Grace For The Journey
Under the command of Joshua, the Israelites were conquering the nations of the land that God had promised to give them. The Bible records the prayer Joshua uttered to God during the battle against the Amorites and the results of that prayer . . .
The Bible says in Joshua 10:12-13, “Then Joshua spoke to the LORD in the day when the LORD delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel: ‘Sun, stand still over Gibeon; and Moon, in the Valley of Aijalon.’ So the sun stood, and the moon stopped, till the people had revenge upon their enemies.” Is this now written in the Book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and did not hasten to go down for about a whole day.”
You might be thinking, how is it possible that the sun stood still? If you have sought an answer to that question you would find some interesting answers. I present some of those views in today’s blog. What must not be lost in the following views is that the issue is whether the sun and moon standing still is to be understood as a miracle or not. As we seek to sift through man’s understanding of this historical event, I don’t want us to lose sight of the simple answer –
The One who made the sun
Also made it to stop in the middle of the sky
In answer to Joshua’s prayer.
With God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26)!
We of course do not want to state more than the Bible says. If the Bible text does not state that the sun stood in the sky, then we have no business to believe it. On the other hand, if it does so state the event, then we should believe it.
So we welcome what the Bible says. Unfortunately, some come to the Bible with a mindset that miracles cannot happen.
In other words, they don’t believe such a thing could happen so they try to use other interpretations of what is said in the Bible.
Unfortunately a person’s bias will shape ones interpretations.
This is awful dangerous. Basically, this kind of person comes to God’s Word with unbelief or doubt and looks for ‘excuses’ to live the way they do so that they are not challenged by God’s piercing truths. But if we come to study a passage in faith, we can study and understand with real clarity.
There are five major interpretations of this passage of Scripture.
(1) Poetic Flair
This view debates whether in the Hebrew Bible or the English, portions of Joshua 10:12-13 are written in poetic form rather than prose (narrative). One can see this in some versions by the special indentation used identifying the short poem. Most of the books like Joshua are narrative in style so that when there is a poem, it is very easy to identify.
Some suggest that because it is poetry, then it cannot be counted on to clearly describe the event. Poetry does have a certain license in using descriptive language. We need to be careful in interpreting these verses. For example, those who hold this view propose in this case the poetry form suggests a very special time where an impossible amount of work was done during what seems like a long day.
Do we accept their view that this passage is just a memorable way of remembering the wonderful victory that day? I don’t think so. Take a careful look at the later part of verse 13 and 14. They are not in poetic form but back to the more common narrative form. Furthermore, these narrative verses clearly restate what was so special that day.
The poetic portion of verses 12-13 are indeed more poetic than the other parts but this does not mean they do not state the truth about the sun remaining longer in the sky. In fact, having both the poem and the narrative restatements act as a powerful confirmation that this is the interpretation that we should have of the text. Another confirmation is that an outside resource also recounts what the author here knows.
We might not know what it means by the sun stopping in the middle of the sky but at least we can accept this as being what it says.
(2) Confused about the time
Others think that the people back then were very confused about the sun. They were so busy in battle that they totally forgot to closely observe the sun. They believe the verses are talking about an extra day long because it just seemed like a very long day. But those who did not use clocks back then were very attentive to the sun and its patterns. We might not be used to using the sun as a clock, but they sure did.
(3) A Stormy day
There are others that speculate what is described here has more to do with what kind of day Joshua was asking for so that he could effectively defeat his enemies. They believe that Joshua was asking for a cloudy day so that they could win a more decisive victory. They would see a special answer to prayer in the great storms of that day where more enemy soldiers were killed by hail stones than by the army (verse 11). But a cloudy overcast is not what Joshua asked for. Joshua uttered his prayer after the hail storm.
(4) A Hidden sun
Another version, a bit similar to the one above, attempts to use other meanings of the Hebrew word for “stand still” to mean “dim or cease.” In other words, the sun was made “dim” by the storm clouds. This Hebrew word is sometimes used in this way. But the question is, “Does it mean ‘dim’ in this case?” This word is used for the sun and the moon in verse 12. But in verse 13 it is very hard to continue with this viewpoint.
There are three major problems with this interpretation.
(1) The parallel word for sun is the moon. Verse 13 uses a word that simply means “to stand still” or “stay where appointed;”
(2) Verse 13 uses the phrase “not hasten” to describe the event which does not at all make sense with the meaning “dim”; and
(3) It also does not match the sun being in the middle of the sky (10:13). It would seem that this interpretation is not accurate.
(5) Extended day hours
Others have come to a more complete and accurate conclusion. The sun and moon stopped still in the sky so that Joshua and his armies would have more daylight to carry about a more decisive victory. Of course, the problem with this is the objection that the sun cannot stand still. We know that the sun can’t just stay still. Everything is in a massive rotation.
But do we know for sure that the Creator is not able to do what He wants with the universe? Can we insist that there is no way to do this? How do we know that there is no way to do this? Is our confidence derived from knowledge or ignorance?
This does not create any problems with me even though I love science and mathematics. Why? Because it is reasonable. Think of it this way. If the Creator put the two lights in the sky in the first place, could He not manipulate them the way He wants?
The key issue is if we accept God as He has defined
Himself in the Bible as being the Almighty Creator.
The opposing side, though, has to discount God’s Creatorship and involvement in the world. This goes too far for me.
God and His Word has shown Himself very reliable on other matters.
So I will accept the miracle as it is stated. After all, I hardly understand the sun and the moon. Am I to profess more knowledge than God about these things? That would be very unreasonable!
Some, while conceding divine intervention, feel that the miracle involved a refraction of light so that there was no actual alteration in the earth’s movement. They concede that a miracle was involved, but they believe it likely involved a local event, somewhat similar to the darkness plague in ancient Egypt, just prior to Israel’s Exodus from that land.
The traditional view, however, is that the length of that ancient day actually was prolonged by a retardation of the earth’s rotation upon its axis. Professor Leon J. Wood has argued that only this view does justice to the language of the sacred text. He suggests that expressions like “stood still,” “stayed,” and “hastened not to go down” (13) “definitely indicates a change in pattern movement” (A Survey of Israel’s History, Zondervan, 1986, p. 148). The fact that there was “no day like that before it, or after it” (verse 14) does seem to suggest the uniqueness of that occasion, whereas there were other supernatural instances in the Scriptures of the local control of light (see Exodus 10:21-23; 2 Kings. 20:10,11; cf. 2 Chronicles 32:24-31).
At any rate, conservative scholars are in agreement that this circumstance involved a genuine miracle, and that the account is not a mere poetic or mythological description of an ancient victory.
Here are five major points that clearly stand out in the passage:
- Something miraculous took place that da that enabled them to have a wonderful victory.
- That miracle came about because of Joshua’s prayer.
- That miracle had something to do with the sun and moon, wich which only God could affect.
- That the victory had to do with an extended time to fight the enemy before they scattered back to their cities.
- That God was fighting for Israel.
Any interpretation that leaves out these emphases is inconsistent to what is being taught. T hose people that were there recognized something miraculous happened that day. It left a tremendous impression upon them. Unless we can accept this, then we can learn nothing from the Word of God.
The main point is that God not only gave them a great victory, but the victory came about in such a manner that made a great impression on the Israelites and the enemies about them. Remember verse 14, “And there was no day like that before it or after it, that the LORD heeded the voice of a man; for the LORD fought for Israel.”
We must have faith to rightly approach this passage just like Genesis 1:1-6. We are not meant to be able to prove these things happen (although science and astrology has discovered evidence that supports this event). We cannot recreate the creation event nor can we bring a star into our labs for testing. Scientists regularly throw away old theories for new ones. Scientists at one time believed the world was flat … but God says in Isaiah 40:22, “It is He who sits above the circle of the earth …” and scientists at one time believed that this globe we live on was supported upon something, but God says in Job 26:7, “He stretches out the north over empty space; He hands the earth on nothing.” Long before man was able to make the discoveries that the earth was round or anchored on something God’s Word accurately told man the truth about them. We are light years away from understanding many galactic events and phenomena. We should not be so arrogant to think that we understand everything. We still cannot understand many things.
It is not unreasonable that the Creator could do such a thing.
It is unreasonable to think that man could do such a thing.
It might be inconsistent with what we normally observe
But the Maker of all thing certainly could have inserted
Subroutines within the laws of the universe.
So . . . God is a miracle-working God! Have you been praying to God for your deliverance from . . .
- Strain in your marriage?
- Stress in your parenting?
- Silence in your singleness?
- Struggles at the office?
- Shortfall in your finances?
- Strongholds in your thought life?
- Sickness in your health?
The Bible says in Proverbs 16:3, “Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.”
Is there anything too hard for a God
Who can make the sun stand still
In the middle of the sky?
OF COURSE NOT!
God is in the miracle business, and He delights in answering our prayers. But we must be willing to come before the throne of grace – and keep coming – trusting in God to answer our prayers in His perfect time and in His perfect way . . . which means His answer may not always look exactly like what we were asking for, but it will be for our ultimate good and God’s glory.
You can be certain . . . it will be the BEST answer!
You have God’s Word on it (Romans 8:28)
This is God Word … This is Grace for your Journey
… Rest And Rejoice In The Wonderful Truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”