hwurl'-wind (cuphah (Pr 1:27; 10:25; Isa 5:28; 17:13; 66:15; Ho 8:7; Am 1:14; Nab 1:3), ca`ar (Habakkuk 3:14; Zechariah 7:14; Hosea 13:3; Psalms 58:9; Daniel 11:40), ce`arah (2 Kings 2:1; Job 38:1; 40:6; Isaiah 40:24; 41:16; Zechariah 9:14)):
When two currents from opposite directions meet, a circular motion results called a whirlwind. On the sea this takes up small particles of water from the sea and condenses some of the moisture in the clouds above, forming a great funnel-shaped column. They are quite common off the coast of Syria. Considerable damage might be done to a small ship overtaken by them. In the desert sand is taken up in the same way, causing terrible sandstorms which are greatly dreaded by caravans. Most of the references in the Bible do not necessarily imply a circular motion, and the word "tempest" might be used in translation.
Storms usually come from the Southwest. "Out of the .... south cometh the storm" (Job 37:9); yet in Ezekiel's vision he saw a whirlwind coming out of the north (Ezekiel 1:4). Elijah "went up by a whirlwind into heaven" (2 Kings 2:11). The whirlwind indicates the power and might of Yahweh:
Most of the Scriptural uses are figurative; of destruction:
"He will take them away with a whirlwind" (Psalms 58:9; Proverbs 1:27; 10:25; Hosea 13:3; Daniel 11:40; Amos 1:14; Habakkuk 3:14; Zechariah 7:14); of quickness: "wheels as a whirlwind" (Isaiah 5:28; 66:15; Jeremiah 4:13); of the anger of God: "A whirlwind of the Lord is gone forth in fury" (Jeremiah 23:19 the King James Version); of punishment to the wicked: "A continuing whirlwind .... shall fall .... on the wicked" (Jeremiah 30:23 the King James Version).
Alfred H. Joy
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