I made one huge mistake in my last trip to Jerusalem, in January: I didn’t bring a heavy enough coat. As an American, I tend to think of Israel as a hot place– and indeed it is much of the time. Tel Aviv rarely gets below freezing and even in the winter the overnight lows tend to be in the forties. Jerusalem is in the mountains and tends to be a bit colder than Tel Aviv– as I found out– and it snows there with accumulations every few years. This January, Jerusalem was blanketed by nearly eight inches of powder! In the far north of Israel, on Mount Hermon in the Golan Heights, it even snows enough for a ski resort.
With my eyes opened to snow in the land of Israel, my second though turned to snow in the bible. I couldn’t remember even a single bible story that involved snow. Seeing this as a challenge, I set about to research everywhere that snow appears in the bible. And it does appear: twenty-seven times in the Hebrew Bible– most often in the Book of Job– and three more in the New Testament. While it factors directly in only one bible side-story, the way that it is used as an image or metaphor in different parts of the bible display a beautiful complexity.
This first part covers the very first mentions of snow in the Torah and how the metaphor of snow started as one of impurity ultimately transitioned to one of purity. Additional posts will follow. It’s exciting! Read on for more.