This article used to be a part of The Negev - Desert of the South post written a while back. However we feel this topic should be a post of its own. Especially when thinking of just how important it is to be able to discern directions like they are meant to be understood in our beloved Scriptures. Our guidance, our gps our line to SoNiNi. Now knowing the directions in Ancient Bantu Lands, was not to be understood with the eyes and minds of today. You see, knowing that East and West was a slightly different measure back in the day, you will need a starting point. Now much the coastal line of what today is known as Southern Africa was the coast of the ancient Promised Land. So traveling inland, would be traveling either West, South or East, as language and the placement of the Great Negev Desert (Kalahari) will reveal, The Great Desert was to the South (if you look up the Word Negev it even means south). Now if you walk down from Egypt today, as the Bantus did, they also went south right? Confusing certainly, but only if you used to seeing the world as you have been told it is. However setting these measures on a compass is just a matter of coordination and agreement of what is North, South, East and West. Cardinal directions they call it, however these has been changed as well as with allot of other things from the the old days. Have an open mind and Lets look for these again. All you need to understand is this, south from where? North from where? What is the focal point? The answer is, Jerusalem. Lets dive!
Now today scientist say today that the Geographical North has moved (been moving for a while) and is moving more each year, perhaps this is to blame for these change in compass readings, Who knows... More likely is just the different cultures and each civilisations cosmological viewpoints, like Jerusalem being the focal and central point of the cardinal directions. This would change everything as the city was ransacked, forgotten and subsequently moved to another continent. Moved your starting point to another place on earth, say for instance Rome, that would change the outcome drastically. And it has...
However we luckily do know one constant we can use in this search, the fact that the Sun always rises in the East. So we will use that as our constant in this theory. That makes West easy to find, and then we have to figure out North and South. Again luckily Negev meant South in ancient Hebrew, meaning we only have to find the desert, which we speculate is the area known today as the Kalahari and the surrounding dry areas in Southwestern Africa.
This all makes more sense if you flip the map from the above example to the below which is likely how SoNiNi see the world (the Gate to the Heavens is towards the East according to Ezekiel). Then we use Jerusalem (approximate location) as the centre of direction in the world. You can google search this now and find that the Hebrews did think Jerusalem as the centre of the world, just as the Romans thought Rome to be the same. Hence we are we are today, different outsets always gives different results. And therefore we have different calendars and certainly different historical narratives.
Now lets get Scriptures involved, Genesis 28,14 SoNiNi gave Jacob a promise on where his descendants would be spreading:
“You will spread out to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and in you and in your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed.”
As you can see on the map Jerusalem is up in the mountainous regions north (south-east according to the Bible) of Cape Town (Capernaum). The reason for this is, if (it might not) Cape Town is the Biblical Capernaum (a Roman settlement in ancient times), then Jerusalem was supposed to be a mere 3 day walk from there. With Bethlehem also close. For all this to make sense according to Scriptures, there is allot of things that need to line up. We have to consider all these place being in close proximity, Jerusalem, Cana and Capernaum (John 2,11-13):
11 What Immanuel did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
12 After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother and brothers and his disciples. There they stayed for a few days.
13 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Immanuel went up to Jerusalem.
Bearing these places in mind, and directions like going up to Jerusalem, meaning the place was amidst the mountains. Lets look at some language, and as we see the ancient Hebrew expressions used for the different directions is what makes this interesting.
Qedem, Motsa or Mizrah - EAST
Yam, Marav or Akor - WEST
Negev, Darom, Teman or Yamin - SOUTH
Tsafon or Smol - NORTH
There are allot of synonyms in Scripture for these cardinal directions, when they got the suffix `a` is when they became directions rather than places. However this gets mixed up when using modern Hebrew, which is even closer to Arabic than say Swahili, and by then that language has changed so it is hardly a Bantu (African) language any longer. Except perhaps in the spoken word (phonetically) and perhaps in dialect...
Back to interpreting this ancient language (which is what modern Jews have done, as Africans and progenitors of the language Africans will do the same). The Expression used for different directions in Hebrew, as read in the Hebrew script and vocabulary, is Yama (WEST), Qedma (EAST), Tsfona (NORTH) and Negba (SOUTH), the `a` at the end of the word indicates the direction. Without the suffix A, its becomes YAM, QEDEM, TSAFON and NEGEV. Modern Hebrew/Arabic used completely different words (hence the inclusion of the above).
Now lets dive into some Scriptures, Deuteronomy 3,27, we are given these 4 directions:
27 Go up to the top of Pisgah and look west and north and south and east. Look at the land with your own eyes, since you are not going to cross this Jordan.
The Ancient Hebrew here says Yama, Tsfona, Temana and Mizrah. Let us now investigate these Hebrew Cardinal directions, one by one. Starting with the oldest one, the East, the sun always rises to the East.
EAST - Qedem means literally forward, and shows that before people would face the rising Sun as some sort of default direction. However this word also means ancient, perhaps referring to ancient Kingdoms such as Babylon (which most likely was in Upper East-Africa, horn of Africa / Babel Mandel). But also places like Sumeria or Sumer (close to modern day Uganda, you can see the remains of the culture in their last names to this day). Now, did the Hebrews use the word ancient as a direction for these places? Some Scriptures seem to imply that Qedem was a place or the name for a larger area in ancient times, just corroborate this with Job 1,3, that says that Job was:
"...the greatest of all the men of the East (Qedem)".
This can then be interpreted in different ways, regardless if Qedem was an area or an actual Kingdom, one thing can be certain, it was to the East - where the Sun rises (Mpumalanga right). Interestingly the Dead Sea was in ancient Hebrew Qadmoni, which could have meant The Sea to the East OR The Ancient Sea.
More Scriptures that use these examples are Ezekiel 47,18:
“On the east side the boundary will run between Hauran and Damascus, along the Jordan between Gilead and the land of Israel, to the Dead Sea and as far as Tamar. This will be the eastern boundary.
More in Joel 2,20:
“I will drive the northern horde far from you, pushing it into a parched and barren land; its eastern ranks will drown in the Dead Sea and its western ranks in The Great Sea. And its stench will go up; its smell will rise.”
And Zechariah 14,8:
8 On that day living water will flow out from Jerusalem, half of it east to the Dead Sea and half of it west to the Mediterranean Sea, in summer and in winter.
And more Scriptures comes from Joshua that describes (among many places) the third allotment of land going to Zebulun (Joshua 19,10-15):
"10 The third lot came up for Zebulun according to its clans: The boundary of their inheritance went as far as Sarid. 11 Going west it ran to Maralah, touched Dabbesheth, and extended to the ravine near Jokneam. 12 It turned east from Sarid toward the sunrise to the territory of Kisloth Tabor and went on to Daberath and up to Japhia. 13 Then it continued eastward to Gath Hepher and Eth Kazin; it came out at Rimmon and turned toward Neah. 14 There the boundary went around on the north to Hannathon and ended at the Valley of Iphtah El. 15 Included were Kattath, Nahalal, Shimron, Idalah and Bethlehem. There were twelve towns and their villages."
It turned East towards the sunrise, furthermore in Numbers 2,3 it reads:
"3 On the east, toward the sunrise, the divisions of the camp of Judah are to encamp under their standard."
It was common back in the day to have Temples facing East towards the Sunrise, as was the case with the Temple Solomon built in Jerusalem. This has by and large been adopted by all coming churches, such as the Roman Catholic Empire, having their churches facing towards the East (or Orient if you will)
WEST - This direction then becomes default of the orientation EAST, which means west is right behind you. The word Achor, which means behind, was then used allot in the Bible as a description of the direction West.
The Prophet Isaiah will clarify (Isaiah 9,12):
“The Arameans on the east and the Philistines on the west”.
This says qedem and achor, which translates roughly Arameans are in front of you and the Philistines are behind you. Now The Great Sea, or the Last Sea or the Sea Behind you, we find in Deuteronomy 11,24 and 34,2:
24 Every place where you set your foot will be yours: Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the Euphrates River to the Sea (Yam). (..)
1 Then Moses climbed Mount Nebo from the plains of Moab to the top of Pisgah, across from Jericho. There the Lord showed him the whole land—from Gilead to Dan, 2 all of Naphtali, the territory of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Great Sea (West),3 the Negev (the South) and the whole region from the Valley of Jericho, the City of Palms, as far as Zoar."
In both these verses the direction for west is Yam, or the Great Sea to the West, as a border that does not change. Just like Negev was to the South. In Numbers 3,23 it reads " camped behind the tabernacle westward" the text says "achor the tabernacle, yama". Meaning east for the tabernacle, towards the great sea.
Numbers 34,6 reads:
“As for the western (yam) border, you shall have the Great Sea (Yam).”
Modern Hebrew uses the word West for evening is marav, relating to the position of the sun. Isaiah tries to say, I will gather your offspring from East and West (Isaiah 43,5):
“Do not fear, for I am with you. I will bring your offspring from the EAST (Mizrah), and gather you from the WEST (Marav)."
So its a play on words, from the morning to the evening. Examples again in Isaiah 59,10:
“So they will fear the name of SoNiNi from the west, and His glory from the rising of the sun.”
Here again, it says ma’arav (the evening direction) and mizrach (the rising of the sun). Another great one is Psalm 103,12:
“As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”
David is here saying as far as the rising of the sun from the setting of the sun, which is the furthest distance one can imagine for anyone today and back then. Nobody could travel as far as the sun travels in a day. Even though people today will have you believe that if you walked East you would end up in the West eventually, on a globe, but Scriptures do not describe the earth as a round ball or even remotely close.
SOUTH - When you find yourself in The Promised Land , The Great Sea then will always be on your west, similarly towards the Negev you will have your south direction. Modern Hebrew uses darom, which means south and often used in the Bible. If we read Deuteronomy 3,27:
27 Go up to the top of Pisgah and look west and north and south and east. Look at the land with your own eyes, since you are not going to cross this Jordan.
We see that Yama, tsfona, temana, mizrach, they are all in here. Teman is from yamin, which means right side. Now looking at Ezekiel 20,46, we find 3 expressions listen in just one verse:
“Son of man, set your face towards Teman, and speak out against the Darom and prophecy against the forest land of the Negev.”
In the verse from Psalm 89,12 "the north and the south, you have created them", it reads Yamin and Tsafon meaning right side and north. Now here Yamin, which is supposed to be The Great Sea to the West, is clearly used as south. If we read Isaiah 54,3:
3 For you will spread out to the right and to the left; your descendants will dispossess nations and settle in their desolate cities.
So what is Isaiah saying, is he saying to the Right and Left or is he saying South and North? Here one must use the rule of context to decipher, Isaiah is talking about possessing nations and the settling of cities, one could fall for Isaiah saying North and South. Like in the Psalms yamin was used as south and the Hebrew for left is sometimes used as North (which backs up the claim of North and South having been switched at some point in time).
NORTH - In Jacobs promise, the north (tsafon, is the only direction that you find in modern Hebrew). The word itself means hidden as a direction you would not see the sun going, which works if you use our mapped out direction that switch of North and South. Smol in modern Hebrew means left and was based on the default direction, its very closely related to the Arabic north (shamal).
Is we use Left in the sense of north, we find in Genesis 14,15:
“He pursued them as far as Hobah which is smol of Damascus.”
More in Joshua 19:27.
“…and to the valley of Iphtael northward (tsfona) … then it proceeded on north (smol) to Cabul.”
So here we see the confusion. Left and right... You should be asking left and right of what? We should therefore call into question every time Scripture talks about right and left, as it can sometimes mean south and north... This gives a cardinal direction of East, kinda being the True North of the ancient times, as the Sun would come out of the East, every time. Put Jerusalem on a straight line, that makes North and South, either Left or Right of that straight line.
Then Scriptures like Genesis 13,9, conversation between Abraham and Lot, makes much more sense:
9 Is not the whole land before you? Let’s part company. If you go to the left, I’ll go to the right; if you go to the right, I’ll go to the left.”
Let us sum this up shall we. There are different ways of perceiving the four directions, all depending on where you are in the land of Israel and where Jerusalem is. Yam is west, Negev is south, those are the clear ones, the others seem reliant on forward and backward, and seemingly left and right, all calculated under the light of the sun (where it rises) and the location of Jerusalem.
In Genesis we see the 4 cardinal directions given to Jacob by SoNiNi, “Yama, qedma, tsfona, negba,” and in Deuteronomy to Moses as “Yama, tsfona, temana, mizracha.” In Job we find a slightly different language again (Job 23:8-9):
“Behold I go qedem (East) but he is not there, and achor (West) but I cannot perceive him. When he acts in the smol (North), I cannot behold him. He turns on the yamin (West or left), I cannot see him.”
Is Job saying “forward, backward, left and right”…? Now to give an idea of how fickle and difficult it is to read these verses without being in the actual land of Israel or the Temple, OR knowing how ancient Hebrew was spoken, we will find that on the Day of Atonement. in Leviticus 16,14, it reads:
"14 He is to take some of the bull’s blood and with his finger sprinkle it on the front (East) of the atonement cover; then he shall sprinkle some of it with his finger seven times before the atonement cover.