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A little late on this challenge, but here goes:

In Job 38:31-32, the LORD questions Job, "Can you bind the beautiful Pleiades? Can you loose the cords of Orion? Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons or lead out the Bear with its cubs?" (NIV)

Obviously the Bible's canon teaches that God created the stars; but does this passage in Job (also Amos 5:8) teach that God intentionally organized stars into constellations, even giving them names? Or is it better to think of them as being perhaps identified and named by pagans, but here the emphasis is on God's control as elsewhere God shows his power over idols like Dagon?

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Also of interest, these are constellations of the Greek variety. Since other civilizations saw different shapes in the stars, its interesting that we would find the same terms in a Hebrew texts. Seems like it might be a anachronism of some sort. –  Jon Ericson Jul 19 '12 at 16:18
@JonEricson, the term Pleiades does not appear as such in Hebrew--instead it is כימה (kiymah), which means cluster. Likewise the word used here for Orion is כסיל, meaning "fool". Apparently the translators looked at the evidence (e.g., the belt, in the case of the latter), and assigned the Greek names. –  Ray Jul 19 '12 at 16:34
or, perhaps, we're looking at the Masoretic here :) –  warren Jul 31 '12 at 15:53
@Ray: כימה means "As if one hundred" (כמו מאה) and though I could see how that could be construed as "cluster" I've never heard of the term referring to anything other the the Pleiades. How do you come to the conclusion that the word means "cluster" and not specifically the Pleiades cluster? –  dotancohen Feb 22 '13 at 21:56

3 Answers 3

The word which the NIV translates as "constellations" is מַזָּרֹות; the KJV, like other traditional versions, keeps the Hebrew word as a proper name (Mazzaroth).This word occurs only here and its meaning is not known. "Constellation" is just a guess.

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The rabbis of the talmud, recording received oral tradition, appear to understand God to have arranged the stars into their constellations. The following passage from Tractate B'rachot 58b (in the Babylonian talmud) comments on the passages brought in this question (among others):

Samuel contrasted two texts. It is written, Who maketh the Bear, Orion, and the Pleiades (Job 9:9). And it is written elsewhere, That maketh Pleiades and Orion (Amos 5:8). How do we reconcile these? Were it not for the heat of Orion the world could not endure the cold of Pleiades; and were it not for the cold of Pleiades the world could not endure the heat of Orion. There is a tradition that were it not that the tail of the Scorpion has been placed in the Stream of Fire (Dan 7:10 in passing), no one who has ever been stung by a scorpion could live. This is what is referred to in the words of the All-Merciful to Job: Canst thou bind the chains of Pleiades or loose the bands of Orion? (Job 38:31) (Soncino translation, emphasis mine)

As noted in comments on the question, the words "Orion" and "Pleiades" do not appear as such in the Hebrew text; they are translations of כְּסִיל and כִּימָה respectively. Rashi seems not to be bothered by any of this, but I don't know why that is.

Another talmudic passage supporting divine creation of the constellations is on B'rachot 32b:

Resh Lakish said: The community of Israel said before the Holy One, blessed be He: Sovereign of the Universe, when a man takes a second wife after his first, he still remembers the deeds of the first. Thou hast both forsaken me and forgotten me! The Holy One, blessed be He, answered her: My daughter, twelve constellations have I created in the firmament, and for each constellation I have created thirty hosts, and for each host I have created thirty legions, and for each legion I have created thirty cohorts, and for each cohort I have created thirty maniples, and for each maniple I have created thirty camps, and to each camp I have attached three hundred and sixty-five thousands of myriads of stars, corresponding to the days of the solar year, and all of them I have created only for thy sake, and thou sayest, Thou hast forgotten me and forsaken me! Can a woman forsake her sucking child [‘ullah]?

Also, Rosh Hashana 11b, talking about the flood:

and because they [mankind] perverted their ways, the Holy One, blessed be He, changed for them the work of creation and made the constellation of Pleiades rise at daybreak and took two stars from the Pleiades and brought a flood on the world.

So according to rabbinic tradition as recorded in the talmud, God not only created the constellations but later modified at least one of them.

Please note: This answer was written for a neutral, academic audience and is not intended to be interpreted in the context of a religious belief or doctrine.

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I think the wording of the text draws our minds to ponder the beauty and arrangement of the stars and the power of God who put them in their place.  Back in the days before electricity, the heavens would have been the most fascinating movie theatre to watch and it is no surprise that ancient philosophers identified the idea of God/gods with them and paid special attention to those starts that did not move normally in the sky. These known as planets today move differently because they orbit the Sun.

To the question, I think that God did created the many types of constellations  that mark the seasons around the equator as one of the many marvelous works of his hands that man cannot but ponder. Even the deepest Ocean has marvelous fish that is full of mystery and marvel, and these have gone thousand of years without notice until some water robot takes pictures of them. How much more these bright stars that man looked at each night?

In Job it seems the importance of the constellations within the idolatrous minds of pagans is assumed, which makes the argument more persuasive because they are all God's creation indicating power over all supposed gods. The wise men following the star to Bethlehem is of a similar indication that God speaks his divine word according to the mindsets of the hearers. The term Death and Hades (Greek god of the underworld) in the Bible also seems to accommodate meaning form Pagan symbolism. (Rev 1:18) Just because a word is principally used in pagan culture or profane religion does not mean that it does not convey something the Spirit chooses to communicate heavenly truths with. This seems to be such a case.

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