The Witness of the Stars
5. Libra (the Scales)
In the first chapter of this book we saw that this Coming Seed of the woman was, among other things, to give up His life for others.
The second chapter is going to define and develop the manner and object of this death.
The name of the Sign, together with its three constellations and the names of the stars composing them, give the complete picture of this Redemption.
The Sign contains 51 stars, two of which are of the 2nd magnitude, one of the 3rd, eight of the 4th, etc.
The Hebrew name is Mozanaim, the Scales, weighing. Its name in Arabic is Al Zubena, pruchase, or redemption. In Coptic, it is Lambadia, station of propitiation (from Lam, graciousness, and badia, branch). The name by which it has come down to us is the Latin, Libra, which means weighing, as used in the Vulgate (Isa 40:12).
Libra contains three bright stars whose names supply us with the whole matter. The brightest a (in the lower scale), is named Zuben al Genubi, which means the purchase, or price which is deficient. This points to the fact that man has been utterly ruined. He is "weighed in the balances and found wanting."
"None of them can by any means
redeem his brother,
"Surely men of low degree are
vanity (Heb. a breath),
This is the verdict pronounced and recorded by this star Zuben al Genubi.
Is there then no hope? Is there no one who can pay the price?
Yes; there is "the Seed of the woman." He is not merely coming as a child, but He is coming as an atoning sacrifice.
He is coming for the purpose of Redemption! He can pay the price which covers! Hence in the upper scale we have another bright star with this very name Zuben al Chemali--THE PRICE WHICH COVERS! Praised be God! "They sang a new song, saying, Thou art worthy...for Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed...to God by thy blood" (Rev 5:9). This is the testimony of b, the second brightest star! It has another name, al Gubi, heaped up, or high, telling of the infinite value of this redemption price. But there is a third star, g, below, towards Centaurus and the Victim slain, telling, by that and by its name, of the conflict by which that redemption would be accomplished. It is called Zuben Akrabi or Zuben al Akrab, which means the price of the conflict!
There is, however, some reason to suppose that Libra is a very ancient Egyptian corruption, bringing in human merit instead of Divine righteousness; "the way of Cain" instead of the way of God. In the more ancient Akkadian the months were called after the names of the signs, and the sign of the seventh month is the sign that we now call Libra. The Akkadian name for it was Tulku. Tul means mound (like dhul and dul), and ku means sacred; hence, Tulku means the sacred mound, or the holy altar.
Not only is the name and its meaning different, but the teaching is infinitely greater and more important, if we may believe that the original picture of this sign was not a pair of scales, but the representation of an holy altar. This would agree still better with the three constellations which follow.
The names of the stars would also be more appropriate, for it is the Sacrifice of Christ which they foreshadowed, and here it was that the price which covered was paid, and outweighed the price which was deficient. What that price was to be, and how it was to be paid, and what was to be the result in the Person of the Redeemer, is set forth in detail in the three sections of this chapter by the constellations of The Cross endured, The Victim slain, and The Crown bestowed.
6. Crux (the Cross)
The Hebrew name was Adom, which means cutting off, as in Daniel 9:26 "After threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off." The last letter of the Hebrew alphabet was called Tau, which was anciently made in the form of a cross. This letter is called Tau, and means a mark; especially a boundary mark, a limit or finish. And it is the last letter, which finishes the Hebrew alphabet to this day.
The Southern Cross was just visible in the latitude of Jerusalem at the time of the first coming of our Lord to die. Since then, through the gradual recession of the Polar Star, it has not been seen in northern latitudes. It gradually disappeared and became invisible at Jerusalem when the Real Sacrifice was offered there; and tradition, which preserved its memory, assured travellers that if they could go far enough south it would be again seen. Dante sang of "the four stars never beheld but by the early race of men." It was not until the sixteenth century had dawned that missionaries and voyagers, doubling the Cape for the first time, and visiting the tropics and southern seas, brought back the news of "a wonderful cross more glorious than all the constellations of the heavens."
It is a small asterism, containing only about five stars, viz., one of the 1st magnitude, two of the 2nd, one of the 3rd, and one of the 4th. Four of these are in the form of a cross.
Long before the Christian Era this sign of the Cross had lost its true meaning, and had been perverted in Babylon and Egypt as it has since been desecrated by Rome. The Persians and Egyptians worshipped it. The cakes made and eaten in honour of the Queen of Heaven were marked with it. This heathen custom Rome has adopted and adapted in her Good Friday cakes, which are thus stamped. But all are alike ignorant of what it means, viz., "IT IS FINISHED."
In Egypt, and in the earliest times, it was the sign and symbol of life. Today, Romanists use it as the symbol of death! But it means life! Natural life given up, and eternal life procured. Atonement, finished, perfect, and complete; never to be repeated, or added to. All who partake of its benefits in Christ now, in grace, by faith "ARE made nigh by the blood of Christ" (Eph 2:13), and of them Jesus says, "He that heareth my voice, and believeth on Him that sent me HATH everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment; but IS PASSED from death unto life" (John 5:24). So perfect and complete is the work which Jesus finished on the Cross that we cannot seek to add even our repentance, faith, tears, or prayers, without practically asserting that the work of Christ is not finished, and is not sufficient!
The Hebrew names of this constellation--Adom and Tau--rebuke our Pharisaic spirit, which is the relic and essence of all false religions, and points to the blessed fact that the Sacrifice was offered "once for all," and the atoning work of Redemption completely finished on Calvary.
"Tis finished! the Messiah dies!
In the ancient Egyptian Zodiac of Denderah this first Decan of LIBRA is represented as a lion with his tongue hanging out of his mouth, as if in thirst, and a female figure holding a cup out to him. Under his fore feet is the hieroglyphic symbol of running water. What is all this but "the Lion of the tribe of Judah" brought down "into the dust of death," and saying "I am poured out like water...my strength is dried up" (Psa 22:13-18) "I thirst" (John 19:28) "and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink" (Psa 69:21)?
The Egyptian name of this Lion, however, points to his ultimate triumph, for it is called Sera, that is, victory!
This brings us to--
7. Lupus (Victima the Victim Slain)
Its modern name is Lupus (a wolf), because it looks like one. It may be any animal. The great point of this ancient constellation is that the animal has been slain, and is in the act of falling down dead.
Its Greek name is Thera, a beast, and Lycos, a wolf. Its Latin name is Victima, or Bestia (Vulg. Gen 8:17), which sufficiently indicates the great lesson. This is confirmed by its ancient Hebrew name, Asedah, and Arabic Asedaton, which both mean to be slain.
More than 22 of its stars have been catalogued. None of them are higher than the 4th magnitude; most of them are of the 5th or 6th.
True, He was "by wicked hands crucified and slain," but He is slain here by the Centaur, i.e. by Himself! To make it perfectly clear that it was His own act (without which His death would lose all merit), He uttered those solemn words "I lay down my life for the sheep...No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again" (John 10:15-18). He "offered Himself without spot to God." "He put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself" (Heb 9:11,26).
In the ancient Zodiac of Denderah He is pictured as a little child with its finger on its lips, and He is called Sura, a lamb! In other pictures He has, besides, the horn of a goat on one side of His head. All this pointed to one and the same great fact, viz., the development and explanation of what was meant by the bruising of His heel! It meant that this Promised Seed of the woman should come as a child, that He should suffer, and die upon the Cross, for
"He was brought as a lamb to the
Hence, the constellation prefigures a silent, willing sacrifice--Christ Jesus, who, "being found in fashion as a man, humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross" (Phil 2:5-8).
8. Corona (the Crown)
"Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow."
This is what is foreshown by this concluding section of the second chapter. Each chapter ends with glory. As in the written Word of God, we frequently have the glory of the Second Coming mentioned without any allusions to the sufferings of the First Coming, but we never have the First Coming in humiliaton mentioned without an immediate reference to the glory of the Second Coming.
So here, the CROSS is closely followed by the CROWN! True, "we see not yet all things put under Him, but we see Jesus...for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honour" (Heb 2:9).
Yes, "the crowning day is coming," and all heaven shall soon resound with the triumphant song, "Thou art worthy...for Thou wast slain and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood" (Rev 5:9).
The shameful Cross will be followed by a glorious crown, and "every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
"Mighty Victor, reign for ever,
The Hebrew name for the constellation is Atarah, a royal crown, and its stars are known today in the East by the plural, Ataroth!
Its Arabic name is Al Iclil, an ornament, or jewel.
It has 21 stars: one of the 2nd magnitude and six of the 4th. It is easily known by the stars J, b, a, g, d and e, which form a crescent.
Its brightest star, a, has the Arabic name of Al Phecca, the shining.
Thus ends this solemn chapter of LIBRA, which describes the great work of Redemption, beginning with the Cross and ending with the Crown. The Redeemer's work of Atonement is most blessedly set forth, and He alone is seen as the substitute for lost sinners.
"What wondrous love, what mysteries