The Bible’s Night Sky

I was lamenting this morning that, with a crushing teaching load this term, I am not reading enough Hebrew Bible or other ancient lit. For me, things get stale—rapidly—if I’m not reading primary texts. From where is my help to come? From an unexpected quarter, as it turns out: The Night Sky.

The Night Sky (hat tip to Americablog) is a brief tutorial on locating three major constellations: Orion, the Big Dipper, and Cassiopeia (and with them, Betelgeuse and Polaris). After working through the tutorial (city boy, no night sky), I did what any Bible scholar would have done: I said, “Where’s that part in Job and such where we hear about Orion?”

Turns out that the word translated in the NRSV “Orion” (כסיל: Job 9:9; 38:31; Amos 5:8) is elsewhere translated “fool, dullard” (Psa 92:6 and tons of places in Proverbs, e.g.). It is the immediate literary context that suggests the difference in translation: in Job 9:9, for example, we get “Pleides and _______”; in Job 38:31, “chains of Pleides, or cords of _______.” In Psa 92:6, by contrast, it’s “The stupid man doesn’t know, the _______ doesn’t understand.” In Isa 13:10 the word is plural, and context suggests “constellations.”

So how did I, a space nut (city sky notwithstanding) and lay-science-dork who works in Bible professionally, never get around to doing an investigation into the Bible’s night sky? What a כסיל! No time this morning to do more than blog briefly on it, but it is nice to have a list of biblical texts that I can investigate in the few odd corners of time allowed me by this term’s teaching schedule. Thank you, Night Sky.

One Response

  1. This is really fascinating, Brook… an inspiring reminder about what’s overhead at night, and how it’s documented in the BIble. Very cool.
    Thanks for sharing it.

    (it was great to meet Michelle at the reunion. you guys match nicely. )


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