In Palestine, from mid-June until mid-September, the skies are generally clear, with the exception of dust clouds, especially toward the end of the dry season, due to the hot E wind from the desert. Also, particularly in August, there are occasional cirrostratus clouds from the W that do not bring rain. Even these are welcomed by the inhabitants, for they afford some shadow for slight relief from the heat. (Isa. 25:5; compare Job 7:2.) In September or October clouds begin to appear more frequently on the western horizon, forming over the Mediterranean, although it is often mid-October before the rainy season really begins. But during the summer there is, in some sections of the country, a mist cloud in the mornings that vanishes soon with the rising of the sun.—Hos. 6:4.
During the rainy season a storm can come up very quickly, starting with a very small cloud in the W. (1 Ki. 18:44, 45) The hopes of the farmer were raised by a cloud rising in western parts. (Luke 12:54) However, one hesitating to reap because of looking at the uncertain clouds would lose out. This fact is used as an admonition to God’s servants to go ahead with their work under all conditions.—Eccl. 11:4.
It appears from the Bible account of the creative days that there were no rain clouds during mankind’s history prior to the Flood, for a description of what appears to have been the situation before the appearance of man reads: “Now there was as yet no bush of the field found in the earth and no vegetation of the field was as yet sprouting, because Jehovah God had not made it rain upon the earth and there was no man to cultivate the ground. But a mist would go up from the earth and it watered the entire surface of the ground.” (Gen. 2:5, 6) Rain clouds were evidently prevented by the water or cloud canopy high up above the earth. (Prov. 8:28) This canopy fell at the time of the Flood, making cloud formations possible. This circumstance would give special point to Jehovah’s appointing the rainbow in the cloud as a symbol of his covenant with Noah and every living soul, after the Flood.—Gen. 9:12-16.
The wisdom and mightiness of Jehovah God the Creator are represented in his control over the clouds. He speaks of them as “water jars” that tip over and empty their contents on the earth. He says: “Who can exactly number the clouds in wisdom, or the water jars of heaven—who can tip them over?” (Job 38:37) He describes the process of evaporation and condensation, saying: “He draws up the drops of water; they filter as rain for his mist, so that the clouds trickle, they drip upon mankind abundantly. Indeed, who can understand the cloud layers, the crashings from his booth?”—Job 36:27-29.
Jehovah, whom no man can see and yet live, symbolizes his presence by a cloud. At Mount Sinai, at the time of giving the Law to Israel, a dark cloud covered the mountain; out of the cloud came lightnings and thunder, the blare of a trumpet and a loud voice. (Ex. 19:16-19; 24:15; Heb. 12:18, 19) Jehovah told Moses that he appeared in this manner in order that he might speak to Moses and that the people, seeing, might put faith in Moses as God’s representative. (Ex. 19:9) Jehovah sent an angel in a cloud as “his own personal messenger” to lead Israel out of Egypt and through the wilderness. (Isa. 63:9) A cloud by day, which became a pillar of fire by night, lighted the way of the Israelites. By means of the angel Jehovah representatively looked out of the cloud to throw the camp of the Egyptians into confusion. (Ex. 13:21, 22; 14:24, 25) Jehovah also used the cloud to baptize them as a nation into Moses, the waters being at the sides of them and the cloud above and behind. Thus they were “baptized into Moses by means of the cloud and of the sea.”—1 Cor. 10:2; see also Numbers 14:14.
When the tabernacle was set up in the wilderness a cloud resided over it and “Jehovah’s glory filled the tabernacle,” so that Moses was unable to enter. (Ex. 40:34, 35; compare 1 Kings 8:10-12; Revelation 15:8.) After this the cloud stood over the Most Holy, in which was the ark of the covenant. Doubtless this cloud was visible from any part of the camp, marking the camp’s center. When it rose, Israel prepared to break camp. When it moved, they followed its direction to the next camping place, although the exact site to set up the camp may have been selected with the help of Hobab, who knew the land well, including watering places and other features necessary to a camp of such tremendous proportions.—Ex. 40:34-38; Num. 10:29-32.
Inside the Most Holy, over the ark of the covenant, was a cloud, very brilliant, the only light to illuminate that compartment. It was called by later writers the Shekinah. (Lev. 16:2) When the high priest went into the Most Holy on Atonement Day with the blood of animals, he was symbolically standing in the presence of Jehovah. At other times, when he did not go into the Most Holy but stood before the curtain to present a matter of importance to Jehovah for his answer, he was considered as standing before Jehovah.—Num. 27:21.
In one instance Jehovah’s own voice was heard out of a bright cloud, expressing approval of his only-begotten Son. This was the brilliant cloud overshadowing Jesus and his three apostles Peter, James and John on the mount of the transfiguration.—Matt. 17:5.
When Jesus ascended into heaven, according to the record, “a cloud caught him up from their vision.” (Acts 1:9) The disciples did not see Jesus riding away on a cloud, but, rather, the cloud obscured their vision of him. This helps us to understand Jesus’ words concerning his second presence: “They will see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory,” and Revelation’s statement: “He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him.” (Luke 21:27; Rev. 1:7) In past cases clouds represented invisible presence; but observers could “see” the meaning with their mental “eyes.” In this case the physical occurrences that are visible would cause the one looking to “see” or realize that Christ is invisibly present.—See also Matthew, chapter 24; Mark, chapter 13, and Revelation 14:14.
When Jesus came to earth, with all the identifications of the Messiah, the Jews selfishly refused to acknowledge him because they demanded as a proof of his Messiahship that he literally fulfill the vision at Daniel 7:13, 14, where the Son of man is shown coming with the clouds of the heavens before the Ancient of Days, Jehovah God, to receive his kingdom. They confused his second presence with his first. He told them that no such sign would be given them.—Luke 11:29.
Since storm clouds are foreboding and from them comes distress, a time of trouble on earth is symbolized by clouds. The evidence of Jesus Christ’s invisible presence would be manifested by increasing troubles on earth.—Matt. 24:30; Rev. 1:7.
“Clouds” have a good connotation toward those who please God. Proverbs 16:15 says that the king’s goodwill is “like the cloud of spring rain.” A cloud’s effect of covering or hiding from visibility is used to describe Jehovah’s action toward the sins of his people, wiping their transgressions out “just as with a cloud.” (Isa. 44:22) Conversely, he blocks the approach of those who are rebellious as with a cloud mass that their prayer may not pass through.—Lam. 3:44.
The misty morning clouds that quickly vanish away are used metaphorically for the fickle, short-lived loving-kindness of Ephraim and Judah toward God, as well as for the short-livedness Ephraim would experience for turning to false worship. (Hos. 6:4; 13:3) The man who boasts about giving, but who never does so, is as disappointing as a cloud with no rain. (Prov. 25:14) Those who apostatize from Christianity and those who are professed Christians but who carry on immorality, practicing corruption and contaminating the congregation, are likened, in their avid following of fleshly desires, to unstable clouds, mists, tossed by the wind and waterless, unfruitful, unprofitable and deserving only of extinction.—Jude 12; 2 Pet. 2:17.
Christians are reminded to take Jehovah into account in all their plans, not bragging about what they will do, but remembering the transitoriness and uncertainty of life in the present system of things, that they are like a mist that quickly disappears.—Jas. 4:14.