We are at the season of the year that we call “winter”! On December 21 of 2016 winter officially comes although winter weather may arrive in certain parts of the country as early as October or even September. In other parts of the Northern Hemisphere, the cold temperatures of winter may arrive in September and not depart until about March or April of 2017. We also know that in the Southern Hemisphere, the seasons are completely reversed.
We may think of winter in terms of the modern age, but the seasons go back as far as the flood of Noah. After this patriarch disembarked from the great ark, God said:
While the earth remains,
Seedtime and harvest,
And cold and heat,
And summer and winter,
And day and night
Shall not cease.
Therefore, winter and the “cold” of winter must be dated back to the time of the great deluge in which the entire world was submerged under water for about a year. At that time, apparently the weather patterns were established. However, at this particular time, many Christian-oriented scientists would say that there was an “ice age” across the northern part of America, Europe, and Asia. This may have lasted for several hundred years, perhaps close to the time of Abraham, after which temperatures once again rose to more comfortable levels.
Although the land of Israel is much warmer than many other parts of the world, we do read various references to the cold of winter. Job speaks in this fashion:
Like the torrents of wadis which vanish,
Which are turbid because of ice
And into which the snow melts. (Job 6:15-16).
Here reference is made to both ice and snow. This would show that cold weather sometimes would come on this area of the Bible lands. (See also Job 24:19; 37:6; 38:29 and Psalm 147:16-17; 148:8). God Himself asks Job: “Have you entered the storehouses of the snow, or have you seen the storehouses of the hail?” (38:22). Today we have discovered that indeed snow is valuable, thus we see the importance of the “storehouses of the snow.”
Some portions of the Biblical lands are colder than others, even though none of them would be as cold as Canada or the northern states in the United States as well as Northern Europe or Russia. Think of Siberia with its prolonged frigid winter months! Mount Lebanon was a high mountain to the north of Israel in Lebanon and this provided the headwaters of the Jordan River. God asks, “Does the snow of Lebanon forsake the rock of the open country?” (18:14a). This mountain would have been the highest (and evidently the coldest) portion of the country of Lebanon.
Even when ice and snow are not mentioned, we do have references to the winter and the cold of winter. We noticed that after the flood, “summer and winter” would not cease (Genesis 8:22).The psalmist says to God, “You have made summer and winter” (Psalm 74:17b). Although winter would not be as freezing as certain other places, still those in the Biblical lands did experience a touch of this cold season (Song of Solomon 2:11; Zechariah 14:8).
The Gospels don’t mention ice or snow, but they do mention the winter. Jesus speaks of fleeing Jerusalem during the winter at the time of Rome’s invasion (Matthew 24:20; Mark 13:18). Just today, in my regular Scripture reading, I noticed that it was “winter” when Jesus “was walking in the temple in the portico of Solomon” (John 10:23). Apparently even the Lord experienced the cold of winter! Paul the apostle also refers to the winter season (cf. Acts 27:12; 1 Corinthians 16:6; 2 Timothy 4:21; Titus 3:12). This winter weather would have reached into the Mediterranean and Southern Europe.
People in the lands of the Bible experienced some degree of coldness. Notice, for example, Job 24:7 and 37:9. We also read of a “cold day” (Proverbs 25:20 and Nahum 3:17). When Peter went into the high priest’s area to learn of Jesus’ fate, the record states that “Peter was also with them, standing and warming himself” (John 18:18b). Thus we must not think of Judea, Samaria, or Galilee of New Testament times as being tropical. They did experience the cold or cooler temperatures of winter weather.
As we “endure” the winter of this year and every year, it is good to remember that Jesus our Lord also experienced weather that was not altogether congenial and comfortable. As a carpenter, the Lord must have been exposed to the heat of summer and the coldness of winter. After working outside on a cold day, He had no warm and comfortable house to return to. Let’s remember this as we think of His incarnation and His earthly dwelling for those years in the first century.
Instead of focusing on the uncomfortable cold of winter, or the danger of ice-covered highways, let’s think of the beauty of the snow and the stark nakedness of the trees, as well as the warmth of the house, with the hot meals and warm beds! As Scripture says, summer and winter will not cease during this phase of earth history. There is a Day coming when all will be beautiful and ideal—including the weather!