths and the Saxons were Germanic tribes in north-central Europe; the Anglos were a tribe of the Saxons from whom the English people originated) root word, vas, which meant to dwell - not referring foremost to people, but to the sun. Their logic was that, just as most people go to their dwelling place at night, they regarded the "west" as the dwelling place of the sun because that's where it went at night, when it set in that direction.
"West" is used to translate two original Hebrew words of the Holy Scriptures. One of them, pronounced yawm, means to roar. It referred to the Mediterranean Sea (although it was not known to the ancient Israelites by that name) which formed the west border of the land of Israel as a whole. The other Hebrew word is pronounced maw-ar-aw-baw; it means shading or shadows, as produced by the sun as it set in the west. To the ancient Israelites, "west" was both the end of their land, and the end of their day.
"That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the LORD, and there is none else"
Prior to their entering their promised land ("34:1 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 34:2 Command the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye come into the land of Canaan; this is the land that shall fall unto you for an inheritance, even the land of Canaan with the coasts thereof" Numbers 34:1-2 KJV), the LORD decreed the western border of the land of Israel to be "the great sea," known today as the Mediterranean Sea.
"34:6 And as for the western border, ye shall even have the great sea for a border: this shall be your west border." (Numbers 34:6 KJV)
Later, in the time of Joshua, when the territories for each of the tribes were established within the boundaries already declared in the time of Moses, the western border of the tribe of Judah was the coast of "the great sea" (see the map for the other tribes that had the Mediterranean as their western border).
"15:12 And the west border was to the great sea, and the coast thereof. This is the coast of the children of Judah round about according to their families." (Joshua 15:12 KJV)
Directions were also used figuratively, in this example referring to how the mercy of the LORD knows no bounds for those who repent.
"103:11 For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. 103:12 As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us." (Psalm 103:11-12 KJV)
Another figurative example, of the LORD's limitless presence:
"45:5 I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me: 45:6 That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the LORD, and there is none else." (Isaiah 45:5-6 KJV)
The earlier empires that affected the Israelites in their own land were located to the east i.e. Assyria, Babylon and Persia (known today as Iran). The later empires were from the west i.e. Greece and Rome.
The Greek empire is prophesied here, with the "he goat came from the west" being Alexander The Great. It also describes his early death, the division of the Greek empire (see The Ptolemies and The Seleucids) and the original "abomination of desolation" which was committed by the Seleucid king Antiochus Epiphanes (see Abomination of Desolation - Where?).
"8:5 And as I was considering, behold, an he goat came from the west on the face of the whole earth, and touched not the ground: and the goat had a notable horn between his eyes. 8:6 And he came to the ram that had two horns, which I had seen standing before the river, and ran unto him in the fury of his power. 8:7 And I saw him come close unto the ram, and he was moved with choler against him, and smote the ram, and brake his two horns: and there was no power in the ram to stand before him, but he cast him down to the ground, and stamped upon him: and there was none that could deliver the ram out of his hand. 8:8 Therefore the he goat waxed very great: and when he was strong, the great horn was broken; and for it came up four notable ones toward the four winds of heaven.
Fact Finder: How can geographic features, such as deserts and seas, affect how directions are described in the Scriptures?