[Heb., koh·khavʹ; Gr., a·sterʹ, aʹstron].
These Hebrew and Greek terms are applied in a general sense to any luminous body in space, excepting the sun and moon, for which other names are used.
VASTNESS OF UNIVERSE
The galaxy within which our Earth is located, commonly called the “Milky Way” or “Via Lactea,” is believed to measure some one hundred and twenty thousand light-years across and to contain some one hundred thousand million stars like our sun. The closest star to Earth, one of the Alpha Centauri group, is 25,000,000,000,000 miles (40,225,000,000,000 kilometers) away. Yet this immensity seems relatively small in view of the estimate that there are millions of galaxies throughout universal space. Modern telescopes indicate such within their present limit of one thousand million light-years in distance.
The vastness of the stellar creation adds infinite force and meaning to the Creator’s statement at Isaiah 40:26: “Raise your eyes high up and see. Who has created these things? It is the One who is bringing forth the army of them even by number, all of whom he calls even by name. Due to the abundance of dynamic energy, he also being vigorous in power, not one of them is missing.” (Compare Psalm 147:4.) The reverent psalmist was led to say: “When I see your heavens, the works of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have prepared, what is mortal man that you keep him in mind, and the son of earthling man that you take care of him?”—Ps. 8:3, 4.
The fact that the light rays from remote stars and galaxies millions of light-years distant now reach the lenses of giant telescopes on earth indicates that the creation of these astral bodies occurred millions of years in the past, since otherwise their light would not yet have reached our planet. Such creation is evidently included in the initial statement at Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Verse 16 does not contradict this in saying that during the fourth creative “day” or period: “God proceeded to make . . . the stars.” The word “make” (Heb., ʽa·sahʹ) does not mean the same as the word “create” (Heb., ba·raʼʹ).
NUMBER OF STARS
In addressing man, God used the stars as denoting a countless number, comparable to the grains of sand on the seashores. (Gen. 22:17; 15:5; Ex. 32:13; compare Nehemiah 9:23; Nahum 3:15, 16; Hebrews 11:12.) Since the stars clearly discernible to the unaided eye number only a few thousand, this comparison was viewed by many in the past as out of balance. Yet today the evidence shows that the number of stars does indeed compare to all the grains of sand in all the earth.
It is of interest to note that, while Moses spoke of Israel as having seen a certain fulfillment of this Abrahamic promise, the censuses taken of the population, as recorded in the Bible, never did include the total number in the nation. (Deut. 1:10; 10:22; 28:62) David is mentioned later as specifically refraining from taking the number of those “from twenty years of age and under, because Jehovah had promised to make Israel as many as the stars of the heavens.” (1 Chron. 27:23) Such concept of the innumerableness of these heavenly bodies distinguishes the Bible writings as unique when compared with contemporary views of ancient peoples.
Additionally, the orderliness of the arrangement of these celestial bodies is emphasized in various texts, references being made to “statutes,” “regulations,” and “orbits” (“courses,” RS). (Jer. 31:35-37; Judg. 5:20; compare Jude 13.) The tremendous forces holding certain constellations together according to physical laws are indicated by God’s questions to Job: “Can you tie fast the bonds of the Kimah constellation, or can you loosen the very cords of the Kesil constellation? Can you bring forth the Mazzaroth constellation in its appointed time? . . . Have you come to know the statutes of the heavens, or could you put its authority in the earth?” (Job 38:31-33; see ASH CONSTELLATION; KESIL CONSTELLATION; KIMAH CONSTELLATION; MAZZAROTH CONSTELLATION.) Thus, The New Bible Dictionary edited by Douglas (p. 1215) states: “We assert, then, that the Bible consistently assumes a universe which is fully rational, and vast in size, in contrast to the typical contemporary world-view, in which the universe was not rational, and no larger than could actually be proved by the unaided senses.”
The apostle Paul’s expression as to the difference between individual stars can be appreciated even more in the light of modern astronomy, which shows the contrast existing as to color, size, amount of light produced, temperature, and even the relative density of the stars.—1 Cor. 15:40, 41.
While star worship was rampant among the ancient nations of the Middle East, the Scriptural view held by God’s faithful servants was that such astral bodies were simply material bodies subject to divine laws and control, not dominating man but serving as luminaries and time indicators. (Gen. 1:14-18; Ps. 136:3, 7-9; 148:3) In warning Israel against making any representation of the true God Jehovah, Moses commanded them not to be seduced into worship of sun, moon and stars, “which Jehovah your God has apportioned to all the peoples under the whole heavens.” (Deut. 4:15-20; compare 2 Kings 17:16; 21:5; 23:5; Zephaniah 1:4, 5.) Pagan nations identified their particular gods with certain stars and thus took a nationalistic view of those stellar bodies. Sakkuth and Kaiwan, mentioned at Amos 5:26 as gods worshiped by apostate Israel, are considered to be Babylonian names for the planet Saturn, called Rephan in Stephen’s quotation of this text. (Acts 7:42, 43) Star worship was especially prominent in Babylon, but was proved worthless at the time of her destruction.—Isa. 47:12-15.
THE “STAR” SEEN BY ASTROLOGERS AFTER JESUS’ BIRTH
The “astrologers from eastern parts,” hence from the neighborhood of Babylon, whose visit to King Herod after the birth of Jesus resulted in the slaughter of all the male infants in Bethlehem, were obviously not servants or worshipers of the true God. (Matt. 2:1-18; see ASTROLOGERS.) As to the “star” (Gr., a·sterʹ) seen by them, many suggestions have been given as to its having been a comet, meteor, a supernova, or, more popularly, a conjunction of planets. None of such bodies could logically have ‘come to a stop above where the young child was,’ thereby identifying the one house in the village of Bethlehem where the child was found. It is also notable that only these pagan astrologers “saw” the star. Their condemned practice of astrology and the adverse results of their visit, placing in danger the life of the future Messiah, certainly allow for, and even make advisable, the consideration of their having been directed by a source adverse to God’s purposes as relating to the promised Messiah. It is certainly reasonable to ask if the one who “keeps transforming himself into an angel of light,” whose operation is “with every powerful work and lying signs and portents,” who was able to make a serpent appear to speak, and who was referred to by Jesus as a “manslayer when he began,” could not also cause astrologers to ‘see’ a starlike object that guided them first, not to Bethlehem, but to Jerusalem, where resided a mortal enemy of the promised Messiah.—2 Cor. 11:3, 14; 2 Thess. 2:9; Gen. 3:1-4; John 8:44.
Stars are used in the Bible in a figurative sense and in metaphors or similes to represent persons, as in Joseph’s dream in which his parents were represented by the sun and moon, and his eleven brothers by eleven stars. (Gen. 37:9, 10) Job 38:7 parallels “the morning stars” that joyfully cried out at earth’s founding with the angelic “sons of God.” The resurrected and exalted Jesus spoke of himself as “the bright morning star” and promised to give “the morning star” to his conquering followers, evidently indicating a sharing with him in his heavenly position and glory. (Rev. 22:16; 2:26, 28; compare 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 20:6.) The seven “angels” of the congregations, to whom written messages are delivered, are symbolized by seven stars in the right hand of Christ. (Rev. 1:16, 20; 2:1; 3:1) The “angel of the abyss” called Abaddon is also represented by a star.—Rev. 9:1, 11; see ABADDON.
In the proverbial saying of Isaiah chapter 14, the boastful and ambitious king of Babylon, who is himself called the “shining one” (Heb., heh·lelʹ; “Lucifer,” AV), is presented as seeking to lift up his throne “above the stars of God.” (Isa. 14:4, 12, 13) The metaphor of a “star” is used in referring prophetically to the Davidic kings of Judah (Num. 24:17) and Bible history shows that the Babylonian dynasty for a time did rise above these Judean kings by conquest of Jerusalem. A similar prophecy in Daniel chapter 8 describes the small “horn” of some future power as trampling down certain stars of the “army of the heavens,” and moving against the Prince of the army and his sanctuary (Dan. 8:9-13); while at Daniel chapter 12, by simile, those persons “having insight” and bringing others to righteousness are pictured as shining “like the stars” in the “time of the end.” (Dan. 12:3, 9, 10) By contrast, immoral deviators from truth are compared to “stars with no set course.”—Jude 13.
The darkening of the stars, along with the sun and moon, is a frequent figure used in prophetic warnings of disaster brought as a result of God’s judgment. (Isa. 13:10; Ezek. 32:7; Rev. 6:12, 13; 8:12; compare Job 9:6, 7.) The dimming of such luminaries is also used in the description of the fading years of the aged person at Ecclesiastes 12:1, 2. Elsewhere stars are spoken of as falling or being cast down to earth. (Matt. 24:29; Rev. 8:10; 9:1; 12:4) “Signs” in sun, moon and stars are foretold as evidence of the time of the end.—Luke 21:25.
The expression “daystar” (Gr., pho·sphoʹros) occurs once, at 2 Peter 1:19, and is similar in meaning to “morning star.” Such stars at certain seasons of the year are the last stars to rise on the eastern horizon before the sun appears and thus are heralds of the dawn of a new day. Peter’s previous reference to the vision of Jesus’ transfiguration in magnificent glory suggests a relation to his entering into kingly power as the “root and the offspring of David, and the bright morning star [a·sterʹ].”—Rev. 22:16; 2:26-28; see EXPANSE; HEAVEN.
‘STARS FOUGHT AGAINST SISERA’
The account at Judges 5:20 has occasioned discussion with regard to the phrase, “From heaven did the stars fight, from their orbits they fought against Sisera.” Some view it as merely a poetical reference to divine assistance. (Compare Judges 4:15; Psalm 18:9.) Other suggestions include the falling of showers of meteorites, or the dependence of Sisera on astrological predictions, which proved false. Clarke’s Commentary (Vol. II, p. 121) says: “Perhaps it means no more than this: the time which was measured and ruled by the heavenly bodies seemed only to exist for the destruction of the Canaanites.” Since the Bible record does not detail the manner in which the stars “fought,” it appears sufficient to regard the statement as showing some divine action of a miraculous nature taken on behalf of Israel’s army.—Gen. 18:14.