Rain sweeps by Mt Carmel

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Standing on the summit of Mt Carmel I watch the rain sweep through the region. It pushes in from the Mediterranean and moves east, washing the central hills.

I shiver in the wind.

It is the perfect moment to reflect upon the story told in 1 Kings 18. There, we read of the contest between the prophet Elijah and the prophets of Baal. The story has many points of entry but one of significance is the question: who controls the rain? Is is Baʿal, Rider of the Clouds or YHWH Adonai, the Creator of all things?

Find a dry place and consider the story for yourself (find it here).

Don’t miss the big finish. It is initiated by a cloud the size of a man’s hand and spotted from Carmel’s furrowed brow.

“Meanwhile, the sky grew black with clouds, the wind rose, a heavy rain started falling and Ahab rode off to Jezreel. The power of YHWH came on Elijah and, tucking his cloak into his belt, he ran ahead of Ahab all the way to Jezreel (1 Kings 18:45-46).

It was the first mud run.

Photograph by Bible Land Explorer Seth Tinkler.


St Jerome (AD 347-420) once called the Land of the Bible the “fifth gospel. “Read the fifth,” he wrote, “and the world of the four will open to you.”

If you’d like to “read the fifth,” be aware that there are openings for Israel/Palestine trips departing this summer. Shoot me a note at markziese@gmail.com or see our full list of study-travel opportunities here.

Elijah's view before takeoff

The Jordan River snakes along the floor of the valley. It carries moisture to vegetation that can tolerate sweltering heat and salty soil. 

On Jordan's Stormy Banks

The Wadi Kharrar intersects the Jordan River about five miles north of the Dead Sea. As pictured, tourists, worshippers, and the curious are permitted down to this famous river that serves as an international border. 

Whirlwind in the wilderness

Sand auger. Willy-Willy. Dust devil. Many modern names are used to describe these fair-weather twisters. Hot air rises through cooler air and if conditions are right, begins to spin. More hot air on the ground rushes into the void and is flung skyward. In this way, the dust devil begins to writhe and dance. It lacks the size and velocity of its cousin -- the storm-birthed tornado -- but is not entirely feckless (compare maximum wind speeds of 40 mph for the dust devil vs 100 - 300 mph for a tornado!).

One wonders which, if any of the storm-vocabulary of the Hebrew Bible refers to the dust devil. Chariot-wheels spin like a sufah (Isa 5:28). The nations flee and disappear like sufah-driven dust (Isa 17:13). On the other hand, a sa'arah lifted Elijah into the sky (2 Kgs 2:11) and was featured as God's power-point when he spoke at the end of the book of Job (38:1). Finally, we shouldn't forget that the People of God were led through the wilderness by a "pillar of cloud" ('amud 'anan) that had the ability to start, stop, and hover.

This dust devil crossed the road in front of our van. We didn't follow it. We were driving in the southern desert of Israel near the site of Arad.