Monday, August 10, 2015

Joshua 10: The Longest Day?

I know many people who complain about having a long day: the student taking her final examinations, the doctor performing a series of difficult surgeries, the pastor with a day loaded full of services, sessions, meetings and classes.  None of them have anything on the longest day ever that the Israelites had back in Joshua 10!

What are we to make of this cosmic miracle recorded in the Bible that speaks of the sun and moon standing still for apparently a whole day?  This was done to give Joshua's forces time to pursue and cut down the armies of five kings that were opposing them (vs. 13).  Scientists are quick to call the whole idea preposterous and physically impossible; biblical literalists are just as adamant in insisting that it must be true because it appears prominently in authoritative scripture.  Is this an irreversible conflict of faith vs. science?

There are many theories advanced to explain this event.  They are available for researching on the internet, from a non-miraculous poetic description of an important day in Israel's history to an actual standstill of the Solar System.  If you are looking for me to tell you which of these interpretations actually happened, I'm afraid that I can't do it - I wasn't there!

I can tell you what I personally believe is the most likely explanation, however.  In my opinion, I believe it was indeed a miracle where the Lord kept the image of the sun and moon frozen in the heavens in the locality where this battle was taking place, thus allowing Joshua's forces to achieve victory.  God certainly  has the power to work this miracle in whatever way He chooses.  If it had been universal in scope, though, it seems most likely to me that we would  have corresponding records from other cultures.

This explanation of a "local occurrence" is most persuasive to me because I find an intriguing parallel with another scriptural miracle: II Chronicles 32:31.  In that passage, the Bible tells us that observers come from Babylon to Judah to inquire about a sign done "in the land."  That particular sign referred to was the sun going backward during Hezekiah's illness (II Kings 20:10-11).  This seems very similar to the Joshua 10 miracle, and the fact that it was apparently a local miracle for Hezekiah leads me to believe that the same holds true for Joshua, too.

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