What Can You See in an Eclipse?

Intro: Unless you were kidnapped and tied up in a closet for the last few weeks, you are aware of the astronomical anomaly that will take place tomorrow afternoon. It has been titled, the great American Eclipse, as it is the first total solar eclipse to be viewable across the United States since 1918, and first one to touch only the continental United States since 1880! And that will not happen again until January 25, 2316.So you might be planning to see this one. What can you see in an eclipse? Is there a biblical connection?

I. What others have seen: It is interesting to consider what people of years past have seen in an eclipse. There are several ancient myths and folklore associated with a solar eclipse. Superstitions surrounded the event in an effort to explain it. Why did the sun suddenly disappear? The Greek word from which we get the word eclipse means to “fail” (Luke 22:32 – But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail😉

A. Many legends involve mythical characters or pagan gods attempting to eat the sun. In Vietnam – a giant frog; In Norse legend, it was wolves; In China it was a dragon; In Hindu mythology the god, Rahu swallows the sun and then spits it back out. People from ancient cultures would get together to bang pots and pans and make loud noises, or shoot arrows into the sky during a solar eclipse. It is thought this would scare away the one stealing the sun.

B. Even in more recent times, superstitions surround an eclipse many still see eclipses as evil omens that bring death, destruction, and disasters. A popular misconception is that solar eclipses can be a danger to pregnant women and their unborn children. In many cultures, young children and pregnant women are asked to stay indoors during a solar eclipse. In many parts of India, people fast during a solar eclipse due to the belief that any food cooked while an eclipse happens will be poisonous and impure. In contrast In Italy, it is believed that flowers planted during a solar eclipse are brighter and more colorful than flowers planted any other time of the year. Superstitions are the enemy of truth. God has always opposed their promotion among men.

C. There is a scientific explanation for a solar eclipse. We are aware of that.

D. The Sun, Moon, and the Earth line up. Eclipses are predictable 100’s of years in the future, and we can even trace them backwards into the past. They are the fruit of an ordered universe.

II. Are there any eclipses in the Bible? This may be difficult to know for sure. My conclusion is no. There are references to a darkened sun, and prolonged times of darkness during the daytime. But these do not seem to be able to be explained through a naturally occurring solar eclipse.

A. The sign of Hezekiah’s healing – Hezekiah – 2 Kings 20:8-11And Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “What is the sign that the Lord will heal me, and that I shall go up to the house of the Lord the third day?” 9 Then Isaiah said, “This is the sign to you from the Lord, that the Lord will do the thing which He has spoken: shall the shadow go forward ten degrees or go backward ten degrees?” 10 And Hezekiah answered, “It is an easy thing for the shadow to go down ten degrees; no, but let the shadow go backward ten degrees.” 11 So Isaiah the prophet cried out to the Lord, and He brought the shadow ten degrees backward, by which it had gone down on the sundial of Ahaz.

1. On March 5 in 702 B.C.E., the 16th year before Hezekiah’s death, a prominent solar eclipse appeared over the Middle East. Its path crossed the Arabian Peninsula, and the obscuration of the sun over Israel was more than 60 percent. Some suggest that this eclipse was the cause and occasion of the sign given Hezekiah, possibly by a shadow wave that gave the appearance of a shadow retreating. It would be another hundred years before the Greeks would accomplish the first actual prediction of an eclipse.

a. Was this a natural occurring solar eclipse? It is difficult to know for sure. But the force of the passage demands this “sign” to be miraculous, not natural. There is no need to provide a naturalistic explanation for an event that God clearly orchestrated apart from natural forces.

B. The Darkness at Jesus’ Crucifixion: Matthew 27:45 “Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land.” It was completely dark from noon to 3 p.m This is the first of several supernatural events that occurred at Jesus’ death on the cross.

1. Was this an eclipse, such as the one tomorrow? The answer is no, for a few reasons.

a. The Passover always fell on a full moon and an eclipse during a full moon would have been impossible. A total solar eclipse take place during a new moon.

b. The darkness lasted for 3 hours. The longest period of darkness for a naturally occurring eclipse is from 2-6 minutes.

c. It would appear from the text that the darkness covered a larger area than would occur in a natural eclipse. The word “land” here can refer to a certain region, or the whole earth. It is not possible from the text to know how extensive the darkness was. Several interesting reports in extrabiblical literature suggest that the darkness at Jesus’ crucifixion was worldwide. Both Origen and Tertullian mention it. There was also a supposed report from Pilate to Emperor Tiberius that assumed the emperor’s knowledge of a certain widespread darkness, even mentioning that it was from twelve to three in the afternoon.

d. Barnes says… “The only cause of this was the interposing power of God-furnishing testimony to the dignity of the sufferer, and causing the elements to sympathize with the pains of his dying Son. It was also especially proper to furnish this testimony when the “Sun of righteousness” was withdrawing his beams for a time, and the Redeemer of men was expiring…

2. What was the meaning of this darkness? The scriptures do not specifically tell us. It was a supernatural event, and it was not possible for a natural eclipse at this time of the year. Therefore it was a sign.

a. Some have suggested the darkness was a means of God’s casting a great veil over the sufferings of Christ, or as an act of the Father’s sympathy given to cover the dishonoring of His Son.

b. The Rabbis viewed the darkening of the sun as depicting God’s judgment on the world for a specially heinous sin. That certainly fits here. In speaking of Assyria’s being used by God to punish Israel, Isaiah spoke of “darkness and distress” that would cover the land, when “even the light is darkened by its clouds” (Isa 5:30). In describing the day of the Lord, the same prophet declared that “the stars of heaven and their constellations will not flash forth their light” and that “the sun will be dark when it rises, and the moon will not shed its light. Thus I will punish the world for its evil,” God said, “and the wicked for their iniquity” (13:10-11).

c. When Jesus was born the night sky was made bright as “the glory of the Lord shone around” the shepherds in the field (Luke 2:9). Jesus was the “the light of men” and “the true light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man” (John 1:4, 9). Jesus spoke of Himself as “the light of the world” (John 8:12). It was appropriate that at His death the sun would shut out and darkness would envelope the land. I believe that the prophecy of Amos and Jeremiah were fulfilled on that day – Amos 8:9 “I will cause the sun to go down at noon, and I will darken the earth in the clear day; and Jeremiah 15:9, “Her sun is gone down while it is yet day”.

III. Is this eclipse a sign from God? – As with almost every significant astronomical anomaly of the past, there are many who see this event as a sign from God. There those, such as Mark Blitz, who have been proclaiming the God is sending a sign for America to repent.

“I believe this is a warning, that we need to take the lead!” he said. “As believers, God is telling us this starts first with us. And we need to repent. “We, as the church, have 40 days to really repent, just like Abraham. He was interceding for Sodom and Gomorrah, trying to find 10 righteous men among them. I don’t know how many righteous [men] are needed for America.” He goes to tell folks that God is drawing a large X over the U.S. mainland. The next solar eclipse of 2024 will transverse from Canada into Mexico, thus when combine with the path of this eclipse with make an X. Others interpret it as the beginning of the Tribulation period of millennial doctrine, beginning with so-called rapture of the saints. This interpretation comes through a reading of Joel 2:10 as a reference to the second coming of Christ.

A. One of the inherent problems with interpreting these astronomical events this way is “how do you choose which eclipse?” Most calendar years have at least 2 solar eclipses – some years up to 5. Does leave us guessing “when” we should repent and when He is coming to get the faithful?

B. How can I know what it signifies and to whom? Without revelation, or inspired interpretation, I am left in the dark (no pun intended)

Conclusion: What should I be able to see in the eclipse tomorrow? – “do not see anything without eye-protection!

A. The universe is in order: Astronomers have pinpointed the exact path of the eclipse. Maps and charts are available that give precise details for location, time duration, etc. and they can tell us accurately when the next one will occur. How is it possible to predict with such certainty – even many years in advance?

1. God created all these things we see to be ordered and precise. Gen 1:14-19Then God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years; 15 and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so. 16 Then 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. 17 God set them in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth, 18 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. 19 So the evening and the morning were the fourth day. These celestial bodies were “for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years” (vs. 14).

2. Man has always depended on this steady progression to mark time – from the days of the sundial even until now. This exactness underlies all the specific predictions that have been made about this eclipse and the ones that will occur in the future.

3. There are remarkable signs of intelligent design in the universe. The clockwork precision of the stars and planets is only one of the incredible manifestations of God’s power – shown so clearly in what He has created.

Ps 19:1-6The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork. 2 Day unto day utters speech, And night unto night reveals knowledge. 3 There is no speech nor language Where their voice is not heard. 4 Their line has gone out through all the earth, And their words to the end of the world. In them He has set a tabernacle for the sun, 5 Which is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, And rejoices like a strong man to run its race. 6 Its rising is from one end of heaven, And its circuit to the other end; And there is nothing hidden from its heat.