There is a very remarkable and regular provision of Nature, peculiar to Bible lands, which may be observed in a first sight of Palestine on any night in the hot season when a west wind is blowing. I allude to the sea night mist of the hot season. It explains in a very striking and hitherto unsuspected manner the numerous occur- rences of the Hebrew word “tal”, uniformly rendered “dew” in the KJV. Some of these have presented hitherto unanswerable difficulties, such as the statement of the wise man that “the clouds drop down the ‘dew’ ” (Prov 3:20), which, if “dew” in the scientific sense of the word is understood, is just what clouds do not do, no dew ever forming when clouds are about. Again, the words in Isaac’s blessing, “God give thee of the ‘dew’ of heaven” (Gen 27:28); those of Moses, summing up the precious things of heaven in the “dew” (Deut 33:13); the power of an absolute eastern king being likened to “a ‘dew’ upon the grass” (Prov 19:12); and Israel’s future influence amongst the nations to “a ‘dew’ from Jehovah” (Mic 5:7); such words as these, and those in many other passages, bespeak a peculiar excellence and value which dew does not possess even amongst us, and still less in Palestine, where it only occurs in the winter, the time of abundant heavy rains, which render it comparatively useless!
It was my good fortune, as a result of my residence in Jerusalem, to discover the deeply interesting natural feature that is called in our version “dew”, and fully to realize in what its importance and excellence consists (Hos 14:5). From the end of April till about the end of October no drop of rain falls; while each day, for some ten or twelve hours, the sun shines with great strength, unveiled by a single cloud. This fierce wind is in May and October intensified by a burning wind, the sirocco, which gathers its withering, scorching power as it sweeps over the vast sands of the Arabian desert, and is the awful “east wind” of the Bible. During this period, but more especially at its close, in September and October, the west wind, which then prevails, comes up laden with moisture from the Mediterranean Sea, which is condensed in low-lying clouds of mist as soon as it reaches the land. These cloud-masses sweep along near the ground, leaving behind them an im-
mense amount of what is misnamed in our version “dew”, but which is really a very fine, gentle rain in the form of a light Scotch mist.
Its great excellence consists:
- (1) in its coming only in the hottest and driest season, when no other moisture can be had;
- (2) initsonlycomingduringthenight,“whennomancanwork”,andsointerfer- ing in no way with the business or pleasures of life;
- (3) in its coming in such rich abundance as far to exceed the moisture deposited by any formation of dew;
- (4) in its coming in such fine particles and moderate quantities as not even to hurt the gathered grain lying out on the open-air threshing-floors; and
- (5) in its effects ceasing as soon as the sun is hot, and so leaving no miasmic [harmful] or other injurious results behind, whence it is well called by Hosea, “the night mist which early goes away”.
This explanation exactly accounts for “the clouds” being said “to drop” it down, which is just what they do. Very beautiful are the silvery shining mist-clouds which may be seen as the day dawns being drawn up and dissolved into thin air, the fugitive clouds to which Hosea (Hos 6:4) compares Israel’s brief and transient seasons of goodness — “Your goodness is like the morning cloud, and like the night mist (‘tal’) which early goes away”. It also displays the naturalness of the great amount of “tal”, or “night mist”, which fell miraculously on Gideon’s fleece (Jdg 6:38). It adds a new intensity to our Savior’s pathetic appeal in Song 5:2, “Open to me… for my head is filled with the night mist (‘tal’), and my locks with the drops of the night.” There is an icy chill often attending exposure to the “night mist” that is not experienced on a dewy night, the latter being always fine. In a word, let “night mist” be written in each of the 34 places in our Bible where “dew” occurs, and it will be found to give a new meaning and a new beauty in every instance! What fresh point and power now clothe the gracious promise in Hosea 14:5, “I will be as the night mist (‘tal’) to Israel”! and also that beautiful but difficult passage, Psalm 110:3!
James Neil (Palestine Explored, 1881)