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Iyov 38:31-32 reads:

הַתְקַשֵּׁר מַעֲדַנּוֹת כִּימָה אוֹ מוֹשְׁכוֹת כְּסִיל תְּפַתֵּחַ:
. הֲתֹצִיא מַזָּרוֹת בְּעִתּוֹ וְעַיִשׁ עַל בָּנֶיהָ תַנְחֵם:

Can you tie the chains of the Pleiades or loose the straps of Orion?
Can you take out the constellations each in its time, and can you console Ayish for her children?

That's the translation from the Chabad site with Rashi. NJPS instead renders the latter:

Canst thou lead forth the Mazzaroth in their season? Or canst thou guide the Bear with her sons?

"Mazzarot" and "Ayish" are transliterations from the Hebrew; the rest of this is translation or interpretation.

Rashi doesn't seem concerned with references to Greek constellations in Tanakh, saying only:

the chains of the Pleiades: [Tie] the chains of the Pleiades so that all its cold should not go forth and destroy the world with cold.
or loose the straps of Orion: to bring out its heat, to mitigate the cold of the Pleiades.
and… Ayish: The largest star in the Pleiades, to which many stars are attached. He took two stars from it to open the windows of the Deluge, and they were placed in the constellation of Aries and the Holy One, blessed be He, is destined to restore them to her. Tanchuma.

A not-very-reliable Wikipedia article (see the note at the top) suggests that the association of Ayish with these constellations is disputed.

So, my questions:

  1. Does any of the Hebrew text here reliably translate as Orion and Pleiades? How do we know that?

  2. If not, how did we end up, nearly universally so far as I know, understanding the text this way? Why those particular constellations? Is there something special about them, either in general or specifically in this particular passage?

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Those constalations are very noticeable in the sky. – Double AA Feb 28 '13 at 2:33
True. (Or so I'm told; it's all fuzzy to my eyes. :-) ) So's the big dipper. Do you think the text (or the translators) picked the two most noticeable and just went with that? – Monica Cellio Feb 28 '13 at 2:42
I don't know. I'm just commenting on the astronomy part. I'd venture to say that Orion (particularly his belt) and the Pleiades are more noticeable than the big dipper. – Double AA Feb 28 '13 at 2:53
See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…: "The Bible mentions Orion three times, naming it "Kesil" (כסיל, literally - fool)." There are many names for this same (or approximate) constellation. Presumably, the Pleiades were similarly located once and named many times. – Charles Koppelman Feb 28 '13 at 4:06
Also, this claims the Babylonians invented the system led to the Neo-Babylonian system, which was known to the authors of Navi. This same system was then adopted by the Greeks who added their own mythology to already-mapped constellations. – Charles Koppelman Feb 28 '13 at 4:24

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