Since the events of the Bible take place largely around the Middle East you might wonder if there is any reference at all to snow in the Bible. Well there is! Although snow wouldn’t have been a common occurrence for most people, there are certain places in the Middle East where there can be snow pretty much all year round.
One of these is Mount Hermon, a mountain that straddles the border between modern day Israel and Syria. Its highest point is 2814m above sea level which means that it can hold snow at its peak for much of the year. The run-off from the snow becomes streams which in turn merge to form the Jordan river which runs South through Israel.
As a result the writers of the Bible were familiar with snow, and most of the references to snow in the Bible focus on one thing – how incredibly white it is! Even in our times when we are used to pristine white paper and bleached white fabrics, there is still something about snow which is dazzling in its whiteness. But back then, there would have been nothing even approaching how white the snow is!
From dirty to clean
Everything looks lovely when covered by the snow, even rubbish tips, building sites and other eyesores are converted by a blanket of snow into gleaming palaces. It’s like the snow can, just for a moment, turn the dirty and ugly into something clean and beautiful.
The Bible uses the idea of being dirty or ‘unclean’ as a metaphor for disobeying God and sinning.
All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.
Isaiah 64:6 NIV
But in contrast the whiteness of snow is used as a metaphor for the power of the forgiveness of God. In Psalm 51 David is asking God for forgiveness:
Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. … Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Psalm 51:2, 7 NIV
The whiteness of snow gives us a wonderful comfort, that whatever we have done, said or thought in the past, God is willing to forgive it. So that rather than being dirty and grubby, we can become whiter than the snow!
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:9 NIV