The Stars And Man—Is There a Connection?
THE practice of watching the stars is not new. According to The World Book Encyclopedia, farmers thousands of years ago “watched the stars to know when to plant their crops. Travelers learned to use the stars to tell directions.” Even today in space travel, stars are still used as guides. Ancients also invented myths of persons and animals that they felt were pictured in groups of stars, or constellations. In time people came to feel that stars could influence their lives.
A Vast Choice of Stars
The sheer number of and size of the stars inspire awe. It is estimated that there are some 100 billion galaxies, or huge groupings of stars, in the universe! The International Encyclopedia of Astronomy says: “That is the number of grains of rice that could be packed into an average cathedral.” The Milky Way galaxy, of which our solar system is a part, is estimated to have at least that many stars. The star nearest our Earth (other than the Sun), one of the Alpha Centauri group, is about 4.3 light-years away. A light-year is the distance light travels in one year. That means that when we look at that star, the light entering our eye left the star 4.3 years earlier and during all that time was traveling through space at a velocity of 186,282 miles a second [299,792 km/sec]. It is beyond our mental capacity to imagine the distance involved. Yet, that is only the nearest star. Some stars are billions of light-years from our galaxy. No wonder God’s prophet declared: “Look! The nations are as a drop from a bucket; and as the film of dust on the scales they have been accounted. Look! He lifts the islands themselves as mere fine dust.” (Isaiah 40:15) Who bothers about a little speck of dust?
The closest heavenly body to earth is the moon, which exercises a definite influence on our earth, its gravity even causing a difference of over 50 feet [15 meters] between high and low tides in some places. According to three French scientists, the moon’s gravity is now believed to be what keeps the earth’s axis inclined 23 degrees, thus ensuring a regular change of seasons. (Nature, February 18, 1993) Since the moon exerts such a physical influence over our planet, it is reasonable to ask, What about the billions of stars? But first, what do ancient sources, such as the Bible, tell us about the stars?
Stars in the Scriptures
The Bible makes many references to stars, both in a literal and in a figurative sense. For instance, according to one psalmist, the Creator made “the moon and the stars to dominate the night” so that the stars would help furnish light for the earth. (Psalm 136:9, Tanakh) Later, when making a covenant with faithful Abraham, God said: “‘Look up, please, to the heavens and count the stars, if you are possibly able to count them.’ And he went on to say to him: ‘So your seed will become.’” (Genesis 15:5) The apostle Paul points out that stars have differences, saying: “The glory of the sun is one sort, and the glory of the moon is another, and the glory of the stars is another; in fact, star differs from star in glory.”* (1 Corinthians 15:41) At the same time, this vast number of stars and their glory are not outside the realm or the control of their Creator: “He is counting the number of the stars; all of them he calls by their names.”—Psalm 147:4.
On the other hand, in the Scriptures we find that stars are often used to refer to persons, rulers, and angels. Jacob’s son Joseph has a dream in which his parents are pictured as “the sun and the moon” and his brothers as “stars.” Angels are referred to as “morning stars.” Babylon’s king is spoken of as aiming to be above “the stars of God,” the Davidic rulers of the nation of Israel. Unstable men in the Christian congregation are likened to “stars with no set course,” whereas faithful bodies of congregation elders are mentioned as being “stars” in the right hand of Christ.—Genesis 37:9, 10; Job 38:7; Isaiah 14:13; Jude 13; Revelation 1:16.
One account in the Bible says that ‘the stars from their orbits fought against Sisera,’ the army chief of King Jabin of Canaan, who had oppressed the nation of Israel for 20 years. Jehovah assigned Judge Barak of Israel to save Israel from bondage and gave him an overwhelming victory over Sisera, even though the latter had nine hundred chariots with iron scythes on their wheels. In the song of victory, the Israelites sang: “From heaven did the stars fight, from their orbits they fought against Sisera.” No explanation is given as to just how the stars fought. Rather than assume that the stars exercised a direct influence in the battle, it is more reasonable to believe that the expression indicates some form of divine intervention in behalf of Israel.—Judges 5:20.
“The Star” of Bethlehem
Probably one of the best-known stars mentioned in the Bible is “the star” of Bethlehem that guided the astrologers from “eastern parts” to the house where Jesus had been taken by his parents after his birth in a stable. What was that star? Certainly it was not an ordinary one, since it was low enough for the astrologers to follow it for about a thousand miles [1,600 km]. “The star” led them first to Jerusalem. Hearing of this, King Herod questioned them and then decided to kill the infant Jesus. Then “the star” led the astrologers to the particular house where Jesus was living. Certainly no normal star could do that. Did this starlike object originate with God? Since the astrologers’ visit led indirectly to the slaughter of ‘all the boys in Bethlehem and in all its districts from two years of age and under,’ is it not reasonable to conclude that “the star” was something used by God’s Adversary, Satan, in an attempt to destroy God’s Son?—Matthew 2:1-11, 16.
It should also be borne in mind that the astrologers came from the East, perhaps from Babylon, which was an ancient center of magic, sorcery, and astrology. A number of heavenly bodies have been named after Babylon’s gods. In the days of King Nebuchadnezzar, divination was used to help him decide which route to take in his battle campaign.—Ezekiel 21:20-22.
The prophet Isaiah challenged Babylon’s counselors, saying: “You [Babylon] are powerless in spite of the advice you get. Let your astrologers come forward and save you—those people who study the stars, who map out the zones of the heavens and tell you from month to month what is going to happen to you. They will be like bits of straw, and a fire will burn them up! They will not even be able to save themselves . . . and none will be left to save you.” True to Isaiah’s prophecy, mighty Babylon fell to Cyrus the Great in 539 B.C.E. The guidance that those Babylonian astrologers claimed to bring from the stars turned into disaster for all concerned.—Isaiah 47:13-15, Today’s English Version.
Does this mean that we cannot learn anything from the stars?
Modern astronomy confirms Paul’s words, since stars differ as to color, size, amount of light produced, temperature, and relative density.
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What Some Have Said
ASTROLOGY: “an adjunct and ally to astronomy.”—Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) German astronomer.
“Astrology is a disease, not a science. . . . It is a tree under the shadow of which all sorts of superstitions thrive.”—Moses Maimonides (1135-1204), Jewish scholar of the Middle Ages.
“A proto-science which claims to be able to assess individual personality and behaviour and to foretell future trends and events from the aspects of the heavens. . . . Probably about the 6th century BC—the Chaldæans in the south of Iraq are thought to have introduced the personal horoscope. This was concerned with the influences exerted at the time of birth by the fixed stars, as well as the Sun, Moon and five planets. . . . The procedures of astrology and the interpretation of horoscopes rely on ideas astronomers and most other scientists find subjective and unacceptable.”—C. A. Ronan, project coordinator, East Asian History of Science Trust, Cambridge, England, and contributor to The International Encyclopedia of Astronomy from which this quotation is taken.
To illustrate this subjectivity, Ronan explains that while to the Western mind, the red planet, Mars, is associated with war and belligerence, to the Chinese, red is a beautiful color, and Mars is viewed as having a benign influence. In contrast, Western mythology associates Venus with white and beauty. To the Chinese “white . . . is considered the colour of death, decay and destruction; Venus was therefore referred to as the ‘gloomy planet of war.’”
Ronan continues: “In spite of its proto-scientific nature, astrology in early times played a useful part in promoting astronomical observation and providing funds to carry it out.”
Nineteen Nobel prize winners, together with other scientists, issued a manifesto in 1975 entitled “Objections to Astrology—A Statement by 192 Leading Scientists.” It declared: “In ancient times people . . . had no concept of the vast distances from the earth to the planets and stars. Now that these distances can and have been calculated, we can see how infinitesimally small are the gravitational and other effects produced by the distant planets and the far more distant stars. It is simply a mistake to imagine that the forces exerted by stars and planets at the moment of birth can in any way shape our futures.”*
For further information on astrology, see Awake! of May 8, 1986, pages 3-9.