Psalm 89:12 (KJV)

The north and the south thou hast created them: Tabor and Hermon shall rejoice in thy name.

The Psalmist apparently gives praise to the Most High God by naming a few of the elements which stand out (in his mind) in God's creation, including the directions north and south.

If he had said the 'east and west,' it would somewhat differ as these two mark off the course of the sun, which some generations worshiped and still worship, though the aspect of being 'creations' would still be unsolved.

So what sort of 'north and south,' and themselves 'creations,' are we dealing with here?


Commendably, the KJV steers you in the right direction by including the definite article "the" before "north" and "south". This is an interpretation, as the MT could be translated correctly either with or without "the" in this verse.

So, according to the KJV, it is not abstract North and South as directions, but "the north" and "the south", like the way Americans refer to "the North" and "the South", referring to either a geographical or cultural divide.

The question is then what "the north" and what "the south" the verse intends. Is it "the north country", i.e. Aram and the Lebanon, and "the south" country, i.e. Egypt and Kush, or is it north and south something else such as the north and south wind?

The context of preceding verse, 11, (KJV)

The heavens are thine, the earth also is thine: as for the world and the fullness thereof, thou hast founded them.

is the dichotomy between heaven and earth in the first half of the verse. Verse 12 continues with a dichotomy in the first half of the verse applying to the earth, "the north" and "the south". So the intent is "the north" and "the south" ends of the earth. That is, God is the creator from one end to the other, and is not localized to one land as the ancient pagans understood their gods to be localized. This is monotheistic propaganda at its best.

Note that the succession of the imagery progresses from general to specific. In verse 11, "heaven" and "earth", In the first half of verse 12, "the north" and "the south", and in the second half of verse 12, "Hermon" and "Tabor", two mountains in the land of Israel itself.

  • Thanks! As good as what I was looking for, though I wouldn't cateogorise these two divisions as 'halves' of the universe. Scriptures indicate them as being distinct 'realms,' abodes if you like, the 'north' to creatures entirely spirit & mostly the wicked--signified as iron, e.g Jer 15:12 & where Gog hails from, Ez 38:15. Whereas the 'south' is indicated as that of man.The peculiarity is, the same south is consistently rendered ''right hand'' in numerous places. It's seen in also in Ez 47:1 & 2 on the sources of 2 rivers, & in Ex 26:35 about the candlestick placement, opposed to that north.
    – Ted O
    Feb 17 '17 at 9:01
  • @TedO South is probably called yamin or teman, meaning "on the right" because it is on the right when you face east in the norther hemisphere and in the land of Israel in particular. But that usage is very early in the development of Hebrew, probably pre-Biblical. The symbolic significances of the compass directions in the later prophets are not applicable in Psalms, or in general to other OT books outside the books in which they first occur or even later books except when there is a clear allusion or reference. Feb 17 '17 at 11:31
  • ''the compass directions in the later prophets are not applicable... except when there is a clear allusion or reference''..I agree, Infact I never consider them at all until my back is against the wall, when a literal view is inescapable.
    – Ted O
    Feb 17 '17 at 11:48

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