Common in Palestine in winter ( Psalms 147:16 ). The snow on the tops of the Lebanon range is almost always within view throughout the whole year. The word is frequently used figuratively by the sacred writers ( Job 24:19 ; Psalms 51:7 ; 68:14 ; Isaiah 1:18 ). It is mentioned only once in the historical books ( 2 Samuel 23:20 ). It was "carried to Tyre, Sidon, and Damascus as a luxury, and labourers sweltering in the hot harvest-fields used it for the purpose of cooling the water which they drank ( Proverbs 25:13 ; Jeremiah 18:14 ). No doubt Herod Antipas, at his feasts in Tiberias, enjoyed also from this very source the modern luxury of ice-water."
This historical books of the Bible contain only two notices of snow actually falling -- ( 2 Samuel 23:20 ) 1Macc 13:22; but the allusions in the poetical books are so numerous that there can be no doubt as to its being an ordinary occurrence in the winter months. ( Psalms 147:16 ; 148:8 ) The snow lies deep in the ravines of the highest ridge of Lebanon until the summer is far advanced and indeed never wholly disappears; the summit of Hermon also perpetually glistens with frozen snow. From these sources probably the Jews obtained their supplies of ice for the purpose of cooling their beverages in summer. ( Proverbs 25:13 ) The liability to snow must of course vary considerably in a country of such varying altitude as Palestine. At Jerusalem snow often falls to the depth of a foot or more in january or February, but it seldom lies. At Nazareth it falls more frequently and deeply,a nd it has been observed to fall even in the maritime plain of Joppa and about Carmel.
sno (shelegh, telagh (Daniel 7:9); chion):
(1) Snow is not uncommon in the winter in Jerusalem, but it never reaches any depth and in many winters it is not seen at all. It usually disappears, for the most part, as soon as the sun appears, though it may "hide itself" for a time in the gorge cut by a stream (Job 6:16). On lower levels than Jerusalem there is never sufficient to cover the ground, though often there are some flakes seen in the air. Even at sea-level there is occasionally a sufficient fall of hail to cover the ground. A very exceptional snowfall is related in 1 Macc 13:22 at Adora (near Hebron). It was heavy enough to prevent the movement of troops.
(2) The tops of the mountains of Lebanon are white with snow for most of the year, and snow may be found in large banks in the valleys and the northern slopes at any time in the summer. Mt. Hermon, 9,200 ft. high, has long streaks of snow in the valleys all the summer.
(3) The snow of the mountains is the source of the water of the springs which last throughout the drought of summer. In case the snow fails there is sure to be a lack of water in the fountains:
"Shall the snow of Lebanon fail .... or shall the cold waters that flow down from afar be dried up?" (Jeremiah 18:14).
(4) Large quantities of snow are stored in caves in the mountains in winter and are brought down to the cities in summer to be used in place of ice for cooling drinks and refrigerating purposes.
(5) God's power over the elements of Nature is often brought out in the Old Testament:
"For he saith to the snow, Fall thou on the earth" (Job 37:6); but man cannot fathom the works of God: "Hast thou entered the treasuries of the snow?" (Job 38:22). "The snowy day" (1 Chronicles 11:22; 2 Samuel 23:20) and the "fear of snow" (Proverbs 31:21) are figurative uses describing winter and cold. "Snow in summer" (Proverbs 26:1) would be most out of place, yet it might be most refreshing to the tired workmen in the time of harvest.
(6) Snow is the symbol of purity and cleanness, giving us some of our most beautiful passages of Scripture:
"Wash me and I shall be whiter than snow" (Psalms 51:7); "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow" (Isaiah 1:18). Carrying the figure farther, snow-water might be expected to have a special value for cleansing: "If I wash myself with snow-water" (Job 9:30). The most common use in Scripture is to denote whiteness in color and implying purity as well: "His raiment was white as snow" (Daniel 7:9; Matthew 28:3; Mark 9:3; Revelation 1:14).
Alfred H. Joy
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