Astronomy Knowledge in the Bible

Abraham knew about the Chaldean’s teachings of astronomy. Abraham lived in the city of Ur of the Chaldeans before leaving with his father. Josephus, who lived in the time of Jesus, would be acquainted with the same Old Testament’s theories and teachings as Jesus. About the wisdom of Abraham, Josephus states, “Abraham communicated to them arithmetic, and delivered to them the science of astronomy; for, before Abram came into Egypt, they were unacquainted with those parts of learning; for that science came from the Chaldeans into Egypt.”[2]

Abraham was wise in the science of astronomy. Josephus tells us that the Chaldeans developed the science of astronomy. Abraham came from the city of Ur, which is the primary city of the Chaldeans. Abraham would have likely gained the knowledge of the city he lived in and that, in this case, would be the science of astronomy. Josephus then informs us that Abraham educated Egyptians on the science of astronomy.

Egyptians extensively documented their understanding of astronomy. For example, the Tomb of Senenmut has a star chart on the ceiling that documents the alignment of planets made in the 18th Dynasty of Egypt. This is the oldest star chart dating back to Moses’ time and is an excellent example of the Egyptians’ understanding of astronomy science.

In Old Testament times the planets were known as wandering stars, because they behaved differently from all the other stars. Today, the wandering stars are called planets. The planets do not stay in one assigned location among the constellations. The planets change location continually without ceasing. On one day, Mars can be seen in the constellation Orion, and then on another night, Mars could be seen in Aquarius. All the planets have the same unique characteristics. 

The six wandering stars of Abraham’s day were Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and the moon. Josephus tells us that Moses designed the candlestick that goes in the temple based on six planets and the sun: “the seven lamps signified the seven planets; for so many there were springing out of the candlestick.”[3] The Israelites considered the sun as a planet. Josephus offered further explanation of this fact: “…spread itself into as many branches as there are planets, including the sun among them.”[4] Amos expounds upon this to include heavenly forms: “Seek him that maketh the Pleiades and Orion, and turneth the shadow of death into the morning, and maketh the day dark with night” (Amos 5:8). God created the seven stars, constellations, and also total solar eclipses. Hence “maketh the day dark with night.”

Job also lived close to Ur, allowing him the opportunity to become educated in Ur’s astronomy. Job knew about Bear and Orion constellations and star cluster Pleiades found in Job 9:9. About this verse, Ellicott points out that Job and his countrymen knew astronomy: “His fellow-countrymen had attained to such knowledge of astronomy as is here implied in the specific names of definite constellations.”[5]

Job knew the stars and constellations. Constellations are stars grouped into recognizable images and given names. Job lists two constellations, Bear and Orion. These two constellations are still some of the most recognizable constellations in the sky. There are 88 named constellations. Some constellations can only be seen in the northern hemisphere, while other constellations can only be seen in the southern hemisphere. Nevertheless, several named constellations can be seen no matter where one looks from the earth into space.

Twelve constellations rank among the most important. They are Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpius, Sagittarius, Capricornus, Aquarius, and Pisces. These 12 constellations form a ring around the earth. From sunset to sunrise, 11 of the 12 constellations can be seen. There is always one constellation that is blocked by the sun at any given moment. The constellation blocked by the sun would mark the time of the year. The sun will move along this path every year. Tracking the sun’s movement across these constellations gives the observer knowledge of the time of year. This celestial tracking formed a calendar for early humans. Today, people use calendars that are turned to the correct month. The calendar shows us the exact day of the year to correlate to the earth’s location in its rotation around the sun. In the old days, this piece of paper on the wall did not exist; what did exist was the tracking of the sun as it blocked the different constellations throughout the year. The knowledge gleaned from the sun’s location within these 12 constellations (just like the calendar today) allowed farmers to know when to do essential activities based on the expected weather. The month of Aries was known to be springtime. By the month of Cancer, it was drier and hotter. In the month of Virgo, crops were harvested. Winter came around Capricornus. The rain intensified in the month of Aquarius.

The primary 12 constellations are no different from the months on a calendar. In Modern-day these 12 constellations are commonly referred to as zodiacs. Some people take these 12 constellations and use them for mystical purposes. The misuse does not make these constellations evil. To make them evil would mean we should throw away our calendars as well. The modern-day calendar has days of the week named after Greek gods, but we do not worship Greek gods. The months are references to false gods as well. The month of August was named after Augustine Caesar who was proclaimed a god by the Romans. Having that name on a calendar does not mean we worship him. The calendar indicates where the earth is in its rotation around the sun. Calendars allow us to communicate to others what is planned at that time of year. The 12 constellations are the 12 months of the year used by the patriarchs of the Bible.

[1] Josephus. Translated by Whiston, The Works of Flavius Josephus: Antiquities of the Jews (London: John Bumpus, 1828), 1.8.2, p. 39.

[2] Josephus, Translated by Whiston, The Works of Flavius Josephus: Antiquities of the Jews (London: John Bumpus, 1828), 1.8.2. p. 39.

[3] Josephus, Translated by Whiston, The Works of Flavius Josephus: Wars of the Jews (London: John Bumpus, 1828), 5.5.5, p. 718.

[4] Josephus, Translated by Whiston, The Works of Flavius Josephus: Antiquities of the Jews (London: John Bumpus, 1828), 3.6.7, p. 89.

[5] Stanley Leathes, Edited by Charles John Ellicott. An Old Testament Commentary for English Readers, Vol. IV, Job (New York: Cassell & Company, 1884), p. 20.

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