Josh 10:1 Now Adoni-Zedek king of Jerusalem heard that Joshua had taken Ai and totally destroyed it, doing to Ai and its king as he had done to Jericho and its king, and that the people of Gibeon had made a treaty of peace with Israel and were living near them.

Josh 10:2 He and his people were very much alarmed at this, because Gibeon was an important city, like one of the royal cities; it was larger than Ai, and all its men were good fighters.

Josh 10:3 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.

Josh 10:4 “Come up and help me attack Gibeon,” he said, “because it has made peace with Joshua and the Israelites.”

Josh 10:5 Then the five kings of the Amorites—the kings of Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish and Eglon—joined forces. They moved up with all their troops and took up positions against Gibeon and attacked it.

Josh 10:6 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.”

Josh 10:7 So Joshua marched up from Gilgal with his entire army, including all the best fighting men.

Josh 10:8 The LORD 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.”

Josh 10:9 After an all-night march from Gilgal, Joshua took them by surprise.

Josh 10:10 The LORD threw them into confusion before Israel, who defeated them in a great victory at Gibeon. Israel pursued them along the road going up to Beth Horon and cut them down all the way to Azekah and Makkedah.

Josh 10:11 As they fled before Israel on the road down from Beth Horon to Azekah, the LORD hurled large hailstones down on them from the sky, and more of them died from the hailstones than were killed by the swords of the Israelites.

Josh 10:12 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.”

Gibeon would have been in the east, and Aijalon in the west.

‘Joshua consults God and petitions him, and when he has been answered, he boldly orders the sun to do what he knows God approves. Such is the strength of the privilege of faith, praised by Christ, which subjugates mountains and seas to its power (Matt. 17:20; Luke 17:6). The more the strength of the faithful is exhausted, the more generously does God transfer his power to them, revealing his own power through that faith which is bound to the Word. Briefly, faith founded upon the Word is transmuted into confident power. So Elijah closed heaven and opened it at his command and brought fire down from heaven (1 Kings 17-18). So Christ endowed his disciples with heavenly power so that the elements were subject to them.’ (Calvin)

Josh 10:13 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. The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day.

Joshua's 'long day'

Joshua 10:13 The sun stood still and the moon stood motionless while the nation took vengeance on its enemies. The event is recorded in the Scroll of the Upright One. The sun stood motionless in the middle of the sky and did not set for about a full day.

Various interpretative options are available:-

1. Some regard the entire account as an historicised myth or legend.  But this would be to undermine the credibility of the inspired author (NBC).

2. Others think this passage contains poetic exaggeration. This is supported by the observation that the language itself is poetic in style.  Perhaps we are meant to understand that Joshua’s men were able to achieve in one day what would normally take two.

3. Still others think that this is a solar eclipse. But these last only last a few minutes, and the moon, invisible until it passes across the face of the sun, cannot be said to have ‘stopped’.

4. At the other end of the scale, some take a literal view of the text, according to which the earth stopped rotating for a period 24 hours, so that both the sun and the moon ceased their apparent motion across the sky.  This is supported by the language used, and especially by the astonished comment in v14.

Woudstra (NICOT) inclines towards a literal view without much discussion, and this view is also supported by the Apologetics Study Bible.

There are said to be stories of a long day in Egyptian, Chinese and Hindu sources. Some space scientists are said to have found some evidence in favour of a long day, and sometimes discuss this along with the movement of the Sun’s shadow recorded in 2 Kings 20:10f.

Edward Charles Pickering of the Harvard Observatory and Professor Totten of Yale claimed that they had discovered a day missing, but once again, hard evidence has not been forthcoming (see the discussion here).

In fact, it is so difficult to track down evidence for these claims that they appear to partake somewhat of the nature of ‘urban myths’.

No theist would be so bold as to assert that God could not work such a miracle as this, but many doubt that he would do so. In terms of astronomy, the implications would be catastrophic, unless a whole series of other miracles were wrought in order to stabilise the earth and everything on its surface. Even God cannot do things that are nonsense (like making a rope with only one end, or making a square circle), and it may be that to literally stop the earth and moon in their orbits borders on the nonsensical.

5. Other miraculous, but non-literal, explanations, have been proposed. Ross, for example, thinks that the event should be interpreted as an extra-long night, rather than an extra-long day, and that no adjustments to the orbits of the Sun, Moon, or Earth were entailed:-

‘What the text demands is God bringing an extra period of light or darkness into the Valley of Aijalon. God could have brought about such effects through a supernatural meteorological event that blanketed the region with heavy darkness or refracted or reflected extra light into the desired location. Alternately, God could have shone his Shekinah glory into the Valley of Aijalon or used His “hand” to block out the Sun and Moon’s light.’

But these are mere conjectures, without direct support from the text itself.

6. Some think that the sun stopped shining, not that it stood still.  The word for ‘stand still’ could, apparently, equally be translated ‘cease’.  This (it is said) was possibly due to the hailstorm, v10, or to the very high clouds that would have produced the hailstorm. The effect of the cooling storm was to enable Joshua and his men to regain their strength on this hot July day and continue fighting for a further 18 hours.  HSB, for example, concludes that ‘Joshua prayed early in the morning, while the moon was in the western sky and the sun was in the east, that God would intervene on their behalf. God answered Joshua and sent a hailstorm. This had the effect of prolonging the darkness and shielding the men from the searing rays of the summer sun. The sun, therefore, was “silenced” in the middle of the sky, and the moon “did not hasten” to come.’  Although the Hebrew word for the sun ‘going down’ does usually refer to sunset, it sometimes applies to its rising, as in Isa 60:1.  Instone-Brewer (Science and the Bible: Insights for an Ancient Text) takes a view similar to the one just outlined.

7. One more interpretation has been proposed.  Given that it took occurred at full moon, the sun would have risen in the east – in the direction of Gibeon – just as the moon was setting in the west – in the direction of Aijalon.  Now, middle eastern cultures perceived omens in such phenomena, and they used the terminology of ‘wait’, ‘stand’ and ‘stop’ to describe the relative movements of the sun and moon.  When the moon does not ‘wait’, it means that it sinks below the horizon before the sun rises.  When the moon does ‘wait’ or ‘stand’ this indicates that opposition does occur – and that both the sun and the full moon can be seen, in opposite parts of the sky, at the same time.  Joshua may have been well aware of the Amorites’ superstitious dependence on celestial omens, and this may have led him to pray for the the opposition to occur on an unpropitious day.

So it may be that this is a miracle of timing, rather than an event in which many of the fundamental laws of physics were suspended.

This interpretation is favoured by the IVP Bible Background Commentary, and also receives tentative support from Hess (TOTC).  It does not solve all the problems in the text.  It does, however, have the considerable merit of taking the text seriously, while offering a credible version of the event.

Refreshingly, many conservative commentators express agnosticism over the precise nature and mechanics of this event.

The Book of Jasar is also referred to in 2 Sam 1:18.

Josh 10:14 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!

What was it that made this day unique?  Some think that it was enormity of the miracle.  Others think it was the fact that God answered Joshua’s prayer.  Still others think that it was the audaciousness of the prayer (‘the Lord listened’ = ‘the Lord obeyed’).  Walton suggests that the uniqueness lies in the fact that ‘never before had a person presumed to state what sort of supernatural strategy he wanted God to perpetrate on behalf of Israel.’  This is supported and developed by Gordon Oeste in this article.  Oeste says that ‘Joshua seized Yahweh’s prerogative as Israel’s divine warrior and dictated divine battle strategy to Yahweh.’

Josh 10:15 Then Joshua returned with all Israel to the camp at Gilgal.

Josh 10:16 Now the five kings had fled and hidden in the cave at Makkedah.

Josh 10:17 When Joshua was told that the five kings had been found hiding in the cave at Makkedah,

Josh 10:18 he said, “Roll large rocks up to the mouth of the cave, and post some men there to guard it.

Josh 10:19 But don’t stop! Pursue your enemies, attack them from the rear and don’t let them reach their cities, for the LORD your God has given them into your hand.”

Josh 10:20 So Joshua and the Israelites destroyed them completely—almost to a man—but the few who were left reached their fortified cities.

Josh 10:21 The whole army then returned safely to Joshua in the camp at Makkedah, and no one uttered a word against the Israelites.

Josh 10:22 Joshua said, “Open the mouth of the cave and bring those five kings out to me.”

Josh 10:23 So they brought the five kings out of the cave—the kings of Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish and Eglon.

Josh 10:24 When they had brought these kings to Joshua, he summoned all the men of Israel and said to the army commanders who had come with him, “Come here and put your feet on the necks of these kings.” So they came forward and placed their feet on their necks.

“Put your feet on the necks of these kings” – ‘The placing of a foot upon one’s enemy is a twofold gesture: it shows victory and dominance for the one standing and defeat and submission for the one downfallen and vanquished (Josh. 10:24; Ps. 110:1; 1 Cor. 15:25).’ (Holman)

Josh 10:25 Joshua said to them, “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Be strong and courageous. This is what the LORD will do to all the enemies you are going to fight.”

Josh 10:26 Then Joshua struck and killed the kings and hung them on five trees, and they were left hanging on the trees until evening.

Josh 10:27 At sunset Joshua gave the order and they took them down from the trees and threw them into the cave where they had been hiding. At the mouth of the cave they placed large rocks, which are there to this day.

Josh 10:28 That day Joshua took Makkedah. He put the city and its king to the sword and totally destroyed everyone in it. He left no survivors. And he did to the king of Makkedah as he had done to the king of Jericho.

Josh 10:29 Then Joshua and all Israel with him moved on from Makkedah to Libnah and attacked it.

Josh 10:30 The LORD also gave that city and its king into Israel’s hand. The city and everyone in it Joshua put to the sword. He left no survivors there. And he did to its king as he had done to the king of Jericho.

Josh 10:31 Then Joshua and all Israel with him moved on from Libnah to Lachish; he took up positions against it and attacked it.

Josh 10:32 The LORD handed Lachish over to Israel, and Joshua took it on the second day. The city and everyone in it he put to the sword, just as he had done to Libnah.

Josh 10:33 Meanwhile, Horam king of Gezer had come up to help Lachish, but Joshua defeated him and his army—until no survivors were left.

Josh 10:34 Then Joshua and all Israel with him moved on from Lachish to Eglon; they took up positions against it and attacked it.

Josh 10:35 They captured it that same day and put it to the sword and totally destroyed everyone in it, just as they had done to Lachish.

Josh 10:36 Then Joshua and all Israel with him went up from Eglon to Hebron and attacked it.

Josh 10:37 They took the city and put it to the sword, together with its king, its villages and everyone in it. They left no survivors. Just as at Eglon, they totally destroyed it and everyone in it.

Josh 10:38 Then Joshua and all Israel with him turned around and attacked Debir.

Josh 10:39 They took the city, its king and its villages, and put them to the sword. Everyone in it they totally destroyed. They left no survivors. They did to Debir and its king as they had done to Libnah and its king and to Hebron.

Josh 10:40 So Joshua subdued the whole region, including the hill country, the Negev, the western foothills and the mountain slopes, together with all their kings. He left no survivors. He totally destroyed all who breathed, just as the LORD, the God of Israel, had commanded.

Josh 10:41 Joshua subdued them from Kadesh Barnea to Gaza and from the whole region of Goshen to Gibeon.

Josh 10:42 All these kings and their lands Joshua conquered in one campaign, because the LORD, the God of Israel, fought for Israel.

Josh 10:43 Then Joshua returned with all Israel to the camp at Gilgal.