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Passage: Joshua 10:1-15

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.