Have you ever thought how different the stories of the Bible would be if the Bible lands had been located in Florida or Brazil?  The weather was a huge influence on the lives of people who lived in the days when the Bible was being written, where water was scarce and the dry winds could be deadly for seamen and land dwellers alike.

The Israelite culture that produced the Bible was very much tied to the land. Since climate and topography play a direct role in agriculture, these are subjects of some importance in the text, despite their brevity and infrequency. Perhaps the most concise and precise description thereof is to be found in Deuteronomy 11:8-15:

Observe therefore all the commands I am giving you today, so that you may have the strength to go in and take over the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, and so that you may live long in the land that the LORD swore to your forefathers to give to them and their descendants, a land flowing with milk and honey. The land you are entering to take over is not like the land of Egypt, from which you have come, where you planted your seed and irrigated it by foot as in a vegetable garden. But the land you are crossing the Jordan to take possession of is a land of mountains and valleys that drinks rain from heaven. It is a land the LORD your God cares for; the eyes of the LORD your God are continually on it from the beginning of the year to its end. So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today – to love the LORD your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul – then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and oil. I will provide grass in the fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied. [1]

This description comprises part of a discourse given to Israel by Moses some forty years after the Exodus from Egypt, just prior to Israel’s entry into the promised land. Within that forty-year period, the Israelites had seen two entirely different types of land and climate. Egypt had been fertile, watered by the Nile River. Sinai had been desolate, its main features being a few oases.

Egypt is a land virtually devoid of rains and totally dependent upon the Nile River, whose two sources lie to the south in the highlands of Ethiopia and Uganda. Hecataeus of Miletus (c. 550 BCE-c. 480 BCE), described the situation best when he wrote that “Egypt is the gift of the river (Nile).” [2]

The waters of the river are drained off into various canals and then into smaller water channels and, finally, into the irrigation ditches. To this day, the Egyptian farmers still walk along these ditches barefoot, using the foot to build up and tear down earthen dams to control the flow of water – “irrigated by foot,” as Deuteronomy puts it. [3]

There are no large rivers in the land known in Moses’ day as Canaan and later as Israel. Rather, as we have read, it is a land of hills and valleys, dependent upon rainfall. For centuries, the major source of non-agricultural water has been the collection of rainwater in rock-hewn cisterns. [4]

The Rains

The cyclonic patterns that bring rain to Israel are the same ones that provide the summer rains in Europe. As winter appro­aches, the rainfall moves southward from Europe and settles over the Mediterranean. As the storm track passes over the Levant, it brings the former or first rains of the Bible during the latter part of October and the month of November. There is a brief lull during part of December, as the rains reach their southernmost point in equatorial Africa before returning north for the summer. As they pass over the land again, moving south to north, they bring the latter rains of the scriptures, mostly during the months of January and February and part of March. The second rains are generally heavier than the first and also last a bit longer. [5]

Occasionally, the rains will begin as early as September and they sometimes end as late as April. But, generally speaking, rain falls during only six months of the year. Moreover, about 90% of the rainfall comes during the months of November through February. [6]  This means that most of the year is dry and, consequently, vegetation is unable to survive the long hot summer and dries up when the rains have stopped. The later winter and early spring months find the hills and valleys green with grass and filled with a multitude of wildflowers. But during the rest of the year, the colors are all in the brown shades, comprising dried grasses, soil, and rocks.

Because the rains arrive first in the north and leave the north last, the south is the driest region and is where we find desert. Indeed, the Negev, meaning “dry land” originally, is often rendered “south” in the King James Bible. 

The eastern region is also drier than the western due to the “rain shadow” effect of the central mountain range. As the winter winds continue in their circuit over the Mediterranean Sea, [7] they pick up moisture from the ocean and bring it eastward over the land.  Due to the centrifugal force of the earth’s rotation eastward, the eastern end of the cyclonic pattern is already higher in the atmosphere than the western end and hence brings its moisture into contact with the colder air found at higher elevations. The central mountain range running through Lebanon and Israel, by blocking horizontal passage of the western winds, forces them still higher. 

As the moisture-laden winds become cooled, the water vapor thus carried to high altitudes condenses and precipitates in the form of rain. Most of this rain falls on the western coastal plain and on the western slopes of the mountains themselves and is thus spent before the air mass reaches the eastern slopes and the Rift Valley. The eastern regions, deprived of the majority of the rainfall, are said to be in the “rain shadow.” Consequently, the most agriculturally productive regions – those receiving the most rainfall – are to the north and the west, while the desert lies to the south and east.

During the time I lived in Jerusalem, I was always amazed at the speed with which low clouds would move across the sky and the amount of rainfall. Job 36:27-28 describes the process: “He draws up the drops of water, which distill as rain to the streams; the clouds pour down their moisture and abundant showers fall on mankind.”

Though the Judaean wilderness to the east of Israel’s central mountain range receives a smaller amount of rain, it sometimes comes in torrents, with flash floods endangering hikers and automobiles alike. (The heaviest rainfall I experienced during my 8+ years in Israel was while coming down the snake path at Massada, on the shore of the Dead Sea.) The effect on the landscape is stunning, as the parched ground begins to turn green during the early spring. One is reminded of the question posed in Job 38:25-27: “Who cuts a channel for the torrents of rain, and a path for the thunderstorm, to water a land where no man lives, a desert with no one in it, to satisfy a desolate wasteland and make it sprout with grass?” (cf. Psalm 147:8).

Effects on Pasturage

Because of the desert and steppe (semi-desert), much of the land of Israel is unsuitable for crops and hence is used as pasturage for sheep and goats. The necessity of conducting the flocks to where the grass is available has brought to the shepherds of this region of the world a nomadic lifestyle. Typically, however, their travels are regulated to follow the seasons.

In the winter-time, the nomadic Bedouin pasture their herds in the south, where grasses grow only during the very short rainy season. [8] As the rains recede northward, the southern grasses wither and dry and the Bedouin move northward, where pasturage lasts longer because of the longer rainy season. When the wild grasses disappear from the slopes of the hills, they move into the newly-harvested fields to allow their flocks to eat the stubble of grains such as wheat and barley.

Unable to dwell in permanent structures, the Bedouin carry with them their tents, made of strips of woven goat hair. These strips are attached to poles and are held in place by ropes and stakes. The goat hair swells when wet and the tent becomes impermeable to rain, thus providing excellent shelter from the winter weather. In the summer, the tent provides shade from the hot sun, while the side walls may be lifted to allow the cool afternoon breeze to pass through the tent. Isaiah 4:6 tells us of the tent that provides shade in the daytime and shelter from storm and rain.

Effects on Agriculture

During the long dry summer, the ground dries and becomes very hard. It cannot be broken with a plow. As a result, the farmer awaits the coming of the first rains to soften the soil. He then plows the ground and sows his seed before the coming of the second rains, which will bring the crops to fruition. The Bible speaks of plowing in the cold winter (Proverbs 20:4) and also of sowing after rainfall (Isaiah 30:23-25).

Grains are harvested during the summer months. Indeed, the words “harvest” and “summer” are sometimes paralleled in the Bible, showing that the terms were considered to be synonymous. In one such passage, we read that the ant, like the wise man, “stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest” (Proverbs 6:6-8). [9]

The necessity of knowing when the rains (and the resultant rise in the rivers) would be expected and when the harvest season would come gave rise to the development of the calendar in Egypt and Mesopotamia, as well as in other agricultural areas. The earliest known representation of the Hebrew calendar [10] was written in a brief list on a palm-sized stone found at the ancient site of Gezer, west of Jeru­salem. The calendar, along with its modern corres­pondences, may be outined as follows:

Text of the “Gezer Calendar”


Later Name of Jewish Month(s)


Modern Calendar


Modern Agriculture


The (2) months of harvest


Tishrei and



late September-early November


olive and grape harvest


The (2) months of sowing


Kislev and



late November to early January


plowing and sowing


The (2) months of late planting


Shebat and



late January to early March


greatest rainfall


The month of reaping flax (Abib)




late March to early April


vegetable harvest


The month of reaping barley




late April to early May


barley harvest


The month of reaping and measuring




late May to early June


wheat harvest


The (2) months of (vine-)tending




late June to early August




The month of summer(-fruit)




late August to early September


fig (summer fruit) harvest [11]

The Gezer Calendar is one of the oldest Hebrew documents known, dating roughly from the time of King David. It perhaps reflects the earliest names of the months of the year, named from agricultural pursuits. In the Bible, we find similar references, such as “the harvest time,” [12] the “wheat harvest” (Genesis 30:14.), and the “barley harvest” (2 Samuel 21:9-10).

Unlike the Bedouin, the farmer’s home is not portable, for he must remain near his planted fields. He lives in a stone house, whose thick walls keep out the heat of the summer and most of the rains of the winter. The typical Pales­tinian home (until recently, when modern technology took over) was built with a flat or slightly-domed roof. [13] On summer nights, some people like to take advantage of the breeze by sleeping on the roof.  After the harvest, some crops are spread on the flat roof for drying (cf. Joshua 2:6). Often, the roof is covered with soil that produces grass in the rainy season and is designed to prevent leaking inside the house. [14]  Nevertheless, during the heavier rains, when the farmer and his family remain indoors, they are not completely safe from the weather in such a house. The Bible speaks of the dismal nature of “a constant dripping on a rainy day” (Proverbs 27:15; cf. 19:13), such as one would expect from a leaky roof.

One of the things that most amazed me about the weather in Israel was the effect of rain on the stone terracing walls, used to hold the soil in place on the sloping hillsides. After very heavy rains or snow, parts of these walls would sometimes collapse. This is due to the nature of the shallow soil overlying the limestone bedrock. The bedrock does not allow the water to quickly penetrate to any depth (indeed, because of this the soil often retains moisture well into the summer, thus promoting the growth of crops). 

Excessive rains thus build up such tremendous pressure in the soil that the walls sometimes explode outward from the stone terraces on which the walls are built, despite the gaps in the stonework designed to let the water pass. The Bible advises using good mortar to avoid such collapses (Ezekiel 13:10-15). In regard to the building of houses, Jesus pointed out the necessity of laying a foundation on the rock rather than on the soil (Matthew 7:24-27).

Unseasonable Weather

Occasionally, there are days of unseasonable weather in Israel. One may see a brief, unexpected shower in the month of June, for example. But, as Proverbs 26:1 points out, one does not expect snow in the summer or rain in the harvest. Nevertheless, snow at the hot harvest season would be most refreshing, while clouds and wind in wintertime are deceptive if they do not produce needed rain (Proverbs 25:13-14; cf. 1 Kings 18:45). The prophet Samuel called upon the Lord to provide rain at the time of the wheat harvest in order to prove his divine calling (1 Samuel 12:17-­18). On other occasions, the rain was stopped earlier than normal (Jeremiah 3:3).

Some Biblical Stories

From time to time, the Bible provides us with some clues as to the season in which certain events took place. For example, Benaiah slew a lion during a time of snow (2 Samuel 23:20; 1 Chronicles 11:22). It was at the time of the wheat harvest that Samson pulled one of his pranks on the Philistines (Judges 15:1-24). It was at the same season that the Philistines, at least a generation later, returned the Ark of the Covenant to Israel (1 Samuel 6:13). Ruth arrived in Bethlehem from Moab at the time of the barley harvest and gleaned till the end of the wheat harvest (Ruth 1:22; 2:23).

Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well some four months before the grain harvest (John 4:35). Since he had been in Jerusalem at the Passover (John 2:23; cf. 4:3), which is only two months before the wheat harvest ends, we must consider one of three possibi­lities: 1) John has made a mistake in the timing, or 2) this event at Sychar took place in the late winter almost one year after the Passover mentioned in John 2, or 3) Jesus was merely employing a saying known to his contemporaries.

It is also possible to determine the time of year of Gideon’s battle from evidence presented in the Bible. Until the British put a stop to the practice after they took over Palestine from the Turks in 1917, the Bedouin would typically raid the villages for food at the time of harvest. They would wait until the farmers had done their work and then swoop down into the villages to carry away the processed grains, returning to their tents in the steppe and desert. The nomadic Midianites, Amalekites and children of the east did the same in the days of Gideon (Judges 6:3-6).

As a consequence, “Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites” (Judges 6:11) who would have expected to find him so doing at the threshing­floor, not the winepress. [15]   From this, we learn that Gideon led his Israelite warriors against the invaders in the summertime. [16]

One of the more interesting stories is that of Joseph’s being sold into Egypt, as recounted in Genesis 37. Jacob’s family was headquartered at Hebron, roughly 20 miles south of Jerusalem (vs. 14), when Joseph was sent to check on his brothers who were pasturing the flock at Shechem, about forty miles to the north (vss. 12-14). Because they were in the north, it must have been summertime. 

Arriving at Shechem, Joseph searched for them not in the hills, but in the field (vs. 15). This would indicate that the barley or wheat harvest had already taken place, otherwise the farmers would not have allowed the shepherds to pasture their flocks on the stubble. [17]

Joseph was told that his brothers had moved northward to Dothan (vs. 17), which is situated in a broad fertile valley suitable for grain agriculture. This, coupled with the fact that they were even farther north, would indicate that it was quite late in the summer. The lateness of the season is further indicated by the fact that the pit (Hebrew “cistern”) into which Joseph was placed was already dry because its rainwater had been used up (vss. 20, 24). Even the fact that a caravan was passing through the country (vss. 25, 28) is evidence of summertime, for such caravans do not travel in the winter rainy season, when mud can slow down the progress of the animals and make the journey difficult for the merchants. It therefore appears probable that Joseph was sold into Egypt in the month of July or August. This accords with the account in Josephus, who placed the sale of Joseph in the fall of the year, saying that Joseph=s brothers went to Shechem “as soon as their collection of the fruits was over” (Antiquities of the Jews 2.2.4).

Other Aspects of Weather

Rain is not the only source of moisture in the Holy Land. The summer also exhibits occasional condensation of dew at night (see Isaiah 18:4-6). As the afternoon/evening breeze moves in from the Mediterranean, where it has been picking up evaporated moisture during the daytime, it cools in the higher elevations and deposits its moisture on the rocks that have cooled during the evening. 

Dew-point is actually reached not long before sunrise. Gideon used the dew as a test of God’s call to him (Judges 6:36-40). After learning of King Saul’s death atop Mount Gilboa, David cursed the mountain that no dew or rain might fall upon it (2 Samuel 1:21). The spring at which Gideon had gathered his men is situated at the bottom of this mountain and is probably the same spring at which Saul’s army camped out prior to engaging the Philistines in the king’s last battle.

Early one morning in the late spring, as I was leading a group of students toward the spring from which Gideon’s men had drunk, in order to read to them the stories of Gideon and Saul, I was surprised to note that our pants, shoes and stockings were completely soaked with the dew clinging to the tall grass. Reading the two accounts of dew from the Bible was so much more meaningful that day.

Not every year is plentiful with rain and dew, however. There are years wherein moisture is sparse and the crops do not grow. Drought is a recurrent problem, particularly when there are several lean years in succes­sion. The effects of drought are described in Jeremiah 14:1-6:

This is the word of the LORD to Jeremiah concerning the drought: “Judah mourns, her cities languish; they wail for the land, and a cry goes up from Jerusalem. The nobles send their servants for water; they go to the cisterns but find no water. They return with their jars unfilled; dismayed and despairing, they cover their heads. The ground is cracked because there is no rain in the land; the farmers are dismayed and cover their heads. Even the doe in the field deserts her newborn fawn because there is no grass. Wild donkeys stand on the barren heights and pant like jackals; their eyesight fails for lack of pasture.”

Famine was known in the days of Abraham (Genesis 12:10), Isaac (Genesis 26:1), Jacob (Genesis 41-45), Elimelech (Ruth 1:1-2, 6), Elijah (1 Kings 17-18), Amos (Amos 4:7-8), and Jeremiah (Jeremiah 14:2-6). Ugaritic myths also speak of droughts in the region. Today, because of modern irrigation, such problems are minimal in the State of Israel. Nevertheless, for the Arab population of the West Bank, many of whom still depend on rainfall, years of drought can be severe for agricultural produce. Frequently, there is even rationing of water tapped by Israel from the Sea of Galilee.

Knowledge of Weather

The ancient Israelites seem to have had a good knowledge of the causes of climate and weather. In Ecclesiastes 1:6-7, we find a description of the cyclical nature of wind and of water:

The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course. All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again.

The sea, of course, evaporates and then the water vapor in the air condenses to form rain, which replenishes the rivers and streams. Precipitation in the form of snow is rare in Israel and generally does not last more than a day or two in places such as Jerusalem, Hebron and Safad, located in the mountains. Only Mount Hermon, to the north, retains snow long enough to provide reserves of water and even skiing areas. Farther north is Mount Lebanon (meaning “white place”). These two large mountains provide water to the Sea of Galilee via streams that issue forth from the ground in the form of springs. This, too, was well understood in Biblical times:

Does the snow of Lebanon ever vanish from its rocky slopes? Do its cool waters from distant sources ever cease to flow? (Jeremiah 18:14)

Many of the streams of the Middle East are seasonal in nature, flowing only during the season of rain and snow and drying up during much of the year. These are known by the term nah . al (Arabic wadi). They are described in Job 6:15-18:

But my brothers are as undependable as intermittent streams, as the streams that overflow when darkened [18] by thawing ice and swollen with melting snow, but that cease to flow in the dry season, and in the heat vanish from their channels. Caravans turn aside from their routes; they go up into the wasteland and perish.

Knowledge of climate gave rise to the calendar, as mentioned earlier. The Hebrew calendar was based essentially upon the agri­cultural cycle. Indeed, the religious holy days were most often agricultural in nature. In the month of Tishrei (late September/early October) was celebrated the feast of Taber­nacles (Hebrew Sukkot), also known as the feast of Ingathering (of grapes and olives). One of the principal features of this feast was the prayers for rain (see Zechariah 14:16-19). Even today, though Jews are scattered the world over and living in different climates, their prayers for rain are offered in the early fall, during this festival.

The feast of Passover and Unleavened Bread, com­memorating the Exodus from Egypt and the forty years of wandering, comes during the month of Nisan or Abib (late March/early April). At the conclusion of this eight-day festival, the first sheaf of grain (barley) was brought as a wave offering before the Lord, signalling the beginning of the grain harvest season or the summer. From this, fifty days are counted until the end of the harvest, when is celebrated the feast of Weeks, Hebrew Shavucot or New Testament “Pentecost,” meaning “count of fifty” (Leviticus 23:14-17).

The Four Winds

The Bible names winds of the four cardinal directions and attributes to each a special quality that corresponds to climatic reality observable in our day as well. These winds are as follows:

West Wind. This is the most common wind and one of the most welcome in the summertime. During the daytime, the land mass (mostly rock) heats up and by afternoon causes the hot air over the land to rise. Cold air from the Mediterranean basin then pushes in from the west, bringing refreshing breezes in an otherwise hot climate. The idiom rendered “the cool of the day” in Genesis 3:8 is, in the Hebrew, “the wind of the day,” meaning “the afternoon.” [19]

To the farmer, the summer morning hours are a time of reaping and of threshing. In Palestinian Arab villages, the latter process is generally achieved by allowing animals to tread the grain stalks (often towing a heavy wooden sledge behind them) in order to loosen the grains from the husks. Then, as the afternoon breeze comes in, a wooden pitchfork is used to winnow the grains by tossing the pile into the air. This allows the heavier grains to fall back to the ground, while the wind blows away the light-weight chaff. This is why we read that Boaz winnowed in the evening (Ruth 3:2). The Bible often mentions the blowing of chaff and stubble before the wind. [20]

North wind. Coming from Europe, this is the wind associated with rain. The King James Bible mistranslates the Hebrew in Proverbs 25:23 and makes it appear that the north wind drives away the rain rather than accompanying it into the area. In Job 37:9, we read that the north wind brings cold.

South wind. A wind from the south, coming off the desert – and sometimes from as far away as the Sahara desert of Egypt and Libya – brings hot dry air and a sudden calm. This wind is being forced out of the south (Egypt) by a high pressure area and moves slowly into the area over Israel, preventing the flow of the usual cool afternoon wind from the Mediterranean. It is called sharav (“heat”) by the Israelis and khamsin (“fifty”) by the Arabs, who claim that there are fifty such days each year. Such a south wind is noted in Jeremiah 4:1. 

The south wind is mentioned by Job 37:17 in the words, “You who swelter in your clothes when the land lies hushed under the south wind.” Jesus noted that, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, ‘It’s going to rain,’ and it does. And when the south wind blows, you say, ‘It’s going to be hot,’ and it is” (Luke 12:54-55).

East wind. Such a wind is abnormal and is generally quite fierce. The Bible makes frequent reference to strong, destructive east winds. [21] These can be particularly dangerous to boats on the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus twice calmed storms (Matthew 8:23-27; 14:22-34). Sudden storms such as these still occur on the Sea of Galilee and sometimes take human life. I witnessed a few such storms that produced waves more than three feet high and turned the normally blue Sea of Galilee (Lake Kinneret) to a muddy brown.


It is clear that the ancient Israelites were well aware of the causes and importance of weather in their lives. This was reflected not only in their agricultural and pastoral activities, as well as their literary references, but also in their religious festivals and calendar. 

We began our investigation into this topic by citing God’s promise of rain if Israel would obey him. We ended with mention of Jesus’ control over the storms. While we can scientifi­cally explain the causes of weather, the Bible indicates that it is God who has overall control over such forces of nature and who uses natural means to accomplish his great purposes. On occasion, he is said to use the weather to destroy the wicked and at other times to blessed the righteous (Zechariah 14:17-18). “Let us fear the LORD our God, who gives autumn and spring rains in season, who assures us of the regular weeks of harvest” (Jeremiah 5:24).

It has been said that nothing is certain but death and taxes, but the weather will always remain with us, as Genesis 8:22 explains:

As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.


[1] Cf. Deuteronomy 28:12; Leviticus 26:4. All Bible quotes are from the NIV.

[2] The saying is generally attributed to Herodotus of Halicarnassus (474 BCE – c. 430 BCE), but he and others who wrote the same were citing Hecataeus.

[3] As a result of this wading in the water, during the mid-20th century some 90% of the Egyptian fellahin (farmers) contract a disease called belherzia, carried as a parasite by snails in the Nile River waters and infected through open sores.

[4] Lime slaking of cisterns, begun in the early tenth century BCE, made it possible to store water longer and thus support a larger population.

[5] Jeremiah 3:3; 5:24; 6:24; Joel 2:23, 33; Proverbs 16:15; Job 29:23; Hosea 6:3; Zechariah 10:1; James 5:7. Note that both Joel 2:23 and Zechariah 10:1 indicate that the latter rains come in the first month; rather, it is until the first month, for little rain falls during the month of Nisan itself.

[6] Note the heavy rain during the ninth month (roughly November) in Ezra 10:9, 13.

[7] The earth is actually moving faster at the equator than at other latitudes, due to the fact that its almost 25,000-mile equatorial circumference must make the same trek in 24 hours as that made by other latitudes whose circumference is less as they approach the poles. Consequently, the air masses closest to the equator are moving more rapidly eastward than those farther from the equator. As they reach their easternmost points (e.g., when blocked by the land mass – especially mountains – or by other air masses), they then recede to the west by turning clockwise in the southern hemisphere and counter-clockwise in the northern. The rapid eastward rotation of the earth causes the eastern end of such air masses to be higher than the western ends due to centrifugal force. This is called the coreolis effect.

[8] The best reference to the sequence is given in the Song of Songs 2:11-13, where we read that the winter is past, the rain over and gone (vs. 11), flowers have appeared and the birds sang (vs. 12), the fig tree gave its green figs and the tender grapes their smell (vs. 13). See also Deuteronomy 32:2; Psalms 72:6; 147:8-9; 2 Samuel 23:4; Zechariah 10:1.

[9] Large hordes of ants are sometimes seen, moving in both directions on a long strip of ground between their home and the fields or the threshing-­floor. Note that the passage cited here is in parallelism, a poetic style in which the first line parallels the second by saying nearly the same thing. Here, then, “summer” parallels “harvest.”

[10] The Egyptian and Sumerian calendars were developed much earlier.

[11] One of the names for the “fig” in Hebrew is a word that also means “summer.”

[12] 2 Samuel 23:13; Joshua 3:15 adds that the Jordan overflows at this time, which is correct, it being when the winter snows of its source at Mt. Hermon melt.

< [13] The stone roof is domed because this permits an arch­-supported roof, wherein the stones put pressure on one another and distribute it to the walls. The lack of wood for timber and (formerly) of metal for reinforced concrete made such a roof necessary.

[14] One can still see houses of this description in the Palestinian village of Yattah (Juttah of Joshua 15:55; 21:16).

[15] The threshing-floor then, as today, comprised a plot of ground which had either been cleared of its earth, thus leaving a flat outcropping of bedrock, or tamped earth flattened to produce the same effect.

[16] These nomadic tribes would not have been so far north as the Jezreel Valley (where the story of Gideon took place) in the winter, when there was an abundance of grass in the south. Moreover, travel is more difficult in the winter because the rain turns the ground to mud.

[17] In Judges 6:3-6, 11, we read of the disastrous effect of the Midianites invading the country and allowing their flocks to graze in the fields before the grains had been harvested. Today, the region in which one can most frequently see Bedouin pasturing their flocks on the stubble of harvested grains is in the Valley of Dothan, where Joseph was sold to the passing caravan.

[18] The waters are darkened by suspended soil picked up during peak runoff.

19] In the Ugaritic texts, the language of which is closely related to Hebrew, the word rh . (= Hebrew ruah . ) meant not only “wind” (as in Hebrew and Arabic), but also “afternoon.” None of this should be construed as meaning that there really was an afternoon wind in the garden of Eden, however, nor that the garden was located in Israel. Rather, the Genesis text reflects Hebrew usage of its time, when it would have been understood to mean “after­noon” simply because it reflected the world the Israelites knew. See Genesis 24:63; Song of Songs 2:17.

[20] Job 21:18; Psalms 1:4; 35:5; 83:13; 103:15-16; Isaiah 17:13; 29:5; 41:15-16; Jeremiah 13:244; Daniel 2:35.

[21] Genesis 41:6, 23, 27; Exodus 10:13 (cf. the west wind in vs. 19); 14:21; Job 27:21; Psalm 48:7; Isaiah 27:8; Jeremiah 18:17; Ezekiel 17:10; 19:12-13; 27:26; Hosea 13:15; Jonah 4:8; Habakkuk 1:9.


2006 Meridian Magazine.  All Rights Reserved.