When the five kings of the Amorites wage war against the Gibeonites, Joshua and the Israelites arrive to support their allies at Gibeon. And then something astonishing occurs: “The sun stopped in the middle of the skies and did not rush to set for about a whole day” (Joshua 10:13). Apparently, God lengthened the period of daylight so that Joshua’s army could have more time to achieve victory. But that’s not all. The divine alteration in the constellations was also a symbolic act that indicated the Lord’s victory over the lesser gods of Canaan.
After his successful campaign against the Amorites, Joshua addresses God, saying, “Be still, sun, at Gibeon; moon in the valley of Aijalon.” (Joshua 10:12). At Joshua’s request, “the sun (שמש; shemesh) stood still, and the moon (ירח; yareach) stopped until the nation [of Israel] took vengeance on their enemies” (10:13). While the elongated day allows Israel to triumph over the Amorite people, the event at Gibeon is also a condemnation of those people’s gods. Many of Israel’s neighbors worshiped their deities in association with the sun and moon—something that Moses prohibits, saying, “When you look up into the sky and behold the sun (שמש; shemesh) and the moon (ירח; yareach) and the stars, the whole heavenly host, you must not be lured into bowing down to them or serving them. These the Lord your God allotted to all the [other] peoples” (Deuteronomy 4:19-20; cf. 7:3). This Deuteronomistic prohibition provides the foundation for interpreting the stilling of the sun and moon for Joshua as the paralysis of these inferior gods.
More support for this reading appears in Joshua’s specification that “the sun was still (דום; dom)” (Joshua 10:13). The Torah uses the same term with reference to God’s victory over the people and gods of Canaan. After crossing the Sea of Reeds, Moses addresses God is song, asking, “Who is like you among the gods (באלם; ba’elim)? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in splendor, working wonders? […] All the inhabitants of Canaan have melted away. Terror and dread fall upon them; through the might of your arm, they are still (דום; dom) as stone” (Exodus 15:11, 15-16). The stillness of the sun in Joshua’s day recalls Moses describing the inhabitants of Canaan—both human and divine—as paralyzed with fear at the Lord’s might.
The sun and moon’s stoppage allows Israel to take “vengeance (נקם; naqam) on its enemies” (Joshua 10:13)—a reality to which Moses alludes in yet another song to God. In the Dead Sea Scrolls’ rendition of Deuteronomy 32:43—the earliest Hebrew version of the verse whose terminology is paralleled in the Greek Septuagint—Moses refers to God taking vengeance against lesser gods: “Rejoice with [God], O heavens; bow down to him, all gods (כל אלהים; kol elohim). For he avenges (נקם; naqam) the blood of his children and takes vengeance (נקם) on his adversaries” (Deut 32:43 in 4QDeutq). This Mosaic declaration anticipates what the Lord will do for Joshua against the Amorites. By stopping the sun and moon in their tracks, the God of Israel not only allows Joshua to defeat human adversaries, but also causes all of Canaan’s gods to bow down to the Most High.
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Beautiful! This is something from the biblical scriptures that I am really obsessed with, based on "The Unseen Realm" by Heiser. The sun, moon and stars are also portrayed as "rulers" of the day and night skies in Genesis 1:16-18, which is also a task for heavenly beings, isn't it? Yes, it may be that the description of God setting the two great lights in the sky is a polemic against the notion that the sun and moon should be worshiped or have the authority to rule life on earth. Genesis asserts that this authority goes to God. We are glad that you are finding our articles enlightening. You’ve already started your path into Scripture, but there’s so much more that awaits you! Consider enrolling in our immersive online courses: The Jewish Gospel of Matthew or The Hebrew Psalms: How To Worship God. We guarantee that they will deepen your understanding of Scripture and enrich your faith experience. I really believe this is excellent but we have to have understanding and boldness it will give us more clarity and understanding and I thank you for it. Thank you for reading, Rita. Beautifully said, Prof. Schaser. I'm waiting for your Genesis "serpent" sequel. Shalom! Thanks for reading, Neil. We've got lots of sequels to the first article on the Edenic serpent: https://weekly.israelbiblecenter.com/snake-garden-serpent-satan/ Wow!! Thanks Dr Schaser for that insight. I always wondered if there was more to this story that I was missing. Now it makes perfect sense. So enjoy your writings and insight. Shalom. Thanks for studying with us, Dwight. Thank you for the insight on the verse in Joshua 10:13. Thank you for reading. Thanks for demonstrating the might of God as revealed in the scriptures. is there a reason why Joshua specifies why the sun and moon should stop in those named sites, could they have been centers of worship for the said deities or were they boundaries of the land? Thanks for your question, Serah. The sun stops in Gibeon because that's where the battle takes place. The Valley of Aijalon is to the west of Gibeon, so the addition of this geographical site may conjure the direction in which the sun would have been meant to set had it not been stopped. More, Joshua's words in 10:12 constitute a line of Hebrew poetry, so "Gibeon" and the "Valley of Aijalon" function as poetic "parallels" that describe the same general geographic area. Were only sun and moon stopped or the universe? Logically if only sun and moon were stopped meanwhile other planets and stars moved there should be collision among stars, planets or comets in the universe. How do you think about this? Thanks Thanks for your question, Marthin. We're glad to have you studying with us. The ancient Israelite authors of the Bible weren't aware of a broader "universe" that included other planets in orbit around the sun. Therefore, any interstellar speculation is beyond the scope of the biblical narrative. The text is more interested in what the stopped sun and moon symbolize (the defeat of Canaan's gods) than the physics of constellational cessation. Is this evidence of a FLAT ERETZ? Wonderful. The LORD God is awesome! Great insight. Thanks Thanks for studying with us, Charles. Such beauty Prof Nicho and wonderfully explained. Beautiful!
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