The 2001 Commentaries

Star of Raiphan

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We have often wondered about the origin of the star of David that holds such a prominent place in the nation of IsraEl today;
For it seems unusual that a nation that was to have no images would select a star as its sign.
In fact, why would any nation that claims the God of AbraHam as its God choose the sun, moon, or stars as its sign, when they were told to worship only the God that made the heavens and earth and not the in the things in the skies?

However, the explanation that is often given is that the star of David has its roots in the prophecy found at Numbers 24:17, which says:

A star must arise from Jacob, and a man must spring from IsraEl.
He will crush the leaders of Moab and plunder all sons of Seth.’
And since it was thought that this prophecy was fulfilled in King David, the star of David was apparently born.

But as we were translating the Bible book of Amos from the Greek Septuagint, we noticed that there was another period during which a star was used as a sign and worshiped in IsraEl.
For at Amos 5:26, we read:

‘But then, you chose Molech’s tent And the star of Raiphan as your gods…
You made idols of them for yourselves!’

So according to this text, there was another star representing a false god that had once been worshiped and the star was possibly worn as a sign by apostate IsraElites…
And God condemned them for doing this.

Yet, some could argue that the Bible never mentioned anything like the star of Raiphan;
For the Hebrew texts actually reads (NW):
‘And will actually carry Sukkuth your king, and Kaiwan, your images, the star of your god, whom you made for yourselves.’

Pretty unclear, and it doesn’t look too much like what is written in the Septuagint, does it?
So, which rendering is right?

Well, notice how Stephen quoted Amos 5:26 just before he was killed.
He said there (at Acts 7:43):
‘Rather, you took up with the images that you made for worship in the tent of Moloch and with the star of the God Rephan.’

So, though the spelling is a bit different between the OT and NT texts;
Stephen is obviously quoting the Greek Septuagint text of Amos 5:26, where it referred to this ‘star of Rephan (or Raiphan),’ proving that the Septuagint text is correct.

What was that star?
In A Student’s Guide to New Testament Textual Variants, we read:

‘Other spellings found in manuscripts (of Acts) are Repha, Rempha, and Rephphan.
The Greek Old Testament spells the name Raiphan.
All of these are variations of the Egyptian name Repa for the god Saturn.’

So as you can see;
This star image came from the worship of the god (or planet) Saturn.
However, there is no Bible record of the star being used as a symbol of either David or IsraEl, and God specifically banned the use of such images (especially those of stars) in His Law. Instead, archeological evidence shows that the most ancient symbol that was used to represent IsraEl during its faithful years was the sacred lampstand that once stood in God’s Temple.

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