Sun (prop. שֶׁמֶשׁ, shemesh; ἣλιος). In the history of the creation the sun is described as the "greater light," in contradistinction to the moon, or "lesser light," in conjunction with which it was to serve "for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and for years," while its special office was "to rule the day" (Ge 1:14-16). The "signs" referred to were probably such extraordinary phenomena as eclipses, which were regarded as conveying premonitions of coming events (Jer 10:2; Mt 24:29, with Lu 21:25). The joint influence assigned to the sun and moon in deciding the "seasons," both for agricultural operations and for religious festivals, and also in regulating the length' and subdivisions of the "years," correctly describes the combination of the lunar and solar year, which prevailed, at all events, subsequently to the Mosaic period-the moon being the measurer (κατ᾿ ἐξοχήν) of the lapse of time by the subdivisions of months and weeks, while the sun was the ultimate regulator of the length of the year by means of the recurrence of the feast of. Pentecost at a fixed agricultural season, viz. when the corn became ripe. The sun "ruled the day" alone, sharing the dominion of the skies with the moon, the brilliancy and utility of which for journeys and other purposes enhances its value in Eastern countries. It "ruled the day," not only in reference to its powerful influences, but also as deciding the length of the day and supplying the means of calculating its progress. Sunrise and sunset are the only defined points of time, in the absence of artificial contrivances for telling the hour of the day; and, as these points are less variable in the latitude of Palestine than in many countries, they served the purpose of marking the commencement and conclusion of the working-day. Between these two points the Jews recognized three periods, viz. when the sun became hot, about 9 A.M. (1Sa 11:9; Ne 7:3); the double light, or noon (Ge 43:16; 2Sa 4:5); and "the cool of the day," shortly before sunset (Ge 3:8). The sun also served to fix the quarters of the hemisphere-east, west, north, and south-which were represented respectively by the risings sun, the setting sun (Isa 45:6; Ps 1:1), the dark quarter (Ge 13:14; Joe 2:20), and the brilliant quarter (De 33:23; Job 37:17; Eze 40:24); or otherwise by their position relative to a person facing the rising sun- before, behind, on the left hand, and on the right hand (Job 23:8-9). The apparent motion of the sun is frequently referred to in terms that would imply its reality (Jos 10:13; 2Ki 20:11; Ps 19:6; Ec 1:5; Hab 3:11). The ordinary name for the sun, shemesh, is supposed to refer to the extreme brilliancy of its rays, producing stupor or astonishment in the mind of the beholder; the poetical names חִמָּה, chammah (Job 30:28; Song 6:10; Isa 30:26), and חֶרֶס, chires (Jg 14:18; Job 9:7) have reference to its heat, the beneficial effects of which are duly commemorated (De 33:14; Ps 19:6) as well as its baneful influence when in excess (Ps 121:6; Isa 49:10; Jon 4:8; Ecclus. 43, 3, 4). The vigor with which the sun traverses the heavens is compared to that of a "bridegroom coming out of his chamber," and of a "giant rejoicing to run his course" (Ps 19:5). The speed with which the beams of the rising sun dart across the sky is expressed in the term "wings" applied to them (Ps 139:9; Mal 4:2).
The worship of the sun as the most prominent and powerful agent in the kingdom of nature was widely diffused throughout the countries adjacent to Palestine. The Arabians appear to have paid direct worship to it without the intervention of any statue or symbol (Job 31:26-27; Strabo, 16. 784), and this simple style of worship was probably familiar to the ancestors of the Jews in Chaldea and Mesopotamia. In Egypt the sun was worshipped under the title of Ri or Ra, and not, as was supposed by ancient writers, under the form of Osiris (Diod. Sic. 1, 11; see Wilkinson, Anc. Egypt. 4:289). The name came conspicuously forward as the title of the kings-Pharaoh, or rather Phra, meaning "the sun" (Wilkinson, Anc. Egypt. 4:287). The Hebrews must have been well acquainted with the idolatrous worship of the sun during the captivity in Egypt both from the contiguity of On, the chief seat of the worship of the sun as implied in the name itself (On= the Hebrew Bethshemesh, "house of the sun," Jer 43:13), and also from the connection between Joseph and Poti-pherah ("he who belongs to Ra"), the priest of On (Ge 41:45). After their removal to Canaan, the Hebrews came in contact with various forms of idolatry which originated in the worship of the sun-such as the Baal of the Phoenicians (Movers, Phon. 1, 180), the Molech or Milcom of the Ammonites, and the Hadad of the Syrians (Pliny, 37:71). These idols were, with the exception of the last, introduced into the Hebrew commonwealth at various periods (Jg 2; Jg 11; 1Ki 11:5); but it does not follow that the object symbolized lb them was known to the Jews themselves. If we have any notice at all of conscious sun-worship in the early stages of their history, it exists in the doubtful term חִמָּנַים, chammanim (Le 26:30; Isa 17:8, etc.), which was itself significant of the sun, and probably described the stone pillars or statues under which the solar Baal (Baal-Haman of the Punic inscriptions, Gesenius, Thesaur. 1, 489) was worshipped at Baal-Hamon (Song 8:11) and other places. Pure sun-worship appears to have been introduced by the Assyrians, and to have become formally established by Manasseh (2Ki 21:3,5), in contravention of the prohibitions of Moses (De 4:19; De 17:3). Whether the practice was borrowed from the Sepharvites of Samaria (2Ki 17:31), whose gods Adrammelech and Anammelech are supposed to represent the male and female sun, and whose original residence (the Heliopolis of Berosus) 'was the chief seat of the worship of the sun in Babylonia (Rawlinson, Herod. 1, 611), or whether the kings of Judah drew their model of worship more immediately from the East, is uncertain. The dedication of chariots and horses to the sun (2Ki 23:11) was perhaps borrowed from the Persians (Herod. 1, 189; Curt. 3, 3, 11; Xenoph. Cyrop. 8:3, 24), who honored the sun under the form of Mithras (Strabo, 15:732). At the same time it should be observed that the horse was connected with the worship of the sun in other countries, as among the Massagetse (Herod. 1, 216) and the Armenians (Xenoph. Anab. 4:5, 35), both of whom used it as a sacrifice. To judge from the few notices we have on the subject in the Bible, we should conclude that the Jews derived their mode of worshipping the sun from several quarters. The practice of burning incense on the house-tops (2Ki 23:5,12; Jer 19:13; Zep 1:5) might have been borrowed from the Arabians (Strabo, 16:784), as also the simple act of adoration directed towards the rising sun (Eze 8:16;
comp. Job 31:27). On the other hand, the use of the chariots and horses in the processions on festival days came, as we have observed, from Persia; and so also the custom of "putting the branch to the nose" (Eze 8:17) according to the generally received explanation which- identifies it with the Persian practice of holding in the left hand a bundle of twigs called Bersam while worshipping the sun (Strabo, 15:733; Hyde, Rel. Pers. p. 345). This, however, is very doubtful, the expression being otherwise understood of "putting the knife to the nose," i.e. producing self-mutilation (Hitzig, On Ezekiel). An objection lies against the former view from the fact that the Persians are not said to have held the branch to the nose. The importance attached to the worship of the sun by the Jewish, kings may be inferred from the fact that the horses were stalled within the precincts of the temple (the term פִּרוָר, parvâr, meaning not "suburb," as in the A.V., but either a portico or an outbuilding of the Temple). They were removed thence by Josiah (2Ki 23:11). SEE SUN, WORSHIP OF. In the metaphorical language of Scripture, the sun is emblematic of the law of God (Ps 19:7), of the cheering presence of God (Ps 84:2), of the person of the Savior (Joh 1:9; Mal 4:2), and of' the glory and purity of heavenly beings (Re 1:16; Re 10:1; Re 12:1).
See Meiner, Gesch. der Relig. 1, 387 sq.; Nork, Ueb. d. Sonnencultus d. alt. Volker (Heilbronn, 1840); Pococke, Spec. Hist. Arab. p. 5, 150; Jablonski, Opusc. 1, 187 sq.; Doughtsei Analect. 1, 189; Hyde, Rel. Vett. Persarum, p. 206 sq.; Eichhorn, De Sole Invicto Mithra, in the Comment. Soc. Götting. 3, 153 sq.; Creuzer, Symbol. 1, 738 sq.; 4:409 sq.; Bochart, Hieroz. 1, 141 sq.; Rosenmüller, Morgenl. 3, 249 sq.; Bose, De Josia Quadrigas Solis Removente (Lips. 1741); Pocarus, De Simulacris Solaribus Israelitarum (Jen. 1725).; Gesenius, Monumen. Phonic. 2, 349.