From Genesis 3, West-to-East movement is always movement away from God’s presence and His house (cf. Genesis 3:24). Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden to the east, and when Cain was later cast out he was sent to the land east of Eden. The men of Babel, the nations that descended from Noah, traveled east and settled in the valley of Shinar to build their city and their tower.
Eastward movement is always movement away from God.
Westward movement is always movement back toward the garden. All of the sanctuaries of Israel open to the east, so that you have to walk west in order to return to God’s presence. All of Israel’s journeys toward the land, the garden-land, are westward journeys.
Though Gentiles are from the east, the magi are true sons of Abraham, following the footsteps of Abraham, who came from the eastern city of Ur to the promised land. The magi follow the footsteps of Joshua, who entered and conquered the promised land by crossing the Jordan from the east. The magi are like Israel returning from exile in Babylon, traveling toward the setting sun in order to return to the land and rebuild it.
The Magi fulfill the Abrahamic promise, but they are also members of a new Adamic humanity, the humanity of the Last Adam, the eschatological humanity. They are the beginning of a people of the Last Adam who travel from the east toward Paradise, toward Eden, into the garden that has become incarnate in Bethlehem.
Peter J. Leithart is President of Theopolis.