On several occasions in the Bible is the importance of a normal rainfall regime for the success of agricultural crops (i.e., an appropriate seasonal distribution of rainfall) clearly stated; rain in the wrong season is useless, at times even harmful.

I will grant your rains in their season, so that the earth shall
yield its produce and the trees of the field their fruit.
 (Lev. 26:4)

“The Lord will open for you His bounteous store, the heavens, to provide rain for your land in season, and to bless all your undertakings. You will be creditor to many nations, but debtor to none.” (Deut. 28:12)

“...I will send down the rain in its season, rains that bring blessing. The trees of the field shall yield their fruit, and the land shall yield its produce. “(Ezek. 34:26-27)

In the Land of Israel, the first showers, known as the yoreh, fall intermittently in October and November. They soften the soil, which is hardened and cracked from the summer, and permit farmers to begin plowing and sowing. The rain increases from December through February, with about seventy percent of the year's rain normally falling in these months. The final showers, known as malkosh ("late rain") come in April or early May, right before the final burst of growth of the grain and are crucial for its maturation. If the early or late rains come too soon or are delayed, this can unduly lengthen or shorten the growing season and stunt the growth of the grain, impede the harvest or cause it to rot. The importance of the first and last rains (yoreh and malkosh) is emphasized in several sources:

“I will grant the rain for your land in season, the early rain and the late. You shall gather in your new grain and wine and oil.” (Deut 11:14)

“They have not said to themselves, ‘Let us revere the Lord our God who gives the rain, the early and late rain in season, who keeps for our benefit the weeks appointed for harvest.’” (Jer. 5:24)

Mention is also made of the local nature of rainfall, expressed in Erez Yisrael particularly at the beginning and end of the rainfall season.

“I therefore withheld the rain from you three months before harvest time;
I would make it rain on one town and not on another.
One field would be rained upon while another on which it did not rain would wither...”
(Amos 4:7)

Droughts, on the other hand, herald catastrophe in an agricultural economy. A moving description of the results of droughts is found in the book of Jeremiah.

The word of the Lord which came to Jeremiah concerning the droughts:
Judah is in mourning, her settlements languish.
Men are bowed to the ground, and the outcry of Jerusalem rises.
Their nobles sent their servant for water;
They came to the cisterns, they found no water.
They returned, their vessels empty.
They are shamed and humiliated, they cover their heads.
Because of the ground there is dismay,
For there has been no rain on the earth.
The plowmen are shamed, they cover their heads.
Even the hind in the field forsakes her newborn fawn,
because there is no grass.
And the wild asses stand on the bare heights,
Snuffing the air like jackals;
Their eyes pine, because there is no herbage. (Jeremiah 14:1-6)

Late and strong rains at the beginning of June are as rare and notable nowadays as they were at the time of Samuel. “Now stand by and see the marvelous things that the Lord will do before your eyes. It is the season of the wheat harvest, I will pray to the Lord and He will send thunder and rain; then you will take thought and realize what a wicked thing you did in the sight of the Lord when you asked for a king...” (I Samuel 12:16-18).

Similarly, three consecutive drought years in the region of Samaria are as rare and notable in this past century (1931/2, 1932/3, 1933/4), as they were at the time of Elijah and King Ahab. “Much later, in the third year [of the drought], the word of the Lord came to Elijah: ‘Go appear before Ahab; then I will send rain upon the earth.” (I Kings 18:1)

References to rain in the Talmud and midrashic literature

RAIN Table of Contents



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