"And The Sun Stood Still" - Joshua 10:13
Was A Myth, A Legend... Or A Historical Fact?
Joshua 10 is the Old Testament story of the sun standing still
for "about a full day" (v. 13). Due to its geocentric implications
(however misplaced), Biblical scholars have wrestled with this
passage for hundreds of years. Was it only an allegorical myth (good
triumphing over evil), a Jewish fable (per Philo, Maimonides,
Gershon), a faulty rendering of the Hebrew text, an eclipse, a natural
wonder (the earth tilting on its axis, the sun only appearing to stand
still) or a local miracle (a refraction of the sun’s rays, seen only in
Canaan)? Or was Joshua's Long Day a supernatural miracle, seen
(or experienced) all over the world?
Further, if Joshua's Long Day occurred as the Bible says, a double
miracle must have taken place—the moon stopped too. Therefore,
apart from a supernatural act of God, the earth would have undergone
incalculable, worldwide catastrophes, and little life would have
survived. (As we'll see below, some accounts claim that minor
catastrophes did take place.)
More still, if Joshua 10 was historical, we would expect to find records of it, not only in the Middle East, but all over the world. And we have them. Records and legends going back thousand of years, from all over the world, tell of a once Long Day. They appear in the Eastern Hemisphere as a long day, and the Western Hemisphere as a long night. In the South Pacific there is a legend of a 'long sunset.'
Herodotus, Homer, Josephus, the Incas, Aztecs and Native American Indians are just a few that tell of a long day (or long night) thousands of years ago.
Of course, as we would expect, over the centuries many exaggerations and embellishments have crept into the narratives (like the Creation & Flood legends), but the kernel of truth is there—in all of them—the sun (and/or the moon) "stood still."
According to the Book of Joshua, after the death of Moses, Joshua took command of the Israelites and entered the promised land (c. 1400 BC). The Gibeonites, having made peace with Israel, feared an attack from five Amorite kings and sent word to Joshua beseeching his aid. After God assured Joshua of the victory, the Hebrews routed the kings. As they were retreating, Joshua implored Jehovah for more time to make the victory sure.
The rest of the account is taken from Joshua 10:
"So Joshua marched up from Gilgal with his entire army, including all the
best fighting men. The Lord said to Joshua, "Do not be afraid of them; I have
given them into your hand. Not one of them will be able to withstand you.
After an all-night march from Gilgal, Joshua took them by surprise. The Lord
threw them into confusion before Israel, so Joshua and the Israelites defeated
them completely at Gibeon. Israel pursued them along the road going up
to Beth Horon and cut them down all the way to Azekah and Makkedah. As
they fled before Israel on the road down from Beth Horon to Azekah, the
Lord hurled large hailstones down on them, and more of them died from the
hail than were killed by the swords of the Israelites. On the day the Lord gave
the Amorites over to Israel, Joshua said to the Lord in the presence of Israel:
'Sun, stand still over Gibeon,
and you, moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.'
So the sun stood still,
and the moon stopped,
till the nation avenged itself on its enemies,
as it is written in the Book of Jashar.
The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day. There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the Lord listened to the voice of a man. Surely the Lord was
fighting for Israel!"
- Joshua 10: 7-14
(Note: The Book of Jashar, mentioned above, was written hundreds of years later during the time of King David (c. 1000 BC). The fact that the Hebrew nation accepted the Book of Jasher gives Joshua's Long Day considerable credibility.)
A similar account of JLD is found in the writings of Flavius Josephus, a 1st Century Jew living in Judea near the time
"... Joshua made haste with his whole army to assist them: and marching day and night,
in the morning he fell upon the enemies, as they were going up to the siege: and when he
had discomfited them, he followed them, and pursued them down the descent of the hills:
the place is called Beth horon. Where he also understood that God assisted him: which he
declared by thunder and thunderbolts; as also by the falling of hail larger than usual.
Moreover it happened that the day was lengthened; that the night might not come on too
soon, and be an obstruction to the zeal of the Hebrews in pursuing their enemies. Insomuch
that Joshua took the Kings, which were hidden in a certain cave at Makkedah, and put
them to death. Now that the day was lengthened at this time, and was longer than ordinary,
is expressed in the Books laid up in the temple."
- Antiquities of the Jews; Book V. chap.1, 17.
Modern detractors might argue that Josephus was a Jew and would have naturally defended the Old Testament account. However, Josephus was a prominent historian, so much that he was commissioned by Rome in 94 AD to compile and assemble a history of the Jews, i.e., The Antiquities of the Jews, from which this account is taken.
More accounts of a primordial 'Long Day' follow below:
In the Homeric, Hymns to Athena (Hesiod's volume in the Loeb Classical Library), we read:
"... the sun stopped for a long while." (Quoted in Velikovsky, Worlds In Collision, p. 169)
In The Cults of the Greek States (Farnell, I, 281), the phrase, "the sun stopping in its ourse"
is recorded. (Ibid. p. 169)
In Plato's Timaeus (360 BC), Critias relates an account of an Egyptian priest telling of
declining heavenly bodies: "There have been, and will be again, many destructions of
mankind arising out of many causes; the greatest have been brought about by the agencies of
fire and water... There is a story that even you [Greeks] have preserved, that once upon a
time, Phaethon, the son of Helios, having yoked the steeds in his father's chariot, because he
was not able to drive them in the path of his father, burnt up all that was upon the earth, and
was himself destroyed by a thunderbolt. Now this has the form of a myth, but really signifies a
declination of the bodies moving in the heavens around the earth, and a great
conflagration of things upon the earth, which recurs after long intervals."
Velikovsky, pondering this work, goes on to say: "In the section, Phaethon, we wondered how the Roman poet Ovid could have known of the relation between the interrupted movement of the sun and a world fire unless such a catastrophe had actually occurred. The same reasoning applies to the Indians. The story of snaring the sun or attacking the sun is told in many variants, but the world fire is a consistent result. Forests and fields burn, mountains smoke and vomit lava, rivers boil, caves in the mountains collapse, and rocks burst... (ibid., p. 311).
Velikovsky's observations agree with a section of the Legends of the Jews (by Louis Ginsberg), in which the Thanksgiving Prayer to Joshua describes the 'interrupted movement of the sun' as catastrophic and global:
"Sun and moon stood in heaven...
Nations raged from fear of Thee,
Kingdoms tottered because of thy wrath,
Thous didst pour out Thy fury upon them,
Thou didst terrify them in Thy wrath,
The earth quaked and trembled from the noise of Thy
- 'Legends,' IV. 11-12
Herodotus (5th Century BC), while visiting Egypt, notes that when the temple priests were
showing him their archives, he noticed a record of a day twice as long as any day recorded.
(Boyd, World's Bible Handbook, p.122)
Another Egyptian tradition is told by French scholar, Fernand Crombette, the translator of
various Egyptian hieroglyphics. The account tells of a decree from a king exempting a number
of subjects from taxes who were victims of a large flood. A condensed rendering follows below:
"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... 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..."
- Cercle Scientifique et Historique, France and Belgium,
from Crombette’s three volumes of Verdique
Historique de l’Egypte Antique)
A halted sun (and sometimes a halted moon) is a constant theme throughout these legends.
In the Western Hemisphere there are more tales of heavenly disorders, among them a 'Long Night':
40 years after Christopher Columbus arrived in the New World, Franciscan friar Bernadine de Sahagun, uncovered and collated numerous legends of the American Indians. One of them tells of a time when "the sun rose only above the horizon and remained there without moving; the moon also stood still." (Historia general de las cosas de Nuera Espana [new edition] French trans. p. 481; quoted in Velikovsky, pp. 45,46.)
The Ojibway Indians tell of a 'long night with no light' (Olcott, Sun Lore of all Ages: A Collection of Myths and Legends Concerning the Sun and its Worship, p. 212.)
The Ute Indians have a legend describing the 'disruption of the movement of the
sun.' (Lowie, Shoshonean Tales, p. 61)
French Jesuit missionary, Paul Le Jeune, recounts a 'long night' told by the
Wyandots. (Olcott, p. 215)
An Aztec inscription dating from 1400 BC reads: "The sun did not rise for a whole
day in the city of the gods." (Taylor, Creation Moments, Vol. 19)
A legend of the Dogrib Indians describes a time when 'the sun was caught at noon
and instantly it became dark'. (Olcott, p. 216)
The Omahas report a legend that 'once the sun was caught in a trap by a rabbit...
before sunrise.' (Olcott, p. 217)
In the Canadian Lake Winnipeg area, the Bungee Tribe tells of a 'long night.' (Olcott, p. 218)
In Central and South America, the Mexican Annals of Cuauhtitlan describes' one of the nights not ending for a long time.' (Codex Chimalpopoca; c. 1,000 BC)
Another Aztec narrative tells of a long period of time when the sun did not rise. A human
sacrifice was offered so that "once again the world might have a sun ..." (Caso, The Religion of
the Aztecs, pp. 15-16)
In the 'Popol Vuh,' the national book of the Quiché Mayans of Guatemala, 'a long night' is
"They did not sleep; they remained standing and great was the anxiety of their hearts and
their stomachs for the coming of the dawn and the day... 'Oh,... if we only could see the rising of
the sun! What shall we do now?'... They talked, but they could not calm their hearts which were
anxious for the coming of the dawn." (Goetz, Popul Vuh: The Sacred Book of the Quiche Maya,
Part III, Chapters 4-7, pp. 172-190)
In the Fiji Islands in the South Pacific there is a tradition of a 'Long Sunrise.' Anthropologist
Sir James Frazier records that on a particular Island hillside the natives tie weeds together "to
stop the sun from going down," as they say it once did.
This specific location has garnered considerable attention. When a night/day cycle overlay is placed on a world map, and the night section is placed at the edge of the Fiji Islands, the night section covers the Long Night locations (in the Western Hemisphere), and the day section covers the Long Day locations (in the Eastern Hemisphere). This is indisputable confirmation that these legends are not random and local, otherwise they would be scattered randomly throughout both Hemispheres. A video clip demonstrating the night/day overlay follows below:
A particular question occasionally comes up regarding Joshua 10: Why would Joshua's victory over a common, run-of-the-mill pagan tribe call for such an extraordinary, astounding miracle of this nature? There are possibly two answers.
First, in the Old Testament, Israel was God's Chosen People. The Hebrews worshipped Yahweh, while the Amorites and a number of surrounding nations worshipped the sun and moon (Wycliff Bible Dictionary, p.1144; The Bible Has The Answer, p.72; New World Encyclopedia, entry Amorites). Thus, the halting of the sun and moon would have proven to the Amorites and their neighbors that their gods were false, and that Jehovah was the one and only true God. (Religious pluralism is absent in the Bible.)
Secondly, the Amorites practiced male and female prostitution, temple sex orgies, sodomy and child sacrifice. These depravities called for the Amorites' total annihilation. Such debaucheries would have, in time, corrupted the Hebrew nation (particularly the tribe of Judah, through whom the Messiah would come [Heb. 7:14]), to such an extent that the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World, would not have taken place. The story of the Bible is the never-ending struggle between God and Satan to terminate the mission of the Savior, which today is being fought in His church. (See Faull, Eternal Struggle From Genesis To Revelation; Summit Theological Seminary)
Of particular interest also is the word Joshua, which means God is Saviour. Moses changed Joshua's name from Hoshea according to Numbers 13:16 (see also Numbers 13:8, Deuteronomy 32:44). A fuller form of Joshua is Jehoshua, or Jeshua, which in the Greek means 'Jesus' (as in Acts 7:45 & Heb. 4:8 [Old Testament History, College Press, p. 303, footnote]). Also, as homilist and author, Patrick Reardon (Antiochian Orthodox) observes, Moses prefixed Hoshea with the first syllable of the Sacred Tetragrammaton—YAHWEH—which rendered it Joshua. What else can this mean but that Joshua was a shadow or prefiguration of Jesus Christ—the Creator of the sun and moon—and Savior of the world.
A Russian atheist astronomer, once came to the US to speak at one of our universities, and made an interesting observation. He began his speech with these words:
"Folks, either there is a god or there isn't. Both possibilities are frightening. If there is no god, we are in trouble, because we are hurdling through space at 66,000 miles an hour and nobody is in charge. If there is a god, we better find out who he is, what he wants and do what he says."
Good advise indeed. There is a God, you can be sure of it. He does exist, and He sent His Son (the second Person of the High Trinity) to die for our sins, as was prophesied of old. He walked the earth among friend and foe, as a man, the One history had promised from the very beginning (Gen. 3:15). He professed He was “from God” (John 6:46), yet claimed He was “One with God” (John 10:30), and backed it by the things He did (v. 38). The pre-incarnate Christ is the One that stopped the sun and moon in its tracks 3,400 years ago. He is the "Sun of righteousness... with healing in His wings" (Mal. 4:2), and the only One Who can "give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death" (Luke 1:79). On the Day of Judgment He will be your Savior or your Judge. There's no third option.
To be saved from your sins you must:
- Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ (John 8:24; Acts 16:31)
- Repent of your sins (Mat. 3:2; Luke 13:3-5)
- Confess Jesus publicly (Mat. 10:32-33; Romans 10:9-10)
- Be immersed (baptized) into Christ for the remission of your sins and the
gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38; Matt. 28:18-20)
- Live faithfully until death (Rev. 2:10; James 1:12)
Your obedience to the Gospel is the most important decision you will ever
make, and will determine where you will spend eternity.
"His Name Is Yahweh Of Hosts—The Holy One Of Israel
Is Your Redeemer; He Is Called The God Of All The Earth.”
- Isaiah 54:5
Joshua's Long Day
“What I say unto you, I say unto all... Watch!” - Jesus (Mark 13:37)
Bust of Plato
Bust of Herodotus