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Israel & Christians Today
Biblical understanding about Israel
By Rev Willem J.J. Glashouwer.. What do the stars tell us? What message do we read in the firmament? Astrology was developed by Nimrod in Babel/Babylon - idolatry with the assistance of the firmament. But is there also another meaning to be derived from the firmament? What does that impressive universe, with its billions of stars and galaxies, tell us? Is there a positive way to ‘read’ the heavens? A way that glorifies the Creator instead of the occult way in which astrology interprets the stars and the planets?
First of all, of course, that there must be an inconceivably intelligent and eternal Creator ‘Who thought of the worlds and they came into being’. Every human being can perceive and understand that there must be a creative Almighty God behind the world around him and behind the great universe. Paul says in Romans 1:20: “...For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities - His eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” A powerful message goes out from majestic creation, even without words.
Paul goes on to say in Romans 10:17a: “...faith comes from hearing.” Faith comes through hearing the Word of God, by hearing and understanding a spoken message, by Biblical proclamation. ‘Word’ is ρημα in Greek - rhèma, the spoken word. Faith obtains a much clearer form through divine revelation in the Word of God, the Bible. The reformers said that there are two sources of the knowledge of God: nature and the scriptures. But then Paul goes on to say in Romans 10:18: “...But I ask: Did they not hear? Of course they did: ‘Their voice has gone out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.” ‘Earth’ is γη in Greek - gè, the earth as ‘a clump of earth’, the world globe, the planet. ‘Words’ is ρηματα in Greek - rhèmata, and ‘world’ is οικουμενη in Greek - oikoumene, oecumene, the occupied world, the people’s world. So nature apparently proclaims a ‘spoken’ message, i.e. from the universe - to the ends of the earth.
A worldwide message, a sound, is being proclaimed throughout the whole of the occupied world, but it is a sound without words! This verse from Romans 10 is a quotation from Psalm 19. There we read in verses 1-6: ”...The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun. It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is deprived of its warmth.“ It is a message without words, a soundless proclamation, throughout the whole earth, a language from heaven, a language that can be read and understood. What is this heavenly language? How can you read this language of the firmament?
The firmament has been read from the beginning of humanity. This firmament contained ‘little slides’ that could be read like a comic strip. We call these little slides of heaven ‘signs of the Zodiac’. The little slides are apparently older than the groups of stars to which they are ‘fastened’. Those groups of stars often do not even look like them! The little slides are not deduced from those groups of stars, therefore, but vice versa: the stars were ‘drawing pins’ with which the little slides were ‘hung up’ in the sky. Names were given to stars and signs of the Zodiac… by Almighty God!
Psalm 147:4 says: ”...He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name” and Isaiah 40:25-26 says: “...To whom will you compare Me? Or who is My equal?” says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of His great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.“
We come across a few of the names of stars and signs of the Zodiac in the Bible. Job 38:31-32: ”...Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades? Can you loosen Orion’s belt? Can you bring forth the constellations [Hebrew: Mazzaroth] in their seasons or lead out the Bear with its cubs?” Job 9:9: “...He is the Maker of the Bear and Orion, the Pleiades and the constellations of the south.” Job 26:13: “...By His breath the skies became fair; His hand pierced the gliding serpent.”
BANNERS AND STANDARDS
Numbers 2:2-3 says: “...The Israelites are to camp around the tent of meeting some distance from it, each of them under their standard and holding the banners of their family.” On the east, toward the sunrise, the divisions of the camp of Judah are to encamp under their standard. The leader of the people of Judah is Nahshon son of Amminadab.” And then Numbers 2 describes which tribe camped next to Judah, and which tribe camped next to them, etc. What does this signify? ‘Banner’ is ‘Degel’ in Hebrew, and ‘standard’ ‘Oth’. The standards were fixed to the banners. Each tribe had its own standard, and they camped in the desert around the Tabernacle. Ancient Jewish commentators point out that each tribe had its own standard. The 12 signs on the 12 banners correspond to the 12 signs of the Zodiac according to the Encyclopaedia Judaica. The order in which they camped in the desert around the Tabernacle is in Numbers 2: Judah, Issachar, Zebulon to the East; then Ruben, Simeon, Gad to the South; then Levi in the middle, near the ‘Tent of Meeting’; then Ephraim, Manasseh and Benjamin to the West; finally Dan, Asher and Naphtali to the North.
The Encyclopaedia Judaica combines the signs of the Zodiac (with their Latin names) on the banners of the 12 tribes of Israel on the basis of the Jewish manuscript ‘the Yalkut Shimoni’, as follows: Judah-Aries, Issachar-Taurus, Zebulon-Gemini, Ruben-Cancer, Simeon-Leo, Gad-Virgo, Ephraim-Libra, Manasseh-Scorpio, Benjamin-Sagittarius, Dan-Capricorn, Asher-Aquarius and Naphtali-Pisces. Levi is not mentioned. Israel did not have to be afraid of the signs in the heavens, as were the nations. Jeremiah 10:2 says: “...This is what the LORD says: ‘Do not learn the ways of the nations or be terrified by signs in the heavens, though the nations are terrified by them.’”
Christian commentators in the 19th century (see below) came up with a different set, on the basis of a different reading of the signs in the heavens. They say: Judah-Leo, Issachar-Cancer, Zebulon-Virgo, Ruben-Aquarius, Simeon-Pisces, Gad-Aries, Ephraim & Manasseh-Taurus with 2 horns, Benjamin-Gemini, Dan-Scorpio, Asher-Sagittarius and Naphtali-Capricorn. Levi is in the middle: Libra-Scales, because of the blood on the altar that ‘offsets’ the sins of the people. The English names of the 12 signs of the Zodiac are as follows: Ram (Aries), Bull (Taurus), Twins (Gemini), Crab (Cancer), Lion (Leo), Maiden (Virgo), Scales (Libra), Scorpion (Scorpio), Archer (Sagittarius), Goat (Capricorn), Water Bearer (Aquarius) and Fish (Pisces).
The agile, twisting serpent is the Zodiac sign Hydra, in the constellation of Leo - Lion. The Lion of the tribe of Judah crushes the serpent in this constellation, as promised in Genesis 3:15 “...he [the offspring of the woman, the Saviour] will crush your head” or, as Revelation 12:9 and 20:1-3a say: “...The great dragon was hurled down - that ancient serpent called the devil, or satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or satan, and bound him for a thousand years. He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended.”
We are getting ahead of ourselves, however! Back to the stars and the signs of the Zodiac in the Bible. In Acts 28:11 it is said of a ship on board of which Paul is sailing: “...After three months we put out to sea in a ship that had wintered in the island - it was an Alexandrian ship with the figurehead of the twin gods Castor and Pollux.” Castor and Pollux are in the constellation of Gemini - Twins. Amos 5:8 speaks about: “...He who made the Pleiades and Orion, who turns midnight into dawn and darkens day into night, who calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out over the face of the land - the LORD is His Name.” The Pleiades are the ‘Seven Sisters’.
Isaiah 13:9-10 says that the stars and the signs of the Zodiac will not shine on the Lord’s judgement day: “...See, the day of the LORD is coming - a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger - to make the land desolate and destroy the sinners within it. The stars of heaven and their constellations will not show their light. The rising sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light.” It is obvious that astrology has been making use of the signs of the Zodiac for many centuries already. The Bible is strongly opposed to this. It is idolatry. Horoscopes are evil. Moses says in Deuteronomy 18:9-12, on behalf of the Lord: “...When you enter the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. Let no one be found among you who sacrifices their son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD; because of these same detestable practices the LORD your God will drive out those nations before you.”
Isaiah 47:13-14 says mockingly about these astrologers: “...All the counsel you have received has only worn you out! Let your astrologers come forward, those stargazers who make predictions month by month, let them save you from what is coming upon you. Surely they are like stubble; the fire will burn them up. They cannot even save themselves from the power of the flame. These are not coals for warmth; this is not a fire to sit by.”
A HEAVENLY PICTURE BOOK
Was there originally a different message to be read in the signs of the Zodiac however? A number of remarkable books on this subject, written by Christians, faithful to the Bible and very capable Bible commentators, appeared in the 19th century. They say that the whole of God’s plan of salvation was originally able to be read in the heavens. They say that the 12 signs of the Zodiac should be read beginning with the sign of Virgo - the Virgin and then further, ending with the last sign, Leo - the Lion. They present the very old Zodiacs in the Egyptian temple of Denderah (now in the Louvre in Paris) and the Egyptian temple of Esneh as evidence of this. The Egyptian sphinx is also said to point to this: the head as the head of a woman and the body as that of a lion, together representing the whole Zodiac, as a body. The story without words in the heavens begins with the birth of the Saviour from the Virgin and ends with the coming of the Lion of Judah who establishes His Kingdom worldwide. This may be a subject for an article or perhaps a subsequent book!
In this context it could be very possible that the Wise Men from the east had come from Babylonia. Daniel had occupied a high position at the court and after him many Jews carried on living there and did not return to Jerusalem after the Babylonian exile, which took place between 600 - 500 BC. Jewish scholars in all kinds of fields, including astronomy, certainly held high positions at court. Perhaps those Wise Men were indeed Jewish astronomers who were still capable of reading the heavens according to their original meaning, and who now saw a ‘star’ rise in a certain constellation. A ‘star’ that announced the coming of the King of the Jews. So they rode out, without hesitation, to pay homage to this Child.
We read in Matthew 2:1-2: “... After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, ‘Where is the One who has been born king of the Jews? We saw His star when it rose and have come to worship Him.’” They visited Herod’s royal palace at Jerusalem first of all, just after or during Jesus’ birth, and before His parents presented Him, 40 days later, in the Temple at Jerusalem. Their visit upset King Herod greatly - so much so that he ordered all the little boys in Bethlehem aged 2 years or less to be put to death. For how long before this had the ‘star’ been seen by the Wise Men in the East? Matthew 2:7-10: “...Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.’ After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.”
Rev Willem J.J. Glashouwer
President Christians for Israel International