Let us now fear the LORD our God, Who gives rain, both the former and the latter, in its season.
The Weather Channel provides a valuable service by forecasting storms and their likely severity. Because of the changeable weather in the United States, TWC gives up-to-the-minute data about what’s ahead and how to plan for it.
The weather in Israel is more predictable than here in the States. Israel has a long, dry summer with cloudless skies from April to October. This is followed by a cooler, wetter winter from November to March. The Bible describes this as a dry season followed by a rainy season, which begins with the former rains and ends with the latter rains. With all of winter being wet, is there any difference between rain that begins the season and rain that ends the season?
Yes, there is. The rains differ in importance. The latter rains of March and April are of “far more importance to the country than all the rains of the winter months.” These rains “serve to swell the grain then coming to maturity.” The latter rains come at the right time to stimulate the growth of grass and grain.
Ask the LORD for rain in the time of the latter rain. The LORD will make flashing clouds; He will give them showers of rain, grass in the field for everyone (Zech.10:1).
Both rains are essential, however. The former rain beginning in October loosens the soil hardened during the summer. Once the soil is softened, farmers plow and plant. “The sowing began after the Feast of Tabernacles (the end of October and in November), in the time when the autumn rains come gradually, thus leaving the farmer time to sow his wheat and barley.”
The yoreh (former) and the malgosh (latter) rains are mentioned eight times in the Bible. The words former and latter rains are stated together in four scriptures (Deut. 11:14, Jer. 5:24, Joel 2:23 and James 5:7). The latter rains are referred to in Jer. 3:3, Prov. 16:15, Job 29:23. The former rains are not cited alone as they are less significant in the agricultural cycle. Both rains are necessary, however.
Then I will give you the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the latter rain, that you may gather in your grain, your new wine, and your oil. And I will send grass in your fields for your livestock, that you may eat and be filled (Deut. 11:14-15).
Be glad then, you children of Zion, and rejoice in the LORD your God; for He has given you the former rain faithfully, and He will cause the rain to come down for you—the former rain, and the latter rain in the first month. The threshing floors shall be full of wheat, and the vats shall overflow with new wine and oil (Joel 2:2-3).
Were women affected by the rainfall pattern?
I believe women then felt a lifting of spirits when the rainy season ended just as many of us do today. A number of online references discuss Seasonal Affective Disorder, which is a feeling of listlessness associated with insufficient sunlight. This mild depression ends when the sun shines again and gloomy weather is over. Scripture doesn’t discuss mood swings linked to sunlight, but Solomon comes close when he talks about rejoicing when the rainy season was over.
For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land. The fig tree puts forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grapes give a good smell. Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away! (Song of Solomon 2:11)
TWC reports that spring is a great time to visit Israel. “During February and the beginning of March, the entire country seems to turn green from the winter rains, and the wildflower displays in the Galilee and the Golan regions are truly spectacular.”
Women were busy with food preparation in the summer. Some portions of harvested grain were parboiled and stored for later use. Lentils and legumes were dried and put away. Women processed fruit, beginning with apricots and plums in May through grapes and figs in early September. Fruit was dried and threaded on strings, boiled into syrup, made into wine, and pressed into cakes.
Milk and cream became available in spring. Women fermented milk into a drink and boiled cream to make clarified butter for cooking. They made cheeses from curdled milk and hardened them in the sun.
In hot weather, women dried reeds for weaving into baskets and mats. They dried flax stalks for making linen and sun-bleached the finished material.
The ending of the rainy season changed some family patterns. Shepherds, who kept their flocks close to home in the winter, moved them out to graze on “wilderness pasture” in the hills. They camped out with the sheep while grass was available and the weather was dry (Luke 2:8). As David’s experience show, shepherds were separated from their families periodically (1 Sam.16:11, 17:15, 17:34-35).
On a sober note, the kings of ancient Israel went to war when the rain was over (2 Sam.11:1). The ground was dry enough by then for soldiers to march. Men could find grass for their horses and early fruit and grain for themselves. I believe Israelite women felt the same anxiety that women have always felt when their men leave for war. Some of the battles in Israel were epic—thousands killed, leaving thousands of widows and children.
Weather is a powerful influence. It’s reassuring to know that eventually it will all be good. ♦ Mary Hendren
 The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary, “Rain,” p. 1061
 Easton’s Bible Dictionary, “Rain,” BibleStudyTools.com
 The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary, “Agriculture,” p. 34
 The Weather Channel online, “Best Time to Visit Israel”