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Children of the East

CHILDREN OF THE EAST. One of the trs. of the Heb. בְנֵי־קֶֽדֶם, sons of the east in KJV. RSV usually tr. the term “people of the East,” as does KJV occasionally (Gen 29:1). The term “children of the east” does not occur in the RSV.

The term generally describes those E of Pal. In Genesis 29:1, it esp. applies to the inhabitants of Haran in Mesopotamia. Job is described as one of them (Job 1:3).

From 1 Kings 4:30 one can assume that these people were famous for their wisdom, and the wise men mentioned in Matthew 2:1 could be of that same people.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

A term which in a general way designated the inhabitants of the country East of Palestine The Hebrews thought of their own country as occupying the central place, and of the other parts of the world in relation to this. They spoke of the "queen of the south" (Mt 12:42), and of the "king of the south" (Da 11:5,6). They spoke of people coming from "the east and the west" and sitting down with the patriarchs (Mt 8:11).

The term "children of the east" seems to have been applied to the inhabitants of any part of the country East of Palestine It is stated that Jacob, when he fled from Esau, "came to the land of the children of the east" (Ge 29:1), and the place to which he came was Haran in Mesopotamia. In Jer 49:28 the inhabitants of Kedar are called "the children of the east," and in later Jewish literature, Kedar is identified with the Arabs (see Kedar). Job was designated as "the greatest of all the children of the east" (Job 1:3), and the land of Uz was mentioned as his home (Job 1:1). While it is impossible absolutely to locate the land of Uz, it must have been on the edge of the desert which was East of Palestine. The children of the east seem to have been famous for their wisdom. It is said that "Solomon’s wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the children of the east" (1Ki 4:30), and "Wise-men from the east" came to Jerusalem seeking the one that was born king of the Jews (Mt 2:1).

Many of the inhabitants of the east country were regarded as descending from Abraham (see Ge 25:6), and hence, they were related to Israel.

est, (mizrach, qedhem, qedhem, and other derivatives of the same root; anatole):

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."

Additional Material

Along with the Egyptians, the Eastern people were known for their wisdom (1 Kings 4:30). The wise men who visited the young child Jesus were also from the E (Matt 2:1-12).


P. K. Hitti, History of the Arabs, 7th ed. (1960), 43.