Garden of Eden Symbolism - The East. Part 2.
Doing a word search in my computerized scriptures program, I verified that east is the direction used most in the scriptures. According to Alonzo L. Gaskill, east represented God, "If something came from the east it was representative of the idea that it was of God, sent by God, or godly in nature. Both blessings and punishments were believed to have been sent from the east (i.e., from God). People from the east were often respected for their wisdom and perceived as being messengers from God." (1)
One thing in which I disagree with Dr. Gaskill is that he claims that Adam and Eve moved east after being expelled from the garden of Eden, and consequently their fall into mortality was a movement toward God. Where does Genesis say that? All Genesis says is that "God sent him forth from the garden" and "drove out the man" (2), but it doesn't say in what direction. Not east. Not west. Not south. Not north. It just doesn't say. All it says is that they were expelled.
Genesis does say that God placed the cherubim and flaming sword at the east end of the garden "to guard" or PREVENT THEM from partaking of the Tree of Life, which means they were PREVENTED FROM GOING EAST towards God. What's the tree of life? Who said "I am the light and the life of the world."?(3). The flaming sword is BETWEEN God and man. If the flaming sword is on the east end (in front of God, or in God's presence) and I walk in an eastward direction towards God the flaming sword is going to be in the way. I am going bump into that flaming sword that is set there in the east (in front of and before God's presence), which is set there to prevent me from going further east and from entering into God's presence; I am going to get burned and chopped up into mince meat. Somebody give this guy a compass. Where does it say that they were moving towards the flaming sword? It doesn't say that anywhere.
On the other hand, what is the meaning of west? If I face west, my back is to the east. Have you ever heard the phrase "He turned his back on me"? Does it not mean that somebody has ignored you, set at naught your counsel, or avoided you? And isn't that what Adam and Eve did when they partook of the forbidden fruit, ignored God's counsel to not partake of it? If east is the presence of God, then going west would mean going away from God's presence. Isn't that what happened when they were expelled from the Garden? They were being driven AWAY from His presence. Can you and I enter into God's presence any time we feel like it? No.
Not surprisingly, scholars noticed that references regarding the west are bad and undesirable, including sorrow, chaos, death, evil, dark, etc...(4) Note that God said to Adam "Cursed is the ground for thy sake; and in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life." And to Eve He said, "I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception, in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children..." If they are heading east as Gaskill claims then why are they experiencing conditions associated with the west? It is because they are in the west, and heading west, away from God's presence, with their back towards Him, symbolically speaking of course.
(West) Adam ---------- Flaming Sword (East) --- God
1. Gaskill, Alonso L., The Lost Language of Symbolism (Deseret Book: Salt Lake City, Utah), p. 150.
2. Genesis 3:23-24, King James Version
3. 3 Nephi 9:18, The Book of Mormon
4. The Lost Language of Symbolism, p. 166.
5. Genesis 3:16-17, KJV