Shemot/Exodus 10:13 And Moshe stretched out his staff over the land of Egypt and Adonai brought an east wind into the land
In obedience toHaShem's command - "Then the L-RD said to Moshe, 'Stretch out your hand over the land of Egypt ...'" (Shemot 10:12, NASB) - Moshe lifts up his staff and stretches it out over the land of Egypt. Moshe's staff is his sign of authority; either Moshe or Aharon have used a staff as a sign at the start of most of the plagues so far. It is a visual sign: waved over the land, striking the waters, pointing to heaven, that signals HaShem's authority over the elements and acts like a starting pistol to release the plague over Egypt. The verb and the noun both come from the same root - , to stretch out, extend, expand, spread out or turn; so literally "he stretched out a tool of stretching", the latter being a branch of bough from a tree, a rod or staff, a sceptre or a tribe.
What happens on this occasion - the Plague of Locusts - when Moshe makes the sign of authority and releases the next plague? The verb , here in its Pi'el affix 3ms form, the only time the verb is used in this exact form is used in the Hebrew Bible, means to drive, lead or conduct, so here can mean drive (JPS), made blow (NIV) or brought (NASB, ESV, NRSV). HaShem brings or drives a strong wind into the land of Egypt, bringing with it the swarms of locusts that will eat every scrap of green vegetation so that "nothing green was left on tree or plant of the field through all the land of Egypt" (v. 15, NASB).
There is a certain amount of disagreement about the direction of the wind that brought the locusts, fuelled by the fact that Egypt has on its east the desert of the Sinai peninsula, where locusts would not normally be found.Ibn Ezra explains that "in Biblical Hebrew, the directions are oriented to an observer facing the sunrise. East is (etymologically) the direction that is before you and west direction that is behind you (see Job 23:8), so the 'east' wind here is literally the 'front' wind." He adds, commenting to verse 16, that "a 'west' wind in Biblical Hebrew is literally a 'sea' wind, referring to the Mediterranean Sea". Rashi comments that "the east wind comes towards Egypt, as Egypt was southwest of Israel". Nahum Sarna suggests that "here, as in 14:21, it may signify the south wind that blows in from the Sahara, since Egypt was oriented southward to the source and headwaters of the Nile. The kadim is often used in the Bible as the instrument of G-d without any directional implication." We don't know exactly where the wind came from to bring in the locusts, or where the wind came from to take them out of Egypt again. The narrative simply tells us that HaShem caused first wind to bring them from one direction and the second one from the opposite direction.
In the well-known vision of the Valley of the Dry Bones, the prophet Ezekiel is told first to prophesy to the bones. As he prophesies the word of the L-rd over the bones - "Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the L-RD" (Ezekiel 37:5-6, ESV) - the bones rattle, come together and are covered with sinew and flesh, but there is no breath in them. Then G-d tells the prophet to prophesy a second time: "Then He said to me, "Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the L-rd G-D: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live." So I prophesied as He commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army" (vv. 9-10, ESV). From which direction does the wind come? All and none! The words of the prophecy say "from the four winds", a common biblical phrase meaning "from everywhere, all directions", implying that nowhere is too far, but the report of its fulfillment simply says "and the breath came into them" without specifying a direction. Ezekiel doesn't comment about being in a whirlwind, of great atmospheric disturbance or the dust and sand being swirled up. The breath (Hebrew word , singular) simply came from the four winds (Hebrew word , plural) and blew () into the dead bodies. The prophet didn't know where it came from or where it was going; but it breathed life into the bones.
Commenting on the verse "Awake, north wind, and come, south wind! Blow on my garden, that its fragrance may spread abroad" (Song 4:16, NIV), the rabbis discuss how the wind cannot blow from opposite directions at the same time in this age: "Rabbi Huna said in the name of Rabbi Joshua ben Rabbi Benjamin ben Levi: In this world when the south wind blows the north wind does not blow, and when the north wind blows the south wind does not blow. But in the time to come God will bring a strong clearing wind on the world and drive on the two winds together so that both will be in action, as it is written, 'I will say to the north, "Give up" and to the south, "Do not withhold"' (Isaiah 43:6, ESV)" (Song of Songs Rabbah 4.32). Once again, there is the clear idea that both now and in the future, G-d is in control of the wind which He uses to bring life and accomplish His purposes.
Late one evening in Jerusalem during the feast of Pesach, a Pharisee - possibly a member of the Sanhedrin, but certainly with authority and a teaching role among the Jewish people - came to Yeshua privately to find out who He was and what was going on. Picking up Ezekiel's vision - of the slain being given new life, having new bodies, in effect being born again - Yeshua tells Nicodemus, "The wind blows where it wants to, and you hear its sound, but you don't know where it comes from or where it's going. That's how it is with everyone who has been born from the Spirit" (John 3:8, CJB).
The wind is intangible, in that it cannot be seen or touched; neither can its exact movements be predicted or controlled. Its effect, however, can be seen, felt, measured and focused. So it is, Yeshua says, with those who are born of the Spirit; the Spirit moves in them as He wills, giving gifts (1 Corinthians 12:11), empowering, protecting, enabling and teaching. We cannot control the Holy Spirit; He comes and goes as He wills, as He is sent by the Father, but His effects are clearly seen in each of us as we manifest His power and grace in our lives. Conversely, Yeshua's words also point to a vital truth: everyone who is born of the Spirit will manifest some measure of the power and character of G-d in their lives. If we are now exactly the same as we were before we came to know Him, then put quite simply, we have not been born again. Rav Sha'ul said: "If the Spirit of Him who raised Yeshua from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Messiah Yeshua from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you" (Romans 8:11, ESV). The life of the kingdom can and must be seen in us as He moves and directs. If we are to see G-d move and bring His wind, the power of His Spirit, to sweep through this land, we must lift up our staff, the sign of authority we have been given and - pointing to what G-d is doing - obediently release whatever He wants to do in our lives and the lives around us.
Further Study: Psalm 105:34-45; Psalm 104:30; Jeremiah 33:22; John 5:21
Application: Are you prepared for G-d to move in and through your life like a mighty wind? G-d is moving in these days and wants to use each one of us. Speak to the Chief Meteorologist today and check your weather forecast!
© Jonathan Allen, 2012
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