On August 21, 2017, a total solar eclipse will be visible across the United States. This event has received a lot of media buzz as of late because of just how rare a full solar eclipse is. A full solar eclipse hasn’t been visible from the continental US in 38 years. It is being called the Great American Eclipse by some, because the path of the eclipse will span from one side of our country to the other—all the way from Oregon to South Carolina. This eclipse is a big deal for our entire nation. Even if you do not live in the path of total eclipse, a partial eclipse of the sun will be visible from any location in the continental USA.
The eclipse hits especially close to home for me because I live only about half an hour from Carbondale, IL, the place where the eclipse duration will be the longest. Carbondale/Makanda is such a sweet spot for the eclipse that NASA is setting up observation equipment in the football stadium of Southern Illinois University. Carbondale, a city of about 25,000 already, is expected to have anywhere from 100,000 to 200,000 extra people in it to watch the eclipse. But these numbers are only a guess: we have never had to prepare for an event and an influx like this, and around here the tension is growing. If the eclipse is national, the connection to my region—my back yard—is intimately local.
As the eclipse approaches I have been doing some study about solar eclipses and other astronomical phenomena in general. I have learned several interesting tidbits, and of course I have been studying the Bible to see what it has to say about eclipses. I want to present some of that information for my readers here. This post will mostly be interesting miscellanea. I will write another blog post soon about the prophetic importance of astronomical occurrences, and God’s use of the sun, moon, and stars. For right now, though, I want to only focus on some particulars about the August 2017 eclipse.
A solar eclipse occurs whenever the moon comes in between the earth and the sun. The moon blocks the light of the sun, casting a shadow on the earth.
Depending on where you are, you may not experience a total eclipse. In order to experience a full eclipse there must be a (basically) straight line between where you are, the moon, and the sun. Only those under the umbra (direct shadow) will experience a total eclipse of the sun; those in the penumbra (indirect shadow) will experience a partial eclipse (the sun will appear to have a “bite” taken from it).
Eclipses rise backward. We are used to seeing our sun rise in the east and set in the west, but because of how the moon rotates around the earth eclipses appear to rise in the west and set in the east. This means that the eclipse will first be visible in the early morning from Oregon on the west coast.
During an eclipse nature will definitely respond. It is not uncommon for there to be a 20° temperature drop during the time of the eclipse. Birds will often quit singing and nature will develop an eery hush. If the eclipse is strong enough some bright stars may be visible as the sky turns the shade of night. All of these things are common to total eclipses, and are expected for the August 2017 eclipse.
This eclipse isn’t the only crazy thing that has been happening in the skies within a relatively short period of time. In 2014-2015 four blood moons coincided with four Biblical/Jewish holy days. This has only happened seven times since 1AD. In November 2016 the planet Jupiter entered the constellation Virgo and (because of retrograde motion) has remained there for 9.5 months; Jupiter will exit Virgo in September 2017, when some other unusual things will occur with the constellation. I will explain why this is noteworthy in another post. Now, in August 2017 we will be experiencing a total solar eclipse across the entire United States. A total solar eclipse has not been visible from America at all in the last 38 years, and it has been nearly 100 years since a total solar eclipse crossed the nation. With odds like this, it is astounding that all of these astronomical events occur in a relatively short time.
What is perhaps most noteworthy, though, is the second total solar eclipse that will be occurring across America about seven years from this one. It will come from the opposite angle as the one in August 2017, and their paths will cross in Makanda, IL (about 45 minutes from my front door). Normally eclipses will share a cross-point like this about every 375 years: we are getting it in less than a decade. As an an interesting tidbit, the first major city that the August 2017 eclipse will cross is Salem, Oregon; and the closest street to the coordinates where the two eclipse paths cross is Salem Road in Makanda.
Of all the places that these two eclipses could have crossed, it has to be right over Southern Illinois—not far from the New Madrid fault line, the biggest fault line in the US. Blood moons, odd constellation configurations, two eclipses crossing right over a major fault line, all of this taking place in the span of 10 years (from the start of the blood moon cycle to the second eclipse): this is enough to make me think about Jesus’ statements in the gospels about the sun and moon being darkened and earthquakes in diverse places (Matthew 24:29, 7).
The timing of this eclipse is also providential. This eclipse is exactly 40 days before The Day of Atonement. The Day of Atonement was a day when the entire nation of Israel was supposed to atone or deal with their sins before God. Special sacrifices would be made, and the high priest would lay his hands on the head of the sacrifice and confess the sins of the nation over the sacrifice. The Day of Atonement was a time of national confession, repentance, and cleansing.
In the Jewish faith, 40 days before the Day of Atonement starts a time called the Season of Teshuvah, in which everyone is supposed to get right with God before the Day of Atonement. The number 40 itself is interesting, because it often represents a time of testing in the Bible. The Israelites left Egypt with Moses and were in the wilderness 40 years. Jesus was tempted by the devil in the wilderness for 40 days. When Noah was in the ark it rained 40 days and 40 nights. Is this eclipse supposed to be a sign of testing, preparing America for a season of repentance and national confession? I believe it may be. The fact that a black sun will rise on America on August 21st, 2017, the fact that an astronomical X is being drawn over our nation, is enough to fill anyone with foreboding. I hope we use this time wisely to draw closer to God.
In summary, and without trying to state the obvious, this eclipse is a big deal. I believe that it has prophetic implications for our nation, and that a great season of spiritual awakening can come from this time. As the eclipse approaches—and more importantly, after it passes—we need to draw closer to God and prepare for what portends after our day of darkened sun.
*Correction: In an earlier form of this article I stated that Oregon would witness a dark sunrise (or in other words, that the sun would already be in eclipse by the time that the sun rose in the morning). This was incorrect, and a misunderstanding on my part. I have corrected this error.