Tabernacle for the Sun

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Last time I answered the first of two questions I was asked about Psalm nineteen. This time we will look at the second question. Let’s look at Psalm 19:1-6 to get us started.

Psalm 19:1-6

    1      The 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.  (NKJV)

Last time we looked at the first four verses. Two Bible study principles we discussed were “identify figures of speech in the text.” and “Context, Context, Context”. When we discussed Context, we were talking about literary context. But there is more to context than just literary, we need to also consider both historical and cultural context if we are to get a complete picture of the passage we are studying.

What was the second question I was asked about Psalm 19? I was asked, “what does tabernacle for the sun mean?” Before I can answer the question I need to introduce another Bible study principle. That principle is, “Identify the antecedents for the pronouns”. In other words, what are the nouns the pronouns are representing?

To answer the question we will want to focus our attention on verses four through six. The first pronoun we encounter in our passage is the word “them” – “In them He has set a tabernacle for the sun”. It can be tricky at times to accurately determine the antecedent. Generally, we want to work backwards until we hit the correct noun. I have identified three possible candidates for our antecedent. There are more candidates (nouns) but I’ve already ruled them out. The three possibilities are days, nights, the heavens. Remember the context? He’s talking about setting a tabernacle (tent) for the sun, so neither days nor nights make sense. I’ve concluded that the word “them” is the pronoun for the “heavens”.

We can accurately read the phrase as, “In them [the heavens] He [God] has set a tabernacle for the sun”.

Hopefully the meaning of this passage is beginning to come into focus. To further illuminate the passage, it would be helpful to understand the Hebrew concept (cultural context) of the firmament. Notice the black half circle line marked firmament in the image? It looks like it is sitting on earthen foundations and arcs around the circle of the earth. The sun in this image is just under the domed tent of the firmament. This arced line, which is actually the earth’s atmosphere, can actually be seen from space. In the image below, it is the darker blue halo around the earth in the picture.

Let’s read Psalm 19:4-6 again in light of what we just learned.

   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.  (NKJV)

Although the Bible is not a scientific book, scientific observations validate the truth of the Bible over, and over and over again. God’s glory is indeed declared by all of creation.


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