Holman Bible Dictionary
Host of Heaven
“Host” is basically a military term connected with fighting or waging a war. The most frequent use of the word is to designate a group of men organized for war. In this sense, the Hebrew word often refers to a human army (Genesis 21:22 ,Genesis 21:22,21:32 ; Judges 4:2 ,Judges 4:2,4:7 ; Judges 9:29 ; 1 Samuel 12:9 ; 2 Samuel 3:23 ; Isaiah 34:2 ; Jeremiah 51:3 ). The term can refer to an act of war, as in Numbers 1:3 ,Numbers 1:3,1:20 ; Deuteronomy 24:5 , and Joshua 22:12 . An extended meaning of “hosts” is that it designates a length of time of hard service (Job 7:1 ; Isaiah 40:2 , Daniel 10:1 ). The term is used in the Book of Numbers to refer to the service of the Levites in the sanctuary.
The phrase “Host of Heaven” came into use because of the close connection between the realms of earth and heaven in ancient thought. The celestial bodies were thought to be organized in the same way as earthly military bodies. The sun, moon, and stars were regarded as the “host of heaven” (Genesis 2:1 ). The author of Psalm 33:6 stated that God created this host by His breath. God preserved the existence of the host of heaven ( Isaiah 40:26 ).
Old Testament writers warned Israel about the danger of worshiping the heavenly bodies (Deuteronomy 4:19 ) and prescribed the death penalty for the crime of worshiping the sun, or the moon, or any of the “host of heaven” (Deuteronomy 17:2-7 ). Unfortunately, Israel and Judah yielded to the temptation to worship the heavenly bodies from time to time, especially during the period of Assyrian and Babylonian influence (2 Kings 17:16-23 ; 2Kings 21:3,2 Kings 21:5 ).
Manasseh, king of Judah (697 to 642 B.C.), built altars in Jerusalem for all the “host of heaven” (2 Kings 21:5 ). He attempted to merge the worship of other gods with the worship of Yahweh. Manasseh's efforts were reversed when Josiah came to the throne (2 Kings 23:7 ).
Another concept of the “host of heaven” is presented in passages similar to 1 Kings 22:19 , in which the prophet Micaiah stated that he saw the Lord sitting on his throne “ and all the host of heaven standing by him .” The people of Israel drew comparisons between their God and the gods of Canaan and Babylonia. Yahweh came to be understood as a king who presided over a heavenly council, composed of angelic servants, sometimes called “sons of God.” This concept is reflected in the first two chapters of Job. See Angels; Council, Heavenly ; Sons of God .
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Host of Heaven'. Holman Bible Dictionary. http://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hbd/h/host-of-heaven.html. 1991.