ATS Bible DictionaryAstronomy
The science, which treats of the heavenly bodies, was much studied in Asia in ancient times. The Chaldeans excelled in it. The Hebrews do not appear to have made great proficiency in it, though their climate and mode of life invited to the contemplation of the heavens. Revelation had taught them who created and governed all the world, Genesis 1:1,1-31, and the infinite presence of the one living and true God filled the universe, to their minks, with a glory unknown to others, Ps 19...1-14; Isaiah 40:26; Am 5:8. The Bible does not aim to teach the science of astronomy, but speaks of the sun, moon, and stars in the familiar language of mankind in all ages. The following heavenly bodies are alluded to particularly in Scripture: Venus, the morning star, Isaiah 14:12 Revelation 2:28; Orion, and the Pleiades, Job 9:9 38:31 Am 5:8; the Great Bear, called "Arcturus," Job 9:9 38:32; Draco, "the crooked serpent" Job 26:13; and Gemini, "the twins," 2 Kings 23:5 Acts 28:11. The planets Jupiter and Venus were worshipped under various names, as Baal and Ahtoreth, Gad and Meni, Isaiah 65:11. Mercury is named as Nebo; in Isaiah 46:1; Saturn as Chiun, in Am 5:26; and Mars as Nergal, in 2 Kings 17:30. See IDOLATRY and STARS.
International Standard Bible EncyclopediaASTRONOMY
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
(1) Solar and Lunar Eclipses
(2) The Wings of the Morning
(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
(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"
3. The See d 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
12. Mazzaroth, the Constellations of the Zodiac
(1) The "Scatterers," or the North
(2) The Ordinances of Heaven Established on the Earth
14. The Date of the Book of Job
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
7. The Deep
(1) Meaning of the Word
(2) The Babylonian Dragon of Chaos
The keynote of the Hebrew writers respecting the heavenly bodies is sounded in Psalm 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" (Psalm 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" (Psalm 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 Joel (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" (Daniel 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" (Jeremiah 31:35).
We have no writings of the early Hebrews other than the books of the Old Testament, 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" (Jeremiah 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" (Psalm 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 Isaiah 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.
(d) Cherec means "blister" or "burning heat," from a root "to scratch" or "be rough," and is an unusual term for the sun, and its precise rendering is sometimes in doubt. Once it is translated as "itch," when it occurs amongst the evils threatened in the "cursings" that the six tribes uttered from Mount Ebal (Deuteronomy 28:27). Once it is certainly used of the sun itself when Job (9:7) said of God, He "commandeth the sun (cherec or cheres), and it riseth not." Once it is certainly the name of a hill, for Mount Heres was near Aijalon, on the borders of Judah and Dan. In another passage, authorities differ in their rendering, for when Gideon overcame Zebah and Zalmunna (Judges 8:13), he "returned from the battle," according to the King James Version, "before the sun was up," but according to the Revised Version (British and American), "from the ascent of Heres." In yet another passage (Judges 14:18), when the Philistines answered Samson's riddle, both the King James Version and the Revised Version (British and American) translation cherec as sun-"before the sun went down." We moreover get slight variants of the same word, joined with qir ("wall" or "fortress"), in Qir-Chareseth (2 Kings 3:25 Isaiah 16:7) and Qir-Cheres (Isaiah 16:11 Jeremiah 48:31, 36). These are probably to be identified with the modern Kerak of Moab.
(2) The "City of the Sun".
But the most interesting reference is found in Isaiah 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 B.C. (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' (Genesis 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 Genesis 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 (Psalm 72:5, 17). The penetration of its rays renders "under the sun" (Ecclesiastes 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 (Psalm 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 Psalm of pilgrimage (Psalm 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" (Romans 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 (Jeremiah 43:13), idolatry was beginning to fall into disrepute and men were led away rather by "the knowledge (gnosis) which is falsely so called" (1 Timothy 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" (John 1:9), and again, "God is light, and in him is no darkness at all" (1 John 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" (Revelation 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' (James 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" (Genesis 7:11), and in the great majority of cases, the word for month is chodhesh, "new moon." In Isaiah 66:23, "from one new moon to another," should be literally, "from new moon to new moon." Once it is rendered "monthly" (Isaiah 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" (Deuteronomy 33:14 Isaiah 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" (Ezekiel 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" (Isaiah 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)" (Isaiah 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 (Psalm 81:3 Proverbs 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 (Jeremiah 31:35). It was also appointed for "seasons" (Psalm 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 (Isaiah 3:18 the King James Version), and those on the camels of Zeba and Zalmunna (Judges 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.
(1) Solar and Lunar Eclipses.
The sun and moon were not only given "for days and years" (Genesis 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" (Jeremiah 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. Joel 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 (Acts 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" (Revelation 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 James 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 h Malachi 4:2). The metaphor "wings of the morning" of Psalm 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 B.C., August 15, was total in Judea, and that of 824 B.C., 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 B.C., June 15, in Amos 8:9, and that of Thales, 585 B.C., May 28, in Isaiah 13:10, but the suggestion has little to support it.
(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" (Leviticus 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.
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Easton's Bible Dictionary
The Hebrews were devout students of the wonders of the starry firmanent (Amos 5:8
; Psalm 19
). In the Book of Job, which is the oldest book of the Bible in all probability, the constellations are distinguished and named. Mention is made of the "morning star" (Revelation 2:28
; Comp. Isaiah 14:12
), the "seven stars" and "Pleiades," "Orion," "Arcturus," the "Great Bear" (Amos 5:8
; Job 9:9
), "the crooked serpent," Draco (Job 26:13
), the Dioscuri, or Gemini, "Castor and Pollux" (Acts 28:11
). The stars were called "the host of heaven" (Isaiah 40:26
; Jeremiah 33:22
The oldest divisions of time were mainly based on the observation of the movements of the heavenly bodies, the "ordinances of heaven" (Genesis 1:14-18; Job 38:33; Jeremiah 31:35; 33:25). Such observations led to the division of the year into months and the mapping out of the appearances of the stars into twelve portions, which received from the Greeks the name of the "zodiac." The word "Mazzaroth" (Job 38:32) means, as the margin notes, "the twelve signs" of the zodiac. Astronomical observations were also necessary among the Jews in order to the fixing of the proper time for sacred ceremonies, the "new moons," the "passover," etc. Many allusions are found to the display of God's wisdom and power as seen in the starry heavens (Psalm 8; 19:1-6; Isaiah 51:6, etc.)
Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
2. (n.) The science which treats of the celestial bodies, of their magnitudes, motions, distances, periods of revolution, eclipses, constitution, physical condition, and of the causes of their various phenomena.
3. (n.) A treatise on, or text-book of, the science.