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Joshua's Long Day
By Brian Pepper
There are thousands of people in the world today who believe the false idea that Modern Science and the Word of God are at hopeless variance one with the other. The Moody Institute of Science films have done a tremendous amount to counter this belief. Also the late Dr Harry Rimmer, the famous science and Bible lecturer and author has also brought forth powerful facts to testify to the complete harmony of the Bible and science.
I suppose one of the most popular objections of the Skeptics is that of Joshua’s long day. The Bible record of the Long day of Joshua has given rise to more argument and debate than almost any other subject. And yet when Joshua's record is properly studied and all the evidence is weighed and considered, there is no chapter of the Bible that is more valuable in establishing the wonderful accuracy of the Holy Scriptures than this. The record of this famous event is found in Joshua 10.
Joshua gives an account of the battle of Beth-Horon.
This ancient battle was one of the greatest that is recorded in the annals of history.
Now you might be inclined to say that perhaps a statement like that would be a little exaggerated.
It has been said by those who have given careful study to this record that there was no single battle in the recent World War that could compare with this one in far reaching significance and results.
Joshua was opposed by the most powerful alliance of which the enemy were capable of arranging. Five kings died there and the armies of the allies were smashed. As a result of that battle nations were exterminated. But more important than any other factor Jesus was born in the very land of which the prophets spoke.
This battle may be likened to the battle of Waterloo in its far reaching effects. And yet amazingly enough the entire account of Joshua’s victory from the setting forth of the Army on their forced march from Gilgal until their return is given in just 271 words. There have been many more than that number of volumes written about the battle of Waterloo. I cannot overstress this that every word in this record must be studied carefully. The setting of this battle is of tremendous importance.
You will remember that Book of Joshua contains the record of the conquest of the land of Canaan by the army of Israel. In chapter 6 we have the record of the conquest of Jericho. The ablest archeologists of the twentieth century have proved beyond question that the events of Chapter 6 happened exactly as they were written by the pen of Joshua.
The 7th chapter deals with the defeat of Israel at Ai. It was there that the sin of Achan was discovered and dealt with. As a result of this in the 8th chapter the record is given of the capture of Ai and the wiping out of some 12,000 people.
Now this brings us to the stirring events of the 9th and 10th chapters of the Book of Joshua. In the path of Joshua’s march of conquest there were six great and powerful nations. The Bible gives the names of these nations as the Hittite, Amorite, Canaanite, Jebusite, Perizzite and Hivite peoples.
One of the most important was the nation called the Hivites. Their capital city was Gibeon and it numbered about 30,000 inhabitants. This city was next in Joshua’s line of march and was a walled city, well defended and skillfully protected.
Now among the reigning monarchs of these six nations a very crafty and able statesman whose name was Adoni-Zedec. He was a man famed in his day for his political craft and military genius. He had been observing with deep concern the advance of Israel and as he saw their remarkable progress, he realized that no single nation of Canaan would be able to stand before them. So he called together the other five kings and proposed a League of Nations. His proposals were accepted and so Adoni-Zedec became the head of this ancient League of Nations. He knew that he faced a tremendous power.
So in his strategy he called for the sacrifice of the Hivites. You see he desired to use the city of Gibeon as a buffer between Israel and the rest of the league. This would give the league time to prepare for the defense of the rest of their territory. This is rather typical of leagues of nations. We find this league was ready to sacrifice one of its own members. Adoni-Zedec’s plan was to fortify his own city of Jerusalem then he intended to mass the combined army of the league in the hope that he would crush Joshua in a pitched battle.
So he called a secret meeting of his league but he failed to inform the Hivites that the meeting was being held. With skilful oratory he told his fellow members something like this, "It is better that one should die for all, than we should all perish together. The walls of Gibeon are strong and high. They will delay Joshua long enough for us to complete our plans and fortifications." The rest of the league was sympathetic with the Hivites but they voted it that way. As long as they were not to be the victims they were willing to vote that way. It was alright with them.
But the Hivites refused to play the part of the martyr. Evidently they had their spies at the conference of the league. When they learned that they were to be offered as a sacifice for the rest of the league they acted first. They perpetrated one of the shrewdest stratagems of history and as a result they gained a secret pact with Israel that made them the servants of God in return for protection and safety. Without question they were the shrewdest people that ever lived. Do you think that I am exaggerating? Well you listen to this! They were the only people of history who have ever beaten all the Jews in a bargain at the same time.
We read about it in the 9th chapter. Chapter 9:4, "They did work wilily, and went and made as if they had been ambassadors, and took old sacks upon their asses, and wine bottles, old and rent, and bound up; And old shoes and clouted upon their feet, and old garments upon them; and all the bread of their provision was dry and mouldy. And they went to Joshua unto the camp at Gilgal and said unto him, and to the men of Israel, We be come from a far country now therefore make ye a league with us."
Somewhere in Gibeon they found some old gentlemen with frowsy hair and ragged white beards. They dressed them in worn out garments and put upon their feet clouted and broken shoes. They provided them with patched and mended wine-skins, in which they put a few pints of sour vinegar. They gave them some mouldy crusts of bread and sent them forth as ambassadors of their mighty power. Into the camp of Israel these humbugs limped, saying as they came, "We be come from far country, now therefore make ye a league with us."
The princes of Israel replied, "How do we know that you do not belong in this very land that we have set out to conquer." These cunning fellows humbly replied, "You see our worn out shoes and clothing; these were our newest and best suits when we started on this long hard journey. These wine skins now patched and broken were new when we left home. They were filled with sweet grape-juice, and smell them now." Displaying their mouldy crusts of bread, they shook their heads with sorrow and said, "Gentlemen these were hot biscuits right out of the oven when we started on this trip."
The record says that the princes of Israel were "convinced by the victuals." They swore by the honour of Jehovah that they would never lift their swords against the city of these ambassadors. And so Israel moved on and with them, the ambassadors, when they reached the walls of Gibeon the princes prepared for battle. The ambassadors cried out "Not, this city.” This is our city protected by your oath of friendship and peace. The princes of Israel raved but they were securely trapped and could see no way out.
When Adoni-Zedec heard of the way the Hivites had saved their heads he was greatly angered. In his estimation it seemed quite alright for the league to betray a member but the members must not betray the league. He gathered together the members of the league and marched against the Hivites.
Fearing for the safety of his nation the king sent word to Joshua who came at breakneck speed. The league attacked Gibeon then they found that Joshua was smiting them in the rear. The Gibeonites made a sortie and attacked the head and left flank of the column. Caught between the jaws of a pincer movement, the army of the league retreated and the retreat soon became a rout.
Now we read Chapter 10:11-14, "And it came to pass, as they fled from before Israel, and were in the going down to Beth-horon, that the LORD cast down great stones from heaven upon them unto Azekah, and they died: they were more which died with hailstones than they whom the children of Israel slew with the sword. 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, Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon. And the sun stood still and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged them¬selves upon their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day. And there was no day like that before it or after it, that the LORD harkened unto the voice of a man; for the LORD fought for Israel."
Today the skeptics say that this is an impossible myth. Some say that this account was not written by Joshua but by some nameless scribe who wrote it a thousand years later. However the account contains absolute and scientific evidence that this event was recorded by an eye witness.
First of all the sun was in the midst of the heavens. The word here translated "midst" is the is the Hebrew word ‘Chatsi’ which appears in the Old Testament 118 times. It means ‘half’ in English. The literal meaning is ‘bisection’. So you see it implies that the sun was at its zenith. In other words it was high moon.
Now the second point and this is very important, that while the sun was in the ‘bisection’ of the heavens it stood over Gibeon. The sun was directly overhead in the centre of the heaven and right above the city of Gibeon.
In the Palestinian summer, the sun is between 8 and 12 degrees of absolute zenith at noon. It rises at 5 o'clock in the morning and sets at 7 o' clock in the evening.
Thirdly, the city of Gibeon is in the latitude 31% and 51 minutes north. Now I want you to remember this location as it is of the utmost importance.
Fourthly, the moon was in the valley of Ajalon. You notice it doesn’t say over the valley but distinctly in the valley. This valley was a low pass, or cleft in the hills; in other words a depression or canyon in the hills. As the declining moon touched the horizon it would appear to be framed in the valley. And this valley lies 17% north of west from the city of Gibeon.
So if the sun was directly above Gibeon and the moon was in the valley of Azalon, the moon was in the third quarter on this day of battle and was setting at the time of the cry of Joshua. The moon arose at 11 o'clock the night before the battle and set at one o'clock the battle day.
At noon, when Joshua spoke his petition and cried out to God, the moon which would disappear at an altitude of 5% was just at 7% altitude or almost touching the horizon.
The day of the battle is thus established. It was July 22nd by our Calendar, or the 21st day of the 4th month by the Hebrew calendar. The Ancients kept astronomical records as far back as the 3rd century before Christ. The Chaldeans recorded cycles of eclipses both lunar and solar. And it is possible to trace up through these ancient records and arrive at the conclusion that the day of Battle was Tuesday. Then starting with the latest eclipse data of our year and reckoning back to the day of battle we arrive at Wednesday. Checking the records again, takes us back to Wednesday the 22nd day of July. No matter what records are checked the result is the same.
There are parallel accounts in the records of other nations that this account is not a myth. In the ancient Chinese records there is a legend of a long day. Again from ancient Chinese records there is an account of a day that was miraculously prolonged, in the reign of Emperor Yeo.
The Incas of Peru and the Aztecs of Mexico have a similar record. The Babylonians and the Persians have a legend of a day that was miraculously extended.
Even the Polynesians have a legend of how Maui the great chief captured the sun. The great god Kane had served notice on the mother of Maui that he and some lesser gods would visit her home and have supper with her. Greatly honored by this event, the woman began to prepare a great feast for her celestial visitors. But as the day wore on, she saw that she could not finish her tasks before the setting of the sun. So she appealed to her son Maui to help her. Maui made a snare of coconut fibres and climbing a high mountain he lassoed the sun. Then he broke all its legs off, and the sun had to sit on top of the mountain until it grew a new set of legs. This took almost a whole day. So the mother of Maui had time to spare in the preparation of the feast. Certainly this is a weird story and greatly exaggerated, but they show by their universal agreement that there is a basic truth behind them all.
And this basic truth is the Long day of Joshua. Which is further substantiated by two books. The first the Book of Jasher who according to traditions was noted as a patriot who gathered together a number of songs and poems. Also we have reference to this event in the writings of Habakkuk the prophet. (Chapter 3:11)
Israel had made a magnificent forced march. They had started at Gilgal, and to get in behind the enemy and chase him away from his own cities and defenses, the army had marched more than 40 miles in 10 hours. They were loaded down with armor, spears, stones for slings, bows and arrows, and all the weapons used in ancient warfare. They had had no rest, and after this march of ten hours they began fighting. They fought about 7 hours without a rest, when the enemy broke and fled. It was the 22nd July, at noon.
According to the average taken from records kept in Palestine the thermometer would be registering between 105 and120 degrees in the shade and there was no shade for miles.
The tired army of Israel, oppressed by the terrific heat, having marched all night and then started fighting at the break of the day, had no strength to run after a fleeting enemy.
It was right here in this hour of extremity that God intervened. A black cloud darkened the sun and a storm of icy hail fell. And this in a season of the year when it never had been known to rain or hail. On this occasion in reply to Joshua’s sudden cry for relief, the great shower of hailstones came.
Verse 11, "And it came to pass, as they fled from before Israel, and were in the going down to Beth-horon, that the LORD cast down great stones from heaven upon them unto Azekah, and they died: they were more which died with hailstones than they whom the children of Israel slew with the sword."
In response to Joshua’s prayer we are told "The sun hastened not to go down...” In other words sunlight was prolonged. What happened was that instead of sunset taking place as usual the light carried on into the next day. Instead of there being a Wednesday night there was no night at all.
Now remember this that the Bible day always starts off with the night followed by the day. So seeing that the battle started on Tuesday it carried on into Wednesday. The writer of the Book of Joshua says in verse 14, “never was such a day seen before it or since, when the LORD fought for Israel."
The important thing to remember is the fact that "The LORD fought for Israel…” Crossing the Red Sea was an impossibility but God changed the impossible into reality. It is rather strange bit you never hear people doubt the Red Sea crossing. For God to extend daylight is no great thing when you consider that he made the daylight in the first place.
A few years ago if folk had been told that men could and would land a rocket on the moon they would have laughed at what was to them an impossibility. The same with television, 3 dimensional movies, in full colour. At any of the modern miracles of today. We limit God to our own understanding of things. We say, "It can’t be done." What would have happened if Marconi had said "Radio is an impossibility, I am wasting my time with these experiments: I tell what would have happened, radio would have been discovered just the same. The same with the telephone; the gramophone. Men are even now on the fringe of greater and more wonderful discoveries.
But the Scripture says that “God is not a man.” The great God of this universe cannot be limited. His wisdom and understanding is beyond comprehension. Many are the mighty miracles that He has performed for His people. He opened up the Red Sea; stopped the mouths of lions; prepared a great fish to swallow a man; taken the heat out of fire. One day He will work a greater miracle when He will turn this world of ours into a Perfect paradise. We have a mighty God; there is no doubt of that. And Joshua’s long day is another mighty testimony to that fact.
Greater than all of the many and mighty miracles of God is the miracle of a new born man and woman. How can you explain the transformation that takes place when a drunkard surrenders his life to Christ and loses all desire for drink. When a really wicked man is changed into a man of God?
I want to tell you that greater miracles are taking place before our very eyes than the sun standing still; Jonah being swallowed by a fish; Daniel saved from the lions. Give your life to the Master and He will work a miracle in you. Won’t you do it today?