Here are the choices...and of course, they are opposites:

ESV Genesis 11:2 And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there.

NET Genesis 11:2 When the people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.

I'm interested in this proposed spatial analogy that moving eastward is moving away from the presence of God. I've read What is the significance of "east" in the Scriptures? Wondering if the move to Shinar continues the trend from Eden banishment (presumably through the east entrance) to Cain moving further to Nod...east of Eden and now further east to Shinar. But KJV and others have moved "from the east" instead of "to the east." Probably preposition problems with min. I'd appreciate any help with the grammar and/or if you think the whole idea holds water or not.

  • Or from Kedemah (or from Accad)
    – R. Emery
    Sep 13 '20 at 23:36

The Hebrew reads like this,

וַיְהִי, בְּנָסְעָם מִקֶּדֶם; וַיִּמְצְאוּ בִקְעָה בְּאֶרֶץ שִׁנְעָר, וַיֵּשְׁבוּ שָׁם.

The biblical word in question is comprised of two components, the root East (קֶּדֶם) and the preposition מִ, from. So it is clear to me that in this case the ESV and the majority of translations are correct in translating it as "from the east". In fact, If the text wanted to say eastward it could've used the appropriate term קדימה, see for example Habakkuk 1:9; Ezekiel 45:7.

From the text it is clear then that the people are moving from the east (where the Garden of Eden is located) towards Shinar. Whether this means that Shinar is west of Eden or further east I cannot say with certainty as the text is not so clear (This is I think the reason the NET and NIV chose to translate eastward. It is based on the assumption that Shinar or Mesopotamia must be east and not west of Eden), but it is clearly from the east. Translating eastward, in my opinion, is completely unwarranted and misleading as well.

Genesis 13:11 too has מִקֶּדֶם, but there even KJV and ESV render "east" rather than "from the east". It seems to me that there too it is based solely on the assumption that Sodom must lie east of Canaan, thus "east of them" (cf. NLT) rather than "from the east". But still I think that this kind of reading in is unwarranted from the text, if we are looking for the most faithful translation then it should be "from the east", as per LXX and YLT.

Hope this helps.

  • 1
    Appreciate the help. I'm relatively new to this site and I see that it is discouraged to leave comments of gratitude or appreciation. Is there any avenue on the site to do this? It seems professional and polite to show some form of appreciation to those who invest time in answering your questions...besides up-arrows.
    – Joseph O.
    Jan 4 '19 at 16:42
  • Joseph unfortunately there isn't. However, an upvote and/or "accept the answer" is generally considered to be a sign of gratitude, and is probably more appreciated by users than merely thanks or thumbs up. In any case, this rule (of not leaving comments of gratitude) you will quickly learn is not so religiously adhered to by most users. If you really feel that a user has addressed your question and you are very satisfied with an answer do not, by any means, refrain from doing so!
    – Bach
    Jan 6 '19 at 15:27
  • another instance where the bible would use the preposition from What about Genesis 13:11? That also has מִקֶּדֶם, but now KJV and ESV render 'east' rather than 'from the east'. Is it the context then which determines to or from, and not the preposition?
    – yawnoc
    Sep 11 '20 at 15:15
  • 1
    @user72028 I had missed that. Thank for pointing that out. It seems to me that there too it is unwarranted and based solely on the assumption that Sodom must lie east of Canaan, thus "eastward" instead of "from the east". Indeed if we are looking for the most faithful translation then it will be "from the east" as I wrote in my answer, (the LXX agrees with me). I'm not sure what warrants their translation of "eastward" for מִקֶּדֶם, a word that clearly means the exact opposite.
    – Bach
    Sep 13 '20 at 1:46
  • I see the NLT renders "to the east of them". It seems that this is the rationale for most of the translations rendering "eastward"; instead of "from the east" they read it more liberally as "east of them". But as I said this is not the simple reading of the text.
    – Bach
    Sep 13 '20 at 1:51

The KJV, Young's Literal, Green's Literal, Webster's, Bishop's, Geneva and Great Bibles - together with The Wycliffe and The Douay Rheims (both from the Latin Vulgate) all, without exception, give :

from the east.

Textus Receptus Bibles

Douay Rheims Online


Totally agree with @Bach and just want to add that: " The English Standard Version (ESV) is an essentially literal translation of the Bible in contemporary English" - and as so (here) it translated the hebrew formula to english - without knowing that this might arise other meaning.

Don't know why it was downvote, but the other answer pointed that all major sources translated it to "from", so that is the correct translation.

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