Science students attending Bible/Science conferences often ask me this question : "Did the sun really stand still when Joshua commanded it to be still ?" The reference is to Joshua 10:12-13, which says :
"On the day that the Lord gave the men of Israel, victory over the Amorites, Joshua spoke to the Lord. In the presence of the Israelites he said ‘Sun stand still over Gibeon; Moon stop over Aijalon Valley’. The Sun stood still and the Moon did not move until the nation had conquered its enemies. This is written in the book of Jashar. The sun stood still in the middle of the sky and did not go down for a whole day."
The students often wonder whether this event had really happened as it is recorded here, because if the sun stands still (or, literally, if the earth stops its rotation for some time), it will bring untold cataclysms all over the earth ! Now if we believe that this vast Universe is a creation of God, then it should not be difficult for us to believe that He can choose to interfere in the function of a tiny planet like the earth ! This, however, does not prevent us from a systematic historical investigation of the whole incident. Moreover, I realize that many of my young readers, brought up under the present education system, have been conditioned (deliberately, of course) to demand proof for each and every historical statement in the Bible before accepting it as true. It is precisely to them that I have dedicated this article !
Let us now look at some of the key phrases in the verses quoted above from Joshua. The phrase "stand still" is translation of the Hebrew word "Damam". It literally means "be silent". So verse 12 literally says "sun be silent", and verse 13 says "The Sun was silent". Hence what this passage intends to say is that the sun tarried in the sky, or that the sun’s disappearance from the sky was delayed.
The word translated "in the middle" ("Chasti" in Hebrew) literally means "in the half of the heavens". In effect, Joshua had asked the sun to tarry [remain] in our half of the heavens [or the sky ]. There are two halves to the heavens: the half that
is visible to us and the other half is visible to people on the other side of the globe.
So what the Bible tells us is that the Sun remained visible in the skies for a whole day (i.e. nearly for 24 hours). We do not yet know exactly how this effect was produced in Joshua’s day, but we know definitely that this kind of a result can be produced even without any crash in the laws of our universe. Certain combinations of refractive index of air, reflections because of several atmospheric phenomena, and certain magnetic effects can make the sun visible in the sky for 20 hours or more a day.
I have some friends belonging to North Canada who have told me of this kind of days. They say that during certain seasons of the year, the sunlight is visible in certain parts of Canada for so many hours into the night that they have to use curtains and shades to be able to sleep at night ! I have personally seen, while visiting Amsterdam, how what appears to be daylight keeps the whole landscape lit even until the midnight. So, my friends, Joshua’s long day, when the sun was visible in the skies for an unusually long time, can even be explained without any violation to our Universe and its laws. However, allow me to say, that stopping the earth’s rotation was not a difficult task for God, if that was the method which He had used to produce this effect!
Having demonstrated that the long day was possible even without a crash in the natural laws, now let us examine whether this incident had really occurred. Physics and chemistry are helpless in this case because they can deal only with events which can be repeated in a laboratory. The story here is non-repeatable, and historical in nature. The best solution therefore is to go back into history and examine the records left by different ancient civilizations and nations. If such a long day did occur, then many races of people must have seen it. Since it surely was an unusual incident, it must have left a permanent imprint on their memories ! This is exactly what we find from numerous ancient historical records outside the Bible !
Herodotus, the great historian, tells us that the priests of Egypt showed him their temple records where he read the strange account of a day which was twice the normal length. [Remember that Egyptians had a highly developed Astronomy, and therefore they used to keep exact records of astronomical events !]. Ancient Chinese writings tell us that there was an unusually long day during the reign of their emperor Yeo, and Yeo is supposed to have lived almost at the time when Joshua lived. The Mexicans have record about a long day, and the date given by them is also around the time in which Joshua had lived ! The Incas of Peru, the Babylonians, Persians, and the Polynesians also speak of such a long day.
During my graduate studies I happened to mention Joshua’s long day while speaking in a debate competition. Prof. Vagh of the military Science department , a keen student of Indian literature, spoke to me telling that the ancient Indian writings also mention such a long day. This was prolonged at the initiation of a god-man in connection with a battle. My professor felt that ultimately this story quoted by him refers to the long day mentioned by me.
The historical information given above is not exhaustive in any way. Several volumes can be filled with primary and secondary archaeological and historical information that confirms that this kind of a long day was definitely observed by people around the world. When a large number of diverse historical records refer to a `long day’ for which all of them assign a time which agrees with the dates obtained from the Bible, then we have to accept that the event mentioned in the Bible is historically true !
One can never be sure of HOW exactly God performed it–miraculously or through a combination of natural events. Knowing this is not even necessary for us because the truth of an event does not depend on how it was performed by God, but rather on whether it did happen. In this matter the verdict of historical records is clear : in ancient times an unusually long day was witnessed by people of many civilizations. This tallies well with what the historical book of Joshua says.
Christians should not be surprised when the Bible speaks of such unusual events of the past. Evidence has been accumulating every day [notably by the works of non Christian Scholars like the late Dr. Immanuel Velikovsky] which point to many such unusual events of the near past. This indicates, I am sure, that given enough time, we will be able to know more about Joshua’s long day and also about many similar miraculous events mentioned in the Bible which must have left their mark on the human history.
NOTE : Some readers might have read the widely circulated story about a certain computer at NASA which detected the missing-day in the Universe. There is another story about an Australian astronomer who is supposed to have discovered a missing-day in the Universe. In 1983-84 I spent scores of hours researching these stories and concluded that both of the stories are mere fiction. The same is the conclusion of many others in the field of Christian apologetics.
One does not have to depend upon fiction, untested theories, and fanciful stories to vindicate the truth of the Bible.
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