From Debra Rienstra
Who can withstand his icy blast?
To those among our readers who do not live in the wintry climes of North America, I apologize for another lament on this blog about cold, snowy weather. Please forgive us. Still in the grip of this relentless winter, we Midwest dwellers are suffering from claustrophobia, boredom, restlessness, irritability, lack of exercise, and sun-and-flower deprivation. At least I am. Today, gusty winds are depositing a mix of ice and snow on my windows and slicking up the roads and walks. Again.
In times like these, one must turn to scripture for comfort. So with the help of online tools, I searched for references to “winter,” “snow,” “ice,” and “frost” to see what inspiration the entire sweep of scripture might provide. Perhaps because we are dealing with ancient Near Eastern literature here—a milieu quite devoid of lively winter sports or nostalgic associations with sleighs and Grandma’s house—this search drew me into the more dire and obscure corners of the Holy Word, mostly having to do with suffering and terror.
My oddest discovery was a story from 2 Samuel 23, a passage terrifying in its own way as an account of “David’s mighty men.” These guys constituted a sort of Davidic superhero franchise, and their exploits are listed apparently as a way to flex the muscles of David’s military-preindustrial complex. Among these mighty men is a fellow named Benaiah, who “went down into a pit on a snowy day and killed a lion” (vs. 20). What snow has to do with this episode, I’m not sure. Were Benaiah and the lion fighting over a sheltered spot? Did the snow allow our hero to track the lion? Was this a case of interspecies slip-and-fall? Despite the lack of detail, the story was evidently exciting enough to its ancient Israelite audience to warrant a repeat mention in I Chronicles 11. (This was before Marvel comics, obviously.)
Wintry weather conditions seem to come up most often in the Bible in association with God’s judgment and various techniques for rendering it.