In many pagan religions and cultures the sun is worshipped and served as a god. However, according to Scripture, the sun is placed in the heavens to serve mankind, and at the same time to rule over the day (Bere’shiyt (Genesis) 1:18). This obvious dichotomy is untangled when we see the meaning behind the Hebrew word for sun, shemesh (שמש).

This word has several interesting characteristics. We begin with the dual meanings of the word and how they are translated. The word shemesh is generally translated as the big ball of fire in the sky. The word shamash, which is the verbal root of shemesh, means to serve or minister. The center lamp or candle in the Chanukah lamp, for example, is called the shamash, or ministering candle. It is the candle that bears the light that will light the other candles. Here we see the connection between the light produced by fire and the idea of serving or ministering. This same relationship can be seen when breaking down the word shamash, as well. The last two consonants are the first two consonants of the word mashal (משל), which means to rule. This is mentioned in the function of the greater light (the sun), in the beginning. The first two letters form the Hebrew word for name or shem (שם). The last letters also are cognates of the word for fire which is 'esh (אש), i.e. name of the fire.

It might be interesting to note that the dichotomy of ruling and serving as seen in the words sun and minister is also found in the nature of the Messiah. For not only is He the King of Kings but He also came to serve rather than be served.

Mattityahu (Matthew) 20:28Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many.

Yesha’yahu (Isaiah) 42:1Hear now, O Joshua, the hight preist, thou, and thy fellows who sit before thee; for they are men wondered at; for, behold, I will bring forth my servant, the branch.

It is also quite possible that the translation of this word in Male’akiy (Malachi) 4:2 could just as well be minister as sun. But, on the other hand, we really are talking about the same thing.

Male’akiy 4:2But unto you that fear my name shall the sun [minister] of righteousness arise with healing in His wings; and ye shall go forth, and grown up like calves of the stall.

Shalom Alecheim!