Solar eclipses inspire awe, declare the Divine Designer’s glory
By Ben Hawkins
On October 22, 2134 B.C., two Chinese astrologers failed to foretell the coming of a solar eclipse, and it sealed their fates. As legend tells, the astrologers Hsi and Ho were soon executed. For, in ancient China, an eclipse could bode ill for the emperor, especially if it hadn’t been predicted.
This earliest of recorded eclipses shows the awe and terror that the sun’s darkening has inspired among people both everywhere and always in human history. Even today, in China, drums roll and rituals are performed to frighten and drive away the dragon that has eaten the sky. And as in ancient China, the ancient Babylonians temporarily placed a stand-in ruler on the throne when a solar eclipse was expected to pass over them, so as to protect the true king from ill omen. Likewise, in modern day India, pregnant women hide indoors during the eclipse to avoid bad fortune.
In Western society also, the eclipse could stir up anxiety among people—a reality depicted in literature by Shakespeare’s plays. In the play King Lear, for example, one character observes, “These late eclipses in the sun and moon portend no good to us. … Love cools, friendship falls off, brothers divide, in cities mutinies, in countries discord, in palaces treason, and the bond cracked ’twixt son and father.”
Yet solar eclipses don’t always portend ill. In Pakistan, for example, the disabled are buried in the sand up to their necks as the eclipse passes over, motivated by a longheld belief that the event has healing powers. Likewise, the ancient Greek historian, Herodotus, reported how a solar eclipse once halted the onslaught between two warring kingdoms and inspired them to come to terms for peace.
But Christians today can especially look at the solar eclipse with wonder and joy, seeing it as an expression of the power of God, the Divine Designer. Writing in a column anticipating the Aug. 21st eclipse, Eric Metaxas, a Christian author and cohost of the Colson Center’s “Breakpoint” program, explained…
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