A vital part of the cycle by which water that rises into the atmosphere as vapor from land and water surfaces of the globe later condenses and falls to the ground, thus providing moisture necessary for plant and animal life. The Bible mentions rain in connection with this wisely arranged and dependable cycle.—Job 36:27, 28; Ec 1:7; Isa 55:10.
In addition to the general words for rain, a number of Hebrew and Greek terms referring to rain have the various meanings “downpour; pouring rain” (1Ki 18:41; Eze 1:28), “steady rain” (Pr 27:15), “autumn or early rain” and “spring or late rain” (De 11:14; Jas 5:7), “gentle rain” (De 32:2), “rainstorm” (Isa 4:6), and “copious showers” (Ps 65:10).
At an early point in the history of the preparation of the earth, “God had not made it rain upon the earth,” but “a mist would go up from the earth and it watered the entire surface of the ground.” The time referred to is evidently early on the third creative “day,” before vegetation appeared. (Ge 1:9-13; 2:5, 6; see MIST.) The first instance in the Biblical record when rain is specifically mentioned as falling is in the account of the Flood. Then “the floodgates of the heavens were opened,” and “the downpour upon the earth went on for forty days and forty nights.”—Ge 7:11, 12; 8:2.
Formation. Among the questions that Jehovah put to Job, emphasizing man’s limited understanding of the forces and laws of creation and the earth, was: “Does there exist a father for the rain?” (Job 38:28) Though meteorologists have studied extensively the formation of rain, what have emerged are, as The World Book Encyclopedia says, “theories.” (1987, Vol. 16, pp. 123, 124) As warm air containing water vapor rises and cools, moisture condenses into tiny water droplets. One theory holds that as the larger droplets fall through a cloud, they collide with smaller droplets and combine with them, until they become too heavy for the air to support. Another theory proposes that ice crystals form in cloud tops where the temperature is below the freezing point and change to rain as they fall through warmer air.
Jehovah as a Source. Jehovah was no mere “rain god” for Israel. He was not like Baal, whom the Canaanites thought brought the rainy season with his awakening to life. Faithful Israelites recognized that Jehovah, not Baal, could withhold the precious rain. This was clearly illustrated when Jehovah brought a drought in Israel when Baal worship there was at its peak, in the time of the prophet Elijah.—1Ki 17:1, 7; Jas 5:17, 18.
It is Jehovah who prepared rain for the earth. (Ps 147:8; Isa 30:23) He “has divided a channel for the flood,” perhaps referring to the way in which God causes clouds to channel rain down over certain parts of the globe. (Job 38:25-27; compare Ps 135:7; Jer 10:13.) His ability to control rain in harmony with his purpose is one of the things that distinguished Jehovah from the lifeless idol gods worshiped by the nations surrounding Israel. (Jer 14:22) In the Promised Land the Israelites had even more reason to appreciate that than when they were in Egypt, where rain was very infrequent.—De 11:10, 11.
In preaching to the Greeks in Lystra, Paul and Barnabas explained that the rains served as a witness about “the living God” and a demonstration of his goodness. (Ac 14:14-17) The benefits of rain are felt not just by the good and righteous but by all people; so, Jesus pointed out, God’s love in this regard should serve as a pattern for humans.—Mt 5:43-48.
Rainfall in the Promised Land. A distinct feature of the climate of the Promised Land is its variety as to rainfall. Two chief factors determining the amount of rain are proximity to the sea and the land’s elevation. The plains along the Mediterranean receive considerable rain during the rainy season, with the amount decreasing as one goes from N to S. The rainfall tends to be greater in the hills and mountains because the moisture carried eastward from the sea condenses more heavily there. The Jordan Valley lies in a “rain shadow,” for the air traveling over the mountains has by then given up much of its moisture, and the air is warmed as it moves into the valley. Yet, when this air meets the elevated plateau E of the Jordan, clouds again form, resulting in some rainfall. This makes a strip of land E of the Jordan suitable for grazing or limited agriculture. Farther E is the desert, where the rain is too light and irregular to be useful for raising crops or for grazing herds.
Seasons. The two primary seasons in the Promised Land, summer and winter, can rather accurately be viewed as the dry season and the rainy season. (Compare Ps 32:4; Ca 2:11, ftn.) From about mid-April to mid-October very little rain falls. Rain is rare in this period during which the harvest takes place. Proverbs 26:1 shows that rain at harvesttime was considered quite out of place. (Compare 1Sa 12:17-19.) During the rainy season the rain is not constant; it alternates with clear days. Since this is also the cold period, exposure to the rain is very chilling. (Ezr 10:9, 13) Therefore, a comfortable shelter is most appreciated.—Isa 4:6; 25:4; 32:2; Job 24:8.
Autumn and spring rain. The Bible mentions “the autumn [early or former] rain and the spring [latter] rain,” which were promised by God as a blessing upon the faithful Israelites. (De 11:14, ftn; Jer 5:24; Joe 2:23, 24) The farmer patiently awaited the rains of these periods between the summer and winter. (Jas 5:7; compare Job 29:23.) The early, or autumn, rain (beginning about mid-October) was anxiously anticipated to relieve the heat and dryness of summer. It was necessary before planting could begin, for the rain softened the ground and allowed the farmer to plow his land. Similarly, the late, or spring, rain (about mid-April) was required to water the growing crops so that they would mature, and particularly so that the grain would ripen.—Zec 10:1; Am 4:7; Ca 2:11-13.
Figurative Use. When God blessed Israel with rains in their appointed time, an abundance resulted. Hence, Hosea could promise that Jehovah would “come in like a pouring rain,” “like a spring rain that saturates the earth,” for those who sought to know him. (Ho 6:3) God’s instructions were to “drip as the rain” and his sayings as “gentle rains upon grass and as copious showers upon vegetation.” (De 32:2) They would be able to sink in slowly but be sufficient to provide full refreshment, as showers on vegetation. Similarly, a source of refreshment and plenty was depicted in likening the regathered remnant of Jacob to “copious showers upon vegetation.”—Mic 5:7.
The reign of God’s king described in Psalm 72 would be marked by prosperity and blessing. Consequently, he was represented as descending “like the rain upon the mown grass, like copious showers that wet the earth” and produce fresh vegetation. (Ps 72:1, 6; compare 2Sa 23:3, 4.) The goodwill of a king was likened to “the cloud of spring rain,” for it gave evidence of pleasant conditions to come, just as rain-bearing clouds assured the water necessary for the crops to come to fruition.—Pr 16:15.
However, the falling rain does not always result in vegetation that is a blessing to the human cultivator; the watered earth may produce thorns and thistles. Paul used this as an example, comparing the rain-watered ground to Christians who have “tasted the heavenly free gift, and who have become partakers of holy spirit.” If they do not produce the fruits of the spirit but fall away from the truth, they are due to be burned, like a field producing only thorns.—Heb 6:4-8.
In John’s vision in Revelation he saw “two witnesses” with “the authority to shut up heaven that no rain should fall during the days of their prophesying.” (Re 11:3-6) These “witnesses” representing God as ‘prophets,’ or spokesmen, would not pronounce God’s favor or blessing on the plans and works of wicked men on earth. Like Elijah, who announced a three-and-a-half-year drought on Israel because of their practice of Baal worship promoted by King Ahab and his wife Jezebel, so these “two witnesses” figuratively “shut up heaven” so that no refreshing “rain” from God would come to bring prosperity to such efforts of men.—1Ki 17:1–18:45; Lu 4:25, 26; Jas 5:17, 18.