Who or What is the “Morning Star”?

A comment on last week’s post about names got me thinking about “Morning Star” as a title for Jesus Christ. Many of His titles are easy to interpret. They make a lot of sense–of course He’s called Savior, Redeemer, Lord, High Priest, and Lamb of God. We have tons of evidence for and explanations of those titles and roles. In contrast, Morning Star isn’t quite so easy to define.

I’ve studied Jesus as the Light before, and touched on the Morning Star title in those posts (see “The Sun of Righteousness” and “The Light From The Beginning“). I haven’t dug deep into this particular title, though, or addressed the fact that there’s also a verse describing Satan as a “morning star” (though that depends on which translation you’re using).

The phrase “morning star” is used infrequently through the Bible, and not always of Jesus. To understand how this title is used, we need to understand how the Bible talks about stars and which Old Testament passages inform the New Testament verses saying Jesus is the Morning Star. As we’ll see, this title has to do with Jesus’s authority, His light, and His role understanding God’s ways.

Morning Stars in the Bible

“Morning Star” isn’t only used as a title for Jesus. The words show up in other verses as well, and looking at those can help give us a feel for what Morning Star means when used as a title. Let’s start with looking at the Hebrew words in the Old Testament.

In the story of Job, God shows up in-person to answer Job’s questions with some questions of His own. He asked, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? … Or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” (Job 38:4, 6-7, WEB). This verse uses the Hebrew words kokab (H3556, “star”) and boqer (H1242, “morning, break of day”) (definitions from BDB lexicon). It’s the only time in the Bible those two words are used together. There’s other talk of stars in the Bible–both literal stars and as figurative language for spiritual beings–but this is the only place in the Old Testament that really narrows in on the idea of “morning stars.”

Other phrases translated “morning star” in English versions of the Old Testament use different words. When Job “cursed the day he was born” and said “Let its morning stars be darkened” (Job. 3:1, 8, NET) the Hebrew word translated “morning” more often means “twilight” (though it can be evening or morning twilight, H5399). It’s not the same phrase as God uses later in Job 38:7. Similarly, the verse in Isaiah talking about Satan’s fall is sometimes translated “morning star, son of the dawn” (Is. 14:12, NIV). However, a more accurate translation of heylele (H1966) would be “shining one.”

How you have fallen from heaven, shining one, son of the dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, who laid the nations low! You said in your heart, “I will ascend into heaven! I will exalt my throne above the stars of God! I will sit on the mountain of assembly, in the far north! will ascend above the heights of the clouds! I will make myself like the Most High!” Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, to the depths of the pit.

Isaiah 14:12-15, WEB

This passage is talking about one who shone like the dawn and arrogantly thought he could exalt himself “above the stars of God” (that word in v. 13 is kokab). I don’t want to spend too much time on this point, but the question “Aren’t Jesus and Satan both referred to as the morning star?” does come up from time to time and can be confusing. Though the titles may have some similarities, the comparison highlights the differences between these two beings. Just like Jesus as the Lion of Judah is far more powerful than Satan as a roaring, ravenous lion, so does Jesus as the Morning Star and Light of the World outshine Satan’s former glory as a shining one.

The Star of Jacob

The clearest connection between an Old Testament prophecy and Jesus as the Morning Star comes from a section of scripture that doesn’t include the word “morning.” This prophecy was delivered by Balaam, a prophet hired by Balak, king of Moab, to curse the nation of Israel. God did not permit him to speak curses over them, though; he was only allowed to speak blessings (Num. 22-24).

“Balaam the son of Beor says,
the man whose eyes are open says;
he says, who hears the words of God,
knows the knowledge of the Most High,
and who sees the vision of the Almighty,
falling down, and having his eyes open:
I see him, but not now.
I see him, but not near.
A star will come out of Jacob.
A scepter will rise out of Israel,
and shall strike through the corners of Moab,
and crush all the sons of Sheth.
Edom shall be a possession.
Seir, his enemy, also shall be a possession,
while Israel does valiantly.
Out of Jacob shall one have dominion,
and shall destroy the remnant from the city.”

Numbers 24:15-19, WEB (emphasis added)

This is the only Old Testament passage I’ve found that explicitly identifies the promised Messiah as a star. That being the case, this prophecy is likely something Peter was thinking of when he wrote these words:

For he received honor and glory from God the Father, when that voice was conveyed to him by the Majestic Glory: “This is my dear Son, in whom I am delighted.” When this voice was conveyed from heaven, we ourselves heard it, for we were with him on the holy mountain. Moreover, we possess the prophetic word as an altogether reliable thing. You do well if you pay attention to this as you would to a light shining in a murky place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.

2 Peter 1:17-19, NET

Here in these verses, Peter chooses not to use the standard Greek word for star (aster, G792). Rather, he uses the word phosphorous , which means “light bringing” (G5459). The reason that it’s translated “morning star” is because it’s often used of the planet Venus as the “day star” (Thayer’s dictionary). It is also is “a Hellenistic word that was sometimes used of emperors and deities” (NET footnote). This strengthens the connection back to Numbers 24:17 by connecting to the authority Jesus has as the scepter-carrying Star of Jacob. 17

What Peter’s doing here is connecting his audience back to prophecies in the Old Testament scriptures that point to Jesus as the Messiah, then he references one of those prophecies while drawing a parallel between Jesus as the Morning Star and Light that shines into our minds. That connection is made even more explicit through Jesus’s own words at the end of Revelation (though He uses aster) .

“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify these things to you for the assemblies. I am the root and the offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star.”

Revelation 22:16, WEB

The Morning Star Dawns in Us

If we look back at the verse in Peter’s letter, we see he’s talking about how the Bible (specifically the “prophetic word”) is something we ought to “pay attention to … as you would to a light shining in a murky place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.” There’s a connection between Jesus’s title Morning Star and the way that truths of His word dawn on us. He is the great light shining into the world’s darkness; “the dawn from on high” who visited us (Matt. 4:13-16; Luke 1:76-79).

Even if our Good News is veiled, it is veiled in those who are dying, in whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that the light of the Good News of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should not dawn on them. For we don’t preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake, seeing it is God who said, “Light will shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 4:3-6, WEB

From the Old Covenant times until now, the righteous have been associated with light, dawn, and the sun (Ps. 112:3-5; Prov. 4:17-19; Is. 62:1; Dan. 12:2-3; Matt. 13:43). God is light, and if we walk in His ways (i.e. live righteously) then we will shine with His light (1 John 1:5-7). It’s because of Jesus shining into us that we have the chance to shine with God’s righteousness. This idea of Jesus dawning understanding into us may be why His letter to the church at Thyatira says this:

He who overcomes, and he who keeps my works to the end, to him I will give authority over the nations. He will rule them with a rod of iron, shattering them like clay pots; as I also have received of my Father: and I will give him the morning star. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies.

Revelation 2:26-29, WEB

It’s sort of a weird phrase. Based on what we’ve studied on this topic, Jesus giving people “the morning star” may be connected to understanding, righteousness, and/or authority. It’s hard to tell for sure, though. Like so many things in the Bible, “morning star” is something we could study over and over again, and probably find a deeper understanding each time. I’m not sure where we might take this study next, but I feel it’s still at the beginning stages. Who knows, maybe we’ll come back to it again in another two years (that’s about how long it’s been since the last post I wrote which touched on the Morning Star).

If you have thoughts on this study or it inspires you to dig into the topic of stars in the Bible, let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear what you think and learn about this!

Featured image by Bruno /Germany from Pixabay

The Honor Of His Name

We talk quite often about how we ought to live our lives as Christians — the things we should and should not do, which laws we must keep, the characteristics of Jesus Christ that should show up in our lives. We also talk about what motivates this way of living. If our hearts aren’t right, the outward stuff doesn’t matter. God cares about why we do what we do as much (or more) as He cares about our actions.

The “why” is connected with how we view God. Are we obeying His rules because we see Him as an intimidating authority figure, or because we respect Him as Creator? Do we follow Jesus because of what we hope to get out of being Christian, or because we love Him and trust that He wants what’s best for us?

Those questions are concerned with how God relates to us. Beyond that is the question of how we view God as Himself. God is the self-existent One who inhabits eternity. We often think of Him in terms of how He relates to humanity, but there’s far more to Him than that. How should we view God simply because He is God?

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photo credit: “Prayer #2” by Connor Tarter, CC BY-SA via Flickr

Inherent Glory

In Hebrew, the word translated glory and honor in the verses we’ll cover literally means “to be heavy.” It’s not an abstract or subjective concept. There’s substance behind the honor and glory discussed in the Bible. Kabod (H3519) and the related word kabad (H3513) are used figuratively of an honorable social position backed-up with a “weightiness of character.” This makes the recipient of glory worthy of that honor (TWOT entry 943). Read more

Searching For Balance

I’ve been rather preoccupied with the idea of Balance lately, both in the world around me and internally. A lack of balance frustrates me so much and yet many people seem to gravitate toward polarities rather than searching for middle ground.

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scales credit: StockMonkeys.com

Let’s look at Christianity for a quick example. I’m not sure if this is the case in your churches, but in the groups I attend the question of Sacred Names comes up every once in a while. One the one hand, you have people who only use the Hebrew names like Yahweh and Yeshua and claim others “have rejected the name of their God.” I’ve even heard of people who won’t talk with other Christians unless they can pronounce the sacred names “correctly” (which varies depending on who you talk with). Then on the other hand, you have people who say Sacred Namers have fallen into “a satanic doctrine that leads people into idolatry.”

It just seems so ridiculous to me. To the first claim, if God wanted us all speaking Hebrew He wouldn’t have confused the languages at the tower of Babel. Read more

Covenants of Righteousness and Mercy

This isn’t the first time a Bible study has brought tears to my eyes. Usually that happens when I’m studying God’s love, but there’s also something inspiring, humbling and wonderful about His righteousness and mercy. They’re aspects of God’s essential character, and the more I learn about who the Father and Yeshua are, the more inclined I feel to just sit here in awe.

In Matthew 5:48 Jesus said, “you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” We have a responsibility to grow toward perfection, developing God’s character inside us. If we’re going to mimic His character, we have to study and learn about who and what He is, so we can display those traits as well.

Covenants of Righteousness and Mercy | marissabaker.wordpress.com

I’ve already written many posts on this blog about “God is love” (there’s even a whole ebook free if you click here), so that’s not what we’re going to focus on today. Instead, I want to spend our time together this Sabbath focusing on two key character traits that are aspects of God’s love.

The Lord is Righteous

If you search for the phrases “the Lord is …” and “God is …” trying to find descriptions of His character, the first you come to is in Exodus.

And Pharaoh sent and called for Moses and Aaron, and said to them, “I have sinned this time. The Lord is righteous, and my people and I are wicked. (Ex. 9:27)

Even a pagan ruler on the receiving end of God’s judgement recognized that “the Lord is righteous.” In Hebrew, the word is tsaddiyq (H6662). For human beings, righteousness involves fulfilling the commands of God. It “consisted in obedience to God’s law and conformity to God’s nature” (Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, entry 1879). Like love, righteousness isn’t just something God shows toward us — it is one of His essential character traits. We define righteousness by pointing to God’s standard.

“Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord, “That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; a King shall reign and prosper, and execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell safely; now this is His name by which He will be called: THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS. (Jer. 23:5-6)

Covenants of Righteousness and Mercy | marissabaker.wordpress.comNot only is God Himself righteous, but all our righteousness is found in Him. This prophecy points to Christ’s role as the one who makes us righteous. Only by following in Yahweh Tsidkenu’s footsteps can we continue in righteousness.

As we’ve seen, God’s righteousness is closely connected to His law. It follows that as a Being of righteousness He must institute penalties for disobedience as well as rewards for obedience. Daniel recognized this in his prayer for the exiles.

As it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come upon us; yet we have not made our prayer before the Lord our God, that we might turn from our iniquities and understand Your truth. Therefore the Lord has kept the disaster in mind, and brought it upon us; for the Lord our God is righteous in all the works which He does, though we have not obeyed His voice. (Dan. 9:13-14)

It is righteous for God to let evil befall a nation that broke their covenant with Him. Covenants aren’t just about the good things both parties get out of the agreement — they also include consequences for breaking the covenant, which is what we do when we sin (Dan. 9:4-5). Because God is righteous, He keeps the entire covenant — including the part that stipulates consequences for sin.

The Lord is Mercy

Daniel also calls on another of God’s essential character traits; one that goes hand-in-hand with righteousness.

And I prayed to the Lord my God, and made confession, and said, “O Lord, great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and mercy with those who love Him, and with those who keep His commandments, we have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled, even by departing from Your precepts and Your judgments.

O Lord, righteousness belongs to You, but to us shame of facebecause we have sinned against You. To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, though we have rebelled against Him. (Dan. 9:4-5, 7, 9)

If God was not mercy as well as righteousness, we would be in grave straits indeed. We have all sinned, and if God righteously rewarded us for that we would all be dead (Rom. 3:23; 6:23). Yet Jesus Christ took on Himself the death penalty required by covenant. Instead of rewarding us as we deserve He offers mercy, as He did to “a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man” who became the Apostle Paul (1 Tim. 1:13).

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved) (Eph. 2:4-5)

Mercy is as much a part of God’s being as love and righteousness, and it has always been this way. Back in the Torah, Moses makes a prayer for Israel very similar to Daniel’s plea. The people have rebelled, and Moses is asking for God’s mercy to mingle with His righteousness.

And now, I pray, let the power of my Lord be great, just as You have spoken, saying, ‘The Lord is longsuffering and abundant in mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression; but He by no means clears the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation.’ Pardon the iniquity of this people, I pray, according to the greatness of Your mercy, just as You have forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.” (Num. 14:17-19)

Covenants of Righteousness and Mercy | marissabaker.wordpress.comMoses is directly referencing God’s own description of Himself in Exodus 34:6-7. These are the character traits of “God is love” which back-up the covenant God makes with His people

In the Old Testament verses we’ve been quoting, “mercy” is translated from the Hebrew chesed (H2617). The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament points out that this word is often connected with covenant — most likely in that God’s covenant is a result of His chesed and includes the promise of His loving kindness. As those in covenant with God, we’re expected to show mercy as well.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. (Matt. 5:7)

In Greek, “mercy” is elos (G1656). It’s different from grace, which is a special kind of gift from God that consists of removing the penalty for sin. Mercy goes along with that and takes a step farther by alleviating the miserable consequences of sin (Zodhiates Key-Word Study Bible).

Jesus has compassion and mercy on us because He sympathizes with our weakness, having experienced what it’s like to be human even though He never sinned (Heb. 4:15-16). We, too, should exercise mercy towards others. As sinners ourselves, we’re in a unique position to respond to the suffering we see in others with loving kindness rather than condemnation. We must learn to follow God’s example of mingling righteousness and mercy. We never forget or ignore the covenant laws and our commitment to righteousness, but we also remember to always act out of mercy and love.

The Lord of Hosts

Our study last week reminded me of something else that caught my eye while writing the minor prophets series last year. When I was copying verses over into my handwritten notes, I realized I was writing “the Lord of hosts” quite a lot — sometimes more than once in a single verse.

You’ll often see this name of God written as “Jehovah Sabaoth.” Yahweh Sebaot/Tsebaoth are other ways to transliterate the name, and Elohim Sebaot is used as well. The variations of this name occur some 285 times, mostly in the books of prophecy. In the New Testament, it’s transliterated as “Lord of Sabaoth” (Rom. 9:29; James 5:4).

The Lord of Hosts  | marissabaker.wordpress.com
Photo by Juraj Kubica

Seeing the name “Lord of hosts” again and again in the prophets made me wonder about the significance of this name. Each name of God tells us something important about His character. What does “the Lord of Hosts” teach us? Read more