And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. (Genesis 1:14-15 ESV)
The Hebrew word (in the singular) translated as “signs” in this verse is “oth” (H226) and appears 79 times in the Tanakh (OT). It simply means “sign” or “signal” as in the sense of “appearing”. There are many examples in the Tanakh as to what an “oth” is.
- YHVH put an “oth” on Cain, lest any who found him should attack him (Gen 4:15).
- There are numerous “oth”s of covenants mentioned throughout the Torah: the bow in the clouds (Gen 9:12-13), circumcision (Gen 17:11), and the Sabbath day (Ex 31:13).
- YHVH bringing the children of Israel to Mt Horeb was an “oth” to Moses (Ex 3:12).
- YHYH told Moses to perform certain “oth”s before the children of Israel so they would believe him (Ex 4). And the wonders performed by Moses and Aaron before Pharaoh and the people of Egypt were considered “oth”s (Ex 7,8,10).
- The blood of the Passover Lamb on the doorposts acted as an “oth” to avert death (Ex 12), and the unleavened bread that is to be eaten for seven days serves as an “oth” (Ex 13).
These are all examples of signals, things that are seen. And these are just a sample of its use throughout Scripture.
Many turn to Genesis 1:14 to justify looking to the lights in the heavens for either a gospel message of some sort, or an omen of things to come. But is this consistent with the entirety of Scripture? Is this something that we ought to be using them for?
To Rule Over the Day and the Night
And God made the two great lights–the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night–and the stars. And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:16-18 ESV)
We’re told that two great lights were made, particularly for the rule over the day and over the night, and the stars. Their purpose is to give light to the earth and to separate the light from the darkness.
Thus says the LORD, who gives the sun for light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar– the LORD of hosts is his name: (Jeremiah 31:35 ESV)
All throughout Scripture we see examples of the sun being a light by day and the stars being a light by night. And we see mentions of the ordinances of the moon and the brightness of it.
It seems clear to me how the lights signal the start and end to the day and the night. I can even see how they signal measures of time within the day and night as well as over the course of many days and nights, even years.
As for signaling anything else, the only mentions that I have found in Scripture where the sun, moon and/or stars are used as a sign by YHVH are either as elements in a dream or a vision, or when something unusual happens with them.
Elements in a Dream or Vision
Joseph Had a Dream
Now Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers they hated him even more. He said to them, “Hear this dream that I have dreamed: Behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and behold, my sheaf arose and stood upright. And behold, your sheaves gathered around it and bowed down to my sheaf.” His brothers said to him, “Are you indeed to reign over us? Or are you indeed to rule over us?” So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words.
Then he dreamed another dream and told it to his brothers and said, “Behold, I have dreamed another dream. Behold, the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” But when he told it to his father and to his brothers, his father rebuked him and said to him, “What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall I and your mother and your brothers indeed come to bow ourselves to the ground before you?” And his brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the saying in mind. (Genesis 37:5-11 ESV)
As we see here in the first dream Joseph had, sheaves bound in a field were used as elements in the dream to denote something, so also were the sun, moon and eleven stars used in another dream.
I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet saying, “Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.”
Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this. As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands, the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches. (Revelation 1:10-20 ESV)
While John was “in the spirit”, he saw one like a son of man holding seven stars in his right hand. It’s made clear that the stars were elements denoting angels (messengers).
A Great Sign Appears to John
And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth.
And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days. (Revelation 12:1-6 ESV)
I believe this to be a vision that John was shown concerning the end times. Some believe he was actually looking at the sun, moon and stars in the heaven in particular, but given the actions and physical emotions expressed, I do not believe that was the case.
For example, in the first sign he saw a woman. Some attribute this to a constellation called “virgo”. But there is no mention of that constellation anywhere in Scripture, so how do we know where this “picture” originated? Next, it says she was pregnant and crying out in pain and agony. How does a constellation cry out or feel pain and agony?
The next sign he saw was that of a dragon. Again, some attribute this to another constellation called “draco”, yet there are no references in Scripture to such, so how can we know the origins of this picture?
Given the details of the woman giving birth to a male child, who is caught up to God while she flees to the wilderness to be nourished for 1260 days, it seems more likely that this was a vision and not some action being played out by the sun, moon and stars.
As we saw in Joseph’s dream, the sun, moon and twelve stars are used as elements within a vision to denote something: a garment, a footstool and a crown for the woman. When we continue reading in Revelation 12, we see the “third of the stars” being swept down is referencing the angels that belong to the dragon/serpent/devil/satan.
Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world–he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. (Revelation 12:7-9 ESV)
A Sign Given to Hezekiah
In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came to him, and said to him, “Thus says the LORD: Set your house in order, for you shall die, you shall not recover.” Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD, and said, “Please, O LORD, remember how I have walked before you in faithfulness and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly. Then the word of the LORD came to Isaiah: “Go and say to Hezekiah, Thus says the LORD, the God of David your father: I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Behold, I will add fifteen years to your life. I will deliver you and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria, and will defend this city. “This shall be the sign to you from the LORD, that the LORD will do this thing that he has promised: Behold, I will make the shadow cast by the declining sun on the dial of Ahaz turn back ten steps.” So the sun turned back on the dial the ten steps by which it had declined. (Isaiah 38:1-8 ESV)
Here we read an example of the sun being used as a sign to Hezekiah indicating he will be healed.
Darkness on the Land of Egypt
“Son of man, raise a lamentation over Pharaoh king of Egypt and say to him: “You consider yourself a lion of the nations, but you are like a dragon in the seas; you burst forth in your rivers, trouble the waters with your feet, and foul their rivers. Thus says the Lord GOD: I will throw my net over you with a host of many peoples, and they will haul you up in my dragnet. And I will cast you on the ground; on the open field I will fling you, and will cause all the birds of the heavens to settle on you, and I will gorge the beasts of the whole earth with you. I will strew your flesh upon the mountains and fill the valleys with your carcass. I will drench the land even to the mountains with your flowing blood, and the ravines will be full of you. When I blot you out, I will cover the heavens and make their stars dark; I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon shall not give its light. All the bright lights of heaven will I make dark over you, and put darkness on your land, declares the Lord GOD. (Ezekiel 32:2-8 ESV)
This is a lamentation over Pharaoh king of Egypt, which includes a sign similar to the plague of darkness performed in the days of Moses.
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, a darkness to be felt.” So Moses stretched out his hand toward heaven, and there was pitch darkness in all the land of Egypt three days. They did not see one another, nor did anyone rise from his place for three days, but all the people of Israel had light where they lived. (Exodus 10:21-23 ESV)
The Day of YHVH
Behold, the day of the LORD comes, cruel, with wrath and fierce anger, to make the land a desolation and to destroy its sinners from it. For the stars of the heavens and their constellations will not give their light; the sun will be dark at its rising, and the moon will not shed its light. I will punish the world for its evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; I will put an end to the pomp of the arrogant, and lay low the pompous pride of the ruthless. I will make people more rare than fine gold, and mankind than the gold of Ophir. Therefore I will make the heavens tremble, and the earth will be shaken out of its place, at the wrath of the LORD of hosts in the day of his fierce anger. (Isaiah 13:9-13 ESV)
This speaks of the day of YHVH, where the stars will not give their light, the sun will be dark at its rising and the moon will not shed its light.
Blow a trumpet in Zion; sound an alarm on my holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the LORD is coming; it is near, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness! Like blackness there is spread upon the mountains a great and powerful people; their like has never been before, nor will be again after them through the years of all generations. Fire devours before them, and behind them a flame burns. The land is like the garden of Eden before them, but behind them a desolate wilderness, and nothing escapes them. Their appearance is like the appearance of horses, and like war horses they run. As with the rumbling of chariots, they leap on the tops of the mountains, like the crackling of a flame of fire devouring the stubble, like a powerful army drawn up for battle. Before them peoples are in anguish; all faces grow pale. Like warriors they charge; like soldiers they scale the wall. They march each on his way; they do not swerve from their paths. They do not jostle one another; each marches in his path; they burst through the weapons and are not halted. They leap upon the city, they run upon the walls, they climb up into the houses, they enter through the windows like a thief. The earth quakes before them; the heavens tremble. The sun and the moon are darkened, and the stars withdraw their shining. The LORD utters his voice before his army, for his camp is exceedingly great; he who executes his word is powerful. For the day of the LORD is great and very awesome; who can endure it? (Joel 2:1-11 ESV)
“And I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the LORD has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the LORD calls. (Joel 2:30-32 ESV)
Proclaim this among the nations: Consecrate for war; stir up the mighty men. Let all the men of war draw near; let them come up. Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruning hooks into spears; let the weak say, “I am a warrior.” Hasten and come, all you surrounding nations, and gather yourselves there. Bring down your warriors, O LORD. Let the nations stir themselves up and come up to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; for there I will sit to judge all the surrounding nations. Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Go in, tread, for the winepress is full. The vats overflow, for their evil is great. Multitudes, multitudes, in the valley of decision! For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision. The sun and the moon are darkened, and the stars withdraw their shining. The LORD roars from Zion, and utters his voice from Jerusalem, and the heavens and the earth quake. But the LORD is a refuge to his people, a stronghold to the people of Israel. (Joel 3:9-16 ESV)
The Son of Man Returns…After the Tribulation
“Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. (Matthew 24:29-31 ESV)
“But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven. (Mark 13:24-27 ESV)
“And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (Luke 21:25-28 ESV)
These are three different testimonies of the same event. All of which are said to take place after the abomination that causes desolation stands in the place it ought not, as prophesied in Daniel.
The Sixth Seal
When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. The sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” (Revelation 6:12-17 ESV)
This sounds to me to be a grand event…something that is fearsome to behold.
The Third, Fourth & Fifth Trumpets
The first angel blew his trumpet, and there followed hail and fire, mixed with blood, and these were thrown upon the earth. And a third of the earth was burned up, and a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up.
The second angel blew his trumpet, and something like a great mountain, burning with fire, was thrown into the sea, and a third of the sea became blood. A third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.
The third angel blew his trumpet, and a great star fell from heaven, blazing like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water. The name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters became wormwood, and many people died from the water, because it had been made bitter.
The fourth angel blew his trumpet, and a third of the sun was struck, and a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of their light might be darkened, and a third of the day might be kept from shining, and likewise a third of the night. (Revelation 8:7-12 ESV)
And the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star fallen from heaven to earth, and he was given the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit. He opened the shaft of the bottomless pit, and from the shaft rose smoke like the smoke of a great furnace, and the sun and the air were darkened with the smoke from the shaft. (Revelation 9:1-2 ESV)
Notice these events happen after hail and fire mixed with blood is thrown upon the earth, and something like a great mountain, burning with fire is thrown into the sea with a third of the sea becoming blood.
If you notice all these signs particularly deal with the light that comes from the sun, moon and stars, and a few mention the falling of stars from the heavens. None of these reference names of constellations (with the exception of the star named “wormwood”) or the positioning of the sun and/or moon rising or setting within a particular constellation. They also appear to be major and unusual events, evident to all…not something that needs interpretation.
Torah specifically warns against being drawn away by the sun, moon and stars, to bow down to them and serve them. The penalty for doing such is deserving of death through stoning.
And beware lest you raise your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, you be drawn away and bow down to them and serve them, things that the LORD your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven. But the LORD has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace, out of Egypt, to be a people of his own inheritance, as you are this day. (Deuteronomy 4:19-20 ESV)
“If there is found among you, within any of your towns that the LORD your God is giving you, a man or woman who does what is evil in the sight of the LORD your God, in transgressing his covenant, and has gone and served other gods and worshiped them, or the sun or the moon or any of the host of heaven, which I have forbidden, and it is told you and you hear of it, then you shall inquire diligently, and if it is true and certain that such an abomination has been done in Israel, then you shall bring out to your gates that man or woman who has done this evil thing, and you shall stone that man or woman to death with stones. On the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses the one who is to die shall be put to death; a person shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness. The hand of the witnesses shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. So you shall purge the evil from your midst. (Deuteronomy 17:2-7 ESV)
History teaches, after the kingdom under Solomon is divided, both Israel and Judah are guilty in engaging in such practices. My question is what does that look like? What does it mean to bow down and serve the sun, moon or stars?
I am not in the position to answer those questions, but we know the practices of the nations that surrounded Israel included astrology and divination, and that Israel was continually susceptible to engaging in those practices. It seems to me that we ought to be very careful not to pick up the ways of the nations in which we are dispersed.
When it comes to exploring “Biblical Astronomy”…
I personally stay far away from it. I see nothing in Torah or the Prophets (to include the Book of Enoch) that encourages any notion of a gospel message written in the stars.
Though there are pictures that some may draw with the constellations and a story that may be woven together that sounds familiar with what is put forth in Scripture, I question the origins of these pictures, and I refuse to be fascinated by them.
While there is a single testimony in Matthew of “magi” (magicians, astrologers) coming from the east following a star to find the king of the Jews so they could worship him, I see no instruction given by YHVH to pursue knowledge and insight by those means. I believe we are to consult the Creator and heed the prophets, not the sun, moon and stars.
When it comes to interpreting signs in the heavens, such as eclipses and blood red moons…
Again, I personally stay far away from that. When YHVH performs a wonder in the heavens, it seems to me, given history, these will be highly unusual and clearly visible by all (such as black darkness for three days).
I believe the signs concerning the sun, moon, and stars given by the prophets are speaking of specific events that will happen within the prophesied timeline. And I believe they are to be a signal to confirm what the prophets said, not something we should be seeking after to determine future events or to be seen as evidence that the Creator is for or against us.
Let Them Be For Signs
It is my understanding that the Creator put the lights in the expanse of the heavens to serve mankind for a specific purpose, and that purpose is put forth in Genesis 1. When we use these lights as signals for the rules of the day and of the night, or make note of the signals given to us by the Prophets as they take place, I believe we are behaving as the Creator intended.
But when we begin consulting (looking for messages from) the luminaries, and seeking special meaning behind normal and natural occurrences, I believe we may be overstepping those bounds, and I would advise heavily against it. I personally believe it is better to err on the side of caution.
As with everything I say, though, please pray for discernment. Don’t just take my word for it. I recognize that I can be wrong, despite my efforts for correct understanding. Always seek the Father and His ways through His word, and walk accordingly. If you see something that I have said that is in error, please lovingly correct me with Scripture. I would appreciate it, as I continue to grow in my journey for Truth.