“The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right names” Chinese Proverb.
Question: How many times is the planet Mars mentioned in the Old Testament? This is kind of a trick question. The name Mars is a Roman designation and the name came with the Roman entry to the Middle East, after the Old Testament was written. So to answer the question, we need to do a bit of translating to find the names of Mars used by the Israelites.
The Babylonians used the name “Marduk” for Mars. The Assyrians used “Nergal” and the Canaanites called Mars “Baal”. So when the Israelites worshiped Baal, they were worshipping the planet Mars. The symbol for Mars was a Bull and this was how the Israelites pictured the god/planet on altars. So, if we use all the names that the civilizations of the Old Testament used for Mars, then the answer to the question “how many times is the planet Mars mentioned in the Old Testament?” would be more than 200 times.
Also there are other planets named in the Old Testament. Venus was named “Ishtar” (or the Queen of heaven) by the Babylonians and “Asheroth” by the Canaanites. The Israelites at times worshiped the planet Venus. (read Asheroth)“Nevertheless there are good things found in you, in that you have put away the Asheroth out of the land, and have set your heart to seek God.” (II Chronicles 19:3)
The planet Saturn was known as “Molech” by the Ammonites and Israelites, who were especially devoted to his power. Molech was worshiped as a sun god, granting heat and light to his devotees and their land. Do you remember that the planet Saturn was called the sun god?
These planets taken together formed a pantheon of gods known as “The host of heaven” to the Israelites. The Israelites were warned about serving the gods of Canaan by erecting altars to the planets. “And lest thou lift up thine eyes unto heaven, and when thou seest the sun, and the moon, and the stars, even all the host of heaven, shouldest be driven to worship them, and serve them, which the LORD thy God hath divided unto all nations under the whole heaven.” Deuteronomy 4:19.
Yet from time to time, the kings of Israel worshiped the planets. “And they (Israel) left all the commandments of the LORD their God, and made them molten images, even two calves, and made a grove, and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served Baal.” II Kings 17:16
Even the southern nation of Judah worshiped the host of heaven. “ For he (Manasseh) built up again the high places which Hezekiah his father had destroyed; and he reared up altars for Baal, and made a grove, as did Ahab king of Israel; and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served them.” II Kings 21:3
There were two ways to look at the planets: as gods which ruled the affairs of men or as God’s messengers, controlled by God and limited by Him. Josephus spoke about the disagreement between the Chaldeans and Abraham over this issue. “… his (Abraham’s) opinion was derived from the irregular phenomena that were visible both at land and sea, as well as those that happened to the sun and moon, and all the heavenly bodies thus: ‘If (said he) these bodies had power of their own, they would certainly take care of their own regular motions; but since they do not preserve such regularity’. . .For which doctrines, when the Chaldeans and the people of Mesopotamia, raised a tumult against him, he thought fit to leave that country. . . he came and lived in the land of Canaan.” Josephus, Book I, Chapter VII
Because of the disobedience of the kings of Israel and Judah, as well as other kings who worshiped the planets as gods, God promised judgment. “And it shall come to pass in that day, that the LORD shall punish the host of the high ones that are on high, and the kings of the earth upon the earth.” Isaiah 24:21. This judgment will affect planet earth also. “The earth is utterly broken down, the earth is clean dissolved, the earth is moved exceedingly. The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall be removed like a cottage; and the transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it; and it shall fall, and not rise again”. Isaiah 24:19-20