The differences between the Hebrew Mazzeroth and the Zodiac are vast and cannot be properly explained within the limits of this basic overview but I will attempt to cover the essentials.
‘An imaginary belt extending 8° either side of the ecliptic, which contains the 12 zodiacal constellations and within which the moon and planets appear to move. It is divided into 12 equal diagrams, usually circular, representing this belt and showing the symbols, illustrations etc, associated with each of the 12 signs of the zodiac, used to predict the future.’ (www.freedictionary.com)
Those who embrace astrology do so in a bid to predict their future believing that the position of the constellations in relation to the sun, moon and planets at the time of their birth, determine their personality and character and therefore, by studying astrology, they can know what will happen to them throughout their lives.
The Bible calls this divination and fortune telling, it is occultic witchcraft and the Bible condemns it. (Deut 4:19, 17:2-5, 18:9-12; 2 Kings 21:3; Zeph 1:5; Job 31:26-28; Isa 47:10-14; Jer 8:1-2, 27:9-10; Dan 2:1-4, 4:7, 5:7-9)
This word simply means ‘constellation.’ This comes from Job 38:32 where God says to Job, “Can you lead forth a constellation (mazzarah) in its season, and guide the Bear with her satellites?” The context is God’s questioning of Job about the creation and its seasonal rotations and all the wisdom and power that is required for these rotations to continue. Ultimately, Job surrenders and confesses that he as a mere man could in no way have any say in how creation came about or its ongoing processes, while admitting that God and God alone is responsible for everything. With regards to the Mazzaroth, God alone is the One who directs the constellations in the heavens.
I have only done a small amount of reading and study into the Mazzaroth over the past few years, but what I have learned is that God has revealed Himself in a multitude of ways to human beings. He has embedded His nature and character in a host of different ways in creation itself to demonstrate who He is.
We know that God is very creative because of the variety and diversity in all forms of life within His creation. We know He loves beauty because of the intense beauty we see in the creation around us. We know God is intelligent and complex because of the complexity, detail and interconnectivity of all living things. We also know that God is interested in communicating with us and having fellowship with His creation, while at the same time, creation has to be redeemed because we human beings are sinful and rebellious, and we’ve corrupted everything He created.
God has proclaimed His plan of redemption to mankind through His Word, though His prophets and teachers, most stunningly He has proclaimed His power to forgive and redeem through His Son Jesus. He revealed His redemptive plan even in the first genealogy listed in Genesis 6, and God has proven Himself as Creator through the magnificence of the heavens.
There are officially 88 constellations, however astronomers haven’t made up new constellations for hundreds of years. When new stars are discovered, they’re simply considered to be part of the constellation closest to them. So, as it stands right now, there are 88 constellations officially. Most people are only really aware of the 12 constellations of the Zodiac.
There are some scholars who believe that the Zodiac ‘may’ reflect the Biblical story of the redemption of man. I’m not saying this is correct, in fact I don’t really embrace this view, but I mention it because it gives context. The 12 Constellations of the Zodiac could represent the following:
Virgo – The Prophecy of the Promised Seed:
(Coma) = the desired; the woman and child the desired of all nations
(Centaurus) = with two natures; the despised sin offering
(Bootes) = the coming One with branch
Libra – The Redeemer’s Atoning Work:
(Crux) = the cross endured
(Lupus) = the Victim slain
(Corona) = the Crown bestowed
Scorpio – The Redeemer’s Conflict:
(Serpens) = the assaulting the Man’s heel
(Ophiuchus) = the Man grasping the serpent
(Hercules) = the Mighty Man victorious
Sagittarius – The Redeemer’s Triumph:
(Lyra) = praise prepared for the Conqueror
(Ara) = fire prepared for His enemies
(Draco) = the dragon cast down
Capricornus – The Result of the Redeemer’s Sufferings:
(Sagitta) = the arrow of God sent forth
(Aquila) = the smitten One falling
(Delphinus) = the dead One rising again
Aquarius – The Blessings Assured:
(Piscis Australis) = the blessings bestowed
(Pegasus) = the blessings quickly coming
(Cygnus) = the blesser surely returning
Pisces – The Blessings in Abeyance:
(The Band) = the great enemy, ‘Cetus’
(Andromeda) = the redeemed in bondage
(Cepheus) = the Deliverer coming to loosen
Aries – The Blessings Consummated:
(Cassiopeia) = the captive delivered
(Cetus) = the great enemy bound
(Perseus) = the Breaker delivering
Taurus – Messiah Coming to Rule:
(Orion) = the Redeemer breaking forth as light
(Eridanus) = wrath breaking forth as a flood
(Auriga) = safety for His redeemed in the day of wrath
Gemini – Messiah as Prince of Princes:
(Lepus) = the enemy trodden underfoot
(Canis Major) = the coming glorious Prince
(Canis Minor) = the exalted Redeemer
Cancer – Messiah’s Redeemed Possessions:
(Ursa Minor) = the lesser sheepfold
(Ursa Major) = the fold and the flock
(Argo) = the pilgrim’s arrival at home
Leo – Messiah’s Consummated Triumph:
(Hydra) = the old serpent destroyed
(Crater) = the cup of wrath poured out
(Corvus) = the birds of prey devouring
We know that God has revealed Himself through His creation, the natural universe all around us. (Rom 1:20)
Genesis retells the story of what took place at Babel, when human beings, in a bid to remove their need to trust God, built a tower into the heavens. What was the point of having a building that reached into the heavens? It’s generally believed that prognosticating and reading the stars would give them secret information that they could use to protect themselves should another disaster, like the flood of Noah’s day, befall the. Having that secret information meant they wouldn’t need to trust God or obey Him.
Gen 11:1-8, ‘Now the whole earth used the same language and the same words. It came about as they journeyed east that they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. They said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and burn them thoroughly.” And they used brick for stone and they used tar for mortar. They said, “Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” The Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. The Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them. “Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of the whole earth; and they stopped building the city.’
Of course their efforts were thwarted when God confused their language and they dispersed throughout the world.
When men delve into prognostication and fortune telling, they’re entering the realm of the occult, which simply means ‘secret / hidden things’, and the Bible forbids it. This is where astrology comes in. Astrology is quite complex, but basically it’s a means of prognostication on the future on a personal basis and even for whole communities and nations. It’s occult plain and simple.
If you look at the constellations that are recognised, without the imagined drawn lines of the image the constellation is supposed to resemble, you can’t actually see the shape or creature at all. For example, the constellation of Sagittarius, or Leo, or Virgo or any of them, just look like a grouping of stars, they don’t make the shape of any creature that’s been assigned to them. Not a single one of them.
So what’s the point?
The Magi, even long before Daniel joined their ranks, were known to be star gazers. Were they into astrology? Maybe, they would have known and understood the ethos of astrology, but as good Jews, they wouldn’t have been practitioners of astrology. Were they into astronomy? Most likely. They were trained in all forms of higher education, sciences, art, culture, government, commerce, law, as well as the religions of the empire; their roles required them to be experts and authorities in all areas and spheres of their society.
If my assumption is correct that the Magi were at least in part, populated by Jews from the Diaspora from the Babylonian captivity, who chose not to return to Judea in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah, then they too would have been educated and skilled in all these areas.
Since they would have been marking the days from the command to rebuild Jerusalem as Daniel had foretold, they would have known that Messiah’s arrival was imminent, and as astronomers, they would have been studying the heavens. When they did, they observed an amazing astronomical event and they believed it was signaling the arrival of their Messiah.
I don’t believe for one moment that Daniel or any of his countrymen who followed after him were dabbling in the occult/astrology. However, as educated astronomers and men committed to the Scriptures, they connected the sign in the heavens with the arrival of their Messiah and began to set in place their trek from Ancient Persia to Judea to witness for themselves, the very thing they and they’re fellow Jews had been earnestly waiting for…the arrival of their Messiah.
It is important to point out that there’s nowhere in the Bible that says the Magi were three rich guys travelling on camel back across the desert to the little town of Bethlehem. The Magi/Wise Men, were government officials of very high standing and authority.
There may have been a dozen of them, maybe more, maybe less. The gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh may have been 3 pots of myrrh, 9 jars of frankincense and 2 chests of gold…we don’t know how much of each gift was given, it’s all speculation.
However, if two or three or ten or twenty government officials travel anywhere, they do so with servants, soldiers for protection, they need food, water, changes of clothes, they need minders and cleaners and cooks and people to look after their horses or camels. They need staff to set up camp and then pack it away when it’s time to leave.
The Magi and their entourage who travelled to Judea could have numbered anywhere from twenty to one hundred people in total. They most certainly weren’t three rich dudes on camels with bags of gold hanging from their saddles! When this delegation arrived in Jerusalem it caused a stir…a big one.
My second hypothetical question is…is it possible that the Jewish Magi saw an astronomical sign in the heavens that they regularly studied, and that it led them to believe that their Messiah had been born in the land of Judea just as their Prophet Daniel had predicted?
We’ll look at that next time on Foundations.
Chuck Missler; ‘Signs In The Heavens’ and Genesis Commentary