12 On the day the Lord gave the Amorites over to Israel, Joshua said to the Lord in the presence of Israel: “O sun, stand still over Gibeon, O moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.” 13 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. 14 There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the Lord listened to a man. Surely the Lord was fighting for Israel! 15 Then Joshua returned with all Israel to the camp at Gilgal.” Joshua 10:12-15
I was asked a question related to this story by an 8th grader. It prompted me to want to research this event for myself. The following are the questions I asked and the conclusion that I came to. I’m not saying that I am right. This is just my verdict based on my research. I hope it is helpful for you in coming to your own conclusion. I am convinced in other literal stories such as Jonah being swallowed by the fish (as confirmed by Jesus in the New Testament).
Did God really stop the rotation of the earth for a whole day (showing the sun to have stopped in the middle of the sky)? What would the possible consequences be of stopping the earth – gravity, tides, flooding? The earth could not completely stop without it being a total miracle from God. If it was such a mighty miracle (comparable with the parting of the Red Sea), wouldn’t it have been referenced elsewhere in the Bible? One of the Canon’s (a measure) of scripture was that scripture had to prove scripture and be referenced elsewhere within scripture to be legitimate? There is a complete lack of confirmation in the rest of the Bible for this miracle to have occurred It would have surely been mentioned somewhere else in the Bible in regard to the mighty miracles of God – like in Psalm 136 (which mentions the parting of the Red Sea).
The only possible reference is Habakkuk 3:11 and if this is taken as literal, then the other verses must be too… 11:”Sun and moon stood still in the heavens at the glint of your flying arrows, at the lightning of your flashing spear… 15: You trampled the sea with your horses, churning the great waters.” I don’t really think God had actual horses churning the waters, so it can also be assumed that the sun and mood didn’t actually stand still, but was a representation to show a picture of judgement.
Would stopping the earth break God’s promise of keeping the patterns of day and night? Would He break His own promise of maintaining day and night? (3 verses referenced)
- Gen 8:22 “While the earth remains, …day and night shall not cease.”
- Jer 31:35-36 “It is the Lord who provides the sun to light the day and the moon and stars to light the night. It is he who stirs the sea into roaring waves. His name is the Lord Almighty, and this is what he says, “I am as likely to reject my people Israel as I am to do away with the laws of nature?
- Jer 33:25 “But this is the Lord’s reply, “I would no more reject my people that I would change my laws of night and day, of earth and sky.”
If this miracle did occur, then would God’s character be in question? Moses was rebuked for splitting the rock to bring forth water for the Israelites without consulting God first. In fact, God was so mad about this one instant, that Moses was not even allowed to go into the promised land. So, why would Joshua speak to the sun & moon to stop without consulting God first in prayer (a similar image to Moses’ incident)? This request does not conform to the pattern God used when other miracles are mentioned in the Bible.
What is the book of Jashar that referenced in these verses? “…as it is written in the Book of Jashar.” :13 It literally means, “book of the upright.”
Jashar is also referenced in 2 Samuel 1:18 “Later [David] commanded that [the funeral song he composed for Saul] be taught to all the people of Judah. It is know as the Song of the Bow, and is recorded in the Book of Jashar.”
The book of Jashar, Biblical scripture inspired by God, a historical document, or just a fraud? The book contains 91 chapters and was originally written in Hebrew. It has accounts from creation through the time when the Israelites inherited the promised land, including portions of the first seven books of the Old Testament. It contains about three times as much information as the book of Genesis. This book is debated by historians because it contradicts other historical documents in regard to the timing of various events (including the birth of Abraham). The ancient scrolls were found in very poor condition when the book was first published in Hebrew in 1613. It is very likely that some things were not translated correctly. There were three medieval books that carried the same name of Jashar which were all written by Jews in the Hebrew Language:
- A 1391 version by Rabbi Shabbatai Carmuz Levita, preserved in a Vatican manuscript.
- A book used as the introduction to the Hexateuch probably written by a Spanish Jew in the 13th century and published in Venice in 1625. This version was translated to English in 1840 by MM Noah and published in New York. This is the most referenced version of the book.
- A treatise on Jewish ritual written by Rabbi Tham who died in 1171; it was printed in Italy in 1544.
In the early 18th and late 19th century, the book of Jashar was declared to be “a shameless literary forgery” and considered it a fraud and not genuine. Today, it is generally concluded by scholars that this book is a historical account (at best) and should definitely not be considered as the divine Word of God. I’m still not clear as to why the scriptures would mention this book twice, yet it is not considered particularly accurate or inspired. If Jashar was truly Biblical scripture, wouldn’t have God preserved the book of Jashar and included it in the Bible?
- From the book of Jashar 88.63-64: “…and Joshua said in the sight of all the people, Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon, and thou moon in the valley of Ajalon, until the nation shall have revenged itself upon its enemies… And the sun stood still in the midst of the heavens, and it stood still six and thirty moments, and the moon also stood still and hastened not to go down a whole day. And there was no day like that before it or after it, that the Lord hearkened to the voice of man, for the Lord fought for Israel.”
- A second mention of the Book of Jasher occurs in II Samuel 1.17. In contrast, this incident is not a direct quotation of a historical event from Jasher, as is the case in Joshua. Jasher’s narrative ends long before the time of David. However, as part of his lamentation over the death of Saul and Jonathan, David referred to a comment by Jacob that is quoted in the Book of Jasher. He said: “Also he bade them teach the children of Judah the use of the bow: Behold it is written in the book of Jasher.” David is referring to the dying words of Jacob to Judah in Jasher 56:9, “…only teach thy sons the use of the bow and all weapons of war, in order that they may fight the battles of their brother who will rule over his enemies.” This passage in the Bible has no reference to anything in the Bible itself, but it is made clear from the passage in Jasher.
IN MY CONCLUSION:
Since it is not verified elsewhere in the Bible as a true miracle, that it would go against promise of maintaining the laws of nature, and the book referenced is not divinely inspired scripture, my conclusion is that the actual event did not incur, but instead is a representation of how the Israelites obtained the victory in an incredible way with the Lord’s help, a day like no other. It appeared to them that they had many more hours as they accomplished great victory in a short amount of time. This battle was like no other in that their enemies were defeated in a very short amount of time, all for God’s glory.