THE CLIMATE OF BIBLE LANDS
by Wayne S.Walker
"So Moses sent them to spy out the land of Canaan, and said to them, ‘Go up this way into the South, and go up to the mountains, and see what the land is like: whether the people who dwell in it are strong or weak, few or many; whether the land they dwell in is good or bad; whether the cities they inhabit are like camps or strongholds’" (Numbers 13:17-19). Moses sent the twelve spies into Canaan to "see what the land is like." Their primary interest was in the strength of the people and the prosperity of the country. However, when we think about moving and go to "see what the land is like," one of the things that we are interested in is the climate.
Palestine is situated between the Arabian Desert on the east and the Mediterranean Sea on the west. As here in North America, the prevailing winds are westerly. However, an occasional east wind, called the Sirocco, brings hot, dry, dust-laden air from off the desert. It absorbs what little moisture there is so that all vegetation wilts. In Pharaoh’s dream, it was an east wind that blasted the grain (Genesis 41:23). It was an east wind that parted the Red Sea (Exodus 14:21). It was an east wind that killed Jonah’s gourd plant (Jonah 4:8).
As a result of these occasional east winds, droughts and famines have always been and still are very common in that part of the world (Genesis 12:10; Ruth 1:1; Acts 11:27-28). Also, the east wind can bring a plague of locusts, since they lay their eggs in the desert where they hatch (Exodus 10:13-19). Such plagues still occur as they did in Bible times. W. M. Whitewell wrote in the Pictorial Bible Dictionary: "A plague of locusts in the Jordan Valley in 1959 is described, reminding us of the ravages prophesied in the Scriptures (Joel 1:4; Nah. 3:15; Rev. 9:3, 7)" (p. 376).
However, because of the prevailing westerly winds coming over the Mediterranean Sea, rain almost always arrives from the west. In 1 Kings 18:41-46, after three years and six months of drought, it was to the west of Mt. Carmel, toward the sea, that Elijah told his servant to look for rain. Also, Jesus said, "When you see a cloud rising out of the west, immediately you say, ‘A shower is coming,’ and so it is" (Luke 12:54).
If I were to attempt to write a novel that would be set in some far-off land to which I had never been or long past time when I was not alive, I might study all the available information about the climate of that place and time so as to be as accurate as I could in what I wrote. However, without experiencing the weather myself, I might miss some small detail that only people familiar with the territory would have any way of knowing. These kinds of mistakes are fairly common in books written by mere men.
Yet, there are no examples of such inaccuracies in the Bible. In whatever locale a Bible story is set and whenever any description of climate conditions is given, the actual weather of that place confirms the statements found in the Bible. This, of course, does not prove the Bible to be inspired. However, it does show the Bible to be accurate. If it is accurate in details such as this, then we can be more assured in our accepting its claim to be the word of God. "I will delight myself in Your statutes; I will not forget Your word" (Psalm 119:16). (—taken from With All Boldness; January, 1996; Vol. 6, No. 1; p. 8; and September, 1996; Vol. 6, No. 9; p. 20)