The “Great American Eclipse” came and went on August 21st. My family hosted company from out of town to come up and see the total eclipse with us, and it was a magnificent time. The sight was spectacular, breathtakingly beautiful. I was even able to get a few photos of the eclipse during totality.
From where we viewed the eclipse in Murphysboro, IL, the time of totality was about two minutes and thirty-seven seconds long. Before and after that, the sun was going through crescent stages. But even the smallest crescent stage couldn’t be viewed with the naked eye; only during totality could you look directly at the sun safely with no eye protection.
I was able to get a pretty good shot of the sun during totality. It isn’t the best, but it will do for a phone camera. Keep in mind, though, that the sky was not pitch black at totality. The sky had a late evening/dusky feel to it.
As I said, the effect was absolutely breathtaking; a sheer marvel of God’s creation. The beauty of the eclipse cannot be overstated.
A total eclipse has not completely crossed America in just under a century. The last total eclipse to be visible at all from the US happened almost forty years ago. Now we are getting two total eclipses in less than a decade. What is more, the timing of these eclipses in relation to one another, and particularly the timing of the August 21st 2017 eclipse, potentially have prophetic significance.
First of all, the two eclipses (whose paths of totality intersect over the heartland of our nation) are occurring seven years apart from one another. Never mind that two eclipses share a point of totality only about every 360 years. The Bible student’s ears should perk right up when they hear that these two eclipses occur seven years apart from one another.
Seven is a very important number in the scriptures. When God created the world he did it in seven days (Genesis 2:1-2). When God gave the Ten Commandments, he required that his people rest on the seventh day (Exodus 16:26). When Jehovah instituted Passover, Israel was commanded to eat unleavened bread for seven days (Exodus 12:15-16). The nation of Israel was only allowed to employ slaves for six years; in the seventh year they had to let the slave go (Exodus 21:1-2). The ancient Jews were only allowed to plant crops on their land for six years; the seventh year the ground was not planted so that the land could rest (Exodus 23:11).
There are vastly more examples of the numerical significance of seven in the Bible, but I think you get my point. In the Bible the number seven implies finality or completion. This makes me wonder what the Lord is trying to bring to completion in America during the seven years between these eclipses.
But that is not where it stops. The August 21st eclipse occurred exactly forty days before the Day of Atonement, a day of national repentance for Israel in the Bible. People familiar with Biblical number schemes will also know that forty is an important number. When Noah was in the ark it rained for forty days and forty nights (Genesis 7:4). When Moses received God’s law he was on Mt Sinai for forty days and forty nights (Exodus 24:18). The children of Israel wandered in the wilderness for forty years after they came out of Egypt (Numbers 14:33). Jesus was tempted by the devil in the wilderness for forty days (Luke 4:1-2).
As I mentioned before, the number seven implies completion in the Bible. But the number forty has a much more nuanced meaning. Ultimately, the number forty can imply one of three main things: testing, judgement, or mercy.
Whenever Jesus was in the wilderness for forty days he was being tempted by the devil. He was undergoing a time of testing, resisting the sin that the devil was offering. When God made Israel wander in the wilderness for forty years, the Bible says that he did this “to prove [Israel], to know what was in [their] heart” (Deuteronomy 8:2). Israel was being tested by God for those forty years. This August 21st eclipse happened exactly forty days before a Biblical day of national repentance. Is God putting America through a time of testing, to see if they will repent and turn to him?
Forty in the Bible also, unfortunately, implies a time of judgement. Israel had to wander in the wilderness for forty years after leaving Egypt because Jehovah was angry with Israel’s sinfulness (Numbers 32:13). God destroyed the world with a forty-day/forty-night flood because of the sinfulness of humanity. When Israel refused to obey God’s law, he allowed the Philistines to control their land for forty years (Judges 13:1). In the Bible the number forty is clearly aligned with judgement for those who refuse to repent. Is God warning America that we need to humble ourselves before God is forced to judge our sinfulness?
But, thankfully, the number forty also implies mercy. Jonah told Nineveh that they would be destroyed in forty days (3:4). But when the city repented and humbled themselves before God, he did not destroy them (3:10). That same principle applies to America today. If we will turn to God in repentance he will forgive us. Interestingly enough, shortly before Jonah came to Nineveh there was a large solar eclipse—one of the longest in history (the Bur-Sagale eclipse in June 763BC). Having just seen a large solar eclipse, Nineveh’s heart was softened to repent at the preaching of Jonah. I hope the heart of America is likewise softened and that we repent and receive mercy.
The timing of this eclipse sequence portends great things for America. The seven year interval between eclipses implies that something will be brought to completion. But what will be brought to completion? Will it be a time of testing for America? Heaven forbid, a season of judgement? Hopefully, a season of mercy? All of these things are possibilities. One thing is certain; the timing of these eclipses is not accidental, and America needs to use this time as a season of repentance like the Day of Atonement at the end of the forty days implies.
A final note. The number forty can also imply a magnificent encounter with God. When Moses went on Mt Sinai he was in the glorious presence of Jehovah for forty days. While there Moses received God’s law. Moses became so imbued with God’s presence that his face glowed when he came down from the mount. I pray that this is what happens for America. I hope that this eclipse ushers in a time of revival for the church where God’s glory is more active than it has ever been before. I pray that America once again receives God’s law and becomes imbued with his glory. Help me pray that this will be the case.