We have all seen the sun move across the sky at some point or another.
From our vantage point, it appears that the sun rises up over the horizon in the east, travels in an upward motion in the sky overhead until it reaches its peak and then descends the rest of the way as it sets in the west. That’s what it looks like. But is that what is really happening?
We’ve been taught from early childhood, that what we see concerning the sun is actually a result of the globe earth rotating on its own tilted axis in the face of a relatively still sun. However, there is no physical evidence of either a spinning globe earth or a relatively still sun. What we observe is that the sun moves while the earth we stand on does not.
The question is how exactly is the sun moving? This is something I’ve been paying quite a bit of attention to the past two years. Scripture tells us the sun travels a circuit:
For the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David. The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament showeth his handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, And night unto night showeth knowledge. There is no speech nor language; Their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, And their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun, Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, And rejoiceth as a strong man to run his course. His going forth is from the end of the heavens, And his circuit (H8622) unto the ends of it; And there is nothing hid from the heat thereof. (Psa 19:1-6 ASV)
The Hebrew word translated here as “circuit” is “tequphah” (H8622) and is defined as “coming round, circuit of time or space, a turning, circuit” by Brown-Driver-Briggs.
If the sun is “coming round” or traveling a “circuit”, can it be determined if it is orbiting around a globe “earth” or could it be simply circling above the land and seas?
According to the Bible, most English translations reference the sun as rising and setting, clearly indicating that it moves but also suggesting it is ascending and descending. However, in my studies of the sun I believe some clues as to what exactly the sun is doing (and not doing) in its movement has been lost in translation.
In Does the Sun Really Go Down?, I shared that according to the Hebrew text the sun doesn’t necessarily go down, but rather it goes in. Given this, my inclination is to think that the sun is not necessarily rising or coming up, but rather it simply comes out. Here is what I found…
Does the Sun Really Rise?
(Genesis 19:23 ESV) The sun had risen (H3318) on the earth [LAND] when Lot came to Zoar.
(Judges 5:31 ESV) “So may all your enemies perish, O LORD! But your friends be like the sun as he rises (H3318) in his might.” And the land had rest for forty years.
(Isaiah 13:10 ESV) For the stars of the heavens and their constellations will not give their light; the sun will be dark at its rising (H3318), and the moon will not shed its light.
The Hebrew word translated in these passages as “risen”, “rises”, and “rising” is “yatsa” (H3318). According to Brown Driver Briggs it is a primitive root that means, “to go out, come out, exit, go forth”. Notice this definition makes no mention of an upward direction.
“Yatsa” is used over 1,000 times in the Tanakh/OT. The above four verses are the only times it is used directly in conjunction with the sun (H8121 “shemesh”). What I find interesting is that in all the other mentions of this word, it is never translated as having anything to do with rising.
Here is a sampling of the other 987 verses where “yatsa” is used:
(Genesis 1:12 ESV) The earth [LAND] brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.
(Genesis 35:11 ESV) And God said to him, “I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply. A nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come from your own body.
(Exodus 17:9 ESV) So Moses said to Joshua, “Choose for us men, and go out and fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.”
(Leviticus 19:36 ESV) You shall have just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin: I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt.
(Numbers 22:32 ESV) And the angel of the LORD said to him, “Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come out to oppose you because your way is perverse before me.
(Joshua 8:17 ESV) Not a man was left in Ai or Bethel who did not go out after Israel. They left the city open and pursued Israel.
(Ruth 1:7 ESV) So she set out from the place where she was with her two daughters-in-law, and they went on the way to return to the land of Judah.
(1 Chronicles 14:15 ESV) And when you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees, then go out to battle, for God has gone out before you to strike down the army of the Philistines.”
(Psalms 121:8 ESV) The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.
(Jeremiah 29:2 ESV) This was after King Jeconiah and the queen mother, the eunuchs, the officials of Judah and Jerusalem, the craftsmen, and the metal workers had departed from Jerusalem.
(Zechariah 14:3 ESV) Then the LORD will go out and fight against those nations as when he fights on a day of battle.
It seems to me that the notion of the sun rising as seen in these instances is based on the translator’s perspective of what the sun does rather than on the literal Hebrew to English translation. If we translate the word “yatsa” as “come/comes/coming out” in the verses addressing the sun, they would read like this:
(Genesis 19:23) The sun had COME OUT on the earth [LAND] when Lot came to Zoar.
(Judges 5:31 ESV) “So may all your enemies perish, O LORD! But your friends be like the sun as he COMES OUT in his might.” And the land had rest for forty years.
(Isaiah 13:10 ESV) For the stars of the heavens and their constellations will not give their light; the sun will be dark at its COMING OUT, and the moon will not shed its light.
Another Hebrew Word for the Rising of the Sun: Zarach
A more popular word used in conjunction with the sun, and translated in such a fashion as to indicate the sun rises is found in these verses:
(Genesis 32:31 ESV) The sun rose (H2224) upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip.
(Exodus 22:3 ESV) but if the sun has risen (H2224) on him, there shall be bloodguilt for him. He shall surely pay. If he has nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft.
(Judges 9:33 ESV) Then in the morning, as soon as the sun is up (H2224), rise early and rush upon the city. And when he and the people who are with him come out against you, you may do to them as your hand finds to do.”
(Job 9:7 ESV) who commands the sun, and it does not rise (H2224); who seals up the stars;
(Psalms 104:22 ESV) When the sun rises (H2224), they steal away and lie down in their dens.
(Ecclesiastes 1:5 ESV) The sun rises (H2224), and the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where it rises.
(Jonah 4:8 ESV) When the sun rose (H2224), God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint. And he asked that he might die and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.”
(Nahum 3:17 ESV) Your princes are like grasshoppers, your scribes like clouds of locusts settling on the fences in a day of cold– when the sun rises (H2224), they fly away; no one knows where they are.
(Malachi 4:2 ESV) But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise (H2224) with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.
The Hebrew word translated in the above passages as “rose”, “risen”, “rises”, “rising”, “rise” and “up” is “zarach” (H2224). According to Brown Driver Briggs it is a primitive root that means, “to rise, come forth, break out, arise, rise up, shine”.
While the definition includes “to rise, arise, rise up”, when we look at the other mentions of this word and how it is used elsewhere, I think we can get a better idea of what this word denotes.
Here are all of the other verses that use this word:
(Deuteronomy 33:2 ESV) He said, “The LORD came from Sinai and dawned from Seir upon us; he shone forth from Mount Paran; he came from the ten thousands of holy ones, with flaming fire at his right hand.
(2 Samuel 23:4 ESV) he dawns on them like the morning light, like the sun shining forth on a cloudless morning, like rain that makes grass to sprout from the earth.
(2 Kings 3:22 ESV) And when they rose early in the morning and the sun shone on the water, the Moabites saw the water opposite them as red as blood.
(2 Chronicles 26:19 ESV) Then Uzziah was angry. Now he had a censer in his hand to burn incense, and when he became angry with the priests, leprosy broke out on his forehead in the presence of the priests in the house of the LORD, by the altar of incense.
(Psalms 112:4 ESV) Light dawns in the darkness for the upright; he is gracious, merciful, and righteous.
(Isaiah 58:10 ESV) if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.
(Isaiah 60:1-2 ESV) Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the LORD will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you.
Notice in 2 Chronicles it speaks of leprosy “breaking out” on Uzziah’s forehead. It doesn’t seem to me that this is saying leprosy is literally rising up or ascending on his forehead.
And then the passage in Isaiah 60 indicates the glory of YHVH “has risen” upon you. If YHVH is above all, how can his glory ascend upon us?
I don’t believe the use of the word “zarach” is literally referring to a rising up, as if it’s specifically denoting a direction opposing down.
It seems to me this word is more about a coming forth or breaking out of something. I believe these latter phrases could still apply to all the verses that directly refer to the sun.
A Hebrew Word for Sunrise: Mizrach
“Mizrach” (H4217) is another word often used in conjunction with the sun. It comes from the root word “zarach” (H2224). It is used 73 times in the Old Testament / Tanakh, with 20 of its mentions directly in conjunction with the sun (“shemesh”):
(Numbers 21:11 ESV) And they set out from Oboth and camped at Iye-abarim, in the wilderness that is opposite Moab, toward the sunrise.
(Deuteronomy 4:41 ESV) Then Moses set apart three cities in the east beyond the Jordan,
(Deuteronomy 4:47 ESV) And they took possession of his land and the land of Og, the king of Bashan, the two kings of the Amorites, who lived to the east beyond the Jordan;
(Joshua 1:15 ESV) until the LORD gives rest to your brothers as he has to you, and they also take possession of the land that the LORD your God is giving them. Then you shall return to the land of your possession and shall possess it, the land that Moses the servant of the LORD gave you beyond the Jordan toward the sunrise.”
(Joshua 12:1 ESV) Now these are the kings of the land whom the people of Israel defeated and took possession of their land beyond the Jordan toward the sunrise, from the Valley of the Arnon to Mount Hermon, with all the Arabah eastward:
(Joshua 13:5 ESV) and the land of the Gebalites, and all Lebanon, toward the sunrise, from Baal-gad below Mount Hermon to Lebo-hamath,
(Joshua 19:12 ESV) From Sarid it goes in the other direction eastward toward the sunrise to the boundary of Chisloth-tabor. From there it goes to Daberath, then up to Japhia.
(Joshua 19:27 ESV) then it turns eastward, it goes to Beth-dagon, and touches Zebulun and the Valley of Iphtahel northward to Beth-emek and Neiel. Then it continues in the north to Cabul,
(Joshua 19:34 ESV) Then the boundary turns westward to Aznoth-tabor and goes from there to Hukkok, touching Zebulun at the south and Asher on the west and Judah on the east at the Jordan.
(Judges 11:18 ESV) “Then they journeyed through the wilderness and went around the land of Edom and the land of Moab and arrived on the east side of the land of Moab and camped on the other side of the Arnon. But they did not enter the territory of Moab, for the Arnon was the boundary of Moab.
(Judges 20:43 ESV) Surrounding the Benjaminites, they pursued them and trod them down from Nohah as far as opposite Gibeah on the east.
(Judges 21:19 ESV) So they said, “Behold, there is the yearly feast of the LORD at Shiloh, which is north of Bethel, on the east of the highway that goes up from Bethel to Shechem, and south of Lebonah.”
(2 Kings 10:33 ESV) from the Jordan eastward, all the land of Gilead, the Gadites, and the Reubenites, and the Manassites, from Aroer, which is by the Valley of the Arnon, that is, Gilead and Bashan.
(Psalms 50:1 ESV) A Psalm of Asaph. The Mighty One, God the LORD, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting.
(Psalms 113:3 ESV) From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the LORD is to be praised!
(Isaiah 41:25 ESV) I stirred up one from the north, and he has come, from the rising of the sun, and he shall call upon my name; he shall trample on rulers as on mortar, as the potter treads clay.
(Isaiah 45:6 ESV) that people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the LORD, and there is no other.
(Isaiah 59:19 ESV) So they shall fear the name of the LORD from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun; for he will come like a rushing stream, which the wind of the LORD drives.
(Zechariah 8:7 ESV) Thus says the LORD of hosts: Behold, I will save my people from the east country and from the west country,
(Malachi 1:11 ESV) For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to my name, and a pure offering. For my name will be great among the nations, says the LORD of hosts.
Brown-Driver-Briggs defines this word as “place of sunrise, east”. It seems to me this word is more about the place or direction from where the sun breaks forth or comes out, especially given the remaining 50 verses where the word is used without the word for “sun”, translated simply as “east”.
Here is a small sampling of those remaining verses:
(Exodus 27:13 ESV) The breadth of the court on the front to the east shall be fifty cubits.
(Exodus 38:13 ESV) And for the front to the east, fifty cubits.
(Numbers 32:19 ESV) For we will not inherit with them on the other side of the Jordan and beyond, because our inheritance has come to us on this side of the Jordan to the east.”
(Joshua 13:32 ESV) These are the inheritances that Moses distributed in the plains of Moab, beyond the Jordan east of Jericho.
(1 Chronicles 4:39 ESV) They journeyed to the entrance of Gedor, to the east side of the valley, to seek pasture for their flocks,
(Isaiah 43:5 ESV) Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you.
(Zechariah 14:4 ESV) On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives that lies before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley, so that one half of the Mount shall move northward, and the other half southward.
Given all of this it seems to me the Hebrew is telling us that the sun “comes forth”, “breaks out”, or “comes out”, and it is only our perception that tells us that it is “rising”.
So, the sun doesn’t really rise and set according to the Tanakh/OT, but rather, it simply comes out and goes in. But what is it coming out of or going in to? I believe the Book of Enoch has something to say about that.
The Book of the Revolutions of the Lights of Heaven
Chapter 72 of 1 Enoch outlines in great detail the path which the sun takes across the sky/heaven over the course of a year. Here are the opening verses of that chapter:
72.1 The Book of the Revolutions of the Lights of Heaven. Each as it is; according to their classes, according to their period of rule and their times, according to their names and places of origin, and according to their months. That Uriel, the Holy Angel who was with me, and is their leader, showed to me. And he showed me all their regulations, exactly as they are, for each year of the world and for ever, until the new creation shall be made which will last forever.
72.2 And this is the First Law of the Lights. The light called the Sun; its rising is in the Gates of Heaven that are towards the east, and its setting is in the western Gates of Heaven.
Notice this second verse refers to the sun’s “rising” and “setting”. From what I understand, the earliest manuscripts that we have of this book are written in Ge’ez, not Hebrew.
I don’t understand Ge’ez, but if the ideas that we find in the Hebrew text of the Tanakh are carried forward either from or to the Ge’ez text, then I think it’s possible (or probable) that the references to the sun’s “rising” and setting” could be replaced with the phrases “coming out” and “going in”. So this verse and those that follow it would read like this:
72.2 And this is the First Law of the Lights. The light called the Sun; its COMING OUT is in the Gates of Heaven that are towards the east, and its GOING IN is in the western Gates of Heaven.
72.3 And I saw six Gates from which the Sun COMES OUT, and six Gates in which the Sun GOES IN, and the Moon also COMES OUT and GOES IN in those Gates, and the leaders of the stars together with those whom they lead. There are six in the east and six in the west, all exactly in place, one next to the other; and there are many windows to the south and the north of those Gates.
72.4 And first there COMES OUT the greater light, named the Sun, and its disc is like the disc of Heaven, and the whole of it is full of a fire which gives light and warmth.
72.5 The wind blows the chariots on which it COMES OUT, and the Sun GOES IN in the sky and returns through the north in order to reach the east, and is led so that it comes to the appropriate Gate and shines in the sky.
72.6 In this way it COMES OUT in the first month, in the large Gate, namely; it COMES OUT through the fourth of those six Gates that are towards the east.
72.7 And in that fourth Gate, through which the Sun COMES OUT in the first month, there are twelve window-openings from which, whenever they are opened, flames come out.
The chapter continues describing how many days the sun comes out and goes in each of the six Gates that are towards the east and the six Gates towards the west, respectively. It also speaks of the lengthening and shortening of days and nights throughout the sun’s course over a year.
I can’t help but picture in my mind’s eye a six-lane race track in the heavens.
And from our vantage point on the LAND (aka Earth), when we look up we are seeing the sun coming out through invisible gates along the eastern horizon and going in through invisible gates along the western horizon.
With this in mind, I can better visualize the sun traveling its circuit coming out from one end of the heavens and going in to the other above the LAND as opposed to around a globe “earth”. What do you think?