The Witness of the Stars
The Sign Cancer (The Crab)
Messiah's redeemed possession held fast
35. Cancer (the Crab)
With regard to the sign of CANCER, one thing is certain, that we have not got the original picture, or anything like it.
It does not agree with the names either of its three constellations which have come down to us, or of its stars.
In the ancient Denderah Zodiac it is represented as a Scarabaeus, or sacred beetle. * In the Zodiac of Esneh and in a Hindu Zodiac (400 BC) it is the same.
According to the Greeks, Jupiter placed this Crab amongst the signs of the Zodiac.
In Sir William Jones's Oriental Zodiac we meet with a crab, and an Egyptian Zodiac found at Rome bears also the crab in this sign.
The more ancient Egyptians placed Hermanubis, or Hermes, with the head of an ibis or hawk, as the symbol of the sign now allotted to CANCER.
The Denderah name is Klaria, or the cattle-folds, and in this name we have the key to the meaning of the sign, and to the subject of this chapter.
The Arabic name is Al Sartan, which means who holds or binds, and may be from the Hebrew to bind together (Gen 49:11). There is no ancient Hebrew word known for the crab. It was classed with many other unclean creatues, and would be included in the general term "vermin."
The Syriac, Sartano, means the same. The Greek name is Karkinos, which means holding or encircling, as does the Latin, Cancer, and hence is applied to the crab. In the word Khan, we have the traveller's rest or inn; while Ker or Cer is the Arabic for encircling. The ancient Akkadian name of the month is Su-kul-na, the seizer or possessor of seed.
The sign contains 83 stars, one of which is of the 3rd magnitude, and seven are of the 4th magnitude, and the remainder of inferior magnitudes.
In the centre of the Sign there is a remarkably bright cluster of stars, so bright that they can be sometimes seen with the naked eye. It looks like a comet, and is made up of a great multitude of stars. Modern astronomers have called it the Beehive. But its ancient name has come down to us as Praesepe, which means a multitude, offspring.
The brightest star, z (in the tail), is called Tegmine, holding. The star a (or a1 and a2), in the lower large claw, is called Acubene, which, in Hebrew and Arabic, means the sheltering or hiding-place. Another is named Ma'alaph (Arabic), assembled thousands; Al Himarein (Arabic), the kids or lambs.
North and south of the nebula Praesepe are two stars, which Orientalists speak of by a name evidently of some antiquity. Asellus means an Ass, and one was called Asellus Boreas, the northern Ass; while the other, Asellus Australis, is the southern Ass. *
This connects it with the Tribe of Issachar, who is said to have borne upon the Tribal standard the sign of two asses.
This is doubtless the reference in Jacob's blessing (Gen 49:11, RV):
"Issachar is a strong ass,
Have we not here the gathering up of the teaching of this sign--
Messiah's redeemed possessions held fast.
Here we come to the completion of His work. In CANCER we see it with reference to His redeemed, and in the next (the last) Sign, LEO, with reference to His enemies.
The three constellations develop the truth. What is now called Ursa Minor is the Lesser Flock; Ursa Major gives us The Sheepfold and the Sheep; while Argo, The Ship, shows the travellers and the pilgrims brought safely home--all conflict over.
To accomplish this, we see the true Issachar bowing his shoulder to bear. He could say, "My soul is bowed down" (Psa 57:6). He became a servant, and humbled Himself to death. He undertook the mighty task of saving His people from their sins. "Their Redeemer is strong" (Jer 50:34); for help was laid on "One that was mighty" (Psa 89:19). And His redeemed shall come to a resting-place that is good, and to a land that is pleasant. No earthly Khan on earth affords them a home. They look for a heavenly home, and in the many mansions of the Father's house they shall find eternal rest.
Here we see that sheltering home to which the names of these stars point; where the assembled thousands (Ma'alaph) shall be received into the true Klaria, even the "everlasting habitations."
These are now to be shown to us.
36. Ursa Minor (the Little Bear)
Here we come to another grievous mistake, or ignorant perversion of primitive truth, as shown in the ancient names of these two constellations.
It is sufficient to point to the fact that no Bear is found in any Chaldean, Egyptian, Pesian, or Indian Zodiacs, and that no bear was ever seen with such a tail! No one who had ever seen a bear would have called attention to a tail, such as no bear ever had, by placing in its very tip the most important, wondrous, and mysterious Polar Star, the central star of the heavens, round which all others revolve. The patriarchal astronomers, we may be sure, committed no such folly as this.
The primitive truth that there were two, or a pair of constellations is preserved; and that of these two, one is larger, and the other smaller. But what were they? We have the clue to the answer in the name of the brightest star of the larger constellation, which is called Dubheh. Now Dubheh means a herd of animals. In Arabic, Dubah means cattle. In Hebrew, Dohver, is a fold; and hence in Chaldee it meant wealth. The Hebrew Dohveh, means rest or security; and certainly there is not much of either to be found or enjoyed with bears! The word occurs in Deuteronomy 33:25 "As thy days so shall thy strength be." The Revised Version gives in the margin, "So shall thy rest or security be." This accords with what we have already seen under CANCER: "Couching down between the sheepfolds, he saw a resting-place that it was good."
Here are the two Sheepfolds, then; the Greater fold, and Lesser; and here is the rest and security which the flocks will find therein.
But in Hebrew there is a word very similar in sound, though not in spelling--dohv, which means a bear! So we find in Arabic dub; Persian, deeb and dob. We can see, therefore, how the Hebrew Dohver, a fold, and Dohv, a bear, were confused; and how the Arabic Dubah, cattle, might easily have been mistaken by the Greeks, and understood as a bear.
The constellation, which we must therefore call THE LESSER SHEEPFOLD, contains 24 stars, viz., one of the 2nd magnitude, two of the 3rd, four of the 4th, etc.
The brightest star, a (at the point of the tail), is the most important in the whole heavens. It is named Al Ruccaba, which means the turned or ridden on, and is today the Polar or central star, which does not revolve in a circle as does every other star, but remains, apparently, fixed in its position. But though the star does not revolve like the others, the central point in the heavens is very slowly but steadily moving. When these constellations were formed the Dragon possessed this important point, and the star a, in Draco, marked this central point. But, by its gradual recession, that point is sufficiently near this star Ruccaba, in the Lesser Sheepfold, for it to be what is called "the Polar Star." But, how could this have been known five or six thousand years ago? How could it have been known when it received its name, which means the turned or ridden on? That it was known is clear: so likewise was it made known in the written Word that the original blessing included not merely the multiplicaiton of the seed of faithful Abraham, but it was then added, "And thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies" (Gen 22:17).
This star was called by the Greeks the "Cynosure." ARATUS seems to apply this term to the whole of the seven stars of the Lesser Bear. Mr. Robert Brown, Jr., shows that this word once supposed to be Hellenic, is non-Hellenic, and possibly Euphratean in origin, from a word which he transliterates An-nas-sur-ra, and renders it, "as it literally means, high in rising, i.e., in heavenly position." (Euphratean Stellar Researches). Is not this the primitve truth of the Revelation? Will not this Lesser Fold be high, yea, the highest in heavenly position?
The Polar Star has been removed from the Dragon, and is now in the Lesser Fold; and when the Dragon shall be cast down from the heavens, the heavenly seed will be safely folded there. But this is the Lesser Sheepfold. These are they who all through the ages have been "partakers of the heavenly calling," who desired a better country, that is, a heavenly; wherefore God "hath prepared for them a city," the city for which Abraham himself "looked." This was no earthly city, but a city "whose builder and maker is God" (Heb 11:10-16). These have always been a smaller company, a "little flock," but the kingdom shall be theirs, even the kingdom of God, for which they now look and wait. They have not yet "received the promises; but, having seen them afar off" by faith, they "were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth" (Heb 11:13). Their Messiah has accomplished "the redemption of the purchased possession," and in due time the redeemed will inherit it, "unto the praise of His glory" (Eph 1:13).
The bright star b is named Kochab, which means waiting Him who cometh. Other stars are named Al Pherdadain (Arabic), which means the calves, or the young (as in Deut 22:6), the redeemed assembly. Another, Al Gedi, means the kid. Another is Al Kaid, the assembled; while Arcas, or Arctos (from which we derive the term Arctic regions), means, according to one interpreter, a travelling company; or, according to another, the stronghold of the saved.
But there is not only the heavenly seed, which is compared "to the stars of heaven," but there is the seed that is compared to "the sand of the sea"--the larger flock or company, who will enjoy the earthly blessing.
This brings us to--
37. Ursa Major (the Great Bear)
Of these it is written--
"But in Mount Zion there shall be
those that escape,
It is a large and important constellation, containing 87 stars, of which one is of the 1st magnitude, four of the 2nd, three of the 3rd, ten of the 4th, etc. It always presents a splendid appearance, and is perhaps, therefore, the best known of all the constellations.
In the Book of Job (9:9, and 38:31,32) it is mentioned under the name of Ash. "Canst thou guide Ash and her offspring?" which is rendered in the AV, "Arcturus and his sons," and in the RV, "The Bear with her train" (marg., "sons"). The Arabs still call it Al Naish, or Annaish, the assembled together, as sheep in a fold. The ancient Jewish commentators interpreted Ash as the seven stars of this constellation. They are called by others Septentriones, which thus became the Latin word for North.
The brightest star, a (in the back), is named Dubhe, which, as we have seen, means a herd of animals, or a flock, and gives its name to the whole constellation.
The star b (below it) is named Merach (Hebrew), the flock (Arabic, purchased).
The star g (on the left of b) is called Phaeda, or Phacda, meaning visited, guarded, or numbered, as a flock; for His sheep, like the stars, are both numbered and named. (See Psalm 147:4)
The star e is called Alioth, a name we have had in Auriga, meaning a she goat.
The star z (in the middle of the tail) is called Mizar, separate or small, and close to it Al Cor, the Lamb.
The star h (at the end of the so-called tail) is named Benet Naish (Arabic), the daughters of the assembly. It is also called Al Kaid, the assembled.
The star i (in its right foot) is called Talitha.
The names of other stars all give the same testimony: El Alcola (Arabic), the sheepfold (as in Psa 95:7; and 100:3); Cab'd al Asad, multitude, many assembled; Annaish, the assembled; Megrez, separated, as the flock in the fold; El Kaphrah, protected, covered (Heb. redeemed and ransomed); Dubheh Lachar (Arabic), the latter herd or flock; Helike (so called by HOMER in the Iliad), company of travellers; Amaza (Greek), coming and going; Calisto, the sheepfold set or appointed.
There is not one discordant voice in the rich abundance of this testimony. We have nothing to do here with the Grecian myths about bears or wild boars. We see only the innumeralbe seed gathered by Him who scattered (Jer 31:10).
Many are the Scriptures we might quote which speak of this gathering and assembling of the long scatterd flock. It is written as plainly in the Book, as it is in the heavens. The prophecies of this gathering are as conspicuous in the Word of God as the "Seven Stars" in the sky. It is difficult even to make a selection from the wealth of such promises; but few are more beautiful than that in Ezekiel 34:12-16:
"As a shepherd seeketh out his
It is of this judgment with which this book, and indeed the whole Revelation, ends, in the next and final chapter.
But before we come to that we have one more picture in the third constellation of this Sign, which combines the first two in one.
38. Argo (the Ship)
This is the celebrated ship of the Argonauts, of which HOMER sung nearly ten centuries before Christ. Sir Isaac Newton puts the expedition of the Argonauts shortly after the death of Solomon (about 975 BC). While Dr. Blair's chronology puts it at 1236 BC.
Whatever fables have gathered round the story there can be no doubt as to its great antiquity. Some think that the story had its origin in name, as well as in fact, from the Ark of Noah and its mysterious journey. All that is clear, when divested of mythic details, is that the sailors in that ship, after all their dangers, and toils, and battles were over, came back victorious to their own shores. The "golden fleece," for which the Argonauts went in search, tells of a treasure that had been lost. "Jason," the great captain, tells of Him who recovered it from the Serpent, which guarded it with ever-watchful eye, when none else was able to approach it. And thus, through the fables and myths of the Greeks, we can see the light primeval shine; and this light, once seen, lights up this Sign and its constellations, so that their teaching cannot be misunderstood.
ARATUS sings of Argo:
"Stern-foremost hauled; no mark of
It tells of that blessed home-coming, when--
"The ransomed of the LORD shall
It tells of the glorious Jason (the Graeco-Judean equivalent of Joshua or Jesus), of whom it is asked:
"Art thou not it which hath cut
"For the LORD hath redeemed Jacob,
This is the return of the great emigrant-ship (Argo) and all its company of travellers (for this is the meaning of the word Argo).
In Kircher's Egyptian Planisphere Argo, is represented by two galleys (as we have two sheepfolds), whose prows are surmounted by rams' heads; and the stern of one of them ends in a fish's tail. One of the two occupies four segments of the sphere (from TAURUS to VIRGO), while the other occupies the four from LEO to CAPRICORNUS. One half of the southern meridians is occupied with these galleys and their construction and decoratons. Astronomers tell us that they carry us back, the one to the period when the Bull opened the year (to which time VIRGIL refers); and the other to the same epoch, when the summer solstice was in LEO--"an era greatly antecedent to the Argonautic expedition. How else, they ask, do we account for the one ship having her prow in the first Decan of TAURUS, and her poop in the last decan of LEO? or for one galley being freighted with the installed Bull, and the other with the solstitial Lion?" (Jamieson's Scientific Display, &c.)
These are the words of an astronomer who knows nothing whatever of our interpretation of the heavens which is set forth in this work.
It will indeed be a large vessel, the true Argo, with its company of travellers, "a great multitude which no man can number." All this is indicated by the immense size of the constellation, as well as by the large number of its stars. There are 64 stars in Argo (reckoning by the Britannic catalogue); one of the 1st magnitude, six of the 2nd, nine of the 3rd, nine of the 4th, etc. Only a small part of the ship's poop is visible in Britain.
Its brightest star, a (near the keel), is called Canopus or Canobus, which means the possession of Him who cometh. Other star-names are--Sephina, the multitude or abundance; Tureis, the possession; Asmidiska, the released who travel; Soheil (Arabic), the desired; and Subilon, the Brach.
Is not all this exactly in harmony with the rest of this sign? And is not this what is written in the Book?
"Therefore, fear thou not, O My
servant Jacob, saith the LORD;
"Lift up thine eyes round about,
The whole chapter (Isa 60) should be read if we wish to understand the great teaching of this Sign, which tells of Messiah's secured possessions, the safe folding of His blood-bought flock, the blessed return of His pilgrims, and their abundant entrance into everlasting rest.
"There is a blessed home
O joy, all joys beyond,
Look up, ye saints of God,