When I was beginning to study biblical dream interpretation, I was fascinated with Joseph’s dream of the eleven stars bowing down to him and the resulting resentment of his brothers. They all knew it was about them. Nobody had to come along and unpack that symbolism. They already knew that the constellations represented them.
But really, why wouldn’t that be the case? God showed Abraham that he would be the father of many nations by the stars, and he was Jacob’s (later known as Israel) grandpa. Each month has a corresponding constellation and tribe.
Not only did Satan not create the zodiac, but the zodiac actually tells the story of the gospel. A coming savior, born of a virgin, the battle and defeat of the enemy, the rulership of Christ, and the redemption of the church is all overhead. Frances Rolleston did the pioneering work on the stars back in the 1800s. Though she was a Christian, she did not believe she would get spiritual cooties from looking at what other cultures and belief systems were doing and their sources of information. Her book, simply titled The Mazzaroth (taken from Job 38:32), broke the ground for others to begin to understand the purpose of the constellations beyond just a fortune-telling tool. Other Christian books out there on the zodiac borrow heavily (or simply repackage) her research, which is now public domain.
Each of the twelve constellations has smaller constellations around them called decans. They rise helically every ten days or about three times each month. Helical rising is the phenomenon when a decan becomes visible on the eastern horizon at dawn. Each day after, it rises slightly earlier and moves further westward until it has set on the opposite horizon. The way that decans interact with the main constellations tells us a lot, and we don’t have a complete story without them. Modern astrology ignores them, but for our purposes, they unpack the story of triumph over evil and God’s supreme reign.
Most cultures practicing ancient astronomy understand that there are forty-eight constellations (twelve main ones plus the thirty-six decans). Ptolemy and the Persians had forty-eight; the Egyptians and Persians both agree that there are twelve main constellations and thirty-six lesser ones. Beyond that, the names and pictures stay mostly the same across cultures and time. Virgo is a virgin that becomes supernaturally pregnant and gives birth to a son in nearly every culture. All you and I have to do is look up in the sky, see all the seeming randomness, and know that these cultures didn’t just invent systems with the same symbolism. These would have to have been in place before people fanned out all over the world.
The oldest surviving work we have on the zodiac is the Phaenomena by Greek poet Aratus from the early third century B.C., which Paul quotes in Acts 17:28.
As far as other early astronomers, Frances Rolleston states,
“The Egyptians, on whose early monuments the signs are found, acknowledged that they derived their astronomy from the Chaldeans. The Chaldeans attributed their science to Oannes, supposed to be Noah. The Arabs and Brahmins, among whom astronomy was early cultivated, seem to have derived it from Abraham, through Ishmael and the children of Keturah. The Greeks supposed their imperfect knowledge of the subject came through the Egyptians and the Chaldeans. The Romans are thought to have received through the Etrurians the names of the signs still in use among European nations. The Etrurians are considered to have derived them, with their other arts and sciences, from Assyria. The early Greek poet Hesiod is said to have made use of Assyrian records. He mentions some of the constellations by the names they now bear.”
According to Enoch, in “the book of the courses of the heavenly luminaries,” the angel Uriel showed him the “signs, seasons, years, and days.” Enoch 1 75:3 He calls the constellations “portals” that open in their appointed season. According to Josephus, the Jewish historian, the children of Seth “were the inventors of that peculiar sort of wisdom, which is concerned with the heavenly bodies, and their order.” Job, the oldest book in the Bible, estimated to date between 1900 and 1700 B.C., mentions a number of constellations by name.
Psalm 19 makes our clearest and most compelling case for the mazzaroth. My commentary is in parentheses below.
The heavens (the celestial arena) declare the glory of God;
And the firmament (expanse of heaven) shows His handiwork.
Day unto day utters speech,
And night unto night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech nor language
Where their voice is not heard.
(The zodiac defies all language and cultural barriers.)
Their line has gone out through all the earth,
(The line sounds a bit like the lines that make up a star chart, connecting each to form a picture like the dot-to-dot drawings we did as kids.)
And their words to the end of the world.
In them He has set a tabernacle for the sun,
(Tabernacle is a dwelling place, tent, or house. House is a common term in astronomy and astrology.)
Which is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
(Jesus is the bridegroom; this is his story, start to finish.)
And rejoices (the joy that was set before him) like a strong man to run its race.
Its rising is from one end of heaven,
And its circuit to the other end;
And there is nothing hidden from its heat (Psalm 19:1–6 NKJV).
If you’ve enjoyed this post from Seneca, check out her book in the Healing in the Hebrew Months series: Prophetic Strategies Hidden in the Tribes, Constellations, Gates, and Gems.