Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star
Who could forget God’s promises to the “father of the faithful?” Not only would God bless all nations through Abraham and give his descendants the land upon which Abraham’s feet had trod, but God also would cause Abraham’s descendants to multiply so that they would be as countless as the stars of the sky. In Genesis 15:5, we read God’s promise to His friend Abraham: “Then He [God] brought him outside and said, ‘Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.’ And He said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be.’ ” The prophet Jeremiah referred to a similar promise that God issued to David, in which He explained that the stars “cannot be numbered” (33:22). Indeed, that the stars are numberless comes as no surprise to those of us who have seen pictures taken from the Moon, or peered into other galaxies through million-dollar telescopes.
Yet, the idea that the stars could conceivably be counted remained firmly planted in the minds of some all the way up until the early 1900s. In chapter 12 of his exciting book, Why the Bible is Number One, Kenny Barfield catalogs a host of ancient, and not-so-ancient, personalities who attempted to count the stars. One such Greek astronomer, Hipparchus, almost two centuries before Christ, went on record in multiple ancient sources with figures anywhere from 800 to 1,080 for the total number of stars. Barfield sites other ancient writers such as Chang Hing, who put the number around 2,500 “not including those which the sailors observe.” The idea that the there existed a fairly small number of stars conceivably countable by humans was quite a prevalent notion.
It is humorous today to compare the actual estimated number of stars to those figures garnered from the ancients. With our modern knowledge we have estimated that there are over 25 sextillion stars (25 with 21 zeros after it)! Indeed, the Bible was correct when it commented that the stars “cannot be numbered.” And, even though the promises to Abraham and David were not uttered with scientific information as their primary concern, it is true that whenever the Bible speaks on such matters, it always is scientifically accurate. What else would we expect from the “Father of lights?”
Barfield, Kenny (1997), Why the Bible is Number 1 (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock).