The Day the Sun Stood Still: Interpreting the Miracle of Joshua 10

Joshua 10 has one of the most remarkable miracle stories in the whole of the Old Testament  outside the opening chapters of Genesis. Fresh off of victories at Jericho and Ai, Joshua’s Israelite army faces down a coalition of five Amorite kings; victory is swift, and with the enemy on the run, Joshua commands the sun and moon to stop moving, apparently in order to give the Israelites more time to pursue and slaughter the Amorites. So great is this feat that the narrator exuberantly declares, “there has been no day like it before or since!” and the chapter eventually ends with Israel in firm control of the Judahite heartland.

This passage, sometimes referred to as Joshua’s Long Day, is a puzzler. Exactly what kind of miracle is supposed to have occurred here? What traditions is the author working with? Answering these questions has proven quite difficult, since voluminous books and papers have been written on Joshua 10, and there is a remarkable diversity of opinions on every facet of the story among biblical scholars.

The passage is also interesting for its role in the debate between science and religion that has embroiled theologians, church authorities, and other interested parties since the time of Galileo and Copernicus. Even today, the interpretations given by those with a more conservative perspective reveal much about the thinking of modern biblical literalists.

Joshua’s Battle by J. H. Schönfeld, c. 1635
Joshua’s Battle by J. H. Schönfeld, c. 1635

The Defeat of the Five Kings—A Summary

Let’s look a little more closely at the overall narrative in its final form, and then get into the details. You can read the passage here, so I will only be quoting snippets.

When we last left Joshua, he and the Israelites had destroyed Jericho and Ai, and then had gotten snookered by the sneaky Gibeonites, who posed as foreigners from a distant land to secure a peace treaty and avoid becoming the Israelites’ next victim.

In this story, Gibeon is an impressively large city of warriors, and their treaty with Israel frightens the other kings of the land. The king of Jerusalem decides to lead a coalition with four other kings to attack Gibeon, which in turn sends messengers to Joshua asking for help. Joshua and his army spend the night travelling to Gibeon, but when they arrive, Yahweh himself takes charge of the battle. He throws the enemy into a panic and slaughters them in huge numbers. As the survivors retreat, Yahweh pounds them with boulders or hailstones from the sky. Joshua then commands the sun and the moon to stop moving, and at this point, the narrator quotes an excerpt of poetry that is said to be from the Book of Jashar:

“Sun, stand still at Gibeon,
and Moon, in the valley of Aijalon.”
And the sun stood still, and the moon stopped,
until he took vengeance on the nation of his enemy.¹

Joshua’s order causes the sun to stop in mid-sky, giving the Israelites an extra day’s worth of dayilght to pursue the fleeing soldiers. The five kings are caught and executed at Makkedah, and the Israelites proceed to capture and destroy five Canaanite cities—all during that one long day, it would seem.

Stained Glass Window Panel (the five kings) at Poitiers Cathedral
Stained Glass Window Panel (the five kings) at Poitiers Cathedral

The Historicity of Joshua 10

Before we look more closely at the sun miracle, we need to know what kind of text we’re dealing with. In particular, I want to give a taste of how complex and difficult to interpret the entire passage is.

Let’s get the easy problem out of the way first: historicity. To put it bluntly, this story is not historically accurate. It never happened. This conclusion is based in part on archaeology. As Yigal Levin, professor of Israelite history at Bar-Ilan University, puts it:

Very briefly, Jericho, Ai, Gibeon, Hebron and Jarmuth don’t even seem to have been settled during the Late Bronze Age, not to mention conquered during the Early Iron Age. Lachish and Hazor, which for so long were considered examples of the archaeological evidence fitting the biblical text also seem problematic upon closer examination. All of the other towns mentioned have either not been conclusively identified or not been excavated. (pp. 363–364, see bibliography)

The internal biblical evidence is equally decisive: the account in Joshua 10:1–27 is contradicted on numerous points by the follow-up story in verses 28–43, by an alternate account in Joshua 15, and by yet another alternate account of Israelite conquest and settlement in Judges 1. Jerusalem was supposedly unconquered until the time of David despite its defeat in Joshua 10 and another conquest in Judges 1. Also according to Judges 1, Hebron and Debir were conquered by Judah and Othniel after the death of Joshua. These stories cannot all be historically accurate.

Table 1. Parallel Accounts of the Hill Country Conquest

(Blue text indicates alternate Old Greek readings.)

Joshua 10:1-27 Joshua 10:28–43 Joshua 15:13–19 Judges 1
Adonizedek / Adonibezek,
king of Jerusalem
Adonibezek, king of Jerusalem
Hoham / Ailam, king of Hebron Hebron and its king Hebron and the three sons of Anak, Sheshai, Talmai and Ahiman (conquered by Caleb) Hebron (Kiriath-arba) and its leaders Sheshai, Talmai and Ahiman
(conquered by Judah)
Piram / Phidon, king of Jarmuth
Japhia, king of Lachish
Debir, king of Eglon / Adullam Eglon / Adullam
Debir and its king Debir (Kiriath-sepher)
(conquered by Othniel)
Debir (Kiriath-sepher)
(conquered by Othniel)
Makkedah and its king
Libnah and its king
Horam / Ailam, king of Gezer

Narrative Cohesion

That the text is a composite work is evident from its editorial seams and incongruities. Most of the following observations come from Israeli scholar Baruch Margalit (1992, see bibliography below).

  • The description of Gibeon in v. 2 as “a large city like one of the royal cities” populated entirely by warriors (like a Canaanite version of Sparta) seems inconsistent with ch. 9, in which its lowly residents become menial slaves to the Israelites.
  • Why is Joshua so keen on helping the Gibeonites? We get the impression from ch. 9 that they are con-artists whom Joshua would not risk the Israelites’ well-being for. Furthermore, their peace treaty says nothing about requiring Israel to come to Gibeon’s defence.
  • The reassurance from Yahweh telling Joshua to “fear not” in v. 8 seems out of place. The previous verses gave no reason for needing such assurances, and Joshua did not even inquire of Yahweh for instructions before setting out.
  • V. 10, in which Yahweh takes over the battle, seems to make the effort of the Israelites in vain. The role of Joshua’s army is reduced to chasing down survivors in far-flung corners of the hill country. (Some translations, like the NIV, make Joshua and the Israelites the agents of destruction instead of Yahweh, but that is not what the Hebrew says.)
  • There are serious geographical issues. I will go into more detail below, but to give one example: it makes no sense for Joshua, having pursued the enemy to the Lachish/Makkedah area, to return to his distant camp at Gilgal (v. 15), and then to resume the campaign at Makkedah shortly thereafter. The statement that the Israelites “returned” to their camp at Makkedah also makes little sense in context (v. 21).
  • The follow-up campaign (vv. 28–43) is essentially an alternate version that contradicts the first half of the story as the passage now reads. For example, if Joshua killed the king of Hebron at Makkedah (v. 26), how is it that Joshua attacks Hebron and kills its king again a few verses later (v. 37)?
Joshua Stopping the Sun by Pauwels Casteels (c. 1649 - 1677)
Joshua Stopping the Sun by Pauwels Casteels (c. 1649 – 1677)

Geographical and Chronological Issues

The timeline of the story, even given an extra 12 or 24 hours of sunlight, is implausible. It begins with the overnight march of the Israelite army from Gilgal to Gibeon. This is some 26 km as the crow flies—all uphill—and probably 30–40 km if roads are factored in.

Armies in the ancient world could not go very far without their supply train and other material support. According to my research, an army that used ox-carts could move about 16 km (10 miles) per day. Logistical advances many centuries later allowed Alexander the Great to travel 20 km (13 miles) per day, a rate “simply unheard of before Philip [of Macedon’s] reforms” (source for all the above). 30 km in one night is a nigh-impossible feat for an army in the late Bronze Age.

And it gets worse. The Israelites pursue the enemy to Azekah and Makkedah, another 50 km or so from Gibeon. (Mind you, we’re not even sure where Makkedah was; some scholars locate it even farther away, south of Lachish.) Joshua’s brief, mid-day return to the camp at Gilgal is a 90-km detour each way. And that’s not to mention the tour of Libnah, Lachish, Eglon, Hebron, and Debir that follows—which the text seems to suggest all occurred that same day. And then there is one final return to Gilgal (v. 43). This is a campaign that should have taken weeks.

Margalit, observing that “the narrative as attested makes no sense geographically,” proposes that the author responsible for the current text was raised in Babylon under the exile and had poor knowledge of Canaanite geography (p. 487).

The route of Joshua's Long Day campaign
The route of Joshua’s Long Day campaign

Manuscript Variation

The Old Greek (Septuagint) version of Joshua 10 differs on some significant details, and some experts on the text, particularly Kristin De Troyer (see bibliography), think it reflects an earlier Hebrew version.

For example, in the Greek, Joshua’s returns to Gilgal in vv. 15 and 43 are missing. (A later reviser wanted to emphasize Gilgal as Joshua’s headquarters.) Hebron is ruled by a different king named Ailam. King Adonizedek of Jerusalem is called Adonibezek, which is also his name in Judges 1. (Graeme Auld suggests it was altered in Hebrew to resemble the name “Melchizedek” from Gen. 14.) Eglon is replaced by an entirely different city, Adullam. King Horam of Gezer (v. 33) becomes king Ailam of Gezer or Ailam of Gaza, depending on the LXX version.

The Quotation from the Book of Jashar

Now let’s look at the heart of the Long Day miracle: the quotation from the Book of Jashar in vv. 12b–13a. The Book of Jashar—a name meaning “book of the upright” or possibly “book of songs”—is explicitly quoted two or three times in the Old Testament and was apparently an ancient collection of Israelite poems.

The poetic excerpt itself lacks any historical context. It portrays the Sun and Moon as personified cosmic entities, standing still over Gibeon and the nearby valley of Aijalon while the nation takes vengeance upon its enemies. Yahweh is not directly mentioned, and I’m not sure that “taking vengeance” is an apt description of the situation in Joshua 10.

What does it mean for the Sun and Moon to “stand still” upon command? Some scholars think it is basically what it sounds like: the sun and moon halting in their motion across the sky to extend the daylight hours. Others believe the Sun and Moon are standing by during a fierce theophany (manifestation) of Yahweh the storm god, as suggested by the parallel language in Habbakuk 3:

The sun raised high its hands;
the moon stood still in its exalted place,
at the light of your arrows speeding by,
at the gleam of your flashing spear. (Hab 3:11)

Margalit, however, notes that Hab. 3 is textually corrupt, and according to the early Greek “Barberini” manuscript, which may reflect an older reading, the sun actually stops shining.

A light held back the brilliance of the sun,
but the radiance of the moon stayed;
according to the radiance of your missiles they shall go forth,
according to the radiance of the lightning of your sword.
(Hab. 3:11, Barberini manuscript, NETS translation)

This “daytime darkness” motif can be found in other ancient sources. The basic idea is that Yahweh, as the lord of the heavenly host (the sun, moon, and stars), may command them to accompany him into battle, leaving the heavens “unattended and devoid of illumination” (Margalit p. 483).

The Song of Deborah, an ancient poem included in Judges, describes a similar event in which the stars from heaven fight on behalf of Israel:

The stars fought from heaven,
from their courses they fought against Sisera.
The torrent Kishon swept them away,
the onrushing torrent, the torrent Kishon.
(Judges 5:20-21a)

Other scholars agree that Josh. 10:12-13 and Hab. 3:11 describe a darkening of the sun rather than a halting of its motion. (Cf. John Day, 2000, p. 154)

Whatever the case, it is generally agreed that the compiler of Joshua 10 has taken this poem from its original context and incorporated it into a new setting. As the passage now reads, the story is clearly about the Sun stopping to prolong the day. What exactly is the author of the final work trying to depict?

Joshua killing the King of Makkedah (Joshua 10-28), Add MS 15277, f. 72r
Joshua killing the King of Makkedah (Joshua 10-28), Add MS 15277, f. 72r

Yahweh the Sun God?

The are several reasons for thinking that Yahweh was originally associated with sun worship when the religion was introduced to Judah and the temple in Jerusalem. This passage may lend additional support for that position. OT professor J. Glen Taylor (University of Toronto) points out that we should expect Joshua to pray to Yahweh, and for Yahweh to command the Sun to stop. But what we actually have is an introduction to the poem, “Joshua said to Yahweh” (v. 12), followed by Joshua’s command to the sun without any change in speaker. The summary in v. 14 says there has been no day like it before or since, for Yahweh heeded a human voice. The logic only works if Yahweh is to be understood as the Sun himself. Taylor concludes:

…the poetic fragment must be taken to clearly imply a one-to-one correspondence between Yahweh and …’Shemesh-in-Gibeon’. [Note: Shemesh is the name of the sun in Hebrew]

[…] First, only on the assumption that Yahweh-in-Gibeon is the sun can one take seriously the claim that it was unusual for ‘Yahweh’ to listen to the voice of a man (which Yahweh regularly does with Joshua and others in DH). Secondly, only on the assumption that Yahweh was the sun at Gibeon can one account for the way in which Yahweh’s listening to the voice of a man is implied by its placement in v. 14b (that is, after the halt of the sun) as a phenomenon equal to or even greater than the sun’s miraculous arrest in mid-heaven. (p. 118)

An alternative interpretation is given by Jeffrey L. Cooley (Boston College). He notes that in the theology of the Deuteronomist (the author(s) responsible for the final form of Deuteronomy through 2 Kings), just as Yahweh was the god of the Israelites, the other nations had their own proper gods. He suggests that this story is about Yahweh taking command of two Canaanites gods—the Sun and the Moon—thereby asserting authority over that region on behalf of the Israelites.

For the [author], the sun and moon are, in fact, proper gods of the Canaanites, assigned by Yahweh to this task. Even if the Israelites were commanded not to worship them,  according to Deut 4:15–19, receiving worship is precisely the role that the sun and moon were to fill for the nations. […] These celestial deities, who would otherwise be protecting their people, the Amorites, were made subservient to the Israelites’ own sovereign, Yahweh, who acknowledged Joshua’s order and fought on his behalf. (pp. 295)

Thomas Römer holds a similar view, stating that the text is meant to show Joshua’s authority over the sun and the moon—important Assyrian deities—implying that Yahweh and his chosen leader are superior to the Assyrian pantheon. (Römer p. 89)

"Meister der Rolle des Josua 001" from the Joshua Roll, a 10th-century illuminated Byzantine manuscript
“Meister der Rolle des Josua 001” from the Joshua Roll, a 10th-century illuminated Byzantine manuscript

A Composite Narrative

Having established that the author took a poetic fragment about a theophany involving the sun and moon and put it in a new, re-mythologized context about the sun obeying Joshua’s command, what do we make of the story itself?

The difficulties with the story are more readily understood if we take seriously Margalit’s theory that Joshua 10:1–27 is a combination of two separate stories: a non-miraculous story about Joshua conquering five Amorite kings, and a “holy war” story in which Yahweh assists Joshua in defeating the mighty warriors of Gibeon. This would explain the importance of telling the reader how mighty the Gibeonites are, and why Yahweh has to reassure Joshua of victory. His arguments are compelling but too lengthy to fully describe here.

An integral part of the holy war segment is the boulders hurled by Yahweh at the fleeing army. At one point (v. 11), these are called “hailstones”, but they seem to have been actual rocks—at least originally. The reader is meant to understand that these are the same boulders rolled in front of the cave at Makkedah—first to trap the five kings, and then to seal shut their tomb. The passage ends by stating that the stones remain there “to this very day”, suggesting an etiological function: the author knows of such a cave, and this tale provides an origin story. (See Cooley, p. 294; Noort, pp. 388–393.)

The continuation of the battle, vv. 28 onward, is (as already mentioned) a separate story welded onto the first half of the chapter. It features no supernatural manifestations at all, and the details of the cities and their kings differ somewhat. Note, for example, that Debir, a king in v. 3, becomes (more correctly) a city in v. 38.

To sum up so far, the story in Joshua 10 is one of several parallel, but different, accounts of the Israelite conquest of the Canaanite hill country. The heart of the story consists of a remarkable holy war in which Yahweh himself fights for Israel by slaughtering the enemy and pounding them with boulders from heaven. Embracing the holy war theme, the author incorporates an ancient theophany poem known to him; its original context might have intended a “daytime darkness” as the celestial deities accompanied Yahweh into combat, but the new context implies a lengthening of the day and the obedience of the sun to Joshua’s command.

"Destruction of the Army of the Amorites" by Gustave Dore
Destruction of the Army of the Amorites by Gustave Dore

Ancient Literary Context

Many of the miraculous features of Joshua 10 also appear in other ancient literature. For example, in the Iliad, general Agamemnon prays to Zeus to extend the day:

Zeus, most glorious, most great, the one of the dark clouds, that dwellest in the heaven, grant that the sun set not, neither darkness come upon us, until I have cast down in headlong ruin the hall of Priam … burned with consuming fire. (Illiad II:412-415)

We also know of of ancient Near Eastern accounts of military campaigns in which an entire region is said to have been conquered in a single day (see van Bekkum, p. 294). In other words, the miraculous events of Joshua 10 are not unexpected for this period and genre of writing.

The Impact of Joshua’s Long Day on the Debate Between Religion and Science

Copernicus’ discovery that earth and the planets revolved around the sun was first published in 1543, and it stunned the religious world. Many theologians rejected his conclusions, since they contradicted the view clearly taught by the Bible: that the earth was stationary, and that the sun revolved around it. Joshua 10 became the keystone in this intellectual battle. The fledgling Protestant movement had invested in supreme biblical authority as its main weapon against Rome, and science threatened to undermine their efforts. Mainstream theologians thus continued to deny heliocentrism well into the 17th century.

Intellectuals who did accept the new scientific findings worked hard to rationalize Joshua 10 with the Copernican worldview, and many of their arguments are still repeated today. Rheticus, Copernicus’s student, believed that Joshua 10 used accommodating language for the average reader, while the real miracle was that the earth itself had stopped rotating. Hugo Grotius proposed that a cloud on the horizon had reflected the light of the setting sun, making the day seem to last longer. (See Gnuse, pp. 394-400 for these citations.)

In fact, there is still a religious fringe that insists on geocentrism—the Bible-Science Newsletter associated with the Creation Research Society promoted it as late as the 1960s (Numbers, p. 237). However, the great majority of today’s Christians accept the scientific model of the solar system.

Still, for many, Joshua 10 remains an important litmus test of a Christian’s commitment to the truth and accuracy of the Bible. A nuanced understanding of the text’s evolution and essential non-historical nature as given above is unacceptable for the biblical literalist and the churches whose views are represented by the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. But since the sun and moon clearly did not stop moving across the sky in the literal manner described, another explanation must be sought—one that affirms the story as “true” yet sounds plausibly scientific. What interpretive strategies do modern conservative Christians follow?

"Sun Stands Still", Richard Andre, The Coloured Picture Bible for Children, 1884
“Sun Stands Still” by Richard Andre, The Coloured Picture Bible for Children, 1884

A Survey of Non-Academic Explanations of Joshua’s Long Day

One interesting example is that of Harry Rimmer, a Presbyterian minister and outspoken champion of the Bible’s scientific and historical accuracy in the early 20th century. In his view, the Israelites simply wanted relief from the midday heat, and Joshua’s command was actually for the sun to be “silent” and shine less brightly. Yahweh then responded with a refreshing hailstorm that cooled the Israelites (!). (Source: Numbers, p. 69)

What the Israelites really needed to beat the Amorites was a cold, refreshing can of Whoop-Ass.
What the Israelites really needed to beat the Amorites was a cold, refreshing can of Whoop-Ass.

Most conservative interpreters don’t take quite as many liberties with the text, but their explanations are no less creative. William Dankenbring, a prominent voice in the Armstrongian Church of God, claimed that a comet had temporarily disrupted earth’s rotation (The Creation Book for Children, 1976).

Henry Morris, the de facto founder of the “creation science” movement, posited that both the earth’s rotation and the moon’s revolution were miraculously halted, producing a “unique atmospheric upheaval” that resulted in killer hailstones (The Defender’s Study Bible, 1995).

Chuck Missler, a popular evangelical Christian author and speaker, claims that a near-encounter with the planet Mars in 701 BC altered Earth’s own orbit (from a 360-day year to a 365-day year!), and that a similar encounter with Mars may have caused Joshua’s long day and “several other biblical episodes”. Missler’s claim appears to rely on a bestselling pseudo-scientific book called Worlds in Collision that was published in 1950. Written by a Russian psychologist, it claimed that various ancient myths could be explained by a near-collision between Earth and a rogue Venus in the 15th century BC, followed by close encounters between Earth and Mars in the 8th and 7th centuries BC as a result of orbital changes caused by Venus. Missler does not directly cite this book, however—perhaps due to its poor reputation in the scientific community; nor does he refer to any legitimate scientific literature to back his claims of catastrophic planetary encounters. However, Missler does cite Jonathan Swift’s 1726 novel Gulliver’s Travels—which included a lucky guess that Mars had two moons—as evidence for a source of ancient astronomy knowledge that Swift somehow had access to. It truly boggles the mind.

Yet another semi-coherent, though admittedly creative, explanation was published in the COG’s official newsletter The Journal this past June (issue 174). According to the author, Pallant Ramsundar, the earth must have made a backwards “orbital loop” that kept the same side of earth facing the sun. As far as I can tell, this fails basic physics, since the spin of the earth isn’t dependent on the trajectory of its orbital path. (Credit to Otagosh for alerting me to this one.)

“Solved: The Mystery of Joshua’s Long Day”
This still doesn’t explain how the moon stood still.

Most Christian books and study Bibles, however, are unwilling to commit to anything so far-fetched. A typical approach is that taken by Apologetics Press, which pooh-poohs such complicated explanations and simply states that the event was a “miracle”. Whether it was a local miracle (a mirage?) or a universal one is left up to the reader, just so long as you believe with all your heart that it (whatever “it” was) happened.

Biblical Scholarship Meets Christian Apologetics…the Best of Both Worlds?

Some genuine, credentialed Bible scholars try to keep a foot in both worlds—popular theology (including apologetics) and secular biblical studies. In principle, any effort to apply the findings of the academy to religious doctrine and practice should be lauded. Nevertheless, the attempt by some scholars to rescue the historical accuracy of Joshua 10 has produced interpretations that neither side is likely to find satisfactory. I came across several such examples in researching this article, but one will suffice.

John H. Walton of Wheaton College contributed an essay to a 1994 biblical studies volume (see bibliography) that developed a theory proposed some decades earlier by John Holladay (see bibliography). In Walton’s view, the reader is supposed to deduce, from the poetic description of the sun being over Gibeon and the moon over Aijalon (to Gibeon’s west), that the sun and full moon must be just over the horizon on opposite sides of the sky—meaning, in turn, that it must be early morning on the 14th or 15th day of the month according to the lunar calendar. If it’s the 15th, that would be a bad omen according to certain Neo-Assyrian omen texts. A bad omen for whom? Not for the good and pious Israelites of course; they wouldn’t have believed that superstitious nonsense. No, a bad omen for the Amorites, dampening their morale and causing them to fight poorly. In short, Joshua’s command to the sun is really a prayer for a bad horoscope for the Amorites.

The weaknesses of this approach are immediately apparent. The pairings of “Sun” with “Moon” and “Gibeon” with “Valley of Aijalon” (an adjacent region) are isocolons—poetic repetitions that repeat set pairs or variations of elements (see Gevirtz, p. 49). Such doublets are ubiquitous in Hebrew poetry. These geographical names are probably not meant as an obtuse way of conveying the date or time of day. (Even concluding that the sun is in the east and the moon in the west is reading too much into the text. After all, if Joshua is approaching Gibeon from Gilgal, both locations are to the west.) Furthermore, the Neo-Assyrian omen texts were written many centuries later than the events depicted in Joshua 10, and there is no evidence of Canaanites holding those particular astrological beliefs. Walton’s position also requires us to ignore the statement in v. 13 that the sun delayed its descent for a full day, as well as the fact that Joshua’s command only occurs after the battle is already won. But worst of all, it renders the miracle nonexistent. It’s as if Joshua prays for it to be Thursday because the Amorites “never could get the hang of Thursdays.” What kind of miracle is that? Such an interpretation does a serious disservice to the text. Walton anticipates this objection and rather lamely protests it in his essay, saying “The role of God is not diminished just because the event prayed for might have happened without human prayers” (p. 190).

Walton’s hypothesis has gained few followers. Cooley calls it “less than convincing” (p. 254), and van Bekkum says “this idea is not as satisfying as it is often suggested” before giving several reasons to discount it (p. 282). Hall (p. 171) and Day (2007, p. 121) similarly dismiss it.

Nevertheless, in an article written for BioLogos, a Christian think-tank that promotes science (particularly evolution) from a biblical perspective, Walton presents his non-miraculous omen theory as the definitive interpretation of Joshua 10 in order to assure the reader that the story is “credible” and presumably historically accurate. (What is the reader to make of conflicting biblical accounts or the archaeological record? Walton does not say.) I fear articles like that one are not much of an improvement over Missler’s Mars Attacks theory. Now, taking ancient beliefs about astrology and omens into consideration is not in and of itself stupid; what I find problematic is the selective application of scholarship to protect certain religious positions from criticism and dissent.

Despite what some might think, I believe there are plenty of Christians (even of the “Bible-believing” variety) who want to know what critical scholarship can tell them about texts like Joshua 10. They deserve honest answers that acknowledge the difficulties and ambiguity of the scriptures, not reassurances that the story is believable if you strip it of its miracles.


  1. The exact translation of the last line is uncertain, since the Hebrew specifies no subject.


Yigal Levin, “Conquered and Unconquered: Reality and Historiography in the Geography of Joshua”, The Book of Joshua (BETL 250), ed. Ed Noort, 2012.

Baruch Margalit, “The Day the Sun Did Not Stand Still: A New Look at Joshua X 8-15”, Vetus Testamentum 42/4 (1992).

Ed Noort, “Joshua and Copernicus: Josh. 10:12–15 and the history of Reception”, Flores Florentino: Dead Sea Scrolls and other early Jewish studies in honour of Florentino Garcia Martinez (SJSJ 122), 2007.

Kristin De Troyer, “Reconstructing the OG of Joshua”, Septuagint research: issues and challenges in the study of the Greek Jewish scriptures (Society of Biblical Literature Septuagint and cognate studies Vol. 53), 2006.

Robert Karl Gnuse, No Other Gods: Emergent Monotheism in Israel (JSOTSup 241), 1997.

J. Glen Taylor, Yahweh and the Sun: Biblical and Archaeological Evidence for Sun Worship in Ancient Israel (JSOTSup 111), 1993.

Graeme Auld, Joshua: Jesus Son Of Nauē in Codex Vaticanus (Septuagint Commentary Series Vol. 1), Brill, 2005.

Jeffrey L. Cooley, Poetic Astronomy in the Ancient Near East: The Reflexes of Celestial Science in the Ancient Mesopotamian, Ugaritic and Israelite Narrative (HACL 5).

Thomas Römer, The So-Called Deuteronomistic History: A Sociological, Historical and Literary Introduction, T&T Clark, 2005.

John Day, “Gibeon and the Gibeonites in the Old Testament”, Reflection and refraction: studies in biblical historiography in honour of A. Graeme Auld (SVT 113), Brill, 2007.

John Day, Yahweh and the Gods and Goddesses of Canaan (JSOTSup 265), 2000.

Koert van Bekkum, From Conquest to Coexistence: Ideology and Antiquarian Intent in the Historiography of Israel’s Settlement in Canaan (CHANE 45), Brill, 2011.

Ronald L. Numbers, The Creationists: The Evolution of Scientific Creationism, Random House, 1992.

John H. Walton, “Joshua and Mesopotamian Celestial Omen Texts”, Faith, Tradition, and History: Old Testament Historiography in Its Near Eastern Context, 1994.

John Holladay, “The Day[s] the Moon Stood Still,” JBL 87 (1968) 166–78.

Sarah Lebhar Hall, Conquering Character: The Characterization of Joshua in Joshua 1–11 (LBI/OTS 512), T&T Clark, 2010.

44 thoughts on “The Day the Sun Stood Still: Interpreting the Miracle of Joshua 10

  1. In your reading, have you come across people who argue that there are old traditions about a long night in the Western Hemisphere, around the alleged time of Joshua? If so, what are your thoughts about that?


    • I had trouble finding anything about that. I saw the claim made several times, but never with any proper citation I could follow up on.

      I’m suspicious that any such evidence, if genuine, will be the result of cherry-picking “long night” stories from one half of the world and “long day” stories from the other half. It’s not hard to find stories of extended nighttime from the ancient Mediterranean world; Hercules was supposedly conceived during a supernaturally long night, for example. Atlantis believers use similar methods of picking flood myths (which are fairly common) from around the Atlantic to prove Atlantis once existed.

      Edit: Don Stewart at “Blue Letter Bible” gives a few citations acknowledging that the alleged “Chinese, Egyptian, and Mexican stories” do not coincide with the date of the event in Joshua 10. (

      Liked by 2 people

    • Velikovsky, in Worlds In Collision (1950) wrote of a Mexican account of a catastrophe (involving tidal waves, if I remember correctly) when the night did not end for a long time. He linked it with Joshua but I don’t think he had any evidence that the events were contemporaneous.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I’ve seen it suggested the literary backdrop to Joshua 10 is that a hailstorm obscured the sunlight, aiding the Israelites (somehow).

    Of interest, Psalm 18 and Habakkuk 3 have significant literary parallels. Where Psalm 18 mentions a hailstorm, Habakkuk 3 describes the sun and moon standing still. Joshua 10.11-13, meanwhile, has both.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s certainly not impossible, but it doesn’t really work if the story is about actual rocks rather than hailstones, which seems to be the case.

      You’re quite right about the parallels. The Joshua account, though, lacks other typical elements of Yahweh’s storm-god theophanies—thunder, lightning, etc. Even if that imagery lurks behind the Book of Jasher excerpt, the author of Joshua 10 seems to have interpreted it differently.

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  3. If this story appeared in a Hittite rather than Israelite religious text, there’s no question that the majority of people would accept the text for what it says: the sun and moon stopped in the sky. Instead, we hear ridiculous statements like, “Well, I guess the weather man doesn’t know what he’s talking about when he refers to sunrise and sunset.” The second century BCE Ben Sira certainly thought that the sun literally stopped:

    Sirach 46:1-4
    Joshua son of Nun was mighty in war,
    and was the successor of Moses in the prophetic office.
    He became, as his name implies,
    a great saviour of God’s elect,
    to take vengeance on the enemies that rose against them,
    so that he might give Israel its inheritance.
    2 How glorious he was when he lifted his hands
    and brandished his sword against the cities!
    3 Who before him ever stood so firm?
    For he waged the wars of the Lord.
    4 Was it not through him that the sun stood still
    and one day became as long as two?

    Consider also the first century BCE pseudepigraphal Psalms of Solomon, Psalm 18:

    11 (10) Great is our God and glorious, dwelling in the highest.

    12 (It is He) who hath established in (their) courses the lights (of heaven) for determining seasons from year to year,

    And they have not turned aside from the way which He appointed them

    13 (11) In the fear of God (they pursue) their path every day,

    From the day God created them and for evermore.

    14 (12) And they have erred not since the day He created them.

    Since the generations of old they have not withdrawn from their path,

    Unless God commanded them (so to do) by the command of His servants.

    If you go to this link,, you will see where I quote from the Talmud and The Legends of the Jews by Louis Ginzberg, both of which demonstrate that Jewish interpreters thought that the sun literally stopped, contra modern Christian apologists who try to reconcile the Bible with modern science.

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  4. This is probably sledgehammer-to-gnat treatment, but here it is anyway. Arguing that Joshua 10 simply means that the sun was ordered to stop shining (but what about the moon?) or something other than the face-value reading is akin to old-Earth creationism and the local-flood theory: an attempt to reconcile the Bible with science rather than interpreting the Bible on its own terms. In fact, a number of years ago, Ralph Woodrow wrote a book titled Noah’s Flood, Joshua’s Long Day, & Lucifer’s Fall: What Really Happened?, which argues for the local-flood theory and a less-miraculous interpretation of Joshua 10: Here is an analysis of the key Hebrew words in Joshua 10:12-13:

    Joshua 10:12-13 (NRSV, modified):
    12 On the day when Yahweh gave the Amorites over to the Israelites, Joshua spoke to Yahweh; and he said in the sight of Israel,
    ‘Sun, stand still {Hebrew damam} at Gibeon,
    and Moon, in the valley of Aijalon.’
    13 And the sun stood still {Hebrew damam}, and the moon stopped {Hebrew amad},
    until the nation took vengeance on their enemies.
    Is this not written in the Book of Jashar? The sun stopped {Hebrew amad} in mid-heaven, and did not hurry to set for about a whole day.

    1957 I. דָּמַם (dā·mǎm): v.; ≡ Str 1826; TWOT 439—1. LN 33.117–33.125 (qal) be silent, be quiet, i.e., not make sounds (Lev 10:3; Job 31:34; Ps 4:5[EB 4]; 30:13[EB 12]; 31:18[EB 17]; Isa 23:2; Jer 48:2; La 3:28;
    Eze 24:17; Am 5:13+); (nif) be silenced (1Sa 2:9; Jer 49:26; 50:30+); 2. LN 68.34–68.57 cease, stop,
    formally, be still, i.e., to cease an activity (Ex 15:16; Jos 10:12, 13; Job 30:27; Ps 35:15; 37:7; 62:6[EB 5];
    Jer 47:6+); (poal) quiet (Ps 131:2+); 3. LN 67.118–67.135 wait, i.e., to extend a period of time, with no
    implication if appropriate or inappropriate (1Sa 14:9; Job 29:21+); 4. LN 23.66–23.77 rest, i.e., be in
    resting state, including sleep, with a focus on inactivity (La 2:18+), note: the sources much overlap
    domains and meanings, see also 1958, 1959
    עָמַד 6641 (ʿā·mǎḏ): v.; ≡ Str 5975; TWOT 1637—1. LN 57.71–57.124 (qal) present, i.e., stand in front of a
    superior as an offering, or for evaluation (Ge 43:15); (hif) present (Lev 16:7), see also domain LN 53.16–
    53.27; (hof) be presented (Lev 16:10+); 2. LN 17.1–17.11 (qal) stand, stand up, stand still, i.e., be in a
    stance in which the body is vertical and straight, and so not bowed or prostrate (Jos 3:8), note: though
    bowing and standing can be a respectful state, apparently prostration has a focus on humbleness and
    submission, and standing has a focus on presentation for service or as a gift; (hif) cause to stand (2Ch
    18:34); (hof) prop up, be caused to stand (1Ki 22:35+); 3. LN 30.86–30.107 (qal) be in charge, formally,
    stand, i.e., designate another for a position or task, based on a thoughtful decision or evaluation (Nu
    7:2); (hif) appoint, assign, charge, install, formally, raise up (2Ch 19:5); 4. LN 35.1–35.18 (hif) sustain,
    make strong, i.e., make provision of any kind that is a help (2Ch 9:8); 5. LN 56.4–56.11 (qal) accuse,
    formally, stand, i.e., have an accusation brought in a legal setting (Isa 50:8); 6. LN 68.34–68.57 (qal) be
    still, i.e., be in a state of inactivity (1Sa 6:14), see also domain LN 42.7–42.28; 7. LN 67.78–67.117 (qal)
    endure, formally, stand, i.e., be in a duration of time which lasts for an indefinite period of time (Ps
    111:3), note: for NIV text in Eze 29:7, see 5048; note: further study may yield more domains

    Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament)
    (electronic ed.). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

    I Samuel 14:9, mentioned in the quotation, provides an interesting parallel to our passage:

    9If they say to us, “Wait {Hebrew damam} until we come to you”, then we will stand still {Hebrew amad} in our place, and we will not go up to them.

    Here is Josephus’s view of Joshua 10:
    17. But the king of Jerusalem took it to heart that the Gibeonites had gone over to Joshua; so he called upon the kings of the neighboring nations to join together, and make war against them. Now when the Gibeonites saw these kings, which were four, besides the king of Jerusalem, and perceived that they had pitched their camp at a certain fountain not far from their city, and were getting ready for the siege of it, they called upon Joshua to assist them; for such was their case, as to expect to be destroyed by these Canaanites, but to suppose they should be saved by those that came for the destruction of the Canaanites, because of the league of friendship that was between them. Accordingly, Joshua made haste with his whole army to assist them, and marching day and night, in the morning he fell upon the enemies as they were going up to the siege; and when he had discomfited them, he followed them, and pursued them down the descent of the hills. The place is called Bethhoron; where he also understood that God assisted him, which he declared by thunder and thunderbolts, as also by the falling of hail larger than usual. Moreover, it happened that the day was lengthened that the night might not come on too soon, and be an obstruction to the zeal of the Hebrews in pursuing their enemies; insomuch that Joshua took the kings, who were hidden in a certain cave at Makkedah, and put them to death. Now, that the day was lengthened at this thee, and was longer than ordinary, is expressed in the books laid up in the temple.

    So to review, Ben Sira, Josephus, the Talmud, Jewish tradition (as related in Ginzberg’s The Legends of the Jews), the face-value reading of the text, and reputable reference works (I could have also cited HALOT, The Hebrew & Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament) all say that the sun literally stopped in the sky, and Psalms of Solomon 18 mentions that “the lights [of heaven]” can be “withdrawn from their path” if commanded.

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    • Arguing that Joshua 10 simply means that the sun was ordered to stop shining (but what about the moon?) or something other than the face-value reading is akin to old-Earth creationism and the local-flood theory

      Agreed…and that’s something you obviously see a lot of in non-academic explanations. A comet disrupted the earth’s rotation, or a volcano was responsible for the boulders. The Exodus plagues and even Jesus’ miracles receive the same treatment. It’s one side of the biblicist coin—the other side being to fully acknowledge the miracle but refuse any serious biblical criticism.

      All that said, if reputable, non-apologist scholars like Margalit and Day think that the current story adapts language from a text with a “daylight darkness” motif, I see no reason to dismiss them just because it might work in the apologists’ favour. (Though I don’t think it does.)

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Paul D wrote: All that said, if reputable, non-apologist scholars like Margalit and Day think that the current story adapts language from a text with a “daylight darkness” motif, I see no reason to dismiss them just because it might work in the apologists’ favour. (Though I don’t think it does.)

    I greatly respect John Day, and I have referred to his Yahweh and the Gods and Goddesses of Canaan numerous times. However, I think that in his determination to refute the idea that Joshua 10 “refer[s] to a Canaanite sun (and moon) cult” (page 154), he has failed to see how the passage is best understood in its present context, regardless of its affinities to Habakkuk. I don’t “dismiss [apologists’ explanations] just because they might work in the apologists favor.” I’m not sure of your point, since you say above, after referring to Day, “Whatever the case, it is generally agreed that the compiler of Joshua 10 has taken this poem from its original context and incorporated it into a new setting. As the passage now reads, the story is clearly about the Sun stopping to prolong the day.” Sounds like you agree with me.


    • I don’t see any major points of disagreement, particularly with regard to the final text. As to the traditions that were used or combined by the final author, there is substantial disagreement among scholars on various points, and it was quite hard for me to even summarize the issues.

      One interesting item I left out was the view of Nadav Na’aman, that the story is actually a literary retelling of David’s campaign against the five Philistine lords.

      Another scholar (I forget who, have to check my notes) had the fascinating, though probably incorrect, idea that the five kings can be plausibly associated with the five planets, and the entire story is a cosmological myth of sorts.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I own Yahweh and the Gods and Goddesses of Canaan, but I don’t own Day’s other work referenced in your bibliography, <“Gibeon and the Gibeonites in the Old Testament”, Reflection and refraction: studies in biblical historiography in honour of A. Graeme Auld. However, I was able to find that work, and it turns out that Day agrees that in its current context, Joshua 10 does indicate a prolongation of daylight. I quote below from page 120, with my emphasis:

    The first view understands the text to be referring to a literal standing still of the sun and moon in the heavens. Whereas those who took this view in earlier ages often believed that such an event actually happened, this is, of course, no longer scientifically credible and those who follow this understanding today (except for fundamentalists) take it to be legend, comparable to the similar miracle in Homer’s Iliad 2.413-15. There is no doubt that such a literal understanding is what is implied in the prose comment on the poetry in Joshua 10:13b. However, it should be equally clear that this is not what was originally intended by the poetry in Joshua 10:12b-13a, since the position of the sun over Gibeon and the moon over the valley of Aijalon (east and west respectively) implies that the time is morning, when Joshua would hardly be requesting a prolongation of light.


  7. Great post. I think Joshua 10 is a fascinating topic because it is a prime target for academic criticism and because of its historical role in the fight between Christian dogma vs. scientific observation. Ah, the joys of worshiping a geocentric deity while being aware you’re living in a heliocentric system. How seriously can you take a god who doesn’t even know what he is supposed to have created?

    Interestingly, like so many apologist who even today seek to reconcile the irreconcilable, Galileo in his letter to Castelli would argue that some parts of the bible can only be saved by taking them figuratively: “…the Holy Scriptures in many places not only admit but actually require a different explanation for what seems to be the literal one…” Of course, Galileo was ahead of his time, and needed to argue this to save his life, rather than his faith. But if you do take the bible literally, then at every turn, the Judeo-Christian god seemingly gets his facts wrong, if you’re honest enough and educated enough for facts to sink into your brain, that is. Religious people deny even that which is readily observable by pursuing an arm’s length relationship with facts and then presuming there must be wiggle room for scientists to be mistaken and for “god” (themselves, really) to be right, especially when there isn’t.

    I was raised in Herbert Armstrong’s Worldwide Church of God which, as is often the case with cults after the death of the cult figure, came apart in earnest starting in 1995 to form the hundreds of bickering Armstrongist cultlets now known lightheartedly as the COGosphere. As I child, I knew Bill Dankenbring back in the day, and his wife and their kids. I recall when he was kicked out for his “heretical” views (haha, pot meet kettle). Amstrongism has always been a literalist, fundamental-y sect, and now group of sects, with a bent towards Old Testament pharisaical Judaism. So not a great surprise when the last time I stumbled across a youtube video put out by Dankenbring, he was dressed as a rabbi. Ironic that the majority of Jews these days, if observant at all, are tolerant, practical people, while we basically pretended to be Jews as though there was still a temple (literally, as Armstrong taught British Israelism, now conclusively debunked by genetics). I never would have characterized Dankenbring as a prominent voice in the Armstrongist movement, but his has certainly been an audible one. No clue how many followers he has, but enough to support him, I guess. And the Journal hosts so many divergent, incoherent, and often downright insane viewpoints that I couldn’t read it even when I was still involved with the COGs.


    • Thanks for the comment and the interesting perspective on the Armstrongian church. That particular group (or collection of groups now, I suppose) is fascinatingly weird. I have no personal experience with them, but I assumed Dankenbring had been a fairly prominent voice given the number of websites and articles I found about him and his writings.


  8. The orbital loop thing is so bizarre. The geometry obviously fails: in the proposed scenario the earth would keep one face pointed towards the postulated mass responsible for pulling it into an epicycle, not towards the sun. In order to explain this with orbital mechanics, they would need God to zip the earth around its orbit in 24 hours.

    The weirdest part of all of the “scientific” explanations is this presumption that God must have chosen the least extravagant way to violate conservation of energy and momentum. It’s nothing for him to poof a giant mass into existence for a day, but apparently believing that he could slow the earth’s rotation without dire physical consequences is a step too far.


    • Heh, exactly. Stopping earth’s motion: no problem. Turning on the inertial dampeners so everything doesn’t fly east at 1,670 km/h when the rotating stops: problem. Are some miracles more work than others?

      Then again, I see how unsatisfactory it gets when you have to invent a dozen extra miracles not in the Bible to explain each one that is. See how many extra behind-the-scenes miracles are necessary if you want to make Noah’s Ark even remotely feasible—turning the Ark into a Tardis, putting the animals into unnatural hibernation, creating and dissipating all that extra global water, extremely rapid post-flood tectonics, miraculous genetics to overcome the devastating population bottlenecks, ensuring only the marsupials go to Australia, etc. That way lies madness. I can see why literalists are desperate for a single-miracle solution.

      Now, if they put just half as much effort into reading the text itself, they’d see there’s no need in the first place.


      • Some Christians are at least honest with the text and acknowledge that the Bible claims that the sun stopped. Here is Harold Lindsell’s comment on page 309 of the conservative NRSV Harper Study Bible (not to be confused with The Harper Collins Study Bible), with original emphasis:

        And the Sun stood still, and the moon stopped. The historicity of this event has been questioned even by people in the conservative tradition. They have leaned toward the notion that this is a figure of speech; the sun only seemed to stand still, or the day seemed longer than it actually was. Nevertheless, for an all-powerful God to stop the rotation of the earth for a day without the universe collapsing is no harder than to raise the dead or create the universe

        Ken Fentress, writing in The Apologetics Study Bible, pp. 337-338, gives a more expansive commentary:

        10:12-15 In one of the most remarkable occurrences recorded in biblical history, God responded to Joshua’s prayer by causing the sun and the moon to stop their movement. Time came to a standstill for nearly an entire day. This text is more than a record of astronomical events; it also makes a theological point. The supposed gods of the sun and moon were prominent in Canaanite religion; Yahweh’s greater power now divests these bodies of their religious significance and puts them to the service of His people. The Genesis account of creation offers a similar perspective; the sun and moon—the “two great lights” (Gn 1:16)—do not appear till the fourth day; they are not identified with the light of God’s first creative act (Gn 1:3), but serve as regulators of earthly time.

        Interpreters have proposed four major explanations of this passage: (1) the earth stopped its rotation, (2) a solar eclipse occurred, (3) an astrological omen took place, or (4) the passage is figurative, not literal. The second option is not plausible because the text does not state that the sun and moon darkened; they continued to shine but stopped moving (the verbal root dmm is best translated “to cease”). The third option suggests that Joshua employed a pagan form of prayer based upon the practice, found in other ancient Near Eastern cultures, of reading omens in the movement of heavenly bodies. This option is inconsistent with Joshua’s faithfulness to the Lord. The fourth option is not credible because vv. 13-14 state clearly that the sun and moon stopped their motion. The best way to understand these events is to accept the first option, according to the plain reading of the text. Through alteration of the earth’s rotation the apparent movement of the sun and moon across the sky was halted. The urban legend that Princeton scientists or NASA computers have “discovered” Joshua’s long day has circulated for more than a half century. Though baseless, this fictitious “scientific” explanation is still widely promoted. The event was the act of a sovereign and omnipotent God who governs His creation. The emphasis of the passage is how, on that particular day, God listened to the prayer of Joshua in a way that had never been witnessed. The event was clear evidence that the Lord was fighting for Israel. The quote from the Book of Jashar probably encompasses vv. 13b-15, since v. 16 continues the narrative from vv. 10-11.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. The “original emphasis” that I mention regarding the first quote is Lindsell’s italicizing “seemed” both times. Since I used the quote feature, the entire quote got italicized. ]-:


    • There is a conspicuously missing (5) that should be on his list. 🙂 I leave that as an exercise for the reader.

      Yeah, it’s annoying that you can’t italicize stuff inside quotation blocks with this template.


  10. Fascinating post! I love biblical textual criticism, it intrigues me nearly as much as comparative linguistics, which is hard to do! But it’s incredibly interesting to learn about who the different authors probably were, times they were probably written, edits that seem to have been made, agendas the text would have had, and so on. I was raised in a fundamental literalist house, which, as I learned more about linguistics, gave me more and more skepticism of the literalness of the text.

    I often did not notice, and was of course carefully prevented from hearing about, obvious conflicts in different accounts such as this – I know that I read them multiple times, without ever noticing that there are two separate and conflicting accounts of creation, never mind this mess here! But I had begun to learn enough about translation to realise that there is no such thing as a perfect translation, not even by a miracle could you make words in an entirely separate language, distant by thousands of years, mean exactly what you thought they meant in English. There are words that just do not translate, and worlds of inference and implication that we are missing out on simply by not living in those times and knowing that language as it was.

    But I always had a skeptical mind, so after I eventually lost my faith and came (sort of) back to it much less literalmindedly, and much less invested (completely uninvested, actually) in the ‘perfection’ of the text as given, in either the original or any translation, I began hearing about things like this, and I find the scholarly inquisition of them completely fascinating.

    What I find even more fascinating are the hints, carefully obscured now, that the first Israelites worshiped Yahweh as a sun god, and probably were not actually monotheists. I would love to learn more about that proto-religion they had, if there are any books on it – if there is even enough speculation on it to fill a book, that is! 🙂 At any rate, thank you for your work, it was an excellent read!


  11. Thank you for this compilation of theories. I’ve read Margalit and missed most of his contributions. Now it appears that I have another section to add to my book (when I get back to it, damn it!). The point of looking at the Sun and Moon, here, as the gods of their respective world-thrones rather than as the world-thrones themselves is fascinating. I believe that I will probably view this as a general’s command to his top commanders to stand and hold key points of the battlefield so that the enemy is held in a three-way trap.

    I didn’t see it mentioned, here, but it may be important to mention that an alliance of five enemy kings involving the Amorites was also involved in “Genesis” 14. Given the cosmic nature of both battles, one has to wonder if they might be variants on the same story. I’ll have to look into that a little more closely as well.


  12. See this is a perfect example of my problem with faith. Of my problem with the Bible. I could accept and dedicate my life to Christ, but I’d know deep down that it wasn’t actually true because of nonsense like this. There are so many stories like this that defy reason, logic and basic knowledge. It is enough to make one wonder – Is it really necessary to have the Bible make sense? Can’t we just accept that it is just a mythological text? Why is so much time and effort put into trying to twist and interpret it in a way that makes sense when it just DOESN’T! Why can’t we accept that the Bible just doesn’t make sense? Wouldn’t that be easier?

    Why does the Bible HAVE to be true? Especially when it really seems to be a work of fiction. This is a question I can’t get a straight answer for from believers. Believers decide a priori that the Bible MUST be true so everything MUST make sense, somehow. So they twist and twist until it does. When in reality, it’s just easier to turn around and say it’s not based on reality, it’s a myth. Believers sacrifice intellect for faith. I cannot do that.


    • Thanks for the comment, Benjamin. As you’ve noticed, I’m quite critical of apologetics that have to twist the text in order to make sense, as you put it. On the other hand, I don’t want to tell people how to apply the Bible in their own faith or spirituality.

      To be fair, there are plenty of liberal and progressive Christians who happily accept that the Bible is a mythological text, and the notion of “Bible-based Christianity” is mostly a Protestant one to begin with. It’s not impossible to accept the Bible’s strangeness within a religious context. But I do think fundamentalist Christianity is incompatible with the kind of text the Bible is. It’s a sad irony that so many people raised to treasure and cherish the Bible are not allowed to appreciate it for what it is.


    • First of all, imagine you are God and need to write an information about you and life and death for the people you love for ALL nations, ALL generations to come, ALL age, ALL languages about ALL possible situations a person might have in their life, ALL possible issues (the Bible is His manual for life basically).. I wonder what that would look like 🙂

      I think to try and find scientific explanations for God, His ways and miracles is seriously like Harry Potter trying to understand and explain his writer.. If you can understand and explain God, you would be God your self and could create more universes and creatures.. Would love to see that too 🙂

      Maybe it would help to accept that we are very limited compared to God and that for example there are colours in Heaven that we haven’t seen and don’t know about.. I believe even our vocabularies don’t have enough words to explain the fullness of God..


      • Vicki, I appreciate comments from all points of view, but do try to address something in the article, if possible. 🙂

        The claim that “the Bible is God’s manual for life” is a theological assertion that is generally outside of my area of interest. Though I imagine a book written to express love for all nations ought to be a little more considerate of those poor Canaanites and Amorites.


  13. This is supposedly the 21st century – I cannot understand how people can believe in a god that stops the universe piecemeal just so one tribe of primitives can kill off other tribes of primitives.


  14. Thank you. Thank you.

    Amazing article. Some times I feel as though I am the only one who realizes every single Christian apologist is not just circular in their arguments but that they also go back and try to shoehorn everything into their pre-existing framework. I finally realized that evangelicals need Adam and Eve and Original Sin and Noah to make hell and their prophecies work so they cling to their inerrancy claims with regard to their tidy mystery religion framework.

    I doubt that there’s an evangelical in America who realizes that Hell came from Zoarasterism as well as Satan, Lucifer on steroids, also taken from that fine religion plus the judgment and all of the concepts of dark and light, angels and demons etc. And guess what else? The Persians were Indo-Europeans in religion and tongue and none of you evangelicals even noticed them sitting there right in the middle of your Old Testament taking up hundreds of chapters.

    Wait. You mean since Passover, which never happened, involved a lamb, that’s why Jesus had to die on the cross? Huh? And they have no idea what you are even talking about. It is indeed, the Greatest Story Ever Told and I love the bit about God/Satan deceiving us so that we won’t realize the earth is 7,700 years old. Nothing like Adam and Eve and Seth riding around on dinosaurs for 1,000 years. Is this too snarky?

    No sentient human being should believe in the reality of Jericho or Joshua unless Yahweh was in fact Satan. Hmmm.
    Evangelicals all believe Joshua was doing the “Lord’s work” and all of those cute Canaanites went straight to heaven. Show them where it mentions genocide and see what they say ’cause I already know: “Who am I to question God?” Again, circular.

    I realized growing up fundamentalist that these evangelicals pretend to be real PH.D.’s but all of their dissertations are crap and nothing but circular apologetics and they don’t seem to realize. There’s a buffoon Israeli guy on Netflix who is exactly the same. We found this; we found that. Go find Ai and Jericho. Go find Abram and Moses and Melchizedek.

    Here’s neat party trick for evangelicals who love their Bibles so much. Start off on page one of Genesis and look up every single name in chapters 1-11 in wikipedia and follow the links and see what you learn if you can actually take the evidence where it leads but none of you will be able to do it. By page two, you will be blaming Satan for Ashram and El and Ba’al and the fact that the Israelites were Canaanites who spoke something almost identical to Phoenician.

    One major difference between evangelicals and non-fundamentalist Jews is that Jews “worship” the Talmud, not the Old Testament, meaning to most Jews, it’s the interpretation that matters most and which is given to man to decipher, not just the lame text. Texts are not and cannot be true. Godel established 90 years ago that self-referential systems cannot be used to prove themselves but the Christians all missed that since they were all deriding evolution.

    Part of the issue here is that I don’t see why any secular archaeologist or theologian would bother debating Josh McDowell or the “Eyewitness guy” since they both believe in a cartoon version of reality where he stands on his head to twist anyway he can to prove whatever he wants. The Eyewitness guy can say anything he wants to; it doesn’t matter. The evangelicals will buy it if it means the Bible is “inerrant”.

    Virtually every single evangelical/fundamentalist Christian apologist that anyone has heard of is only a pretend doctorate or scientist because scientists let the evidence take then where it leads; they do not shoehorn and say well, maybe they called Saturday Friday or is it Sunday. Same thing with Christian physicists. They are pretend physicists who believe in cartoon reality but wait, which multiverse is this? Am I in the one with the talking ass?

    Well done. I studied under Van Seters one course and he was such a low key brilliant person. Ehrman came after and instead evangelicals in North Carolina are angry that they had two such prominent theologians leading youth (not anymore) astray. Last thing. I have had scores of Christians tell me that they are glad that they are not intelligent enough to do anything except accept Christianity when I would point these things out. See, two creations. See two floods. See, there’s no unclean yet so wtf? Christians just stand their with the big empty thought bubble….

    Biogensis people will at least get vaccinated but they are exactly the same as the Young Earth people just one step removed. Try imagining Christianity without original sin and without hell and see where it leads you. You don’t have to have this step by step logical framework if you have faith.

    Congratulations on your knowledge, courage and writing skills. There are others of us out here.


  15. This is probably from 2010 or even earlier, but, “oh my Goddess”.

    Are we evolving ethically, mentally, and intellectually? While following Godel, I don’t believe it is possible to create a perfect society or philosophy, I deem myself open to novel apologist, but this is about as base and low and miserably as humanity gets. Most of the multiple poster on here do so to point out perceived irregularities with transactions and I read them all. That’s a significant part of all of this. But I still perceive that even though the webmaster sticks to the facts as indeed he should, for the rest of us, if you are not willing to do as Brad Pitt did in Fight Club and imagine that maybe God hates you, then, you are wasting your life, a minute at a time:

    Ironically, to me, the best defense of fundamentalist Christianity involves theory of simulation with God being a programmer of our particular simulation. Still for those who propose such inklings, none or virtually none of them attempt to defend Yahweh and his peripatetic manifestations of hatred towards various ethnic groups and misanthropic inclination towards many.

    Every single time you deconstruct this amalgamation of writings, you serve Her, Paul D. Part of your mission is to yourself, to free yourself from the bonds of fundamentalism but foremost you are among the called to use intellect and reason and not passion to help all interested in this topics to move towards truth. To me, the crisis of humanity includes melding the best attributes of both sexes genetically and also in terms of gender attributes.

    The Old Testament is notoriously empty of any positive male role models or female role models. Are all females spies, harlots, easily deceived and child-like (Eve) and yet so simple as to not feature as any Biblical persona worthy of merit? Mary and Elizabeth get no treatment but a chapter or two.

    There are no writings attributed to females Females are property and possessions. Job’s newer, hotter daughters are literally seen as an equivalent divine payback for God/the Adversary for killing the others.

    To a certain extent, Paul, why do any of us pursue a work that only focuses on males and 95% of them, the worst of the worst?

    To those who seek righteous, particularly among men, look to the Spirit of Goddess, not to a mere text. Texts are infinite too. Godel established that but the word infinite in its complexities means incomplete just as much as it means totality. That’s the “ying-yang”.

    Females are all but invariable in the context of Christianity, and perhaps paganism and all religion, the true priestesses of right and wrong and how to approach the Goddesses for favor and fertility and it’s they who carry the religious traditions and often “make. the males go” to temple or church and yet, we are seldom mentioned nor portrayed favorably. The best of us in the Bible are spies, harlots and whores, with a couple of extremely violent female warriors or avengers tossed in. We are the empresses of XY faith. Few men steal or maraud any longer but they continue to see females both as superior and inferior but the superior part is not detailed in the Bible.

    Evil Queens. Women who cut men’s hair when they are asleep. Sly metaphor that one. That’s not were you cut if you want to a male to lose his strength. We dance for the heads of righteous men like John the Baptist. And yet any man injured in the stones shall not be part of the people of God. The writer below might still believe this but eh.

    You are deconstructing something that is teetering and tottering and at the point of being humiliating to anyone who adheres to its beliefs. At what point do we decide that all of the value of the Bible comes in the commentaries like the Talmud? But even there, women are largely invisible.

    The extension of science to females and the analysis as to how trans-feminine values matter to human history has yet to begin. Most of the early feminists were Jewish or intellectual and many of them in my opinion, operated from feelings of intellectual inferiority. Post-feminist women are much more likely to focus on the joy of being female and less on why can’t I be a lumberjack or stevedore or even warrior-princess. The most terrifying thing to males historically is the idea that the vast majority of females do indeed want to reproduce, carry on positive traditions, humanize their sons and brothers and husbands and yes, above all, have fun. the Bible is largely joyless and without fun.

    It’s clear to me that the Philistines and Phoenicians and Greeks were much more fun. Understanding Christianity without understanding the Mysteries is always going to be fruitless. There has to be more hidden behind the text.

    Religion and history cannot sole derive from male idiom and artifice and statecraft. The idea of the male sex being evolutionarily more important than females remains to be proven. To me, the bulk of evidence supports that females create males in their own image but understood always that while useful, XY’s often tend to be dangerous. Joshua, or is Yeshua, a better rendering of the Hebrew, is a low-light in the annuals of history. It’s males who need redemption, not females, in terms of broad historical and literary strokes. If Joshua is currently among the most popular names in Western Civilization, then let all of us weep.

    Goddess Bless,


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