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  • Writer's picturekeithburwell

The Great American Eclipse and the Myth of the Substitute King

[Gen 1:14 ESV] 14 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, and for days and years…

The precision under which our solar system operates is also found in the words of King David- [Psa 19:1-3 ESV] 1 To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David. The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. 2 Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. 3 There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard.

For thousands of years we have been able to calculate, with precision, the timing of sky events. The ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Assyria kept records of the movement of planets, stars, and even eclipses. However, there was an ingrained mythology that would grip the people. The educated astrologers (think science- not New Age) would foretell these occurrences with enough advance notice that kings and courts could make decisions regarding agriculture, seasons, etc. However, there were also tightly held superstitions which caused mass hysteria, wars to stop and start, and thrones to change ownership.

Scientific Mythology

Hellenistic, Ugaritic, Assyrian, and Babylonian literature attest to varying beliefs to explain the phenomenon of solar eclipses- a dragon eating the Sun god, causing a celestial battle for prominence. Many in India even held the belief that the disembodied head of a demon was flying through the air and blocked out the sun.

Science- while precise in its measurements, still fell short of the cognitive dissonance at play, allowing people’s imaginations to hold sway and envision the “story” rather than just accept what their senses were telling them.

In many ways, we are like this today. While we see the scientific reasoning behind the ability to predict down to the second when an eclipse will occur over a certain city, we can still believe that the author and creator of that precision can have a “message” in these signs as well. [Gen 1:14 ESV] 14 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, and for days and years…

Quite frankly, it is more intellectually honest to say that if there is such absolute precision within a universe that is under the law of entropy, which says that disorder is inevitable (think about the final seconds of a spinning top), that the creator of the precision is most probably communicating a message with the timing and location. If we see such accuracy of movement continuously, then it logically stands to reason that certain “anomalies” or “events” would contain a message.

At the most basic level, is there a message given when the sun falls below the horizon? Yes! It is nighttime. The end of the day. It is a simple message but it has stayed consistent since the beginning of time. Even Jesus mentioned signs in the sky. [Mat 16:1-3 ESV] 1 And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. 2 He answered them, "When it is evening, you say, 'It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.' 3 And in the morning, 'It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.' You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.

Therefore, we can state that it is not an irrational behavior to question celestial events and their meaning while still understanding the science behind it. Nor is it forbidden astrology that leads us to horoscopes and tarot cards. Seeing that the sky has the ability to inform us and believing that a Creator has the ability to communicate through this method, we should find no issue in looking at celestial events with not only our eyes of understanding but our ears, as well, in order to hear what is being said to us.

Sky Events

Which brings us to the Great American Eclipse of 2017. We are 6 years removed from it now, but do you remember it? Did you observe it? I recall where I was. I was flying to Europe that afternoon and connecting in Atlanta. My layover, fortuitously, coincided with the timing of the eclipse over the airport. Even more amazing was the fact that this was my one and only layover I have ever spent in that particular terminal (having spent many a layover in Atlanta's other International terminal). This terminal contained a Delta lounge which had an OUTDOOR patio. (Have you ever heard of an outdoor patio at an airport?) Not only was I able to experience the eclipse from the ground within the continental US but I was able to be outside- despite my waiting for a flight. (these are the types of events one may look for a message in…)

It was an amazing sight. The actual covering up of the sun is one thing but the strange light it creates on the ground is disturbing to say the least. The rapid temperature drop and the absence of normal sounds combine to conduct an altogether eery symphony of the senses.

The moment is fleeting and as the environment returns to normalcy, people go on about their lives. Most place the event in their memory and move forward. However, I believe there is more to understand and that these events are “messages” that we should be paying attention to. Let me highlight a few…talking points.

This is a picture of the path of the eclipse in 2017. This was very unique in that it cut the country in half from one side to the other, going across the entirety of the contiguous US. Interestingly, the very first location which experienced the eclipse was Government Point, Oregon. The city which received the longest totality? Carbondale, Illinois- in an area on the southern part of the state affectionately called Little Egypt.

While I don’t believe that the good residents of Carbondale are holding back an entire people group like the Hebrews, I do find it interesting that one of the plagues which befell Pharoah and the Egyptians was the blotting out of the sun, showing them the futility of their sun-god Ra.

Possible Message #1 to the American people- Stop your worship of gods who are not gods.

Now, as they say, the plot thickens. This next map will show the paths of two eclipses- the 2017 eclipse and the upcoming eclipse of 2024.

Carbondale Illinois- they are getting a double shot of darkness. This city in the middle of America, in the heart of Little Egypt, is going to once again be covered in the eerie light shadows of a solar eclipse come April 2024.

This map raises a few questions regarding messages. The most significant possible message has to do with the X drawn so widely and perfectly across the entire country.

Possible Message #2 to the American people- I have marked you.

However- the possible reasons are the next question we need to ask.

1. Is it a mark for judgment? Is it to show the US that God has seen our sins, that He is no longer tolerating the abuse nor the unrighteousness associated with the institutions in place (political, religious, societal, etc.)?

  • Recall the writing on the wall of the great hall in Babylon which Daniel interpreted for Balshazzar, son of Nebuchadnezzar. Over a thousand people witnessed a disembodied hand writing on the wall, the words, Mene, Mene, Tekel, Parsin. This was Daniel’s response to the king. [Dan 5:22-31 ESV] 22 And you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this, 23 but you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven. And the vessels of his house have been brought in before you, and you and your lords, your wives, and your concubines have drunk wine from them. And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored. 24 "Then from his presence the hand was sent, and this writing was inscribed. 25 And this is the writing that was inscribed: Mene, Mene, Tekel, and Parsin. 26 This is the interpretation of the matter: Mene, God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; 27 Tekel, you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting; 28 Peres, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians." 29 Then Belshazzar gave the command, and Daniel was clothed with purple, a chain of gold was put around his neck, and a proclamation was made about him, that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom. 30 That very night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was killed. 31 And Darius the Mede received the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old.

2. Is the mark a locator of sorts (or rather a warning sign)?

  • One cannot escape the fact that a mere 60 miles separates Carbondale from a proven mega-earthquake fault in New Madrid, a fault that has potential for magnitude 7-8?

3. Is it a mark that indicates the eliminating of the hand of blessing that has been on America since its founding?

4. Is it a mark of protection for those who are appalled at the evil and lawlessness in every area like in Ezekiel 9:4?

  • [Eze 9:4-6 ESV] 4 And the LORD said to him, "Pass through the city, through Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in it." 5 And to the others he said in my hearing, "Pass through the city after him, and strike. Your eye shall not spare, and you shall show no pity. 6 Kill old men outright, young men and maidens, little children and women, but touch no one on whom is the mark. And begin at my sanctuary." So they began with the elders who were before the house.

  • The word used for mark in Ezekiel 9 is "tav" made of the letters tav and vav. Note the judgment was to take place in the sanctuary first.

photo credit:

5. Is it a sign of division?

  • Dividing people from their time-wasting habits and bad influences. How many pastimes and hobbies have been given up since 2017? I constantly hear about people who one day decided to give up Hollywood movies, or give up TV, or Sports. How many people just got completely off social media? There was a sense of dividing people apart from the things which got in the way of their relationship with God.

  • Dividing people from others in every way possible. Our nation is so divided on every issue. The presidency, the virus, the vax, the police, the gay agenda, public education, gender. We don’t even agree on the proper use of pronouns anymore- that’s how divided we are!

6. Is it a sign of testing?

  • This question opens a few paths we need to go down.

The Testing of America

The eclipse of 2017 was a blip on the radar but think about all that has happened since that time. How many times have you heard people say since then- “the world has gone crazy.” “America is completely upside down.” Look at the list of events below that prior to 2017 would have felt as if they were impossible to occur. Whether you are for or against any of these events or activities is not the point, the fact that the American public experienced them is what never seemed possible prior to 2017.

· Las Vegas Mass Shooting

· Riots all over the entire country pitting race vs. race with people dying in the streets

· A sitting president impeached twice

· A virus leaked out of a lab that stopped the entire world

· A forced masking policy on every man woman and child

· A forced vaccination policy, causing people to lose friends, family, and careers

· Empty highways during rush hour because every person was sitting at home

· Transvestite stripper shows in elementary schools

· Elementary age transvestite strippers

· Gender reassignment funding by employers and government

· The overturning of Roe v Wade

· The collapse of American media

· A national election in disarray

· Right or wrong, a proven governmental muting of an entire political viewpoint from social media with the intent to sway an election

· A protest at the nation’s capitol which resulted in arrests, solitary confinement, and national controversy on motives and conspirators.

· An Arch of Baal placed in Washington DC and New York City

· Football games being played in empty stadiums

· Churches closing their doors on a Sunday morning

· Athletes dying on fields during gameplay

· …The list could go on.

What if the gap between 2017 and 2024 is a testing period wherein God allowed the country to become what it chooses? As a parent, have you ever allowed your children to take something further than it should have gone in order to prove a point to them? Is America being allowed to show its worst version of itself so that we choose to make a change? Is there a bigger divide coming in 2024 if we don’t fix our issues?

The Substitute King

photo credit: original by author

An ancient ritual associated with eclipses from the Assyrian, Babylonian, and Ugaritic writings (at minimum) tell of a scheme performed each time there was an eclipse known about in advance. As mentioned above, scientists of that day (astrologers) understood the movements and could predict with regularity the days in which the celestial events would happen. All of these ancient cultures- Assyrian, Babylonian, and Persian would replace the king with an imposter. They would bring someone in that was either a person of no reputation, or sometimes it would be a rival, or even a member of the court that they wanted to get rid of, or someone in prison already. This fake king would take on the look and duties of the actual king. He would not be given rights to change the governmental policies but he would act as the royal head of the land. He would be allowed a large court and even to entertain with banquets each night for sometimes 100 days. The actual king would be protected away from the seat of government. The real king’s advisors would call the real king the peasant or even the farmer while hidden away. All of this was done because there was a belief that eclipses portended bad omens upon the king and his land. They thought that whomever was king at the time of the sky event, evil would be done to the person and so they would remove the real, install the fake, and let the malevolent forces come upon the fake, sparing the real.

But That's Not Biblical, So What Does it Matter?

Not so fast. What if I could show you, in Scripture, a person of lowly stature, who is brought before the ruler, made to be King by someone else's words, is dressed in royal attire, hailed as a king, only to quickly die, taking on themself all of the guilt of the kingdom and incurring the celestial wrath that came at the same time as a solar eclipse? Let me see if I can find something that lines up with that...

Here are just a few comparisons made between Jesus and a Substitute King.

info credit: Ezekiel to Jesus by Preston Kavanagh & Simo Parpola

"Keith- Are you saying that God copied Mesopotamian rituals to deliver Jesus up to death on the cross?"

No. What I am saying is that He used an existing motif so that people in the culture could understand in context the significance of the Messiah dying on the cross as "one who knew no sin, becoming sin" for the redemption of all. And He incorporated it within the existing and prevailing beliefs surrounding solar eclipses. So do signs in the heavens matter? Yes.

Is There a Substitute King Today?

I have to highlight the astounding similarities to our present-day scenario. Again- it doesn’t matter which side of the aisle/ fence/ spectrum you are looking from, one of the following storylines applies to your belief system in some manner.

· Story #1- Joe Biden is the real king (president). He is in charge of the government and the military and Donald Trump is the fake king trying to act as though he is the real head of the government. The substitute tries to scream loud to ensure people know he is the REAL king.

· Story #2- Obama is the real king (president) and Biden is the fake king (president). Biden was placed by Obama into office to take the punishment of the current social unrest over the government. Obama enacts his policies while Biden takes the blame. The sky event has its wrath upon the substitute- in this scenario, Biden.

· Story #3- Trump is the real king (president) and Biden is the substitute. Biden, against his will, was setup to take the punishment of a divided America. His policies are not real and lasting- made up only for the sake of optics. The real king- Trump- is managing policy behind the scenes.

We can all say that two of those stories are just CRAZY talk, but it’s likely that at least ONE of them resonated with each reader. The fact that any one of these scenarios is plausible says a lot about why people think this country is in uncharted waters.

Seeing the Big Picture

We are living through a period of time where two GREAT eclipses are bookending a 7 year period (don’t go prophetic on the 7 year timeframe- move along. Nothing to see there. Stay focused.) We have major societal unrest, all while under the motif of a substitute king, just as in the days of Ancient Near East civilizations. What we then need to evaluate from this is, what is the message?

Don't forget that Corona=Crown

Another scenario fitting the “fake king” motif centers on the pandemic. As we sit 3 years after the initial outbreak, opinions are still varied on every aspect of it. Were deaths the result of Covid or existing factors? Did the vaccine save lives or did it cost lives? Was the outbreak worthy of the response? The virus itself is shaped as a crown, hence the name coronavirus. Was the virus a fake king propped up fitting this motif? Or Dr. Fauci- who became, again, for right or wrong, the most powerful man in America, letting people know if they could or could not celebrate holidays or even embrace their loved ones prior to death. Was he the substitute king installed, the scapegoat to take the wrath that was supposed to be for the real king?

Below is a quote from the Venerable Bede, a scholar in the early Middle Ages. He was an Anglo-Saxon monk who lived in Northumbria in the late seventh and early eighth centuries. In chapter 25 of his scientific treatise, De natura rerum (On the Nature of Things) , he describes comets as “stars with flames like hair. They are born suddenly, portending a change of royal power or plague or wars or winds or heat."

It's possible that these celestial events are just part of an understood cycle of movements within the heavens and nothing more. Maybe we are to simply look up to the sky in amazement for these brief intervals and admire the wonder of our place in the universe. However, I can't help but think that God had more in mind when He set the bodies in motion. Just like "Red skies at night, sailors delight," one can simply admire a beautiful sunset and move on. Or you can prepare for a great day of sailing tomorrow. Your mileage may vary, as they say.

Oh. One last thing. Did I mention the headlines on the exact day halfway between August 21, 2017 and April 8, 2024? (2,423 days between the dates making 1,211 days the halfway point. Adding 1,211 days to August 8, 2017 gives you December 14, 2020.)

  • Joe Biden certified by Electoral College as the President

  • Coronavirus Vaccinations begin

  • And... the only solar eclipse of 2020 just happened to be that day as well.

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