“I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth, so that if anyone can number the dust of the earth, then your descendants can also be numbered.” Gen. 13:16
“And He took him outside and said, “Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.”” Gen. 15:5
God reaffirms this promise to Abram several times, and is speaking of the sheer numerosity of descendants that he can expect. Aside from both dust and stars having a vast number, they seem to have little else in common; dust is extremely small, and stars extremely large; dust is physically present and can be touched by men, but stars are still out of reach in this modern age; dust has no inert power (save for its actual atomic structure), but stars are a continually replenishing nuclear reaction, a cycle of immense energy, heat and light. Very different indeed.
This contrast is important to note, as I believe something bigger is being alluded to. What do we know about dust? In the sense that we are actually speaking of dirt, we walk on it. It is considered worthless, and men walk all over it. I feel that to a degree this speaks of both the persecutions against God’s people (both Jew and Christian alike), as well as the anti-Semitism against the Jews. In fact, the numerousness of the Israelites was a chief reason that the Egyptians loathed them – this is referenced five times in Exodus chapter 1 alone, with two of those references being a resort to infanticide to deal with how quickly the Israelites were multiplying.
But stars are different. They shine so brightly their light is strong enough to travel incomprehensible distances. Men are often in wonder of stars. They even provide guidance for travelers. Our own sun, an average star, sustains life for our planet. I feel that this aspect of Abram’s descendants is true as well, in the form of great men and women of faith and righteousness, and their effect on making a better world, and drawing men to God through themselves. Consider Daniel 12:3: “Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.”
Considering that those mighty in faith are compared to stars, it makes for an interesting understanding of Psalm 147:4: “He counts the number of the stars; He gives names to all of them.”