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Joshua's Long Day - was it really? #1

An in-depth look at this day


                   THE TRUTH OF THE MATTER

                        Presented by

                        Ralph Woodrow


FOREWORD by Keith Hunt

I grew up, like most of us do who are surrounded by "Christian
religion" with pre-conceived ideas, taught to us as children. I
was told that the sun stood still for Joshua and extended the day
for many hours. I accepted this as a child without much question,
after all is it possible for God to do anything, nothing is
impossible for Him. And I never studied the matter of Joshua's
Long Day. I never investigated the issue in any in-depth way. It
was not until I was in my late 40s that I read the small book by
Ralph Woodrow, which I now present to you here. For me it changed
my whole understanding and concept on the so-called Long Day of
Joshua.

Let me say, this is not a matter of salvation, it really makes no
difference if you want to believe the day was literally extended
by many hours, or if you want to believe Woodrow and many others
he quotes, and how they have come to view it. I personally will
side with Woodrow and the others, as to the true understanding of
this section of Scripture.
                                  .......


JOSHUA'S LONG DAY How Long Was it?

     We have all heard about the time Joshua commanded the sun to
stand still and - according to the common belief - the day was
extended many additional hours until the battle was won.
     Early settlers in the California desert were familiar with
the story and are credited for naming the "Joshua tree" which
reminded them of Joshua, lifting his hands, and commanding the
sun to obey his words.
     The story has even been the basis for some pulpit humor.    

     A man accused of bootlegging was brought before a judge.
"What is your name?" "Joshua." "Are you the Joshua that made the
sun stop?" "No Sir, I'm the Joshua that made the moonshine"!

     At the time of Galileo, much attention was focused on the
Biblical account of Joshua. Galileo understood that day and night
result from the earth turning on its axis - not because the sun
travels around the earth. This brought him into conflict with the
Romish Inquisition which threatened him with torture and life in
prison. Religious leaders at the time, such as Pope Paul V,
believed the sun travelled around the earth, the proof being that
Joshua's command for the sun to stand still made the day longer!

     As well-known as the basic story about Joshua is, however, a
serious study of the Biblical account reveals that what really
happened has been commonly misunderstood. The traditional view is
that Joshua and his men had fought all through the day until late
afternoon. Seeing the sun about to set, and realizing that
additional hours of daylight were required to complete the
battle, Joshua commanded the sun to stand still, and lo! that day
was extended not just for a few extra moments, but for almost a
whole day.
     Today, however, we all know, as Galileo did, that the length
of a day is not determined by the movement of the sun. It is the
earth turning on its axis that makes day and night. Consequently,
the passage about Joshua making the sun stand still has puzzled
and embarrassed Bible teachers who have tried to uphold the
traditional view. In an attempt to harmonize the story with
scientific facts, they say it was actually the earth that stopped
turning, that the only reason the Biblical writer spoke of the
sun standing still is because he used terms as they were
understood at the time. It is pointed out that even today we use
the terms "sunrise" and "sunset" even though, technically, it is
not the sun that is rising or setting. 

     But I believe there is a much better explanation.

     Many are surprised when it is pointed out that a hailstorm
took place that day. This part of the story, though clearly
stated in the text (Joshua 10:11), is not as well-known as the
part about Joshua's command to the sun! Somehow the idea of
Joshua praying for more daylight does not seem to fit with the
sky being darkened by a massive storm!
     
     With these thoughts as a preface, we turn to Joshua
10:12-14:

     Then spake Joshua 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 thou still upon
     Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon. And the sun
     stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had
     avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is not this written
     in the book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst
     of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day. And
     there was no day like that before it or after it, that the
     Lord harkened unto the voice of a man: for the Lord fought
     for Israel.

     The expressions used in this text about the sun or moon
standing still are translated from two Hebrew words "daman" and
"amad" in the following places: "Sun, stand still [daman] ... and
the sun stood still [daman], and the moon stayed [amad]... so the
sun stood still [amad]." The first word used, "daman," is given
in the margin as "be silent." It has the root meaning of "to be
dumb" and thus, by implication, "to stop" (Strong's Concordance,
1826).
     The other Hebrew word, "amad," is defined as "to stand" and
is used in various relations literally and figuratively (Strong's
Concordance, 5975). 
     Within the book of Joshua it is the word used when the
waters of Jordan stood upon a heap and when the priests, crossing
this riverbed with the sacred ark, stood still. Though the word
is used in a variety of ways, the idea of to stop or quit is
evident: the waters of Jordan stopped flowing, the priests
stopped marching, etc. Admittedly, both words - "daman" and
"amad" - have the meaning of "TO STOP."

     But the question is: When Joshua commanded the sun to stop,
did he mean for it to stop moving or stop shining? We believe he
meant for it to STOP SHINING!

     The Jerome Biblical Commentary says the Hebrew meaning, as
used in this context, is "stop shining," and refers to the
darkening of the sun and moon. (The Jerome Biblical Commentary,
p.135).
     "The Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Cyclopedia"
cites various viewpoints regarding this passage, including that
which would take these words "to signify merely cease to shine."
(M'Clintock and Strong, op.cit., Vol.4, pp.1026, 1027).
     Many years ago an article in "Moody Monthly" presented a
comparison of the Hebrew words in our text with parallel usages
in ancient astronomical tablets. The conclusion presented in the
article is that "stand still" makes good sense if rendered
"become dark" - that the sun stopped shining, not that the whole
solar system stopped for a day (Robert Dick Wilson, "What Does
'The Sun Stood Still' Mean?" in "Moody Monthly" (October 1920).
 
     What caused the sun to stop shining? This is where the
hailstorm comes in! The sun stopped shining on Gibeon because the
sky was darkened with stormy clouds. In various situations the
Biblical writers spoke of "a thick cloud" blotting out the light
of the sun (Isaiah 44:22), of turning a day into "darkness" (Job
3:4,5), of the heavens becoming "black with clouds" (I Kings
18:45). Ezekiel spoke of God covering "the sun with a cloud,"
resulting in "darkness upon thy land" (Ezekiel 32:7,8). Job said,
"With clouds he covereth the light; and commandeth it not to
shine by the cloud that cometh betwixt" (Job 36:32). During
Paul's voyage toward Rome, for many days the sun was not seen
because of storm clouds (Acts 27:20).
     When Joshua commanded the sun to stop shining, the storm
that moved in was of such density that it cut off the sunlight
from Gibeon. The attacking Amorites may have considered this a
bad omen, providing at least one reason why they fled from Gibeon
in terror. As they fled "the Lord cast down great stones from
heaven upon them... and they died: they were more which died with
hailstones than they whom the children of Israel slew with the
sword" (Joshua 10:11).

     Why did Joshua want the sun to stop shining upon Gibeon? We
believe the Biblical evidence indicates this battle took place in
the middle of summer and that Joshua was asking for relief from
the extreme heat of the sun, certainly not for more sunlight or
an extended day!

HIGH NOON

     Contrary to the idea that the sun was about to set - and
Joshua saw that he needed more hours of daylight to complete the
battle - the Bible speaks of the sun as being "in the midst of
heaven" (Joshua 10:13). "The Hebrew here is not the usual word
for midst," says the Pulpit Commentary. "It signifies literally,
the half." (Pulpit Commentary, vol.7, p.166).
     The Hebrew word is "chatsi" which is translated over 100
times by the word "half." The meaning is that the sun was
overhead, it was high noon! The International Standard Bible
Encyclopedia makes this comment:

     The sun to Joshua was associated with Gibeon, and the sun
     can naturally be associated with a locality in either of two
     positions: it may be overhead to the observer and considered
     as being above the place where he is standing or as a
     locality on the skyline and the sun rising or setting just
     behind it. But here, it was not the latter two, but at noon,
     literally in the halving of the heaven; that is to say,
     overhead. Thus Joshua was at Gibeon when he spoke (ISBE,
     vol.1, p. 448).

It was at Gibeon that Joshua said: "Sun, stand thou still upon
Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon." With the sun
overhead - at noon - notice where the moon was. The description
is quite precise. The moon was "in the valley of Ajalon" - not
"over," but "in" the valley of Ajalon. Since Ajalon was a low
pass, the declining moon above the horizon appeared to be framed
in the valley.

     Looking now at the map, the over-all picture begins to
come into better focus. Ajalon is west of Gibeon. Had the sun
been setting and the moon rising - as some have supposed - the
moon would have been east of Gibeon. This was clearly not the
case.
     The moon was setting in the valley of Ajalon, west of
Gibeon. The sun was over Gibeon - in the half of the sky - at
noon. With the sun and the moon in these positions, it has been
determined that the moon was in its "third quarter," about half
full, had risen at about 11 PM the previous night and was now
within a half hour of setting. The sun had risen at almost
exactly 5 AM that morning. It was summertime, Tuesday, July 22!
(Ibid., p. 449).
     It is not necessary to complicate this paper with the
technicalities of how these details are figured (based on the
positions of sun and moon, the amount of degrees north of west
the valley of Ajalon is from Gibeon, the contour of the land,
etc.); nor is it necessary to insist that it was exactly Tuesday,
July 22. For our present purpose it is sufficient to say it was
summertime, it was the month we call July and, consequently, it
was hot! We believe the reason Joshua wanted the sun to stop
shining was to provide relief from its burning heat.

     Protection from the sun's heat in that land was very
important, so much so, that prophets commonly used wording about
shade as a type of God's blessings: "A shadow from the heat... in
a dry place... with the shadow of a cloud" (Isaiah 25:4,5); "The
Lord is thy shade... the sun shall not smite thee by day" (Psalms
121:5,6); "... under the shadow of the Almighty" (Ps. 91:1); "A
shadow in the daytime from the heat" (Isaiah 4:6); "The shadow of
a great rock in a weary land" (Isaiah 32:2).
     Jesus spoke of the scorching heat of the sun (Matt. 13:6);
"the heat of the day" being the most difficult time to work in
the fields (Matt.20:12); a time when workers "earnestly desired
the shadow" from the heat (Job 7:2). "The sun beat upon the head
of Jonah, that he fainted, and wished in himself to die," so
intense was the heat of the sun (Jonah 4:5,8).
     Relief from the sun's heat would help Joshua's men, but a
longer day would have put them at a disadvantage, as the
following details show:

     When the Gibeonites sent to Joshua for help it was an
emergency message: "Slack not thy hand from thy servants; come up
to us quickly, and save us" (Joshua 10:5,6). The message was
urgent and there was no time for delay. "So Joshua ascended from
Gilgal, he, and all the people of war with him, and... came unto
them suddenly, and went up from Gilgal all night" (verses 7-9).
     This was an uphill march of about 20 miles. Since there had
been no advance warning, Joshua's men had no time to rest in
preparation for this march. Instead, they had been up all day,
marched all that night carrying weapons and supplies with them,
and had engaged in a fierce battle until noon. Being summertime,
and now the heat of the day - with the temperature possibly as
high as 120 degrees - is it likely that Joshua would be asking
for more hours of daylight? Would another 12 hours of daylight be
to their advantage? Hardly. When Joshua commanded the sun to
stop, there is every reason to believe he wanted it to stop
shining! He didn't want more sunshine, if anything, he wanted
less!

     Professor E. W. Maunder, who was for forty years
superintendent of the Solar Department of the Royal Observatory
at Greenwich, summed up the situation in these very fine
comments:

     From what was it then that Joshua wished the sun to cease:
     from its moving or from its shining? It is not possible to
     suppose that, engaged as he was in a desperate battle, he
     was even so much as thinking of the sun's motion at all. But
     its shining, its scorching heat, must have been most
     seriously felt by him. At noon, in high summer, southern
     Palestine is one of the hottest countries of the world. It
     is impossible to suppose that Joshua wished the sun to be
     fixed overhead, where it must have been distressing his men
     who had already been seventeen hours on foot. A very arduous
     pursuit lay before them and the enemy must have been 
     fresher than the Israelites. The sun's heat therefore must
     have been a serious hindrance, and Joshua must have desired
     it to be tempered. And the Lord harkened to his voice and
     gave him this and much more. A great hailstorm swept up from
     the west, bringing with it a sudden lowering of temperature,
     and no doubt hiding the sun (The World Almanac and Book of
     Facts - 1982 - New York: Newspaper Enterprise Ass. Inc.,
     1981, p. 161).

     "The Wycliffe Bible Commentary," in similar vein, points out
that what Joshua deemed necessary for his troops who were already
tired from the all-night march, "was relief from the merciless
sun... God answered above all that Joshua could ask or think by
sending not only the desired shade to refresh His army but also a
devastating hailstorm to crush and delay His enemies... The true
explanation of this miracle, told in ancient, oriental, poetic
style, tends to confirm the idea that Joshua was looking for
relief from the sun (Wycliffe Bible Commentary - Moody Press,
1962, p. 218).

NO DAY LIKE THAT

     Once a person has been taught the other view - that the day
was extended for many additional hours - a verse like Joshua
10:14 tends to support that idea: "There was no day like that
before it or after it." But expressions like this were
proverbial; simply a way of stating that what happened was out of
the ordinary, unusual. Similar expressions may be found in verses
such as Exodus 9:18; 10:14; 1 Kings 3:12; 2 Kings 18:5; 23:22,
25; 2 Chron.1:12; Ezekiel 5:8,9; Joel 2:2; etc. What made this
day unusual is explained as we continue reading: 

     "There was no day like that before it or after it, that the
     Lord harkened unto the voice of a man"! 

     We should not read into this verse the idea that the day was
unusual because the sun stopped moving and the hours of that day
extended. Even if this had been the case, this was clearly not
the point here. The point being made, as Maunder says, is that
"Joshua had spoken, not in prayer or supplication, but in
command, as if all nature was at his disposal; and the Lord had
harkened and had, as it were, obeyed a human voice: an
anticipation of the time when a greater Joshua would command even
the winds and the sea, and they would obey him" (ISBE, p. 448).

     After reading that there was no day like this before, and
that the Lord harkened to the voice of a man, we read: "FOR the
Lord fought for Israel." What did the Lord do? Comparing
scripture with scripture, what the Lord did in fighting for
Israel was this: "The Lord cast down great stones from heaven
upon them... more died with hailstones than they whom the
children of Israel slew with the sword" (Joshua 10:11).

                      .................

TO BE CONTINUED

Entered on this Website July 2004


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