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Bible Encyclopedias

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature


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This word, which is used by English writers in only two senses, viz. to denote either the quarter of the heavens where the sun rises, or the regions in the eastern part of the world, has frequently three senses in the Authorized Version of the Bible. Thus, it is sometimes used to mean the sun-rising (), 'as far as the east is from the west;' and very frequently it corresponds to kedem, the name given by the ancient Hebrews to a certain region, without any regard to its relation to the eastern part of the heavens, comprehending not only Arabia Deserta and the lands of Moab and Ammon, which really lay to the east of Palestine, but also Armenia, Assyria, Mesopotamia, Babylonia, and Chaldea, which were situated rather to the north than the east of Judea. Its geographical boundaries include Syria, the countries beyond the Tigris and Euphrates, the shores of the Indian Ocean and of the Arabian Gulf. The name given to this entire region by the Hebrews was the land of Kedem or East, and its miscellaneous population were called by them Sons of the East, or Orientals. It seems that the inhabitants of this region were distinguished for their proficiency in the arts and sciences (comp. ), and were addicted in the time of Isaiah to superstition (). The wise men, who came from the East to Jerusalem at the birth of the Savior, no doubt belonged to this tract of country, 'saying, We have seen his star in the East.' Campbell remarks that 'to see either star or meteor in the east,' means, in English, to see it in the East-quarter of the heavens, or looking eastward. But this cannot be the Evangelist's meaning. The meaning manifestly is, that when the magians themselves were in the East, they saw the star. So far were they from seeing the star in the East, according to the English acceptation of the phrase, that they must have seen it in the West, as they were by its guidance brought out of the East country westwards to Jerusalem.





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Bibliography Information
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'East'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature".

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