It seems a truly remarkable “coincidence” that despite the sun being 400 times larger than the moon, they appear to be EXACTLY the same size from this planet – but only from this planet, rather interestingly. Almost as if it was designed that way, as a phenomenon to be seen and enjoyed from earth. And that is because it was designed – designed by God for our benefit – not only for our sense of wonderment, but also as a sign. A clue about this is found in some words – and a single Hebrew letter – appearing in Genesis 1.
A solar eclipse is like a giant wink from our heavenly Father, letting us know that the universe did not come about by accident, but by perfect design.
A sign and a wonder
The diameter of the sun (1.3914 million km) is approximately 400 times bigger than that of the moon (3,474 km), but it is also 400 times farther away from us (384,400 km compared to 149.6 million km). So, when they are in the same place in the sky, the moon will perfectly cover the circumference of the sun, giving a perfect eclipse.
Total solar eclipses are one of the most awe-inspiring phenomena there is to see – the moon hides the sun, but rays from the sun peak out from around the black disc, forming the “solar corona”, or a crown of light and casting eerie shadows and plunging us into a few seconds of darkness before the colossal globes carry onwards in their courses.
Umbraphile (fan of eclipses) David Baron explains why he travels across the world to catch every eclipse he can in a TED talk on the subject. He is not a spiritual man, but admits that his first experience of a total solar eclipse changed him forever. He said,
“It is the ultimate experience of awe… True awe is a sense of wonder and insignificance in the face of something enormous and grand is rare in our lives but when you experience it, it’s powerful. Awe dissolves the ego, it us feel connected, indeed, it promotes empathy and generosity. Well, there’s nothing more awesome than a total solar eclipse.”
The sign in Genesis 1
Then God said, “Let lights in the expanse of the sky be for separating the day from the night. They will be for signs and for seasons and for days and years. They will be for lights in the expanse of the sky to shine upon the land.” And it happened so. Then God made the two great lights—the greater light for dominion over the day, and the lesser light as well as the stars for dominion over the night. God set them in the expanse of the sky to shine on the land and to have dominion over the day and over the night and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:14-18)
God makes the sun and the moon and says that they will be for “signs and for seasons and for days and years”. The Hebrew says for “otot ve moadim” – an “ot” (otot in plural) is a sign, or a letter. A “moed” (moadim in plural) is the Hebrew word God uses to talk about his feasts, his high holy days. Shabbat is also one of God’s “moadim”, and sometimes we translate it as “appointed times”, because the word also carries a meaning of fixed appointment and even destiny. So the sun, moon and stars are to communicate to us as signs (otot) and inform us of God’s “moadim” – his appointed times.
X marks the spot!
Here’s the interesting thing though, the word for sign (ot) is also the word for “letter” in Hebrew, because letters are a form of sign. They signify something, and point to a meaning. Just as how in English we might say “X marks the spot!” or use an “X” as a marker or indicator, so the Hebrew letter “ת” (tav, or taw) is used in a similar way. It is the letter in the Hebrew alphabet that is also used as a mark, or a sign. We see this in Ezekiel 9:4:
“And the Lord called to the man with the writer’s case and said to him, “Walk through the streets of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who weep and sigh because of all the sins they see around them.””
What is the Hebrew for the word “mark” in this verse? It says put a “tav” on their foreheads. God commands the man to put a tav, a mark, on the foreheads of those who are upset by sin. It is a letter that can also be used as a sign, like our letter “X”. The Hebrew alphabet has evolved over the centuries, and back in the time of David and Solomon, the letter tav actually used to be drawn as an “X”! Furthermore, further back in Abraham’s time, it used to be drawn as an upright cross, like this: “+” . How about that?! A tav used to be the sign of the cross.
Each Hebrew letter has a numerical value – aleph, the first letter, is 1, beit, the second, is 2, and so on. When it gets to 10 they go up in tens – 10, 20, 30, and so on until we get to 100. When we get to 100, we go up in hundreds.
Tav is the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet.
What is the numerical value of the letter tav?
Another coincidence?! The sun is 400 times bigger than the moon, but 400 times further away, giving us an eclipse, every now and then. If that is not a “tav”, an “ot” and a sign, I don’t know what is!
The observable wonder of the sun, moon and stars in their movements is so remarkable that peoples of the past erred by worshiping these celestial bodies instead of the one who put them there. However, Job, likely even before the time of Abraham, knew that it was a grave mistake to make:
If I looked at the sun when it shines
or the moon moving in splendor,
so that my heart was secretly enticed,
and my hand threw a kiss from my mouth,
then this also would be iniquity to be judged,
for I would have denied God above. (Job 31:26-28)
No, Job was righteous, and he knew who had created these wonders. He knew there was only One worthy of our worship. As we enjoy the eclipse, the wink of God, and appreciate his handiwork, may our thoughts and worship echo the words of Job:
He alone spreads out the heavens,
and treads on the waves of the sea;
He makes the Bear, Orion and Pleiades,
and the constellations of the south;
He does great and unfathomable things,
wonders beyond number. (Job 9:8-10)
This article originally appeared on the website of One for Israel, and reposted with permission.