The World of Astronomy
November 25th, 1956 @ 8:15 AM
THE WORLD OF ASTRONOMY
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-25-56 8:15 a.m.
Now we come to the fourth day which is the day in which God set in the heavens the two great light holders: one to rule the night, the other to rule the day. And the story is recounted in the first chapter of Genesis, the fourteenth through the nineteenth verses. And this is the reading in the Bible:
And God said, "Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:
"And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth": and it was so.
And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: He made the stars also.
And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth,
And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good.
"Wayhi ‘ereb wayhi bōqer yom four" [Genesis 1:19]. That’s what it says. That’s the fourth day.
We enter the world of astronomy, the great expanse of the firmament. There has not been anything that has ever so attracted the attention of men of thought in ancient days as the mystery of the infinite universe, multiverse, above us: Apollo driving his fiery chariot across the expanse of the sky, or Diana, in her moonlit loveliness, hunting in the twilight and shades of the night. Whether in Chaldea or in China or in Babylon or in Persia or in India or in Greece, wherever in the ancient day men of thought lived and wrote, they looked up in wonder at the mystery of the heavens above them.
When I studied philosophy, they introduced to me Thales [624-546 BCE] who lived in the seventh century BC as the first Greek philosopher. This week, I found him introduced to me again, this time as the first astronomer – that is, the first one who wrote. He said that our world was a sphere. This earth was round.
In the second century BC, Hipparchus [190-120 BCE] founded – another Greek – founded the great framework of astronomy by charting the courses of the planets. In the second century AD, Ptolemy of Alexandria in Egypt [90-168 CE] said that the center of the heavens was the earth and all the heavens revolved around it every twenty-four hours. In the sixteenth century, Copernicus [Nicolaus Copernicus, 1473-1543] said the center of our universe is the sun, and the earth, like all the other planets, revolve around the sun. In the seventeenth century, and just a little later, Kepler [Johannes Kepler, 1571-1630] first defined the laws of planetary motion, and Newton, just a little later, and Newton [Isaac Newton, 1643-1727] discovered the laws of gravitation.
So we have come, little by little, from those ancient days when men looked with wonder and awe into the great mystery of the firmament above us to this present day when the laws of motion and the laws of gravitation and the laws that guide these vast and infinite numbers of spheres and planets and suns and stars and asteroids and comets, when they’re known to us as God made them in the beginning.
Now, you have here one of the great verses of the Bible. And because it has been misunderstood, let’s look at this verse, and let’s see exactly what Moses said about the creation of this great firmament above us. Here is the way Moses wrote the sixteenth verse of the first chapter of Genesis: "wayyʽas ʾĕlōhîm ˊet-šĕnê hamma’ōrōt haggədōlÃ®m ˊet-hammā’ōr haggā’dōl lĕmemšelet hayyôm" – you recognize one word in it, don’t you? – "wĕʾēt hamma’ōr haqqatōn lĕmemshelet hallaylāh wĕʾēt hakkôkābîm" [Genesis 1:16]. That’s what He said.
Now let’s take that, word at a time, and look at it. We’re going to straighten up a whole lot of misconceptions just by looking at what Moses wrote: wayyʽas , "And He made" – not "created." What’d I say the word for "create" was? Bara’. This is ‘asah – a form of it. Wa and ‘asah: "and He made;" ĕlōhîm, "God." ‘Et is the sign of the accusative. He’s going to make something. Å ĕnê: that’s "two," two; hamma’ōrōt, that’s "light holders." God made two light holders, luminaries. HaggədōlÃ®m: that’s "the great light holders." That’s the way Hebrew – we’d say "great light holders." They say "the light holders the great." He made two great light holders.
All right, you’ve got an ‘et here – that’s the sign of the accusative – and hammā’ōr, "the light holder:" one, the light holder, the gadol--"the great and the great light holder;" one of them, le, "to," memshelet, "to rule," ha, "the," yom, "day."
All right, wa’et – that’s sign of the accusative again. He’s going to do something else – wa and‘et, going to do something else. Hammā’ōr, "the light holder," one light holder; haqqatōn, "the lesser," – the light holder, the smaller; le, "to;" memshelet, "rule, to rule;" hallaylāh, "the night" – ha, "the," layelah, "night" – wa’et and somethin’ else: wa and ‘et; ha, "the," kōkābîm, "stars."
Now, there are three things there of which most of us have always been taught – a misconception. First, "And God asah." That’s the root form of the verb that he uses. Asah – doesn’t say God created those two lights up there. It says that in the beginning: "In the beginning God" – bara’ ĕlōhîm bərÃªÅ¡Ã®t. "In the beginning," bara’, "He created," ĕlōhîm, "God," hashamayim, "the heavens;" wa’et, sign of the accusative – going to make somethin’ else – ha’arets, "the earth." God did that in the beginning back in the dim uncounted ages of the past [Genesis 1:1].
Now, we’re building this thing up piece at a time. Remember, I said time is a created thing. God made time, created time, just as God created us. Time was not back there. Five hundred billion hundred trillion quadruple years, nothing – there wasn’t any time. In the eternity back there in the long ago dateless unnumbered past, bərÃªÅ¡Ã®t "in the beginning," bara’ ĕlōhîm, "God created" by fiat – spoke into existence, made out of nothing – all the heavens and this earth [Genesis 1:1].
Now, on the fourth day it says, "And God asah" [Genesis 1:16]. That word asah, the Hebrew word asah, means the same thing as if a woman prepared a dinner. She doesn’t create it. She took what was already there and readied it, prepared it. She asah the dinner.
It’s the same thing that a mechanic would do with a machine. He doesn’t create the machine. He takes what is already created, and he puts it together, and the machine works.
It’s the same thing that you would use with regard to an artisopher. He takes iron like this potter – isn’t that the name of it, the potter ironworks here in the city? They can take iron out there and fashion it into all kinds of things like you’d put on your front porch or around your balcony – make a balustrade out of it. Now that’s what the word asah means. God created all of this in the beginning in the dateless, dim, long-ago past [Genesis 1:1], but here on this fourth day, God turned those two creations into specific purposes [Genesis 1:14-19].
Now what were those purposes? He made ma’ors out of them. The Hebrew is ma’or. He made a ma’or out of one, and He made a ma’or out of the other. Now, the word for "light" is ‘or. That’s the Hebrew word for "light." Wayyōmer, "God said;" ĕlōhîm, "and He said," ĕlōhîm, "God;" yəhi ‘or, "let there be light;" wayəhi, "and there was;" ‘or, "light" [Genesis 1:3].
Now, you don’t have that word ‘or here [Genesis 1:16]. You have ma’or. Isn’t that what it said? Wayyʽas ʾĕlōhîm ˊet-šĕnê hamma’ōrōt, "light holders,"ˊet-hammā’ōr haggā’dōl, "the light holder, the great, for the day and the other one for the night."
Now in Exodus 25 [Exodus 25:31], that word ma’or [menorah] is used for a seven-branched candlestick in the tabernacle. This is the ma’or; that is, it’s the light holder. God didn’t create light nor did He create the sun and the moon and the stars on this day. They were already up there [Genesis 1:1]. They’d been up there for uncounted ages in the distant and unnamed and undiscoverable and unknown past. But God is rearranging this world that was ruined and destroyed. So on this fourth day, He’s doing something that we’re going to see in a minute about the firmament and this earth.
So on the fourth day [Genesis 1:19], He made two light holders to hold God’s light for the day and for the night. He did not "create" them. He set them there for this purpose [Genesis 1:16].
Now it says here that He made the stars also [Genesis 1:16]. Now, why they wanted to say that, I do not know. Look in your Bible. Don’t you have that "He made" in italics? Don’t you? It is in this Bible, the King James Version of the Bible – any word that is not in the original is in italics. "He made the stars also." Well here’s what the Hebrew says: "He made ma’or, the greater to rule the day, and He made ma’or, the smaller to rule the night; wĕʾēt, wĕ ʾēt, hakkôkābîm "and the stars" [Genesis 1:16].
Now what Moses wrote there was: "God made the great light holder to rule the day, and God made the smaller light holder and the stars to rule the night [from Genesis 1:16]. That’s exactly what Moses says.
And the translator said, "He made the stars also" [Genesis 1:16]. Well that was just his idea – you know, the King James translators. They just put that in for the fun of it.
Well that’s all right, I don’t object to it except that it’s not so. That’s all. God set in the heavens two great light holders, one to rule the day, one to rule the night with the stars [from Genesis 1:16]. That’s what it says.
Now what is all that mean? This is simply what it means: In the beginning God created all of this infinite heavens and this earth, and He did it beautifully [Genesis 1:1]. You have to have gone with us from the beginning to put it all together. And He did it beautifully, wonderfully, and Satan was its prince and its king [Ezekiel 28:14]. And this earth fell into a catastrophe – into an abysmal, horrible judgment – and it became waste [Genesis 1:2]. That’s what the Hebrew says: and it became waste, and empty, and void.
And the forty-fifth chapter of Isaiah [Isaiah 45:18] said God did not create it waste and empty and void, but it became that because of sin. And it was destroyed by water, and it was buried in a watery grave, and vapor and shroud of smoke and cloud and darkness surrounded this earth [Genesis 1:2]. It was under water, and the great, heavy vapors cutting off the rays of the sun, the earth entered its glacial life – its winter. And everything was destroyed, and it was dark and black, and the tides of the seas and frozen oceans moved on the face of this earth. And the Spirit of God brooding on the face of the deep and the dark [Genesis 1:2], the Spirit of God began to bring order out of that chaos and beauty out of that abysmal destruction and darkness.
And God re-created this earth. He built it back again in six days [Genesis 1:3-31]. The first day, He commanded light to shine through the heavy shroud of this earth [Genesis 1:3-5]. The second day, He made a firmament: He divided the waters of the terrestrial sea from the waters of the firmamental sea [Genesis 1:6-8]. And there are bigger oceans up there than there are down here Moses said and science says. Then on the third day, He gathered together the dry land, and He gathered together all of the waters of the seas into one bed – plural "seas" into one bed [Genesis 1:9-10]. And then He commanded all of His germs to sprout, all of His seeds to sprout, and all of the roots to sprout; and the whole earth came back into emerald green [from Genesis 1:11-13].
And then on this day [fourth day], God made the miracle of the sunrise and the sunset [Genesis 1:14-19]. He wafted away – He took away the shroud of the earth, the dark vapors and the heavy clouds, He took it all away, and there, on the fourth day, was the miracle of the sunrise, when Apollo drove his chariot into the clear burning sky, and the miracle of the sunset, when Diana came with her moonlit loveliness, with her bow and her arrow, to hunt in the twilight and shades of the night.
That sun had been up there for untold ages. That moon had been up there for untold ages. Those stars had been up there for untold ages. But on this fourth day, God swept away the heavy, dark shroud of the earth, and He appointed the sun to be the light holder of the light of the day, and He appointed His moon – that’s what that word asah means – and He appointed like a mechanic would do – he’d put him a wheel here for this purpose and appoint that wheel there for that purpose and enmesh it and set it together. That’s what God did. He appointed the sun and He appointed the moon, and they became the rulers of the day and the rulers of the night [Genesis 1:16]. And we had, on this fourth day, the beginning of sunrise and sunset in all of the beauty and splendor by which God is able to bring to pass the glories of His handiwork.
Now, it says here that He did that in order that they would be there for signs and for seasons and for days and for years [Genesis 1:14]. "Those stars up there," God said, "They’re to be sign posts, and the navigators can guide their ships by those stars." And the Elgin Watch Company says, they boast, "We set our time by the stars." And it says they’re for seasons. Isn’t that a strange thing the way God set up this new creation of His? They’re for seasons.
What makes the seasons is the orbit of the earth around the sun. It’s just about 93 million miles away. So, you have the sun here in the center and the earth revolving around it.
Now, that earth revolves around that sun at the rate of 72,600 miles an hour: 1,100 miles a minute, 18.5 miles a second. One: you and I’ve already gone eighteen and a half miles. Two: we’ve gone another eighteen and a half miles. Three: we’ve gone another eighteen. Four, five, six, we already – good night, how we’re going! Did you know that?
Right in the center, here’s the sun – 93 million miles, 93 million miles away this earth is. And we’re going around that sun at the rate of 72,600 miles an hour: around 92 million miles this way, and around and around and around, 92 million miles over there and back, and 92 million miles over here – 72,600 miles an hour. That’s how fast we’re traveling around that sun.
Did you know that if the earth lost only two seconds every million miles, that by now in recorded history – even in the brief time since they been writing down words – that in this recorded history, this brief while, September would already be April if it lost just two seconds every million miles? But for untold ages, it has never in the shadow of a variation, it’s never lost or gained a second! Right on the dot: 92 million miles this way, 92 million miles over yonder, 92 million miles there – for untold ages, without a second of variation, round and around and around has our earth gone.
"Now how does that make the seasons, pastor?" Well, what makes the seasons is this. The earth isn’t perpendicular as it swings around the sun. The earth turns over every twenty-four hours, and it takes one year to go around. That’s what makes a year. A year, a solar year, is the trip of the earth around the sun.
Now, the earth isn’t perpendicular on its axis as it goes around the sun, but the earth is tilted 23.5 degrees. And the funny part of it to me was to find out that the wintertime is when you’re closest to the [sun] for it goes around in an elliptical orbit – an ellipsis, egg-shaped: flat on two sides and elongated on the other two. So right here in the middle is the sun and our earth is going around. And here on that flat side of the ellipsis, three million miles closer, then out yonder it’s three million miles further away, then here on this flat side of the ellipsis, three million miles closer, then out here three million miles further away. And it goes around in an ellipse, not straight around, but in an ellipse, egg-shaped around.
And what makes your seasons is the tipping of the earth. Over here on this side, the earth is tipped twenty-three and a half degrees off perpendicular. And the rays of the sun hit it at a slant, and that makes your wintertime. Then over here, why you’ve got, you’ve got springtime. Then over here you’ve got summertime. We are slanted towards the earth over here. Then over here you’ve got fall time, then over here, wintertime again.
And when we’re slanted toward the [sun] on one side, they’re slanted away from the sun down there underneath – down there in Argentina. So when we’re having winter up here, they’re having summer there. And then on the other side of that ellipse, when we’re having winter here, they’re having summer down there. And it’s that off-perpendicular as the earth swings around the sun that makes the seasons. And that’s what God said that He did. He put all that there for signs and for seasons and for days and for years [Genesis 1:14]. The revolving of the earth makes a day. The journey of the earth around the sun makes a year, and the tilting of the earth twenty-three and a half degrees off perpendicular makes the seasons as it makes the journey around the central sun.
Now, when you come into that marvelous, marvelous thing God has done up there in the heavens, when you come up there, you get into an infinite immensity. In the Psalm that we just read: "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament sheweth His handiwork" [Psalm 19:1], I came across this week a translator of that word here in the King James Version. "And that expanse up there showeth His handiwork": ma’ăśÃªh yādāyw, "His hands," ma’ăśÃªh, "the works of His hands." And they translated that "God’s fancywork."
Like a woman will crochet, or she will tat, or she will knit in an idle moment, well, I came across a scholar that translated that [Psalm 19:1]: "And the firmament showeth His crocheting; and the firmament showeth His tatting; and the firmament showeth His knitting, His fancywork; and the great heavens above us show us God’s fancywork." That is, this is something God made in an idle moment. God wasn’t particularly busy at that time and hour when there wasn’t any time or wasn’t any hours. God wasn’t particularly employed. And just to occupy an idle moment, why, He knitted, He crocheted, He tatted all of that infinite heaven above us. Oh! What a God, what a God.
And did you ever consider the immensity, oh, oh, oh, the vast astronomical infinite distances that you have up there and how big? Oh! One fellow said if you were to put here a little pea, put a little pea there – see right here – put a little pea there, and say, at the Republic Bank, you put a ball about as big as a Bois D’arc hedge ball, put that at the Republic Bank, and then 43,000 miles, put another one, well, that’s how the distances are. That little pea is our earth. Over there at that Republic Bank, that ball, that little hedge ball, is our sun. And 43,000 miles away, put another little ball, and that’s how close the parts of this universe are together.
You know, do you ever wonder, "Well, are they ever going to collide? Are they ever going to run into one another? Why don’t they?" Well, there’s just too much space up there. Oh, it is infinite! Did you ever consider when an astronomer comes along, like this fellow Brewer out here, and he writes him a little piece and he says, "Did you know such and such constellation and such and such, it is so many trillion light years away?" Did you ever think of what that was?
Light travels every second seven times around the earth. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven in one second – light travels seven times around this earth: 186,200 miles a second. Now multiply that by sixty and you’ve got how far light travels in a minute. Multiply that sum by sixty again, you’ve got how long light travels in an hour. Multiply that sum by twenty-four, and you’ve got how long, how far, light travels in a day. And multiply that sum by 365 – the reason I haven’t done it is it’s just too much multiplying for me – multiply that by 365, and you’ve got how long light travels in a year.
Now listen. At the rate that light travels in a year, at 186,200 miles a second, let that light travel from some of those stars and some of those constellations, let it travel for a million years and a billion years and a trillion years, and that’s how far away some of God’s stars are. Ooh!
Did you read that little thing in the Reader’s Digest one time on the difference between a million and a billion? It said that a million – if you take thousand dollar bills and stack them up, a million thousand dollar bills is about six inches high. But if you take those same thousand dollar bills and stack them up until you get a billion, you’ve got a stack of thousand dollar bills 126 feet higher than the Washington Monument.
Well, I said that guy is an innate, congenital bald-faced liar. So I multiplied it out, and brother, he’s right. He’s right. The difference between a million and a billion is the difference between six inches and 126 feet higher than the Washington Monument.
Now, you think how far away – oh! Billions of light years, and trillions, going 186,000 – when you stand out there under the sky, you’re looking up there and you’re looking up there, that star that you are looking at is not the star as it is now. That’s the star as it was maybe 500 million billion trillion years ago. You see, there’s not any time with God. That’s a created thing. That’s for us. Not any time with God.
Well, let’s take our little universe. We live in a little small universe, but let’s look at our universe. Our sun is 864,000 miles in diameter. That’s our sun. This greater light that rules the day that God set up there for the purpose of ruling our day [Genesis 1:16], it’s 864,000 miles in diameter. Our earth is almost, not quite, 8,000 miles in diameter. Our moon is 240,000 miles away. You could take our earth and set it in the middle of the sun and put out here 240,000 miles away our moon that swings around the earth. And did you know that our earth and the orbit of the moon could swing around and around on the inside of the sun and still have 100,000 miles on either side to play in? That’s how big our sun is. That’s how big our sun is.
But we’ve got a little tiny, bitty, infinitesimal sun. Did you know that? Did you know that? Did you know that there is a sun that the astronomer’s always looking at called Vega, V-e-g-a? And that sun – I said ours is 840,000 miles through – that sun is more than 33 million miles in diameter, Vega is – just that one sun. It would take 55,000 of our suns to make one Vega – 55,000 of them. And our sun – oh, you just give up.
Now, let’s hurry real fast because we’ve got, we’ve just got an introduction. We’re coming now to the real thing: God’s mysterious workmanship in His universe.
Now you listen to this. The most amazing thing about God’s universe – and I don’t want to drop my watch but just to illustrate it – the most amazing thing about God’s universe is that thing right there. Why does it do that? Why does it fall? Why does it fall? Why does it fall? God did something that no man can enter into. He put a force in this universe that scientists call gravity. Nobody knows what it is, but every particle of matter has an attraction for every other particle of matter.
This particle of matter here has an attraction for my hand, and the reason I don’t feel it is it’s so small and the earth is so great that my hand drops down there instead of dropping over there. That’s why you have the tides of the sea. Even the moon, which is comparatively small – it takes fifty moons to make our one earth – even the moon going around our earth, even the moon pulls. It has an attraction, and that’s why you have the tides of the sea.
The great body of water, the motion of the ocean moves over toward the side nearest to the sun. When the earth turns around, why, the sea will pull over there to the side of the ocean nearest the moon. The moon pulls it over there. Then when the earth turns around, pulls it back on the other side. That’s what makes the tides of the sea, that thing gravity caused by the moon.
Well, immediately you say, "If that is true, the bigger the body, why, the greater the force of gravity." That’s Newton’s law of gravity: the bigger the body, the greater the force, and the further away it is, the less the force.
Well, if that is true, why doesn’t the earth fall into the sun? An object that, say, weighs a pound on the earth wouldn’t weigh but two ounces and a half over there on the moon because the earth is bigger than the moon. Why, on the moon, you could get on that side – you could get on San Jacinto Street and jump clear over this church and land over there on Patterson Street. You could just jump clear over this earth if you lived on the moon, because it is smaller and the pull of gravity isn’t so great; but the bigger the body, the greater the pull of gravity.
Well, why doesn’t the earth fall into the sun? That enormous sun so great, and our earth so small, why doesn’t the sun pull it into the earth? All right, here’s why. There is another law that Newton discovered and that is that all bodies in motion will follow a straight line unless they are deflected by an outside force. So the earth is on its way, and one law says the earth will go in a straight line. Now if your sun is here, and the earth is here, the earth has a tendency in its moving to go this way, go this way; or if it’s there, to go that way; or if it’s there, to go this way; or if it’s here, to go this way. Wherever it’s going, it has, it follows, a law: it wants to go in a straight line. Every moving object, unless it is deflected by force, will go in a straight line.
But there is another law, and that’s the law of gravity; and that law says that the greater body will pull the lesser body. So there is a law always trying to pull the earth into the sun. So those two laws are in absolute equilibrium. They are exactly equal. One law is called the centripetal law that wants to pull the earth into the sun, and the other law is the centrifugal law that wants to pull the earth straight ahead.
And so the earth pulled on this side by the sun, pulled on this side by centrifugal force, both being exactly balanced, the earth caught in between them, it goes exactly around, and around, and around, and around, and around, and around, and around, and around, and around, and around, and around, and around, and around, and around, and around, and around for untold ages without a second of variation. That’s the way God put it up.
Moses says here that God prepared this world for habitation [Isaiah 45:18], and it’s the only one God prepared for habitation. Science says the same thing. This planet Mercury is just about 33 million miles away from our sun, and it goes around the sun in 88 days. And it’s a torrid planet. Why, it’ll get 770 degrees Fahrenheit on that planet and burn us up. It has seven times the heat and light that we have. It’s a lot closer, and as it goes around the sun, it gets a torrid drenching from the sun: no air, no water, no anything – just goes around there hot as a firecracker. That’s Mercury.
Way out here, 1,360,000,000 miles away from the sun is Uranus. And it takes 164 years for Uranus to go around 1,300,000,000 miles this way, [1,000,000,364] miles that way, [1,000,000,364] miles that way, [1,000,000,364] miles this way – around and around it goes. And it takes 164 years for Uranus to make that circuit around the sun. And it is so far away that it’s three hundred degrees below zero on Uranus. That’s the frozen planet: three hundred degrees below zero, don’t have any air, doesn’t have any water, doesn’t have any atmosphere – just frozen to death. Jupiter, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto – all those planets frozen in eternal cold. Moses says God prepared this one planet for man to live on, and science says the same thing. You don’t have any conflict between them. When you read what it says here in the Bible and when you read what God says out there in His world, they’ll be exactly alike. One will always corroborate the other.
"And evening and the morning were the fourth day; and God saw that it was good" [from Genesis 1:18-19]. He loves His sunsets, and His sunrises, and His moon that shines by night, and the stars that glitter in the sky, and the emerald earth like a carpet beneath our feet [Genesis 1:11-19]. God is preparing this earth for the great creation that is yet to come.
And may I say a little word about that? Next Sunday, we’re going to start with the creation of animal life: first, the fish, then the fowl, then the man. And we’re going to have a whole lot of things to say about evolution – just a lot of things. We’re going to have the best time in the world. We’re going to see who is a monkey, we or somebody else.
Now, let’s sing one stanza of our invitation hymn. And while we sing that hymn, if there’s somebody here today to give his heart to God or to come into the fellowship of His church, while we sing this song, you come and stand by me.
THE WORLD OF ASTRONOMY
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Creation of light, stars, sun, planets
Motion and gravity
God’s preparation of earth
Renewal of earth
End – fiery judgment