The Stars of Abraham by Patrick Henry Reardon

The Stars of Abraham

Bible-readers do not have to advance very far into the text before they find the Lord's invitation and promise to Abraham: "Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them. . . . So shall your descendants be" (Gen. 15:5).

Now, most of us would agree, I believe, that this text refers to the numerous promised progeny of Abraham. The command to "count the stars" appears to imply as much.

Well, not so fast. The verb saphar does, indeed, mean "to count." The etymological root of the word, however, is richer and a tad more complicated. In its various forms and contexts, sphr can mean not only "to count," but also "to recount," or "to take account of," or "to make accounting of." That is to say, the purely numerical sense of the root rather quickly extends to forms of narrative and interpretation. The heavens, according to the Psalmist, declare (mesapharim, give an account of) the glory of God; the stars transcribe a story. Stars form the handwriting on the surface of the sky. They hang in the heavens in order to be read.

THIS ARTICLE ONLY AVAILABLE TO SUBSCRIBERS.
FOR QUICK ACCESS:


Patrick Henry Reardon is pastor emeritus of All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Church in Chicago, Illinois, and the author of numerous books, including, most recently, Out of Step with God: Orthodox Christian Reflections on the Book of Numbers (Ancient Faith Publishing, 2019).

Print &
Online Subscription

Get six issues (one year) of Touchstone PLUS full online access including pdf downloads for only $39.95. That's only $3.34 per month!

Online
Subscription

Get a one-year full-access subscription to the Touchstone online archives for only $19.95. That's only $1.66 per month!

bulk subscriptions

Order Touchstone subscriptions in bulk and save $10 per sub! Each subscription includes 6 issues of Touchstone plus full online access to touchstonemag.com—including archives, videos, and pdf downloads of recent issues for only $29.95 each! Great for churches or study groups.

Transactions will be processed on a secure server.


more from the online archives

24.1—January/February 2011

Secular Grendel

Ruminations on the Monstrous Envy of the Soul-Devouring State by Anthony Esolen

28.1—January/February 2015

Altered Matrimony

on State Impositions & Church Acquiescence by Stephen Baskerville

35.6—Nov/Dec 2022

To Is or Not To Is

on E-Prime by J. Douglas Johnson

calling all readers

Please Donate

"There are magazines worth reading but few worth saving . . . Touchstone is just such a magazine."
—Alice von Hildebrand

"Here we do not concede one square millimeter of territory to falsehood, folly, contemporary sentimentality, or fashion. We speak the truth, and let God be our judge. . . . Touchstone is the one committedly Christian conservative journal."
—Anthony Esolen, Touchstone senior editor

Support Touchstone

00