Unlike the east wind of the Bible which is a distinctly powerful, dry and hot wind, the winds from the other three directions do not appear to have any particular attributes. In fact, the west wind finds a mention just once, in connection with the plague of the locusts, in which it was used to send the locusts away from Egypt (Exodus 10:19). The north wind is said to bring rain (Proverbs 25:23), and there is an instance of a windstorm coming out of the north, accompanied by brilliant flashes of lightning (Ezekiel 1:4). The north and south winds appear to go round and round in an unending course (Ecclesiastes 1:6). The north and south winds are welcome winds; when they blow on the garden, its fragrance is spread abroad (Song of Solomon 4:16). The south wind could be hot (Luke 12:55) or gentle (Acts 27:13).
The four individual winds blowing from the east, west, north and south directions are described in the Bible in the same way as a human observer would describe, even today. We get an idea of the strength of these winds, the weather phenomena associated with them, and their effects. However, the phrases ‘four winds’, ‘four winds of the earth’ or ‘four winds of heaven’ are used in the Bible in a very different manner. The four winds are referred to in the context of extraordinary events or situations as foreseen by prophets, made known to select persons by God in the form of visions, or revealed by Jesus Himself to His disciples.
The four winds are sometimes associated with the four corners of the earth or the four quarters of heaven. This should not be considered as being suggestive of an image of a flat earth having four corners, but should be taken to mean the whole earth. Likewise, the four winds should be construed not as winds blowing literally in only four directions, but as winds blowing in all directions. Such an interpretation is indeed justified, because a wind having any speed or direction can be regarded as a combination of two north-south and east-west components.
A look at the weather charts used by today’s meteorologists would tell that the earth’s atmosphere at any given time is made up of high and low pressure areas in different regions. Winds blow out of and around an area of high pressure or anticyclone, and they would randomly scatter whatever that came in their way. On the other hand, over an area of low pressure or cyclone, intense winds would blow around and into it from all directions, and thus gather instead of scatter.
The power of the four winds of the Bible is tremendous, both figuratively and practically. It can churn the great sea, it can uproot and scatter powerful empires (Daniel 7:2, 8:8, 11:4, Zechariah 2:6). The combined power of the four winds of heaven was to be deployed against the nation of Elam, to scatter the people in all directions (Jeremiah 49:36).
On the contrary, in another situation of a positive nature, the four winds were called upon to gather together and breathe life into the slain so that they may live (Ezekiel 37:9). But of greater significance is the reference to the four winds in the events that would occur when the Son of Man returns in His glory (Matthew 24:31, Mark 13:27). He will send His angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other, or from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.
There is a third kind of role that the four winds will be playing in the last times. John, in his vision, saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the land or on the sea or on any tree (Revelation 7:1). This would amount to a circulation pattern of the atmosphere in which there are no highs or lows whatever, or an atmosphere of infinite calm!