Astronomy

ASTRONOMY. While the word astronomy is not found in the Bible, there are many passages that refer to some aspect of the subject. God is recognized as the maker of the stars (Gen.1.16) as well as the One who knows their number and names (Ps.147.4). In Ps.19.1-Ps.19.14 there is a beautiful poem telling how the heavenly bodies (referring to the stars) show forth the glory of their Creator. A reference is made also to the sun as another of the heavenly bodies.

There are hundreds of biblical references to stars, sun, moon, and planets. Evidently the early Bible writers were much better acquainted with the subject of astronomy than are many modern people. When God wished to tell Abraham how numerous his descendants would be, he took him out and showed him the stars. Then God said, “Look up at the heavens and count the stars—if indeed you can count them” (Gen.15.5). Later God compared the number of Abraham’s descendants not only with the stars, but also with the sand on the seashore (Gen.22.17). For many years it was not clear that this was a fair comparison. Before the invention of the astronomical telescope it was not at all certain that the number of stars was as great as the number of grains of sand on the seashore. Modern discoveries, however, have proved the Bible correct. The total number of stars is approximately equal to the number of grains of sand on the seashore, a number so large it is impossible for the human mind to comprehend.

The Bible refers in a most striking manner to the height of the stars—that is, to their distance from the earth: “Is not God in the heights of heaven? And see how lofty are the highest stars!” (Job.22.12). Another reference to the great height of the stars is found in Isa.14.13. Here Satan says, “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God.” The inference here is that it must be a very great distance to the stars. The true distances to the stars were not known until 1838 when Bessel first computed the distance to a star. Before that time astronomers had little idea how far stars were from the earth. Now the distances to many stars have been measured, and it turns out that the distances to the most distant stars known are more than one hundred thousand times the diameter of our solar system.

It appears that the biblical writers were aware that the stars differ greatly from each other. Paul, writing to the church at Corinth, says, “The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor” (1Cor.15.41). This has been verified by the astronomers. Not only do stars have different colors, but they also differ widely in size, in density, in temperature, and in total amount of light emitted. The sun, around which the earth revolves, is an average star. While it is over one million times as large as the earth, there are some stars that are one million times as large as the sun. On the other hand, there are other stars smaller than the planet Mercury.

One of the many sins of the children of Israel was that of worshiping idols. They wanted to worship also the sun, the moon, and the stars. In Deut.4.19 they were warned not to indulge in such worship. In spite of such warnings, sun worship prevailed many times. Asa and Josiah, kings of Judah, found it necessary to take away the sun images that had been kept at the entrance to the temple.

While there is little evidence in the Bible that the Hebrew people had indulged very much in the study of astronomy, it is very clear that they recognized a sublime order in the movements of the heavenly bodies. They observed carefully the daily rising of the sun, its majestic movement across the sky, and its final setting in the west. This is vividly portrayed in the story of the battle with the Amorites as recorded in Josh.10.1-Josh.10.43, when the sun stood still in the middle of the sky. Many theories have been proposed in an attempt to give a scientific explanation to this “long day of Joshua.” None is completely satisfactory, and they will not be discussed here. It is sufficient to add that this is one of many miracles recorded in the Bible to show us that God is the ruler and sustainer of the universe.

More remarkable than the long day of Joshua when the sun apparently stood still, is the story of the return of the shadow on the sundial of Ahaz. In this case the Lord gave King Hezekiah a sign saying, “I will make the shadow cast by the sun go back the ten steps it has gone down on the stairway of Ahaz” (Isa.38.8). This is, indeed, a remarkable miracle. If taken literally, this means not only that the earth stopped rotating on its axis, but that it reversed its direction of rotation for a short time. Again the scientists have no answer to explain such an event.

There are a number of allusions in the Bible to eclipses of the sun and of the moon. In Isa.13.10 it is stated, “The rising sun will be darkened,” while in Joel.2.31 we have the statement, “The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood.” These two descriptions accord quite well with observations of eclipses of the sun and of the moon. As the shadow of the moon sweeps across the face of the sun it appears that the sun is turned to darkness. When the earth comes directly between the sun and the moon, there is an eclipse of the moon. When the eclipse is complete, it is still possible to see the surface of the moon, due to the fact that the atmosphere of the earth bends the light rays from their straight line path. Thus sunlight is bent somewhat as it passes the earth, is then reflected by the moon and returned to the earth. Just as the sun appears to be red when it is setting, due to the passage of the light through more atmosphere, so the eclipsed moon appears strange in color. The Bible uses the apt expression “turned...to blood” to describe this astronomical phenomenon.

Calculated eclipses of the sun that occurred in Palestine during OT times are as follows: July 31, 1063 b.c.; August 15, 831; June 15, 763; May 18, 603; May 28, 585. Very likely the prophets Amos and Joel witnessed the eclipse of August 15, 831. Such an eclipse is vividly described by Amos: “I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight” (Amos.8.9).

The subject of astrology has been connected with astronomy since early times. The reference in Judg.5.20 no doubt refers to the influence of the stars in the lives of people. The writer states, “From the heavens the stars fought, from their courses they fought against Sisera.” However, the Hebrew people seemed to have had little to do with the subject. In the Book of Daniel there are repeated statements made concerning the astrologers. It is to be noted that Daniel and his three friends, though closely associated with astrologers, are always mentioned as keeping themselves separated and undefiled. Again and again when the magicians and the astrologers were unable to perform a task, it was Daniel who was able to do important things for the king. Thus it is apparent that the Bible condemns the pseudo-science of astrology.

Probably the most fascinating part of biblical astronomy concerns the star of Bethlehem. This story is told in the second chapter of Matthew. When the wise men from the east came to Jerusalem they asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him” (Matt.2.2). Even the king was greatly disturbed over the news, for he inquired of them diligently at what time the star appeared. This star seemed to be their ever-present guide, for it is stated that “the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was” (Matt.2.9).

The question is: What kind of a star can continually guide travelers to a definite point on the earth? Many answers have been proposed. One is that this was an unusual conjunction of bright planets. A conjunction is the coming together on the same meridian at the same time of two or more celestial objects, so that they appear almost as one. It is known that in the year 6 b.c. there was a conjunction of Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. However, the conjunction would not have been visible to the wise men for it was too near the sun, and 6 b.c. is two years too early for the birth of Christ.

Another theory is that this star was a nova. A nova is a star that suddenly becomes very bright. Ordinarily such a star is too dim to be seen by the unaided eye. Very quickly such a star becomes as bright or brighter than the brightest star in the sky. Many novae have been discovered and studied. The problem in this case is to explain how such a bright star could serve as a guide to the wise men.

Still another theory proposed to explain the star of Bethlehem is that this was the planet Venus at its greatest brilliance. It is true that this planet does appear at times as a very bright object in the winter sky. However, these wise men knew the movements of the planets, and therefore, the bright appearance of Venus would hardly have served as a guide to lead them to the Christ child.

Evidently here is another of the many biblical miracles that modern science is unable to explain. This miraculous appearance, which is called a star, aroused the curiosity of the wise men to such an extent that they followed it for many miles until finally it pointed out the exact place where they wished to go.

There is much evidence in the Bible that many of the constellations were known to the writers. Kesil (Orion) is mentioned in Job.9.9; Isa.13.10; Amos.5.8. Ash or Ayish occurs in Job.9.9; Job.38.32. Also found in Job.38.32 is the term Mazzarot. The Lord asked Job many questions. Among them is the following: “Can you bind the beautiful Pleiades? Can you loose the cords of Orion?” (Job.38.31). One constellation has a special significance to the Christian. It is Cygnus, the flying swan or the Northern Cross. Its six stars form a huge Roman cross in the summer sky, about the size of the Big Dipper.

This cross may be said to be the evening’s call to worship. It reminds us of the passage from Luke, “Stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke.21.28). This constellation sinks westward in the sky until at Christmas time it stands upright just above the horizon in the northwest. There is rich symbolism here in the fact that the star Deneb at the top of the cross, where the head of Christ was, is a super-giant, while the one at the bottom, Albireo, where his feet were, is a telescopic double; it is really very beautiful with one star yellow and the other blue.

In the last chapter of the last book of the Bible, the Lord Jesus is called “the bright Morning Star” (Rev.22.16). Evidently the writer, the apostle John, had frequently waited for the morning light and had watched for the bright morning star, which is usually a planet. Its beauty had greatly inspired him, so he used this striking figure for the Lord Jesus Christ. Many Christians watch for his coming as people of old have watched for the morning and have seen the bright stars of the morning!

Bibliography: G. V. Schiaporelli, Astronomy in the Old Testament, 1905; E. W. Maunder, The Astronomy of the Bible, 1935; G. Abetti, The History of Astronomy, 1952.——HHH


ASTRONOMY.

Creation.


It certainly would have been possible for God to accomplish the creation events in six ordinary days, but perhaps here is a place where Biblical interpretation can be helped by science, which gives rather definite evidence that the whole process took a long time. The best information from the products of radioactive decay in meteorites suggests that the solar system was formed about 4,700,000,000 years ago, while calculations of the life histories of some stars as they consume their internal nuclear fuel indicate they must have two or three times this age. Measurements of the remnants from radioactive decay in the soil and dust brought back by the first astronauts to land on the moon gave ages around 4,700,000,000 years. Fossils of simple, single-celled micro-organisms have been found on the Ontario shore of Lake Superior in Precambrian rocks known through radio-active dating to be 1,900,000,000 years old. If God took only six literal days for creation, then it is difficult to understand His purpose in arranging everything to appear as if long periods of time were involved.

Earth and sky.

Job shows considerable insight into the true nature of the world by his statement, “He [God]...hangs the earth upon nothing” (Job 26:7), but elsewhere the Biblical writers use more poetical terms, such as “the four corners of the earth” (Isa 11:12; Rev 7:1). Isaiah possibly was thinking of the circumference of the horizon, rather than a spherical earth, in his phrase “the circle of the earth” (Isa 40:22).


Big-bang and steady-state theories of creation.

The largest telescopes reveal that galaxies like the Milky Way, which consists of a hundred billion stars, populate the universe in all directions to at least a billion light years. Wave-length measurements of the light emitted from these galaxies show that they are all receding from the earth with speeds proportional to their distances. This pattern is exactly what would result from an explosion, even if the solar system is not at its center, and led George Gammow to describe the formation of the universe as a big bang from an initial hot and dense collection of matter and energy. An alternative picture was presented by Fred Hoyle and his colleagues in their postulate that the universe is in a steady state and, therefore, must appear the same to all observers at all times. Since the distances between the galaxies are always increasing, this theory requires the spontaneous creation of new protons and electrons throughout the expanding universe to keep the average density constant. Hoyle rejected the universe with a unique creation event and proposed a universe that has existed forever, with matter continuously being created to fill the voids caused by the expansion.

This steady-state or continuous-creation theory is now seriously questioned, primarily as a result of the discovery in 1965 of weak radio waves which cannot be identified with any particular object, but which come uniformly from all directions of space. So far the only reasonable explanation attributes this radio emission to the remains of the explosion of the primordial fireball which initially contained all the matter and energy of the universe at a temperature of a billion degrees or more. It now has cooled by expansion to only 2.7 degrees centigrade above absolute zero. If further investigations of these radio waves confirm the above interpretation, it follows that there must have been an earlier time when the universe was much hotter and denser, and, therefore, it is not in a steady state.

It is tempting to identify the fireball with the creation event of Genesis, but if there is sufficient matter in the universe to bind it by its own gravity, the expansion eventually must stop and contraction begin, returning everything to the compact high temperature state from which another explosion presumably would occur. Thus the universe could oscillate indefinitely between states of high and low density so that there may have been many cycles before the present one. In this case there are no known astronomical measurements that can distinguish between a universe that started oscillating at creation and one that has been expanding and contracting forever. On the other hand, if the average density at present is below the one hydrogen atom per hundred thousand cubic centimeters necessary to hold the universe together, it will never contract, and is now expanding from a unique dense state which must be described as the beginning. The galaxies seem to account for only four percent of the matter needed to bind everything gravitationally, so that one of the major problems of present-day astronomy is to discover whether a significant amount of material lies between the galaxies.

The solar system.

Sun and moon.

According to Genesis 1:14-18, God provided the sun and moon to light the earth and to be signs for days, seasons, and years. The Heb. day ended at sunset, while the year was marked by the time the sun required to make one complete circuit among the stars or to return to the same point on the horizon at rising or setting. “Have you...caused the dawn to know its place” (Job 38:12), refers to this variation of the position of sunrise due to the annual motion of the sun N and S of the celestial equator. The 29.5 day cycle of the moon’s phases defined the Heb. month, beginning with the first appearance of the thin crescent just after sunset (cf. “from new moon to new moon,” Isa 66:23). Although the Scriptures do not mention the procedure, it must have been necessary to add an extra month every two or three years to keep the months in line with the seasons, since twelve lunar months fall short of a year by almost eleven days.

Eclipses.


The long day of Joshua and the sun dial of Ahaz.

One of the most remarkable astronomical events of the Bible occurred when both the sun and moon appeared to stand still in the sky at Joshua’s command while the Israelites won a battle over the Amorites (Josh 10:12-14). This suggests the earth may have temporarily stopped rotating on its axis, but keeping everything from flying off the surface would require a miracle as great as the Resurrection of Jesus. If men believe God relates the degree of each miracle to the importance of the event, it seems more likely that keeping the sun and moon fixed in the sky for a battle with the Amorites was accomplished by some simpler means such as an extraordinary refraction by the atmosphere. Alternatively, the story could be a poetical description of Joshua’s victory from the lost book of Jashar, whose only other reference is in 2 Samuel 1:18. Without the full context of the original, it is difficult to say how literally the account is to be taken. Still another interpretation notes that the Heb. words tr. “stand still” and “stayed” also could mean “be silent” or “cease”; and “The sun...did not hasten to go down” could be rendered “The sun...made no haste to come.” The sun and moon simply may have been darkened, prob. by the storm which brought the hail (Josh 10:11), thus prolonging the night (v. 9) so that the Israelites could continue their surprise attack. A refraction phenomenon also may have occurred when the shadow of the sun on the dial of Ahaz turned back ten steps as a sign that King Hezekiah would recover from his sickness (2 Kings 20:9-11; Isa 38:8).

Planets and the morning star.

The only planet to be mentioned explicitly seems to be Saturn as the star-god Kaiwan (KJV Chiun) in Amos 5:26. The Babylonians and Assyrians called this planet kaawanu and in Arab. it is known as kaiwan.

The morning star (Isa 14:12; 2 Pet 1:19; Rev 2:28; 22:16) is never a star, but any one of the planets Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn when it is in position to be visible in the E just before sunrise. At times, two or more morning stars may be seen in the sky. However, the passages most likely refer to Venus, since it is the brightest and sometimes can be seen long after the sun is up.

Meteors.

Meteors easily could fit descriptions such as “a great star fell from heaven, blazing like a torch” (Rev 8:10) and other references to falling stars (Matt 24:29; Mark 13:25; Rev 9:1; 12:4).

Stars and constellations.

The Bible rarely mentions particular stars or constellations, except for the Bear, Orion, and the Pleiades (Job 9:9; 38:31, 32; Amos 5:8). Constellation names seem appropriate in these passages, but none of the adopted trs. is completely certain, as indicated by the KJV use of the star name “Arcturus” where the ASV and RSV have “Bear.” The latter use follows from the similarity of the Heb. words ash and ayish found in the Job passages with the Arab. name nash (a bier) for Ursa Major, more commonly known as the Big Dipper, the Wagon, or the Plough.

The Heb. word kesil normally is tr. “fool” or “impious one,” but where it appears in Job and Amos a proper name is required, and all modern VSS seem to have followed the LXX rendering of Job 38:31 as ̓Ωρίωνος and used Orion, the name of the mighty hunter, although Job 9:9 has ̔Εσπερον. The correct meaning of the Heb. kima, which also appears in all three passages, is not known, but similar words mean “heap” in Syr. and Arab., and “family” in Assyrian, so that it is reasonable to use Pleiades, the name of the compact star cluster in Taurus. The LXX has πλειάδος in Job 9:9 and 38:31. For kima in Amos 5:8 the KJV has “seven stars” instead of Pleiades, consistent with the ancient tradition of seven stars in this cluster. Today only six are easily visible, although someone with keen eyesight can count eight or more. Probably one of the stars has faded in brightness. Telescopes show that the cluster contains more than a hundred stars.

Constellations also seem to be implied by the phrases “chambers of the south” (Job 9:9), “the fleeing serpent” (26:13), and “the Mazzaroth” (38:32). The identifications are entirely uncertain, though it has been suggested the Mazzaroth are the signs of the zodiac, the twelve constellations through which the sun passes during its yearly motion around the sky.

The Star of Bethlehem. Although God need not have used an ordinary astronomical event to herald the Incarnation, several natural explanations have been put forward for the star which appeared to the wise men in the E and guided them to the birthplace of Jesus (Matt 2:1-10). Certainly these men must have been familiar with the sky so that they would have noticed immediately any special arrangement of planets or a new object. Modern calculations show that during the possible years of Christ’s birth there must have been several close approaches of two or three planets, such as the conjunction of Venus, Mars, and Saturn on January 22, 12 b.c., or the approach of Venus and Jupiter within three arc minutes of each other on June 17, 2 b.c. These must have been notable astronomical events, but they do not easily fit the description of a single star which reappeared every night during the journey, since the relative motions of the planets would separate them again in less than a day.

More likely possibilities are a comet or a new star, either a nova or supernova. A new star occasionally does appear in the sky due to an explosion in an existing star initially too faint to be seen without a telescope. The resulting tremendous increase in brightness suddenly causes the star to become visible for a period, sometimes even in daylight. A nova is the consequence of a modest perturbation which increases the star’s luminosity only some ten thousand times. Such a relatively weak explosion will produce a new star brighter than the second magnitude about on the average of every ten years, and fainter ones more frequently. They will remain visible for a month or two. In the supernova explosion, the light may increase by a hundred million times and then fade gradually for a year or longer, but a hundred years or more usually elapses between these events. In a.d. 1054 in Taurus, the Chinese observed such a supernova which initially was as bright as Venus. At this location telescopes have found the Crab nebula, which is still expanding at 600 m. per second. It is a source of X-rays and radio waves as well as light and has a pulsar at its center emitting bursts of energy every 0.03 seconds.

Whatever the Star of Bethlehem was, it ought to have been seen by others besides the wise men. Among the ancient watchers of the skies, the Chinese kept the best records. From 32 b.c. to a.d. 13, they noted comets in 12 b.c., 10 b.c., and 4 b.c., and an object which appeared in March or early April of 5 b.c. in Capricornus and remained for over seventy days. A detailed description is given of the motions of the comet of 12 b.c., which had a large tail and was visible for fifty-six days beginning August 26th; this must have been Halley’s Comet which returns every seventy-six years. Since no motion was attributed to the object of 5 b.c., it may have been a nova or supernova. Whether any of these events can be identified with the star of the wise men depends on man’s estimate of the birth date of Christ.

Worship of the sun and stars, astrology.

In contrast with the practices of most ancient cultures, the Bible strictly forbids worship of the sun, moon, and stars (Deut 4:19; 17:3), although the Israelites often failed to obey (2 Kings 23:5, 11; Jer 8:2). The Bible goes even further to proclaim that, “The heavens are telling the glory of God” (Ps 19:1), and that the Creator deserves the praises of everything in the heavens (Ps 148:3).

The Bible strongly condemns astrology and all other forms of divination and augury (Deut 18:10-14), even though such things were common in the nations surrounding Israel (Jer 10:2). Isaiah is contemptuous of “those who divide the heavens, who gaze at the stars, who at the new moons predict what shall befall you” (Isa 47:13). However, the admonitions against astrology are not to be confused with the exhortations to watch for special events in the sky, including eclipses and meteor showers which will herald Christ’s return (Matt 24:29; Luke 21:25).

Life on other worlds.

The Bible gives no hint whether life exists elsewhere in the universe. As yet no astronomical observation has found any evidence for life outside our earth, either as simple forms or intelligent beings. It would be remarkable if God created so vast a universe of stars and galaxies without permitting life to develop somewhere else besides the earth.

Measurements by earth-bound telescopes, and esp. by space probes, have shown that it would be difficult for life as we know it, to exist elsewhere in the solar system. The surface temperature of Venus is 430o centigrade, hot enough to melt lead, and Mercury is even hotter. No living organisms were found in the rocks the Apollo 11 and 12 astronauts picked up on the moon. The night temperature on the surface of Mars is 100oC below freezing so that any organism would require some localized hot spot to keep alive. Deep in the atmospheres of hydrogen, helium, methane, and ammonia found in Jupiter and Saturn there should be layers warm enough for biological activity, but the absence of a solid or liquid surface prob. would permit the organisms to contact regions of temperature extremes where they would be destroyed.

A planet around another star could not be seen by present telescopes, but minute wobbles in the position of Barnard’s star, six light years away, show that it must have a companion with only a few times the mass of Jupiter. Therefore, it seems likely that some solar-type stars elsewhere in the Milky Way could have earth-like planets where life would be possible.

Bibliography

J. Taylor, “Orion and Pleiades,” Dictionary of the Bible (1903); H. J. Blair, “Joshua,” New Bible Commentary (1953), 231; B. Ramm, The Christian View of Science and Scripture (1955); J. I. Packer, Fundamentalism and the Word of God (1958), 97; T. R. von Oppolzor, Canon of Eclipses (1962); H. P. Yoke, “Ancient and Mediaeval Observations of Comets and Novae in Chinese Sources,” Vistas in Astronomy (1962), v. 5, 127-224; F. Hoyle, Galaxies, Nuclei, and Quasars (1963); P. J. E. Peebles and D. T. Wilkinson, “The Primeval Fireball,” Scientific American (1967), v. 216, 28-36; C. I. Scofield, The New Scofield Reference Bible (1967); R. W. Sinnott, “Thoughts on the Star of Bethlehem,” Sky and Telescope (1968), v. 36, 384-386; R. B. Partridge, “The Primeval Fireball Today,” American Scientist (1969), v. 57, 37-74.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

as-tron’-omi:

I. THE HEAVENLY BODIES 1. The Ordinances of Heaven

2. The Sun

(1) The Names for the Sun

(2) The "City of the Sun"

(3) The Greater Light-Giver

(4) The Purpose of the Sun

(5) The Sun as a Type

3. The Moon

(1) The Names for the Moon

(2) The Lesser Light-Giver

(3) Phases of the Moon

4. Signs

(1) Solar and Lunar Eclipses

(2) The Wings of the Morning

5. Seasons

(1) The Meaning of the Word

(2) Natural Seasons for Worship

(3) The Hallowing of the Seventh

(4) The Jubilee a Luni-solar Cycle

(5) The 19-Year Luni-solar Cycle

(6) The Jewish Ritual Preexilic

(7) The Luni-solar Cycles of Daniel

6. The Stars

(1) Their Number

(2) Their Distance

(3) Their Brightness

7. Morning Stars

The Stars as a Dial

8. Falling Stars

(1) Meteorites

(2) The Star "Wormwood"

9. Wandering Stars

(1) Comets as a Spiritual Type

(2) Comets Referred to in Scripture?

II. THE CONSTELLATIONS 1. Nachash, the "Crooked Serpent"

2. Leviathan

3. The Seed of the Woman

4. The Bow Set in the Cloud

5. The Dragon of Eclipse

6. Joseph’s Dream

7. The Standards of the Tribes

8. The Cherubim

9. Balaam’s Prophecy

10. Pleiades

11. Orion

12. Mazzaroth, the Constellations of the Zodiac

13. "Arcturus"

(1) The "Scatterers," or the North

(2) The Ordinances of Heaven Established on the Earth

14. The Date of the Book of Job

III. PHYSIOGRAPHY 1. The Circle of the Earth

(1) The Earth a Sphere

(2) The North Stretched out over Empty Space

(3) The Corners of the Earth

2. The Pillars of the Earth

3. The Firmament

(1) The Hebrew Conception

(2) The Alexandrian Conception

4. The Windows of Heaven

5. Rain

6. Clouds

7. The Deep

(1) Meaning of the Word

(2) The Babylonian Dragon of Chaos

LITERATURE The keynote of the Hebrew writers respecting the heavenly bodies is sounded in Ps 8: "When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, The moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? And the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him but little lower than God, And crownest him with glory and honor. Thou makest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; Thou hast put all things under his feet" (Ps 8:3-6). The heavenly bodies were inexpressibly glorious, and they were all the handiwork of Yahweh--without power or vitality of their own--and man, not by any inherent virtue, but by the will and grace of God, was superior to them in importance. Thus there was a great gulf fixed between the superstitions of the heathen who worshipped the sun, moon and stars as gods, and the faith of the pious Hebrew who regarded them as things made and moved by the will of one only God. And it followed from this difference that the Hebrew, beyond all nations of like antiquity, was filled with a keen delight in natural objects and phenomena, and was attentively observant of them.

I. The Heavenly Bodies. 1. The Ordinances of Heaven:

To the sacred writers, the ordinances of heaven taught the lesson of Order--great, magnificent and immutable. Day by day, the sun rose in the east, "as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber" (Ps 19:5), and pursued unswervingly his appointed path across the sky, to his going down. Night by night, the stars, the "host of heaven," moved in their "highways" or "courses" (mecillah), and the words of Joe (2:7) respecting the Assyrian army might be applied to them. "They march every one on his ways, and they break not their ranks. Neither doth one thrust another; they march every one in his path." Some wheeled in northern circuits that were wholly seen; some swept in long courses from their rising in the East to their setting in the West; some scarcely lifted themselves above the southern horizon. Little wonder that this celestial army on the march, "the host of heaven," suggested to the Hebrews a comparison with the "angels," the unseen messengers of God who in their "thousands of thousands ministered unto him" (Da 7:10).

But, as the year revolved, the dial of stars in the North shifted round; whilst of the other stars, those in the West disappeared into the light of the setting sun, and new stars seemed to spring out of the dawning light. There was thus a yearly procession of the stars as well as a nightly one. And to this "ordinance of the heaven" the Hebrews noted that there was an answer from the earth, for in unfailing correspondence came the succession of seasons, the revival of vegetation, the ripening of harvest and of fruits, the return of winter’s cold. Of them God asked the question: "Knowest thou the ordinances of the heavens? Canst thou establish the dominion thereof in the earth?" (Job 38:33), and they recognized that to this question no answer could be given, for these ordinances of heaven were the sign and evidence of Almighty wisdom, power and unchangeableness. "Thus saith Yahweh, who giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night .... Yahweh of hosts is his name" (Jer 31:35).

We have no writings of the early Hebrews other than the books of the nodetitle, and in them there is no record of any research into the mechanical explanation of the movements of the heavenly bodies. Nor should we expect to find in them a record of the research if such were made, since the purpose of Holy Scripture was, not to work out the relation of thing to thing--the inquiry to which modern science is devoted--but to reveal God to man. Therefore the lesson which is drawn from the observed ordinances of heaven is, not that the earth rotates on its axis or revolves round the sun, but that God is faithful to His purpose for mankind. "Thus saith Yahweh: If my covenant of day and night stand not, if I have not appointed the ordinances of heaven and earth; then will I also cast away the seed of Jacob, and of David my servant" (Jer 33:25,26). And "the glory of God" which "the heavens declare" is not only His almighty power, but the image which the order and perfection of the heavenly movements supply of the law which He has revealed unto man. The "speech" that they "utter," the "knowledge" that they "show" is: "The law of Yahweh is perfect, restoring the soul" (Ps 19:7).

2. The Sun:

(1) The Names for the Sun.

Four words are translated "sun" in the Old Testament:

(a) Or simply means "light" and is usually rendered thus, but in one instance (Job 31:26), being in antithesis to "moon," it is given as "sun," the great light-giver.

(b) Chammah means "heat" and is used for the sun when this is in association with lebhanah or "snow-white" for the moon, as in Isa 24:23, `Then the snow-white (moon) shall be confounded, and the heat (sun) ashamed,’ the antithesis being drawn between the cold light of the silver moon and the fiery radiance, of the glowing sun.

(c) Shemesh, the Samas of the Babylonians, is a primitive word, probably with the root meaning of "ministrant." This is the word most frequently used for the sun, and we find it used topographically as, for instance, in Beth-shemesh, "the house of the sun." Four places of this name are mentioned in the Old Testament: one in Judah, a Levitical city, to which the two milch kine bearing the ark took their straight way from the country of the Philistines; one on the border of Issachar; one in Naphtali, a fenced city; and one in Egypt, supposed to be the same as Heliopolis or On, the city of Asenath, wife of Joseph.


(2) The "City of the Sun".

But the most interesting reference is found in Isa 19:18: "In that day there shall be five cities in the land of Egypt that speak the language of Canaan, and swear to Yahweh of hosts; one shall be called The city of destruction." The word here rendered "destruction" is in Hebrew herec, which has that meaning, but Gesenius and other authorities would substitute for the initial letter, he, the letter, cheth, which it so closely resembles, and so read it "The city of the sun." With this reading it was identified with On, that is, Heliopolis (the city of the sun), and on this belief Onias, the son of Onias the high priest, persuaded Ptolemy Philometor to allow him to build a temple to Yahweh in that prefecture, 149 BC (Ant., XIII, iii, 1).

(3) The Greater Light-Giver.

(e) Yet a fifth expression is used to denote the sun, and in one respect it is the most important and significant of all. In the creation narrative it is called the greater light or rather light-giver (ma’or): `And God made the two great light-givers; the greater light-giver to rule the day, and the lesser light-giver to rule the night: He made the stars also’ (Ge 1:16). The extreme simplicity of this passage is most significant. In marked contrast to the Bah creation poem, which by its more complex astronomy reveals its later origin (see post, section II, 12, Mazzaroth), the sun and moon have no distinctive names assigned to them; there is no recognition of the grouping of the stars into constellations, none of any of the planets. The celestial bodies could not be referred to in a more simple manner. And this simplicity is marred by no myth; there is not the faintest trace of the deification of sun or moon or stars; there is no anthropomorphic treatment, no suggestion that they formed the vehicles for spirits. They are described as they were observed when they were first noticed by men, simply as "light-givers" of different brightness. It is the expression of man’s earliest observation of the heavenly bodies, but it is real observation, free from any taint of savage fantasies; it marks the very first step in astronomy. No record, oral or written, has been preserved to us of a character more markedly primitive than this.

(4) The Purpose of the Sun.

Two purposes for the great heavenly bodies are indicated in Ge 1:14,15. The sun and moon are appointed to give light and to measure time. These, from the human and practical point of view, are the two main services which they render to us. Their purpose for measuring time by their movements will be taken up under another heading; but here it may be pointed out that when it is stated in the Book of The Wisdom of Solomon (7:18) that King Solomon knew "the alternations of the solstices and the changes of seasons," the reference is to the whole cycle of changes from winter through summer back to winter again. From winter onward the places of sunrise and sunset move northward along the horizon until midsummer when for some days they show no change--the "solstice" is reached; then from midsummer onward the movement "turns" southward until midwinter, when again a "solstice" is reached, after which the places of sunrise and sunset again move northward. This changing place of sunrise is also referred to when God asked Job (38:12-14): Hast thou "caused the dayspring to know its place," and the passage goes on, "It (the earth) is changed as clay under the seal; and all things stand forth as a garment." As the shapeless clay takes form under the pressure of the seal, as the garment, shapeless while folded up, takes form when the wearer puts it on, so the earth, shapeless during the darkness, takes form and relief and color with the impress upon it of the dawning light. In the New Testament when James (1:17) speaks of "the Father of lights, with whom can be no variation (parallage), neither shadow that is cast by turning (trope)" he is using astronomical technical terms for these same apparent movements of the sun.

(5) The Sun as a Type.

But the apparent unchangeability of the sun makes it, as it were, a just measure of eternal duration (Ps 72:5,17). The penetration of its rays renders "under the sun" (Ec 1:9) a fit expression for universality of place, and on the other hand the fierceness of its heat as experienced in Palestine makes it equally suitable as a type of oppression and disaster, so the sun is said, in Scripture, to "smite" those oppressed by its heat (Ps 121:6).

But it was in its light-giving and ministering power that the Hebrew writers used the sun as a type to set forth the power and beneficence of God. Words are the symbols of ideas and it was only by this double symbolism that it was possible to express in intelligible human speech, and to make men partly apprehend some of the attributes of God. So we find in the Ps of pilgrimage (Ps 84:11) "Yahweh God is a sun and a shield"; Malachi (4:2) foretells that "the sun of righteousness shall arise with healing in its wings." But the old Hebrew writers were very guarded and careful in the symbolism they used, whether of word or illustration. Men in those days terribly perverted the benefits which they received through the sun, and made them the occasion and excuse for plunging into all kinds of nature worship and of abominable idolatries. It was not only clear thinking on the part of the sacred writers that made them refer all the benefits that came to them in the natural world direct to the action of God; it was a necessity for clean living. There is no bottom to the abyss in which men plunged when they "worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever" (Ro 1:25).

In New Testament times, though men were no less prone to evil, the fashion of that evil was changing. "The pillars of Beth- shemesh" were broken down (Jer 43:13), idolatry was beginning to fall into disrepute and men were led away rather by "the knowledge (gnosis) which is falsely so called" (1Ti 6:20). The apostles could therefore use symbolism from the natural world more freely, and so we find John speaking of our Lord as "There was the true light, even the light which lighteth every man, coming into the world" (Joh 1:9), and again, "God is light, and in him is no darkness at all" (1Jo 1:5); and again, that the glory of the New Jerusalem shall be that "the city hath no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine upon it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the lamp thereof is the Lamb" (Re 21:23); while the great modern discovery that nearly every form of terrestrial energy is derived ultimately from the energy of the sun’s rays, gives a most striking appropriateness to the imagery of James that `Every good gift and perfect boon is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom can be no variation, neither shadow that is cast by turning’ (Jas 1:17 the English Revised Version).

3. The Moon:

(1) The Names for the Moon.

Three words are translated "moon" in the Old Testament, not including cases where "month" has been rendered "moon" for the sake of a more flowing sentence: (a) Lebhanah, "white"; a poetic expression, used in connection with chammah, "heat," for the sun.

(b) Chodhesh, "new moon," meaning "new," "fresh." As the Hebrews reckoned their months from the actual first appearance of the young crescent, chodhesh is most frequently translated "month." Thus "In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month" (Ge 7:11), and in the great majority of cases, the word for month is chodhesh, "new moon." In Isa 66:23, "from one new moon to another," should be literally, "from new moon to new moon." Once it is rendered "monthly" (Isa 47:13), when it is used to denote the astrologers who fixed the omens of the opening month. Chodhesh, therefore, when translated "new moon" is not a designation of the actual heavenly body, but denotes the first day of the month. It is a term directly or indirectly connected with the calendar.

(c) Yareach, probably "wandering," a very appropriate primitive term for the moon, since her motion among the stars from night to night is sufficiently rapid to have caught the attention of very early observers. Its use therefore as the proper name for the "lesser light" indicates that the systematic observation of the heavenly bodies had commenced, and that the motion of the moon, relative to the stars, had been recognized.

Yerach, "month," is twice translated "moon" (De 33:14; Isa 60:20), but without any great reason for the variation in either case.

(2) The Lesser Light-Giver.

The direct references in Scripture to the moon as a light-giver are not numerous, but those that occur are significant of the great importance of moonlight in ancient times, when artificial lights were few, expensive and dim, and the lighting of streets and roads was unthought of. To shepherds, the moon was of especial assistance, and many of the people of Israel maintained the habits of their forefathers and led the shepherd’s life long after the settlement of the nation in Palestine. The return of the moonlit portion of the month was therefore an occasion for rejoicing and for solemn thanks to God, and the "new moon" as well as the Sabbath was a day of special offerings. On the other hand one of the judgments threatened against the enemies of God was that the light of the moon should be withheld. The threat made against Pharaoh is "I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon shall not give its light" (Eze 32:7); and in the day of the Lord denounced against Babylon, "The sun shall be darkened in its going forth, and the moon shall not cause its light to shine" (Isa 13:10). But among the glories of the restoration of Israel it is promised that "the light of the moon (lebhanah) shall be as the light of the sun (chammah)" (Isa 30:26).

(3) Phases of the Moon.

There is no direct mention of the phases of the moon in Scripture; a remarkable fact, and one that illustrates the foolishness of attempting to prove the ignorance of the sacred writers by the argument from silence, since it is not conceivable that men at any time were ignorant of the fact that the moon changes her apparent shape and size. So far from the Hebrews being plunged in such a depth of more than savage ignorance, they based their whole calendar on the actual observation of the first appearance of the young crescent. In two passages in the Revised Version (British and American) we find the expression "at the full moon," keceh (Ps 81:3; Pr 7:20), but though this is what is intended, the literal meaning of the word is doubtful, and may be that given in the King James Version, "at the day appointed." In another passage already quoted, there is a reference to the dark part of the month. "Thy sun shall no more go down, neither shall thy moon (yerach, "month") withdraw itself"--the "withdrawn" part of the month being the time near new moon when the moon is nearly in conjunction with the sun and therefore invisible.

The periodical changes of the moon are its ordinances (Jer 31:35). It was also appointed for "seasons" (Ps 104:19), that is, for religious assemblies or feasts (mo`adhim). Two of these were held at the full of the moon, the Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles; one at the new moon, the Feast of Trumpets; but the ordinary new moon did not rank among the great "appointed feasts" (mo`adhim). As light-giver, assisting men in their labors with the flock and in the field and helping them on their journeys; as time-measurer, indicating the progress of the months and the seasons for the great religious festivals, the moon was to the pious Hebrew an evidence of the goodness and wisdom of God.

The "round tires like the moon" worn by the daughters of Zion (Isa 3:18 the King James Version), and those on the camels of Zeba and Zalmunna (Jud 8:21 King James Version, margin), were designated by the same Hebrew word, saharonim, translated in the Vulgate (Jerome’s Latin Bible, 390-405 A. D.) as lunulae, and were little round ornaments, probably round like crescents, not discs like the full moon.

Jericho possibly means "the city of the moon," and Jerah, "moon," was the name of one of the sons of Joktan.

4. Signs:

(1) Solar and Lunar Eclipses .

The sun and moon were not only given "for days and years" (Ge 1:14), but also "for signs," and in no way do they better fulfill what was in the old time understood by this word than in their eclipses. Nothing in Nature is more impressive than a total eclipse of the sun; the mysterious darkness, the sudden cold, the shining forth of the weird corona, seen at no other time, affect even those who know its cause, and strike unspeakable terror in those who cannot foresee or understand it. In bygone ages an eclipse of the sun was counted an omen of disaster, indeed as itself the worst of disasters, by all nations except that one to whom the word of the prophet came: "Learn not the way of the nations, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the nations are dismayed at them" (Jer 10:2). To the Hebrew prophets, eclipses were "signs" of the power and authority of God who forbade them to be alarmed at portents which distressed the heathen.

The phenomena of both solar and lunar eclipses are briefly but unmistakably described by several of the prophets. Joe refers to them twice (2:10,31), the second time very definitely: "The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood," and this was quoted by Peter on the Day of Pentecost (Ac 2:19,20). John also says that when the sixth seal was opened "the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the whole moon became as blood" (Re 6:12). When the new moon in its revolution or turning comes exactly between the earth and the sun, and its shadow--the "shadow that is cast by turning" of Jas 1:17--falls on the earth, the sun is completely hidden and its glowing discovered is replaced by the dark body of the moon; "the sun is turned into darkness." When the shadow of the earth falls upon the full moon, and the only rays from the sun that reach it have passed through an immense thickness of our atmosphere and are therefore of a dull copper-red color like clotted blood, "the moon is turned into blood."

(2) The Wings of the Morning.

But a solar eclipse is not solely darkness and terror. Scarcely has the dark moon hidden the last thread of sunlight than a beautiful pearly halo, the corona, is seen surrounding the blackness. This corona changes its shape from one eclipse to another, but the simplest form is that of a bright ring with outstretched wings, and is characteristic of times when the sun has but few spots upon it. This form appears to have been the origin of the sacred symbol of the ring or discovered with wings, so frequently figured on Egyptian, Babylonian and Persian monuments. It is possible that these coronal "wings of the sun" may have been in the mind of the prophet Malachi when he wrote, "Unto you that fear my name shall the sun of righteousness arise with healing in its wings" (Mal 4:2). The metaphor "wings of the morning" of Ps 139:9 is however more probably due to the long streamers, the crepuscular rays, seen at dawn when the sun rises behind a low bank of clouds.

Total eclipses of the moon must frequently have been visible in Palestine as in other countries, but only two or three total eclipses of the sun were visible there during Old Testament history; that of 831 BC, August 15, was total in Judea, and that of 824 BC, April 2, very nearly total. It has been suggested that two eclipses of the sun were predicted in the Old Testament--that of Nineveh, 763 BC, June 15, in Am 8:9, and that of Thales, 585 BC, May 28, in Isa 13:10, but the suggestion has little to support it.

5. Seasons:

(1) The Meaning of the Word.

The sun and moon were appointed "to give light upon the earth," and "for signs," and "for days and years." They were also appointed "for seasons" (mo`adhim), i. e. "appointed assemblies." These seasons were not primarily such seasons as the progress of the year brings forth in the form of changes of weather or of the condition of vegetation; they were seasons for worship. The word mo`edh occurs some 219 times; in 149, it is translated "congregation," and in about 50 other instances by "solemn assembly" or some equivalent expression. Thus before ever man was created, God had provided for him times to worship and had appointed two great lights of heaven to serve as signals to call to it.

The appointed sacred seasons of the Jews form a most complete and symmetrical series, developing from times indicated by the sun alone to times indicated by the sun and moon together, and completed in times indicated by luni-solar cycles.

(2) Natural Seasons for Worship.

The sun alone indicated the hours for daily worship; at sunrise, when the day began, there was the morning sacrifice; at sunset, when the day closed, there was the evening sacrifice.

The moon indicated the time for monthly worship; when the slender crescent of the new moon was first seen in the western sky, special sacrifices were ordained with the blowing of trumpets over them.

The sun and moon together marked the times for the two great religious festivals of the year. At the beginning of the bright part of the year, when the moon was full in the first month of spring, the Passover, followed by the Feast of Unleavened Bread, was held. At the end of the bright part of the year, when the moon was full in the first month of autumn, the Feast of Tabernacles was held. These may all be termed natural seasons for worship, obviously marked out as appropriate. The beginning and close of the bright part of the day, and of the bright part of the year, and the beginning of the bright part of the month, have been observed by many nations.

(3) The Hallowing of the Seventh.

But that which was distinctive in the system of the Jewish festivals was the hallowing of the seventh: the seventh day, the seventh week, the seventh month, the seventh year were all specially marked out. The sun alone indicated the Sabbath by the application of the sacred number seven to the unit of time given by the day. For the period of seven days, the week was not dependent upon any phase of the moon’s relation to the sun; it was not a quarter month, but a free week, running on independently of the month. The Jewish Sabbath therefore differed from the Babylonian, which was tied to the lunar month. The same principle was applied also to the year; every seventh year was set apart, as a period of rest, the Sabbatic year. Every seventh day, every seventh year, was thus observed. But for the week and month, the principle of hallowing the seventh came into operation only once in each year. The Feast of Pentecost, or as it was also called, the Feast of Weeks, was held at the close of the seventh week from the morrow after the Sabbath of Unleavened Bread; and the new moon of the seventh month was held as a special feast, the Feast of Trumpets, "a holy convocation. Ye shall do no servile work" (Le 23:24,25). The other new moons of the year were not thus distinguished.

The weekly Sabbath, the Passover, Pentecost, and the Feasts of Trumpets and of Tabernacles, with one other day of solemnity, were in an especial sense, the mo`adhim of the Lord.

The seventh day was especially the day of worship, and to correspond, the seventh month was especially the month of worship; and this, not only because it was ushered in with peculiar solemnity, and included one of the chief great feasts of the year, but because it furnished the culminating ceremony of the entire Jewish system, the great Day of Atonement, held on the tenth day of the month, and therefore on a day not marked directly by any phase of the moon. The Day of Atonement purged away the offenses of the past year, and restored Israel to the full enjoyment of the Divine favor.

(4) The Jubilee a Luni-solar Cycle.

The Jewish month was a natural month, based upon the actual observation of the young crescent. The Jewish year was a natural year, that is, a solar tropical year, based upon actual observation of the ripening of the grain. But there is not an exact number of days in a lunar month, nor is there an exact number of months in a solar year; twelve lunar months falling short of the year, by eleven days; so that in three years the error would amount to more than a complete month, and to restore the balance a thirteenth month would have to be intercalated. As the months were determined from actual observation, and as observation would be interrupted from time to time by unfavorable weather, it was necessary to have some means for determining when intercalation would take place, irrespective of it. And this was provided by carrying the principle of hallowing the seventh, one stage farther. Not only was the seventh of the day, week, month and year distinguished, but the seventh week of years was marked by the blowing of the trumpet of Jubilee on the Day of Atonement. The Day of Atonement meant the restitution of Israel to the Divine favor; the blowing of the trumpet of Jubilee every forty-ninth year meant "the restitution of all things"; every Hebrew in servitude returned to freedom, all land, mortgaged or sold, returned to its original owner.

And this period of 49 solar years was astronomically a period of restitution, for the sun and moon returned nearly to their original positions relative to each other, since 49 solar years are 606 lunar months with an error of only 32 hours. So that though the Jubilee period is not a perfect lunar cycle, it was quite exact enough to guide the Jewish priests in drawing up their calendar in cases where the failure of observation had given rise to some doubt.

The beginning of each month was marked by the blowing of the two silver trumpets (chatsotserah: Nu 10:2,10). The beginning of the civil, that is to say, of the agricultural year, was marked by a special blowing of trumpets (teru`ah), giving the name "Feast of Trumpets" to that new moon (Le 23:24; Nu 29:1). And the beginning of a new cycle of 49 years was marked by the Jubilee, the loud trumpet (shophar: Le 25:9). Thus the cycle of the Jubilee made symmetrical, completed, and welded together all the mo`adhim of the Lord--the two great lights were set "for seasons."

(5) The 19-Year Luni-solar Cycle.

The cycle of the Jubilee was sufficient for the purposes of the religious calendar so long as the nation inhabited its own land, since from its small extent there would be no conflict of time reckoning and it would be easy to notify the appearance of the new moon from one end of the country to the other. But after the captivities, when the people were scattered from Gozan of the Medes to Syene on the Nile, it was necessary to devise some method by which the Jews, however far they had been dispersed, would be able to reckon for themselves as to when the moon was new for Jerusalem. We have lately learned from the discovery of a number of Aramaic papyri at Syene that there was a colony of Jews there who used a calendar constructed, not from observation, but from calculation based upon a very exact luni-solar cycle (E. B. Knobel, "Ancient Jewish Calendar Dates in Aramaic Papyri," Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, LXVIII, 334). This cycle, known to us by the name of its supposed discoverer, Meton, is one of 19 years, which is only two hours short of 235 complete months. As this Jewish colony appears to have been founded after Nebuchadnezzar’s destruction of Jerusalem by some of the refugees who fled into Egypt with Johanan the son of Kareah (Jer 40-44), this acquaintance with the Metonic cycle cannot have been due to Babylonian influence. Nor can it have been due to Egyptian, since the Egyptians did not use or require any such cycle, their year being a solar one of 365 days. Indeed no other nation appears to have been aware of it until, a generation later, Meton, the Athenian, won immortal fame by announcing it. The evidence of these Syene papyri renders it probable that Meton did not himself discover the cycle but learned it from Jewish sources. Many of the Semitic nations used, like the Jews, a natural month in conjunction with the natural year, but the Jews were the most likely to have discovered this cycle, since they alone had their worship centralized at a single shrine which became, in consequence, their standard observatory for their observation of the new moon. These observations, therefore, would all be comparable, and during the 400 years that the Temple stood, it must have been quite clear to them that the 19-year cycle not only gave them seven, the sacred number, of intercalated months, but brought the setting places of the new moons to the same points of the western horizon and in the same order.

It is clear from the evidence of these Syene papyri that the Jews, there, used the 19-year cycle both for fixing the day of the new moon, and in order to determine when a thirteenth month had to be intercalated, an illustration of the futility of "the argument from silence," for so far from there being any notice in Scripture of the use of a cycle for determining intercalation, there is no mention of intercalation at all.

(6) The Jewish Ritual Preexilic.

Ever since this date of the Captivity, the 19-year cycle has been used by the Jews, and it gives to us the "Golden Number" which is employed in fixing the date of Easter in our own ecclesiastical calendar. Since the 19-year cycle has been in use ever since the Captivity, the 49-year cycle, the Jubilee, cannot have been an exilic or post-exilic innovation. In this fact we find the decision of the controversy which has so long divided critics as to whether the ritual legislation of the Jews dated from before or from after their captivity. We may take Kuenen as representing the more recent school: "Even the later prophets and historians, but more especially and emphatically those that lived before the Exile, were unacquainted with any ritual legislation, and specifically with that which has come down to us" (The Hexateuch, 273-74). "In determining its antiquity we must begin by considering its relation to Deuteronomy, to which it is evidently subsequent. .... This comes out most clearly in the legislation concerning the feasts. Other indications though less unequivocal, plead for the same relationship. In the next place the legislation itself gives evidence of the date of its origin, and those data which justify a positive inference point to the Babylonian captivity. .... It would follow that the `legislation of sanctity’ arose in the second half of the Babylonian captivity, presumably shortly before its close; and there is not a single valid objection to this date" (ibid., 276). Kuenen was evidently unaware of the astronomical relations concerned in the ritual legislation, and was unable to anticipate the striking discoveries made from the Syene papyri. More recent knowledge has reversed the verdict which he pronounced so confidently. The traditional view, that the Hebrew ritual preceded the Captivity, was correct. For the Jubilee, with which the Day of Atonement was bound up, was both the culmination and the completion of the entire ritual, and, since the period of the Jubilee, as a luni- solar cycle, was preexilic, the ritual, as a system, must have been preexilic likewise.

(7) The Luni-solar Cycles of Daniel.


It is not possible at present to decide as to whether the Jews had learnt of this cycle and its significance from their astronomical observations. If so, they must have been far in advance in mathematical science of all other nations of antiquity. If not, then it must have been given to them by Divine revelation, and its astronomical significance has been left for modern science to reveal.

6. The Stars:

As with the sun and moon, the stars are regarded under the two aspects of light-givers and time-measurers; or, in other words, as marking the seasons.

(1) Their Number.

But two other ideas are also strongly dwelt upon; the stars and the heaven of which they form the "host" are used to express the superlatives of number and of height. "Look now toward heaven, and number the stars, if thou be able to number them" (Ge 15:5); "As the host of heaven cannot be numbered" (Jer 33:22) are a few of the passages in which the stars are used for limitless number. Those separately visible to the naked eye at any one time do not exceed 2,000 in number, but it was just as evident to the Hebrews of old, as it was to Ptolemy, the astronomer of Alexandria, that beside the stars separately visible, there is a background, a patterned curtain of light, which indicates by its granular and mottled appearance that it is made up of countless myriads of stars, too faint to be individually detected, too close to be individually defined. The most striking feature of this curtain is the grand stellar stream that we call the Milky Way, but the mind easily recognizes that the minute points of light, composing its pattern, are as really stars as the great leaders of the constellations. Later astronomy has confirmed the testimony of the prophets that the stars are without number. The earliest star catalogue, that of Hipparchus, contained a little over one thousand stars; the great International Photographic Chart will show the images of more than fifty millions, and there are photographs which show more than a hundred thousand stars on a single plate. The limit that has been reached is due only to the limited power of our telescopes or the limited time of exposure of the photographs, not to any limitation in the number of stars. To us today, as to the Psalmist of old, it is a token of the infinite power and knowledge of God that "He telleth the number of the stars; He giveth them all their names" (Ps 147:4 the King James Version).

(2) Their Distance.

As regards the height, that is to say, the distance of the stars, this is immeasurable except in a very few cases. By using as a base line the enormous diameter of the earth’s orbit--186,000,000 miles--astronomers have been able to get a hint as to the distance of some 40 or 50 stars. Of these the nearest, Alpha Centauri, is distant about twenty-five millions of millions of miles; the brighter stars are on the average quite ten times as far; whilst of the distances of the untold millions of stars beyond, we have no gauge. For us, as for King Solomon, the "heaven" of the stars is "for height" (Pr 25:3), for a height that is beyond measure, giving us therefore the only fitting image for the immensity of God. So Zophar the Naamathite asked, "Canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection? It is high as heaven; what canst thou do?" And Eliphaz the Temanite reiterated the same thought, "Is not God in the height of heaven? And behold the height of the stars, how high they are!" (Job 11:7,8; 22:12). And the height of the heaven, that is to say, the distance of the stars, stands as a symbol, not only of God’s infinitude, but of His faithfulness and of His mercy: "Thus saith Yahweh: If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, then will I also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, saith Yahweh" (Jer 31:37). And the Psalmist sings, "For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him" (Ps 103:11 the King James Version).

(3) Their Brightness.

The stars are not all of equal brightness; a fact alluded to by Paul when he wrote that "one star differeth from another star in glory" (1Co 15:41). The ancient Greek astronomers divided the stars according to their brightness into six classes or magnitudes, to use the modern technical term, the average star in any particular magnitude giving about two and a half times as much light as the average star of the next magnitude.

Just as the number of the stars and their ordered movement led them to be considered as a mighty army, "the host of heaven," and as a type of that other celestial host, the holy angels, so the individual stars are taken as fitly setting forth, by their brightness and exalted position, spiritual powers and intelligences, whether these are the angels of God, as in Job 38:7, or rulers of churches, as in Re 1:20. The same image is naturally applied in a yet higher sense to Christ Himself, who is the "star out of Jacob" (Nu 24:17), and "the bright, the morning star" (Re 22:16; 2Pe 1:19).

7. Morning Stars:

The Stars as a Dial

In ancient times there were two methods by which the progress of the year could be learned from observation of the heavens. The sun was "for seasons," and the change in its place of rising or of setting supplied the first method. The second method was supplied by the stars. For as the Hebrew shepherds, such as Jacob, Moses, David and Amos, kept watch over their flocks by night, they saw the silent procession of the stars through the hours of darkness, and knew without clock or timepiece how they were progressing. They noticed what stars were rising in the East, what stars were culminating in the South, what were setting in the West, and how the northern stars, always visible, like a great dial, were turning. But as the eastern horizon began to brighten toward the dawn, they would specially note what stars were the last to rise before their shining was drowned in the growing light of day. These, the last stars to appear in the East before sunrise, were the "morning stars," the heralds of the sun. As morning followed morning, these morning stars would be seen earlier and earlier, and therefore for a longer time before they disappeared in the dawn, until some morning, other stars, unseen before, would shine out for a few moments, and thus supplant the stars seen earlier as the actual heralds of the sun. Such a first appearance of a star was termed by the Greek astronomers its "heliacal" rising, and the mention in Scripture of "morning stars," or "stars of the twilight" (Job 38:7; 3:9), shows that the Hebrews like the Greeks were familiar with this feature of the ordinances of heaven, and noted the progress of the year by observation of the apparent changes of the celestial host. One star would herald the beginning of spring, another the coming of winter; the time to plow, the time to sow, the time of the rains would all be indicated by successive "morning stars" as they appeared.

8. Falling Stars:

(1) Meteorites.

Meteors are not stars at all in the popular sense of the word, but are quite small bodies drawn into our atmosphere, and rendered luminous for a few moments by the friction of their rush through it. But as they have been shown not to be mere distempers of the air, as they were considered at one time, but bodies of a truly planetary nature, traveling round the sun in orbits as defined as that of the earth itself, the epithet is quite appropriate to them. They are astronomical and not merely terrestrial bodies. Meteors are most striking either when they are seen as solitary aerolites or when they fall in some great shower. The most celebrated shower which seemed to radiate from the constellation Leo--and hence called the Leonid--gave for centuries a magnificent spectacle every thirty-three years; the last great occasion having been on November 14, 1866. Those who saw that shower could appreciate the vivid description given by John when he wrote, "The stars of the heaven fell unto the earth, as a fig tree casteth her unripe figs when she is shaken of a great wind" (Re 6:13), for the meteors fell like autumn leaves, driven by a great storm, as numerous and as fast. The prophet Isaiah also used a very similar figure (Isa 34:4).

(2) The Star "Wormwood."

Such great meteoric showers are most impressive spectacles, but solitary meteors are sometimes hardly less striking. Bolides or aerolites, as such great solitary meteors are termed, are apparently of great size, and are sometimes so brilliant as to light up the sky even in broad daylight. Such a phenomenon is referred to by John in his description of the star Wormwood: "There fell from heaven a great star, burning as a torch" (Re 8:10). Such aerolites are not entirely consumed in their passage through our atmosphere, but portions of them reach the ground, and in some cases large masses have been found intact. These are generally of a stony nature, but others are either almost pure iron or contain much of that metal. Such a meteoric stone was used as the pedestal of the image of the goddess Diana at Ephesus, and the "townclerk" of the city referred to this circumstance when he reminded the Ephesians that their city was "temple-keeper of the great Diana, and of the image which fell down from Jupiter" (Ac 19:35).

9. Wandering Stars:

It has already been noted that the moon may perhaps have received its Hebrew name from the fact of its being a "wanderer" among the stars, but there is no direct and explicit reference in Scripture to other celestial "wanderers" except in Jude 1:13: "Wandering stars, for whom the blackness of darkness hath been reserved for ever." These asteres planetai are not our "planets," but either meteors or comets, more probably the latter, as meteors are more appropriately described as "falling stars."

(1) Comets as a Spiritual Type.

But as comets and meteors are intimately connected with each other--meteors being in many cases the debris of comets--the simile applies to either. False professors of religion, unstable or apostate teachers, are utterly unlike the stars which shine forth in heaven for ever, but are fitly represented by comets, which are seen only for a few weeks or days, and then are entirely lost to sight, or by meteors, which flash out for a few moments, and are then totally extinguished.

All the great comets, all the comets that have been conspicuous to the naked eye, with the single exception of that named after Halley, have appeared but once within the period of human records and Halley’s Comet only takes 80 days to traverse that part of its orbit which lies within the orbit of the earth; the rest of its period of revolution--76 years--is passed outside that boundary, and for 38 years at a time it remains outside the orbit of Neptune, more than 2,800,000,000 miles from the sun. The other great comets have only visited our neighborhood once within our experience.

(2) Comets Referred to in Scripture?

The question has been raised whether the appearance of comets is ever referred to in Scripture. Josephus, speaking of the signs which preceded the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus, says, "Thus there was a star resembling a sword which stood over the city, and a comet that continued a whole year" (BJ, VI, v, 3). The "star resembling a sword" was doubtless the return of Halley’s Comet in 66 AD, and the phrase used by Josephus has suggested that it was a stellar phenomenon that is referred to in 1Ch 21:16: "The angel of Yahweh .... between earth and heaven, having a drawn sword in his hand stretched out over Jerusalem." But this, and the corresponding suggestion as to the nature of the flaming sword that kept the way of the tree of life (Ge 3:24), are unsupported conjectures not worthy of attention. The astronomer Pingre thought that the first vision of Jeremiah of the "rod of an almond tree" and of a "boiling caldron" (Jer 1:11,13) had its physical basis in a return of Halley’s Comet, and other commentators have thought that cometary appearances were described in the "pillars of smoke" of Joe 2:30; but none of these suggestions appear to have plausibility.

II. The Constellations. The principal achievement of the science of astronomy in the centuries during which the books of the Old Testament were written was the arrangement and naming of the constellations, and there can be no reasonable doubt that the same system was known to the Hebrews as that which has been handed down to us through the Greek astronomers. Paul certainly knew the Greek constellations, for in his sermon on Mars’ Hill (Ac 17:28) he quoted from that poetical description of them which Aratus the great poet of Cilicia had written about 270 BC. But these constellations have a much greater antiquity than this, and it is probable that they were well known to Abraham before he left Ur of the Chaldees. It has been frequently shown (The Astronomy of the Bible, 158; Astronomy without a Telescope, 5) that these constellations themselves supply evidence that they were designed about 2700 BC. They thus antedated the time of Abraham by some centuries, and since some of their most characteristic forms are found upon old Babylonian "boundary stones," it is clear that they were known in the country from whence he came out.

1. Nachash, the "Crooked Serpent":

The direct references to these old constellation-forms in Scripture are not numerous. One of the clearest is in Job 26:13, where "formed the crooked serpent" (the King James Version) is used as the correlative of "garnished the heavens"; the great constellation of the writhing Dragon, placed at the crown of the heavens, being used, metaphorically, as an expression for all the constellations of the sky. For by its folds it encircles both the poles, that of the equator and that of the ecliptic.

2. Leviathan:

The term bariach, rendered "crooked" but better as in the Revised Version, margin as "fleeing," is applied by Isaiah to "Leviathan" (liwyathan: Isa 27:1), properly a "wreathed" or writhing animal, twisted in folds, and hence also called by the prophet `aqallathon, "crooked," "twisted," or "winding"; a very appropriate designation for Draco, the great polar Dragon. But the latter was not the only "crooked serpent" in the constellations; there were three others, two of which were placed with an astronomical significance not less precise than the coiling of Draco round the poles. Hydra, the Watersnake, marked out the original celestial equator for about one-third of its circumference, and Serpens, the Adder, lay partly along the celestial equator and then was twisted up the autumnal colure, and reached the zenith with its head.

The arrangement of the twelve signs of the zodiac to mark out the apparent yearly path of the sun, and of these three serpent- forms to hold their respective and significant positions in the heavens, shows that a real progress in astronomy had been made before the constellations were designed, and that their places were allotted to these figures on a definite astronomical plan.

3. The Seed of the Woman:

A further purpose is shown by the relation of the three serpents to the neighboring figures, and it is clear that the history preserved in Ge 3 was known to the designers of the constellations, and that they wished to perpetuate its memory by means of the stellar frescoes. For the constellations, Scorpio, Ophiuchus and Serpens, show us a man strangling a snake and standing on a scorpion; the head of the latter he crushes with one foot, but his other foot is wounded by its reverted sting. When these three constellations were due South, that is to say, at midnight in spring-time, Hercules and Draco were due north, and presented the picture of a man kneeling on one knee, and pressing down with his other foot the head of the great northern serpent or dragon. During the winter midnight the zodiacal constellation on the meridian was the Virgin, figured as a woman holding an ear of corn in her hand, while beneath her the immense length of Hydra was stretched out upon its belly in the attitude of a snake when fleeing at full speed. These figures are evidently meant to set forth in picture that which is expressed in word in Ge 3:14,15, "And Yahweh God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, cursed art thou above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: and I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed: he shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel."

4. The Bow Set in the Cloud:

Nor is this the only narrative in Genesis which finds a parallel in the constellations. Among the southern groups we find a ship Argo that has grounded on a rock; and close to it stands a figure, Centaurus, who is apparently slaying an animal, Lupus, beside an Altar. The cloud of smoke arising from the Altar is represented by the Milky Way, and in the midst of the cloud there is set the Bow of the Archer, Sagittarius. Here there seems to be pictured the covenant made with Noah after he offered his sacrifice when he left the ark: "I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth" (Ge 9:13). Thus the constellations, designed several centuries before the time of Abraham, clearly express a knowledge, and appear designed to preserve a remembrance of the two first promises made by God to mankind as recorded in the early chapters of Gen.

There is no need to assume, as some writers have done, that all the 48 primitive constellations were of Divine origin, or even that any of them were. If some of the early astronomers possessed in one form or another the histories that we have in Ge 3:8, 9, it would not be unnatural for them to attempt to preserve a memorial of them in the heavens by associating these figures with the stars.

It does not follow that all the old constellations have an analogous significance, or that if they have, we should now be able to detect it, and a great deal of ingenuity has been wasted in the attempt to convert the old 48 constellations into a sort of gospel in hieroglyphic. Interpretations of this order were current quite early in Christian times, for they are denounced at considerable length and in detail by Hippolytus in his Refutation of All the Heresies, circa 210 AD. Their revival in recent years is chiefly due to Mazzaroth, a series of papers by the late Miss Frances Rolleston in which fanciful etymologies were given to the Arabic names by which the principal stars are known. These names, for the most part, simply indicate the places which the stars were severally supposed to hold in the figures to which they were assigned, and Miss Rolleston’s derivations for them are quite misleading and unfounded. Nevertheless her results have been blindly accepted by a number of writers.

5. The Dragon of Eclipse:

The peculiar arrangement of the serpent forms in the constellations, and especially the position allotted to Hydra, extended along the equator with its head near the spring equinox and its tail near that of autumn, appears to have given rise to the terms "Dragon’s Head" (omega) and "Dragon’s Tail" (an upside-down omega), for the nodes or points of intersection of the ecliptic (the apparent path of the sun) with the celestial equator, and hence for nodes in general. As eclipses of the sun and moon can only occur when those bodies are near the nodes of the moon’s orbit, that is, near the Dragon’s Head or Tail, the myth seems to have arisen that such eclipses were due to one or other of the two great lights being swallowed by a dragon, and a reference to this myth is found in Job 3:8: "Let them curse it that curse the day, who are ready (the Revised Version, margin: skillful) to rouse up leviathan." The persons referred to are the magicians who pretended to be able by their incantations to cause an eclipse of the sun by bringing up the mythical dragon that was supposed to devour it. Astronomical nomenclature still retains a trace of these old expressions, for the time taken by the moon to pass from one node to the same node again is still called a "draconic month," a "month of the dragon."

6. Joseph’s Dream:

If we realize that the Hebrews were quite familiar with the same constellation figures that we have inherited through the Greeks, several indirect allusions to them gain an added meaning. Thus Joseph dreamed that "the sun and the moon and eleven stars made obeisance" to him (Ge 37:9). The twelve constellations of the zodiac are the twelve among which the sun and moon move, and thus constitute, as it were, their family. Eleven of them therefore represented eleven sons of Jacob, Joseph himself being of course the twelfth. There is some evidence that the time came when the suggestion of this dream was acted upon to the extent that some of the tribes adopted certain of the constellation figures by way of crest or armorial bearing. In Nu 2 it is stated that each of the four camps into which the host of Israel was divided had its own standard:

7. The Standards of the Tribes:

"Neither the Mosaic law nor the Old Testament generally gives us any intimation as to the form or character of the standard (deghel). According to rabbinical tradition, the standard of Judah bore the figure of a lion, that of Reuben the likeness of a man, or of a man’s head, that of Ephraim the figure of an ox, and that of Da the figure of an eagle; so that the four living creatures united in the cherubic forms described by Ezekiel were represented upon these four standards" (Keil and Delitzsch, Commentary on the Pentateuch, III, 17). A variant of this tradition gives as the standard of Reuben, "unstable as water" (Ge 49:4 the King James Version), a Man and a River, and of Dan, "Da shall be a serpent in the way" (Ge 49:17), an Eagle and a Serpent. These four forms are also found in the constellations in the four quarters of the heavens. Aquarius, the man with a stream of water, and Leo were the original zodiacal constellations of the two solstices, Taurus was that of the spring equinox, and Aquila and Serpens were close to the autumnal equinox, the latter being actually upon the colure.

8. The Cherubim:

This distribution of the four cherubic forms in the four quarters of heaven gives a special significance to the invocation used by Hezekiah and the Psalmist, "Thou that dwellest between the cherubims" (Isa 37:16 King James Version: Ps 80:1 the King James Version). The Shekinah glory rested indeed between the golden cherubim over the ark in the Holy of Holies, but "the Most High dwelleth not in houses made with hands" (Ac 7:48), and the same cherubic forms were pictured on the curtains of the heavens. "Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain thee" (1Ki 8:27); `Thou dwellest between the cherubim,’ filling the infinite expanse of the stellar universe.

9. Balaam’s Prophecy:

When Balaam saw "Israel dwelling according to their tribes; and the Spirit of God came upon him" (Nu 24:2), it was not unnatural that he should allude in his prophecy to the great standards which he would see floating above the camps, and three of the four appear to be indicated: the bull of Joseph--"He hath as it were the strength of the wild-ox"; the lion of Judah--"He lay down as a lion and as a great lion," the King James Version; and Aquarius, the man pouring out a stream of water from a pitcher, the cognizance of Reuben--"Water shall flow from his buckets" (Nu 24:7,8,9).

In a similar way when the prophets refer to the enemies of Israel under the figure of dragons or reptiles, there seems occasionally an indirect reference to the serpents that represent the powers of evil in the pictures that have been associated with the star groups. Thus in Isa 27:1, the English Revised Version, it is prophesied that the Lord "shall punish leviathan the swift serpent, and leviathan the crooked serpent; and He shall slay the dragon that is in the sea"; the first allusion being appropriate to the attitude of Hydra, the second to Draco, the third to Cetus. Whilst the group of constellations, Andromeda, Cetus and Eridanus, the woman persecuted by a dragon that casts a river out of its mouth, a river which flowing down below the horizon appears to be swallowed up by the earth, would seem to have furnished John with some of the material for the imagery of Re 12 in his great vision.

Besides references direct or indirect to the familiar constellation figures, four special astronomical terms occur in the Hebrew of the Old Testament which have given rise to much discussion. These are Kimah, Kecil, Mazzaroth and `Ayish. The tradition of their significance had been lost before the Septuagint translation was made, but it may be taken as practically certain that the renderings given in the Revised Version (British and American) are substantially correct.

10. Pleiades:

The word Kimah occurs in three passages, in each case in conjunction with Kecil (Am 5:8; Job 9:9; 38:31). It apparently means a "heap" or "cluster," and is hence especially applicable to the beautiful little group of the Pleiades, the most conspicuous star cluster visible to the naked eye. There is the less uncertainty about this identification since "kima" is the term generally used in Syriac literature to denote the Pleiades.

Six stars can now easily be seen by any good sight, but very keen-sighted persons can detect more; thus Maestlin, the tutor of Kepler, mapped 11 before the invention of the telescope, and in recent times Carrington and Denning have counted 14 with the naked eye. Still, 6 is the number visible to most persons, though there is a curiously widespread and uniform tradition that they once "were seven who now are six," and seven is the number almost always assigned to them in literature. Hesiod calls them "the seven sisters, the Virgin stars," and Milton, "the seven Atlantic sisters," as representing the daughters of Atlas. Many of the Greek poets, however, regarded them as Peleiades, "rock pigeons," doves, flying from the hunter Orion; but whether they have been considered as representing doves or maidens, seven has still been their traditional number. Possibly one of the group has declined in brightness in the course of the centuries; Alcyone would seem to have increased in brightness, for though now the brightest, it is not one of the four that figure in Ptolemy’s Catalogue, and if one has increased in brightness, others may have diminished. In the telescope many hundreds of stars are visible. The photographic plate has registered thousands and shows the principal stars as enveloped and threaded together by delicate streams of nebulous matter, the stars shining on these filamentous lines of light like pearls upon a string. This, the appearance of the Pleiades on the best modern photographs, would be strikingly appropriate to the rendering of Job 38:31, which has been adopted in the Revised Version (British and American), "Canst thou bind the cluster (m "chain") of the Pleiades?" and the question put to Job would be equivalent to asking him if it were his power that had brought together the Pleiades and bound them in so compact a cluster. This rendering which involves the reading "ma`anaddoth" is supported by the Septuagint, and all the early versions, and hence by nearly all Orientalists. The reading in Massoretic Text, "ma`adhannoth," that is to say, "dainties" or "delights," and adopted in the King James Version, where the word is paraphrased as "sweet influences," is however correct, as will be shown below.

The designation of the group as that of the seven stars gives a special significance to one of the details of the vision of John: "I saw seven golden candlesticks; and in the midst of the candlesticks one like unto a son of man, .... And He had in his right hand seven stars: .... The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks are seven churches" (Re 1:12,13,16,20). The seven stars in a single compact cluster shining as one, furnish an image of the church in its many diversities and its essential unity.

It may be well to correct here a certain widely diffused error. When it was discovered that the sun itself with all its attendant planets was traveling rapidly through space, the German astronomer Madler hazarded the suggestion that the center of the sun’s motion, the attracting body that governed it, might lie in the group of the Pleiades, and this suggestion has been quoted in many popular writings as if it were a demonstrated fact. It soon became evident that there was no sufficient ground for the suggestion, and the idea has been entirely abandoned by astronomers.

11. Orion:

The word Kecil as denominating a constellation occurs in the singular number in three passages, and in each it is placed in antithesis to Kimah. In a fourth passage (Isa 13:10) it occurs by itself and is in the plural. There is no doubt as to the significance of the word in its common use. In 70 cases it is translated either "fool" or "foolish." It does not signify a weak- minded person, so much as a violent, impious, self-confident one. As a star name, it is probably rightly considered to refer to the glorious constellation of Orion. According to an old tradition, the name of Nimrod, mentioned in Ge 10:10, as the founder of Babel, Erech, Accad and Calneh, was given by his courtiers to this most brilliant of all the constellations, one that by its form somewhat suggests a gigantic warrior armed for the fight.

Until recently it was not found possible to identify the Nimrod of Scripture with any Babylonian monarch until Dr. T. G. Pinches suggested that "Nimrod" was a deliberate Hebrew transmutation of "Marduk," the name of the great Babylonian national hero, and chief deity of their pantheon. "The change was brought about by making the root triliteral, and the ending uk (ak) in Merodach-Baladan disappearing first, Marduk appeared as Marad. This was connected with the root maradh, `to be rebellious,’ and the word was still further mutilated, or rather deformed, by having a ni attached, assimilating it to a certain extent to the niph`al forms of the Hebrew verbs, and making a change altogether in conformity with the genius of the Hebrew language" (The Old Testament in the Light of the Historical Records of Assyria and Babylonia, 129-30). In the very brief reference to Nimrod in Ge 10:8,9, he is three times overemphatically termed gibbor, "a mighty (one)" and this has been the name of this constellation among Syrians, Arabs and Jews for many centuries. Indeed the brightest star of the constellation, the one in the left knee, now generally known as Rigel, is still occasionally called Algebar, a corruption of Al Jabbar, though now one of the fainter stars near it more generally bears that name. The word Kecil as applied to this constellation would parallel closely the etymology suggested for the name "Merodach," by its transformation into "Nimrod" as if it were derived from maradh, "to rebel." He who was to the Babylonians a deified hero, was to the Hebrews a rebel Titan, bound in chains among the stars that all might behold his punishment, and in this aspect the question, "Canst thou .... loose the bands of Orion?" (Job 38:31) would be equivalent to asking "Canst thou bring down out of their places the stars that make up this figure and so, as it were, set the Titan free?"

In Isa 13:10, kecil occurs in the plural kecilim, "for the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light"; kecilim being translated as "constellations" under the impression that Orion, the brightest of all the constellations, is here put for the constellations in general. This is no doubt correct, but the context shows that the meaning goes farther than this, and that the kecilim who were to be darkened were the proud and arrogant tyrants like Nimrod or Merodach who would, if possible, climb up into heaven itself, even as Orion is represented in our star atlases as if trying to climb up into the zodiac-- the home of the sun.

12. Mazzaroth, the Constellations of the Zodiac:

A further astronomical term which occurs in Job 38:32 is left untranslated in both the King James Version and the Revised Version (British and American), namely, the word Mazzaroth. It occurs only once in the Old Testament, but the similar word mazzaloth, translated "planets" in the King James Version and the Revised Version (British and American), occurs in 2Ki 23:5. For the latter see Astrology. In the fifth tablet of the Babylonian Epic of Creation, we read:

1. He (Marduk) made the station for the great gods;

2. The stars, their images, as the stars of the zodiac he fixed.

3. He ordained the year, and into sections (mizrata) he divided it.

4. For the twelve months he fixed three stars.

Here in the third line, mizrata, cognate with the Hebrew mazzaroth, means the sections or divisions of the year, corresponding to the signs of the zodiac mentioned in the second line.

Yet again when Job 9:9 is compared with Job 38:31,32, it is seen that the place of the word mazzaroth in the latter passage is held by the expression "the chambers of the south" (chadhre theman) in the earlier. Mazzaroth therefore is equivalent to "the chambers of the south," and clearly signifies the twelve constellations of the zodiac through which the sun appears to pass in the course of the year, poetically likened to the "inns," the "chambers" or "tabernacles" in which the sun successively rests during the several monthly stages of his annual journey. The same idea was employed by the Arabs in their "mansions of the moon," its "lodging-houses" (menazil), which are 28 in number, since the moon takes 28 days to make the circuit of the heavens, just as the sun takes 12 months.

The word Mazzaroth therefore represents the twelve "signs" or, to speak more correctly, the twelve "constellations" of the zodiac. These two terms are often used indiscriminately, but there is a real difference between their significations. The constellations of the zodiac are the actual groupings of the stars, lying along the ecliptic, and are quite irregular in form and length. The signs have no connection with the actual stars but are imaginary divisions of the ecliptic, all exactly equal in length, and they are reckoned from that point in the heavens where the sun is at the moment that it is crossing the celestial equator in its northward motion in springtime. As this point, known to astronomers as "the first point of Aries," moves slowly amongst the stars, taking 25,800 years to complete a revolution of the heavens, the signs of the zodiac also move among the stars, and hence, though at one time each sign bore a rough and general correspondence to the constellation of the same name, the signs have gradually drawn away from them. The constellations of the zodiac were designed about 2700 BC, but the signs--the equal divisions of the zodiac named from them--cannot have been adopted earlier than 700 BC, and were probably even later. For since Aries is the first of the signs, it is clear that it was the first of the constellations at the time when the equal division of the zodiac was effected, and 700 BC is the very earliest date that the constellation Aries can have been so regarded. Incidentally it may be remarked that the mention in the Babylonian story of creation of the allotment of three stars to each of the sections (Mizrata) of the year, shows that not only had the division of the zodiac into 12 equal signs been effected, but that a further step had been taken, namely, the division of each sign into 3 equal parts, later known amongst the Greeks as its "decans," corresponding roughly to the 36 decades of the Egyptian calendar. Whatever, therefore, may have been the antiquity of the traditions embodied in it, the actual Babylonian poem quoted above, so far from being an early document, as it was at one time supposed to be, is probably almost as late as the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar.

13. "Arcturus":

There are three constellations, natural groupings of the stars, the Pleiades and Orion and "Charles’s Wain," which have always attracted men’s attention, and we accordingly find them referred to in the earliest poems extant. Thus they are the three groups of the stars most frequently mentioned by Homer and Hesiod. The two first groups, the Pleiades and Orion, are, as we have seen, indicated by Kimah and Kecil. We should therefore naturally expect that the third constellation which we find associated with these in the Book of Job should be none other than the seven bright stars in the North, the principal part of the Great Bear. The Hebrew name for this third constellation appears in two slightly different forms. It is `ash in Job 9:9, and `ayish in Job 38:32, and in the latter case it is connected with its "sons." The last star of Charles’ Wain or the Plough, as the group is often called among ourselves, still bears the name Benetnasch, derived from the Arabic name Benet Na`sh, "the daughters of the Bier," by which the Arabs designated the three stars in the Plough-handle, while they called the four stars in the body of the Plough, Na`sh, "the bier" or "litter." Na`sh and its daughters so closely correspond to " `ayish and its sons," that there can be no reasonable doubt that the same seven bright stars are intended; so that the rendering of the Revised Version (British and American), "Canst thou guide the Bear with her train?" correctly reproduces the original meaning. The Arcturus of the King James Version is derived from Vulgate, where it is probably a mistake for Arctos, that is to say, Ursa Major, the Great Bear.

The antithesis which is presented in Job 38:32 now reveals itself. The Mazzaroth are the twelve constellations of the zodiac, and of these each one rules the night for about a month in its turn; they are each "led forth" in its "season." Each, in its turn, is the "chamber," "tabernacle" or "resting-place" of the sun, and they are appropriately called "chambers of the south," since it is especially in the southern sky that each is seen. In contrast to these are the northern constellations, those round the pole, of which the Great Bear or Charles’ Wain is the brightest and best known At the time of the origin of the constellations, this group was much nearer the pole of the heavens than at present, but now as then these stars are not "led forth," for they are visible at all hours and during every night; but they are "guided"; they move round the pole of the heavens in an unending circle, as if the wain or chariot were being guided by a skillful driver.

(1) The "Scatterers," or the North.

There is some probability that in Job 37:9 the same two regions of the heavens are alluded to: "Out of the chamber of the south cometh the storm, and cold out of the north." It will be observed that the complete expression, "chamber of the south," is not in the original, the translators having supplied "of the south" from analogy with Job 9:9. The sirocco comes then from the region held by the mazzal, the "chamber," or constellation of the zodiac, then on the meridian. But the cold, the blizzard, comes from "the scatterers" (Mezarim). Who or what are the scatterers, and why do they represent the north? The late Professor Schiaparelli suggested that by a slight difference in the pointing, the word might be read as mizrayim, "the two winnowing fans," and that this may well have been a native term for the stars which we now know as the two Bears, Ursa Major and Minor, emphatically the northern constellations; the names being given them from the natural grouping of their chief stars, just as they are known as the two "Dippers" in the United States, or the two "Ladles" in China ("Astronomy in the Old Testament," 67-72).

(2) The Ordinances of Heaven Established on the Earth.

The astronomical antithesis between Mazzaroth, the constellations of the zodiac ("led forth" each "in its season"), and `Ayish’, "the Bear with her train" ("guided" in its unceasing revolution round the pole), is so complete and astronomically appropriate, that there is reason to expect an antithesis as clear and as astronomically significant between the two clauses of the preceding verse. But the rendering of the Revised Version (British and American) does not afford anything of the kind: "Canst thou bind the cluster of the Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion?" is simply equivalent to the question as to whether Job could fix these stars in their places in the sky; and for an inquiry so perfectly general, one constellation would be no more appropriate than another. The true rendering must certainly bring out some difference or at least distinction between the two constellations or the use that was made of them.

And in the third passage in which Kimah and Kecil are mentioned together an important distinction is hinted at. The order in Am 5:8 suggests that the Pleiades corresponded in some way to daybreak, Orion to nightfall: "That maketh the Pleiades and Orion, and turneth the shadow of death into the morning, and maketh the day dark with night." Sunrise turns "the shadow of death into the morning," and in the progress of the seasons the analogous change on the higher scale is effected when Nature revives from the death of winter in the morning of the year, that is to say, at the return of spring. And at the time of the origin of the constellations the Pleiades were the harbingers of this change at their "cosmical" rising, that is to say, when they rose with the sun at daybreak they brought back the "delights" of springtime.

Similarly sunset makes "the day dark with night," and in the progress of the seasons the analogous change on the higher scale is effected when the long nights and short days of winter set in the evening of the year, and all nature is bound as by iron bands, in cold and frost. And at the time of the origin of the constellations, the "acronychal" rising of Orion, i. e. its rising at nightfall, was the harbinger of this change; the rigor of winter formed "the bands of Orion."

These regular changes in the appearings and positions of the constellations constitute the ordinances of the heavens, ordinances which Job could neither alter for the worse by holding back the delights of springtime, or for the better by breaking the bonds of winter cold. But these ordinances were not confined in their effects to the heavens; their dominion was established on the earth, which answered by the revival of vegetation when the Pleiades, then nearly in conjunction with the sun, appeared for a short time before sunrise; and by the return of the constraints of cold and frost when Orion, in opposition to the sun, rode the sky the whole night long.

The completeness and beauty of the imagery will now be apparent.

The Pleiades stood for the East, since by their rising just before daybreak, they heralded the morning of the year and the "delights" of springtime.

Orion stood for the West, since his appearing just after nightfall heralded the evening of the year, and the bands of winter cold.

Mazzaroth, the twelve constellations of the zodiac, the "chambers of the south," each "led forth" from the underworld in its own "season," stood for the South.

And the "Bear with her train," "guided" in their unceasing course round the pole, stood for the circumpolar constellations in the North.

And the movements of them all in a perfect obedience to the law of God were the ordinances of heaven; whilst the dominion of them was seen to be established upon the earth in the constant succession of the seasons there in unfailing answer to the changes in the stars above.

These three verses give us a vivid picture of the work of primitive astronomy. The science was then in an early stage of development, but it was a real science, a science of observation, thoroughly sound so far as it had progressed, and showing high intelligence on the part of those who pursued it. We now know that the movement of "the Bear with her train," that is, the apparent rotation of the heavens round the pole, is due to the real rotation of the earth upon its axis; that the bringing out of "the Mazzaroth in their season," apparently due to the revolution of the sun round the earth, is due to the real revolution of the earth round the sun. But this knowledge which has enabled us to see where the actual movements lie has not brought us any nearer penetrating the mystery of those movements. What is the ultimate cause of the rotation of this vast globe, we know no more than the ancients knew what caused the heavens to rotate; what causes it to fly through space 18 miles in every second of time, we know no more than the ancients knew why the sun appeared to move among the stars. To us, as to them, it is the power of God, and the will of God.

14. The Date of the Book of Job:

It has been supposed by some scholars that the Book of Job was written during the Captivity in Babylon, but this supposition is untenable in view of the statement in Job’s Apology that the worship of the heavenly bodies was "an iniquity to be punished by the judges" (Job 31:26-28). This could not have been written by Jews in exile amongst the worshippers of Samas and Sin. But neither can this book have been written after the Return. The meaning of the three terms, `Ayish, Kimah and Kecil, had been lost before the Septuagint made the rendering of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, for in Am 5:8 they left Kimah and Kecil untranslated, and they rendered `Ayish and Kecil differently in Job 9:9, and 38:31,32.

Before the Captivity, Kimah and Kecil were plainly in common use, since Amos uses them as if they were familiar to his hearers, and as he himself points out, he was not a man of learning but a simple herdsman. The obvious and sufficient explanation of the later ignorance respecting these three terms lies in the catastrophes of the Assyrian and Bah conquests. Not less significant of their complete loss of the old Hebrew astronomy is the alteration which the Septuagint made in the Hebrew text. The "delights of the Pleiades" had evidently no more meaning for them than they have had for the majority of modern Orientalists, and no doubt it seemed a plausible and legitimate emendation to write ma`anaddoth, "chains," instead of ma`adhannoth, "delights," so as to bring about a fancied parallelism with moshekhoth, the "bands" of Orion. But the alteration transforms a complete, beautiful and symmetrical figure, an epitome of the astronomical observation of the time, into a bald tautology. Those critics are therefore right who assign the Book of Job and the Isa 13 to the period before the Captivities, and the three names come to us as indications, not of a Babylonian science of astronomy, learned by the Jews during their exile, but of a Hebrew astronomy destroyed by the unspeakable disaster of the conquest.

III. Physiography. 1. The Circle of the Earth:

It has generally been assumed that the Hebrews considered the earth to be a vast circular plain, arched over by a solid vault-- "the firmament"--above which were stored, as if in cisterns, the "treasuries" (Job 38:22) of the rain, snow and hail, and some writers have even attempted to express this supposed conception in diagrammatic form. One of the best of these attempts, reproduced below, is given by Schiaparelli, in his Astronomy in the Old Testament.

But this assumption is in reality based more upon the ideas prevalent in Europe during the Dark Ages than upon any actual statements in the Old Testament. The same word (chagh) used in the Old Testament to express the roundness of the heavens (Job 22:14) is also used when the circle of the earth is spoken of (Isa 40:22), and it is likewise applied to the deep (Pr 8:27). Now it is obvious that the heavens are spherical in appearance, and to an attentive observer it is clear that the surface of the sea is also rounded. There is therefore no sufficient warrant for the assumption that the Hebrews must have regarded the earth as flat.

(1) The Earth a Sphere.

Certain astronomical relations were recognized very early. The stars appear as if attached to a globe rotating round the earth once in 24 hours, and this appearance was clearly familiar to the author of the Book of Job, and indeed long before the time of Abraham, since the formation of the constellations could not have been effected without such recognition. But the spherical form of the heavens almost involves a similar form for the earth, and their apparent diurnal rotation certainly means that they are not rigidly connected with the earth, but surround it on all sides at some distance from it. The earth therefore must be freely suspended in space, and so the Book of Job describes it: "He stretcheth out the north over empty space, and hangeth the earth upon nothing" (Job 26:7).

(2) The North Stretched Out over Empty Space.

Here the "north" signifies the northern circumpolar constellations and the writer recognized that they stretch out beyond the utmost confines of the earth; so that he was not under any impression that the heavens rested upon the earth, or were borne up by mountains. The celestial sphere surrounded the earth entirely, but at a distance from it; between the two there was "empty space." Some commentators have indeed claimed that Job 26:10, "He hath described a boundary upon the face of the waters, unto the confines of light and darkness" is equivalent to a statement that the circumference of the terrestrial plain extended to the place where sea and sky met. But no man of intelligence can, at any time, have supposed that the sea horizon marked the dividing line between day and night, and the meaning of the passage is correctly given in the King James Version, "until the day and night come to an end"; in other words, the waters of the sea will be confined to their appointed place never again to overflow the earth so long as the succession of day and night shall continue (compare Ge 8:22; 9:15).

(3) The Corners of the Earth.

See nodetitle.

2. The Pillars of the Earth:

erets, "the earth," is in general the surface of the earth, the dry land inhabited by man and beast. Hence "the pillars" of the earth (Job 9:6) are the rocks that bear up that surface, for as has been shown, it was quite clear to the author of the Book of Job, and to the primitive astronomers, that our world was unsupported in space. For "Vault of the Earth" see Vault of Earth.

3. The Firmament:

(1) The Hebrew Conception.

Above the, spherical earth was stretched out the "firmament" (raqia`) made on the second day of creation to "divide the waters from the waters" (Ge 16). To the Hebrews the "firmament" was the apparent void above, in which clouds float and the lights of heaven pursue their appointed paths. The word raqia`, by its etymology, suggests an expanse, something stretched, spread or beaten out, as when Isaiah (40:22) says that the Lord "stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in." But the Greek word stereoma, by which the Septuagint rendered raqia`, gives the meaning of a firm and solid structure, and our translators have carried out this same idea in their English rendering of "firmament."

(2) The Alexandrian Conception.

In this however the Septuagint simply expressed the astronomical science of their day as accepted in Alexandria, where the doctrine of a succession of solid crystalline spheres, each carrying a planet, held currency. But in order to express the Hebrew idea, raqia` should be rendered "expanse" or "space"; it corresponds to the "empty space" of Job 26:7. This "expanse" was appointed to divide "the waters which were under the expanse, from the waters which were above the expanse"; and it has been argued from this that the upper waters must have been regarded as being enclosed in a watertight reservoir, furnished with sluices or floodgates, which could be opened to allow the rain to fall.

4. The Windows of Heaven:

Thus in the account of the Flood, "the windows of heaven" are said to have been opened. But, ’arubbah, "window," means a network, or lattice, a form which can never have been ascribed to a literal floodgate; and in the other passages where "the windows of heaven" are mentioned the expression is obviously metaphorical (2Ki 7:2,19; Isa 24:18; Mal 3:10).

5. Rain:

Further the numerous other references to rain connect it with the clouds, as "I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain" (Isa 5:6), or in the So of Deborah, "The clouds dropped water" (Jud 5:4; see also Ps 77:17; 147:8; Pr 16:15; Ec 12:2). The fantastic idea of solidly built cisterns in the sky furnished with sluices has no warrant in Scripture. So far from any such crude conception, there is a very clear and complete account of the atmospheric circulation. Elihu describes the process of evaporation, "For he draweth up the drops of water, which distilll in rain from his vapor, which the skies pour down and drop upon man abundantly" (Job 36:27,28).

6. Clouds:

Jeremiah and the Psalmist repeat the description, "He causeth the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth; he maketh lightnings for the rain, and bringeth forth the wind out of his treasuries" (Jer 10:13). By the foreshortening that clouds undergo in the distance they inevitably appear to form chiefly on the horizon, "at the ends of the earth," whence they move upward toward the zenith. Thus God "calleth for the waters of the sea, and poureth them out upon the face of the earth" (Am 9:6); and thus "All the rivers run into the sea, yet the sea is not full; unto the place whither the rivers go, thither they go again" (Ec 1:7). Other references to the clouds in the Book of Job reveal not merely observation but acute reflection. "Dost thou know the balancings of the clouds, the wondrous works of him who is perfect in knowledge?" (Job 37:16) indicates a perception that the clouds float, each in its own place, at its own level, each perfectly balanced in the thin air.

7. The Deep:

(1) Meaning of the Word.

Tehom, "the deep," means moving water, and hence the ocean, which is represented as being essentially one, exactly as we now know it to be by actual exploration--"Let the waters Under the heavens be gathered together unto one place" (Ge 1:9). And the earth is stretched out "above the waters" (Ps 136:6; Ps 24:2). That is to say that the water surface lies lower than the land surface; and not only so, but, within the substance of the earth itself, there are subterranean waters which form a kind of ocean underground. This also is called in Eze 31:4 the "deep," tehom; "The waters nourished it, the deep made it to grow." But in general tehom denotes the sea, as when Pharaoh’s chosen captains were drowned in the Red Sea, "The deeps cover them" (Ex 15:5). Indeed the word appears to be onomatopoetic derived from the "moaning" or "humming" of the sea; whilst ’erets, the "earth," seems intended to represent the "rattle" of shingle, "the scream of a madden’d beach dragged down by the wave."

(2) The Babylonian Dragon of Chaos.

In Ge 1, tehom denotes the primeval waters, and the resemblance of the word to Tiamat, the name of the Babylonian she- dragon of Chaos, has led some commentators to ascribe a Babylonian origin to this chapter. It need hardly be pointed out that if this resemblance proves any connection between the Hebrew and Babylonian accounts of creation, it proves the Hebrew to be the original. The natural object, tehom, the sea, must have preceded the mythological personification of it.

LITERATURE. Maunder, Astronomy of the Bible; Astronomy without a Telescope; Schiaparelli, Astronomy in the Old Testament; Warren, The Earliest Cosmologies, 1909.

E. W. Maunder