Published: 19 September 2022

Eastward: Away From The Land Of Blessing

Land Of Blessing
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As Abraham’s life drew to a close, he sent his sons who were not part of the covenant away. He sent them eastward, away from the land of blessing. 

5 Abraham gave all he had to Isaac. 6 But to the sons of his concubines Abraham gave gifts, and while he was still living he sent them away from his son Isaac, eastward to the east country. 7 These are the days of the years of Abraham’s life, 175 years. 8 Abraham breathed his last and died in a good old age, an old man and full of years, and was gathered to his people. (Gen. 25:5–8 ESV)

He wisely did this while he was still alive so that there would be no disputing what his will was. Abraham didn’t want his sons who were not part of the covenant to be near Isaac. He removed them from any presumed position of privilege. 

Why east?

Genesis specifically says that Abraham sent the sons of his concubines eastward. Why is this detail included? The narrative could have just said that he sent them away without providing a direction. When Moses wrote Genesis, was there something about moving east that he wanted us to pay attention to? Indeed there was:

“In the Genesis narratives, when people go “east,” they leave the land of blessing (Eden and the Promised Land) and go to a land where their greatest hopes will turn to ruin (Babylon and Sodom).”1 

God promised Canaan, the land of blessing, to Abraham and his son of promise – Isaac. Therefore, Abraham’s other sons needed to leave the promised land and, in Genesis, the direction you go to leave the land of blessing is east.

Eastward, away from the land of blessing

In Genesis, when people move eastward they distance themselves from God. For example, wicked Cain went away from God’s blessing toward the east:

Then Cain went out from the presence of the LORD, and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden. (Gen. 4:16 NASB)

After the flood, mankind tried to unify themselves in the east and built the tower of Babel:

It came about as they journeyed east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. (Gen. 11:2 NASB)

When Lot separated from his uncle Abraham, he went east toward sodom:

So Lot chose for himself all the valley of the Jordan, and Lot journeyed eastward. Thus they separated from each other. (Gen. 13:11 NASB)

Abraham’s first son Ishmael was at odds with everyone as he lived east of his brothers:

“He will be a wild donkey of a man, His hand will be against everyone, And everyone’s hand will be against him; And he will live to the east of all his brothers.” (Gen. 16:12 NASB)

After Jacob deceived his father and obtained the blessing intended for Esau, he fled to the east. There Jacob himself was tricked and ended up in servitude for twenty years:

Then Jacob went on his journey and came to the land of the people of the east. (Gen. 29:1 ESV)

Genesis clearly portrays moving east as symbolic of moving away from the land of blessings, away from the presence of God, and away from the people of God.

Why is eastward travel portrayed as moving away from the land of blessing?

This symbolism goes back to the Garden of Eden. When God expelled Adam and Eve from the garden, they were sent to the east.

He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life. (Gen. 3:24 ESV)

Being expelled from the garden meant they had lost the privilege of walking with God and being in His presence. Not only this, but they had lost access to the tree of life. By being placed outside the garden – outside the land of blessing – they had forfeited the means of physical immortality. 

The entrance to the garden of Eden was on its east side. To get back to God (and the land of blessing) they needed to travel west, but the cherubim prevented westward travel into the garden.

West toward God

It is surely not a coincidence that the entrance to the tabernacle, and later the temple, was on the east. Even after God led His people out of Egypt, in order to draw closer to God’s presence, one had to move from east to west.

It is also noteworthy that the innermost curtains of the tabernacle had embroidered cherubim (Ex 26:31). Like the Garden of Eden after the fall, westward movement into God’s presence was still “guarded” by the embroidered cherubim. 

Which direction are you traveling?

The symbolism of eastward motion in Genesis is undeniable once you know it’s there. The children of the covenant were meant to live in the land of blessing. Those who wanted to draw near to God traveled toward the west, into the promised land. 

Mankind’s impulse is selfishness which takes us eastward, away from God. How far east must we travel before we realize Jesus’s way is better?


  1. Sailhamer, John H.. The Pentateuch as Narrative: A Biblical-Theological Commentary (p. 134). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.