in our e-book Cherubwheels by H. Peter Aleff
The northern night sky on an ivory cherub
and the spirit in its wheels
1.9. Lightning flashes from Cherub wings
A comparison between the Cherub chart and Ezekiel’s report invites another context- fitting conjecture: Richard Hinckley Allen cited a century ago in his book on “Star Names” that a prior writer considered Zeta Draconis as the radiant point of the meteor streams42 on January 19 and March 28.
These meteor streams are now so weak that they are no longer listed among even the “minor events of special interest” that produce at best five or less streaks per hour43. However, it could well be that in Ezekiel’s time, some 2600 years ago, the Zeta Draconis meteors may have produced a much more dramatic sight than they do now, and that Ezekiel may have described their flashes darting from their radiant center in the top wing of the Cherub when he said the cloud from the north around the cherubim of his vision had
This matches modern reports about meteor showers. Most meteor showers are caused by the dust and debris a comet leaves in its orbital path when the sun boils the surface layers off that “dirty snowball” and so creates the typical comet’s two tails, one of dust and one of gas plasma.
Each time the orbit of earth carries us through such a lane of lost dust, our planet attracts the nearby particles like moths to a flame and then burns them up with friction as they rush through its air. A piece as small as a sand grain will trace a brightly visible streak, and some of the more impressive meteor showers can be like plunging into a sandstorm that also blows pebbles and small rocks at us.
Here is, for instance, an account of a particularly vivid performance by the Leonid meteor storm which is the wake of comet Tempel- Tuttle and peaks every 33 years, the orbital period of that comet:
“The early morning hours of November 13, 1833, brought up to 150,000 “flaming stars” per hour to the eastern half of the United States. Flashes as bright as “a streaking full moon” stirred many from their beds. Awestruck and frightened citizens gathered in the streets to watch the show. The absence of electric lights and the moon (a waxing crescent only two days old) made the display even more spectacular.
Meteors and meteor showers have long played an important role in cultural history: The 1833 event is credited, in part, with instigating religious revivals of the time.”44
Scenes of this splendor are rare. They are most likely to occur when a comet is a relatively new visitor to the inner solar system. The dust trail behind such a still unshorn “hairy star”45 is densest during its first few close passes around the sun. Once its most volatile surface components are gone, the comet settles into a routine commute that consumes its substance more slowly, at a rate of roughly one per cent of its mass during each passage46.
The ancient dates of the annually repeating meteor showers would have differed a little from the modern ones because the orbits of comets are subject to small changes from pass to pass. Planets and other masses plus sundry non- gravitational forces tug at them in ever varying ways during their long journeys. For instance, the Leonid shower that created the above show five comet passes or 165 years earlier on November 13 peaked in 1998 four days later, on November 17.
I have no data about which comet might have been responsible for the meteor streams radiating out from Zeta Draconis, or how long ago that comet was fresh enough to produce great shows, if any. However, it seems the two streams could correspond to a comet that broke apart, as comets often do47, because the two dates on which earth now encounters its dust trails fall shortly after the dates on which Ezekiel had his visions.
In the pre- exilic Jewish calendar, still in use at this prophet’s time, the year began at the fall equinox48, as it had done in the tenth- century BCE Gezer calendar49. More precisely, it began with the new moon preceding that equinox since each month started when the new moon was first seen.
If the year of the first vision began in 593 BCE50, then the date of that vision, the fifth day of the fourth month, corresponds to January 2 in our year, give or take a day. This is 17 days before the current January 19 initial part of the Zeta Draconis meteor showers.
Ezekiel's second vision, this time with burning embers and fire lying among the cherubim (10:2&7), took place the next year on the fifth day of the sixth month (8:1). In our calendar this becomes about February 19, or 37 days before the modern date of the second shower and 20 days closer to the first than now. This is about what we should expect if the two postulated comet pieces behaved like others of their kind and drifted farther apart over time.
Please note also that Ezekiel had both visions early in the lunar month when the moon was still a small crescent and left the sky dark enough to enhance the fireworks from a meteor shower.
This hypothetical match of the paired dates for showers of bright flashes in the right location and at the right times of month could easily be just a coincidence. On the other hand, can we rule out the possibility that Ezekiel might here again deserve credit for knowledgeable and correct reporting?
Part 2 of this book, not yet posted, will show you how the internal evidence of this carving's design splendidly confirms its proposed connection with ancient Damascus.
And in Part 3 you will see the Cherub's parallel to Ezekiel's enigmatic statement in 10:12 that the cherubim's "whole bodies, their backs and hands and wings, as well as the wheels, were full of eyes all round the four of them". (In 1:18 the prophet had explained that by "eyes" he meant the hubs of the wheels.)
As a preview of a highlight from those chapters, Figure 3-1 below shows that the centers of the 34 circles which define the shape of the carving all lie on the rims of "meta- circles" which each join four of those star centers, instead of only three as you would expect if the star centers were randomly distributed. The fourth stars lie off those meta- rims by an average of .0075" inch on the photo which is .004" on the carving, or about as close as an unaided eye can distinguish.
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