East, Children of The
est, (mizrach, qedhem, qedhem, and other derivatives of the same root; anatole): Mizrach is the equivalent of the Arabic meshriq, "the orient" or "place of sunrise." In the same way ma`arabh, "west," corresponds to the Arabic maghrib, and both mizrach and ma`arabh occur in Ps 103:12: "As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us." Qadham, "to precede" (whence qedhem, "east"), and its derivatives correspond closely to the Arabic qadham, except that the Arabic derivatives do not include the signification "east." In the majority of cases "east" and other words of direction require no explanation, but the expressions "the children of the east" (bene qedhem), "the land of the children of the east" ('erets bene qedhem), and "the east country" ('erets qedhem), belong to a different category. In the story of Gideon (Jg 6:3,13; 7:12; 8:10), we find several times the expression "the Midianites and the Amalekites and the children of the east." In Jg 8:24 it is said of the same host: "For they "Go up to Kedar, and destroy the children of the east. Their tents and had golden earrings, because they were Ishmaelites." In Jer 49:28-29: "Go up to Kedar, and destroy the children of the east. Their tents and their flocks shall they take." In Ge 25:6: "But unto the sons of the concubines, that Abraham had, Abraham gave gifts; and he sent them away from Isaac his son, while he yet lived, eastward, unto the east country." Now Ishmael is the son of Abraham and Hagar, Midian of Abraham and Keturah, Kedar the son of Ishmael, and Amalek the grandson of Esau, dwelling in Edom. It is evident that we have to do with the Syrian desert and in a general way with Arabia, especially its northern part, and with peoples like the modern Bedouin who kept camels and dwelt in tents, "houses of hair" (buyut sha`r), as they are called by the Arabs of today.
A striking passage is Ge 29:1: "Then Jacob went on his journey, and came to the land of the children of the east." As one journeys eastward through the country East of the Jordan he traverses first a region of towns and villages with fields of grain, and then the wide desert where the Bedouin wander with their herds. The line is a sharp one. Within a very few hours he passes from the settled part where the rain, though scanty, is sufficient to bring the grain to maturity, to the bare desert.
Job was "the greatest of all the children of the east" (Job 1:3). These desert people had a name for wisdom as we see from 1Ki 4:30, "Solomon's wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the children of the east, and all the wisdom of Egypt"; and from Mt 2:1: "Now when Jesus was born .... Wisemen from the east came."
Alfred Ely Day