Joshua 10:12: Sun and Moon Stand Still, Part 1

Verse 12:[1] Then spake Joshua to the LORD in the day when the LORD delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, (Is. 28:21; Hab. 3:11; Ecclus. 46:4[2]) Sun, stand thou still (Heb. be silent[3]) upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of (Judg. 12:12) Ajalon.

[Then Joshua spoke to the Lord (similarly Montanus, Septuagint, Arabic, Pagnine, Tigurinus, Junius and Tremellius), אָ֣ז יְדַבֵּ֤ר יְהוֹשֻׁעַ֙ לַֽיהוָ֔ה] Then he spoke before the Lord (Syriac, Munster), understanding, a song (Vatablus). He praised (the Chaldean in Vatablus), that is, in song; that is, he gave thanks (Vatablus, Lyra). He sang (Drusius out of Kimchi). Thus, David spoke the words of this song[4] (Drusius). But he had not yet secured the victory (Bonfrerius). Others: he spoke, namely, in prayers (Junius, Piscator, Bonfrerius, Masius). He chanted a song after praying (Kimchi in Drusius). Or, to speak to God is able to be taken in the place of to speak in the name of God, or in trust of God (Masius).

[He delivered up the Amorite in the sight of the children of Israel,לִפְנֵ֖י בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל] In front of the children of Israel (Jonathan, Syriac); into the hand (or power [Vatablus]) of the children of Israel (Arabic); He exposed to the children of Israel; Hebrew, He posited before the children of Israel[5] (Junius).

[And he said in their presence, וַיֹּ֣אמֶר׀ לְעֵינֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֗ל] And he said in the eyes of Israel (Montanus, Munster, Pagnine, Jonathan), before the eyes (Junius and Tremellius), with Israel present (Syriac, Tigurinus, similarly the Arabic), with them seeing and hearing (Piscator). But one is not aptly enough said to speak in the eyes. Therefore, I prefer to refer this to stand still (Masius), or, rest: In the eyes of Israel, O Sun, in Gibeon be silent, that is, rest. Which division the accent appears to confirm.[6] Nevertheless, to see is sometimes put in the place of to hear; and, in the eyes, in the place of, in the ears (Drusius).

Joshua spake to the Lord, to wit, in way of petition for this miracle; being moved to beg it out of zeal to destroy God’s enemies, and directed to it by the motion of God’s Spirit; and receiving a gracious answer, and being filled with holy confidence of the success, he speaks the following words before the people, that they might be witnesses of it. In the sight of Israel, that is, in the presence and audience of Israel; seeing being sometimes put for hearing, as Genesis 42:1, compared with Acts 7:12; although these words may seem rather to be joined with the following, thus, In the sight of Israel stand still, O sun, etc., which sense the Hebrew accents favour.

[O Sun…move not, שֶׁמֶשׁ—דּוֹם] O Sun, be silent (Montanus, Malvenda), that is, rest (Drusius, Bonfrerius, Munster). Thus to be silent is taken in Psalm 4:4, and be ye silent, that is, rest ye;[7] in Jonah 1:12, and the sea was silent, that is, rested.[8] A silent sea, that is, tranquil, where is no murmur (Drusius). Neither is it strange that rest is indicated by silence, to which is conjoined the cessation of the tongue and lips from motion (Bonfrerius). Others render it, stop, or, halt, or, stand (thus the Arabic, Vatablus, Junius and Tremellius, Masius). Fix position (Tigurinus, Vatablus, Syriac); draw out a delay (Munster, Masius). Others: wait (Pagnine, Munster). Thus it is taken in 1 Samuel 14:9,[9] and in that דּ֤וֹם׀ לַיהוָה֮, wait for the Lord[10] (Drusius). That דּוּם signifies stand is evident from the verb עָמָד, it stood, which is attributed to the Moon in the like case[11] (Masius).

[And moon] This he names, not that it was necessary to furnish light, but because with poetic fullness he writes on the Sun and the Moon, just as on Gibeon and Ajalon: This verse and the following are Hebrew measures (Lapide out of Masius). It is likely that Joshua saw both stars (Bonfrerius); for the Moon was new at that time, and it did not travel far from the Sun (Masius out of Rabbi Isaiah). Now, these two stars are put in the place of their spheres; and perhaps for the entire machine of heaven (Masius). The rest of the stars and the mobile heavens appear to have been altogether at rest (Bonfrerius): and, so that he might indicate this, he named the Sun and the Moon, which are the principal stars (Lapide). The sense: O Lord, allow that the Sun and Moon would not leave us with their light, until we have entirely subdued our enemies (Vatablus).

[Sun, against Gibeon, etc.] That is, over against, or, opposite to, Gibeon. Joshua was able to say this, either, if, positioned between Gibeon and the Sun, he discerned the latter on the opposite hand; or, if, regarding Gibeon from a distance, he saw the Sun standing over it, as it were; and thus here it ought to be taken (Bonfrerius): that is to say, To thee, O Sun, in the name of God I command that thou stop opposite to Gibeon (Lapide). Let the Sun stand in the presence of (or above [Vatablus]) Gibeon (the Septuagint in Lapide). But in what circumstances does he say this, while he and the army of Israel were near Gibeon? Response: This fight happened at the summer solstice, when the Sun overhangs the heads of men, especially in that land (Hebrews in Munster). The sense: O Sun, decline not upon us fighting in Gibeon, etc. (Junius).

[Moon, against the valley of Ajalon] בְּעֵמֶק they translate here, in the valley (Montanus, Junius and Tremellius, Masius), over the valley (Septuagint), on the plain (Jonathan, Syriac), over the field[12] (Arabic). But where is Ajalon? and how was it situated with respect to Gibeon? Response 1: Some maintain that these cities were neighbors (Masius, Drusius, Lapide). There was a middle valley between them, where the battle was conducted (Lapide). It is altogether certain that there was a plain beneath Gibeon and Ajalon, unto which there is a descent from Beth-horon (Masius). And that plain, as it is here called of Ajalon, so in Isaiah 28:21 it is called of Gibeon, where, alluding to this battle, he says, as in the valley of Gibeon the Lord shall be angry (Masius, Drusius). [This opinion is not satisfying to Bonfrerius:] For, if these two cities had been close neighbors, he observed the Sun and the Moon in almost the same place; which is not able to happen, because proximity of the Sun snatches away the sight of the Moon; but it is likely that he saw both stars (Bonfrerius). Response 2: To others these cities are more removed from each other: Gibeon was on mount Silo, as testify Brochardus and Adrichomius, in the tribe of Benjamin, Joshua 18:25; 21:17 (Bonfrerius on Joshua 9:3). Ajalon was either in the tribe of Zebulon, Judges 12:12, toward the other boundry of the Promised Land toward the North (for this Ajalon was different than that in Joshua 19:42 [Junius]), or in the tribe of Dan (Kimchi in Drusius, Bonfrerius, Adrichomius in Bonfrerius); to which support is given in Joshua 19:42 (Drusius) and Judges 1:35. It was further West than Gibeon, perhaps also further South (Bonfrerius).

Upon Gibeon, that is, over and above or against Gibeon, that is, in that place and posture in which now it stands towards and looks upon Gibeon. Let it not go down lower, and by degrees, out of the sight of Gibeon. It may seem that the sun was declining; and Joshua perceiving that his work was great and long, and his time but short, begs of God the lengthening out of the day, and that the sun and moon might stop their course, and keep the place in which they now were. In the valley, or, upon the valley; as before, upon Gibeon; the preposition being the same there and here. Ajalon; either, 1. That Ajalon which was in the tribe of Zebulun, Judges 12:12, northward from Gibeon. Or rather, 2. That Ajalon which was in the tribe of Dan, Joshua 19:42; Judges 1:35, westward from Gibeon. For, 1. This was nearer Gibeon than the other. 2. This was most agreeable to the course of the sun and moon, which is from east to west. 3. This way the battle went, from Gibeon westward to Ajalon, and so further westward, even to Lachish, Joshua 10:31. And he mentions two places, Gibeon and Ajalon, not as if the sun stood over the one, and the moon over the other, which is absurd and ridiculous to affirm, especially these places being so near the one to the other; but partly to vary the phrase, as is common in poetical passages; partly because he was in his march in the pursuit of his enemies to pass from Gibeon to Ajalon; and he begs that he may have the help and benefit of longer light to pursue them, and to that end that the sun might stand still, and the moon also; not that he needed the moon’s light when he had the sun’s, but because it was fit, either that both the sun and moon should go, or that both should stand still, to prevent disorder and confusion in the heavenly bodies.

[1] Hebrew: אָ֣ז יְדַבֵּ֤ר יְהוֹשֻׁעַ֙ לַֽיהוָ֔ה בְּי֗וֹם תֵּ֤ת יְהוָה֙ אֶת־הָ֣אֱמֹרִ֔י לִפְנֵ֖י בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל וַיֹּ֣אמֶר׀ לְעֵינֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֗ל שֶׁ֚מֶשׁ בְּגִבְע֣וֹן דּ֔וֹם וְיָרֵ֖חַ בְּעֵ֥מֶק אַיָּלֽוֹן׃

[2] Ecclesiasticus 46:4:  “Did not the sun go back by his means? and was not one day as long as two?”

[3] Hebrew: דּוֹם.

[4] 2 Samuel 22:1:  “And David spake unto the Lord the words of this songוַיְדַבֵּ֤ר דָּוִד֙) לַֽיהוָ֔ה אֶת־דִּבְרֵ֖י הַשִּׁירָ֣ה הַזֹּ֑את) in the day that the Lord had delivered him out of the hand of all his enemies, and out of the hand of Saul…”

[5] Joshua 10:12a:  “Then spake Joshua to the Lord in the day when the Lord delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel (בְּי֗וֹם תֵּ֤ת יְהוָה֙ אֶת־הָ֣אֱמֹרִ֔י לִפְנֵ֖י בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל)…”

[6] Joshua 10:12b:  “…and he said in the sight of Israel, Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon (וַיֹּ֣אמֶר׀ לְעֵינֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֗ל שֶׁ֚מֶשׁ בְּגִבְע֣וֹן דּ֔וֹם)…”

[7] Psalm 4:4:  “Stand in awe, and sin not:  commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still (וְדֹמּוּ).  Selah.”

[8] Jonah 1:12, 15:  “And he said unto them, Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be silent unto you (וְיִשְׁתֹּ֥ק הַיָּ֖ם מֵֽעֲלֵיכֶ֑ם):  for I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you….  So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea: and the sea ceased from her raging (וַיַּעֲמֹ֥ד הַיָּ֖ם מִזַּעְפּֽוֹ׃).”

[9] 1 Samuel 14:9:  “If they say thus unto us, Tarry until we come to you (דֹּ֕מּוּ עַד־הַגִּיעֵ֖נוּ); then we will stand still in our place, and will not go up unto them.”

[10] Psalm 37:7:  “Rest in the Lord (דּ֤וֹם׀ לַיהוָה֮), and wait patiently for him:  fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass.”

[11] Verse 13.

[12] עֵמֶק, from the verbal root עָמֹק, to be deep, signifies a valley, or a plain.

3 thoughts on “Joshua 10:12: Sun and Moon Stand Still, Part 1

  1. Jonathan Edwards, “The Prayer-hearing God”: “That God is eminently of this character, appears by the greatness of the things which he hath often done in answer to prayer. Thus, when Esau was coming out against his brother Jacob, with four hundred men, without doubt fully resolved to cut him off, Jacob prayed and God turned the heart of Esau, so that he met Jacob in a very friendly manner; Genesis 32. So in Egypt, at the prayer of Moses, God brought those dreadful plagues, and at his prayer removed them again. When Samson was ready to perish with thirst, he prayed to God, and he brought water out of a dry jawbone, for his supply, Judges 15:18, 19. And when he prayed, after his strength was departed from him, God strengthened him, so as to pull down the temple of Dagon on the Philistines: so that those whom he slew at his death were more than all those whom he slew in his life. —Joshua prayed to God, and said, “Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon, and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon;” [Joshua 10:12] and God heard his prayer, and caused the sun and moon to stand still accordingly. The prophet “Elijah was a man of like passion” with us; James 5:17-18, “and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain; and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit;” as the apostle James observes, So God confounded the army of Zerah, the Ethiopian, of a thousand thousand, in answer to the prayer of Asa, 2 Chronicles 14:9, etc. And God sent an angel, and slew in one night an hundred and eighty-five thousand men of Sennacherib’s army, in answer to Hezekiah’s prayer, 2 Kings 19:14-16, 19, 35.”

  2. Jonathan Edwards, “Notes on Scripture”: “Concerning the sun and moon’s standing still. This great event was doubtless typical; and as the sun was made to be a type of Christ, and is the most eminent type of him in all the inanimate creation, and is used as a type of Christ in Scripture, for he is the “Sun of righteousness,” and “the light of the world,” etc.; so doubtless the sun here, when it stands still to give the children of Israel light to help them against their enemies, is a type of Christ. The sun did as it were fight for the Israelites by his light; so Christ fights for his people: and the way that he does it, is chiefly by giving them light. Hereby he helps them against the powers of darkness, and overthrows the kingdom of darkness. Christ was at that time actually fighting for Israel as the captain of the host; he had a little before appeared in a visible shape with a sword drawn in his hand, and told Joshua that as the Captain of the host of the Lord he was come, Joshua 5:13-14. And there was now a double type of Christ’s fighting for his people against their spiritual enemies; Joshua was then fighting as the captain of the host of Israel, who bore the name of Christ; for Joshua is the same with Jesus, and he was an eminent type of him; and at the same time the sun stood over Joshua fighting for Israel against their enemies. While Joshua or Jesus thus fought, the sun appeared also fighting in the same battle, being a type of the true Joshua or Jesus. It was a great thing for the sun to stand still to fight for Israel, and to help them to obtain the possession of Canaan, but not so great a thing as for Christ, who is the brightness of God’s glory, and the express image of his person, the Creator and Upholder of the sun, to appear as he did, to deliver his people from their spiritual enemies, and to make way for their obtaining the heavenly Canaan. The sun, though so great and glorious a heavenly body, and though so high above the earth, yet did forego its natural course was greatly put out of the way, and deprived of that which naturally belonged to it, for the sake of Israel, laid aside its glory as the king of heaven, was as it were divested of the glory of its dominion over heaven and earth, which it has by its course through all heaven and round the earth. For it is by its course that nothing is hid from its light and heat, by which it has influence over all, and as it were rules over all, Psalm 19:6. The influence of the heavenly bodies is called in Scripture their dominion. Job 38:32, 33. But this glory as king of heaven and earth was laid aside to serve and minister unto Israel. But this was not so great a thing as for the eternal Son of God, the infinite fountain of all light, who is infinitely above all creatures, the Sun of righteousness, in comparison of whose brightness the sun is but darkness, and therefore will be turned into darkness when he appears. I say it was not so great a thing as for him to lay aside his glory as King of heaven and earth, and appear in the form of a servant to serve men, and came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and should even give his life to destroy and confound our enemies, and obtain for us the possession of the heavenly Canaan. The sun, who by its course was wont to fill heaven and earth, now confined itself to the land of Canaan, for the sake of Israel, so Christ, who, being in heaven filled all things, Ephesians 4:10, by his incarnation confined himself to the land of Canaan, and to a tabernacle of flesh. Hence it is not any way incredible, not at all to be wondered at, that God should cause such a miracle for the sake of the Israelites, or that nature in so great an instance should be made to yield and give place to Israel’s interest, when the God of nature did as it were deprive himself of the glory that he had from the beginning of the world, yea, before the world was, even from all eternity, (John 17:5) the glory that naturally belonged to him, and as it were give up all for man, that he should become incarnate, and deliver up himself to death for the spiritual Israel.

    The moon, which is a type of the church, also stood still at that time to fight against the Amorites for the church; for the church fights with Christ against the spiritual Amorites. The church militant is Christ’s army, they go forth with Christ, and under Christ, to fight the good fight of faith, and are soldiers of Jesus Christ. Christ and the church are represented going forth together in battle, Revelation 19:11, etc. Both the sun and moon stood still at that time, that there might there be a representation of the same thing in heaven that there was on the earth: there was Joshua and Israel fighting God’s enemies on earth, and there the sun and moon fighting against them in heaven, and both represented Jesus and his church fighting against their spiritual enemies.

    Josh 10:12-14. Concerning the sun’s standing still. This is supposed to give occasion to the story of Phaeton the son of Sol and Clymene, who, desiring his father to let him guide the chariot of the sun for one day, set the world on fire. So we read that it was about the space of one day that the sun stood still, and this in all probability caused an extraordinary scorching and distressing heat in many parts of the world. And Mr. Bedford, in his Scripture Chronology, observes that mention is made of it in the Chinese history, that in the reign of their seventh Emperor Yao, the sun did not set for ten days together, and that the inhabitants of the earth were afraid that the earth would be burnt, for there were great fires at that time. This happened in the sixty-seventh year of that emperor’s reign, and so the time of it Mr. Bedford observes, according to their account, exactly agrees with scripture history, Scripture Chronology, p. 489. And he observes that it is natural for men in things of great antiquity to enlarge beyond the truth. And what the Chinese history mentions about great fires in many places, agrees with the story of Phaeton’s setting the world on fire. And indeed to have the day more than twenty-four hours, for besides the twelve hours that the sun stood still, the time of the sun’s course above the horizon was probably more than twelve hours, for it was probably later in the year than the vernal equinox: I say to have the sun so long above the horizon, and twelve hours of it together, so extraordinarily near the meridian, shining down with a perpendicular ray all that time, must needs cause exceeding heat in many places.”

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