Star(s): kokav/kokavim (Strong’s 3556)
Root: כּוֹכָב (kaf-vav-kaf-bet)
Sounds like: koe-kawv (singular)/kokaw-veem (plural)
The star has become a mainstay of Christmas imagery. They top the Christmas tree, they are made into Christmas cookies and they are displayed on Christmas cards. But where do stars show up in the Bible?
The first time we see stars in Hebrew scripture is in Genesis 1 when God creates “lights in the expanse of the heavens”.
Then God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years; and let them be for lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so. God made the two great lights, the greater light to govern the day, and the lesser light to govern the night; He made the stars [ha-kokavim] also. God placed them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, and to govern the day and the night, and to separate the light from the darkness; and God saw that it was good. There was evening and there was morning, a fourth day.
In this passage we see that these lights are made for 4 things:
- To separate day from night/light from darkness
- For signs
- For seasons, days and years
- And to give light onto the earth
Signs of the Messiah
“Let them be for signs” is an interesting phrase. Does God use stars to show us things… to highlight God’s promises… to point the direction of God’s plan for humanity? Certainly the Star of Bethlehem would fit into that category.
After they [the Magi] had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stood over the place where the Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with great delight. On coming to the house, they saw the Child with His mother Mary, and they fell down and worshiped Him. Then they opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh.
There are a significant amount of Old Testament prophecies that point to Yeshua as the Messiah, but there is not one that says a star will shine above His birthplace. That does not discount the Star of Bethlehem for not all of God’s plans are laid out fully in scripture. God reveals snippet of His plans to give us hope. It is enough to know that God uses stars as signs and the Star of Bethlehem is certainly the most prolific example of that.
Although the Star of Bethlehem (as far as I know) does not have an Old Testament pre-cursor, there is a particular prophecy in the Torah concerning a star.
An anti-Israelite mage, Balaam, is used by God to relate His message to Balak, King of the Moabites. Balaam is coerced to only speak the word of God, even though Balaam himself is out to destroy the Hebrew people. Balaam reveals what God shows him:
“I see him, but not now;
I behold him, but not near;
A Star [kokav] shall come forth from Jacob,
A scepter shall rise from Israel,
And shall crush through the forehead of Moab…”
This is known, theologically, as the Star Prophecy, pointing the way to the Messiah. To bring this point home, in the Revelation of John, Yeshua says:
“I, Jesus, have sent My angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the bright Morning Star.”
The “Morning Star” is an interesting (and rather in-depth) theological discussion, of which I can only visit briefly here.
Isaiah 14:12, referring to the fallen Angel, Lucifer, is often translated as “How you have fallen from heaven; O star of the morning, son of dawn“. This is a complicated verse as it indicates that Lucifer/Satan (Hebrew for “adversary”) is named star of the morning. What becomes problematic is that Yeshua (Jesus) calls himself “The Bright Morning Star” in the Revelation of John. But this is a key translation error. The word for star (ko-kawv) is not in the Isaiah passage at all. Instead it should be translated more like this:
“How you have fallen from heaven,
O shining one, son of the morning [heh’lehl, ben shahar]!
You have been cut down to the earth, you who have weakened the nations!
“But you said in your heart,
‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God,
And I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north.
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’”
Lucifer (in Hebrew, “heh’lehl”), “the shining one”, strives to be above the stars of God but he never makes it there. In direct opposition to the Adversary (Satan) is Yeshua who is identified as the Bright Morning Star, who outshines all others to be the light of the world.
[Jesus says:] “While it is daytime, we must do the work of Him who sent Me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
Signs of End Times
But stars also have another job in Hebrew scripture. They are tell-tale signs of end times. The day of the Lord is coming, declares the prophet Joel, and during that time the stars will diminish in brightness:
Before them the earth quakes,
The heavens tremble,
The sun and the moon grow dark
And the stars [w’kokavim] lose their brightness…
…Now return to YHWH your God,
For He is gracious and compassionate,
Slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness
And relenting of evil.
Signs of God’s Power
Clearly stars stand out as fine examples of God’s handiwork. Unarguably stars are some of the prettiest bits of creation and God is most certainly aware of their majestic beauty. In highlighting YHWH’s power, Job makes mention of the stars and constellations:
His [YHWH’s] wisdom is profound, his power is vast. Who has resisted him and come out unscathed? He moves mountains without their knowing it and overturns them in his anger. He shakes the earth from its place and makes its pillars tremble. Who commands the sun not to shine and sets a seal upon the stars [kokavim]; 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.
The book of Job is a back and forth discussion between Job, YHWH, three of Job’s friends and a fourth enigmatic “friend” (Elihu). In the following passage YHWH challenges Job:
Job 38:4-7, 31-33
“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding. Who set its measurements? Since you know. Or who stretched the line on it? On what were its bases sunk? Or who laid its cornerstone when the morning stars [kokeveh boqer] sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?”… Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades? Can you loosen Orion’s belt? Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons or lead out the Bear with its cubs? Do you know the laws of the heavens? Can you set up God’s dominion over the earth?”
Signs that Praise YHWH
The concept of nature shouting for joy and praising God is a common theme throughout the Hebrew scriptures. In numerous texts nature worships YHWH:
Praise YHWH from the heavens; Praise Him in the heights!
Praise Him, all His angels; Praise Him, all His hosts!
Praise Him, sun and moon; Praise Him, all stars of light [kokaveh owr]!
Praise Him, highest heavens, and the waters that are above the heavens!
Let them praise the name of YHWH,
For He commanded and they were created.
Nature praising God is quite prevalent throughout the scriptures.
For you will go out with joy and be led forth with peace; The mountains and the hills will break forth into shouts of joy before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.
Certainly the stars, in all their beauty, declare and reflect God’s glory:
The heavens declare the glory of God and their expanse shows the work of His hands.
God recognizes the beauty of stars and fittingly they are used to describe the wise and righteous:
Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars [ka-kokavim] forever and ever.
We should be God-stars… shining God’s reflection upon the earth, like the stars, forever and ever.
Next week: Remember