One of the most amazing understatements of the Bible is tacked on at the end of Genesis 1:16:
He made the stars also.
Five short words! Yet one of the most stunning testimonies to the awesome greatness of Yahweh is this very panoply of stars in the heavens:
Lift up your eyes on high and see who has created these stars, the One who leads forth their host by number, He calls them all by name. Because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power not one of them is missing. (Isaiah 40:26)
The Bible mentions three constellations or star groups by name: the Pleiades, Orion, and the Bear (Job 9:8-10; 38:31-32; Amos 5:8).
Who alone stretches out the heavens
And tramples down the waves of the sea;
Who makes the Bear, Orion and the Pleiades,
And the chambers of the south;
Who does great things, unfathomable,
And wondrous works without number.
(Job 9:8-10 NASB)
Orion, the Hunter
Orion is a prominent winter constellation in the northern hemisphere named after the hunter Orion of Greek mythology. In the southern hemisphere it’s a summer constellation.
The constellation is easy to recognize by its belt of three stars, which are sometimes called the Three Kings. Orion contains two of the ten brightest stars in the night sky: the blue-white supergiant Rigel (left foot of the earth-facing Orion) and the red supergiant Betelgeuse (right shoulder).
The seven stars marking Orion’s shoulders, feet, and belt are among the most distant that are visible with the naked eye. The sword hanging from Orion’s belt appears to be marked by three stars, but the middle one is actually not a star but the Orion Nebula, a reflective cloud of gas, dust, and stars.
The easily recognizable Orion is useful in locating other stars in the sky. For example, extend the line of the belt southeastward to find Sirius, the brightest star in the sky. A line from Rigel (Orion’s left foot) through Betelgeuse (Orion’s right shoulder) points to Castor and Pollux in the constellation Gemini. Castor and Pollux was the sign (figurehead) of a ship the Apostle Paul took on his way to Rome (Acts 28:11). Below I will describe how to find the Pleiades using Orion.
The Pleiades, or the Seven Sisters
November is sometimes referred to as the Pleiades month, because the Pleiades are visible in the northern hemisphere throughout the night in November. In the southern hemisphere, the Pleiades are visible in the summer.
Galileo was the first we know of to view the Pleiades with a telescope, and he discovered the cluster had more than seven stars. He published a sketch of the Pleiades showing 36 stars in 1610.
The Pleiades (Messier 45) is a star cluster about 440 light-years from Earth containing over 1,000 stars. Seven of the brightest ones can be seen with the naked eye and give the cluster its alternate name, the Seven Sisters. The cluster lies in the constellation Taurus.
The Pleiades have been known worldwide in many cultures from ancient times: the Babylonians, the Chinese, the Japanese, the Persians, the Greeks, the Maori of New Zealand, the Maya, the Cherokee, the Aztec, the Sioux, Moslems, Hindus, and the Aborigines of Australia. Subaru (meaning cluster or united) is the Japanese name for the Pleiades; an image of the cluster forms the car company’s logo.
You need a dark sky to see the Pleiades. They are a faint group shaped like the bowl of a small spoon. In November in the northern hemisphere, they will rise in the east after sunset and travel overhead across the dome of the sky. The cluster is west-northwest of Aldebaran, the brightest star in the constellation Taurus.
The easiest way for me to find the Pleiades is to first locate the constellation Orion. Orion rises in the east after dark and travels across the sky to the west. Draw a line parallel to Orion’s belt from Betelgeuse, Orion’s right shoulder (Orion faces Earth). Half-way to the Pleiades, the line will pass above (north of) the bright star Aldebaran in Taurus and then goes on to hit the Pleiades.
The grandeur of Orion, the sparkling beauty of the Pleiades, the innumerable stars of the universe all point to a Maker, to One who made heaven and earth (Isaiah 37:16).
The majesty of the stars alone should compel men to seek the Creator and Savior before it is too late. It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10:31 NASB)
Questions to Ponder
- Why should a Christian study the stars?
- Why aren’t stars named after Biblical characters like the Genesis patriarchs instead of figures from mythology?
Share your thoughts on these questions in the comments below. It could encourage or help another reader.
The Heavens Declare the Glory of God. (Psalm 19:1 KJV)
Soli Deo Gloria.
Read the sequel:
Orion & the Pleiades Speak Truth
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©William T. Pelletier, Ph.D.
“contending earnestly for the faith”
“destroying speculations against the knowledge of God”
“for the defense of the gospel”
(Jude 1:3; 2 Cor 10:5; Phil 1:16)
Wednesday November 16, 2016 A.D.
He who made the Pleiades and Orion
And changes deep darkness into morning,
Who also darkens day into night,
Who calls for the waters of the sea
And pours them out on the surface of the earth,
The LORD is His name. (Amos 5:8 NASB)