Matthew 16:2-3. “He answered and said unto them, “When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. And in the morning, It will be foul weather today: for the sky is read and lowring. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky, but can ye not discern the signs of the times?”
Jesus showed no patience with these religious leaders who kept trying to trip Him up. He knew their ultimate goal, and He knew what they would put Him through. Now, here they are seeming to seek some sort of sign that–what? He really is the Son of God? He’s a miracle worker? He’s a prophet? Did they even know what kind of a sign they wanted? No, they just wanted Him to say or do something that would justify their having Him arrested.
As usual, they get their fingers burned.
He begins His response with a well-known way of predicting the weather. We still use it today: “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning.” All the people who lived near the Sea of Galilee were aware of these observations.
I wanted a little scientific backing, so I polished up my google skills. Here’s something I copied directly out of http://www.loc.gov/rr/scitech/mysteries/weather-sailor.html
Usually, weather moves from west to east, blown by the westerly trade winds. This means storm systems generally move in from the West.
The colors we see in the sky are due to the rays of sunlight being split into colors of the spectrum as they pass through the atmosphere and ricochet off the water vapor and particles in the atmosphere. The amounts of water vapor and dust particles in the atmosphere are good indicators of weather conditions. They also determine which colors we will see in the sky.
During sunrise and sunset the sun is low in the sky, and it transmits light through the thickest part of the atmosphere. A red sky suggests an atmosphere loaded with dust and moisture particles. We see the red, because red wavelengths (the longest in the color spectrum) are breaking through the atmosphere. The shorter wavelengths, such as blue, are scattered and broken up.
Red sky at night, sailors delight.
When we see a red sky at night, this means that the setting sun is sending its light through a high concentration of dust particles. This usually indicates high pressure and stable air coming in from the west. Basically good weather will follow.
Red sky in morning, sailor’s warning.
A red sunrise reflects the dust particles of a system that has just passed from the west. This indicates that a storm system may be moving to the east. If the morning sky is a deep fiery red, it means a high water content in the atmosphere. So, rain is on its way.
To learn more about weather lore and proverbs see the following Related Web Sites and For Further Reading sections.
The people of Jesus’ time may not have understood the science, but they certainly knew the connection! Even the Pharisees and Sadducees, who were very likely not exactly the outdoorsy types, knew to watch the sky for information about impending weather.
I spent my high school years in southern Minnesota, on the praire. The sky was always interesting. I remember watching farmers gazing up at the sky, then deciding whether or not to get the hay in right NOW or to leave it for the next day. I remember watching cumulus clous rolling, boiling, turning green and yellow and ugly. That was when you reviewd your plan for hiding from a tornado. In winter, a white sky often meant a whiteout, which was a very scarey thing if you were on the road and far from shelter.
Everyone knew the signs of the sky and the weather.
Jesus told the Pharisees and Sadducees that they were hypocrites, because they knew how to read the signs in the sky but apparently were ignorant of the signs of the times.
And He wasn’t finished yet!