Select Page

Interpreting Interpreter
Spiritual Wind

This post is a summary of the article ““Upon the Wings of His Spirit”: A Note on Hebrew rûaḥ and 2 Nephi 4:25” by Matthew L. Bowen in Volume 58 of Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship. An introduction to the Interpreting Interpreter series is available at


The Takeaway

Bowen suggests that Nephi used poetic language from Psalms to describe being carried away “upon the wings of his Spirit”, with the word “spirit” potentially using the Hebrew word rûaḥ, which is often translated as “wind.”


The Summary

In this article, Matthew L. Bowen provides a brief exploration of 2 Nephi 4:25, wherein Nephi describes being carried away “upon the wings if his Spirit”. As part of a psalm composed after the death of Lehi, Bowen suggests that this passage might rely on the Hebrew word rûaḥ, which can be translated as “breath,” “wind,” or “spirit,” depending on the context. In Genesis, that context is the imagery of a protective mother bird hovering over its young, imagery that helps clarify the use of the term “wings” as a method of spiritual conveyance. Psalms and elsewhere in the Bible uses similar language, including the phrase “upon the wings of the wind” to describe means of divine travel (e.g., Yahweh’s means of transport). This language also anchors an inclusio in Nephi’s vision of the Tree of Life.

In Nephi’s psalm, the use of the word “his” may have allowed for a more personal interpretation, making it clear the term should be translated as “Spirit.” Nephi goes on to detail his experience with this Spirit, which could either be the Holy Ghost or the premortal Christ. This may be connected to Nephi’s understanding of the Messiah in 2 Nephi 25, who’s described as having “healing in his wings,” and may also reflect language from the Book of Moses as contained in the Brass Plates. As Bowen concludes:

“Nephi’s poetic description of having his body carried “upon the wings of [the Lord’s] Spirit” is quite at home in ancient Israelite psalms, including Nephi’s psalm, and within a corpus of biblical and ancient Near Eastern iconographs and descriptions of divine travel.”


The Reflection

Bowen’s brief analysis helps us better understand Nephi’s visionary experiences, and places them in the context of others who’ve been similarly “carried away” in the Spirit. I find it interesting that this appears to be such a common element of communing with the divine, and that it tends to involve being taken to high mountains. It strikes me that scaling a truly high mountain would’ve probably been a rare experience in the ancient world—except for the lucky few who lived very close to mountainous areas, looking out to see the wide expanse of the world below would’ve been a unique and truly awe-inspiring sight. It’s hard to think of a better way to instill respect for the power of the divine, and to prepare someone to receive revelation in humility. Those experiences would also double as a powerful metaphor for spanning the distance between mortality and divinity, and for expanding one’s vision of the truth. Though we may never have the Spirit carry us away in that fashion, each of us can strive to feel a similar connection to the divine, feeling the power of Christ’s wings as they work to carry us home.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This