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2. The Sun. The Sun is the "greater luminary” placed in the firmament of heaven to rule the day;' it is the result of the concentrated light diffused through space on the first day of creation. It is made, like the other celestial orbs, only for the sake and the benefit of the earth, to give light to its inhabitants, to produce vegetation, and to mark the division between day and night. The sun was believed to move from east to west, encompassing in his course the whole universe. At the western boundary of the heaven, where the latter was considered to touch the border of the earth, the sun has a tent, where he enters in the evening, rests over night, and whence he emerges in the morning with renewed vigour, like a hero, to recommence his brilliant career with the bloom and freshness of a bridegroom. Hence we can understand why the sun is, in Hebrew, said to “ go out” when he rises, and to “come in” when he disappears beneath the horizon. It is as an awful sign of God's wrath if He takes away the light of the sun, and sends eclipses; when night envelopes the earth in the hours of day, and the sun is changed into darkness and glooin.” It is always the portentous forerunner of a fearful disaster. Those eclipses were believed to be caused by the mighty dragon, which ensnares the disc, but which might be frightened away by the spell of conjurors, or pierced by the hand of God. This remarkable astrononical notion was prevalent amongst most of the Eastern nations. The sun is arnong the most wonderful, the most magnificent works of God; he is a chief instru. ment of His glory, an everlasting witness of His majesty,'' and an emblem of His allpervading goodness." Even Plato observes, that the eyes of man, by contemplating the heavenly bodies, must guide him to the knowledge of the Deity; and Luther considered it as the strongest proof of the immortality of the soul, that it can rise above the earth, and explore the marvellous course of the celestial orbs. It is, therefore, not astonishing that the Israelites were, during many periods of their history, seduced by surrounding idolators to worship the sun; they had a chariot and horses of the sun ; 12 they revered him by burning incense to him on the roofs of their houses,' and they erected statues in his honour. Even the pious Job finds it necessary to protest that the grandeur and brilliancy of the celestial orbs did not tempt him to a criminal worship.16 Moses interdicts it repeatedly;18 and the first chapter of Genesis implies, with peculiar emphasis, that sun, moon and stars are the work of God, appointed and controlled by Him, dependent on His will, and serving His designs.
God has for all time fixed the course of the sun;'? these innate laws give to him the appearance as if he knew his path,' or as if he spontancously hastened to reach his daily-prescribed goal;19 but he stands yet under the sovereign will of God, who sometimes suspends his course, or interrupts those laws.20 His rise is preceded by a dawn and the dew-fall;a! he scizes the borders of the earth;22 then bounds cheerfully above the horizon; gilds first the peaks of the mountains;23 the fearful beasts of prey, which had howlingly traversed the forests in search of booty, retire to their caverns and hiding-places;2' and the wicked men, who sought to profit by the cloak of night for their evil deeds, disperse and disappear;25 till at last the light, with its wings, or its cye-lids, 29 illumines with splendour the whole earth, and the towns and the objects of
I Gen. i. 14–19. 2 Vers. 3--5.
15 Job xxxi. 26.
18 Ib. civ. 19.
2 Kings xxiii, 11. 13 Jer. xix, 13; Zeph. i. 5. ! Lev. xxvi. 30); Isili xvii. 8.
22 Job xxxviii. 13, 19. 23 Joel ii. 2.
24 Ps. civ. 21, 22.
nature, which had been buried in indistinguishable confusion, appear in their beautiful proportions.28 Therefore the sun serves as a metaphor for youth, beauty, and bloom,29 and his light for happiness and joy.30 He reaches his highest elevation and his greatest power at noon;s' then the heat of the day is greatest, and the light has a double brilliancy, that of the ascending and declining sun;92 it often causes the sun-stroke, 34 and is dangerous by its excess ;3* the rays burn many times more fiercely than a blazing furnace, and are especially fatal to the eyes.345 Gradually the magnificent orb declines; the heat loses its intensity, and the light its dazzling brilliancy; the shadows grow longer; light and darkness begin to mix, and tho evening is followed by the gloom and silence of the night.36
3. Tue Moon, The moon is the “lesser luminary,” which rules the night. She is chiefly intended to indicate the lapse of the months;37 and her four distinct phases have, no doubt, at an early time suggested the division of the month into four weeks, or periods of seven days.38 Her mild, beneficent rays, still more beautiful in the pure, transparent Eastern sky, illumine the sombre darkness of night, and cheer the lonely paths of the wanderer. But she sometimes also causes destruction; for the power of her rays were considered dangerous to man.39 The festivals were based upon her course; the day of the new-moon was solemnized with sacred rites and social festivities:40 the whole religious year was regulated after her motion, and she was therefore not only an object of importance, but of sacredness, in the eyes of the Israelites. Hence it may be accounted for, that the idolatrous worship of the moon found easy access into Palestine from the Pagan nations; she was revered as the “Queen of heaven;"l various sacrifices and libations were offered to her, and the Hebrew women especially devoted themselves to this forbidden service; in fact, the whole ritual of the Phoenician goddess Astarte, with whom that “Queen of Heaven" is identical, and who was the goddess of fertility, secms to have been transferred to her. But there are some other ancient notions concerning the moon, which at least are not traceable in the Biblical writings. The new-moon was believed to be fatal to the fruits and harvests; the frosts of the night and other agricultural damages were attributed to the influence of the moon; her rays were deemed most injurious to the eye-sight; it was curiously maintained that she is " the star of human life," controlling and tempering the vital humours and the blood of the body; that the shell-fish grow with her increase; and that she, in general, exerciseil a sovereign power over all things: whilst the Hindoos, who believed the moon to consist of water, thought that the rain descended from that orb. Even in our own time, the moon has not ceased to be endowed with certain mysterious influences upon man and his affairs; and many vulgar superstitions emanate from that source. By the ancients the moon was considered as one of the seven known planets, and one day of the week received its name from her.
4. TAE STARS. The Stars are the companions of the moon in the evening sky;"? they surround her to enhance her magic brilliancy, or shine to replace it; their nature as distant suns, or as planets of the solar system, was not yet known; no distinction between fixed stars,
23 Job xxxviii. 14, 15.
32 1 Sam. xi. 9; 2 Sam. iv.5; Neh. vii.
35 Sir.xliii. 4.
37 Gen. i. 14.
39 Psalm cxxi. 6. Compare the words “moon-stricken,” “ lunatic,” etc.
40 2 Kings, iv. 23; Isa. i. 13, 14.
planets, and comets, is ever alluded to; nor was the whole wonderful economy of the starry worlds, revealed by modern astronomy, understood or remotely suspected. The stars are affixed to the firmament: they will therefore share its fate at the destruction of heaven,' they existed before the foundation of the earth; they were then already inhabited by angels, or " sons of God,” who accompanied that great act of Divine omnipotence with shouting and rejoicing. But they were not considered themselves as animated beings, as the Persians, and several other heathen nations, and even some fathers of the church, believed; if life is attributed to them, it is only with regard to those glorious inhabitants; thus they fight in the combats of the Lord;" they are His army, His troops, they are the "host of heaven; but this expression is used promiscuously for the stars and angels. God is, therefore, “the Lord of Host3" (Zebaoth), both with reference to the former and the latter;^ He preserves peace and harmony in those heavenly worlds by His awful power. The stars are, therefore, unable to help or to save; it is folly and perversity to worship them, or to invoke their aid;" they owe their brilliancy not to their own power, but to the will of God who made heaven and earth. The stars are numberless; they are used to express an infinite multitude;lo but God knows the names of all; He leads them out every morning and numbers them, and never has one been missed." Only a few names of stars occur in the Biblical canon: the Zodiac;12 the Great Bear,13 with the three stars in his tail;"* Orion,'s the fool or impious man, probably Nimrod, fettered in the firmament as a punishment; and the Pleiades, in the neck of the Bull;16 further, Draco, between the Great and the Little Bear;!? and Gemini or Twins, in the border of the milky way.16 Besides these we find mentioned the planets Jupiter;19 Mars;20 Venus, the morning-star, or the brilliant planet;21 and Mercury.” In the later times of the Hebrew commonwealth, the Israelites were made better acquainted with astronomical observations; the computation of the Mosaic festivals obliged them especially to study the course of the moon; and in the Talmudical writings occur many subtle and sagacious astronomical calculations. The superstition of reading the destiny of man in the stars never took root among the Israelites; astrology is excluded by the first principle of Mosaism, the belief in one all-ruling God, who is subject to no necessity, no fate, no other will. Jeremiah23 warns the Hebrews not to be afraid of the “ signs of heaven," before which the heathens tremble in vain terror; and Isaiahspeaks with taunting irony against the “astrologers, star-gazers, and monthly prognosticators,” in whose couvsel it is folly and wickedness to rely.25 But the Israelites had not moral strength enough to resist the example of star-worship in general; they could not keep aloof from an aberration which formed the very focus of the principal Eastern religions; they yielded to that tempting influence; and ignominious incense rose profusely in honour of the sun and the hosts of heaven.26
5. THE EARTH. The Earth forms, according to Biblical notions, the centre of the world, or, rather, its only habitable part; the heavens, with the sun and the whole astral canopy, exist
Isa. xxxiv. 4; 2 Pet. iii. 12. 2 Job xxxviii.7. 3 Judg. v. 20. 4 Job xxv. 3. 6 Comp. Ps.cxlviii. 2; 2 Chron.xviii. 18. 6 Isa. xxiv. 21.
7 Job xxv. 2. 8 Job xxxi. 26-28. 9 Deut. iv. 19. 10 Deut. i. 10; Nah. iii. 16. 11 Isa. xl. 26. 1? Job xxxviii. 32; 2 Kings xxiii. 5. 13 Job ix. 9. 14 Job xxxviii, 32. 5 Amos v. 8; Job xxxviii. 31. 16 Job ix. 9; Amos v. 8.
17 Job xxvi. 13.
21 Isa. xiv. 12; Rev, ii, 28; or Meni, Isa. Ixv. 11.
» Nebo; Isa. xlvi.l.
26 Jer. xix. 13; Ezek, viii. 16; Zeph. i. 5; Wis. xii. 2.
23 x. 2, 3.
merely for the use and in the service of the earth. This is, among almost all ancient nations, the first purely optical, unscientific view; and not only Plato, but even Ovid, expresses it in distinct terms: “ The earth has been placed in the very middle of the universe," ...."in wliich position it is kept by its perfect roundness, not pressing on one part more than the other.”! It stands for ever, though the generations of men pass away and disappear. It rests on foundations, or pillars, so that it never moves;* except when God, in His anger, makes it tremble, and in His wrath overthrows or dislocates mountains. But no human wisdom has ever explored the basement on which these pillars are erected, or has discovered the place where the cornerstone of the earth is hidden. However, we are taught that our planet is founded on the seas, or spread out over waters,' and that God even marked out the circumference of the earth over the aqueous depths;' a notion which, though kindred, is not identical with that of the Greeks, of a vast insular plain, encircled by the sea Oceanus. Or we are led to suppose, more in harmony with our modern ideas, that the earth is hanging “upon nothing,” or “upon the empty space;"10 corresponding with the doctrine of many of the old Greek poets, “ that the vast earth hangs in the open space of the air, and that one earth cannot stand upon another earth.”! The proportions, dimensions, and shape of the earth defy equally the understanding of man." Whether it was regarded as a large disc, or as a square plain, is not quite evident; but it has certainly borders, extremities, and even ends, and gates.'3 Nor can we with safety deduce from some uncertain and disputed expressions in Ezekiel," that the Israelites considered Palestine as the centre of the whole earth, a notion which certainly prevailed among the later Jews and Christians. Similar ideas were held by other ancient nations; the Greeks believed Delphi to be the centre or navel of the earth; Xenophon asserts the same of Athens; Statius of Mount Parnassus; Pliny of Abydus; the Scythians of their country; and the Arabians of Sarandib, or Ceylon; China is called the" empire of the middle;” and Media received this name because it was believed to be situated in the centre of Asia. The surface of the earth was described after the four cardinal points; and as the east, or sunrise, was considered as the region before the face, west is that which lies behind; south is the right hand, and north the left hand; which manner of designating the parts of the globe is exactly the same among the Hindoos and in Ireland, and was sometimes applied by the Romans, The north was considered to be higher than the south; therefore going from north to south is, in Biblical language, called to descend; from south to north, to ascend. The west was regarded as the remotest part; 15 the north as the most concealed region - the most mountainous, and, therefore, most ponderous part; 18 and as including the gold-lands,'? which other ancient nations likewise placed in the hidden north. The earth itself was divided into dry land and sea,18 or into dry land and islands;19 and was distributed among the descendants of Shem, Ham, and Japhet, in the manner which will be described in our notes on the tenth chapter. It furnishes food, and supports all living beings; and is, therefore, called " the productive earth."
| Fast. vi. 271-276; Plato, Phæd. 132.
6 Job xxxviii. 6; Prov, viii. 29; Jer. xxxi. 37.
? Ps. xxiv. 2. 8 Ps. cxxxvi. 6. 9 Prov, viii. 27. 10 Job xxvi. 7.
11 Lucret. ii. 602, 603; comp. Ovid, Fast. vi. 269, 270.
12 Job xxxviii. 4, 5.
6. The SEAS. The Seas are the gatherings of water, which were, on the third day of creation, concentrated on some parts of the earth's surface, so that, on others, the dry land became visible. They are enclosed in rocky basins. Their sources are in the deep interior of the earth, from which they break forth with violence. But nobody can fathom their depths, much less descend to those sources, which reach down to the very “ gates of death."" The sea is, therefore, a figurative expression for everything infinite or gigantic. The omniscience of God reaches to its ground, or beyond its extremities; 6 His wisdom is as immeasurable as the extent of the sea;' sins are pardoned as if they were sunk to its bottom;& the unspeakable misery of the dispersed children of Jacob is inexhaustible as the sea. Yet God may, in His anger, lay bare the bottom of the sea, and make visible the foundations of the earth. A part of the floods retired beneath the earth, to form its foundation, or the base over which it is spread;" and beneath these waters is the hell, or Sheol, the abode of the departed spirits - the “ house of meeting for all living.” The Sheol is not at the bottom of the seas; for the earth opened itself to devour Korah and his associates, and to hurl him into the Sheol.13 All the rivers of the earth are a part of the sea; and as everything which is of the earth returns to the earth, so all the rivers go back into the sea, which thus for ever remains unaltered in magnitude. The waves of the ocean are, by the allpowerful hand of God, checked within their ordained boundaries; 16 and although their rage strives restlessly to overflow the shores, and to inundate and immerse the earth again, they are impotent against the will of God;"? He has shut them up with gates and bars. Tenipests might rouse its surface; 18 the billows might tower up in unbridled violence; 19 their tumult and their roaring are in vain;20 for God spoke to the sea: “Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further; and here the fury of thy waves shall be stayed.”21 Clouds and mists hover above its surface, covering it like a garment;22 and vast sand-plains border its coasts; 23 it is peopled with an endless variety of beings, from the harmless and useful fish to the majestic leviathan and the fearful monsters; but all are lovingly sustained by the providing care of God.24 They are partly created for the use of man; 25 partly for the glory of God.26 But water is a frequent Scriptural metaphor for misery and misfortune, or for dreary confusion.27 In the time of the chaos, water covered the whole earth; it was a sign of the loving care of God that it receded from some parts; therefore it is promised, that in the new heaven and the new earth the water will altogether disappear; there will be no more sea. 28
These are the chief notions of the Bible regarding the individual parts of the Cosmos. A few remarks on the universe, as a whole, will complete this sketch.
Heaven and earth, which comprise the created universe, are eternal, their laws are unchangeable. But they are only eternal compared with the frailty and transitory existence of man; generation cometh, and generation goeth; but the earth standeth
i Gen. i. 9, 10.
6 Ps. cxxxix. 9.
20 Sir. xliii. 25.
21 Job xxxviii. 8, 11; comp. Prov, viii. 28, 29.
22 Job xxxvii. 9.
23 Gen. xxi. 17; Job xxix 18; Hos. ii. 1.
24 Ps. civ. 25--28; James iii. 7; compare Ps. cxlvii. 9.
25 Gen. is. 2; comp. Lev. xi. 9.
26 Ps. civ. 26; Job xl. 25 et seq; Sir. xliii, 27.
13 Eccl. i. 7. 16 Job xxvi, 10.
17 Ps. lxxxix. 10.
27 Ps. lxix. 2, 3, 16; xviii. 17.
20 Jer. xxxi. 35, 36; Ps. Ixxxix. 37, 38; cxlviii. 6.