FROM BEFORE/FROM OLD/FROM LONG AGO/OF THE EAST: qedem /miqqedem (Strong’s 6924, 6925, 6927).
Root: מקדם / קדם
Sounds like: k-dem / mee-k’dem
Many in the world celebrate the birth of the Messiah, Yeshua (Jesus) in the month of December. For many Christians this is the second week in Advent, the week of Peace, and the time is often used to reflect on the many Old Testament prophesies that pointed to the Messiah. The prophet Micah pronounced one of the most well known Messianic prophesies of peace:
“But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will come forth for Me to be ruler in Israel.
His times of coming forth are from long ago [miqqedem], from the days of eternity.”
Therefore He will give them up until the time when she who is in labour has given birth. Then the remainder of His kinsmen will return to the sons of Israel.
And He will arise and shepherd His flock in the strength of YHWH, in the majesty of the name of YHWH His God.
And they will remain, because at that time He will be great to the ends of the earth. This One will be our peace.
This Messiah, who would be the epitome of Peace for the people, was planned from long ago, from the days of eternity.
The point is this: Humanity has a history and YHWH far outreached it! Where our society may value things that are new and shiny, the Biblical writers put great value on things of long ago, old, and ancient because they held story of the Creator!
My profile describes me as someone who likes everything old… and that is true. I’m an historian, a medievalist, and a genealogist. I love old books and antiques. I love archaeology and ancient artifacts. And nothing makes me happier than diving into old documents, letters and ancient texts, which is why I love the Bible so much. It is the richest historical document that we have, and it is an incredible statement outlining the history of humanity. We have the beginning (Genesis) and we have the end (Revelation), but we’re still living out the Biblical story. We are part of an ancient narrative and I love that! It puts life into perspective!
In the Beginning
When Biblical writers thought about the beginning, they often described it as the earliest of times, the ancient of days, from long ago, in days of old. These English phrases come from the Hebrew word miqqedem, from the word qedem (meaning before). Miqqedem means, literally, “from before”.
However, it is important to note that miqqedem has two meanings. Besides indicating something that is “of old”, it was also used to indicate something from “the east”.
A further study gives us another, more common, word for “the east”: mitzrakh (Strong’s 4217), otherwise known as the place of the sunrise. But the East translated from miqqedem, was primarily associated with the ancient and victorious Presence of God.
Zechariah prophesied about when God would come back and take His stand in Jerusalem:
Zechariah 14:3-4a, 9
Then YHWH will go forth and fight against those nations, as when He fights on a day of battle. On that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east [miqqedem]; and the Mount of Olives will be split in its middle from east [mitzrakhah] to west forming a very large valley…
…And YHWH will be King over all the earth; on that day YHWH will be the only one, and His name the only one.
YHWH would plant His feet on the ancient eastern slopes of the Mount of Olives. This was prophetic, ancient, geography… the perfect place to use miqqedem to express the long foretold awesomeness of the place where God would take a stand.
Taking a leap back to the beginning, gives us an indication that the east and the ancient were not so dissimilar:
YHWH God planted a garden toward the east [miqqedem], in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed. Out of the ground YHWH God caused every tree to grow that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Creation and Eden were formed in the ages of old. In the wisdom literature of Proverbs, the personified Lady Wisdom spoke of her connection with YHWH that began from the earliest times, before the world had yet been made:
[Wisdom:] “YHWH created me at the beginning of His way, before [qedem] His works of old.
From eternity I was established, from the beginning, from the earliest times [miqqad’mey] of the earth.
When there were no ocean depths, I was born, when there were no springs abounding with water. Before the mountains were settled, before the hills, I was born; while He had not yet made the earth and the fields, nor the first dust of the world.
When He established the heavens, I was there; when He inscribed a circle on the face of the deep, when He made firm the skies above, when the springs of the deep became fixed, when He set a boundary for the sea so that the water would not violate His command, when He marked out the foundations of the earth.
Then I was beside Him, as a master workman; and I was His delight daily, rejoicing always before Him, rejoicing in the world, His earth, and having my delight in the sons of mankind.
Here, Wisdom outlined the creation story: before oceans, mountains, fields, or dust existed, Wisdom was there; before the heavens, the firmament, the boundaries between sea and earth were established, Wisdom was there.
Wisdom was beside YHWH as a master crafter. YHWH delighted in her and she delighted in Him. The concept of different or varying aspects of God was there from the beginning. The Spirit was endowed with wisdom, and Yeshua was living, breathing, wisdom on earth. From the ancient of days YHWH, and all dimensions of YHWH, existed.
Not from the beginning, but from the earliest of days (ancient times), evil also existed. David noted the early existence of evil in one of his poems:
[David:] As for me, I shall call upon God, and YHWH will save me.
Evening and morning and at noon, I will complain and moan, and He will hear my voice. He will redeem my soul in peace from the battle which is against me, for they are many who are aggressive toward me.
God will hear and humiliate them— even the one who sits enthroned from ancient times [qedem]— Selah — with whom there is no change, and who do not fear God.
He has put forth his hands against those who were at peace with him; he has violated His [God’s] covenant. His speech was smoother than butter, but his heart was war; his words were softer than oil, yet they were drawn swords.
Cast your burden upon YHWH and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.
This ancient aggressor, whose words were smooth as butter but whose heart was filled with violence and destruction, was there from the ancient of days.
YHWH was the God of life, love, and beautiful, planned, order; His adversary [ha-Satan] was the “god” of death, hate, and chaos. And so began the classic story of Good versus evil. YHWH would save us from evil and the death that it was chained to:
Psalm 68:19-20, 32-25
[David:] Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears our burden, the God who is our salvation. Selah
God is to us a God of salvation; and to YHWH the Lord belong ways of escape from death…”
…Sing to God, you kingdoms of the earth, sing praises to the Lord, Selah
To Him who rides upon the highest heavens, which are from ancient times [qedem]; behold, He speaks with His voice, a mighty voice.
Ascribe strength to God; His majesty is over Israel, and His strength is in the skies. God, You are awesome from Your sanctuary.
The God of Israel Himself gives strength and power to the people. Blessed be God!
Strip the Bible down to the basics and this is what you get: humans made a bad choice in the Garden, and had to leave. But YHWH, in His great mercy and love, would forgive our transgression. We were chained to death, YHWH would set us free. He sent His son to die the great death, and free us from the curse of the grave. Yeshua (Jesus) died, but He conquered death. He rose up from the grave, and gave us back the keys to the Kingdom. We could go back to the Garden of God, because Yeshua paid the entrance fee.
This was the story that needed to be shared (and still does) from generation to generation.
Telling/Sharing/Teaching the Ancient Story
Asaph’s Psalm expressed the importance of sharing the ancient stories:
Listen, my people, to my instruction; incline your ears to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in a parable; I will tell riddles of old [minni qedem], which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us.
We will not conceal them from their children, but we will tell the generation to come the praises of YHWH, and His power and His wondrous works that He has done.
For He established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which He commanded our fathers that they were to teach them to their children,
So that the generation to come would know, the children yet to be born, that they would arise and tell them to their children, so that they would put their confidence in God and not forget the works of God, but comply with His commandments…
The importance of remembering the stories of old was a common theme:
God, we have heard with our ears, our fathers have told us the work that You did in their days, in the days of old [bimey qedem].
You with Your own hand drove out the nations; then You planted them; You afflicted the peoples, then You let them go free.
For by their own sword they did not possess the land, and their own arm did not save them, but Your right hand and Your arm and the light of Your presence, for You favoured them.
This Psalm of Korah outlined the Biblical story. God drove out the nations at Babel (Genesis 11), He planted His people in Egypt, where they were afflicted, and then He let them go free (Moses’ Exodus). They wandered in the wilderness and fought nations, but they did not possess the promised land by their own power. Only by God’s favour did they cross the Jordan and enter the land that would be Israel. This was the story passed down from their ancestors, in the days of old. And that story contained God’s plan.
The Ancient Great Plan
YHWH had a plan from the beginning. Eve and Adam were exiled out of Eden, out of God space, and sent into the wilderness, a place of chaos, where they were afflicted with death. It was the end point for humans. But YHWH put a plan in place to deliver us from death, and bring us back home.
Life wasn’t just random events thrust upon us. YHWH wasn’t afraid to point out that He did, indeed, have a plan.
2 Kings 19:25a (see also Isaiah 37:26)
[YHWH:] “Have you not heard? Long ago I did it; from ancient times [l-mime qedem] I planned it. Now I have brought it about…”
YHWH’s plan, from the ancient days, was more than forgiveness. It was salvation:
[YHWH:] “Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times [u-miqqedem] things which have not been done, saying, ‘My plan will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure’; calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of My purpose from a distant country.
Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned it, I will certainly do it.
Listen to Me, you stubborn-minded, who are far from righteousness. I bring near My righteousness, it is not far off; and My salvation will not delay. And I will grant salvation in Zion, and My glory for Israel.
Questioning the Plan of Old
YHWH was very clear. He had a plan, from the days of old, and He would accomplish it.
That certainly is a beautiful thing to hold onto. It’s what gives hope to so many of us who have suffered.
But, understandably, a promise unfulfilled is hard to hold onto as time passes by. Throughout the Bible the people who suffered in hardship often questioned God’s plan of redemption. Would He really save them? Why, then, were they suffering? Where was God when they were in duress? Why was salvation taking so long to come?
This was most strongly evident in the poetry written around the time of the Babylonian attack on Judah. Babylon utterly destroyed Jerusalem. They tore down the Temple, dismantled the walls of the city, and dragged its inhabitants out of their homes, as captives to a foreign land. The Hebrew people lost everything. The agony of defeat and loss permeated the literature of the time:
In the days of her affliction and homelessness Jerusalem remembers all her treasures that were hers since the days of old [mime qedem], when her people fell into the hand of the adversary and no one helped her.
The adversaries saw her, they laughed at her ruin.
Where was their God in all this death and destruction?
Psalm 74:1-4, 10-12
[Asaph:] God, why have You rejected us forever? Why does Your anger smoke against the sheep of Your pasture?
Remember Your congregation, which You purchased of old [qedem], which You have redeemed to be the tribe of Your inheritance; and this Mount Zion, where You have dwelt.
Step toward the irreparable ruins; the enemy has damaged everything in the sanctuary. Your adversaries have roared in the midst of Your meeting place; they have set up their own signs as signs…
…How long, God, will the enemy taunt You? Shall the enemy treat Your name disrespectfully forever? Why do You withdraw Your hand, even Your right hand? Extend it from Your chest and destroy them!
Yet God is my King from long ago [Wey-Elohim malki miqqedem], who performs acts of salvation in the midst of the earth.
Asaph questioned God’s plan, but he also recognized that God was his King from long ago (Elohim malki miqqedem) and that His promises would stand. He would redeem His people:
[Asaph:] I have considered the days of old [miqqedem], the years of long ago.
I will remember my song in the night; I will meditate with my heart, and my spirit ponders:
Will the Lord reject forever? And will He never be favourable again? Has His favour ceased forever? Has His promise come to an end forever? Has God forgotten to be gracious, or has He in anger withdrawn His compassion? Selah
Then I said, “It is my grief that the right hand of the Most High has changed.”
I shall remember the deeds of Yah [YHWH]; I will certainly remember Your wonders of old [miqqedem]. I will meditate on all Your work, and on Your deeds with thanksgiving.
Your way, God, is holy; what god is great like our God?
You are the God who works wonders; You have made known Your strength among the peoples. By Your power You have redeemed Your people, the sons of Jacob and Joseph. Selah
Jeremiah, in his great poetic lamentation, held onto the same hope as the Psalmist Asaph. YHWH was the eternal ruler and He would hold fast to His plan to bring us back to Him. He would restore us and renew the ancient days, when humans and YHWH walked together in the Garden:
You, YHWH, rule forever; Your throne is from generation to generation.
Why will You forget us forever? Why do You abandon us for so long?
Restore us to You, YHWH, so that we may be restored; renew our days as of old [k’qedem]…
David and the Days of Old
This wonderful promise of salvation and redemption wasn’t just for the community, it was for each and every human who had a relationship with their Creator. David’s, psalms were deeply personal:
[David:] YHWH, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I get up; You understand my thought from far away.
You scrutinize my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue, behold, YHWH, You know it all.
You have encircled me behind and in front [before: wa-qedem], and placed Your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is too high, I cannot comprehend it.
This image of being encircled by God from behind and before, was like a hug. Before was of old (the past was visible as a memory passed down from the generations) and what was yet to come (the future unseen) was behind and not yet visible. YHWH would be there for all of it. The past and the future was encircled by God and we would be in the midst of it all. We were (and are) part of the plan, and God has embraced us as part of the Biblical story.
David suffered a lot in his life. He may have had wealth and prestige, but he was constantly hunted, his best friend was murdered on the battlefield, his infant son died, his kingdom suffered a terrible plague, one of his sons raped his daughter, and another son betrayed David and tried to steal his throne. David’s life was not an easy one, but he held onto hope, and turned to YHWH to lift him up:
[David:] Hear my prayer, YHWH, listen to my pleadings! Answer me in Your faithfulness, in Your righteousness! And do not enter into judgment with Your servant, for no person living is righteous in Your sight.
For the enemy has persecuted my soul; he has crushed my life to the ground; he has made me dwell in dark places, like those who have long been dead.
Therefore my spirit feels weak within me; my heart is appalled within me.
I remember the days of old [yamim miqqedem; I meditate on all Your accomplishments; I reflect on the work of Your hands. I spread out my hands to You; my soul longs for You, like a weary land. Selah
Answer me quickly, YHWH, my spirit fails; do not hide Your face from me, or I will be the same as those who go down to the pit.
David felt that the enemy had taken him to dark places, like the home of the dead. He prayed that God would not hide His face from him because that was what happened to those who went to the grave and did not return. It was the great hope of YHWH’s children, outlined in Aaron’s blessing:
‘YHWH bless you, and keep you;
YHWH cause His face to shine on you, and be gracious to you;
YHWH lift up His face to you, and give you peace.’
Being saved from death wasn’t just about living, it was about living in God’s presence, seeing Him face to face.
The Saviour Announced from Long Ago
Humans needed saving. From the moment they were exiled out of the Garden and into the wilderness, they needed to find a way back to YHWH:
“I am YHWH, and there is no one else. I have not spoken in secret, in some dark land; I did not say to the offspring of Jacob, ‘Seek Me in a wasteland’.
I, YHWH, speak righteousness, declaring things that are right. Gather yourselves and come; come together, you survivors of the nations!
They have no knowledge, who carry around their wooden idol and pray to a god who cannot save. Declare and present your case; indeed, let them consult together.
Who has announced this long ago [miqqedem]? Who has long since declared it? Is it not I, YHWH? And there is no other God besides Me, a righteous God and a Saviour; there is none except Me.
Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other.”
God’s ancient plan was for anyone who turned to Him. This was YHWH’s pronouncement: turn to Me and you will be saved. It was simple.
But saved from what, exactly?
Are You not from time everlasting [miqqedem], YHWH, my God, my Holy One?
We will not die.
The curse of death was what we needed to be saved from, because it was death that held us back from the Garden. But as long as we were under the burden of sin and death, we could not see God’s face.
However, part of YHWH’s plan of old was to cast the sins far away from the sinner:
Who is a God like You, who pardons wrongdoing and passes over a rebellious act of the remnant of His possession?
He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in mercy. He will again take pity on us; He will trample on our wrongdoings. Yes, You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.
You will give truth to Jacob and favour to Abraham, which You swore to our forefathers from the days of old [mime qedem].
Sins would be forgiven, but the usual way to do that was through the priestly sacrificial system. To reconnect with YHWH, there had to be a sacrifice.
Yeshua, the Linchpin of the Anient Plan
It was humans who began the sacrificial system (Genesis 4)… and YHWH adopted it to put His plan in place. The people wanted to give a sacrifice, but it would be YHWH who would give the greatest sacrifice. He would send His anointed representative, His Son, to be the Lamb of sacrifice. John the Baptist announced it when he saw Yeshua in Bethany:
“Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
Yeshua knew the plan and He knew His role in it… and He was completely honest with His disciples about what was to come:
And it happened that while He was praying alone, the disciples were with Him, and He questioned them, saying, “Who do the people say that I am?”
They answered and said, “John the Baptist, and others say Elijah; but others, that one of the prophets of old [archaion] has risen.”
And He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
And Peter answered and said, “The Messiah of God.”
But He warned them and instructed them not to tell this to anyone, saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and be raised on the third day.”
Yeshua (Jesus) wasn’t a prophet of old, but His life was prophesied from the ancient of days. He was the Messiah spoken of in the Tanakh (Old Testament). He would be killed and go to the grave, but He would not stay there. He would conquer death on behalf of all the people, and He would rise up on the third day, in victory.
The Septuagint gives us the Greek equivalent of miqqedem as archaios/archaia/archaion. The Apostle Paul used this word to outline the transition of Yeshua’s followers, from old to new:
2 Corinthians 5:14-21
For the love of the Messiah controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that those who live would no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose on their behalf. Therefore from now on we recognize no one by the flesh; even though we have known the Messiah by the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer.
Therefore if anyone is in the Messiah, this person is a new creation; the old things [Greek: archaia] passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through the Messiah and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in the Messiah reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their wrongdoings against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
Therefore, we are ambassadors for the Messiah, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of the Messiah, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
Paul’s main point?… Yeshua died for us, so now we have to live for Him! Our sin is swallowed up, and our wrongdoings are no longer counted against us, and because of our cleansing, we can live as God’s reflection on earth. We are to bear God’s image to others, and be His ambassador of love to this suffering world!
Living out God’s Plan, formed Long Ago
God knows this world needs His ambassadors of love and inclusion. God’s Adversary is working overtime on this planet to promote hate, exclusion, power and greed. But the great Deceiver will not be the prince of this planet forever. John’s dream revealed God’s plan for the Serpent of Old:
Revelation 12:7-11a (see also Revelation 20:1-2)
“And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. The dragon and his angels waged war, and they did not prevail, and there was no longer a place found for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old [ophis ho archaios] who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying,
Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Messiah have come, for the accuser of our brothers and sisters has been thrown down, the one who accuses them before our God day and night. And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony…”
God had a plan from long ago [miqqedem]. He put it in place and He accomplished it. The curse of death would no longer have a hold on us. And the Accuser would have no power over those who put their faith in Yeshua. At the end of our day, because of His sacrifice, we can walk into the YHWH’s Garden Kingdom, and see His face:
No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be within the city, and His servants will worship Him. They will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night in the city, and they will have no need for the light of a lamp or of the sun. For the Lord God will shine on them, and they will reign forever and ever.
We are living in Biblical times, as part of God’s plan, because John’s dream has not yet come to fruition. Yeshua saved us, so that we could live free from the burden of sin, and house the Spirit of God within us. We can bear God’s image to this hurting planet while we await for the rest of God’s plan to fall into place. Yeshua’s great sacrifice and victory over death was a turning point in the story, but there’s still a lot of the story to yet to happen.
The story may not be over, but the plan stands firm, and YHWH will accomplish it! One day we can speak the words of victory: “YHWH has done what He determined; He has accomplished His word which He commanded from days of old [mime qedem].” (Lamentations 2:17a). Amen!
Next week: Revisiting BETHLEHEM