Christ · Christian Living · Church · Culture · Culture & Society · Death · Faith

The Story of the Sun Standing Still

AN EXPOSITION OF JOSHUA 10: 1-14

c. 1375 BC

     1 Now it came to pass, when Adoni-zedek king of Jerusalem had heard how Joshua had taken Ai, and had utterly destroyed it; as he had done to Jericho and her king, so he had done to Ai and her king; and how the inhabitants of Gibeon had made peace with Israel, and were among them;

By the grace of God, the conquest of Canaan by the nation of Israel was going well. Jericho had been taken in a miraculous way, and the inhabitants destroyed, with the exception of Rahab and her family. Then the city of Ai, inhabited by 12,000 individuals, had been conquered. The king was hanged on a tree, and the city was set on fire.

Word travelled quickly to Jerusalem which was ten miles south of the city Ai. Adoni-zedek, king of Jerusalem, received word of the great slaughter taking place. The Canaanites were being dispossessed by Israel. The inhabitants of Gibeon managed to survive only by trickery. (Joshua 9:3-17)

      2 That they feared greatly, because Gibeon was a great city, as one of the royal cities, and because it was greater than Ai, and all the men thereof were mighty.

Adoni-zedek, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, had a right to be afraid. It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Behind the fierce fighting faces of the warriors of Israel was a frowning Providence. God was angry with the Canaanites and was determined to destroy them for centuries of wickedness. A lesson is learned. God has established a system of morality into the Universe. When a nation violates the principles of morality often enough, and long enough, God will move to judge the nation. Sometimes, the penalty will be the disintegration of that civilization. History offers many examples.

The City of Helike. In 360 BC, the Greek City of Helike literally sank beneath the sea during an earthquake and tidal wave. All of the inhabitants went to a watery grave. The City of Helike may be the basis for Atlantis, to date, a mystical city spoken of by Plato (d. 348 BC)

The City of Rome. In AD 410 the Visigoths sacked Rome. This was the first time in 800 years that the city of Rome fell to an enemy. By AD 476 the Western Roman Empire was conquered. The last Roman Emperor, Romulus Augustus was defeated by the German Goth Odoacer.

The Maya Civilization. The Maya built fantastic cities and temples in Central America. It reached its peak of power and influence around the sixth century AD. The Maya excelled at agriculture, pottery, hieroglyph (picture) writing, calendar-making, and mathematics.

However, by AD 900, fifteen million people had abandoned their cities to live in villages. Offering human sacrifices, ritual bloodletting, and constant warfare, brought the judgment of God.

Time does not permit to talk about many other lost people, such as the Angkor Wat civilization of Cambodia. By 2007 archeologist had uncovered the largest religious complex in the world. The lost city, comprising more than 71 temples to honor the Hindu god Vishnu, had been built between AD 1113 and 1150

The Canaanites of old were judged by God. Their culture was taken from them because they would not live right, and because they would not embrace the One true God.

     3 Wherefore Adoni-zedek king of Jerusalem sent unto Hoham king of Hebron, and unto Piram king of Jarmuth, and unto Japhia king of Lachish, and unto Debir king of Eglon, saying,

When a nation comes under the heavy hand of Divine discipline, the leaders of the nation can take action. The leadership can either repent in humility and do right, and lead the people in righteousness, or the leadership can fight the Lord and the people of God. Adoni-zedek, king Jerusalem chose to fight. He would find boldness to resist the Lord, the people of God, and those with whom the Hebrews had made peace, by finding personal allies for his cause.

So Adoni-zedek, king of Jerusalem formed an unholy alliance with the kings of the nearby cities surrounding Jerusalem. An alliance was made with:

Hoham, king of Hebron,
Piram, king of Jarmuth,
Japhia, king of Lachish, and
Debir, king of Eglon.

Here was a military coalition of five United Nations. Their objective was to oppose the will of God, reflected in the words of Adoni-zedek.

     4 Come up unto me, and help me, that we may smite Gibeon: for it hath made peace with Joshua and with the children of Israel.

It was wise for the Gibeonites to make a peace treaty with the Hebrews, because of the principle of blessing by association. God promised Abraham saying, “I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” (Gen. 12:3)

God has been faithful to His promise to Abraham. The Principle of Blessing by Association has been manifested down through the centuries. Those nations who honor Israel are esteemed. Those nations that are hostile to Israel are cursed by association.

When a nation formulates its national policy towards Israel, it is good to keep the promises of God in mind.

     5 Therefore the five kings of the Amorites, the king of Jerusalem, the king of Hebron, the king of Jarmuth, the king of Lachish, the king of Eglon, gathered themselves together, and went up, they and all their hosts, and encamped before Gibeon, and made war against it.

“The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed, saying, 3 Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.” (Psalms 2:1-3)

The opposition of the United Nations would be to no avail. “He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. 5 Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure.” (Psalms 2:4-5)

     6 And the men of Gibeon sent unto Joshua to the camp to Gilgal, saying, Slack not thy hand from thy servants; come up to us quickly, and save us, and help us: for all the kings of the Amorites that dwell in the mountains are gathered together against us.

      7 So Joshua ascended from Gilgal, he, and all the people of war with him, and all the mighty men of valour.

When evil people band together to hurt the people of God, and those who support them, the good news is that the righteous have the ultimate weapon of warfare. They have the Lord, whose authority and power is greater than any instrument of destruction known to man.

     8 And the LORD said unto Joshua, Fear them not: for I have delivered them into thine hand; there shall not a man of them stand before thee.

Notice the difference in attitude between the wise but unbelieving Canaanites, who had allied themselves with the Israelites, and the Hebrew. The people of Gibeon were fearful, and their fear was reflected in the language they used. “Come up to us quickly.” “Save us, and help us!”

In contrast, the Hebrews were told not to be afraid. “I have delivered them into thine hand.” The victory is already won. “There shall not a man of them stand before thee.” Faith really is the victory that overcomes the world.

By way of application. God does not want His people to be afraid. There are many enemies in life who appear to be strong, and united. However, the Church shall always emerge triumphant in America, in the Middle East, and in Russia. Let the people of God rejoice. The battles of life are real. The enemies of God are real. The struggles are real. But so is the victory God always gives to His own.

     9 Joshua therefore came unto them suddenly, and went up from Gilgal all night.

     10 And the LORD discomfited them before Israel, and slew them with a great slaughter at Gibeon, and chased them along the way that goeth up to Beth-horon, and smote them to Azekah, and unto Makkedah.

Sometimes in recording an important incident, there is an understatement of what has happened. “And the LORD discomfited them before Israel.” I suggest that is an understatement of a grand and glorious victory that God gave to the Hebrew army in their conquest of five kings united against them. What happed is that the Hebrew army pursued their fleeing foes along a rocky and rugged road that rises up to Beth-Horon and then descends to the lower village of Azekah, and on to Makkedah. In this pursuit, the enemy had nowhere to hide. In this pursuit the defeat, and the death of the enemy, was certain.

Such is the state of the enemies of the Church, and of Christ. The world and the Devil think they are going to destroy the Church, but the time always comes when the people of God turn and pursue their enemies, and prevail.

In recent years, a war has been waged on Christmas. Stores stopped celebrating Christmas, and started advertising Happy Holidays. Billboards have been erected by atheists saying, “Have a Merry Christmas – Stay Home from Church!” Crosses are to be taken down from public displays on government property. While some of that is still happening, the nation has a President-elect in the forty-fifth person elected to that high office who has promised the nation, “When elected, we shall say ‘Merry Christmas’ again.” The church has prevailed, and will continue to prevail on the issue of life, freedom of religion, and freedom of speech. The church shall continue to cling to her God, Guns, and Bible.

     11 And it came to pass, as they fled from before Israel, and were in the going down to Beth-horon, that the LORD cast down great stones from heaven upon them unto Azekah, and they died: they were more which died with hailstones than they whom the children of Israel slew with the sword.

     12 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.

To add insult to defeat, as the confederation of five city-nations were being routed, the LORD cast down hailstones from heaven which killed many. Here is a wonderful example of climate-change that was not man made, but God directed. The LORD has a right to change climate in a given moment since He created it.

History has many examples of how the weather suddenly changed to help a righteous cause. For example, there is the Miracle of Dunkirk, France of June, 1940. More than 300,000 allied troops were evacuated from Dunkirk and the surrounding beaches. At the time the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill said it was “a miracle of deliverance”. Bad weather played a large part in the rescue effort, for it kept German bombers from flying and seeing their targets clearly.

“Britain had a godly Sovereign. Seeing this situation developing, His Majesty King George VI requested that Sunday, 26 May should be observed as a National Day of Prayer. In a stirring broadcast, he called the people of Britain and of the Empire to commit their cause to God. Together with members of the Cabinet, the King attended Westminster Abbey, whilst millions of his subjects in all parts of the Commonwealth and Empire flocked to the churches to join in prayer. Britain was given inspiring leadership in those days, and her people responded immediately when this kind of initiative was taken. A storm of unprecedented fury broke over Flanders on Tuesday, 28 May, (1940) grounding the German Luftwaffe squadrons and enabling the British army formations, now eight to twelve miles from Dunkirk, to move up on foot to the coast in the darkness of the storm and the violence of the rain, with scarcely any interruption from aircraft, which were unable to operate in such turbulent conditions. The Fuehrer had obviously not taken the weather into his reckoning, nor the One who controls the weather!” (David E. Gardner)

     13 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.

God is a God of miracles. When the Israelites needed God the most, in conquering the Land of Promise, He sent hailstones strategically crashing to earth killing the enemies of His people. Then, the Lord performed another miracle that has been the topic of controversy ever since. Using the language of human observation, the Bible says, “the sun stood still in the midst of heaven,”

It does no good to dispute the veracity of this event, for it is also recorded in the Book of Jasher

(ja’-shur; the book of the upright). This is one of several “Lost Books” mentioned in the Bible. Perhaps Jasher was a book of poetry and praise, relating events that took place in the earlier history of Israel (2 Sam. 1:18). It does not matter. What is recorded in the Book of Joshua is sufficient for people of faith.

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.

To that we say, “Amen. I believe it.”

Special Note.

The Sun Standing Still

      Joshua 10:13 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.

 There are several perspectives about the sun standing still.

Some believe the event is poetical and is to be taken in that sense. Travil Tritt sings a Civil War song called The Day the Sun Stood Still about the events at the Battle of Gettysburg.

“We were young and bound for glory
Itchin’ for a fight like you
Bringin’ hell and purgatory
To the boys who wore the blue.

And I thought I’d seen it all
Till the day night wouldn’t fall
Oh, how the sun did blaze
Wouldn’t go down for days.

I got shot and lost my rifle
When the first wave hit the rise
And the guns rolled out like thunder
And the black smoke burned my eyes.

And I watched it all unfold
Just the way the Bible told
Joshua’s endless day
Keepin’ the night at bay.”

The practical argument against a poetical understanding of the sun standing still is that it is not written as poetry but as a historical event.

Some who believe the event of the sun standing still for a whole day is to be taken literally in some way suggest that what Joshua and others say was a miracle of light refraction. The earth did not stop rotating. The universe did not grind to a cosmic halt. The earth kept moving around the sun but the light was refracted to allow the fighting to continue. Using normal language of human accommodation, it seemed that the sun stood still. We continue to use language of accommodation today when we speak of the sun rising and the sun setting at specific times. The sun does not set or rise, but the language is acceptable to society.

If this event literally happened, and there is no reason to believe it did not happen, the event would have affected other ancient civilizations. With this in mind there are some interesting quotes from ancient documents.

The Babylonians record a “day of twice normal length.”

The Peruvians speak of a day “twice the normal time.”

Seneca, the Roman historian wrote about, “the sun reversing its course and blotting out the night.”

When Herodotus visited Egypt, a priest showed him an ancient manuscript that told of a day that “lasted twice as long as a normal day.”

Fernand Crombette translated some Egyptian hieroglyphics that said, “The sun, thrown into confusion, had remained low on the horizon and by not rising had spread terror into the doctors. Two days rolled into one.”

The Quiche Mayas of Guatemala wrote of a time when people cried for the coming of the dawn and the day. “Oh, if we only could see the rising of the sun.”

How much weight is to be given to these ancient accounts is debatable, but they are interesting.

One person who remained skeptical of the story of the sun standing still was Thomas Jefferson. In 1787, Jefferson wrote a letter to his nephew, Peter Carr, advising him in matters of religion.

“Your reason is now mature enough to examine this object. In the first place, divest yourself of all bias in favor of novelty & singularity of opinion… shake off all the fears & servile prejudices, under which weak minds are servilely crouched.

Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion.

Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear. You will naturally examine first, the religion of your own country.

Read the Bible, then as you would read Livy or Tacitus. The facts which are within the ordinary course of nature, you will believe on the authority of the writer, as you do those of the same kind in Livy and Tacitus. The testimony of the writer weighs in their favor, in one scale, and their not being against the laws of nature, does not weigh against them.

But those facts in the Bible which contradict the laws of nature, must be examined with more care, and under a variety of faces.

Here you must recur to the pretensions of the writer to inspiration from God. Examine upon what evidence his pretensions are founded, and whether that evidence is so strong, as that its falsehood would be more improbable than a change in the laws of nature, in the case he relates.

For example in the book of Joshua we are told the sun stood still several hours. Were we to read that fact in Livy or Tacitus we should class it with their showers of blood, speaking of statues, beasts, &c. But it is said that the writer of that book was inspired.

Examine therefore candidly what evidence there is of his having been inspired. The pretension is entitled to your inquiry, because millions believe it. On the other hand you are astronomer enough to know how contrary it is to the law of nature that a body revolving on its axis as the earth does, should have stopped, should not by that sudden stoppage have prostrated animals, trees, buildings, and should after a certain time have resumed its revolution, & that without a second general prostration.

Is this arrest of the earth’s motion [which spins at 1,000 miles per hour], or the evidence which affirms it, most within the law of probabilities?

You will next read the New Testament. It is the history of a personage called Jesus. Keep in your eye the opposite pretensions:

1, of those who say he was begotten by God, born of a virgin, suspended & reversed the laws of nature at will, & ascended bodily into heaven; and

2, of those who say he was a man of illegitimate birth, of a benevolent heart, enthusiastic mind, who set out without pretensions to divinity, ended in believing them, and was punished capitally for sedition, by being gibbeted, according to the Roman law, which punished the first commission of that offence by whipping, & the second by exile, or death in fureâ.

…Do not be frightened from this inquiry by any fear of its consequences. If it ends in a belief that there is no God, you will find incitements to virtue in the comfort and pleasantness you feel in its exercise, and the love of others which it will procure you… In fine, I repeat, you must lay aside all prejudice on both sides, and neither believe nor reject anything, because any other persons, or description of persons, have rejected or believed it…

I forgot to observe, when speaking of the New Testament, that you should read all the histories of Christ, as well of those whom a council of ecclesiastics have decided for us, to be Pseudo-evangelists, as those they named Evangelists.

Because these Pseudo-evangelists pretended to inspiration, as much as the others, and you are to judge their pretensions by your own reason, and not by the reason of those ecclesiastics. Most of these are lost.

While skeptics questions the story of the sun standing still, people of faith believe in miracles, believe in the Bible, and believe that God shows up when we need Him the most.

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