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The message of the Job 38:32 rhetorical flourish is plain to see: God appears to be pointing out the narrow confines of Job's knowledge and ability. However, the manner/angle in which God communicates this point would seem to hinge greatly on how we parse "Mazzaroth". There is an extensive amount of scholarship already in place for this discussion, one being: https://www.jstor.org/stable/527131#metadata_info_tab_contents

Another widely-cited author is Gesenius who contends there is a plausible connection to a Hebrew variant of "house" or "lodging", ergo housing of the stars -- the Zodiac. The Zodiac or "constellations" are the most common interpretation I've come across irrespective of etymological prefaces. Though, looking across what most editions actually use, many settle on preserving the original "Mazzaraoth."

Others, especially Latin editions, such as Wycliffe term the cryptic word as lucifer (equivalently morning star).

For the sake of understanding, let us juxtapose the same line but once with "lucifer" and once with "zodiac". KJV:

Canst thou bring forth _______ in his season?

Given that the author of Job is likely a native Aramaic speaker, the allusions to constellations would have been easily understood in that geography. The worship of astral bodies was a widely-documented practice in the ancient Near East, further reading. However, if we are to attempt an interpretation using "lucifer", the tone changes. If we do not divorce ourselves from the morning star-Satan nexus, it wouldn't be a stretch to read: "Canst thou spawn the devil?"

Question

Would translating as "lucifer" be too far abstracted from the cultural context of the scripture? To play devil's advocate, after dozens of rhetorical questions to flag Job's feebleness, why specifically use an aspect of Satan?

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  • Relevant source here. P.S. why do you conclude the author of Job's native language is Aramaic rather than Hebrew? (not saying that's wrong, but the book is written in Hebrew) Dec 13, 2022 at 7:50
  • @HoldToTheRod Thanks! Will try to locate the source, but I remember reading that the dating of the piece was during Persian exile and linguistic analysis on word-choice showed a leaning towards Aramaic loan-words. Perhaps I should tone down that part as it's just a theory Dec 13, 2022 at 8:35

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The context makes fairly clear what this hapex legomenon probably means in Job 38:32, especially when the surrounding verse are quoted from Job 38:

31 Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades or loosen the belt of Orion?

32 Can you bring forth the mazaroth in their seasons or lead out the Bear and her cubs?

33 Do you know the laws of the heavens? Can you set their dominion over the earth?

Note the repeated references to things celestial such as:

  • the constellation of Pleiades
  • the constellation of Orion
  • the constellation of "the Bear", likely "Ursa Major", and its "cubs" = "Ursa minor"
  • the "Laws of the Heavens"

Little wonder than most translations render מַזָּר֣וֹת (mazzaroth) as one of the following:

  • "constellations", eg, BDB, "Complete Word Study Dictionary", Baker & Carpenter. This may be a reference to the succession of the yearly signs of the Zodiac (eg, Ellicott, Pulpit, Barnes, Cambridge by comparison with a similar word in 2 Kings 23:5,
  • "Venus", eg, "Complete Word Study Dictionary", Baker & Carpenter
  • Hyades in the constellation Taurus, eg, "Complete Word Study Dictionary", Baker & Carpenter

There is a similar cluster of ideas in Job 9:9 -

He is the Maker of the Bear and Orion, of the Pleiades and the constellations of the south.

Lucifer?

The word Lucifer does not occur in the Hebrew Bible anywhere. The closest we get is Isa 14:12 where the text reads:

אֵ֛יךְ נָפַ֥לְתָּ מִשָּׁמַ֖יִם הֵילֵ֣ל בֶּן־שָׁ֑חַר נִגְדַּ֣עְתָּ לָאָ֔רֶץ חֹולֵ֖שׁ עַל־גֹּויִֽם׃ = "How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning, son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the earth, You who have weakened the nations!

Note that the highlighted text in the Hebrew is "helel ben-shakar" = "Venus son of the morning", or "morning/day star son of the morning".

In the Greek LXX this becomes ἑωσφόρος ὁ πρωὶ ἀνατέλλων with exactly the same meaning.

In the Latin it was translated: Lucifer, qui mane oriebaris with the same meaning. (It is obvious that the KJV translators were flummoxed with this verse and simply transliterated the Latin name because they did not know what it meant.)

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