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July 22, 2014

When sun and moon 'stopped'

"O sun, stand still over Gibeon, O moon, over the Valley of Aijalon" (Joshua 10:12)

Yes, the elements helped Joshua defeat five heathen kings. He prayed; the light from sun and moon was arrested, and victory was complete.

True, the English reading - that the sun 'stood still' (v.13) - has caused many readers to suppose that Joshua was needing more daylight and that the earth therefore stopped turning on its axis for the best part of a day - but verse 9 indicates that Joshua was on a night march, and that what he needed was not more daylight, but more darkness, lest the approaching dawn threaten to derail his night attack. And the Hebrew scholars help us here. The word for 'stand still' can equally well mean 'cease,' as, for example, in 2 Kings 4:6: 'Then the oil stopped flowing' or 'ceased.'

As for the English reading that the sun delayed 'going down' about a full day (v.13), it was the evangelical Bible scholar F.F. Bruce who observed that while the Hebrew word 'Bo' usually applies to sunset, it can also mean 'to come', and is parallel to the word 'zarah' ('to rise) - as in Isaiah 60:1; 'Arise, shine' (compare Job 31:26).

Could it be, then, that with the need for more darkness, Joshua prayed, and the resulting thunderous hailstorm (v.11) served him well, not only by devastating the enemy (v.11), but also by delaying the sunrise. Both sun and moon died on them, and never put in an appearance at all! It was a God-given miracle of extended darkness. Try this Bible study yourself.