'Studies in the Old Testament'

Joshua, Judges - and Sin! - 2

August 2010

(Continued from page 517)

Joshua's long day!

Still, the conflict was too great to complete in a single day, so Joshua offered up an amazing prayer (Joshua 10v12-142):

12  Then Joshua spoke to the Lord in the day when the Lord delivered up the Amorites before the sons of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, "O sun, stand still at Gibeon, And O moon in the valley of Aijalon."  13  So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, Until the nation avenged themselves of their enemies. Is it not written in the book of Jashar? And the sun stopped in the middle of the sky, and did not hasten to go down for about a whole day. 14  And there was no day like that before it or after it, when the Lord listened to the voice of a man; for the Lord fought for Israel.

Skeptics have ridiculed this passage, saying: "Don't you know that if the earth stood still people would be crushed because of the gravitational pull? It is only the spinning of the earth and the centrifugal force that keeps us from being crushed. Can you imagine the chaos in the universe if things should grind to a halt?"  They certainly cannot accept that God could stop the earth, never mind consider that He can do so without causing such a catastrophe. They suggest "better" explanations. For example, "possibly there was an extended period of light refraction so that the day seemed longer." Or, "possibly God gave them some kind of speeded-up activity so they got twice as much done in the same amount of time like some of the old movies that seemed to run very rapidly."  Some adopt the position that God stopped the entire solar system. They make Joshua's day 23 hours and 20 minutes. The other 40 minutes are said to be found in 2 Kings 20:8-11, where the sun went ten degrees backward for a sign to Hezekiah that his life would be extended.  Alternately, it has been suggested that prolonged light resulted from (1) the slowing of the earth's rotation so that one day is missing in the earth's astronomical calendar; or (2) the temporary tilting of the earth's axis.4  Some adopt the position that God blacked out the sun rather than continued its shining by appealing to a particular translation, e.g., The Berkeley Version translates it, "O Sun, wait in Gibeon", and in the American Standard Version the marginal reading is, "Sun, be silent."

Some Biblical critics and scoffers point out that the theme is later found under almost the identical circumstances in Greek literature. Agamemnon prayed to Zeus not to let the sun go down before the Achaeans were victorious (
Iliad, II, 412ff) and therefore attribute the account to a common mythological path.5

There are some Christians who accept this approach to explain away God's miracles:  "Maybe it is just poetic; it didn't really happen. Remember the poem of Deborah in Judges 5, how she seemed to indicate that the planets and stars fought against Sisera?"  We cannot accept this as poetic because we do not have enough information to state dogmatically that these are poetic statements and not matters of fact. It reminds us of the old cliché that poetic language is sometimes prosaic lying!  Clearly Israel's "long day," by which Joshua's forces were able to defeat the enemy fully, was something miraculous and an answer to prayer and the only connection to a poetical theme may be in Joshua's exclamation and the report of the miraculous victory which are claimed by some6 to be preserved in the book of Jashar, apparently an early collection of poetic songs commemorating Israel's heroic deeds and mentioned in 2 Samuel 1:17-181:

17  Then David chanted with this lament over Saul and Jonathan his son,  18  and he told them to teach the sons of Judah the song of the bow; behold, it is written in the book of Jashar.

None of the explanations for this phenomenon are satisfactory and better than "scientific" or natural explanations are the spiritual lessons to be learned from the passage.  We note here Joshua's intrepid faith in God in the midst of an impossible situation and God's complete and utter providence over His creation.  Here, as in many other passages, we are taught that the Lord God has a superintendence over all the creatures of His hand. He sends forth His imperious commands not only to angels and men (Daniel 4:34), but to the birds of the air (I Kings 17:4) and to the wild beasts (Daniel 6:22), for inanimate things and the host of heaven, as well as the inhabitants of the earth, are entirely at His disposal. The whole source of nature moves or stands still at the mere will of its Maker.  The God who spoke the heavens into existence can as easily grind them to a halt at a moment's notice and then reactivate them again. We know this is what happened because not only is Scripture correct, inspired and inerrant, but verse 142 records:

"And there was no day like that before it or after it, that the Lord hearkened unto the voice of a man: for the Lord fought for Israel."

Everything stood still and God continued to demonstrate that this was His holy war and He was in total command!

(Continued on page 519)

'Joshua, Judges - and Sin'

Joshua defends the cunning Gibeonites

Joshua's long day!

The Book of Joshua

The four phases of the 'Sin Cycle' in the Book of Judges

The 'Five Judges'

Chronological difficulties and the Book of Judges

The overlap of Judges and I Samuel

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