Israel Biblical Studies

In the Book of Genesis, the Lord told Abram that all the land that he could see in all directions would belong to him and his offspring (Gen.13:14-15). But what is the deeper meaning of God’s directions to Abram, when we read them in Hebrew?

God’s promise to Abraham

In Genesis 13, God reaffirms the promise of the land to Abram and his offspring:

Look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward;for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever.” (Gen.13:14-15).

The four Hebrew words used for the directions give us a fascinating insight.

The real Biblical directions

Biblical Hebrew has an intense physicality, and these words describe more than just directions:

  • Negba: Means to the south or to the Negev, the desert region of southern Israel.
  • Yama: Means to the west. Sea is yam in Hebrew, so it literally means to the sea, which lies to the west of Israel.

  • Kedma: Means to the east. In Gen 2:8, it is stated that the garden of Eden was placed in “mikedem”

  • Tzfona: Means to the north. This refers to the mountain of Zaphon in Syria, which lies to the north of Israel.
  • The original Hebrew name of Safed, “Tzfat”, may be related to the word tzofeh, to look out, as the views from (and of) this mountaintop city are simply breathtaking.