The Witness of the Stars
In the First Book we have had before us the work of the Redeemer set forth as it concerned His own glorious person. In this Second Book it is presented to us as it affects others. Here we see the results of His humiliation, and conflict, and victory--"The sufferings of Christ" and the blessings they procured for His redeemed people.
In Chapter I, we have the Blessings procured.
The Sign Capricornus (The Sea Goat)
The goat of atonement slain for the redeemed
16. Capricornus (the Sea Goat)
It is most noteworthy that this Second Book opens with the Goat, and closes with the Ram: two animals of sacrifice; while the two middle chapters are both connected with fishes. * The reason for this we shall see as we proceed.
Both are combined in the first chapter, or "Sign" of Capricornus.
In all the ancient Zodiacs, or Planispheres, we find a goat with a fish's tail. In the Zodiacs of Denderah and Esneh, in Egypt, it is half-goat and half-fish, and it is there called Hu-penius, which means the place of the sacrifice.
In the Indian Zodiac it is a goat passant traversed by a fish.
There can be no doubt as to the significance of this sign.
In the Goat we have the Atoning Sacrifice, in the Fish we have the people for whom the atonement is made. When we come to the sign PISCES we shall see more clearly that it points to the multitudes of the redeemed host.
The Goat is bowing its head as though falling down in death. The right leg is folded underneath the body, and he seems unable to rise with the left. The tail of the fish, on the other hand, seems to be full of vigour and life.
The Hebrew name of the sign is Gedi, the kid or cut off, the same as the Arabic Al Gedi. CAPRICORNUS is merely the modern (Latin) name of the sign, and means goat.
There are 51 stars in the sign, three of which are of the 3rd magnitude, three of the 4th, etc. Five are remarkable stars, a and b in the horn and head, and the remaining three g, d and e, in the fishy tail. The star a is named Al Gedi, the kid or goat, while the star d is called Deneb Al Gedi, the sacrifice cometh.
Other star-names in the sign are Dabih (Syriac), the sacrifice slain; Al Dabik and Al Dehabeh (Arabic) have the same meaning; Ma'asad, the slaying; Sa'ad al Naschira, the record of the cutting off.
Is not this exactly in accord with the Scriptures of truth? There were two goats! Of "the goat of the sin-offering" it is written, "God hath given it to you to bear the iniquity of the congregation, to make atonement for them before the LORD" (Lev 10:16,17): of the other goat, which was not slain, "he shall let it go into the wilderness" (Lev 16:22). Here is death and resurrection. Christ was "wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities." "For the transgression of MY PEOPLE was He stricken" (Isa 53). He laid down His life for the sheep.
In the first chapter of the First Book we had the same Blessed One presented as "a corn of wheat." Here we see Him come to "die," and hence not abiding alone, but bringing forth "much fruit" (John 12:24). The living fish proceeds from the dying goat, and yet they form only one body. That picture, which has no parallel in nature, has a perfectly true coutnerpart in grace; and "a great multitude, which no man can number," have been redeemed and shall obtain eternal life through the death of their Redeemer.
Astronomers confess that the perverted legends of the Greeks give but "a lame account" of this sign, "and it offers no illustration of its ancient origin."
Its ancient origin reveals a prophetic knowledge, which only He possessed who knew that in "the fulness of time" He would send forth His Son.
We now come to the three constellations which give us three pictures setting forth the death of this Sacrifice and of His living again.
17. Sagitta (the Arrow)
It is not the Arrow of Sagittarius, for that has not left his bow. That arrow is for the enemies of God. This is for the Son of God. It was of this that He spoke when He said, in Psalm 38:2--
"Thine arrows stick fast in me,
He was "stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted, He was wounded for our transgressions" (Isa 53:4,5). He was "pierced," when He could say with Job, "The arrows of the Almighty are within me" (6:4).
Here the arrow is pictured to us in mid-heaven, alone, as having been shot forth by an invisible hand. It is seen in its flight through the heavens. It is the arrow of God, showing that Redemption is all of God. It was "the will of God" which Jesus came to do. Not a mere work of mercy for miserable sinners, but a work ordained in eternity past, for the glory of God in eternity future.
This is the record of the Word, and this is what is pictured for us here. The work which the arrow accomplishes is seen in the dying Goat, and in the falling Eagle.
There are many other stars in the heavens in a straighter line, which would better serve for an arrow. Why are these stars chosen? Why is the arrow placed here? What explanation can be given, except that the Revelation in the stars and in the Book are both from the inspiration of the same Spirit?
There are about 18 stars of which four are of the 4th magnitude. Only g and d are in the same line, while the shaft passes between a and b.
The Hebrew name is Sham, destroying, or desolate.
17. Sagitta (the Arrow)
Here we have an additional picture of the effect of this arrow, in the pierced, wounded, and falling Eagle, gasping in its dying struggle. And that pierced, wounded, and dying Saviour whom it represents, after saying, in Psalm 38:2 "Thine arrows stick fast in Me," added, in verse 10--
"My heart panteth, My strength
The names of the stars, all of them, bear out this representation. The constellation contains 74 stars. The brightest of them, a (in the Eagle's neck), is a notable star of the 1st magnitude, called Al Tair (Arabic), the wounding. The star b (in the throat) is called Al Shain (Arabic), the bright, from a Hebrew root meaning scarlet coloured, as in Joshua 2:18. The star g (in the back) is called Tarared, wounded, or torn. d (in the lower wing) is named Alcair, which means the piercing, and e (in the tail), Al Okal, has the significant meaning wounded in the heel.
How can the united testimony of these names be explained except by acknowledging a Divine origin? even that of Him who afterwards foretold of the bruising of the Virgin's Son in the written Word; yea, of Him "who telleth the number of the stars and giveth them all their names."
17. Sagitta (the Arrow)
This is a bright cluster of 18 stars, five of which are of the 3rd magnitude. It is easily distinguished by the four brightest, which are in the head.
It is always figured as a fish full of life, and always with the head upwards, just as the eagle is always with the head downwards. The great peculiar characteristic of the dolphin is its rising up, leaping, and springing out of the sea.
When we compare this with the dying goat and falling eagle, what conclusion can we come to but that we have here the filling in of the picture, and the completion of the whole truth set forth in CAPRICORNUS?
Jesus "died and rose again." Apart from His resurrection His death is without result. In His conflict with the enemy it is only His coming again in glory which is shown forth. But here, in connection with His people, with the multitudes of His redeemed, Resurrection is the great and important truth. He is "the first-fruits of them that slept"; then He, too, is here represented as a fish. He who went down into the waters of death for His people; He who could say "All thy waves and thy billows are gone over me" (Psa 42:7), He it is who rises up again from the dead, having died on account of the sins of His redeemed, and risen again on account of their justification (Rom 4:25).
This is the picture here. In the Persian planisphere there seems to be a fish and a stream of water. The Egyptian has a vessel pouring out water.
The ancient names connected with this constellation are Dalaph (Hebrew), pouring out of water; Dalaph (Arabic), coming quickly; Scalooin (Arabic), swift (as the flow of water); Rotaneb or Rotaneu (Syriac and Chaldee), swiftly running.
Thus, in this first chapter of the Second Book we see the great truth of Revelation set forth; and we learn how the great Blessings of Redemption were procured. This truth cannot be more eloquently or powerfully presented than in the language of Dr. Seiss (Joseph A. Seiss, The Gospel in the Stars):
"Complete atonement Thou hast made,
If my discharge Thou hast procured,
Turn, then, my soul, unto Thy rest;