The word tza•fon is more than just a mere direction. The root of this word is tza•fan, which means code, encode, cypher (or cipher).
The connection between ‘north’ and ‘code’ is very apparent in the Bible and plays a major role in prophecy. Many prophecies, especially Jeremiah’s and Isaiah’s prophecies of wrath, (in English they are noted sometimes as doom prophecies) speak about the direction from which the evil will come. It is always the north. The nature of the evil is spoken in general terms such as evil or smoke.
“Howl, O gate; cry, O city; you, the entire Philistia, melt in fear; for there shall come from the north a smoke”
“Then the Lord said to me, ‘Out of the north an evil shall break forth upon all the inhabitants of the land'”
The details of the evil often remain undisclosed, encoded in the north, and this is the heart of the connection between the two words. The evil is mentioned in grave, catastrophic magnitude:
“Raise up a standard toward Zion; flee, do not stay; for I will bring evil from the north, and a great destruction”
The danger comes also metaphorically:
“And I looked, and, behold, a stormy wind came from the north, a great cloud, and a fire flaring up, and a brightness was around it, out of its midst, as the color of amber, out of the midst of the fire”
A great example for the code-north connection is found in the mere name of the prophet, Zephaniah, which means ‘God’s encoding.’ This prophet gives a partial clue about the identity of the evil north that will eventually be punished:
“And he will stretch out his hand against the north, and destroy Assyria; and will make Nineveh a desolation, and dry like a wilderness”
The mysterious identity of the northern evil is still playing a major role in current prophetic writings.