Monday, April 12, 2010

Seven Planets, Seven Bowls

Alice C. Linsley

The Milky Way seen through the pillars of the Temple at Karnak.

For many ancient populations of the Fertile Crescent, the Sun was the symbol of the High God, and it was venerated much as Christians venerate the Cross of Jesus Christ. Priests and rulers concerned themselves with the movement of the Sun, the Moon and the planets because it was their responsibility to fix the dates for feasts and fasts and because they believed that the pattern for right living on earth was found in the God-established pattern found in the heavens. [1]

This makes sense when you consider that the Sun is the single entity visible in creation that speaks adequately of the Creator's divine nature, eternal power, faithfulness, and omnipresence. The apparent disappearance and return of the Sun's brilliance during a solar eclipse speaks of the conquest of Light over Darkness. A solar eclipse begins with light and ends with light. Between, there is darkness, and the darkness is overcome by the Light.

By watching the heavens ancient man was able to better understand his place on earth since the stars and the planets move relative to one another in a fixed and stable pattern. There are seven visible planets and stars, although all were called "stars" by the ancients. These were perceived as urns or bowls from which God poured forth both blessings and curses. In Revelation 16, the angels are instructed to go and pour out the seven bowls of the indignation of God.

According to Heraklitus of Ephesus [2] these bowls carried the stars and other celestial bodies. Heraklitus explained the diurnal motion of the fixed stars as they revolved around a point above the north pole, and the apparent motions of the sun, the moon and planets. 

In the temple dedicated to the Sun in Upper Egypt, at the ruins of Babian, there were seven urns. These represented the seven visible planets. The urns caught blessings from heaven in the form of rain. The six urns at the wedding in Cana, where Jesus Christ turned water to wine, speak of what is to be fulfilled in Jesus at the Cross and Empty Tomb. He who went down also ascended to the heights, taking captives and giving gifts to mankind (Ephesians 4:9,10). [3] Perhaps this is what Heraklitus meant when we wrote that "the path up and down is one and the same."

This Afro-Asiatic perception of the seven bowls of heavenly blessings is evident in the Hindu wedding ceremony during which the new bride takes seven steps around the altar. The Agharias marriage ceremony (Orissa, India) begins with the bride’s father delivering a bracelet (as did Abraham's servant to Rebekah) and seven small earthen bowls to the bride. The bride is seated in the open, and seven women hold the bowls over her head one above the other. Water is then poured from one bowl into the other, each being filled in turn and the whole finally falling on the bride's head. The bowls represent the blessing of fecundity on the bride’s womb. Pouring the water from above represents the heavenly blessing by which God overcame the demonic forces that withheld water inhibiting life on earth. The bride is then bathed and carried in a basket seven times round the marriage-post, after which she is seated in a chair and seven women place their heads together round her while a male relative winds a thread seven times round the heads of the women.

Though many churches baptize by immersion, use of a bowl to baptize in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit is consistent with this ancient practice of blessing.

In Jewish weddings the seven marriage blessings (Sheva Brachot) are recited under the huppah and the wedding feast lasts seven days. Seven days was the duration of the wedding feast for Samson (Judges 14:12) and for Queen Vashti (Esther 1:5-11).

The significance of the number seven in reference to union or completion is seen in the first Genesis creation story which says that God rested from all His work on the seventh day. Seven in association with God at rest portrays the concept of a peaceful relationship between Master and Servant, between Heaven and Earth, between Creator and Creation, and between Husband and Bride. Seven in reference to the Sun's coming forth as a bridegroom speaks of the eighth day in which the Great Wedding Banquet is consummated.

The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork...Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun, which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race. His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof.  (Psalm 19:1-6)

Bowls in the Ancient World

Bowls were used both to bless and to curse.  In the ancient Afro-Asiatic world, both were done by priests because they alone knew the words of power. Blessing and cursing were seen as binary opposites. To be blessed was to be under divine protection and to be cursed was to be removed from divine protection.  This is the meaning of the twin mountains of Gerizim and Ebal. From Gerizim came declaration of divine protection for those who follow the path of righteousness. The opposite was declared from Ebal (Deut. 11:26-30).

Shown is a cursing bowl. The curse is inscribed inside the bowl and the one invoking the curse would pour water from that bowl on the cursed person or on their property.  Presumably the worst curse would involve seven bowls or the pouring of water seven times. This bowl dates to about 3000 B.C. and was found in Egypt.

In the use of bowls for opposite purposes, we again find an example of the binary worldview of Abraham's people. John H. Walton has noted, "Blessing and curse are common terms in Genesis from the initial blessing in Genesis 1 to the curses of Genesis 3, 4 and 9, and then to the juxtaposition of curse and blessing in Genesis 12:1-3."  This helps us to understand what is meant in Genesis 12:3, where God says to Abraham: "The one who curses you, I will curse", which is to say that God will remove from his protection and favor from the one who invokes words against Abraham's seed.

Daniel's rejection of the "new" cosmology

Antiochus IV (the "little horn" of Daniel 8) attempted to stamp out knowledge of the diurnal rotation of the earth by imposing geocentric corruptions and insertions in the Hebrew scriptures. Daniel presents him as the little horn reaching to the sky to cast down stars and trample on them. He sought to eliminate the "daily", which can refer only to the Sun (Dan. 8:10).

The Hebrew doesn't say daily sacrifice. The word sacrifice was added by later interpreters who missed the significance of this passage. Antiochus IV opposed the older solar cosmology of Abraham's people which emphasized God's daily oversight and promise of union. We gain a better understanding of the cosmological references in Scripture by looking at the larger Afro-Asiatic context of the Bible.


1. Eupolemus in Eusebius ascribed the origin of astronomy to Enoch. Enoch is a royal and priestly title. 

2. Heraklitus, a pre-Socratic philosopher, understood binary opposites as being unified by the Logos. He stated that "all things come to be in accordance with this Logos." In this belief, he appears to have been influenced by the astronomy of the early Nilotic priests, who (according to Plato) had been keeping astronomical records for 10,000 years. Diogenes Laertius wrote of Heraklitus [ix, 9-10] He does not reveal the nature of the surrounding; it contains, however, bowls turned with their hollow side towards us, in which the bright exhalations are collected and form flames, which are the heavenly bodies. Brightest and hottest is the flame of the sun ... And sun and moon are eclipsed when the bowls turn upwards; and the monthly phases of the moon occur as a bowl is gradually turned. (See Plato's Debt to Ancient Egypt.)

3. This is suggested by the diurnal motion of the stars around the north and south celestial poles. Earth's Great Year begins when the north-south polar axis is exactly perpendicular to the equatorial axis. This happens about every 25-28,000 years. In other words, earth's New Year begins with the erect Cross, the sign of Jesus Christ.


Margaret said...

The Orthodox service of marriage, the couple walk around the marriage table three times. Is the seven steps the origin of what is called 'the Dance of Isaiah' by the Orthodox?

Alice C. Linsley said...

Fr. John Meyendorff in his book, Marriage: An Orthodox Perspective, writes “The hymn begins in fact by a call to execute a ritual khorodia, well known both to the Jews of the Old Testament (David danced before the Ark of the Covenant, II Samuel 6:14) and to the ancient Greeks; and the triple circular procession of the bridal pair led by the priest around the sacramental table can be seen as a proper and respectful form of ‘liturgical dancing.’ ”

Read about the relation to the "Dance of Isaiah" here:

The Orthodox wedding dance is called Khorodia. This word relates to Horus who Abraham's people called "Son of God" so we see the connection to Christ and the earliest faith in His appearing. Whqat strikes me is the Orthodox emphasis on the number 3 rather than 7. This also is more consistent with the faith of Abraham. Remember that the Lord in 3 Persons appeared to Abraham and Jesus rose on the third day. The number 3 was associated with the Creator among the ancient Horites, Abraham's people. This is evident in burial sites at the oldest sites in Egypt and Sudan where rulers were buried with a bull, a cow and a calf, symbolizing what we would call the Trinity.