“Love in the Mazzaroth” — A Star Trip to Song 6:10

He made the Pleiades and Orion;
He turns the shadow of death into morning. –
Amos 5:8

Last week I had an off day. A few of them, actually; just feeling lost, disconnected, and weak from an internal spiritual battle. (which really, is just a form of the original one) On this particular day, I could barely do anything. And then in the evening, I couldn’t sleep. We just finished building a deck on our small cabin, so in the middle of the night I got up, and walked out onto it.  

What an incredible night sky greeted me! It was sparkling with a gazillion stars, and the Milky Way was quite clear, as well as Orion’s belt and his bow right in the center of my view. And the temperature and moonlight was so perfect, that I just had to grab a light blanket and lay down on some cushions.  

How quickly God comes to us when we draw near! “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.⁠1” Gazing deeply into the expanse above, the Creator began to speak comfort to this troubled heart. “I will take care of you; He whispered, you have a place in me. And I know you by name.

Psalm 147:4

I was feeling less lost already! :-)

It then became surreal, when I realized I was seeing stars in the same sky that Abraham saw long ago, and in the same pattern when God gave him a promise of children “as many as the stars in the sky!” ⁠2 How interesting, that in an ever changing world, there still are “signs” 10 in the sky that haven’t changed after thousands of years.

However, Father reminded me about “fallen stars,” and the tragedy of that state. And also the danger of “wandering stars” too! (Jude 1:13)  

Now, what a literal “wandering star” is exactly, I’m not sure, but whether “cast about,” or “cast down,” there is comfort knowing that our spiritual rebirth and God’s persevering love is the balance that our life hangs on. There are some stars that move, or die, but God’s children are seated with Him forever.

Because of his great love for us…God raised us up with Christ, and seated us with Him in heavenly places…in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace… Ephesians 2:4-7. Also see Philippians 2:15.

And no one can pluck them out of my hand, John 10:28. 

 

★ A Family in the Stars

An Ancient Zodiac

A 6th century mosaic zodiac wheel in a synagogue, Beit Alpha, Israel, Used By Permission

If that’s not enough good news – there’s more. The Spirit also reminded me that we are not born anew and then placed just anywhere in God’s creation. Not at all. God places us into a spiritualfamily ⁠3 — and not unlike a family of stars! Star groups, that form pictures, have been signs in the sky since the beginning of time. Ancient peoples used these pictures, (especially the twelve signs of the zodiac, or as the Bible calls the “Mazzaroth” ⁠4,5) to plan crops, navigate at sea, and to know what day, month, and year it was. But it’s the storybehind the pictures that was the talk around the water hole. Constellations like Virgo (the virgin and child), Draco (the dragon), Leo (the lion, standing on Hydra the serpent), and many others⁠5 — have been together, without using speech or words, communicating the timeless message of God’s redemption plan to curious hearts.

Now if this is a new thought to you, I’m not talking star worship or prognostication here. I am talking about people from the beginning of time having a “connect-the-dot” storybook in the sky that is rooted in the Good News.

Of course over time, people have corrupted the purpose of the stars (see Isaiah 47.13) to obtain knowledge and control outside of an intimate relationship with the Creator. And some of the signs have been changed, and many others added.5 But this is only evidence that the original design was of God’s doing, not people’s imaginations.

God alone stretches out the heavens and treads on the waves of the sea. He is the Maker of the Bear and Orion, of the Pleiades and the constellations of the south. He does great things beyond searching out, and wonders without number. Job 9:9.

Can you bind the cluster of the Pleiades, or loose the belt of Orion? Can you bring out the Mazzaroth in its season? Do you know the ordinances of the heavens?  Job 38:31-33.

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky shows His creative work. Day after day and night after night they pour forth speech and knowledge without words  Psalm 19:1.

★ The Bride in the Stars

Now, up to this point I wasn’t thinking about the Song of Songs. To my recollection there wasn’t any mention of stars in the book. Except for something close:

Who is this that appears like the dawn, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, and majestic as an army with banners? Song of Songs 6:10 [referring to the Bride]

I guess I never questioned the term “army with banners,” in how that relates to all the sky-located metaphors that came before.

But then recently, I was surprised to read the verse in a different translation.⁠6 Instead of “army with banners,” it has: “stars in procession!” 

Now, while these two versions seem so different from each other, I have a hunch. In short, (leaving most of the study for another post) a connection could be in something I read before: ⁠9 that each of the twelve tribes of Israel marched through the wilderness carrying a banner (Numbers 2:2) with an ensign of their assigned star constellation. ⁠7, 9 Especially when traveling and setting up camp, tribal banners (or flags) were helpful in maintaining order, and knowing who you belonged to, if ever getting lost in the crowd.

★ Closing Thoughts

By the time all this unfolded, I definitely did not feel lost anymore. :-) I felt hovered over by a great “cloud of witnesses⁠8” who have gone on before; with a few of them more closely linked together with me in God’s plan. Being shown (in the types and figures of the stars) that the Bride is a heavenly light in the darkness, and all her members are linked together to show forth a story — was an encouragement that has lingered long. 

So fear not! In the midst of all the recent earth-quaking events — look up! As long as the universe’s clock keeps ticking, there is comfort and purpose in seeing your life raised with Christ in heavenly places.  

And He knows you there by name!

—★ — ★ — ★ — ★ — ★— ★ —

Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens [that includes the stars]
to divide the day from the night, and let them be for signs and seasons
Genesis 1:14. 

Behold, I and the children whom the LORD hath given me shall be for signs, Isaiah 8:18.

From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live,  Acts 17:24-30


1 James 4:82 Genesis 15:53 Psalm 68:64 Job 38:31-33 /  5 There are 88 currently recognized constellations, although some were added over time, and few entirely changed. The original ones, however, (probably just 36) have a deeply rooted history, and in fact zodiacs (featuring 12 main constellations, most of which have remain unchanged) are the earliest historical records and relics ever found, going back to the Mesopotamia area where Eden was first located. / 6 Both NIV and NET translate Song 6:10 as “stars.” / https://www.biblaridion.info/Digressions/zodiac.pdf8 Hebrews 12:1 / ⁹ For more information see the classic works: Gospel In The Stars by Joseph Augustus Seiss 1884 and The Witness of the Stars by Ethelbert William Bullinger

Reclaiming The Magdalene

The following article is by Cheryl McGrath. For those who have an appetite, the website she writes on, BreadForTheBride.com, is a rich banquet of spiritual food. I highly recommend subscribing to it.

This article, however, is from another (archived) site that she has many articles on. Enjoy!

❤︎ Reclaiming The Magdalene ❤︎

Mary Magdalene statue, holding onto the crossWho was Mary Magdalene? How much of what we think we know about her is myth, innuendo, or fabrication? Can we clear away the false from the true, remove the layers of unsubstantiated church tradition, Hollywood fiction, rock musicals and imaginings of modern novelists to discover the real Mary Magdalene, friend and disciple of Christ and eye witness to both His crucifixion and resurrection?

Mentioned by name in each of the gospels, it is believed Mary was called the Magdalene as a reference to her home town, Magdala, on the shores of Lake Galilee. Many scholars believe she was unmarried, as married women were usually known as ‘wife of’, rather than by their birthplace.

Though she is most often depicted in art and film as a young woman, we have no indication in scripture of Mary’s actual age and no reason to assume she was not in the same age group as Jesus’ mother and some of the other older women who sometimes travelled with Him.

Historically, Mary of Magdala has frequently been confused with several other women in the gospels also named Mary. This confusion between the ‘Marys’ has been instrumental in creating the inaccurate picture of Mary Magdalene still held by many. Mary, or the Hebrew Miriam, was a common Jewish name in Jesus’ time, and other Mary’s mentioned by the gospel writers include the Mary who was Jesus mother, Mary of Bethany, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary the mother of James and Joses.

We do know Mary was just one of a number of women Jesus had healed, some of whom travelled with Him and supported Him financially (Luke 8:1-3).  Mary’s hometown of Magdala was a thriving centre for the sale of fish and it’s not beyond reasonable possibility she may have been an independently wealthy woman with a commercial background in this trade.

In some Christian traditions Mary’s greatest claim to fame has been that of a repentant prostitute who after conversion became a symbol of chastity and virtue. However, there is nowhere in the Gospels or other New Testament writings that state or even imply Mary was ever a prostitute. Luke tells us Jesus delivered Mary of seven demons. While we may wonder about the nature of her oppression what is clear is that she was severely unwell and Jesus healed her. There is nothing in scripture, however, to suggest her oppressive illness was in any way sexually related.

The picture the gospels paint of Mary is one of faithfulness, strength, and devotion to Christ even at personal risk. Contrary to the traditional but false stereotype of a repentant prostitute, Mary should rightly be remembered as one of the ‘many women’ who remained at the crucifixion after the majority of Jesus’ male disciples had fled, and the first person to whom Jesus chose to reveal Himself after His resurrection (Matt. 27:55-56; Jn. 19:15; Mark 16:9).

Mary of Magdala was also entrusted by Jesus with conveying the momentous news of His resurrection to His disciples, prompting Thomas Aquinas, an early church father, to call her an ‘apostle to the apostles’ (Jn. 20:17).

For the first six hundred years of Christianity Mary was known and respected as a prominent disciple and close, trusted friend of Jesus. As the young church increasingly succumbed to the influence of the Roman world around it, hierarchical male dominance, once rejected by Jesus, re-emerged, and women were relegated to subservient roles under male authority. Within this climate, Pope Gregory 1 (c540-604) gave a series of sermons in the year 591 that dramatically altered the image of Mary of Magdala held by the Christian church.

In his sermons, distributed throughout the then Christian world, Pope Gregory 1 incorrectly aligned Mary with the unnamed ‘sinner woman’ of Luke 7:36-48who poured her alabaster jar of ointment over Jesus. With no Biblical basis he furthermore identified Mary’s seven demons with seven deadly sins: Lust, Greed, Gluttony, Sloth, Wrath, Envy, and Pride.

“She who Luke calls the sinful woman, we believe to be the Mary from whom seven devils were ejected. And what did these seven devils signify if not all the vices? ….It is clear brothers that the woman previously used the unguent to perfume her flesh in forbidden acts. What she therefore displayed more scandalously she was now offering to God ….She turned the mass of her crimes to virtues in order to serve God entirely in penance.” (Homily XXXIII)

The false teaching of Pope Gregory 1 redefined Mary’s story and perpetuated myths about her that have passed down through the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the Reformation and into our own modern Church era¹. The Mary Magdalene of the gospels and early church was lost somewhere in history and kept there by a male-dominated church for which the idea of a strong, female role model with leadership skills equal in status to the male apostles was undesirable².

The true Mary of Magdala was further obscured through paintings and artwork that depicted her as a repentant sexually fallen woman, cementing her newly-created reputation as a former prostitute, despite the fact that scripture alludes to no such history for Mary. (This is the reason why you will sometimes see Renaissance paintings of Mary dressed in red – traditionally the colour symbolising harlotry).

Sadly, organized Christianity and Christians in general have been complicit in perpetuating the myths about Mary and continue to do so. Even in the 21stcentury contemporary Christian films are still being produced depicting Mary of Magdala as a woman who had made a living as a prostitute.

Throughout the centuries Mary Magdalene has been persistently misrepresented by church leaders and in popular legend as a notorious former prostitute turned repentant saintly mother figure. The Bible depicts her as neither of these, but as an ordinary Jewish woman healed from serious ailments by Jesus, who became His faithful disciple.

Mary Magdalene is one of us, a woman doing her best to follow Christ in a world that is opposed to Him. She is neither to be revered or objectified to serve the purposes of fallen men; she should, however, be respected as a foundational member of the Body of Christ, honoured as the first person sent by Christ to preach the gospel, and celebrated as yet another life whose course was eternally impacted by our Saviour Jesus Christ.

Paradoxically, Mary’s story historically parallels the story of womankind since The Fall destroyed the perfect harmony and equality between the original man and woman.   The Fall resulted in the default setting of equal partnership between the genders becoming dysfunctional. Sadly, for many men, including in the Christian church, it is still easier to view women as sexual temptresses than deal with their own gender bias.

So many false images of Mary Magdalene have been conveyed and insinuated through sermons, artwork, film, novels and misinformation, I believe it’s time for all sincere Christ-followers to start rejecting her misrepresentation and celebrating Mary for the woman the Bible says she was. It’s time for truth honouring Christians to reclaim the Magdalene.

Mary of Magdala, the woman who walked with Christ alongside His male disciples, who stood by faithfully at His crucifixion, the first person He chose to meet after His resurrection, His apostle to the apostles, has been stolen from us. Those of us who have knowledge of the truth about Mary can take an important role in correcting that which is false by spreading the truth about her. We can start by challenging the myths and false assumptions that surround her whenever we hear them repeated.

Will you help reclaim the Magdalene?

¹Matthew 27:56, 61; 28:1; Mark 15:40, 47; 16:1-19;Luke 8:2; 24:10; John 19:25; 20:1-18

²It should be noted that The Eastern Orthodox church took a different view of Mary Magdalene and have always held her to be a different person to the woman who was ‘a sinner’ in Luke 7.

³It was not until 1969 that the Catholic Church declared Pope Gregory was mistaken and that Mary Magdalene was not the penitent woman in Luke 7:36-50. Furthermore, the Church clarified that Mary of Bethany and Mary Magdalene were two different people.

Further Suggested Reading:

5 Things You Should Know About Mary Magdalene, Junia Project

What The Bible Says About Mary Magdalene, New Life