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Sunday, July 21st, 2024
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Encyclopedias

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature

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The worship of the heavenly bodies was among the earliest corruptions of religion, which would naturally take its rise in the eastern parts of the world, where the atmosphere is pure and transparent, and the heavens as bright as they are glowing. In these countries the moon is of exceeding beauty. If the sun 'rules the day,' the moon has the throne of night, which, if less gorgeous than that of the sun, is more attractive, because of a less oppressively brilliant light, while her retinue of surrounding stars seems to give a sort of truth to her regal state, and certainly adds not inconsiderably to her beauty. The moon was therefore worshipped as a goddess in the East at a very early period; in India under the name of Maja; among the Assyrians at Mylitta; with the Phoenicians she was termed Astarte or Ashteroth, who was also denominated the Syrian mother. The Greeks and Romans worshipped her as Artemis and Diana. Job () alludes to the power of the moon over the human soul: 'If I beheld the sun when it shined, or the moon walking in brightness, and my heart hath been secretly enticed, or my month hath kissed my hand: this also were an iniquity, for I should have denied the God that is above.' The moon, as being mistress of the night, may well have been considered as the lesser of the two great lights of heaven (). It was accordingly regarded in the old Syrian superstition as subject to the sun's influence, which was worshipped as the active and generative power of nature, while the moon was reverenced as the passive and producing power. The moon, accordingly, was looked upon as feminine. Herein Oriental usage agrees with our own. But this usage was by no means universal.

The epithet 'queen of heaven' appears to have been very common. Nor was it, any more than the worship of the moon, unknown to the Jews, as may be seen in a remarkable passage in Jeremiah (), where the Israelites (men and women, the latter exert most influence) appear given over to this species of idolatry: 'We will certainly burn incense to the queen of heaven, and pour out drink-offerings unto her, as we have done, we and our fathers; for then had we plenty of victuals, and were well, and saw no evil. But since we left off to burn incense to the queen of heaven, we have wanted all things.' The last verse of the passage adds to the burnt-offerings and drink-offerings, 'cakes to worship her.' Vows were also made by the Jews to the moon, which superstition required to be fulfilled ().

The baneful influence of the moon still finds credence in the East. Moonlight is held to be detrimental to the eyes. In we read, 'The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night;' so that the impression that the moon may do injury to man is neither partial nor vague. Rosenmüller refers this to the cold of night, which, he says, is very great and sensible in the East, owing, partly, to the great heat of the day. If this extreme (comparative) cold is considered in connection with the Oriental custom of sleeping out of doors, on the flat roofs of houses, or even on the ground, without in all cases sufficient precautionary measures for protecting the frame, we see no difficulty in understanding whence arose the evil influence ascribed to the moon.





Bibliography Information
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Moon'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature". https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​kbe/​m/moon.html.
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