Joshua Prays For The Sun to Stand Still

Updated: May 19

How did you get on with your group discussion this week. I have had some great feedback about deep questions that are really testing your youth leaders! And even youth leaders telling me that they are learning a lot!


I think it is very exciting!


Joshua 10:12-14



Today we move on to Joshua and he is one of my favourite characters in the Bible. He was with Moses when he crossed the Red Sea and was one of the 12 men who went into Canaan as a spy to check out the land that God had promised to Jacob and he was one of only 2 that came back from Canaan believing that God would make a way for the Israelites to take the land.


After 40 years wandering the desert, Moses dies within in sight of the Promised Land and Joshua becomes leader of the Israelite nation. His first job is to lead them over the River Jordan which is in full flood and parts for them similar to how the Red Sea parted years earlier.


Joshua is a military leader and it is a good job too because there is battle, after battle, after battle in order for the Israelites to take the land.

In chapter 5 you can read about the famous battle at Jericho and then in Chapter 8 about another impressive battle at Ai. In Chapter 9 the reputation of the Israelites has gone before them. Word of God’s promise has been heard and the people of Gibeon first deceive Joshua and then make a tray with him.


Now, in chapter 10 five kings or Amorite tribal leaders have come together to take on Joshua and the Israelite army. Joshua leads his army on a march through the night and surprises the Amorite kings. There is confusion and the Israelites chase the Amorite army through the countryside. A heavy hailstorm comes and destroys twice as many of the Amorite army as the Israelites have already killed.


Then, Joshua publicly prays to God. He prays that the sun would not go down until the Israelites have won the battle.


Wow!

What a bold and courageous prayer!

God does what he asks and the Bible tells us that there has never been a day before or since when the Lord listened to a human being in this way.


I am so impressed with Joshua’s prayer. That he had the ridiculous audaciousness to publicly pray for such a thing. And then God performed a mind-blowing miracle.


But could such a miracle actually be true?


In verse 13 it says ‘As it is written in the book of Jashar.’ Well the book of Jashar was a book of poetry so this event could be poetic.

Joshua or his scribes could be quoting directly from this book of poetry. It was an anthology, or collection of national songs, in honour of renowned and eminently pious heroes. So it could just be that the writer of this poem used license to describe what went on that day.


Many scientists explain this passage as a solar eclipse where the moon passes in front of the sun. The Hebrew word that we have translated as ‘stand still’ may actually mean ‘to become dark.’ As the word is only used 1 other time in the Bible we have had to confirm this by looking at other ancient writings of the time.


If this is the case and a solar eclipse happened at the time that Joshua prayed, it would have been on the afternoon of 30 October 1207 BC!


However, Joshua is asking for the sun to stand still over Gibeon which is in the east and the moon to stand still over a valley in the west, so I think this is a little unlikely.


Another scientific explanation could be that the Earth wobbled. We all know that the Earth rotates on its axis, but that axis wobbles about a bit. So if the Earth wobbled on the day of this battle it could appear that the day is much longer and that the sun has stood still.


The Earth is not perfectly round, and the mass within it is both unevenly distributed and prone to moving around. And this can be caused by storms, seasons, earthquakes, the rocks in the Earth’s core moving and, so it seems, by global warming!


As a result, the Earth’s axis, and the poles at each end of the axis, move about.


In a 2009 study a man called Felix Landerer, calculated that, if carbon dioxide levels double between 2000 and 2100, the oceans will warm and expand in such a way that the north pole will shift around 1.5cm per year towards Alaska over the next century.


So the Earth may have wobbled.


Let’s consider too that the Israelites who wrote this account lived at a time when they believed in omens and signs.


They didn’t have months with a set number of days like we do today, they relied on the phases of the moon to determine where they were in the month. The first day of the month was at the first sight of the new moon. If 14 days later both the sun and the full moon are seen in the morning sky, this was taken as good sign, it was a perfect month. It would be thought that both the sun and moon had waited for each other, as if they had stood still. And it may only have been for about 4 minutes but it was an excellent omen. And if the battle were to take place on such a day it would be considered as a good sign that God would help the Israelites to win the battle.


I think this is a good explanation. But as we heard the other day when God said to Moses “Is my arm too short?” Can I really say with conviction that God didn’t stop the sun and moon that day?


In Boyds Bible Handbook it says

“In the ancient Chinese writings there is a legend of a long day. The Incas of Peru and the Aztecs of Mexico have a like record. There is a Babylonian and Persian legend of a day that was miraculously extended. Herodotus, an ancient historian, recounts that while in Egypt, priests showed him their temple records, and that he read of a day which was twice the natural length of any day that had ever been recorded


The Ojibways, native people of Southern Canada, tell of a long night without any light.


The Dogrib Indians of the North-West tell of a day when the sun was caught at noon and it instantly became dark.


Finally, the Bungee Indians from the Lake Winnipeg area of Canada also tell of a long night.”


I would love to know your thoughts on this. Please let me know in the comments.


Let me know too about what this tells you about God, you and what you need to go and do about it.


Tomorrow we are going to look at Samson and the prayer he prays as he dies. There is quite a lot of explanation tomorrow and it will be the longest of these messages so allow a little extra time for that.