The Witness of the Stars
12. Sagittarius (the Archer)
This is the concluding chapter of the first great book of this Heavenly Revelation; and it is occupied wholly with the triumph of the Coming One, who is represented as going forth "conquering and to conquer."
The subject is beautifully set forth in the written Word (Psa 45:3-5)--
Thy sword upon Thy thigh, O most mighty,
John, in his apocalyptic vision, sees the same mighty Conqueror going forth. "I saw (he says) a white horse, and He that sat on him had a bow,...and He went forth conquering and to conquer" (Rev 6:2).
This is precisely what is foreshadowed in the star-pictured sign now called by the modern Latin name Sagittarius, which means the Archer.
The Hebrew and Syriac name of the sign is Kesith, which means the Archer (as in Genesis 21:20). The Arabic name is Al Kaus, the arrow. In Coptic it is Pimacre, the graciousness, or beauty of the coming forth. In Greek it is Toxotes, the archer, and in Latin Sagittarius.
There are 69 stars in the sign, viz., five of the 3rd magnitude (all in the bow), nine of the 4th, etc.
The names of the brightest stars are significant:
Hebrew, Naim, which means the gracious one. This is exactly what is said of this Victor in the same Psalm (45), in the words immediately preceding the quotation above:
is poured into Thy lips;
Hebrew, Nehushta, the going or sending forth.
We see the same in the Arabic names which have come down to us: Al Naim, the gracious one; Al Shaula, the dart; Al Warida, who comes forth; Ruchba or rami, the riding of the bowman.
An ancient Akkadian name in the sign is Nun-ki, which means Prince of the Earth.
Again we have the picture of a Centaur as to his outward form, i.e. a being with two natures. Not now far down in the south, or connected with His sufferings and sacrifice as man; but high up, as a sign of the Zodiac itself, on the ecliptic, i.e. in the very path in which the sun "rejoiceth in his going forth as a strong man."
According to Grecian fable, this Sagittarius is Cheiron, the chief Centaur; noble in character, righteous in his dealings, divine in his power.
Such will be the coming Seed of the woman in His power and glory:
sceptre of Thy kingdom is a right sceptre.
In the ancient Zodiac of Denderah he is called (as in Coptic) Pi-maere, i.e. graciousness, beauty of the appearing or coming forth. The characters under the hind foot read Knem, which means He conquers.
This is He who shall come forth like as an arrow from the bow, "full of grace," but "conquering and to conquer."
In all the pictures he is similarly represented, and the arrow in his bow is aimed directly at the heart of the Scorpion.
Thus ARATUS said of Cheiron:
golden stars he stands refulgent now,
In this Archer we see a faint reflection of Him who shall presently come forth, all gracious, all wise, all powerful; whose arrows shall be "sharp in the heart of the King's enemies."
shall shoot at them with an arrow;
is coming! let Creation
This brings us to the first of the three constellations or sections of this chapter, which takes up this subject of praise to the Conqueror.
13. Lyra (the Harp)
"Praise waiteth for thee, O God, in Zion" (Psa 65:1). And when the waiting time is over, and the Redeemer comes forth, then the praise shall be given. "We give Thee thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty, which art, and which wast, because thou hast taken to Thee Thy great power, and didst reign" (Rev 11:17, RV). "Let us be glad and rejoice and give honour unto Him" (Rev 19:7). The Twenty-first Psalm should be read here, as it tells of the bursting forth of praise on the going forth of this all-gracious Conqueror.
King shall rejoice in Thy strength, O LORD;
Beautifully, then, does the harp come in here, following upon the going forth of this victorious Horseman. This Song of the Lamb follows as naturally as does the Song of Moses in Exodus 15:1--"I will sing unto the LORD, for He hath triumphed gloriously."
Its brightest star, a, is one of the most glorious in the heavens, and by it this constellation may be easily known. It shines with a splendid white lustre. It is called Vega, which means He shall be exalted. Its root occurs in the opening of the Song of Moses, quoted above. Is not this wonderfully expressive?
Its other stars, b and g, are also conspicuous stars, of the 2nd and 4th magnitude. b is called Shelyuk, which means an eagle (as does the Arabic Al Nesr); g is called Sulaphat, springing up, or ascending, as praise.
In the Zodiac of Denderah, this constellation is figured as a hawk or an eagle (the enemy of the serpent) in triumph. Its name is Fent-kar, which means the serpent ruled.
There may be some confusion between the Hebrew Nesher, an eagle, and Gnasor, a harp; but there can be no doubt about the grand central truth, that praise shall ascend up "as an eagle toward heaven," when "every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that is in them," shall send up their universal song of praise: "Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne and unto the Lamb for ever and ever. Amen" (Rev 5:13,14).
And for what is all this wondrous anthem of praise? Listen once again. "Alleluia *: Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God; for TRUE AND RIGHTEOUS ARE HIS JUDGMENTS...And again they said Alleluia" (Rev 19:1-3).
"that blessed hope" before us,
This brings us to--
14. Ara (the Altar)
Here we have an altar or burning pyre, placed significantly and ominously upside down! with its fires burning and pointing downwards towards the lower regions, called Tartarus, or the abyss, or "outer-darkness."
It is an asterism with nine stars, of which three are of the 3rd magnitude, four of the 4th, etc. It is south of the Scorpion's tail, and when these constellations were first formed it was visible only on the very lowest horizon of the south, pointing to the completion of all judgment in the lake of fire.
In the Zodiac of Denderah we have a different picture, giving us another aspect of the same judgment. It is a man enthroned, with a flail in his hand. His name is Bau, the same name as Hercules has, and means He cometh. It is from the Hebrew Boh, to come, as in Isaiah 63:1--
is this that cometh from Edom,
This is a coming in judgment, as is clear from the reason given in verse 4--
the day of vengeance is in Mine heart,
The completion of judgment, therefore, is what is pictured both by the burning pyre and the Coming One enthroned, with his threshing instrument.
In Arabic it is called Al Mugamra, which means the completing, or finishing. The Greeks used the word Ara sometimes in the sense of praying, but more frequently in the sense of imprecation or cursing.
This is the curse pronounced against the great enemy. This is the burning fire, pointing to the completion of that curse, when he shall be cast into that everlasting fire "prepared for the devil and his angels." This is the allusion to it written in the midst of the very Scripture from which we have already quoted, Psalm 21, where we read in verse 9 (which we then omitted)--
shalt make them as a fiery oven in the time of Thine anger:
This brings us to the final scene, closing up this first great book of the Heavens.
15. Draco (the Dragon cast down)
Each of the three great books concludes with this same foreshowing of Apocalyptic truth. The same great enemy is referred to in all these pictures. He is the Serpent; he is the Dragon; "the great dragon, that old serpent, called the Devil and Satan" (Rev 12:9). The Serpent represents him as the Deceiver; the Dragon, as the Destroyer.
This First Book concludes with the Dragon being cast down from heaven.
The Second Book concludes with Cetus, the Sea Monster, Leviathan, bound.
The Third Book concludes with Hydra, the Old Serpent, destroyed.
Here, at the close of the First Book, we see not merely a dragon, but the Dragon cast down! That is the point of this great star-picture.
No one has ever seen a dragon; but among all nations (especially in China and Japan), and in all ages, we find it described and depicted in legend and in art. Both Old and New Testaments refer to it, and all unite in connecting with it one and the same great enemy of God and man.
It is against him that the God-Man--"the Son of God--goes forth to war." It is for him that the eternal fires are prepared. It is he who shall shortly be cast down from the heavens preparatory to his completed judgment. It is of him we read, "The great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out and his angels with him. And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ; for the accuser of our brethren is cast down" (Rev 12:9,10).
It is of him that David sings--
is my king of old,
Of him also the Spirit causes Isaiah to say, "In that day, shall this song be sung in the land of Judah";
that day the LORD, with his sore, and great, and strong sword,
This is exactly what is foreshadowed by this constellation of Draco. Its name is from the Greek, and means trodden on, as in the Septuagint of Psalm 91:13--"The dragon shalt thou trample under feet," from the Hebrew Dahrach, to tread.
In the Zodiac of Denderah it is shown as a serpent under the fore-feet of Sagittarius, and is named Her-fent, which means the serpent accursed!
There are 80 stars in the constellation; four of the 2nd magnitude, seven of the 3rd magnitude, ten of the 4th, etc.
The brightest star a (in one of the latter coils), is named Thuban (Heb.), the subtle. Some 4,620 years ago it was the Polar Star. It is manifest, therefore, that the Greeks could not have invented this constellation, as is confessed by all modern astronomers. It is still a very important star in nautical reckonings, guiding the commerce of the seas, and thus "the god of this world" is represented as winding in his contortions round the pole of the world, as if to indicate his subtle influence in all worldly affairs.
The next star, b (in the head), is called by the Hebrew name Rastaban, and means the head of the subtle (serpent). In the Arabic it is still called Al Waid, which means who is to be destroyed.
The next star, g (also in the head), is called Ethanin, i.e., the long serpent, or dragon.
The Hebrew names of other stars are Grumian, the subtle; Giansar, the punished enemy. Other (Arabic) names are Al Dib, the reptile; El Athik, the fraudful; El Asieh, the bowed down.
And thus the combined testimony of every star (without a single exception) of each constellation, and the constellations of each sign, accords with the testimony of the Word of God concerning the coming Seed of the woman, the bruising of His heel, the crushing of the serpent's head, "the sufferings of Christ, and the glory which should follow."
far I see the glorious day,
Man of Sorrows one He was,
groaned beneath sin's awful load,
now He waits, with glory crowned,
few on earth His name is dear,
Thy name is all my boast,
then, come quickly from above,