The great luminary of day, which furnishes so many similitudes to the Hebrew poets, as well as those of all nations, Jg 5:31; Ps 84:11; Pr 4:18; Lu 1:78-79; Joh 8:12. For the idolatrous worship of the sun, see BAAL.
(Heb shemesh), first mentioned along with the moon as the two great luminaries of heaven (Ge 1:14-18). By their motions and influence they were intended to mark and divide times and seasons. The worship of the sun was one of the oldest forms of false religion (Job 31:26-27), and was common among the Egyptians and Chaldeans and other pagan nations. The Jews were warned against this form of idolatry (De 4:19; 17:3; comp. 2Ki 23:11; Jer 19:13).
Ge 1:14 translated "let there be luminaries," literally, "light bearers". Genesis only tells what the sun, moon, and stars are in relation to the earth. When the mists were dispelled, and the seas confined within bounds, the heavenly bodies assumed their natural functions, marking days and nights, seasons and years, and God appoints the sun to rule the day and the moon the night. "Let them be for signs," as eclipses, portents of extraordinary events (Mt 2:2; Lu 21:25) and divine judgments (Joe 2:30; Jer 10:2; Mt 24:29), and indicating the four quarters of the heavens (Ps 50:1) and also the changes in the weather; "and for seasons, days, and years." The sun regulated the length of the Israelite year by the recurrence of Pentecost at a fixed agricultural season, namely, when the grain was ripe.
The person facing the rising sun faced the E.; so "before," "forward," meant the E.; "behind," "backward," meant the W.; "on the left hand" meant the N."; "on the right" the S. (Job 23:8-9). Shemesh, "sun," expresses the stupor produced on the beholder by his overwhelming brilliancy; chammah and cherec are poetical names implying his "heat". Sun worship was the earliest idolatry (Job 31:26-27); Ra was "the sun god in Egypt"; On was "the city of the sun worship" (Jer 43:13; Hebrew), Bethshemesh "house of the sun," Greek Heliopolis. Joshua's causing the sun to stand still phenomenally virtually proclaimed his God Jehovah to be Lord of the sun and all creation, in the face of pagandom. The valley of Ajalon is still called wady el Mikteleh, "the valley of slaughter." The Phoenician Baal; the Ammonite Moloch and Milcom; the Syrian Hadad; latterly the Persian Mithras (Zoroaster previously had reformed the worship).
The "sun images" were called in Hebrew chammanim (Le 26:30; margin 2Ch 14:5; 34:4), stone statues to "solar Baal" or Baal Haman in Carthaginian inscriptions. The temple at Baalbek was dedicated to the worship of the sun. Manasseh introduced direct sun worship (2Ki 21:3,5). Josiah destroyed by fire (the very element which was worshipped) the chariots, and removed the horses consecrated to the sun (2Ki 23:5,11-12). The housetop was the place of sun altars and incense burning (Zep 1:5).
Worship was directed to the rising sun (Eze 8:16-17); they used to hold a bunch of "tamarisk branches" (barsom) to their nose at daybreak, while singing hymns to the rising sun (Strabo, 1:15, section 733). The horses sacred to the sun, and used in processions to meet the rising sun, were kept at the entering in of the house of Jehovah in the portico (as Gesenius explains parwarim in 2Ki 23:11, not "suburbs") at the western side of the outer temple court. An insult to the only true God, in His own house! Spiritually, God's law is the sun (Ps 19:7). He is a Sun to cheer; and "the Sun of righteousness," from whom we receive all righteousness, by imputation for justification, and by impartation for sanctification (Mal 4:2; Re 1:16).
The first mention of the sun in the Bible is in Ge 1:16, as 'the greater light to rule the day.' It was looked upon as the greatest and most important of the heavenly bodies, and motion was attributed to it, as is still done in ordinary parlance. We read of the going down of the sun, and of its rising; of the increasing force of its heat as the day went on (Ex 16:21), of its influence in the production of the crops of the ground ('the precious things of the fruits of the sun,' De 33:14). The sun 'goeth forth in his might' (Jg 5:31). The situation of a place is spoken of as 'toward the sunrising,' i.e. to the east (e.g. Nu 34:15). Things that were notorious and done openly were said to be 'before or in the sight of the sun.' But while the sun is strong, the power of God is greater still. This is expressed in Job's assertion (Job 9:7) that God 'commandeth the sun and it riseth not.' The power of the sun affects the complexion ('I go blackened, but not by the sun,' Job 30:28 Revised Version margin; cf. Song 1:6), and even causes death. A case of death by sunstroke occurs in 2Ki 4:18-19, and this power is alluded to in Ps 121:6 'The sun shall not smite thee by day.' The light of the sun is cheering: 'a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun' (Ec 11:7). Contrivances for measuring the length of the day by the shadow cast by the sun were invented: we have some kind of dial, of which steps formed a part, indicated in 2Ki 20:9,11; Isa 38:8. Though there is no actual mention of an eclipse in the Bible, part of the language used in describing the terrors of the day of the Lord both in OT and NT is derived from such an event: 'the sun shall be turned into darkness' (Joe 2:31), 'the sun became black as sackcloth of hair' (Re 6:12). On the other hand, the brilliance and glory of the future life is portrayed by comparison with the sun. 'Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun' (Mt 13:43); 'The light of the sun shall be sevenfold' (Isa 30:26); and even the sun will not be required, for, as in Ps 84:11 'the Lord God is a sun,' so in Re 21:23 (cf. Re 22:5) 'the city hath no need of the sun
The sun was the greater light given to rule the day. The Israelites particularly observed this by beginning their day-time at sunrise (in distinction from 12 o'clock at night), and closing it at sunset, which necessarily made their days and their hours in summer much longer than in winter. Ps 19:1-6; 113:3; 136:8.
SUN STANDING STILL, Jos 10:12-27. No legitimate objection can be made to the statement that the sun 'stood still;' for though it is now known that it is the earth that moves, yet astronomers still speak of the sun rising and setting, and use the word 'solstice,' which signifies 'sun standing still.' They would doubtless say the same as Joshua said if they were placed in similar circumstances.
The shadow of the gnomon going back ten degrees on the sun-dial in the days of Hezekiah, 2Ki 20:10, may, as well as the above, have been produced by the light of the sun passing through a more dense medium; but in whatever way God may have chosen to accomplish these miracles, they are wonderful and divinely-given signs.
In the history of "greater light," of the creation the sun is described as "greater light," in contradistinction to the moon, the "lesser light," in conjunction with which it was to serve "for signs and for seasons, and for days, and for years," while its special office was "to rule the day."
The "signs" referred to were probably such extraordinary phenomena as eclipses, which were regarded as conveying premonitions of coming events.
with Luke 21:25 The joint influence assigned to the sun and moon in deciding the "seasons," both for agricultural operations and for religious festivals, and also in regulating the length and subdivisions of the years "correctly describes the combination of the lunar and solar year which prevailed at all events subsequent to the Mosaic period. Sunrise and sunset are the only defined points of time in the absence of artificial contrivances for telling the hour of the day. Between these two points the Jews recognized three periods, viz., when the sun became hot, about 9 A.M.
the double light, or noon.
and "the cool of the day," shortly before sunset.
The sun also served to fix the quarters of the hemisphere, east, west north and south, which were represented respectively by the rising sun, the setting sun,
the dark quarter,
and the brilliant quarter,
or otherwise by their position relative to a person facing the rising sun--before, behind, on the left hand and on the right hand.
The worship of the sun, as the most prominent and powerful agent in the kingdom of nature, was widely diffused throughout the countries adjacent to Palestine. The Arabians appear to have paid direct worship to it without the intervention of any statue or symbol,
and this simple style of worship was probably familiar to the ancestors of the Jews in Chaldaea and Mesopotamia. The Hebrews must have been well acquainted with the idolatrous worship of the sun during the captivity in Egypt, both from the contiguity of On, the chief seat of the worship of the sun, as implied in the name itself (On being the equivalent of the Hebrew Bethshemesh, "house of the sun")
and also from the connection between Joseph and Potipherah("he who belongs to Ela") the priest of On,
After their removal to Canaan, the Hebrews came in contact with various forms of idolatry which originated in the worship of the sun; such as the Baal of the Phoenicians, the Molech or Milcom of the Ammonites, and the Hadad of the Syrians. The importance attached to the worship of the sun by the Jewish kings may be inferred from the fact that the horses sacred to the sun were stalled within the precincts of the temple.
In the metaphorical language of Scripture the sun is emblematic of the law of God,
of the cheering presence of God,
of the person of the Saviour,
Joh 1:9; Mal 4:2
and of the glory and purity of heavenly beings.