Snow

SNOW (Heb. shelegh, white, telagh, white, Gr. chiōn). Snow is common in the hill country of Palestine. It never gets very deep, and it is not uncommon to have winters without any. The tops of the high mountains are covered with snow most of the year, and this becomes the source of much of the water there. It is stored in caves in the mountains in the winter for cooling beverages and for refrigeration purposes in the summer.



SNOW (שֶׁ֫לֶג, H8920; χιών, G5946). Although frequently mentioned as a symbol of refreshment or purity in the Bible (e.g. Exod 4:6; Isa 1:18), snow appears in the actual record only once: the brief reference in 2 Samuel 23:20 to Benaiah’s encounter with a lion. Mention in this context presumably indicates that the event was exceptional, not only as a feat of arms but also as a fact of climate, for although snow does fall from time to time in winter on the Judaean hills, the lion’s home would be in the Jordan valley, where snow is unknown. G. Adam Smith (1966) comments on Benaiah’s exploit: “the beast had strayed up from Jordan, and been caught in a snowstorm. Where else could lions and snow come together?” (p. 63).

Snow, then, is by no means unknown in Judaea; Jerusalem has a mean Jan. temperature of 48oF., with a daily range of some 13o. But the two areas where snowfalls are both heavy and regular are: (1) on the Lebanese mountains in the N, where Mt. Hermon rises to 9100 ft. and snow patches lie throughout the year. It was the distant view of these snows from the hot Galilean trench that prompted so much Biblical imagery; (2) on the mountains of Edom, E of the Jordan, where the land rises to over 5000 ft. (Amman in Jordan has a Jan. mean temperature of 40oF., and a daily range in that month of 7-8o.) For many Israelites, therefore, snow was better known to them as a distant prospect than as an actuality.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

(shelegh, telagh (Da 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?" (Jer 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" (1Ch 11:22; 2Sa 23:20) and the "fear of snow" (Pr 31:21) are figurative uses describing winter and cold. "Snow in summer" (Pr 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" (Ps 51:7); "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow" (Isa 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" (Da 7:9; Mt 28:3; Mr 9:3; Re 1:14).

(7) The whiteness of leprosy is compared to snow (Ex 4:6; Nu 12:10; 2Ki 5:27).

Alfred H. Joy