The Witness of the Stars
The First Book is occupied with the PERSON of the Coming One. It covers the whole ground, and includes the conflict and the victory of the Promised Seed, but with special emphasis on His Coming. The book opens with the promise of His coming, and it closes with the Dragon cast down from heaven.
The Sign Virgo
The Promised Seed of the woman
1. Virgo (the Virgin)
Here is the commencement of all prophecy in Genesis 3:15, spoken to the serpent: "I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed: it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise His heel." This is the prophetic announcement which the Revelation in the heavens and in the Book is designed to unfold and develop. It lies at the root of all the ancient traditions and mythologies, which are simply the perversion and corruption of primitive truth.
VIRGO is represented as a woman with a branch in her right hand, and some ears of corn in her left hand. Thus giving a two-fold testimony of the Coming One.
The name of this sign in the Hebrew is Bethulah, which means a virgin, and in the Arabic a branch. The two words are connected, as in Latin--Virgo, which means a virgin; and virga, which means a branch (Vulg. Isa 11:1). Another name is Sunbul, Arabic, an ear of corn.
In Genesis 3:15 she is presented only as a woman; but in later prophecies her nationality is defined as being of the stock of Israel, the seed of Abraham, the line of David; and, further, she is to be a virgin. There are two prominent prophecies of her and her seed: one is connected with the first coming in incarnation, Isaiah 7:14 (quoted in Matthew 1:23).
"Behold, a virgin shall conceive
and bear a son,
The other is connected with His second coming, leaping over the sufferings and this present interval of His rejection, and looking forward to His coming in glory and judgment, Isaiah 9:6, 7 (quoted in Luke 2:11 and 1 :32, 33).
"For unto us a child is born,
It is difficult to separate the Virgin and her Seed in the prophecy; and so, here, we have first the sign VIRGO, where the name points to her as the prominent subject; while in the first of the three constellations of this sign, where the woman appears again, the name COMA points to the child as the great subject.
Virgo contains 110 stars, viz., one of the 1st magnitude, six of the 3rd, ten of the 4th, etc.
ARATUS thus sings of them:
"Beneath Bootes feet the Virgin
Thus the brightest star in VIRGO (a) * has an ancient name, handed down to us in all the star-maps, in which the Hebrew word Tsemech is preserved. It is called in Arabic Al Zimach, which means the branch. This star is in the ear of corn which she holds in her left hand. Hence the star has a modern Latin name, which has almost superseded the ancient one, Spica, which means, an ear of corn. But this hides the great truth revealed by its name Al Zimach. It foretold the coming of Him who should bear this name. The same Divine inspiration has, in the written Word, four times connected it with Him. There are twenty Hebrew words translated "Branch," but only one of them (Tsemech) is used exclusively of the Messiah, and this word only four times (Jer 33:15 being only a repetition of Jer 23:5). Each of these further connects Him with one special account of Him, given in the Gospels.
(1) Jeremiah 23:5 --"Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, That I will raise unto David a righteous BRANCH (i.e., a Son), And a KING shall reign and prosper." The account of His coming as King is written in the Gospel according to Matthew, where Jehovah says to Israel, "Behold thy KING." (Zech 9:9; Matt 21:9)
(2) Zechariah 3:8--"Behold I will bring forth my SERVANT the BRANCH." In the Gospel according to Mark we find the record of Jehovah's servant and His service, and we hear Jehovah's voice saying, "Behold my SERVANT." (Isa 42:1)
(3) Zechariah 6:12--"Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, Behold the MAN whose name is the BRANCH." In the Gospel according to Luke we behold Him, presented in "the MAN Christ Jesus."
(4) Isaiah 4:2--"In that day shall the BRANCH of JEHOVAH be beautiful and glorious." So that this Branch, this Son, is Jehovah Himself; and as we read the record of John we hear the voice from heaven saying, "Behold your GOD." (Isa 40:9)
This is the Branch foretold by the star Al Zimach in the ear of corn.
The star b is called Zavijaveh, which means the gloriously beautiful, as in Isaiah 4:2. The star e, in the arm bearing the branch, is called Al Mureddin, which means who shall come down (as in Psa 72:8), or who shall have dominion. It is also known as Vindemiatrix, a Chaldee word which means the son, or branch, who cometh.
Other names of stars in the sign, are--
Subilah, who carries. (Isa 46:4)
The Greeks, ignorant of the Divine origin and teaching of the sign, represented Virgo as Ceres, with ears of corn in her hand.
In the Zodiac in the Temple of Denderah, in Egypt, about 2000 BC (now in Paris), she is likewise represented with a branch in her hand, but ignorantly explained by a false religion to represent Isis! Her name is called Aspolia, which means ears of corn, or the seed, which shows that though the woman is seen, it is her Seed who is the great subject of the prophecy.
Passing to the three constellations anciently assigned to the sign VIRGO, we come to what may be compared to three sections of the chapter, each giving some further detail as to the interpretation of its teaching.
2. Coma (the Desired)
The first constellation in VIRGO explains that this coming "Branch" will be a child, and that He should be the "Desire of all nations."
The ancient name of this constellation is Comah, the desired, or the longed for. We have the word used by the Holy Spirit in this very connection, in Haggai 2:7--"The DESIRE of all nations shall come."
The ancient Zodiacs pictured this constellation as a woman with a child in her arms. ALBUMAZAR * (or ABU MASHER), an Arabian astronomer of the eighth century, says, "There arises in the first Decan **, as the Persians, Chaldeans, and Egyptians, and the two HERMES and ASCALIUS teach, a young woman whose Persian name denotes a pure virgin, sitting on a throne, nourishing an infant boy (the boy, I say), having a Hebrew name, by some nations called IHESU, with the signification IEZA, which in Greek is called CHRISTOS."
But this picture is not found in any of the modern maps of the stars. There we find today a woman's wig! It appears that BERENICE, the wife of EUERGETES (PTOLEMY III), king of Egypt in the third century BC, when her husband once went on a dangerous expedition, vowed to consecrate her fine head of hair to Venus if he returned in safety. Her hair, which was hung up in the Temple of Venus, was subsequently stolen, and to comfort BERENICE, CONON, an astronomer of Alexandria (BC 283-222), gave it out that Jupiter had taken it and made it a constellation!
This is a good example of how the meaning of other constellations have been perverted (ignorantly or intentionally). In this case, as in others, the transition from ancient to more modern languages helped to hide the meaning. The Hebrew name was COMA (desired). But the Greeks had a word for hair, Co-me. this again is transferred to the Latin coma, and thus "Coma Berenice" (The hair of Berenice) comes down to us today as the name of this constellation, and gives us a woman's wig instead of that Blessed One, "the Desire of all Nations."
In this case, however we are able to give absolute proof that this is a perversion.
The ancient Egyptian name for this constellation was Shes-nu, the desired son!
The Zodiac in the Temple of Denderah, in Egypt, going back at least 2000 years BC, has no trace of any hair, but it has the figure of a woman and child.
Even Shakespeare understood the truth about this constellation picture, which has been so long covered by modern inventions. In his Titus Andronicus he speaks of an arrow being shot up to heaven to the "Good boy in Virgo's lap."
The constellation itself is very remarkable. Others contain one or two stars of the first or second magnitude, and then a greater or less variety of lesser stars; but this is peculiar from having no one very bright star, but contains so many stars of the 4th and 5th magnitudes. It contains 43 stars altogether, ten being of the 4th magnitude, and the remainder of the 5th, 6th, etc.
It was in all probability the constellation of Coma in which "the Star of Bethlehem" appeared. There was a traditional prophecy, well-known in the East, carefully preserved and handed down, that a new star would appear in this sign when He whom it foretold should be born.
This was, doubtless, referred to in the prophecy of Balaam, which would thus receive a double fulfilment, first of the literal "Star," and also of the person to whom it referred. The Lord said by Balaam (Num 24:17),
"There shall come * a star out of
Thomas Hyde, an eminent Orientalist (1636-1703), writing on the ancient religion of the Persians, quotes from ABULFARAGIUS (an Arab Christian Historian, 1126-1286), who says that ZOROASTER, or ZERDUSHT, the Persian, was a pupil of Daniel the Prophet, and that he predicted to the Magians (who were the astronomers of Persia), that when they should see a new star appear it would notify the birth of a mysterious child, whom they were to adore. It is further stated in the Zend Avesta that this new star was to appear in the sign of the Virgin. Some have supposed that this passage is not genuine. But whether it was interpolated before or after the event, it is equally good evidence for our purpose here. For if it was written before the event, it is evidence of the prophetic announcement; and if it was interpolated after the event it is evidence of the historic fact
The Book of Job shows us how Astronomy flourished in Idumea; and the Gospel according to Matthew shows that the Persian Magi, as well as others, were looking for "the Desire of all nations."
New stars have appeared again and again. It was in 125 BC that a star, so bright as to be seen in the day-time, suddenly appeared. It was this that caused HIPPARCHUS to draw up his catalogue of stars, which has been handed down to us by PTOLEMY (150 AD).
This new star would show the latitude, passing at that time immediately overhead at midnight, every twenty-four hours; while the prophecy would give the longitude as the land of Jacob. Having these two factors, it would be only a matter of observation, and easy for the Magi to find the place where it would be vertical, and thus to locate the very spot of the birth of Him of whom it was the sign, for they emphatically called it "His Star." There is a beautiful tradition which relates how, in their difficulty, on their way from Jerusalem to find the actual spot under the Zenith of this star, these Magi sat down beside David's "Well of Bethlehem" to refresh themselves. There they saw the star reflected in the clear water of the well. Hence it is written that "when they saw the star they rejoiced with exceeding joy," for they knew they were at the very spot and place of His appearing whence He was to "come forth."
There can be little doubt that it was a new star. In the first place a new star is no unusual phenomenon. In the second place the tradition is well supported by ancient Christian writers. One speaks of its "surpassing brightness." Another (IGNATIUS, Bishop of Antioch, AD 69) says, "At the appearance of the Lord a star shone forth brighter than all the other stars." IGNATIUS, doubtless, had this from those who had actually seen it! PRUDENTIUS (4th century AD) says that not even the morning star was so fair. Archbishop TRENCH, who quotes these authorities, says "This star, I conceive, as so many ancients and moderns have done, to have been a new star in the heavens."
One step more places this new star in the constellation of COMA, and with new force makes it indeed "His star"--the "Sign" of His "coming forth from Bethlehem." will it be "the sign of the Son of Man in heaven" (Matt 24:30) when He shall "come unto" this world again to complete the wondrous prophecies written of Him in the heavenly and earthly Revelations? *
Thus does the constellation of COMA reveal that the coming "Seed of the woman" was to be a child born, a son given.
But He was to be more: He was to be God and man--two natures in one person! This is the lesson of the next picture.
3. Centaurus (the Centaur)
It is the figure of a being with two natures. Jamieson, in his Celestial Atlas, 1822, says, "On the authority of the most accomplished Orientalist of our own times, the Arabic and Chaldaic name of this constellation is Bezeh." Now this Hebrew word Bezeh (and the Arabic Al Beze) means the despised. It is the very word used of this Divine sufferer in Isaiah 53:3, "He is DESPISED and rejected of men."
The constellation contains thirty-five stars. Two of the 1st magnitude, one of the 2nd, six of the 3rd, nine of the 4th, etc., which, together with the four bright stars in the CROSS make a brilliant show in southern latitudes.
The brightest star, a (in the horse's fore-foot), has come down to us with the ancient name of Toliman, which means the heretofore and hereafter, marking Him as the one "which is, and which was, and which is to come--the Almighty" (Rev 1:8). Sir John Herschell observed this star to be growing rapidly brighter. It may be, therefore, one of the changeable stars, and its name may be taken as an indication of the fact that it was known to the ancients.
Another name for the constellation was in Hebrew, Asmeath, which means a sin-offering (as in Isaiah 53:10).
The Greek name was Cheiron, which means the pierced, or who pierces. In the Greek fables Cheiron was renowned for his skill in hunting, medicine, music, athletics, and prophecy. All the most distinguished heroes of Greece are described as his pupils. He was supposed to be immortal, but he voluntarily agreed to die; and, wounded by a poisoned arrow (not intended for him) while in conflict with a wild boar, he transferred his immortality to Prometheus; whereupon he was placed amongst the stars.
We can easily see how this fable is the ignorant perversion of the primitive Revelation. The true tradition can be seen dimly through it, and we can discern Him of whom it spoke,--the all-wise, all-powerful Teacher and Prophet, who "went about doing good," yet "despised and rejected of men," laying down His life that others might live.
It is one of the lowest of the constellations, i.e. the farthest south from the northern centre. It is situated immediately over the CROSS, which bespeaks His own death; He is seen in the act of destroying the enemy.
Thus these star-pictures tell us that it would be as a child that the Promised Seed should come forth and grow and wax strong in spirit and be filled with wisdom (Luke 2:40); and that as a man having two natures He should suffer and die. Then the third and last section in this first chapter of this First Book goes on to tell of His second coming in glory.
4. Bootes (the Coming One)
This constellation still further develops this wondrous personage.
He is pictured as a man walking rapidly, with a spear in his right hand and a sickle in his left hand.
The Greeks called him Bo-o-tes, which is from the Hebrew root Bo (to come), meaning the coming. It is referred to in Psalm 96:13:
"For He cometh,
It is probable that his ancient name was Arcturus * (as referred to in Job 9:9), for this is the name of the brightest star, a (in the left knee). Arcturus means He cometh. **
The ancient Egyptians called him Smat, which means one who rules, subdues, and governs. They also called him Bau (a reminiscence of the more ancient Bo), which means also the coming one.
The star m (in the spear-head) is named Al Katurops, which means the branch, treading under foot.
The star e (just below the waist on his right side) is called Mirac, or Mizar, or Izar. Mirac means the coming forth as an arrow; Mizar, or Izar, means the preserver, guarding.
The star h is called Muphride, i.e. who separates.
The star b (in the head) is named Nekkar, i.e. the pierced (Zech 12:10), which tells us that this coming judge is the One who was pierced. Another Hebrew name is Merga, who bruises. *
This brings us back again to Genesis 3:15, and closes up this first chapter of the First Book (VIRGO). It shows us the Person of the Promised Seed from the beginning to the end, from the first promise of the birth of the Child in Bethlehem, to the final coming of the great Judge and Harvester to reap the harvest of the earth. This was the vision which was afterwards shown to John (Rev 14:15,16), when he says, "I looked; and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of Man, having on His head a golden crown, and in His hand a sharp sickle. And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to Him that sat on the cloud, Thrust in thy sickle and reap; for the time is come for Thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe. And He that sat on the cloud thrust in His sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped."
This is the conclusion of the first chapter of this First Book. Here we see the woman whose Seed is to bruise the serpent's head, the Virgin-Born, the Branch of Jehovah, perfect man and perfect God, Immanuel, "God with us," yet despised and rejected of men, and yielding up His life that others may have life for evermore. But we see Him coming afterwards in triumphant power to judge the earth.
This is only one chapter of this First Book, but it contains the outline of the whole volume, complete in itself, so far as it regards the Person of the Coming One. Like the Book of Genesis, it is the seed-plot which contains the whole, all the rest being merely the development of the many grand details which are included and shut up within it. It is only one chapter out of twelve, but it distinctly foreshadows the end--even "the sufferings of Christ and the glory which should follow."