A Quiz about Stars and the Bible

Did you know that the Bible has a lot to say about the stars? Here are a few questions. Choose your answers, and then read about the details below. Hint: You can choose more than one answer per question.

1. According to the Bible, how many stars are in the sky?
a. 1,000
b. 9,000
c. Several sextillion (a sextillion is a billion trillions)
d. The Bible doesn't say

2. What purpose does the Bible ascribe to the stars?
a. To proclaim God's glory and demonstrate God's handiwork
b. To praise God
c. To serve as signs and mark the seasons
d. To rule over the night and give light

3. What constellations, stars, or star patterns are mentioned most often in the Bible?
a. Orion
b. Pleiades
c. The Bear
d. The Mazzaroth

Ready for the answers?

1. The correct answer is d; c is also close enough for credit.

The Bible doesn't exactly say how many stars exist. In Genesis 15:5, God challenges Abram to count the stars if he can, and Psalm 147:4 claims that God numbers the stars and gives them names. Neither verse offers a total, however. So how many are there? The Bible doesn't use the terms billion, trillion, or sextillion, but it does seem to compare the number of stars approximately to the number of grains of sand on the seashore (for example, Genesis 22:17 and Hebrews 11:12). "Are There More Grains of Sand Than Stars?" an article written for Universe Today by Fraser Cain, reports on current mathematical estimates. For the number of stars, estimates range from 10 to 200 sextillion. For the number of gains of sand on the seashore, the estimates range from 2.5 to 10 sextillion. So, although the Bible doesn't directly report the number of stars, an argument could be made that it implies a total of several sextillion.

Answers a and b offered plausible—but incorrect—guesses. A thousand is an auspicious number that shows up frequently in the Bible. For example, Psalm 50:10 mentions cattle on 1,000 hills. Psalm 90:4 and 2 Peter 3:8 both compare 1,000 years to a day. But, although the number is common, it isn't used in the context of stars. The Bible also doesn't mention 9,000 stars. Nevertheless, that's pretty close to the number of individual stars that can be seen in the night sky with the unaided eye. The Bright Star Catalog, originally prepared by Yale University, lists 9,096 stars with a magnitude of 6.5 or brighter. To see anything dimmer, you need binoculars or a telescope.

2. All of the answers are correct.

Psalm 19:1 affirms answer a: "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork" (ESV).

Answer b is announced in Psalm 148:3: "Praise him, sun and moon, praise him all you shining stars!" (ESV).

The creation story as recorded in the first chapter of Genesis affirms answer c: "And God said, Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons" (Genesis 1:14 ESV).

Answer d includes information from two different references. According to the psalmist, God made "the moon and stars to rule over the night," (Psalm 136:9 ESV), and according to the book of Jeremiah the Lord "gives the sun for light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night" (Jeremiah 31:35 ESV)

*The scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

3. The correct answer is a tie between a and b.

a and b: Orion and the Pleiades are each mentioned three times in the Bible, twice in Job (Job 9:9 and Job 38:31–32) and once in Amos (Amos 5:8).

c: The two passages already cited from the book of Job (above) also mention the Bear. Although modern readers may assume this is a reference to Ursa Major (the constellation more commonly known as the Big Bear; the Big Dipper comprises a piece of it), Biblical scholars more frequently recognize it as a reference to a single star. Some identify that star as Arcturus. If you find the Big Dipper in the sky, and follow the arc of its handle, the next bright star you come upon is Arcturus. The star's name is formed from two Greek root words: arktos, which means "bear" and ouros, which means "guardian." Others identify the Bear as Aldebaran, a star in the constellation Taurus (the Bull). Aldebaran serves as the eye of the bull upon whose shoulders the Pleiades ride.

d. The Mazzaroth is mentioned only once (Job 38:32). The term may be an ancient Hebrew designation for the set of zodiacal constellations that slowly progress across the night sky as the seasons change, or it may simply refer to the constellations in general.

How did you do? Use the comments to let us know!

This quiz originally appeared in the June 2015 issue of Observations: A Pier Press® Newsletter. If you're not already a subscriber, click here to sign up. It's free.