In Scriptural usage “north” may denote a section of the earth (Ps. 107:3; Isa. 43:6; Luke 13:29), a northerly direction (Ex. 26:20; 1 Ki. 7:25; Rev. 21:13), the northern sky (Job 26:7) and various lands or kingdoms (including Assyria [Zeph. 2:13] and Chaldea or Babylonia [Jer. 46:10]) that were situated somewhat N and E of the land inhabited by the Israelites. Though Babylon on the Euphrates River actually lay E of Tyre, Ezekiel 26:7 speaks of the king of Babylon as coming against Tyre from the N. Likewise, the calamity that Judah and Jerusalem were to experience from the Babylonians is referred to as coming “out of the north.” (Jer. 1:14, 15) The reason for this appears to be that, when marching westward, the Babylonian armies took a northerly route and thus avoided passing through the desert. This was, in fact, the customary way, as Babylonian records show.
Since various lands and kingdoms are assigned a northern location, the context and other related scriptures are often helpful in determining what is meant by “north” or “land of the north.” For example, Isaiah 21:2, 9 and Daniel 5:28 show that the nations from the “land of the north” mentioned at Jeremiah 50:9 include the Medes, Persians and Elamites. Apparently the nations attacking Babylon are viewed as a united army or common foe of Babylon, “a congregation.” Many of the nations involved were far N of Babylon (Jer. 51:27, 28), and much of Media was at least NE of Babylon. The attack, too, evidently came from a northern direction, since Cyrus stopped the flow of the river N of the city.
“THE KING OF THE NORTH”
Facts of history provide still another basis for determining how “north” is to be understood in some texts. A case in point is the “king of the north” mentioned in Daniel chapter 11. Historical evidence indicates that the “mighty king” of Daniel 11:3 was Alexander the Great. After Alexander’s death, the empire was eventually divided among his four generals. One of these generals, Seleucus Nicator, took Mesopotamia and Syria, this making him the ruler of territory situated N of Palestine. Another general, Ptolemy Lagus, gained control of Egypt, to the SW of Palestine. Therefore, with Seleucus Nicator and Ptolemy Lagus the long struggle between the “king of the north” and the “king of the south” began. However, the prophecy concerning the “king of the north” extends from the time of Seleucus Nicator down to the “time of the end.” (Dan. 11:40) Logically, then, the national and political identity of the “king of the north” would change in the course of history. But it would still be possible to determine his identity on the basis of his relationship to the original “king of the north.”—See the book “Your Will Be Done on Earth,” pp. 220-307.