(שֶׁלֶג, sheleg, so called probably from its glistening; Sept. and New Test. χιών; but δρόσος in Proverbs 26; Vulg. nix). The historical books of the Bible contain only two notices of snow actually falling (2Sa 23:20; 2Sa 1 Macc. 13:22), but the allusions in the poetical books are so numerous that there can be no doubt as to its being an ordinary occurrence in the winter months. Thus, for instance, the snowstorm is mentioned among the ordinary operations of nature which are illustrative of the Creator's power (Ps 147:16; Ps 148:8). We have, again, notice of the beneficial effect of snow on the soil (Isa 55:10). Its color is adduced as an image of brilliancy (Da 7:9; Mt 28:3; Re 1:14), of purity (Isa 1:18; La 4:7, in reference to the white robes of the princes), and of the blanching effects of leprosy (Ex 4:6; Nu 12:10; 2Ki 5:27). In the book of Job we have references to the supposed cleansing effects of snow-water (Job 9:30), to the rapid melting of snow under the sun's rays (Job 24:19), and the consequent flooding of the brooks (Job 6:16). The thick falling of the flakes forms the point of comparison in the obscure passage in Ps 68:14. The snow lies deep in the ravines of the highest ridge of Lebanon until the summer is far advanced, and indeed never wholly disappears (Robinson, 3, 531); the summit of Hermonu also perpetually glistens with frozen snow (ibid. 2, 437). From these sources probably the Jews obtained their supplies for the purpose of cooling their beverages in summer (Pr 25:13), as is still done (Hackett, Illust. of Script. p. 53). This allusion removes the apparent contradiction of this passage in Pr 26:1. As snow — that is, a fall of snow — in summer is unnatural and ill-timed, so honor is not seemly for a fool; but it is quite out of character, out of season. The "snow of Lebanon" is also used as an expression for the refreshing coolness of spring water, probably in reference to the stream of Siloam (Jer 18:14). Lastly, in Pr 31:21, snow appears to be used as a synonym for winter or cold weather. The liability to snow must of course vary considerably in a country of such varying altitude as Palestine. Josephus notes it as a peculiarity of the low plain of Jericho that it was warm there even when snow was prevalent in the rest of the country (War, 4, 8, 3). At Jerusalem snow often falls to the depth of a foot or more in January and February, but it seldom lies long (Robinson, 1, 429). At Nazareth it falls more frequently and deeply, and it has been observed to fall even in the maritime plain at Joppa and about Carmel (Kitto, Phys. Hist. p. 210). A comparison of the notices of snow contained in Scripture and in the works of modern travelers would, however, lead to the conclusion that more fell in ancient times than at the present day. At Damascus snow falls to the depth of nearly a foot and lies at all events for a few days (Wortabet, Syria, 1, 215, 236). At Aleppo it falls, but never lies for more than a day. (Russell, 1, 69).
Scientifically, snow is nothing more than the frozen visible vapor of which the clouds are formed. A quantity of very minute crystals of ice having been formed, they are enlarged by the condensation and freezing of vapor, and, merging together, constitute flakes, which increase in size during their descent. In equatorial regions snow is unknown at the ocean level, and in all latitudes less than thirty-five degrees it is rare; but it is found in all latitudes in the higher regions of the atmosphere. It would scarcely be supposed that the broad flakes of snow which every blast of wind blows hither and thither as it lists are perfectly formed collections of crystals, delicate in their structure, and regular in their measurement. Flakes of snow are best observed when laced upon objects of a dark color, cooled below the freezing point, a method first described by Kepler, who expressed the highest admiration of their structure. The minute crystals exhibit an endless diversity of regular and beautiful forms. Scoresby described ninety-six varieties of combination; and they probably amount to several hundreds. Snow flakes are understood to belong to the hexagonal system of crystals. Kemtz remarks that flakes which fall at the same time have generally the same form; but if there is an interval between two consecutive falls of snow, the forms of the second are observed to differ from those of the first, although always alike among themselves. The temperature and density of the atmosphere have doubtless an influence upon their structures. Some have thought that the expression "treasures of the snow" in Job 38:22 has reference to these variegated forms (Kitto, Pict. Bible, ad loc.).
The substance which has received the name of red or crimson-colored snow is common in all alpine districts; yet no one ever pretends to have seen this kind of snow fall. This substance has been observed by Ross, Parry, and others in the Arctic regions; and even green snow was observed about an inch beneath the white by the French Expedition at Spitzbergen. Prof. M. Ch. Martius and his companions in the French Expedition concluded generally that the red and green granules of colored snow are one and the same microscopic plant in different stages of development; that red is the color of the primitive state, which afterwards becomes green under the influence of light and air. This very minute red or crimson- colored plant, sometimes called the Palmetto nivalis, finds nourishment on the surface of the snow within the limits of perpetual congelation; it is also found covering long patches of snow in the Alps and Pyrenees. See Schlichter, De Nive ejusque Usu Antiquo (Hal. 1738). See FROST; ICE.