International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
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 (Acts 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.
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 Gen 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 Gen 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" (Gen 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 Gen 3; 8 and 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 (Gen 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 Dan 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" (Gen 49:4 the King James Version), a Man and a River, and of Dan, "Dan shall be a serpent in the way" (Gen 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" (Acts 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" (1 Ki 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 Rev 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.
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" (Rev 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.
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 Gen 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 Gen 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 2 Ki 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.
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.
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Definition for 'astronomy, ii'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". bible-history.com - ISBE
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