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Thursday, August 15, 2013

Pleiades, Orion and the Book of Job


"Can you bind the cluster of the Pleiades, Or loose the belt of Orion? Can you bring out Mazzaroth in its season? Or can you guide the Great Bear with its cubs?

Job 38: 31-32

The Book of Job is perhaps the oldest book of the Bible and a literary masterpiece,  landing in many lists of the best literature of all time ( eg. The Guardian, World Library etc..) 

The actual writing of the book has been placed anywhere from 2100-1900 B.C. to somewhere between the 6th and 4th century B.C. However the Solomonic era  ( 14th - 10th century B.C.) seems to be the best fit as it is written in the style of the Hebrew poetic or “Wisdom” literature.

 However the time frame in which the events unfolded is undoubtedly in the patriarchal era ( 2100-1900 B.C., the time of Abraham). Jewish oral tradition is renowned for its accuracy and it would be from this that the author would have heard the story and put it into writing. *

The passage from Job that I would like to reflect upon in this little post is, as read above, chapter 38, verses 31 and 32. 

The constellations of Pleiades and Orion are mentioned much in ancient texts throughout the world. There is, however, in the Book of Job something a little deeper, something we only now in modern times fully understand.

To quote directly from former aerospace engineer, Warren Henderson:

We now understand what God was sharing with Job. Within the Taurus constellation is a tight grouping of stars in gravitational lock; they are called “Pleiades”.  Although many stars are in this cluster (about 440 light years away), only seven are discernible with the naked eye on a clear night.; sometimes these are referred to as “the seven sisters”.

Just as the Bible states, these stars are bound together; they cannot pull apart from one another. However, the constellation, Orion is composed of stars throughout our galaxy , and we know that the Milky Way is expanding. As the years roll by, Orion’s belt is literally letting out a notch.

The answer to God’s question to Job was that only God can arrange and control the constellations in such a way that He binds some stars together and loosens others.

Astronomy today defines Pleiades as an “Open Star Cluster”.

Wikipedia notes:  They (Open Star Clusters) have long been known to be a physically related group of stars rather than any chance alignment. The Reverend John Michell calculated in 1767 that the probability of a chance alignment of so many bright stars was only 1 in 500,000, and so correctly surmised that the Pleiades and many other clusters of stars must be physically related.[10] When studies were first made of the stars' proper motions, it was found that they are all moving in the same direction across the sky, at the same rate, further demonstrating that they were related.”

While Open Star Clusters are expected to eventually lose gravitational lock, the largest estimates of Pleiades say it is 75 – 150 million years old and will not disperse any of its stars for another  250 million years in the future.

As for the Belt of Orion, it is known as an “asterism” consisting of three stars – Alnitak, Alnilam and Mintaka.  

Again referencing Wikipedia we learn that an asterism is :  a pattern of stars recognized on Earth's night sky. It may form part of an official constellation, or be composed of stars from more than one. Like constellations, asterisms are in most cases composed of stars which, while they are visible in the same general direction, are not physically related, often being at significantly different distances from Earth.”

Although  primarily a poetic book looking at God and the suffering of man, the Book of Job also comments on many scientific phenomena that have held true to this day. Just one more reason why I love and treasure the Bible.




**Of course Christians believe the Book of Job ( and all other books of the Bible) to be more than just great literature. We believe it to be the very Word of God to humankind and, despite how far-fetched this may seem to the secular person, there is actually a significant amount of objective data that lends credibility to the Bible - including scientific ( especially archaeology) and fulfilled historic prophecy and manuscript evidence. There are many good books on this topic if ever one finds oneself curious ( see The Case for Christ by Lee Stroebel, The Bible: Myth or Divine Truth by Warren Henderson and the writings of Dr. Craig Blomberg, Dr. William Lane Craig and Dr. Bruce Metzger for example…)


For an example of how the Bible penetrates the heart in a more subjective but just as powerful a way you may want to read this article on the great theologian and  WW2 hero Dietrich Bonheoffer here .

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