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Host of Heaven

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(צְבָא הִשָּׁמִיַם, tseba' hashssama'yim, army of the skies), in Genesis 2:1, refers to the sun, moon, and stars, as the host of heaven under the symbol of an army, in which the sun is considered as the king, the moon as his vicegerent, the stars and planets as their attendants, and the constellations as the battalions and squadrons of the army drawn up in order, that they may come with their leaders to execute the designs and commands of the sovereign. According to this notion, it is said in the song of Deborah, "The stars in their courses fought against Sisera" (Judges 5:20). The worship of the host of heaven was one of the earliest forms of idolatry (q.v.), and, from finding it frequently reprobated in the Scriptures, we may conclude that it was very common among the Jews in the days of their declension from the pure service of God (Deuteronomy 4:19; 2 Kings 17:16; 2 Kings 21:3; 2 Kings 21:5; 2 Kings 23:5; Jeremiah 19:13; Zephaniah 1:5; Acts 7:42). (See HEAVEN).

In the book of Daniel it is said, "And it (the little horn) waxed great, even to the host of heaven; and it cast down some of the host of the stars to the ground, and stamped upon them" (Daniel 8:10-11). This doubtless points to the aspiring nature and usurping power of Antiochus Epiphanes, who in 2 Maccabees 9:10 is described as the man who thought he could reach to the stars of heaven; which, from Isaiah 14:13; Isaiah 24:21, may be understood to signify the rulers, both civil and ecclesiastical, among the Jews. The priests and Levites, like the angels, were continually Waiting on the service of the King of heaven in the Temple, as of old in the tabernacle (Numbers 8:24), and these were that part of the host, or the holy people, that were thrown down and trampled upon; for Antiochus overthrew some of the most celebrated luminaries among the leaders of the Jewish people, and reduced them to the lowest degradation. Spencer, in his treatise De Legibus Heb. bk. 1, ch. 4 p. 202, takes notice that the Scripture often borrows expressions from military affairs to accommodate itself to the use of the tabernacle, and hence is the frequent use of the term "host." The host of heaven and the prince of the host he thinks must refer to the body of the priests, who exercised the offices of their warfare under the standards of the Deity. (See LITTLE HORN).

A very frequent epithet of Jehovah is "Jehovah God of hosts," i.e. of the celestial armies; generally rendered "Lord God of hosts" (Jeremiah 5:14; Jeremiah 38:17; Jeremiah 44:7; Hosea 12:5; Amos 3:13; Psalms 59:5; Psalms 80:4; Psalms 80:7; Psalms 80:14). This is a very usual appellation of the Most High God in some of the prophetical and other books, especially in Isaiah, Jeremiah, Zechariah, and Malachi; but does not occur in the Pentateuch, in the books of Joshua and Judges, nor in Ezekiel, Job, and the writings of Solomon. The Hebrew word "Sabaoth," i.e. hosts, is used by the apostles Paul and James (Romans 9:29; James 5:4), and is retained untranslated in the English Version. As to the grammatical construction of Jehovah of hosts, some suppose it to be by ellipsis for Jehovah God of hosts; Gesenias says this is not necessary, and the Arabs, too, subjoin in like manner a genitive of attribute to the proper names of persons, as Antara, of the horse, q. d. Antara, chief of the horse. So, too, in the construction God of-hosts, the word hosts may be taken as an attribute, which could be put in apposition with the names of God. The hosts thus signified in Jehovah of hosts can hardly be doubtful if we compare the expressions host and hosts of Jehovah (Joshua 5:14-15; Psalms 103:21; Psalms 148:2), which, again, do not differ from host of heaven, embracing both angels, and the sun, moon, and stars (Genesis 32:1-2; Deuteronomy 4:19). The phrase Jehovah of hosts, therefore, differs little from the latter form, God of heaven, and Jehovah God of heaven (Genesis 24:7; 2 Chronicles 36:23; Job 15:15; Ezra 1:2; Ezra 5:11-12; Ezra 6:9-10; Nehemiah 1:4-5; Nehemiah 2:4; Nehemiah 2:20; Psalms 136:26; John 1:9; Daniel 2:18; Daniel 2:37; Revelation 11:13). (See SABAOTH).

Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Host of Heaven'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature.​encyclopedias/​eng/​tce/​h/host-of-heaven.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.