Did the Lord Really Make the
Sun and Moon Stand Still?

Joseph Francis Alward
March 25, 1998

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  The Bible says that Joshua asked the Lord to keep the sun in the sky for a whole day so that he might have the additional daylight necessary to hunt his enemy down and destroy him.   


Joshua Asks the Lord to Stop the Sun

Tradition tells us that Joshua was the assistant and successor to Moses, charged with the responsibilities of generaling the straggling tribal armies and winning a place for Israel in the land of Canaan. Under the leadership of Joshua, the Amalekites were defeated and the towns of Jericho, Bethel, and Ai were taken. In his battle against the people of Gibeon, Joshua asked the Lord to keep the sun in the sky for a whole day so that he might have the additional daylight necessary to hunt his enemy down and destroy him. We will first repeat the story in Joshua's words, then explain why it is extremely unlikely that this ever happened.

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." 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. 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! (Joshua 10:1-12)

Did This Really Happen?

Given that the Sun allegedly remained motionless in the middle of the sky for a full day, we think it is likely that an enormous impression would have been made on people around the world. Persons laboring in the fields would wonder why a whole day's work was done in apparently no time at all--according to the sun's movement across the sky--or lack of movement, we should say. On the other side of the world, men would meet dawn with twelve extra hours of beard growth and starved for their breakfast. 

Surely this event--the only event since the beginning of time which was world-wide, astonishing, and experienced by everyone--would have been a topic of conversation until the ends of their lives. This event would have been indelibly recorded and reported by an uncountable number, by either scratching their stories into stone or penning them onto paper, and passed down orally through dozens of generations, eventually finding its way into the history books. But, not one single record of this sort has reached us. The only surviving account of the stilled sun comes from just one lone man, Joshua, who uses just seventeen words to tell mankind about the most amazing event ever witnessed by the entire population of the world.

The Harmonization

Some apologists say that the event wasn't world-wide:  the sun miraculously stood still in the sky only for those on the battlefield.  But, isn't it more plausible that God performed two miracles?  The first miracle was stopping the earth's rotation for a day, and the second was erasing the memory of this event from the minds of everyone but Joshua.

One can extend this harmonization technique to every allegation of bible error:  For example, if one verse says that the king Ahaziah lived forty and two years, while another says twenty and two, the apologist only needs to claim that this apparent contradiction will be miraculously harmonized when we all get to heaven.  We just need to be patient, they say.

Seriously, now, what really happened?  Did God make the sun appear to stand still for a day only for those on the battlefield? It couldn't have been an illusion, else there really wouldn't have been any light by which to fight; the combatants would have had to be imagining they could see each other. So, the sun must have really stood still above the battlefield; that means that it stood still for everyone on earth.