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In Bereishis 15:5 HaShem promises Avraham that his descendants will be as many as the stars in the sky:

וַיּוֹצֵ֨א אֹת֜וֹ הַח֗וּצָה וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ הַבֶּט־נָ֣א הַשָּׁמַ֗יְמָה וּסְפֹר֙ הַכּ֣וֹכָבִ֔ים אִם־תּוּכַ֖ל לִסְפֹּ֣ר אֹתָ֑ם וַיֹּ֣אמֶר ל֔וֹ כֹּ֥ה יִהְיֶ֖ה זַרְעֶֽךָ׃

He took him outside and said, “Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” And He added, “So shall your offspring be.”

Yet according to science, the light of many stars hasn’t gotten to us yet, because of the far distance. So it seems safe to guess, that about 3000 years ago, there weren’t many stars that could be seen. So is this passuk meant to be taken literally, that HaShem promises Avraham that he will have as many descendants as the stars he could see, or is it meant to be taken analogically, that HaShem promises that Avraham will have infinite descendants, just like the (seemingly) infinite stars? Do any of our sources talk about this? Answers based on science (how many stars there were then, how good ancients’ eyesight was etc.) are accepted as well

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    "So it seems safe to guess, that about 3000 years ago, there weren’t many stars that could be seen." Do you mean relative to how many stars can be seen with the naked eye today? – Joel K Jun 30 at 12:03
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    Earth's surface area is about 5.5x10^15 square feet. If there are 10^22 stars, then if this is literal we'll be very crowded. – Double AA Jun 30 at 12:42
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    "So it seems safe to guess, that about 3000 years ago, there weren’t many stars that could be seen." - the logic is incorrect, there is nothing in your preposition which would lead to this conclusion. The correct conclusion is that there should be some starts which are visible today which were not visible 3000 years ago. Since stars die, there may also be starts which were visible then. Given the age of stars, the very small percentage which are visible, and the given time span, there should be very few starts which have appeared or disappeared. – simyou Jun 30 at 13:10
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    I can’t tell if this is a dupe of judaism.stackexchange.com/q/31914 or not. – DonielF Jun 30 at 14:02
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As I wrote in this answer:

According to Ralbag (Commentary to Parshas Lech Lecha), the promise was not that Avraham's descendants would be as numerous as the stars. Rather the promise was that they would be hard to count like the stars. Ralbag says this because he was of the opinion that there are actually very few stars (approximately 1,022) and thus a promise to have as many descendants as the stars would be pretty meaningless.

והנה דבר ה' אליו לאמר שכבר יתן לו זרע שיירשנו והוציא אותו החוצה במראה הנבואה להביט בשמים ואמר אליו שכמו שלא יוכל לספור הכוכבים לריבוים כן זרעו יהיה באופן מהריבוי שלא יספרו והנה מספר הכוכבים לא היה נודע בימי אברם ולזה הראהו המדמה בעת הנבואה ענין ריבוי הכוכבים למשל הריבוי המופלג אשר ייעד אותו ה' יתעלה שיהיה בזרעו וכזה תמצא שראה יחזקאל בעת הנבואה שיהיה לגלגלים קולות מצד מה שהיה מאמין מזה הענין כמו שזכר הרב המורה כי לא יחוייב שיהיו אצל הנביא כל הדעות האמיתיות בענין סודות המציאות

In Milchamos Hashem (5:1:52 quoted from manuscript in the Ma'aliot edition of Ralbag Al Hatorah) Ralbag elaborates on this, and he also points out that in Devarim 1:10 Moshe states that the Israelites were at that point like the stars in number. Even though the Israelites had already been counted, the point is that it was difficult to count them.

And in this answer:

Ralbag believed that it was possible for prophets to have an incorrect understanding of the world, and that their prophecies could reflect these misunderstandings. For instance, in his commentary to Genesis 15:4 he explains that God gave Abraham a vision of numerous stars even though in reality there are very few stars, because Abraham (incorrectly) believed that there were numerous stars. Similarly God gave Ezekiel a vision in which the celestial bodies made sounds, since that is what Ezekiel (incorrectly) believed was the reality.

והנה מספר הכוכבים לא היה נודע בימי אברם ולזה הראהו המדמה בעת הנבואה ענין ריבוי הכוכבים למשל הריבוי המופלג אשר ייעד אותו ה' יתעלה שיהיה בזרעו וכזה תמצא שראה יחזקאל בעת הנבואה שיהיה לגלגלים קולות מצד מה שהיה מאמין מזה הענין כמו שזכר הרב המורה כי לא יחוייב שיהיו לנביא כל הדעות האמיתיות בענין סודות המציאות

  • Can we put this line in stone: "כי לא יחוייב שיהיו אצל הנביא כל הדעות האמיתיות בענין סודות המציאות" – Al Berko Jul 24 at 10:44
  • Upvote. Good answer. – Turk Hill Jul 24 at 15:46
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Given the fact that Adam could see the stars at creation and that the stars currently visible would have taken billions of years to be seen, it is logical to say that Hashem created the light of the stars as well as the stars. Thus even the farthest stars were visible at the time of creation. I should also note that since Avraham did not use a telescope, he could only count those stars which were visible as individual points to the naked eye and that were visible from his location.

If the light had not been created to be visible at the time of creation, the constellations described as long ago as the Babylonians would not have been visible to them. The records would also have described the stars appearing as time went on and the Hubble space telescope would not have been able to see what it does see.

  • Another upvote fro me. – Turk Hill Jul 24 at 15:46

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