The Day the Sun Stood Still

Chapter 10 of Joshua gives us one of the most astonished account in Biblical history. At its onset, we read of how the king of Jerusalem, one Adonizedek (אֲדֹנִי־צֶ֫דֶק‎‎ – the King of Righteousness, in Hebrew), assembled a coalition of forces against the Israelites, an alliance composed of the five kings of the Amorites, the king of Hebron, the king of Jarmuth, the king of Lachish, the king of Eglon, and himself; it was in essence an assembly of ten nations. Together, these kings and their respective forces set their sights upon the inhabitants of Gibeon, a people who had made peace with Israel (Chapter 9). Messengers from Gibeon sent word to Joshua at Gilgal, begging him to come and save them for war was at hand. With the authority of the Lord behind him, Joshua and his forces set out for Gibeon. In the coming battle, a great miracle was to make a debut…

As a great battle raged across the land, the Lord delivered the enemies into the hand of Israel, and as Joshua’s forces took them by sword, the Lord smote them with immense hailstones, even killing more in this fashion than those who died by the sword (verse 11)! In the midst of it all, Joshua spoke to the Lord, “…Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon. (verse 12)” As the scriptures tell us, this is precisely what happened, as the sun and moon froze in the sky above, shining light upon the land until the people there had conquered their enemies, lasting, as it says, for a span equivalent to that of a whole day (verse 13)! This was an utterly unique event, for even the scriptures declare in verse 14:

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.

In the end, Israel triumphed over her enemies that day, destroying the Amorite forces that had waged war against Gibeon. Seeing this, the five kings that lead the offensive fled in terror, hiding in a cave until they too, and their kingdoms alike, were vanquished by Joshua and his forces. It is a wondrous account of the triumph of good over evil, of God against the fallen. Even so, we are left with a question: What really happened with the sun and moon that day?

To be sure, this was no typical celestial occurrence. The sun and moon seem to have genuinely stood within the heavens for, as most commentators agree, a span of some 24 hours! Is there any truth to this revelation? Is it just a tale passed down through the generations, or is there evidence to support the notion?

One common claim is that NASA actually discovered valid scientific evidence for this occurrence! As the story goes, one researcher there, in response to orbital motions coming up in error via their simulations, suggested that the organization factor in the “Long Day of Joshua,” which according to the story, solved their calculation errors and corroborated the Bible’s account. In fact, this is simply an urban legend. There is no record of such an event having taken place at NASA, nor have any papers ever been published on the matter, and in fact, given the limitations of our technology and what we actually have available to us, there would be no way to conceivably calculate such an event, even with the alleged models.¹ 

astro

That out of the way, is there anything else that may bolster the account of Joshua? I believe yes, there is. Considering the nature of our planet’s rotation, of how the sun transits our sky not because it revolves around us but rather because we spin around it, we must conclude a simple truth: If the sun stood still on one face of Earth, thereby extending the day, then on the opposite side of the planet there should have been an equally long period of darkness. What do we find in the historical records? Stunningly, we find a number of records attesting to a strangely long night!

The Greeks of the Aegean Sea tell of a disrupted day, while the Maori of New Zealand speak of a suspiciously long night. (Immanuel Velikovsky, Worlds In Collision, Dell, New York, 1950, p. 61 note 3.) Herodotus, that father of history as he is called, is said to have encountered in egypt an account of a day which lasted nearly twice as long as a normal day. In fact, one French scholar, Fernand Crombette, claims to have translated a hieroglyphic account of that event in Egypt which reads:

The sun, thrown into confusion, had remained low on the horizon, and by not rising had spread terror amongst the great doctors.  Two days had been rolled into one.  The morning was lengthened to one-and-a-half times the normal period of effective daylight.  A certain time after this divine phenomenon, the master had an image built to keep further misfortune from the country….They made the moon stop in a small angle at the edge of the horizon.  In a small angle on the edge of the horizon, the sun itself, which had just risen at the spot where the moon was going, instead of crossing the sky stayed where it was.  Whilst the moon, following a narrow path, reduced its speed and climbed slowly, the sun stopped moving and its intensity of light was reduced to the brightness at daybreak.”  – from Cercle Scientifique et Historique, likely originating from Crombette’s three volumes of Verdique Historique de l’Egypte Antique

The account, of course, continues with a description of how these atmospheric events lead to terrible tides and flooding across the land.

Across the ocean, in the Americas we read of many accounts of an unnaturally long night, including accounts from the Ojibway, Wyandot, Dogrib Indians and others, and to the South we have similarly impressive tales from the Aztecs and Mayans of a long and oppressive night. The list, globally, goes on and on… ²

In light of the evidence, we must conclude that something dramatic truly occurred all those years ago, for the degree of corroboration on display across so many cultures and continents seem impossibly obvious. Still, though we must conclude the obvious, the question remains as to what actually happened.

Some researchers have speculated that there was an aberrant form of refraction taking place, a bending of light so-to-speak, whereby though the planet continued its normal motions, God in effect stretched the light around the planet, thereby provided that which was requested by Joshua. This notion, whatever one makes of it, seems somewhat invalid when we consider the accounts from other nations, indeed even the account of the scripture itself which doesn’t just say that the light remained but rather that the sun and moon stood in the sky.

eclipse

Other have posited that the planet may have experienced, via the hand of God, a wobble on its axis. Thus, as the planet spun, its tilt would have shifted, allowing for a “longer” day to be experienced at just the right moment.

Somewhat more unorthodox is the suggestion by some researchers that the long day was the result of an “orbital resonance” between the planets Earth and Mars.³  Those who subscribe to this notion point out how there is considerable evidence that both planets share some characteristics in their orbits, and if these two were tweaked somewhat in the distant past, it very well could have been that on every 360 days, when the two planets were closest in orbit to each other, some interference could have occurred between them, perhaps stalling the orbit of the earth slightly in this one particular instance! In support of this notion they cite both a widespread use of a 360-day calendar in most ancient cultures and an almost ubiquitous reverence, indeed a fear, for the planet Mars, the nearby dawning of which, they claim, would have lead to massive geological and climatic effects, including the formation of the great hailstones noted by Joshua in verse 11.

Alternatively, it very well could have been that the Lord simply stalled the spin of the planet over the course of several minutes, providentially sustaining those geological forces that were necessary to maintain the planet’s life, while simultaneously holding back great tidal waves and storms across the planet. Indeed, contrary to most people’s belief that we would all fly off of the planet if it ever stopped spinning, in reality we find that the centrifugal force of the earth is only as much as one-three-hundredth the gravitational force of the planet, meaning that, should its rotation ever cease, we would be firmly held in place by gravity.¹

All things considered, no matter how the event took place, we need to recognize two things. The first is that there is, despite the faulty NASA legend, valid historical evidence to consider in regard to this Biblical account. Secondly, believers should trust that if God deems an action worthy, nothing can stand in His way. He is all-powerful in every capacity, and nothing is beyond his ability to make it so. Trust in Him, for if you put your faith in Him and His word, He will make great things happen in your life.

Believe in the Lord, and conquer those dark forces that stand against you!

References:

  1. Joshua’s Long Day,” by Russell Grigg, Creation Ministries International
  2. Joshua’s Long Day,” Astronomy of the Bible
  3. Mysteries of Mars: Mars Getting Closer to Earth,” by Chuck Missler, Khouse

 

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