The Lord of Hosts [will] chase you down and do you good. To commit every resource of heaven to a single-minded pursuit of getting you to the garden of delight. To chase after you, overtake you, conquer and capture you, and then do you good, and be merciful to you.
Small details matter in the Bible. They often tell the story that’s under the story, or draw out a minor aspect or theme in a greater whole.
One of the details that can often matter is what a scholar might call cosmic geography. Which is the idea that some of the geographical references in the Bible—perhaps even all of them—map onto the symbolic map of the world and so carry some theological significance.
As an example, the garden planted in Eden where the man and the woman are made and live is in the east of Eden. When, after they are cursed, Adam and Eve leave the garden and Eden, they leave to the east.
In cosmic geography to travel eastwards is to move away from the presence of God and to travel westwards is to move towards the presence of God, because it is to journey away from or into Eden and therefore the heavenly temple that the garden was a pattern of. We might infer that Adam & Eve’s successful journey out of the garden as King & Queen of the world would have been westward, into the land of Eden and up the mountain the rivers flow from—which we would infer from the way mountains are employed through the rest of the Bible means straight into the arms of God.
We could overread this fairly easily. Firstly, we should check that inferring a theological edge to a direction actually adds to our reading of the text in a way supported by this passage and more broadly by the rest of the scriptures. Secondly, we should never conflate cosmic geography with actual geography: moving westward indicating moving towards God says nothing about either what we call “western civilisation” or what lies on the west of maps as we draw them.
Everywhere can be west if you shift your frame of reference, and Eden lay—depending on which reconstruction you like—somewhere in the triangle made by the Persian Gulf, the Black Sea, and the Caspian Sea. We’re talking direction when we say west, not destination.
Broadly speaking, to walk towards the east is to go into exile, and to walk towards the west is to go on exodus: to return to the land gifted by God.
There are some interesting exceptions to this—note that the plague of locusts is brought by an east wind (Exodus 10) and blown away by a west wind, which sounds like the same thing until we remember that we name winds by where they blow from, so an east wind blows east to west. The clue here is that the west wind blows the locusts into the Red Sea, east of Egypt.