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
    Commented Sep 13, 2020 at 23:36

6 Answers 6


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 קדמה cf. Gen. 25:6; or קדימה, cf. 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. HALOT translates here "from the east" as well, however in Gen. 2:8 it translates "in the east".

There's an excellent article by Yehuda Elitzur in his book "Yisrael VeHamikra" pp. 25-31. Elitzur points out that all translations from KJV until today have adopted "eastward" instead of "away from the east" in 13:11 (Kimhi is actually one of the first one to suggest the reading of "eastward"). He points out that it is very hard to defend such a free translation, that seems to contradict the plain meaning of the text; he brings multiple examples from the bible where מקדם comes up, and if translated per the KJV and others would have disastrous consequences. Elitzur himself goes on to suggest that the word מקדם is just a reference to what was said earlier in 12:8 "ויעתק משם ההרה מקדם לבית אל = From there he moved on to the hill country east of Bethel". When the verse states that Lot moved "from the east", it merely means "from the east of Bethel" where Abram had previously pitched his tent, as the text had mentioned earlier, but it doesn't necessarily follow that Lot moved towards the west. Lot could very well be moving away from the east of Bethel towards the Kikar of the Jordan, which lies even further east, essentially moving in an eastward direction. This interpretation is also accepted by his son Yoel Elitzur in his commentary "Daat Mikra". I happen to agree with this interpretation and I think it removes the need to interpret "eastward" as per the translations, which I think is downright wrong and misleading. I believe that a translation loyal to the text should translate thus: "and Lot journeyed from the east [of Bethel]"

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.
    Commented Jan 4, 2019 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
    Commented Jan 6, 2019 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
    Commented Sep 11, 2020 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
    Commented Sep 13, 2020 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
    Commented Sep 13, 2020 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


From the view of Israelite archaeology, I would say, מקדם, is correctly "FROM THE EAST" if all occurrences have the same meaning. In the context of Genesis 11:2, "FROM THE EAST" may be read as "away from the presence of God" who lived in the EAST, but in the context of Genesis, and the big picture view from the biblical record, it is actually like entering a temple.

Perhaps, then the correct view is that the people of Genesis 11 were unlawfully trying to be like God and build a ziggurat in Mesopotamia as their own mountainous dwelling of God like the Garden of Eden, i.e. that we know as the Tower of Babel. Not moving away from the presence of God, instead attempting to be God as the blasphemy recorded in Genesis 11. I don't have a source to support that interpretation, but I can provide some archaeological data on the question below.

As far as the Garden of Eden that God planted "FROM THE EAST" in Eden, גַּן־בְעֵדֶן מִקֶּדֶם (Genesis 2:8), some scholars indicate this as a parallel to the Garden of Eden as a kind of temple. There is a logic flow in Genesis 1-3 of God, then man, Adam, created in God's image who is less than God yet bears the image of God, then Eve created from Adam's rib as man's glory (cf. 1 Cor. 11:3,7 that also preserves Jewish tradition of Genesis in Paul's training as a Pharisee), then the Fall, then expulsion from the Garden, when God places the guardian angels, Cherubim, "FROM THE EAST of the Garden of Eden" - מִקֶּדֶם לְגַן־עֵדֶן, to guard the entrance to the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:24). This would be the EAST GATE of EDEN that one entered from the EAST walking to the WEST in the logic of the text. When they were expelled from the Garden they were expelled from the Garden, and then humanity spread to the East and the West, not expelled to the West or the East.

The "EAST" in the biblical Hebrew worldview, and ancient Israelite archaeology, evidences house doorways, city gates, fortresses, and official buildings all oriented to the EAST. There was definitely a worldview wherein the EAST represented the dwelling place of God, everything good, light, and the future.

Although I can't provide a peer-reviewed source, it seems that Israelite society was structured around this concept, גַּן־בְעֵדֶן מִקֶּדֶם (Genesis 2:8) - the Garden in Eden [ENTERED] "FROM THE EAST." What has passed peer-review is that Israelite society was structured around the concept of EAST.

When you entered Israelite cities through the EAST CITY GATE you were actually walking WESTWARD. Israelites built their houses facing EAST with the doorway on the EAST side to enter their house "FROM THE EAST." The EAST CITY GATE was essentially a dwelling place of God, etc., so being in the EAST was being in the presence of God where God dwelt.

The way I understand this is in a sense more like the concept of a portal between Heaven and Earth that was in the EAST (Heaven/good/light) to connect God to the WEST (Earth/chaos/darkness). The Temple Gate that the glory of God entered from Heaven into Earth was through the EAST GATE. So neither EAST or WEST were closer to God in the Israelite worldview, it is that God entered the human world from the EAST like the Garden of Eden, מקדם, "FROM THE EAST" and the same in the Temple in Jerusalem, God's glory entered the Temple "FROM THE EAST," and one also entered, the Kohenim that is, "FROM THE EAST" - מקדם walking WEST, and The entrance to the Temple itself was "from the EAST" - מקדם towards the Holy of Holies that was technically located in the WEST of the Temple as symbolizing God's presence from Heaven dwelling on Earth.

Archaeologist Avi Faust has published numerous papers on the subject, and a useful summary:

"Various Biblical passages betray a worldview according to which God resided in the east...the notion that God dwells in the east is even more explicit in various passages in Ezekiel 40–48, where the prophet describes the vision of the new Jerusalem temple. According to Ezekiel’s description, the envisioned temple courts had three gates each: the main one in the east and two more on the south and north. No entrance is described in the west. Perhaps even more significant is the description of the eastern gate, which is the main gate through which Ezekiel enters the temple (40:4ff): “I saw the glory of the God of Israel coming from the east...the glory of the Lord entered the temple through the gate facing east”(Ezekiel 43:1,4).


Avraham Faust, Archaeology, Israelite cosmology and the bible. [Accessed online 1/11/2022: https://www.academia.edu/35471450/Archaeology_Israelite_cosmology_and_the_bible]

Avraham Faust, Houses Oriented towards God in the East. [Accessed online 1/11/2022: https://www.thetorah.com/article/houses-oriented-towards-god-in-the-east

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    – agarza
    Commented Jan 11, 2022 at 21:35

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.


Bach has an excellent answer for the prefix mem. However, קדם may be the real issue.

Translated 'East', it gives the sense of somewhere in space.

If it were translated 'before', 'aforetime', 'preceding', or 'ancient' it would give a sense of a place in time.

Is there contextual warrant for this? Perhaps.

'In Eden' בעדן may have a time referent in it. Daniel uses עדן as 'time'.

It is true that Aramaic and Hebrew diverged at some point, but there is more shared than differing.

The implication would be that the garden was 'before time'. Another curiosity is that Eden has the gate עד meaning filthy, with a possible implication that the garden was before 'filthy time' or before the time of the fall.

As such, time may be an illusion, a reminder of the consequences of the fall, as we observe decay.


Why is the garden of Eden mentioned? Between the garden of Eden lies the flood. So after the flood people moved from Mt. Ararat eastward. But is Shinar in the East of Mt. Ararat?

  • If you have a new question, please ask it by clicking the Ask Question button. Include a link to this question if it helps provide context. - From Review
    – agarza
    Commented May 23, 2023 at 16:38

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