The Bible and Science on whether dew ascends or descends.
 Two articles:

    Albany Poyntz      Morning and Evening Dew
    Anonymous          Where Does Dew Come From?

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by Albany Poyntz


(Investigator 208, 2023 January)

It is a gratifying thing when popular prejudices are overcome by the progress of public enlightenment. The existence of the antipodes was formerly disbelieved. Before the spherical form of our globe was ascertained, how was it possible to suppose that there existed human beings under our feet standing with their head downwards?

Till the Newtonian theory was developed, it seemed impossible but that persons so placed must fall into the realms of endless space. There is a general disposition in human nature to believe all that is impossible as well as to doubt every thing that really exists; and such was the incredulity of the world with regard to the antipodes.

The ancients, who admitted many absurdities, denied the existence of the antipodes. The Fathers of the Church followed in their steps; some indeed pronounced it heresy to hold such a belief. St. Augustin expressly says, "Take heed lest thou believe such a fable." In his treatise on the Acts of the Apostles, there is an argument remarkable enough, considering that the rotundity of the earth was then unknown. "Faith teaches us, that all men are from Adam. But if there were other men under the earth, they could not be of Adam. How could they have found their way to the antipodes? Not by land, for the antipodes are cut off from our hemisphere by boundless seas. Not by sea; for the most experienced pilot would not dare launch his vessel in such boundless space. It is, therefore, evident that the doctrine of the antipodes is false and heretical." Time and experience have taught us the folly of deciding upon topics exceeding our comprehension. Yet, perhaps, even now we deny a host of truths, which at some time may give us an insight into futurity. In great as well as trifling things, every day brings its tribute to the cause of truth. The antipodes are admitted to exist. The earth revolves round the sun, though once supposed to be stationary in its place in the heavens; while the dew, which our ancestors believed to descend from heaven, is known to be an emanation from the earth.

Such an error was pardonable enough. The dews are often made use of in Holy Writ as a term of comparison; and the mercy of the Lord is implored to descend upon his people like the dews from heaven. After many experiments in elucidation of  the origin of dew, a scientific observer obtained the following results.

Having placed some plants under glass bells, he examined them the following morning, and finding them to be covered with dew like those left in the air, he cut shreds of flannel; and placing them at graduated heights, found that those nearest the earth were first wet, and that the dew gradually rose towards the highest. Upon weighing the shreds, he found those below to be the most saturated. Lastly, upon examining plants grown in green-houses, he felt convinced that they also imbibed abundant dew. These experiments excited attention; and Muschembroek, the author, had many imitators. Among others, Dufay, who placed a double ladder thirty-two feet high, in the centre of a garden, suspending tablets of glass at different altitudes; so that each was equally exposed to the action of the atmosphere. He remained at the foot of the ladder to watch the progress of the phenomenon, and found that the tablets nearest the earth were the first moist, and that the humidity ascended gradually to the highest. Several other men of science repeated the same experiment with similar results.

The problem was thus solved, and proof obtained that dew ascended from the earth. To the joy, however, of some, a doubt presented itself. By renewed experiments it was found that this dew from the earth did not equally affect all bodies, and was partial in its bearing. For instance, it appeared to avoid gold, silver, metal, and polished marbles; while it adhered to glass, oily and resinous substances.

Place a gold or plated vessel under a crystal vase in a garden during the night, and in the morning you will find the edges perfectly dry, while the crystal vase will be wet. The cause of this difference is not accounted for. Reaumur supposes, but does not affirm, that the golden vessel, containing more caloric than the crystal, repels the dew, while the latter attracts it.

In confirmation of this supposition, Reaumur proposed the following experiment. Place a china cup upon a stone within a hot-bed; and further on, and beyond the influence of the hot-bed, another cup of similar form, substance, and diameter; this will be charged with dew, the other will remain dry. In explanation of this difference, it may be imagined that the phenomenon of which they sought the solution, originated in electricity; an opinion, however, which has no influence over the main discovery that dews arise from the ground, instead of falling from the skies, as asserted by the mythology of the ancients, and the tropes of Scripture.


(Investigator 209, 2023 January)



The Bible says dew falls or descends from the sky; but science said it ascends from the ground. Who was or is correct?


Poyntz (1845) wrote:

...the dew, which our ancestors believed to descend from heaven, is known to be an emanation from the earth....

...dews arise from the ground, instead of falling from the skies, as asserted by the mythology of the ancients, and the tropes of Scripture.

The Domestic Encyclopedia (1802) says:

Dew is a light, thin, and transparent vapour, slowly exhaling and ascending from the earth, in spring and summer mornings, while the sun is below the horizon, and then deposited on vegetables, in the form of small globules...

It is admitted, that dew cannot fall before it rises; and that its origin and matter, no doubt, is from the vapours and exhalations of the earth and water...

That dews are more copious in spring than in any other season, arises from the greater stock of vapour collected on the surface of the earth, and the previous small dissipation of it during the cold and frost of the winter... climates where the days are excessively hot, and the nights remarkably cold, the vapours, rising before or after sunset, are readily converted into dew. In the more temperate climates, they ascend and fall in greater abundance after rain than after dry weather. There are some places in which dew is observed only to rise, but never to fall; and again others, in which it is carried upward in a more considerable proportion than downward, on account of the prevalence of winds by which it is dispersed... (Willich 1802)

Free & Hoke (1929) in their book Weather wrote: "the chief thing to be said about dew is that it doesn't fall, early or late... In fact it rises.''  The authors add that the warm, moist "breath of the ground" rises and leads to "precipitation" when it comes in contact with cold objects.


The Bible distinguishes mist, frost, hail, snow and dew. We're interested in dew (Hebrew tal) mentioned about 35 times in the Old Testament.

Dew comes usually at night:

•    Exodus 16:13
•    Judges 6:36-40
•    Job 29:19
•    Hosea 6:4; 13:3

In the NRSV Bible we read:

•    The dew of heaven on high (Genesis 28:39)
•    Dew fell on the camp in the night (Numbers 11:9)
•    The heavens drop down dew (Deuteronomy 33:28
•    The dew falls on the ground (II Samuel 17:12
•    The dew of Hermon descended (Psalm 133:3)
•    The clouds drop down the dew (Proverbs 3:20)
•    The dew of heaven (Daniel 4:15, 23, 25, 33. 5:21)
•    The heavens above you have withheld the dew (Haggai 1:10)
•    The skies shall give their dew (Zechariah 8:12)

In the Bible the sky or heaven(s) is interpreted and spoken of by how it appears to human observers. The lower levels of the sky are where birds fly. Higher up are clouds and the tops of mountains, and beyond these the Sun, Moon and stars. "Heaven" can also refer to the dwelling place of God. (Psalm 115:3; 136:26; II Chronicles 6:18)


Maxwell (1929) in a letter published in Nature titled "Dew: Does it Rise or Fall?" responded to the afore mentioned authors Free & Hoke:

They make no note of the fact that dew is formed only under a clear sky which allows free radiation of the earth's surface heat; but they make the following surprising statement: ``Most of the dewdrops on leaves and blades of grass, especially leaves close to the ground, are on the under sides; that is, the side of the leaf or grass closest to the soil.''

This was so widely at variance with the general impression I had received, that I went out on three dewy mornings to examine the herbage, and found, as I expected, that while the upper surfaces of leaves were heavily bedewed, the under surfaces were quite dry.

In stating that dew does not fall, but rises, the authors seem to be treating of dew before it is formed. It is true that the warm air radiated from the earth is charged with moisture, but that continues as vapour until it meets the cold night or morning air, when it is condensed and precipitated as dew. The vapour rises, but the dew can only be described as falling.

The "Weather Guys" state:

Dew is made of liquid water that has condensed from some of the water vapor in the air.

Dew occurs when objects cool. A common example of dew formation is when drops of liquid form on the glass of an ice-cold drink. Dew forms when the object, such as the glass, cools down to the dew point temperature.

Water molecules in the air continually bombard surfaces, like blades of grass. Some of the molecules stick, forming a very thin film of water...

Wikipedia says:

Dew is water in the form of droplets that appears on thin, exposed objects in the morning or evening due to condensation...

As the exposed surface cools by radiating its heat, atmospheric moisture condenses at a rate greater than that at which it can evaporate, resulting in the formation of water droplets.

When temperatures are low enough, dew takes the form of ice; this form is called frost.

Because dew is related to the temperature of surfaces, in late summer it forms most easily on surfaces that are not warmed by conducted heat from deep ground, such as grass, leaves, railings, car roofs, and bridges...

The temperature at which droplets form is called the dew point. When surface temperature drops, eventually reaching the dew point, atmospheric water vapour condenses to form small droplets on the surface...

Preferred weather conditions include the absence of clouds and little water vapor in the higher atmosphere to minimize greenhouse effects and sufficient humidity of the air near the ground. Typical dew nights are classically considered calm, because the wind transports (nocturnally) warmer air from higher levels to the cold surface. However, if the atmosphere is the major source of moisture (this type is called dewfall), a certain amount of ventilation is needed to replace the vapor that is already condensed...

Meteorologist Jeff Haby writes:

Dew forms when the temperature becomes equal to the dewpoint. This often happens first at ground level for two reasons. First, longwave emission causes the earth's surface to cool at night. Condensation requires the temperature to decrease to the dewpoint. Second, the soil is often the moisture source for the dew. Warm and moist soils will help with the formation of dew as the soil cools overnight...

National Geographic says:

Dew is the moisture that forms at night when objects or the ground outside cool down by radiating, or emitting, their heat...

Dew is the moisture that forms as a result of condensation ... water changing from a vapor to a liquid...
Colder air is less able to hold water vapor than warm air. This forces water vapor in the air around cooling objects to condense. When condensation happens, small water droplets form—dew...


The evidence, so far, ignores Proverbs 3:20 which states "the clouds drop down the dew".  The coldness of the atmosphere on cold, clear nights contributes to dew forming and settling, but cloud cover would keep the lower atmosphere comparatively warm!

Water vapor is added to the air by rain, evaporation from oceans, lakes, rivers and wet land, and by transpiration from plants.

Water vapor condenses on "condensation nuclei" such as dust, ice, and salt, and forms clouds and fogs. Fog is low-lying cloud and occurs when the humidity of cold air reaches 100% and water vapor condenses into water droplets in the air.  When moist air rises, or moves up mountain-sides causing "upslope fog" it can from a distance can look like ordinary clouds. The "Airline Pilates Forum" says: "It is possible to have dew without fog, but it is not possible to have fog without dew." The Britannica agrees: "If fog droplets condense on grass or branches, dew begins to form."

"The clouds drop down the dew" is correct subject to the total local circumstances.

In Eden: "there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground." (Genesis 2:6 KJB) Since Eden had rivers the "mist from the earth" would have included as its source the rivers, and watered the ground by condensing as dew.


Water vapour rises from warm, wet, ground. 19th century science got that correct. But this merely adds to the humidity of the air, which also contains moisture from other sources.

The air cools when surface warmth radiates away into Space on clear, calm, largely cloud-free nights, and then, at "dew point" or 100% humidity, dew condenses out of the air onto cold surfaces, therefore falls or descends. 

Dew forms not only at low altitudes but also on vegetation high up on mountains. The whole lower atmosphere is involved in dew formation because it has to both lose heat and be humid for dew to form. Therefore dew can be said to descend from "heaven" or the sky.



Free, E.E. and Travis Hoke 1929 Weather (Chapter 13), Constable and Co.

Halby, J,

Maxwell, H.  Dew: Does it Rise or Fall? Nature, Volume 124, Issue 3124, September 1929, p. 412

National Geographic

Poyntz, A. 1845 A World of Wonders, Richard Bentley, London

The Airline Pilots Forum & Resource

Weather Guys

Willich, A.F.M. 1802 The Domestic Encyclopaedia, Volume 2, Dew, Murray & Highley