Moon (יָרֵחִ yare'ach, so called from its paleness; Chald. ירִח, yerach', Ezr 6:15; Da 4:26; poetical לבָנָה, lebanah', the white, Song 6:10; Isa 24:23; Isa 30:26; Gr. σελήνη), the lesser of the two great celestial luminaries. SEE ASTRONOMY.
1. It is worthy of observation that neither of the terms by which the Hebrews designated the moon contains any reference to its office or essential character; they simply describe it by the accidental quality of color. Another explanation of the second term is proposed in Rawlinson's Herodotus, 1:615, to the effect that it has reference to lebenah, "a brick," and embodies the Babylonian notion of Sin, the moon, as being the god of architecture. The strictly parallel use of yareach in Joe 2:31 and Eze 32:7, as well as the analogy in the sense of the two words, seems a strong argument against the view. The Greek σελήνη, from σέλας, expresses this idea of brilliancy more vividly than the Hebrew terms. The Indo-European languages recognised the moon as the measurer of time, and have expressed its office in this respect, all the terms applied to it — μήν, moon, etc.-finding a common element with μετρεῖν, to measure, in the Sanscrit root ma (Pott's SEym. Forsch. 1:194). The nations with whom the Hebrews were brought into more immediate contact worshipped the moon under various designations expressive of its influence in the kingdom of nature. The exception which the Hebrew language thus presents would appear to be based on the repugnance to nature-worship which runs through their whole system, and which induced the precautionary measure of giving it in reality no name at all, substituting the circuitous expressions "lesser light" (Ge 1:16), the "pale," or the "white." The same tendency to avoid the notion of personality may perhaps be observed in the indifference to gender, yarmiach being masculine, and lebanah feminine. See below.
2. The moon held an important place in the kingdom of nature as known to the Hebrews. In the history of the creation (Ge 1:14-16) it appears simultaneously with the sun, and is described in terms which imply its independence of that body as far as its light is concerned. Conjointly with the sun, it was appointed "for signs and for seasons, and for days and years;" though in this respect it exercised a more important influence, if by the "seasons" we understand the great religious festivals of the Jews, as is particularly stated in Ps 104:19 ("He appointed the moon for seasons"), and more at length in Ecclus. 43:6, 7. Hence, as a measure of time among the Israelites. a lunation was the period of their month; and many of their festivals were on the new moon, or on one of its quarterly phases (Ecclus. 43:6 sq.; comp. Sohar in Gen. fol. 236). SEE MONTH. This was especially the case with the Passover, their chief festival (see Bihr, Symbol. 2:639). SEE PASSOVER. Besides this, the moon had its special office in the distribution of light; it was appointed "to rule over the night," as the sun over the day, and thus the appearance of the two founts of light served "to divide between the day and between the night." In order to enter fully into this idea, we must remember both the greater brilliancy of the moonlight in Eastern countries, and the larger amount of work, particularly travelling, that is carried on by its aid. The appeals to sun and moon conjointly are hence more frequent in the literature of the Hebrews than they might otherwise have been (Jos 10:12; Ps 72:5,7,17; Ecclesiastes 12:2; 24:23, etc.); in some instances, indeed, the moon receives a larger amount of attention than the sun (e.g. Ps 8:3; Ps 89:37). The inferiority of its light is occasionally noticed, as in Ge 1:16; in Song 6:10, where the epithets "fair" and "clear" (or, rather, spotless, and hence extremely brilliant) are applied respectively to moon and sun; and in Isa 30:26, where the equalizing of its light to that of the sun conveys an image of the highest glory. Its influence on vegetable or animal life receives but little notice; the expression in De 33:14, which the A.V. refers to the moon, signifies rather months as the period of ripening fruits. The coldness of the night-dews is prejudicial to the health, and particularly to the eyes of those who are exposed to it, and the idea expressed in Ps 121:6 ("The moon shall not smite thee by night") may have reference to the general or the particular evil effect: blindness is still attributed to the influence of the moon's rays on those who sleep under the open heaven, both by the Arabs (Carne's Letters, 1:88) and by Europeans. If this extreme (comparative) cold is considered in connection with the Oriental custom of sleeping sub divo, out of doors, a la belle etoile, on the flat roofs of houses, or even on the ground, without in all cases sufficient precautionary measures for protecting the body, we see no difficulty in understanding whence arose the evil influence ascribed to the moon. In the East Indies similar effects result from similar exposure. The connection between the moon's phases and certain forms of disease, whether madness or epilepsy, is expressed in the Greek σεληνιάζεσθαι (Mt 4:24; Mt 17:15), in the Latin derivative "lunatic," and in our "moon-struck." The various influences anciently attributed to the moon in her different phases (Pliny, 2:102), not only in changes of the weather (Varro, R.R. 1:37; Virgil, Georg. 1:275, 427; comp. Ho 5:7; Isa 47:13), but also in physical effects upon the human system (Macrob. Sat. 7:16; comp. Ps 121:6), is a superstition (Horat. Ars Poet. 5:454; Virgil, En. 4:512) still very prevalent in the East (Rosenmuller, Morgenl. 4:108), and has not even ceased among modern Occidentals (comp. Hone, Every-day Book, 1:1509; Shakespeare, Mids. N. D. 2:2; Othello, 5:2), although science has shown that this planet has no specific influence either upon meteorology or health. See Hayn, De Planetar. in Corp. hum. Influxu (Frckf. 1805); Kretschmar, De Astror. in Corp. hum. Imperio (Jena, 1820); Raschig, De lunae imperio in valetud. coip. hum. nullo (Vit. 1787); Krazenstein, Einfluss des Mondes in d.m. Kirp. (Halle, 1747); Reil, Archiv f. Physiol. 1:133 sq. SEE LUNATIC.
3. The clearness of the Oriental atmosphere early led to the worship of the heavenly bodies (Herod. 2:47; Strabo, 12, page 557; Pliny, 8:1, etc.), among which the moon received special honors (Job 31:26; comp. Julian, Orat. in Salem. page 90), as the most conspicuous object of the nocturnal firmament (comp. De 4:19; De 17:3; 2Ki 23:5; Jer 8:2; see Selden, Dii Syr. 1:239 sq.). If the sun "rules the day," the moon has the throne of night, which, if less gorgeous than that of the sun, is more attractive, because of a less oppressively brilliant light, while her retinue of surrounding stars seems to give a sort of truth to her regal state, and certainly adds not inconsiderably to her beauty. There is to the same effect a remarkable passage in Julian (Orat. in Salem. page 90): "From my childhood I was filled with a wonderful love for the rays of that goddess; and when, in my boyhood, I directed my eyes to her ethereal light, I was quite beside myself. By night especially, when I found myself under a wide, pure, cloudless sky, I forgot everything else under her influence, and was absorbed in the beauties of heaven, so that I did not hear if addressed, nor was aware of what I did. I appeared solely to be engaged with this divinity, so that even when a beardless boy I might have been taken for a star-gazer." Accordingly the worship of the moon was extensively practiced by the nations of the East, and under a variety of aspects. In Egypt it was honored under the form of Isis, and was one of the only two deities which commanded the reverence of all the Egyptians (Herod. 2:42, 47). In Syria it was represented by that one of the Ashtaroth (i.e., of the varieties which the goddess Astarte, or Ashtoreth, underwent) surnamed "Karnaim," from the horns of the crescent moon by which she was distinguished. SEE ASHTORETH. In Babylonia it formed one of a triad in conjunction with Ether and the sun, and, under the name of Sin, received the honored titles of "Lord of the month," "King of the gods," etc. (Rawlinson's Herodotus, 1:614). There are indications of a very early introduction into the countries adjacent to Palestine of a species of worship distinct from any that we have hitherto noticed, viz. of the direct homage of the heavenly bodies —sun, moon, and stars — which is the characteristic of Sabianism (q.v.). The first notice which we have of this is in Job (Job 31:26-27), and it is observable that the warning of Moses (De 4:19) is directed against this nature-worship, rather than against the form of moon-worship which the Israelites must have witnessed in Egypt. At a later period, however, the worship of the moon in its grosser form of idol-worship was introduced from Syria: we have no evidence indeed that the Ashtoreth of the Zidonians, whom Solomon introduced (1Ki 11:5), was identified in the minds of the Jews with the moon, but there can be no doubt that the moon was worshipped under the form of an image in Manasseh's reign, although Movers (Phonie. 1:66, 164) has taken up the opposite view; for we are distinctly told that the king " made an asherah (A.V. 'grove'), i.e., an image of Ashtoreth, and worshipped all the host of heaven" (2Ki 21:3), which asherah was destroyed by Josiah, and the priests that burned incense to the moon were put down (2Ki 23:4-5). At a somewhat later period the worship of the "queen of heaven" was practiced in Palestine (Jer 7:18; Jer 44:17). The title has generally been supposed to belong to the moon (comp. Horace, Carm.
Sac. 35; Apuleius, Metam. 2, page 254), but some think it more probable that the Oriental Venus is intended, for the following reasons:
(1) the title of Urania "of heaven" was peculiarly appropriate to Venus, whose worship was borrowed by the Persians from the Arabians and Assyrians (Herod. 1:131, 199);
(2) the votaries of this goddess, whose chief function was to preside over births, were women; and we find that in Palestine the married women are specially noticed as taking a prominent part;
(3) the peculiarity of the title, which occurs only in the passages quoted, looks as if the worship were a novel one; and this is corroborated by the term kavvan (כִּוָּן) applied to the "cakes," which is again so peculiar that the Sept. has retained it (χαυών), deeming it to be, as it not improbably was, a foreign word. Whether the Jews derived their knowledge of the "queen of heaven" from the Philistines, who possessed a very ancient temple of Venus Urania at Ascalon (Herod. 1:105), or from the Egyptians, whose god Athor was of the same character, is uncertain. SEE QUEEN OF HEAVEN.
The moon was regarded in the old Syrian superstition as subject to the sun's influence, which was worshipped as the active and generative power of nature, while the moon was reverenced as the passive and producing power. The moon, accordingly, was looked upon as feminine. Herein Oriental usage agrees with our own. But this usage was by no means universal. The gender of mond in German is an exception in modern days, which may justify the inference that even among the Northern nations the moon has masculine qualities ascribed to it. By the people of Carran, in Mesopotamia, the moon was worshipped as a male deity, and called Lunus. Spartian tells us these people were of the opinion that such as believe the moon to be a goddess, and not a god, will be their wives' slaves as long as they live; but, on the contrary, those who esteem her to be a god will ever be masters of their wives, and never be overcome by their artifices. The same author tells us that there were remaining several medals of the Nysaeans, Magnesians, and other Greek nations, which represented the moon in the dress and under the name of a man, and covered with an Armenian bonnet. The Egyptians also represented their moon as a male deity, Ihoth; and Wilkinson (Anc. Egypt. 5:5) remarks that "the same custom of calling it male is retained in the East to the present day, while the sun is considered feminine, as in the language of the Germans. Ihoth, in the character of Lunus, the moon, has sometimes a man's face, with the crescent of the moon upon his head supporting a disk." Plutarch says the Egyptians "call the moon the mother of the world, and hold it to be of both sexes: female, as it receives the influence of the sun; male, as it scatters and disperses through the air the principles of fecundity." In other countries also the moon was held to be hermaphrodite. Another pair of dissimilar qualities was ascribed to the moon — the destructive and the generative faculty — whence it was worshipped as a bad as well as a good power. The Egyptians sacrificed to the moon when she was at the full. The victims offered to her were swine, which the Egyptians held to be impure animals, and were forbidden to offer them to any other deities but that planet and Bacchus. When they sacrificed to the moon, and had killed the victim, they put the end of the tail, with the spleen and fat, into the caul, and burned them on the sacred fire, and ate the rest of the flesh on the day of the new moon. Those whose poverty would not admit of the expense of this sacrifice moulded a bit of paste into the shape of a hog, and offered up that (Herodotus, 1:2). In India this goddess bore the name of Majra; among the Syrians, Mylitta; among the Phoenicians, Astarte or Ashtoreth; among the Greeks, Artemis; and among the Romans, Diana (see Bithr, Synbol. 1:436 sq., 478; 2:222, 232). In these nations, however, the moon was usually the representative of the benign or prolific power of nature. See Carpzov, Apparat. page 510; Frischmuth, De Melecheth Cceli (Jen. 1663); A. Calov, De Selenolatria (Vit. 1680). SEE ASTROLOGY.
In the Western world also the moon has been, and continues even now to be worshipped or superstitiously regarded. In Europe there are several countries in which untold superstitious acts are performed, depending upon the moon's rotation (see Brand, Popular Antiquities of Great Britain, Index in volume 3). In Great Britain and the Northern wilds the moon is placed highest in the scale of nature-worship. In America the wild man, like other heathen, both of civilized and barbarous races, has been long accustomed to the thought that all the heavenly bodies are possessed of animation, and even gifted with some measure of intelligence. To each, accordingly, has been ascribed an independent, vitalizing soul. The sun- god, for example, is the living sun itself, and worship is never paid to it symbolically, as if it were the representative of some invisible or absent spirit, but because it is an actual depository of the supersensuous, an embodiment of the divine. As the sun stands for the Creator, so the moon is connected, as in Babylonian mythology, with the thought of some evil principle. Says Miller (Anzerikanische Urreligionen), "The rude American was haunted by the thought of some co-equal and coordinate array of hostile deities, who manifested their malignant nature by creating discord, sickness, death, and every possible. form of evil. These were held in numerous cases to obey the leadership of the moon, which, owing to its changeful aspects, have become identical with the capricious. evil-minded spirit of American Indians" (page 53; comp. 170, 272; comp. also Brinton, Myths of the New World, pages 130-140). In Africa moon-worship prevails to a considerable extent, and is spoken of by Livingstone (Travels in South Africa, page 235).
4. In the figurative language of Scripture the moon is frequently noticed as presaging events of the greatest importance through the temporary or permanent withdrawal of its light (Isa 13:10; Joe 2:31; Mt 24:29; Mr 13:24): in these and similar passages we have an evident allusion to the mysterious awe with which eclipses were viewed by the Hebrews in common with other nations of antiquity (comp. Jer 13:16; Eze 32:7-8; Re 8:12). With regard to the symbolic meaning of the moon in Re 12:1, we have only to observe that the ordinary explanations, viz. the sublunary world, or the changeableness of its affairs, seem to derive no authority from the language of the O.T., or from the ideas of the Hebrews.