MOON: yareakh. Masculine noun. (Strong’s 3394)
Sounds like: ya’reh-akh
I’ve written about the stars and I’ve written about the sun, but the moon has yet to be given a chance to shine… and this week the moon has been ever so big and bright, so it seemed right to dive into this word. Recently, on Friday, August 9th, I was visiting my parent’s home in New Brunswick. Dad & I stepped outside in the evening, which is pretty much tradition, to take a look at the moon. Just below (and to the right of) the moon was a bright celestial light. It was Jupiter. (For information on Aug. 9th’s event go here).
I’ve always been mesmerized by the night sky… ever since I was a little girl growing up in Tiverton Ontario. Dad would show me the wonders of the universe through the telescope propped up in our backyard. There were shooting stars and satellites (that I liked to pretend were UFO’s), the solid light of a planet and the dancing twinkle of the stars. I loved tracing out constellations and I was particularly fond of the Seven Sisters… because, as an only child, I thought the idea of sisterhood was a pretty cool thing. (I still do). The Seven Sisters constellation is also known as the Pleiades and translators have taken the Hebrew word Kimah as a reference to the Pleiades, found twice in the Book of Job, 9:9, 38:31, and once in the prophetic writing of Amos 5:8. But it was the moon, as the great night-light, which helped illuminate all the objects in the dark sky and it also helped illuminate things in the Bible as well.
There are four Hebrew words that get translated as MOON:
- L’vanah– literally the white one, but translated as moon or full moon. Occurs three times: Songs 6:10, Isaiah 24:23, Isaiah 30:26
- Ke’se– full moon. Occurs only twice: Psalm 81:3, Proverbs 7:20
- Khodesh– new moon. Prolific, but it is most commonly translated as ‘month’ and less frequently as ‘new moon’.
- Yareakh– most common Hebrew word for moon, at any stage of its cycle, and the focus of this article.
Moon for Order, Signs & Seasons
The first Biblical reference to the moon (although the word ‘moon’ isn’t used) can be found in Genesis 1. It was the lesser of the two great lights that God created to help put the planet in order:
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 [ha-ma’owr ha-qatohn] to govern the night; He made the stars 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.
The moon was to be used for signs and seasons, and to separate day from night. The Psalmist confirmed that the moon had a specific purpose:
He [God] made the moon [yareakh] for the seasons; the sun knows the place of its setting.
You appoint darkness and it becomes night, in which all the beasts of the forest prowl about. The young lions roar after their prey and seek their food from God. When the sun rises they withdraw and lie down in their dens.
Man goes forth to his work and to his labour until evening. O YHWH, how many are Your works! In wisdom You have made them all; the earth is full of Your possessions.
God made the moon for seasons meant that He used the moon to put order to creation. Seasons allow plants to grow, and to wane, for crops to sprout and to be harvested. The fields have a time for rest and a time for action and the moon and the sun are the key players in ordering of the seasons. We can rely on them because they never sway from their duty. The sun always comes up at the dawn, like clockwork, and the moon always returns at dusk. There has never been a day when this didn’t happen. The moon is forever reliable… forever!
Forever, like the Moon
YHWH even announced that if the fixed order ever disintegrated then His promises would cease. The impossibility of the moon not staying on its course was the same impossibility of God not keeping His promises.
Thus says YHWH, who gives the sun for light by day and the fixed order of the moon [yareakh] and the stars for light by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar; YHWH of hosts is His name: “If this fixed order departs from before Me,” declares YHWH, “then the offspring of Israel also will cease from being a nation before Me forever.”
YHWH: “My covenant I will not violate, nor will I alter the utterance of My lips. Once I have sworn by My holiness; I will not lie to David. His descendants shall endure forever and his throne as the sun before Me. It shall be established forever, like the moon [k-yareakh], and the witness in the sky is faithful.” Selah.
Although the moon was to be forever, it didn’t mean that it would always shine so brightly. The Hebrew authors used the shine of the moon as a portent of God’s judgement. The faithful witness stood in the sky as a sign of forever, but it would also be used as a sign… when the moon grew dark it was in preparation for devastation.
When the Moon Grows Dark
Behold, the day of YHWH is coming, cruel, with fury and burning anger, to make the land a desolation; and He will exterminate its sinners from it. For the stars of heaven and their constellations will not flash forth their light; the sun will be dark when it rises and the moon [w-yareakh] will not shed its light. Thus I will punish the world for its evil and the wicked for their iniquity; I will also put an end to the arrogance of the proud and abase the haughtiness of the ruthless.
YHWH: “And when I extinguish you, I will cover the heavens and darken their stars; I will cover the sun with a cloud and the moon will not give its light. All the shining lights in the heavens I will darken over you and will set darkness on your land,” declares the Lord YHWH.
This continues to be a fairly significant focus of eschatology: the moon and the sun will grow dark. Jesus even spoke of it:
Luke 21:25-28 (See also Matthew 24:29-31 & Mark 13:24-27)
Jesus: “There will be signs in sun and moon [Greek: selene] and stars, and on the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
The moon growing dark, during the judgement of God, shows up frequently in scripture, but YHWH provided an out for the coming destruction… to those who returned to Him, He would show His compassion:
Before them the earth quakes, the heavens tremble, the sun and the moon [w’yareakh] grow dark and the stars lose their brightness. YHWH utters His voice before His army; surely His camp is very great, for strong is he who carries out His word.
The day of YHWH is indeed great and very awesome, and who can endure it? Yet even now,” declares YHWH, “Return to Me with all your heart, and with fasting, weeping and mourning; and rend your heart and not your garments.” Now return to YHWH your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness and relenting of evil.”
The destruction wouldn’t cease, but to those who trusted in YHWH, He would be a refuge and a stronghold for them:
Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of YHWH is near in the valley of decision. The sun and moon [w-yareakh] grow dark and the stars lose their brightness. YHWH roars from Zion and utters His voice from Jerusalem, and the heavens and the earth tremble. But YHWH is a refuge for His people and a stronghold to the sons of Israel.
There was no destruction in the Bible that was utterly complete. There was always a remnant that survived, because God loved His creation. In reaction to the darkening of the sky, Isaiah recorded that when YHWH would come to put things right, the light of the moon would glow even brighter than before:
On every lofty mountain and on every high hill there will be streams running with water on the day of the great slaughter, when the towers fall. The light of the moon [ha-l’vanah] will be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun will be seven times brighter, like the light of seven days, on the day YHWH binds up the fracture of His people and heals the bruise He has inflicted.
Yes, there were consequences, but those caught in the crossfire, YHWH would attend to them like a nurse, and bind up their pain, and prepare them for the light.
YHWH, the Everlasting Light
Later Isaiah recorded YHWH saying that when the day of Salvation came, YHWH would be the only source of light we would need:
Isaiah 60:1-3, 18-20
“Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of YHWH has risen upon you. For behold, darkness will cover the earth and deep darkness the peoples; but YHWH will rise upon you and His glory will appear upon you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising…
…Violence will not be heard again in your land, nor devastation or destruction within your borders; but you will call your walls salvation, and your gates praise.
No longer will you have the sun for light by day, nor for brightness will the moon [ha-yareakh] give you light; but you will have YHWH for an everlasting light, and your God for your glory. Your sun will no longer set, nor will your moon [w-yeere’khek] wane; for you will have YHWH for an everlasting light, and the days of your mourning will be over.”
In John’s vision he saw Isaiah’s prophecy come to fulfillment with the coming of the new heaven and new earth:
Revelation 21:10-11, 23
And he [an angel] carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God. Her brilliance was like a very costly stone, as a stone of crystal-clear jasper…
…I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. In the daytime (for there will be no night there) its gates will never be closed; and they will bring the glory and the honour of the nations into it; and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
The moon was a sign of God’s creative power, yes, but there was also a dangerous temptation to worship it, and not the God who made it.
Do not worship the Moon
Moon, sun and constellation worship was not an uncommon practise of the cultures surrounding Israel. It certainly made sense to many at the time, for they could physically see the outcome of what the sun and the moon could do. Evidence of the eyes made it easier to worship productive objects rather than a God they could not see. But the Israelites had seen what God could do when He produced the plagues of Egypt in order to free them. The Israelites had first-handedly experienced the awesome abilities of YHWH. They had no excuse to worship an item that God created, rather than God Himself:
Deuteronomy 4:19-20 (See also Deut. 17)
“And beware not to lift up your eyes to heaven and see the sun and the moon [ha-yareakh] and the stars, all the host of heaven, and be drawn away and worship them and serve them, those which YHWH your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven. But YHWH has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace, from Egypt, to be a people for His own possession, as today.”
Unfortunately the Hebrew people did exactly what they were not supposed to do… they began to worship the sun and the moon and constellations. Josiah, king of Judah, reformed the Hebrew faith and tried to put a stop to the worship of the moon and other celestial lights.
2 Kings 23:5
“He [Josiah] did away with the idolatrous priests whom the kings of Judah had appointed to burn incense in the high places in the cities of Judah and in the surrounding area of Jerusalem, also those who burned incense to Baal, to the sun and to the moon [w-la-yareakh] and to the constellations and to all the host of heaven.”
But it wasn’t just the great institutions (king and Temple) that needed to change, the hearts of the people had to be convinced that worshipping the sky was a ridiculous exercise. But this was not so easy, and should we be surprised? When you think of the things that make you go, “Wow, that’s amazing” I’d wager you’re remembering a moment looking into the night sky… perhaps seeing the Northern Lights, or a shooting star, or a ring around the moon, or an incredible sunset. Even Job was concerned about his own role in worshipping the heavens:
If I have looked at the sun when it shone or the moon [w-yareakh] going in splendour, and my heart became secretly enticed, and my hand threw a kiss from my mouth, that too would have been an iniquity calling for judgment, for I would have denied God above.
YHWH spoke vehemently against sky worshippers and when He spoke of those who rejected Him and turned to the sky instead, He mocked their misguided faith:
YHWH: “Stand fast now in your spells and in your many sorceries with which you have laboured from your youth; perhaps you will be able to profit, perhaps you may cause trembling. You are wearied with your many counsels; let now the astrologers, those who prophesy by the stars, those who predict by the new moons [le-kha’dashim], stand up and save you from what will come upon you.”
Creation worships YHWH
The moon is stunning to look at, but it’s glory pales in comparison to the Creator who made it! Why worship a lesser thing? It makes no sense to worship an object; we, instead, need to worship the Creator of the object. According to the Psalmist, all things created by YHWH should worship Him, and Him alone:
Praise 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 [w-yareakh]; Praise Him, all stars of light!
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. He has also established them forever and ever; He has made a decree which will not pass away.
The Amazing Heavens… an Amazing Gift
We were not to worship the moon and all the sparkling things in the night sky, but we certainly were expected to be amazed and dazzled by them. Creation is very pretty, God made it so, and the night sky shines like the crown jewels!
When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon [yareakh] and the stars, which You have ordained; what is man that You take thought of him, and the son of man that You care for him?
Yet You have made him a little lower than God, and You crown him with glory and majesty! You make him to rule over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea, whatever passes through the paths of the seas.
O YHWH, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth!
The world as we know it could not function without the moon and the sun. It is an integral part of keeping creation in balance. God loves His creation. God loves this planet. And He loves order and completeness, and things working as they ought to work. YHWH promised that the moon and the sun would always rise and set as they were meant to, but it is up to us to do everything we can to support the creative order of this earth. We’re mistreating this planet quite severely and we’re making it difficult for this planet to stay in order and not fall into chaos. There is only one small portion of creation messing this up: humans.
We were commissioned, from the beginning, to be caretakers of this planet. I think the institution of the church is missing a huge opportunity in this age to be relevant and engaging by standing as environmental advocates, rescuers and defenders of creation. We should not be waiting until the moon glows dark to take action. We need to tirelessly care and protect God’s of creation, until the day when YHWH Himself stands in as the only Light we need.
Give thanks to YHWH, for He is good, for His lovingkindness is everlasting.
Give thanks to the God of gods, for His lovingkindness is everlasting.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords, for His lovingkindness is everlasting.
To Him who alone does great wonders, for His lovingkindness is everlasting.
To Him who made the heavens with skill, for His lovingkindness is everlasting.
To Him who spread out the earth above the waters, for His lovingkindness is everlasting.
To Him who made the great lights, for His lovingkindness is everlasting.
The sun to rule by day, for His lovingkindness is everlasting.
The moon [ha-yareakh] and stars to rule by night, for His lovingkindness is everlasting.
Next week: garment/clothing