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Praying Towards Jerusalem

30th January 2004, hej

 

1) Why do we orient ourselves?

Humans use the co-ordinate directions North, South, East and West to locate themselves on the globe. To the modern mind North is the most important direction. Yet the word ‘orientation’ is about East, not North. The ‘Orient’ is the East. To orient oneself was to mark the rising of the sun (The North position at 12 noon is hard to establish without an accurate clock).

But our orientation is more than a sense of relative position. When we orient ourselves there is meaning. For the Europeans building Church edifices the East-West axis was important as the sun’s rising become the son’s rising. For them direction had meaning. According to architectural historian V.Scully (1991) the light from the East over the choir was from the heavens but the Western entry was for glory of the king.

Yahweh Values Orientation

An investigation shows Yahweh, though everywhere, values orientation. The Tabernacle in the wilderness was a tent. There is no reason why it had to face a particular direction. However, each time it was re-erected it was to be orientated with the entrance to the East. Not only was the tabernacle orientated but the encampment was arranged to the compass co-ordinates around the tabernacle at the centre.

Numbers 2:3 And on the East side toward the rising of the sun shall they of the standard of the camp of Judah pitch Numbers 3:38 But those that encamp before the tabernacle toward the east, before the tabernacle of the congregation eastward, Moses and Aaron and his sons, keeping the charge of the sanctuary

The whole encampment was orientated by the tabernacle. It is not surprising then, to read that Solomon’s temple also was designed to be entered from the East with the Most Holy to the West

Ezekiel 8:16 And he brought me into the inner court of the LORD’S house, and, behold, at the door of the temple of the LORD, between the porch and the altar, were about five and twenty men, with their backs toward the temple of the LORD, and their faces toward the East; and they worshipped the sun toward the east.

Yahweh is totally consistent in His design, for we also find that though the Temple in Ezekiel’s prophecy is square, which does not favour one orientation over another, we find that the East gate is again special

Ezekiel 46:1 Thus saith the Lord GOD; The gate of the inner court that looketh toward the East shall be shut the six working days; but on the sabbath it shall be opened, and in the day of the new moon it shall be opened. and the prince shall enter by the way of the porch of that gate without, and shall stand by the post of the gate, and the priests shall prepare his burnt offering and his peace offerings, and he shall worship at the threshold of the gate: then he shall go forth; but the gate shall not be shut until the evening. Likewise the people of the land shall worship at the door of this gate before the LORD in the sabbaths and in the new moons.

Also the waters proceed from under this gate:

Ezekiel 47:1 Afterward he brought me again unto the door of the house; and, behold, waters issued out from under the threshold of the house eastward: for the forefront of the house stood toward the East.

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