There are three Hebrew words used to denote the rains of different seasons,
In the Bible "early rain" signifies the rain of the autumn, ( 11:14 ) and "latter rain" the rain of spring. ( Proverbs 16:1 Proverbs 16:5 ) For six months in the year, from May to October, no rain falls, the whole land becomes dry, parched and brown. The autumnal rains are eagerly looked for, to prepare the earth for the reception of the seed. These, the early rains, commence about the latter end of October continuing through November and December. January and February are the coldest months, and snow falls, sometimes to the depth of a foot or more, at Jerusalem, but it does not lie long; it is very seldom seen along the coast and in the low plains. Rain continues to fall more or less during the month of March it is very rare in April. Robinson observes that there are not, at the present day, "any particular periods of rain or succession of showers which might be regarded as distinct rainy seasons. The whole period from October to March now constitutes only one continued season of rain, without any regularly-intervening term of prolonged fine weather. Unless therefore, there has been some change in the climate, the early and the latter rains, for which the husbandman waited with longing, seem rather to have implied the first showers of autumn--which revived the parched and thirsty soil and prepared it for the seed --and the later showers of spring, which continued to refresh and forward both the ripening crops and the vernal products of the fields." ( James 5:7 ; Proverbs 16:15 )
ran (maTar, Arabic (?), maTar, "rain" geshem, "heavy rain" moreh, "early rain," yoreh, "former rain," malqosh, "latter rain"; brecho, huetos):
1. Water-Supply in Egypt and Palestine:
In Egypt there is little or no rainfall, the water for vegetation being supplied in great abundance by the river Nile; but in Syria and Palestine there are no large rivers, and the people have to depend entirely on the fall of rain for water for themselves, their animals and their fields. The children of Israel when in Egypt were promised by Yahweh a land which "drinketh water of the rain of heaven" (Deuteronomy 11:11). Springs and fountains are found in most of the valleys, but the flow of the springs depends directly on the fall of rain or snow in the mountains.
2. Importance of Rain in Season:
The cultivation of the land in Palestine is practically dry farming in most of the districts, but even then some water is necessary, so that there may be moisture in the soil. In the summer months there is no rain, so that the rains of the spring and fall seasons are absolutely essential for starting and maturing the crops. The lack of this rain in the proper time has often been the cause of complete failure of the harvest. A small difference in the amount of these seasonal rains makes a large difference in the possibility of growing various crops without irrigation. Ellsworth Huntington has insisted on this point with great care in his very important work, Palestine and Its Transformation. The promise of prosperity is given in the assurance of "rain in due season" (Leviticus 26:4 the King James Version). The withholding of rain according to the prophecy of Elijah (1 Kings 17:1) caused the mountain streams to dry up (1 Kings 17:7), and certain famine ensued. A glimpse of the terrible suffering for lack of water at that time is given us. The people were uncertain of another meal (1 Kings 17:12), and the animals were perishing (1 Kings 18:5).
3. Amount of Rainfall:
Palestine and Syria are on the borderland between the sea and the desert, and besides are so mountainous, that they not only have a great range of rainfall in different years, but a great variation in different parts of the country.
The amount of rain on the western slopes is comparable with that in England and America, varying from 25 to 40 inches per annum, but it falls mostly in the four winter months, when the downpour is often very heavy, giving oftentimes from 12 to 16 inches in a month. On the eastern slopes it is much less, varying from 8 to 20 inches per annum. The highest amount falls in the mountains of Lebanon where it averages about 50 inches. In Beirut the yearly average is 35,87 inches. As we go South from Syria, the amount decreases (Haifa 27,75, Jaffa 22,39, Gaze 17,61), while in the Sinaitic Peninsula there is little or none. Going from West to East the change is much more sudden, owing to the mountains which stop the clouds. In Damascus the average is less than 10 inches. In Jerusalem the average for 50 years is 26,16 in., and the range is from 13,19 in 1870 to 41,62 in 1897. The yearly records as given by J. Glaisher and A. Datzi in Palestine Exploration Fund Quarterly from 1861 to 1910, 50 years, are given in the accompanying table.
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