The Witness of the Stars
9. Scorpio (the Scorpion)
We come now right into the heart of the conflict. The star-picture brings before us a gigantic scorpion endeavouring to sting in the heel a mighty man who is struggling with a serpent, but is crushed by the man, who has his foot placed right on the scorpion's heart.
The Hebrew name is Akrab, which is the name of a scorpion, but also means the conflict, or war. It is this that is referred to in Psalm 91:13--
shalt tread upon the lion and adder.
David uses the very word in Psalm 144:1, where he blesses God for teaching his hands to war.
The Coptic name is Isidis, which means the attack of the enemy, or oppression: referring to "the wicked that oppress me, my deadly enemies who compass me about" (Psa 17:9).
The Arabic name is Al Akrab, which means wounding him that cometh.
There are 44 stars altogether in this sign. One is of the 1st magnitude, one of the 2nd, eleven of the 3rd, eight of the 4th, etc.
The brightest star, a (in the heart), bears the ancient Arabic name of Antares, which means the wounding. It is called by the Latins Cor Scorpii, because it marks the scorpion's heart. It shines ominously with a deep red light. The sting is called in Hebrew Lesath (Chaldee, Lesha), which means the perverse. The stars in the tail are also known as Leshaa, or Leshat. (Antares seems also to have been known as Lesath).
The scorpion is a deadly enemy (as we learn from Revelation 9), with poison in its sting, and all the names associated with the sign combine to set forth the malignant enmity which is "set" between the serpent and the woman's Seed.
That enmity is shown more fully in the written Word, where we see the attempt of the enemy (in Exodus 1) to destroy every male of the seed of Abraham, and how it was defeated.
We see his effort repeated when he used Athaliah to destroy "all the seed royal" (2 Kings 11), and how "the king's son" was rescued "from among" the slain.
We see his hand again instigating Haman, "the Jews' enemy," to compass the destruction of the whole nation, but defeated in his designs.
When the woman's Seed, the virgin's Son, was born, we are shown the same great enemy inciting Herod to slay all the babes in Bethlehem (Matt 2), but again he is defeated.
In the wilderness of Judea, and in the Garden of Gethsemane the great conflict is renewed. "This is your hour and the power of darkness," He said to His enemies.
The real wounding in the heel was received at the Cross. It was there the scorpion struck the woman's seed. He died, but was raised again from the dead "to destroy the works of the devil."
To show us this; to prevent any mistake; to set forth the fact that this conflict only apparently ended in defeat, and that it did not really so end, we have the first two constellations belonging to this sign presented in one picture! Indeed, the picture is threefold, for it includes the sign itself!
If these pictures had been separated, then the conflict would have been separated from the victory; the deadly wound of the serpent's head from the temporary wound in the Victor's heel. Hence, three pictures are required, in which the scorpion, the serpent, and the man, are all involved, in order to present at the same time the triumphant issue of the conflict.
Hence, we must present, and consider together, the first two sections of this mysterious chapter.
Serpens (the Serpent)
Here, Serpens, the serpent, is seen struggling vainly in the powerful grasp of the man who is named O-phi-u-chus. In Latin he is called Serpentarius. He is at one and the same moment shown to be seizing the serpent with his two hands, and treading on the very heart of the scorpion, marked by the deep red star Antares (wounding).
Just as we read the first constellation of the woman and child Coma, as expounding the first sign VIRGO, so we have to read this first constellation as expounding the second sign LIBRA. Hence, we have here a further picture, showing the object of this conflict on the part of the scorpion.
In Scorpio we see merely the effort to wound Ophiuchus in the heel; but here we see the effort of the serpent to seize THE CROWN, which is situated immediately over the serpent's head, and to which he is looking up and reaching forth.
The contest is for Dominion! It was the Devil, in the form of a serpent, that robbed the first man of his crown; but in vain he struggled to wrest it from the sure possession of the Second Man. Not only does he fail in the attempt, but is himself utterly defeated and trodden under foot.
There are no less than 134 stars in these two constellations. Two are of the 2nd magnitude, fourteen of the 3rd, thirteen of the 4th, etc.
The brightest star in the Serpent, a (in the neck), is named Unuk, which means encompassing. another Hebrew name is Alyah, the accursed. From this is Al Hay (Arabic), the reptile. The next brightest star is b (in the jaw), named, in Arabic, Cheleb, or Chelbalrai, the serpent enfolding. The Greek name, Ophiuchus, is itself from the Hebrew and Arabic name Afeichus, which means the serpent held. The brightest star in Ophiuchus, a (in the head), is called Ras al Hagus (Arabic), the head of him who holds.
Other Hebrew names of stars, not identified, are Triophas, treading under foot; Saiph (in the foot * of Ophiuchus), bruised; Carnebus, the wounding; Megeros, contending. ** In the Zodiac of Denderah we have a throned human figure, called Api-bau, the chief who cometh. He has a hawk's head to show that he is the enemy of the serpent, which is called Khu, and means ruled or enemy.
All these combine to set before us in detail the nature of the conflict and its final issue. That final issue is, however, exhibited by the last of the three constellations of this chapter. The Victor Himself requires a whole picture to fully set forth the glorious victory. This brings us to--
11. Hercules (the Mighty One)
Here the mighty one, who occupies a large portion of the heavens, is seen bending on one knee, with his right heel lifted up as if it had been wounded, while his left foot is set directly over the head of the great dragon. In his right hand he wields a great club, and in his left hand he grasps a triple-headed monster (Cerberus). And he has the skin of a lion, which he has slain, thrown around him. *
In the Zodiac of Denderah we have a human figure, likewise with a club. His name is Bau, which means who cometh, and is evidently intended for Him who cometh to crush the serpent's head, and "destroy the works of the devil."
In Arabic he is called Al Giscale, the strong one.
There are 113 stars in this constellation. Seven are of the 3rd magnitude, seventeen of the 4th, etc.
The brightest star, a (in his head), is named Ras al Gethi, and means the head of him who bruises.
The next, b (in the right arm-pit, is named Kornephorus, and means the branch, kneeling.
The star k (in the right elbow) is called Marsic, the wounding.
The star l (in the upper part of the left arm) is named Ma'asyn, the sin-offering.
While w (in the lower part of the right arm) is Caiam, or Guiam, punishing; and in Arabic, treading under foot.
Thus does everything in the picture combine to set forth the mighty works of this stronger than the strong man armed!
We can easily see how the perversion of the truth by the Greeks came about, and how, when the true foreshadowings of this Mighty One had been lost, the many fables were invented to supply their place. The wiser sort of Greeks knew this perfectly well. ARISTOTLE (in his Metaphysics, x. 8) admits, with regard to Greek mythology, that religion and philosophy had been lost, and that much had been "added after the mythical style," while much had come down, and "may have been preserved to our times as the remains of ancient wisdom." Religion, such as it was (POLYBIUS confesses), was recognised as a "necessary means to political ends." NEANDER says that it was "the fragments of a tradition, which transmitted the knowledge of divine things possessed in the earliest times."
ARATUS shows the same uncertainty as to the meaning of this constellation of Hercules. He says:
this, and like a toiling man, revolves
Ancient authorities differ as to the personality of Hercules, and they disagree as to the number, nature, and order of what are sometimes called "the twelve labours of Hercules." But there is no doubt as to the mighty foretold works which the woman's Seed should perform.
From first to last Hercules is seen engaged in destroying some malignant foe: now it is the Nemean lion; then it is the slaying of the boar of Erymanthus; again, it is the conquest of the bull of Crete; then the killing of the three-headed hydra, by whose venom Hercules afterwards died. In the belly of the sea monster he is said to have remained "three days and three nights." This was, doubtless a perversion of the type of Jonah, introduced by LYCOPHRON, who (living at the court of PTOLEMY PHILADELPHUS, under whose auspices the Hebrew Scriptures were translated into Greek) would have known of that Divine miracle, and of its applicaiton to the Coming One. Bishop Horsley believed that the fables of the Greek mythology could be traced back to the prophecies of the Messiah, of which they were a perversion from ignorance or design. This is specially true of Hercules. In his apparently impossible tasks of overthrowing gigantic enemies and delivering captives, we can see through the shadow, and discern the pure light of the truth. We can understand how the original star-picture must have been a prophetic representation of Him who shall destroy the Old Serpent and open the way again, not to fabled "apples of gold," but to the "tree of life" itself. He it is who though suffering in the mighty conflict, and brought to His knee, going down even to "the dust of death," shall yet, in resurrection and advent glory, wield His victorious club, subdue all His enemies, and plant His foot on the Dragon's head. For of Him it is written--
shalt tread upon the lion and adder;
Lord and burst the captives' chains,
come and end Creation's groans--