Seasons and Cycles
In early May Earth residents are about half way through the annual seasonal weather cycle. Observers in northern latitudes experience rising temperatures, longer day lengths, increased plant growth, enlivened wildlife, and general optimism concerning changes resulting from these seasonal cycles.
Two Old testament books are our personal favorites commenting on cyclical phenomena—the Book of Job and the Book of Ecclesiastes. In our past Science/Faith blog entries, we have stated that the Bible is not a textbook on science, but Bible references to cycles in nature are spiritually thought-provoking. Bible authors cite observable cyclical phenomena about which there can be little disagreement.
Bible authors such as Job and Solomon possessed superb powers of observation. Both authors commented upon many cycles related to weather. It is possible to identify hundreds of cycles in our environment. The discipline of science is inexorably related to cycles—predictable events or phenomena which recur or repeat. The writers of the books of Job and Ecclesiastes made numerous scientific observations, many related to ubiquitous cycles in the world of nature.
We begin by highlighting the outcomes of Earth’s orbital cycle. Our planet returns to its position on its elliptical orbit each year. This is the epitome of a cycle. Our elliptical orbit generates many other cycles, including the repeating cold to warm to cold cycle of Earth’s annual temperature. This repeating phenomenon has been in place for countless millennia. Embedded in the cycle of variable temperatures are other cycles: shorter day lengths, then longer, followed by shorter. Especially in middle latitudes of our planet’s two hemispheres, lengthening and shortening day lengths with concomitant rising and falling temperatures give birth to cycles of plant dormancy followed by productivity, then harvest and a return to dormancy once more. These interlocking cycles result in increased food production impossible if temperature and day length cycles did not prevail. The Creator of Heaven and Earth designed various climate zones from which we harvest great quantities of food- producing crops.
This 2017 post discusses deleterious effects on Planet Earth without well-defined seasonal cycles:
In the book of Ecclesiastes, the author, called the Preacher, Teacher, or Quester, is accurate in his description of cycles. He discusses astronomical cycles of the sun rising, setting, and returning to its place, along with circulation of wind: “…Around and around goes the wind, and on its circuits the wind returns.” (Eccl. 1:6b ESV) Most impressive are descriptions of Earth’s water cycle in Job 36:27-28 and the first chapter of Ecclesiastes. God “draws up the drops of water”—a citation of liquid water from streams, lakes, or the ocean which first evaporates, later condenses back to liquid water and finally falls as rain. Water vapor is always invisible. Clouds, fog, and mist are composed of small droplets of liquid water. Each small droplet contains thousands of tightly packed molecules of liquid water: H20. When these droplets disassemble, the water molecules break apart and become a vapor, but the vapor is still H20 in its chemical composition. Raindrops fall back to earth. Water has completed its cycle. Many everyday phenomena function effectively because successful cycles repeat over and over.
Bible authors did not understand the force of gravity in the pre-scientific age in which they lived. The author of Job, however, understood the effects of a force holding astronomical bodies together. Job 37:31 speaks of binding the chains of the star cluster of the Pleiades or loosening the belt of Orion—a clear citation of knowledge of astronomy in Job’s day. David Guzik in Enduring Word Commentary comments on Job 38:31: “Job probably understood the arrangement and patterns in the starry sky, yet he could not even begin to explain the natural forces which governed this arrangement.” In our 21st century science we credit the gravitational attraction of the Sun and Planet Earth for holding the Earth in a predictable gravity controlled cycle.
The Lord Himself in Job 38:32 asks, “Can you lead forth the Mazzaroth in their season?” This term almost certainly refers to the apparent annual cyclical movement of celestial constellations across the sky. This predictable cycle of constellation movement is ultimately due to the force of gravity enabling the consistent orbital path of Planet Earth. Readers may review this link to our past post:
God’s creation is orderly and coherent. He has established numerous cycles in order to make human life more satisfying and enjoyable. Authors of Scripture often highlight divinely designed features of our inhabited world.