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Friday, May 24 2013
What Did West Mean To The Israelites?
"As far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us"
The Holy Scriptures are rich in the use of figures of speech, such as metaphor ("an expression used to refer to something that it does not literally denote in order to suggest a similarity"), analogy ("drawing a comparison in order to show a similarity in some respect") and symbolism ("to express abstract or mystical ideas through the symbolic use of images"). It's important however to understand how and where the terms were actually "coming from" in order to correctly understand the point that was being presented. An example of that principle is what "west" meant to the people at the time when the Biblical teachings were given to them.
The English word "west," as we use it today, 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.
The original meaning of "west" was 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.
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 [see The Kingdom Of The LORD God] 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 [see Joshua: Crossing The Jordan], 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 (see Repent, For The Kingdom Of Heaven Is At Hand).
"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 (see What Makes Physical Life Possible?):
"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 (see The Prophet Daniel: The Ram and The He Goat). It also describes his early death, the division of the Greek empire (see A History Of Jerusalem: Greeks, Ptolemies, Seleucids) and the original "abomination of desolation" which was committed by the Seleucid king Antiochus Epiphanes (see A History Of Jerusalem: Abomination Of Desolation).
"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?
This Day In History, May 24
1153: King David I of Scotland died and was succeeded by his grandson Malcolm IV.
1218: The Fifth Crusade set out from Acre for Egypt (see Constantine's Crusades In History And Prophecy).
1261: Alexander IV, antipope 1254-1261, died under suspicious circumstances; some historians believe that he was poisoned by his successor, antipope John XXIII (see The Struggle For The Papacy; listen also to our Sermon Constantine's Papacy).
1543: Nicolaus Copernicus published his theory of a sun-centered solar system, which contradicted the common belief that the sun revolved around the earth (see also No 'Flat Earth' In The Bible).
1607: 100 English pioneers arrived in Jamestown (named after King James), the first English colony in North America.
1621: The Protestant Union (a coalition of Protestant German states) was formally dissolved.
1689: The English Parliament passed the Act of Toleration, protecting Protestants against persecution by Roman Catholics.
1798: Believing that a (Roman Catholic) French invasion of Ireland was imminent, Irish nationalists rose up against the (Protestant) British occupation.
1819: Princess Alexandrina Victoria was born at Kensington Palace in London, the only daughter of the Duke of Kent. As Queen Victoria, she reigned for 63 years, from 1837 until her death in 1901.
1844: Samuel Morse transmitted his first telegraph message to his associate 40 miles / 65 kilometers away. The message was "What hath God wrought!" (a quote of Numbers 23:23)
1883: The Brooklyn Bridge in New York City was opened to traffic after 14 years of construction.
1940: Russian aviation pioneer Igor Sikorsky made the first successful single-rotor helicopter flight.
1941: During the Second World War (which began in September 1939 when Germany invaded Poland), the British battlecruiser HMS Hood was sunk by the massive German battleship Bismarck (52,600 tons, eight 15-inch guns) which began firing 15 miles away. Of the 1,400 crew of the Hood, only 3 survived. Prime Minister Winston Churchill ordered an all-out hunt by the Royal Navy for the Bismarck, which was located and sent to the bottom a few days later by 3 British warships - a bombardment firefight with the Bismarck through the night from the British battleships King George V and Rodney and 3 torpedoes from the British cruiser Dorsetshire the next day.
1943: Admiral Donitz withdrew the German U-boat (submarine) fleet from the open Atlantic due to heavy losses (75% of crews lost) inflicted by the United States, British and Canadian navies.
1950: The "Tripartite Declaration" by Britain, U.S., and France sought to prevent further war in the region of Israel.
1961: U.S. civil rights "Freedom Riders" were arrested in Jackson, Mississippi for "disturbing the peace" - for peacefully getting off their bus.
1967: Egypt blockaded the Red Sea coast of Israel.
1986: Margaret Thatcher became the first British Prime Minister to visit the present-day state of Israel.
1991: Israel carried out "Operation Solomon," an evacuation of Ethiopian Jews to Israel.
1994: The four men who were convicted of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing in New York were each sentenced to 240 years in prison. Over 1,330 pounds of explosives were packed into a vehicle in an underground parking area of the north tower, placed in such a way that the north tower would supposedly fall into the south tower, in an attempt to bring both towers down. Although much damage was done, and thousands of people were injured, including 7 killed, the towers remained standing - until September 2001.
2000: Israel military forces withdrew from Lebanon after 22 years of occupation.