Previous Next

Table of Contents


Sun. In the history of the creation the sun is described as the “greater light,” in contradistinction to the moon, the “lesser light,” in conjunction with which it was to serve “for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and for years,” while its special office was “to rule the day.” Gen. 1:14–16. The “signs” referred to were probably such extraordinary phenomena as eclipses, which were regarded as conveying premonitions of coming events. Jer. 10:2; Matt. 24:29 with Luke 21:25. The joint influence assigned to the sun and moon in deciding the “seasons,” both for agricultural operations and for religious festivals, and also in regulating the length and subdivisions of the “years,” correctly describes the combination of the lunar and solar year which prevailed at all events subsequent to the Mosaic period. Sunrise and sunset are the only defined points of time in the absence of artificial contrivances for telling the hour of the day. Between these two points the Jews recognized three periods, viz., when the sun became hot, about 9 a.m., 1 Sam. 11:9; Neh. 7:3; the double light, or noon, Gen. 43:16; 2 Sam. 4:5; and “the cool of the day,” shortly before sunset. Gen. 3:8. The sun also served to fix the quarters of the hemisphere, east, west, north, and south, which were represented respectively by the rising sun, the setting sun, Isa. 45:6; Ps. 50:1, the dark quarter, Gen. 13:14; Joel 2:20, and the brilliant quarter, Deut. 33:23; Job 37:17; Ezek. 40:24; or otherwise by their position relative to a person facing the rising sun—before, behind, on the left hand and on the right hand. Job 23:8–9.

The worship of the sun, as the most prominent and powerful agent in the kingdom of nature, was widely diffused throughout the countries adjacent to Palestine. The Arabians appear to have paid direct worship to it without the intervention of any statue or symbol, Job 31:26–27, and this simple style of worship was probably familiar to the ancestors of the Jews in Chaldæa and Mesopotamia. The Hebrews must have been well acquainted with the idolatrous worship of the sun during the captivity in Egypt, both from the contiguity of On, the chief seat of the worship of the sun, as implied in the name itself (On being the equivalent of the Hebrew Bethshemesh, “house of the sun,” Jer. 43:13), and also from the connection between Joseph and Potipherah (“he who belongs to Ra”) the priest of On. Gen. 41:45. After their removal to Canaan, the Hebrews came in contact with various forms of idolatry which originated in the worship of the sun; such as the Baal of the Phœnicians, the Molech or Milcom of the Ammonites, and the Hadad of the Syrians. The importance attached to the worship of the sun by the Jewish kings may be inferred from the fact that the horses sacred to the sun were stalled within the precints of the temple. 2 Kings 23:11. In the metaphorical language of Scripture the sun is emblematic of the law of God, Ps. 19:7, of the cheering presence of God, Ps. 84:11, of the person of the Saviour, John 1:9; Mal. 4:2, and of the glory and purity of heavenly beings. Rev. 1:16; 10:1; 12:1.