By: Emil G. Hirsch
One of the "four skirts" (, Isa. xi. 12; Ezek. vii. 2; Job xxxvii. 3, xxxviii. 13) or "four corners," known also as the "four ends" (Jer. xlix. 36) or "four winds" (Ezek. xxxvii. 9; Dan. viii. 8, xi. 4), into which the Hebrews, following Assyrian analogies, divided heaven and earth. As the East was termed "ḳedem" (= "front"), the west was designated as "aḥor"(= "rear"; Isa. ix. 11; Job xxiii. 8). Since the Mediterranean Sea was west of Palestine, the noun (= "sea") became afavorite term to denote the west (Ex. x. 19, xxvii. 12, xxxviii. 12; Gen. xii. 8, xxviii. 14; Isa. xlix. 12; Ps. cvii. 3), another word being "ma'arab" (= "the point where the sun sets"; Ps. lxxv. 7 [A. V. 6], ciii. 12, cvii. 3; Isa. xliii. 5, xlv. 6).
In later Hebrew "ma'arab" is the common term for "west" (B. B. 25a). It may have been in opposition to the Babylonian belief that the entrance to the realm of death was situated in the west that R. Abbahu advanced the opinion that the Shekinah was in the west (ib.). The contrary assumption, attributed to the heretics ("minim"), who were said to maintain the doctrine that the Shekinah resided in the east, seems, therefore, to be a reminiscence of Babylonian influence. Since Palestine lay to the west of Babylon, it came to be designated as Ma'araba (Ber. 2b et seq.; Yeb. 17a et passim), and its inhabitants were called the "sons of the West" (Niddah 51b).