Ask ye of the Lord rain in the time of the latter rain
There was the former and the latter rain, of which see ( Hosea 6:3 ) ( Joel 2:23 ) . The former rain was in autumn, a little before or about seed time; the latter was in the spring, and a little before harvest, which is here referred to. So Hesiod F7 calls those rains the autumnal and vernal rains; and between these two rains there was seldom any more. Jerom says
F8 that he never saw in the eastern countries, especially in Judea, any rain at the end of the month of June, or in July; and now, at Aleppo, a little more northerly, for three or four months after May, they have scarce so much as any dew upon the ground, as Pemble on the place observes. So Dr. Shaw says F9, little or no rain falls in this climate (of Algiers and Tunis), during the summer season; and in most parts of the Sahara, particularly in the Jereede, they have seldom any rain at all. It was likewise the same in the holy land, ( Proverbs 26:1 ) where rain is accounted an unusual thing in "harvest", ( 2 Samuel 21:10 ) where it is also mentioned, "from harvest till rain dropped on them"; i.e. their rainy season fell out, as in Barbary, in the autumnal and winter months.
``The first rains (he observes) fall here some years in September, in others a month later; after which the Arabs break up their ground, in order to sow wheat, and plant beans: this commonly falls out about the middle of October.''If the latter rains fall as usual in the middle of April, (in the holy land we find they were a month sooner, ( Joel 2:23 ) .) the crop is reckoned secure; the harvest coming on in the latter end of May, or in the beginning of June, according to the heat and quality of the preceding seasons: wherefore, since there was so little rain fell in these countries, and particularly in Judea; if these former and latter rains failed, a scarcity followed; for, for want of the former rain, the earth was hard, and not easily ploughed up; and for want of the latter the grain withered away in the blade, and did not ear, at least did not produce ears plump and good; so that these rains were great temporal blessings, and to be asked for, as they were by the Jews, when they were wanted; and for which they appointed fasts F11, and were emblems of spiritual blessings here designed; for rain here is not to be literally understood, but mystically and spiritually; and designs either the love and favour of God, and the comfortable discoveries of it; see ( Proverbs 16:15 ) ( 19:12 ) which may be compared to rain in its original; it is from above, from on high, it comes from heaven; it is not owing to anything in man, but to the will of God; and is distinguishing, as rain falls on one city, and not on another; in its objects, undeserving persons, as rain is sent on the just and unjust; in its manner of communication, it tarries not for the will and works of men; it comes at times in great abundance, and the discoveries of it are to be asked for; in its effects, it softens and melts the heart into evangelical repentance; it cools and extinguishes the flaming wrath of a fiery law in the conscience; it refreshes and revives the drooping spirit, and makes the barren soul fruitful: or the blessings of grace in general may be meant; these are from above, depend on the will of God; are to be sought after, and asked for; are free grace gifts; are given largely and plentifully, and make fruitful: or the coming of Christ in the flesh in particular is intended; see ( Hosea 6:3 ) who came down from heaven; is a free gift of God to men, was sought after, and greatly desired, and to be desired, by the Old Testament saints, and very grateful to such when he came. This may also be applied to his spiritual coming in his power and kingdom in the latter day, which is to be earnestly wished and prayed for, ( Psalms 72:7 Psalms 72:8 Psalms 72:16 ) or else the Gospel may be designed; see ( Deuteronomy 32:2 ) ( Isaiah 55:10 Isaiah 55:11 ) this is of God, and from above; comes and falls upon the sons of men, according to divine direction; softens hard hearts, when it becomes effectual; comforts the souls of God's people; is a blessing to be desired, and asked for; and will be enjoyed in great plenty in the latter day: [so] the Lord shall make bright clouds;
by which may be meant the ministers of the Gospel, who are of God's making, and not man's: these may be compared to "clouds" for their number, especially as they will be in the latter day; and for their moving to and fro, to communicate spiritual knowledge: and to "bright" ones, such as from whence lightning springs, thunderclouds, full of water; (the same word is used for lightning, ( Job 38:25 ) ;) because full of Gospel truths, and because of that clear light they diffuse to others: and give them showers of rain:
productive, under a divine influence, of large conversions among Jews and Gentiles: to everyone grass in the field:
on whom these showers fall with efficacy, and a divine blessing; everyone of these have a spiritual knowledge of Christ, faith in him, repentance towards God, food and fulness of it; and are filled with the fruits of righteousness, or good works, to the glory of God; see ( Isaiah 55:10 ) . The Targum is,
``that he may give to them (the children of men) corn to eat, and grass to the beasts in the field;''taking the words literally.
F7 Opera & Dies, l. 2.
F8 Comment. in Amos iv. 7. fol. 39. F.
F9 Travels, p. 136, 137. Ed. 2.
F11 Misn. Taanith, c. 1. sect. 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.