Sun-Stopping Prayers

Joshua 10

Alan Lewis
Elon, North Carolina
November 2019

Is the Bible accurate?  Is it trustworthy or does it contain errors?  Does it contain any scientific errors?  Many believe that Joshua 10 contains some scientific errors.  Joshua 10 is one of the most ridiculed passages in the Bible.  It came up in the Scopes Monkey Trial in the 1920s.  Evolution was on trial but the defense attorney Clarence Darrow, who was an atheist, put the Bible on trial.

One of the passages that he brought up was Joshua 10.  We know that the earth goes around the sun.  The sun does not go around the earth, so to skeptics this looks like a clear error, a scientific error. Why didn’t Joshua speak to the earth and tell it to stop moving?  Why did he speak to the sun and tell is to stop moving?

Most Christians believe that God stopped the rotation of the earth during Joshua’s long day.  Skeptics say that this would have been catastrophic.  We can imagine what it is like to travel 70 miles per hour in a car with a seat belt and it suddenly stops without warning, like it hit a tree.

What if you were traveling 55,000 miles per hour and you stopped and did not have a seat belt on?  People would fly off into space.  Seventy percent of the planet is water.  What would happen to all of the water in the ocean? It would turn into tsunamis.  Does the Bible contradict science?  How would you answer any of these questions?

The Bible is not unscientific, but it also is not a science textbook.  It uses the language of appearance.  Joshua tells the sun to stop, not the earth, because it describes things the way they appear, not necessarily how they are scientifically.  We cannot criticize these primitive people because we do the same thing today.  Meteorologists speak of the sun rising and the sun setting today.  For some reason, we do not call them “unscientific.”

It is true that the earth goes around the sun, but it is not true that the sun does not move all.  That is a myth.  Everything in the universe moves.  The earth revolves around the sun and the sun revolves around the Milky Way Galaxy but there are some myths about this miracle that many Christians believe.

Myths about Joshua’s Long Day

All of us believe that the Bible is the Word of God.  All of us want to defend it but some of the books on apologetics give weak arguments in defense of the Bible and many Christians believe them.  There is a rumor that scientists from NASA have discovered a missing day in history but that is not true.  There is no documentation for the rumor and NASA denies it.

Many books on apologetics talk about a long day in many countries in the ancient world but there is one problem.  Many of these stories cannot be verified.  They make many claims but give no proof.  They are either unsubstantiated or do not fit the time period of Joshua (1404 BC).

My mentor in graduate school was Bill Lane.  Dr. Lane had a PhD in NT from Harvard and yet he was a conservative.  One day, I came to his class and he had the words “Lane’s Law” written on the board.  Lane’s Law said this: “An ounce of evidence is worth a pound of assertion.”  What is the truth about this day?  It is one of the miracles of Joshua.

The Four Miracles in Joshua

There are four miracles in the Book of Joshua: the RIVER MIRACLE, the WALL MIRACLE, the HAIL MIRACLE and SUN MIRACLE.

The first miracle is the River Jordan Miracle.  It is found in Joshua 3.  It occurred when two million people crossed a flooded river when God supernaturally parted it and they crossed it on dry ground.

The second miracle is the Wall of Jericho Miracle.  It is found in Joshua 6.  The Israelites did not do anything to cause it to come down.  They just circled the walls each day and blew trumpets and on the seventh day, the falls fell, not forwards or backwards but straight down as if a divine hand pushed it straight down.  They fell by the power of God.  The last two miracles are found in Joshua 10.  Today, we will look at the last two miracles in the book.

The Hailstone Miracle

The chapter begins with an anti-Gibeonite coalition.   So Adoni-Zedek king of Jerusalem appealed to Hoham king of Hebron, Piram king of Jarmuth, Japhia king of Lachish and Debir king of Eglon. 4 “Come up and help me attack Gibeon,” he said, “because it has made peace with Joshua and the Israelites.” (Joshua 10:3-4 NIV)

The Israelites completely wipe out two Canaanite cities (Ai and Jericho).  The rest of the Canaanites came together and formed an alliance against them but the Gibeonites had a different plan.  Instead of going to war, they made a covenant of peace with them.  That infuriated the Canaanites.

These southern kings were double-crossed, so they attack the double crossers. This is revenge.  It is pay back.  They did NOT come after the Israelites.  They came after the Gibeonites.  Five great armies attack one.  The Gibeonites were great fighters but this was five against one.

When nations become friends with Israel, they are always attacked by nations in the Middle East.  The US is a friend to Israel and that is why some Muslim nations call us ‘the great Satan” and shout “Death to America.”

When the southern kings were attacked Gibeon with all of their troops (Joshua 10:5), the Gibeonites sent an urgent request for help.  It was a cry of desperation.  The Gibeonites then sent word to Joshua in the camp at Gilgal: “Do not abandon your servants. Come up to us quickly and save us! Help us, because all the Amorite kings from the hill country have joined forces against us.” (Joshua 10:6 NIV).

That put the Israelites in a quandary.  They made a covenant of peace with Israel.  Would they honor it?  This was a TEST of whether they would keep their word, like they said they would do.  They decided to go and fight.  God told them to fight and said that not one of them would be able to stand against them (Joshua 10:8).  In fact, the text says that God fought for them (Joshua 10:25, 42).

Even though God fought for them, Joshua still had to fight.  Even though God threw the enemy into confusion and dropped a few hailstones down on their heads, they still had to pick up swords and fight.  This is the perfect blend of divine sovereignty and human responsibility.

God was fighting for them.  God was with them but that was not an excuse for them to sit back and do nothing.  Joshua still had to use military strategy against the enemy.  So Joshua marched up from Gilgal with his entire army, including all the best fighting men. (Joshua 10:7 NIV).  After an all-night march from Gilgal, Joshua took them by surprise. (Joshua 10:9 NIV).  Not only did he go up to fight, he took his best men with him.

Joshua used the element of surprise.  He traveled at night.  Gilgal to Gibeon was about twenty miles and it is uphill.  These soldiers traveled twenty miles uphill at night in the dark.  They marched all night and fight all day.  They must have been dead tired.

This is a violent chapter.  It would be rated R for violence.  It is a chapter full of war, bloodshed, slaughter and public executions.  Five cities are completely wiped out.  There are no survivors.  The five kings are finally captured.  They lay down.  People put their feet on their necks (Joshua 10:24).  That doesn’t sound very nice.  Then, these five kings are killed and hung on trees until evening (Joshua 10:26).

Putting your feet on the necks of your enemies was SYMBOLIC.  It is a symbol of complete subjugation.  Joshua told them that this was what would happen to all of the enemies that they would fight (Joshua 10:25).  Joshua was actually a type of Christ.  What Joshua did, Jesus will do one day.  One day, Jesus will put all of His enemies under his feet.

For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. 24 Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. (I Corinthians 15:22-26 NIV)

This chapter does NOT read like the Book of Ruth.  It does not look like a Hallmark movie.  This chapter shows what a terrifying thing it is to fall into the hands of the living God.  These kings and these cities were all under the judgement of God.  These five kings were not just fighting Joshua.  They were not just fighting the Israelites and the Gibeonites.  They are fighting God.  God is fighting them.

We are told that God threw them into confusion (Joshua 10:10).  God did the same thing to the Egyptian armies (Exodus 14:24).  He not only threw them into confusion, He dropped some hailstones on their heads.  He also did that to the Egyptians during the seventh plague (Exodus 9:13-35).

As they fled before Israel on the road down from Beth Horon to Azekah, the Lord hurled large hailstones down on them, and more of them died from the hail than were killed by the swords of the Israelites. (Joshua 10:11 NIV)

Hail normally does no kill people.  Most people do not die from hail but on very rare occasions it does kill people.  This hailstorm was supernatural.  It was an act of God.  It was divine judgment.  These were not little bitty hailstones but BIG hailstones.

And they were lethal weapons, like missiles and they killed not a few people but a lot of people.  You don’t want God throwing stones at you.  He doesn’t miss.  He has good aim.  Only the Canaanites were hit and none of the Israelites, not a single one.

The Sun Miracle

On the day the Lord gave the Amorites over to Israel, Joshua said to the Lord in the presence of Israel: “Sun, stand still over Gibeon, and you, 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. (Joshua 10:12-13 NIV)

The fourth miracle was the miracle about the sun standing still. What do we know about this miracle?  We know several things about it.

1) This miracle was SPECTACULAR

Some have called it the greatest miracle in the OT.  That is unlikely.  It is not a greater miracle than creation, but it is one of the most spectacular miracles in the history of the Bible.  It was the final and greatest miracle in Joshua, to be sure.

How did God do it?  Did He stop or slow the rotation of the earth?  The answer is that we don’t know.  Many people ASSUME that they knew how God did it and have all kinds of theories, but we do not know.  We know WHAT God did but we don’t know HOW He did it. God is ABLE to stop the rotation of the earth without cataclysmic results.  He is the Creator, but that is probably NOT what He did here.

God does not do unnecessary miracles.  This was probably a LOCALIZED MIRACLE.  All Joshua needed was an extended period of light in a small valley where the battle took place. It was getting dark and the enemy was getting away.

All Joshua needed was a little extra sunlight.  He did not need the rotation of the earth to completely stop, which would have affected not just Joshua but the whole world.

2) This miracle was FAMOUS

It is in other books besides the Bible.  Other books besides the Bible authenticated it.  It was in The book of Jasher (Joshua 10:12-13).  What was that book?  We do not know for sure.  It no longer exists, so we can’t read it.  There is a book called The Book of Jasher but that book is a forgery.  It was written in the 18th century.  We don’t know what was in this book.  It is a lost book.

Is it a lost book of the Bible?  No.  There are no lost books of the Bible.  The Book of Jasher is NOT said to be inspired but the Bible does quote from it and it corroborated this miracle.  That should not surprise us.  The Bible quotes from all kinds of sources.  Paul quotes secular Greek poets in his day.  He quoted from some profane poets.

3) This miracle was UNIQUE

The Bible says something amazing about that day.  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 (Joshua 10:13-14 NIV).  God did something that He never did before.  He did not do this when Moses was alive.

This miracle was different from the other miracles in Joshua.  The other miracles God did on His own.  This miracle he did in response to Joshua’s prayer.  Joshua’s prayer brought this miracle.  Prayer brings miracles.  The Bible says that we have not because we ask not.

Powerful Lessons on Prayer

How does this chapter apply to us today?  Stephen Furtick wrote a good book on the subject for those who are interested.  The main application from this miracle has to do with prayer.  The Lord hearkened unto the voice of a man (Joshua 10:14).  What does it say to us today?  It says four things.

1) God wants us to pray

God wants us to pray.  He wants us to pray when we have a crisis.  He wants us to pray when we don’t have a crisis.  He wants us to be constantly in prayer.  Our problem is that we do not pray.  We do not pray for little things, because we think God is not interested in our petty prayers.  We do not pray for big things, because we do not have enough faith to pray for anything big.  God wants us to pray. Do you pray?  You don’t have to pray for four hours a day, like David Brainerd.  Do you pray at all?  Do you pray consistently?

2) Prayer has incredible power

This was not a long prayer.  It was a short prayer.  It only had thirteen words but these thirteen words had cosmic consequences.  It was powerful.  Prayer can accomplish amazing things.  Let’s think about a few things that prayer can accomplish.

  • Prayer can move mountains (Mark 11:22-24)
  • Prayer can affect the movement of stars and planets (Joshua 10)
  • Prayer can affect the weather (James 5:17-18)
  • Prayer can cause you to live longer (II Kings 20:1-20)
  • Prayer can get people out of prison (Acts 12; Acts 16)
  • Prayer can heal the sick. It can heal people on their deathbed (James 5:14-15)
  • Prayer can decide who wins a military battle (Joshua 10; Isaiah 37:14-22)

3) We should pray boldly

This was a bold prayer.  He said it publicly in the presence of Israel (Joshua 10:12).  This was prayer not to just to move a mountain but to stop the movement of the sun and moon.  Joshua prays something that no one has ever prayed before. He prayed for a miracle.  He prayed for something that was impossible.

Have you ever prayed for the impossible?  Have you ever asked God for the impossible or dared to believe that he was capable of doing the impossible?  Paul said that God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us (Ephesians 3:20 NIV)

4) We should pray biblically

Joshua prays a crazy prayer.  He prays a bold prayer.  He prays an impossible prayer, but he also prays a biblical prayer.  Believe it or not, this was a prayer based on Scripture.  It was a prayer based on the promises of God.

Joshua does not go outside, look at the sky and begin dictating the motion of the stars and planets on a whim.  God gave him a specific promise.  He said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid of them; I have given them into your hand. Not one of them will be able to withstand you.” (Joshua 10:8 NIV).

Joshua began fighting and the enemy was getting away and it was getting dark.  it looked like the promise was not going to be fulfilled.  On the basis of the promise of God, Joshua prayed for the sun to stand still, so he could fulfill his God-appointed mission.  It was not just a selfish prayer based on a personal whim or desire.

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