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Joshua 10:1-15 – The Sun Stands Still

Summary

In a battle against the army of five Canaanite kings at Gibeon, Joshua asks the sun to stand still, and it does.

Analysis

The people of Gibeon, in central Canaan, enter into a treaty with Israel in Joshua 9. Hearing of this, five neighboring kings join forces to attack Gibeon, and the Gibeonites send to Joshua for help. The Israelites come to defend their allies, and in the ensuing battle, Joshua asks the sun and the moon to stand still. They do so for a day, and the battle is won for the Israelites. The account ends, "There has been no day like it before or since, when the LORD heeded a human voice; for the LORD fought for Israel" (Joshua 10:14).

It is unclear why Joshua asks the sun to stand still; perhaps it is to allow the Israelites more time to defeat their enemies. In any case, the words he speaks are apparently part of a quotation from the "Book of Jashar" (Joshua 10:13). The same book is mentioned in 2 Samuel 1:18, though the work has long since been lost to antiquity. The verb used to refer to the sun's actions in the original poetic fragment in Joshua 10:12-13 can be translated "be silent" (or "be dark") instead of "stand still." Some interpreters have therefore speculated that the quotation refers to an eclipse or to some other natural phenomenon. The Deuteronomistic editor/writer who included the quotation in this passage, however, understood the request to be for more daylight. Therefore, he states explicitly, "the sun stopped in mid-heaven, and did not hurry to set for about a whole day" (Joshua 10:13b).

As at Jericho and Ai, the victory at Gibeon belongs to the Lord, not to any military might on the part of the Israelites.

Joshua 10:1-15

The Sun Stands Still

10When King Adoni-zedek of Jerusalem heard how Joshua had taken Ai, and had utterly destroyed it, doing to Ai and its king as he had done to Jericho and its king, and how the inhabitants of Gibeon had made peace with Israel and were among them, 2he* became greatly frightened, because Gibeon was a large city, like one of the royal cities, and was larger than Ai, and all its men were warriors. 3So King Adoni-zedek of Jerusalem sent a message to King Hoham of Hebron, to King Piram of Jarmuth, to King Japhia of Lachish, and to King Debir of Eglon, saying, 4‘Come up and help me, and let us attack Gibeon; for it has made peace with Joshua and with the Israelites.’ 5Then the five kings of the Amorites—the king of Jerusalem, the king of Hebron, the king of Jarmuth, the king of Lachish, and the king of Eglon—gathered their forces, and went up with all their armies and encamped against Gibeon, and made war against it.

6 And the Gibeonites sent to Joshua at the camp in Gilgal, saying, ‘Do not abandon your servants; come up to us quickly, and save us, and help us; for all the kings of the Amorites who live in the hill country are gathered against us.’ 7So Joshua went up from Gilgal, he and all the fighting force with him, all the mighty warriors. 8The Lord said to Joshua, ‘Do not fear them, for I have handed them over to you; not one of them shall stand before you.’ 9So Joshua came upon them suddenly, having marched up all night from Gilgal. 10And the Lord threw them into a panic before Israel, who inflicted a great slaughter on them at Gibeon, chased them by the way of the ascent of Beth-horon, and struck them down as far as Azekah and Makkedah. 11As they fled before Israel, while they were going down the slope of Beth-horon, the Lord threw down huge stones from heaven on them as far as Azekah, and they died; there were more who died because of the hailstones than the Israelites killed with the sword.

12 On the day when the Lord gave the Amorites over to the Israelites, Joshua spoke to the Lord; and he said in the sight of Israel,
‘Sun, stand still at Gibeon,
   and Moon, in the valley of Aijalon.’
13 And the sun stood still, and the moon stopped,
   until the nation took vengeance on their enemies.
Is this not written in the Book of Jashar? The sun stopped in mid-heaven, and did not hurry to set for about a whole day. 14There has been no day like it before or since, when the Lord heeded a human voice; for the Lord fought for Israel.

15 Then Joshua returned, and all Israel with him, to the camp at Gilgal.

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10 February 2011

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