Hail is mentioned numerous times throughout the Bible, often carrying spiritual symbolism and divine judgement. As an uncommon weather phenomenon in ancient Israel, hail was seen as a supernatural occurrence. Understanding the biblical meaning of hail provides insight into how God interacts with humanity.
Hail in the Bible typically represents God’s judgement and wrath against sin. The Old Testament prophets used hail as a metaphor for punishment and a means of getting the Israelites’ attention when they strayed from God. Jesus also mentions hail in the New Testament when speaking about the end times.
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- Hail is used by God to display His power over creation and mete out judgement
- It is associated with the plagues against Egypt and other divine punishments
- Metaphorically, hailstones can represent God’s word and spiritual truths
- Jesus warns that hail will be part of the earth’s judgements during the end times
Understanding hail in the biblical context requires examining how and when it appears in Scripture. From the Exodus plagues to the Revelation judgements, hail is intricately connected with God showcasing His supremacy and dealing with humanity’s rebellion against Him.
Hail in the Old Testament
The Old Testament contains numerous examples of God using hail to express His power over creation and judgement against sin. Hail was seen as a supernatural weather phenomenon in ancient Israel due to its rarity. As a result, hail took on symbolic significance when it did occur.
The Seventh Plague Against Egypt
One of the most well-known biblical usages of hail is during the seventh plague against Egypt in Exodus 9. After Pharaoh repeatedly hardened his heart against letting the Israelites go, God sent a catastrophic hailstorm against all the land of Egypt.
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward heaven, that there may be hail in all the land of Egypt—on man, on beast, and on every herb of the field, throughout the land of Egypt.” And Moses stretched out his rod toward heaven; and the LORD sent thunder and hail, and fire darted to the ground. And the LORD rained hail on the land of Egypt. So there was hail, and fire mingled with the hail, so very heavy that there was none like it in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation. (Exodus 9:22-24 NKJV)
The hail was combined with lightning and fire, devastating the Egyptian people and livestock. Only the land of Goshen where the Israelites lived was spared. Pharaoh admitted to Moses he had sinned and promised to let Israel go. But after the storm ended, his heart became stubborn once again. The plague demonstrated God’s complete control over the weather to both judge Egypt and protect His people.
Judgement Against the Canaanites
When Joshua led the Israelites to conquer Canaan, God used hailstones to defeat the Amorites and their allies. As the Amorite army fled from the Israelites down the slope of Beth Horon, God rained large hailstones on them:
So it was, as they fled before Israel and were on the descent of Beth Horon, that the LORD cast down large hailstones from heaven on them as far as Azekah, and they died. There were more who died from the hailstones than the children of Israel killed with the sword. (Joshua 10:11 NKJV)
The hailstones were part of God’s miraculous intervention to enable the Israelites to defeat their militarily superior enemies. The description emphasizes the large size of the hail and its effectiveness in destroying the Amorite army. As with the Egyptians, God used hail to display His judgement on Canaan and ensure the success of His people.
Symbol of Judgement and Wrath
The prophets Isaiah, Ezekiel, Haggai, and Revelation metaphorically used hail to represent God’s judgement and wrath against the wicked:
Behold, the Lord has a mighty and strong one, Like a tempest of hail and a destroying storm, Like a flood of mighty waters overflowing, Who will bring them down to the earth with His hand. (Isaiah 28:2 NKJV)
And great hailstones, about one talent in weight, came down from heaven upon men; and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, since that plague was exceedingly great. (Revelation 16:21 NKJV)
By likening God’s punishment and judgements to hail, the prophets emphasized the devastation and completeness of His wrath on the ungodly. Like hail beats down a crop, nothing would escape this judgement.
Sign of God’s Voice
The Psalmist uses hail figuratively to represent God’s powerful word and voice:
The voice of the Lord is over the waters; The God of glory thunders; The Lord is over many waters. The voice of the Lord is powerful; The voice of the Lord is full of majesty. The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars, Yes, the Lord splinters the cedars of Lebanon. He makes them also skip like a calf, Lebanon and Sirion like a young wild ox. The voice of the Lord divides the flames of fire. The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness; The Lord shakes the Wilderness of Kadesh. The voice of the Lord makes the deer give birth, And strips the forests bare; And in His temple everyone says, “Glory!”
The Lord sat enthroned at the Flood, And the Lord sits as King forever. The Lord will give strength to His people; The Lord will bless His people with peace. (Psalm 29:3-11 NKJV)
The imagery connects God’s voice with the thunderous power of a hailstorm. It is overwhelming, majestically splitting cedars and shaking the wilderness. This symbolizes how God’s word can shake people’s hearts and lay bare their innermost thoughts and intentions.
Hail in the New Testament
While hail appears often in the Old Testament, the New Testament only mentions it a couple times, both in the context of end times judgment.
The Seventh Bowl Judgement
The apostle John’s vision of the end times judgments in Revelation includes a final catastrophic hailstorm:
Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, “It is done!” And there were noises and thunderings and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such a mighty and great earthquake as had not occurred since men were on the earth. Now the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. And great Babylon was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of His wrath. Then every island fled away, and the mountains were not found. And great hail from heaven fell upon men, each hailstone about the weight of a talent. Men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, since that plague was exceedingly great. (Revelation 16:17-21 NKJV)
Paralleling the Egyptian plague and Canaanite judgement, this apocalyptic hailstorm is the final blow of God’s wrath, destroying the evil empire of Babylon. The enormous hailstones weighing a talent (30-50 kg) flatten mountains and islands, graphically representing the utter obliteration of sinful humanity.
Warning of End Times Tribulation
In His Olivet Discourse about the end times, Jesus tells His disciples:
And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. (Luke 21:25-26 NKJV)
Part of this cosmic shaking of the heavens involves “great hail from heaven”:
And great hail from heaven fell upon men, each hailstone about the weight of a talent. Men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, since that plague was exceedingly great. (Revelation 16:21 NKJV)
Jesus warns that these signs will terrify people as the judgements of God are poured out on the earth. The occurrence of massive hail will show humanity they are subject to God’s justice.
Spiritual Meaning for Believers
Beyond representing God’s supernatural judgement, hail contains important symbolism for Christians:
- The Word of God – Like hail pounds the earth, Scripture exposes and deals with sin in our hearts
- Times of Trouble – Seasons where hail ruins crops can remind us that storms will come, but God is still in control
- God’s Power – Hail, as an extraordinary weather event, displays God’s lordship over all creation
- Judgement and Wrath – Hail shows the fierceness of God’s punishment against those who oppose Him
- End Times Prophecy – Apocalyptic hail portrays the climax of God’s justice being worked out in human history
Meditating on the meaning of hail increases our awe of God. It should also motivate us to walk in holiness and share the Gospel with others before judgement falls on the world.
Throughout Scripture, hail consistently symbolizes God’s sovereignty over the weather and judgement on humanity’s rebellion. As a relatively rare meteorological phenomenon in the Near East, hail signified God’s supernatural intervention whenever it occurred. Old Testament prophets used hail imagery to warn of impending doom. The New Testament applies it eschatologically to point toward Christ’s return and ultimate triumph over evil. While hail may seem like an unusual biblical symbol, recognizing its theological significance gives insight into God’s character and dealings with His creation.