When I first offered my “Thoughts on Snow” way back in November (after our first snowfall up in the Great North Woods), the whole idea was to answer a couple of questions, like “Is snow mentioned in the Bible?” and “Does it snow in Israel?” As is most often the case, somewhere in the middle of the first sentence … the post went in a completely different direction, and I didn’t answer either question. Then came “Thoughts on Snow-Part 2,” and I didn’t get around to either question once again … So …
How often is snow mentioned in the Bible?
Does it snow in Israel?
We start with the second question:
Keep in mind that deserts at high latitude do get snow. Israel is on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, facing into the prevailing westerly winds, and therefore the mountainous area where Bethlehem is located can get snow, just like the Sierra Nevada out in California. While it is uncommon, it does snow in this part of Palestine, sometimes three to four days a year. At an elevation of 2,400 feet, Bethlehem is in the desert … But desert means dry, not hot. Keep in mind that there are places here in the United States, parts of Colorado, for example, which are considered “high desert,” and they have snow … lots of snow. My research about Israel showed that in January of 2002, there were several inches of snow across parts of Palestine, and Bethlehem got a large snow fall in February of 2004. Again, rare, but it happens. I understand that in December of 2006 they had a heavy snowfall, and you may remember that back in 1992, pictures of the “White Christmas” in Bethlehem were published by news media worldwide,
So, while it gets cool in winter, and certain higher altitudes near Jerusalem and Bethlehem can even see snow, this is rare, and generally limited to brief periods during December and January.
The Bible talks about snow in different ways. It speaks of snow to reference a certain time of year, it talks about snow itself (as part of Winter), it is used to describe how white something like clothing and leprosy can be, and my personal favorite, snow is used to describe how clean our sins will be when they are washed clean by Christ’s blood when we confess our sins and believe in Him as our Lord and Savior.
When I began to think about this, one of the questions I had was, “What is the first mention of “snow” in the Bible?” The answer to that is dependent upon perspective:
My first response leads me to Exodus, when Moses stood before Pharaoh, and the second sign, following Moses’ rod turning into a serpent: “And the LORD said furthermore unto him, Put now thine hand into thy bosom. And he put his hand into his bosom: and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous as snow” (Exodus 4:6).
Many Biblical Scholars believe that Job was the first book of the Bible to have been written. The book of Job contains 5 references to snow, including these:
The first is when Job compares his friends to a brook: “Which are blackish by reason of the ice, and wherein the snow is hid” (6:16); then, these references: “If I wash myself with snow water, and make my hands never so clean” (9:30); “Drought and heat consume the snow waters” (24:19); “Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow?” (38:22).
The Bible is very clear on Who makes the snow: “For he saith to the snow, Be thou on the earth” (Job 37:6;); “He giveth snow like wool” (Psalms 147:16); “Fire, and hail; snow, and vapour; stormy wind fulfilling his word” (Psalms 148:8); “For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater” (Isaiah 55:10).
As an historical reference to refer to the time of year an event occurred: “And Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, the son of a valiant man, of Kabzeel, who had done many acts, he slew two lionlike men of Moab: he went down also and slew a lion in the midst of a pit in time of snow” (2 Samuel 23:20; 1 Chronicles 11:22); and this from Psalm 68:14: “When the Almighty scattered kings in it, it was white as snow in Salmon” (a mountain near Shechem).
Proverbs uses snow in examples of wisdom: “She is not afraid of the snow for her household” (Proverbs 31:21); or lack of wisdom: “Like snow in summer and like rain in harvest, So honor is not fitting for a fool” (Proverbs 26:1). And, Jeremiah asks, “Will a man leave the snow of Lebanon?” (18:14).
In the verse from Exodus, we saw snow used to describe the effects of leprosy. There are 2 other well know examples when this happened:
To Moses’ sister, Miriam: “And the cloud departed from off the tabernacle; and, behold, Miriam became leprous, white as snow: and Aaron looked upon Miriam, and, behold, she was leprous” (Numbers 12:10).
The example of Naaman: “The leprosy therefore of Naaman shall cleave unto thee, and unto thy seed for ever. And he went out from his presence a leper as white as snow” (2 Kings 5:27).
Snow is used to exemplify white and purity, the way we look after God cleanses us from our sins: “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow” (Psalms 51:7); “Her Nazarites were purer than snow, they were whiter than milk” (Lamentations 4:7).
Of course, there are the descriptions of Jesus, where the word “snow” is used to describe both His appearance, and the color of His garments: “And his raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow; so as no fuller on earth can white them” (Mark 9:3); “His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow” (Matthew 28:3).
The Bible uses both snow and wool to represent whiteness and purity, and we will see both words used in a recorded description of Jesus’ appearance:
“Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1:18); “I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool” ( Daniel 7:9); “His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire” (Revelation 1:14).
There is another important similarity between snow and wool. Both snow and wool act as insulators. The World Book Encyclopedia says: “Wool . . . insulates against both cold and heat.” And of snow, World Book notes that it, too, “serves as a good insulator. Snow helps protect plants and hibernating animals from the cold winter air.”
So, the next time you watch the snow falling from the sky, you may want to think of God’s awesome power. Or you may choose to think of the gentle protection he provides as he spreads a white blanket over his creation, much the way a loving parent might tuck a child safely into bed.
Blessings to you, and your family,
Richard. Vincent. Rose.