Consider the Heavens

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
(Psalm 8:3 ESV)

Most prominent among the winter constellations is the great hunter, Orion. He is known best for his three-starred belt and nebula. Orion’s Nebula is a stellar nursery located below the belt, a fuzzy star near the middle of the line of stars making up Orion’s sword. This nebula can be seen with the naked eye but a pair of binoculars will bring it into better focus. If you were to draw a more or less straight line from Orion’s belt to the right, straight out into the night sky you would find the Pleiades a.k.a. the Seven Sisters. The Japanese word for this constellation is Subaru — like the car company. Next time you see a Subaru take note of the logo made up of stars. The Pleiades looks like a tiny question mark in the sky and is often mistaken for Ursa Minor (the Little Dipper) because of its shape. But the Seven Sisters are a much smaller object in the sky than the Little Dipper. Nevertheless, it is a fascinating constellation to behold and one, along with Orion, that has been talked about for thousands upon thousands of years.

The earliest Biblical writing gives an account of these two stellar figures. While Genesis deals with more ancient matters, Job is the oldest written book of Bible. We know this based on the ancient Hebraic language that was used to write Job. Languages change over time. It would be easy to tell the differences between Old English and Modern English, so too there are similar distinctions found throughout ancient forms of Hebrew. It has been listed among the oldest of existing writings in the world and it makes mention of Orion and Pleiades. Let’s take a quick look at just one of the verses that mention the constellations. In Job 38:31, Job has questioned the Lord’s decision and He asks Job in return, “Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades or loose the cords of Orion?”(ESV) At first glance this might not seem overly amazing other than the mentioning of our night-sky subjects; however, with the recent scientific discoveries concerning the star activity in both of these constellations one’s entire outlook may change. First, astrophysicists have discovered that the Pleiades is what is known as a gravitationally bound cluster of stars. Big words that simply mean these stars are not budging in relation to one another. They are bound as if by chains! According to NASA, the Seven Sisters will not separate for hundreds of millions of years. Then there is Orion. According to past studies, the stars that make up the constellation of Orion are notedly moving apart. An article published by Astronomy Trek also adds that the stars of Orion, “are located at such great distances from us that the constellation will remain recognizable a long time after most of the other constellations, whose stars are closer to earth, have morphed into new shapes.” I call attention to this fact to say that even when the other constellations have lost their form, Orion will still be known as will the Scripture concerning him. What an amazing thing to discover the scientific validity of God’s own words as written down in the book of Job.

(This article is an excerpt from my book Good Winter, A Smallish Guide to Making the Most of a Bleak Season. Amazon | B&N | BAM! | Kindle)