Did You Know?
How did God view the practice of astrology among the Israelites?
Astrology, according to one dictionary, is “the study of the movements of the planets, sun, moon, and stars in the belief that these movements can have an influence on people’s lives.” As the earth orbits the sun each year, constellations of stars change position from the vantage point of the earth. Since ancient times, people observed these changes and attributed great meaning to them.
Astrology probably originated with the early Babylonians, who made the stars and constellations objects of worship. This form of worship came to be practiced by the Israelites when they deviated from true worship. By the time of Judean King Josiah, astrology was widely practiced in the land. God’s view of matters was clear. Centuries earlier, the Mosaic Law had prohibited star worship on pain of death.—Deuteronomy 17:2-5.
Among the measures taken by King Josiah to reform the religious practices of the Judeans was a ban on sacrifices “to the sun and to the moon and to the constellations of the zodiac and to all the army of the heavens.” The king took this step, says the Biblical account, because he wanted “to walk after Jehovah and to keep his commandments.” (2 Kings 23:3-5) That set a pattern even for people today who want to worship God “with spirit and truth.”—John 4:24.
Who were the “Sons of Zeus” mentioned at Acts 28:11?
The Bible book of Acts records that en route to Rome, the apostle Paul sailed from Malta to Puteoli on a boat that bore the figurehead “Sons of Zeus.” (Acts 28:11) Such an insignia was popular among ancient sailors and travelers.
According to Greek and Roman mythology, Zeus (also known as Jupiter) and Leda had twin sons, Castor and Pollux. These “Sons of Zeus” were regarded, among other things, as skilled mariners with powers over the wind and waves. Thus, they came to be venerated as patron deities of sailors. Voyagers offered sacrifices to them and invoked their protection during storms. It was commonly believed that the twin deities manifested themselves and their protective powers in the form of St. Elmo’s fire, an electric glow that sometimes appears on the masts of ships during a storm.
The worship of Castor and Pollux was widespread among the Greeks and Romans, and one ancient source makes particular mention of it in the district around Cyrene, North Africa. The boat mentioned in Acts was from nearby Alexandria, in Egypt.
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Babylonian stela depicting King Nazimaruttash with constellations
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Denarius coin depicting the “Sons of Zeus,” 114-113 B.C.E.
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Stela: Réunion des Musées Nationaux/Art Resource, NY; coin: Courtesy Classical Numismatic Group, Inc./cngcoins.com