HOST OF HEAVEN ():
By: Emil G. Hirsch
Term occurring several times in the Bible, but not always with a definite meaning. The word "ẓaba" usually designates an army, and thus connotes a vast body of organized and officered men; it conveys, however, also the meaning of a numerous throng actually engaged in warfare. The singular "ẓaba" has a different meaning from the plural as used in the expression "
The "host of heaven" is mentioned as the recipient of idolatrous veneration (Deut. iv. 19, xvii. 3; II Kings xvii. 16, xxi. 3, 5; xxiii. 4; Jer. viii. 2, xix. 13; Zeph. i. 5). The express mention of sun, moon, and stars as forming the "host of heaven" in this connection leaves no doubt that astral bodies and their cult are referred to. Sidereal worship was practised among the Canaanites, as many old names of cities (e.g., Jericho = "moon city") indicate, and the astral character of the Assyro-Babylonian religion is well authenticated. The cult of the "host of heaven" was in favor among the Hebrews, but whether in imitation of the customs of their neighbors or as expressing their own original polytheistic religion (as suggested by Hommel) remains a matter for conjecture. Certain kings are mentioned as especially devoted to this form of idolatry (e.g., Manasseh and Ahaz; II Kings xxiii. 3, 5, 12). It is an open question whether (Jer. vii. 18, xliv. 17-19, 25) should be read "queen of heaven" or "kingdom of heaven." If the latter reading be accepted, "host of heaven" is synonymous; and even if the pointing indicating "queen of heaven" is preferred, the phrase throws light on the connotations of the other phrase (Stade's "Zeitschrift," vi. 123 et seq., 289 et seq.; Schrader "Sitzungsberichte der Berliner Akademie," 1886, pp. 477-491; "Zeit, für Assyr." iii. 353-364, iv. 74-76).
Connected with this meaning as the gathering or muster of the stars, to which, singly or collectively, divine honors are paid, is the implication of the phrase in other passages, in which it has been held to designate "angels" (I Kings xxii. 19; II Chron. xviii. 18). The great stars ( = gods; e.g., Ishtar) "muster" their retinue of smaller stars, who attend them. This passes over naturally into the phraseology of the purer and later
- Smend, Alttest.Religionsgesch. Index;
- Ewald, Die Lehre von Gott, Index;
- Stade, Gesch. des Volkes Israel, ii. 236-238;
- Montefiore, Hibbert Lectures, p. 425, London, 1892;
- Baudissin, Studien, Leipsic, 1876.