on Joshua 10 :12
Then spake Joshua to the Lord - Though Joshua saw that the enemies of his people were put to flight, yet he well knew that all which escaped would rally again, and that he should be obliged to meet them once more in the field of battle if permitted now to escape; finding that the day was drawing towards a close, he feared that he should not have time sufficient to complete the destruction of the confederate armies; in this moment, being suddenly inspired with Divine confidence, he requested the Lord to perform the most stupendous miracle that had ever been wrought, which was no less than to arrest the sun in his course, and prolong the day till the destruction of his enemies had been completed! Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou,
Moon, in the valley of Ajalon - To account for this miracle, and to ascertain the manner in which it was wrought, has employed the pens of the ablest divines and astronomers, especially of the last two centuries. By their learned labors many difficulties have been removed from the account in general; but the very different and contradictory methods pursued by several, in their endeavors to explain the whole, and make the relation accord with the present acknowledged system of the universe, and the phenomena of nature, tend greatly to puzzle the plain, unphilosophical reader. The subject cannot be well explained without a dissertation; and a dissertation is not consistent with the nature of short notes, or a commentary on Scripture. It is however necessary to attempt an explanation, and to bring that as much as possible within the apprehension of common readers, in order to this, I must beg leave to introduce a few preliminary observations, or what the reader may call propositions if he pleases.
1. I take it for granted that a miracle was wrought as nearly as circumstances could admit, in the manner in which it is here recorded. I shall not, therefore, seek for any allegorical or metaphorical interpretations; the miracle is recorded as a fact, and as a fact I take it up.
2. I consider the present accredited system of the universe, called sometimes the Pythagorean, Copernican, or Newtonian system, to be genuine; and also to be the system of the universe laid down in the Mosaic writings - that the Sun is in the center of what is called the solar system; and that the earth and all the other planets, whether primary or secondary, move round him in certain periodical times, according to the quantity of their matter, and distance from him, their center.
3. I consider the sun to have no revolution round any orbit, but to revolve round his own axis, and round the common center of gravity in the planetary system, which center of gravity is included within his own surface; and in all other respects I consider him to be at rest in the system.
4. I consider the earth, not only as revolving round the sun in 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 48 seconds, but as revolving round its own axis, and making this revolution in 23 hours, 56 minutes, and 4 seconds; that in the course of 24 hours complete, every part of its surface is alternately turned to the sun; that this revolution constitutes our day and night, as the former does our year; and it is day to all those parts which have the sun above the horizon, and night to those which have the sun below it; and that this diurnal revolution of the earth, or revolving round its own axis, in a direction from west to east, occasions what is commonly called the rising and setting of the sun, which appearance is occasioned, not by any motion in the sun himself, but by this motion of the earth; which may be illustrated by a ball or globe suspended by a thread, and caused to turn round. If this be held opposite to a candle, it will appear half enlightened and half dark; but the dark parts will be seen to come successively into the light, and the enlightened parts into the shade; while the candle itself which gives the light is fixed, not changing its position.
5. I consider the solar influence to be the cause both of the annual and diurnal motion of the earth; and that, while that influence continues to act upon it according to the law which God originally impressed on both the earth and the sun, the annual and diurnal motions of the earth must continue; and that no power but the unlimited power of God can alter this influence, change, or suspend the operation of this law; but that he is such an infinitely Free Agent, that He can, when his unerring wisdom sees good, alter, suspend, or even annihilate all secondary causes and their effects: for it would be degrading to the perfections of his nature to suppose that he had so bound himself by the laws which he has given for the preservation and direction of universal nature, that he could not change them, alter their effects, or suspend their operations when greater and better effects, in a certain time or place, might be produced by such temporary change or suspension.
6. I consider that the miracle wrought on this occasion served greatly to confirm the Israelites, not only in the belief of the being and perfections of God, but also in the doctrine of an especial providence, and in the nullity of the whole system of idolatry and superstition.
7. That no evil was done by this miraculous interference, nor any law or property of nature ultimately changed; on the contrary, a most important good was produced, which probably, to this people, could not have been brought about any other way; and that therefore the miracle wrought on this occasion was highly worthy of the wisdom and power of God.
8. I consider that the terms in the text employed to describe this miracle are not, when rightly understood, contrary to the well-established notions of the true system of the universe; and are not spoken, as some have contended, ad captum vulgi, to the prejudices of the common people, much less do they favor the Ptolemaic or any other hypothesis that places the earth in the center of the solar system. Having laid down these preliminaries, some short observations on the words of the text may be sufficient. Joshua's address is in a poetic form in the original, and makes the two following hemistichs: -
שמש בגבעון דום
וירח בעמק אילון
Shemesh begibon dom:
Veyareach beemek Aiyalon.
on Joshua 10 :12
These four verses seem to be a fragment or extract taken from some other and independent source and inserted into the thread of the narrative after it had been completed, and inserted most probably by another hand than that of the author of the Book of Joshua.
It is probable that Joshua 10:12 and the first half of Joshua 10:13 alone belong to the Book of Jasher and are poetical, and that the rest of this passage is prose.
The writer of this fragment seems to have understood the words of the ancient song literally, and believed that an astronomical miracle really took place, by which the motion of the heavenly bodies was for some hours suspended. (Compare also Ecclesiasticus 46:4.) So likewise believed the older Jewish authorities generally, the Christian fathers, and many commentators ancient and modern.
It must be allowed, indeed, that some of the objections which have been urged against this view on scientific grounds are easily answered. The interference, if such there were, with the earth's motion was not an act of blind power ab extra and nothing more. The Agent here concerned is omnipotent and omniscient, and could, of course, as well arrest the regular consequences of such a suspension of nature's ordinary working as He could suspend that working itself. It is, however, obvious, that any such stupendous phenomenon would affect the chronological calculations of all races of men over the whole earth and do so in a similarly striking and very intelligible manner. Yet no record of any such perturbation is anywhere to be found, and no marked and unquestionable reference is made to such a miracle by any of the subsequent writers in the Old or New Testament. For reasons like these, many commentators have explained the miracle as merely optical.
The various explanations show how strongly the difficulties which arise out of the passage have been felt. Accordingly, stress has been laid by recent commentators on the admitted fact that the words out of which the difficulty springs are an extract from a poetical book. They must consequently, it is argued, be taken in a popular and poetical, and not in a literal sense. Joshua feared lest the sun should set before the people had fully "avenged themselves of their enemies." In his anxiety he prayed to God, and God hearkened to him. This is boldly and strikingly expressed in the words of the ancient book, which describes Joshua as praying that the day might be prolonged, or, in poetical diction, that the sun might be stayed until the work was done. Similarly, Judges 5:20 and Psalm 18:9-15 are passages which no one construes as describing actual occurrences: they set forth only internal, although most sincere and, in a spiritual sense, real and true convictions. This explanation is now adopted by theologians whose orthodoxy upon the plenary inspiration and authority of holy Scripture is well known and undoubted.
In the sight of Israel - literally, "before the eyes of Israel," i. e. in the sight or presence of Israel, so that the people were witnesses of his words. (Compare Deuteronomy 31:7.)
Sun, stand thou still - literally, as margin, "be silent" (compare Leviticus 10:3); or rather, perhaps, "tarry," as in 1 Samuel 14:9.
Thou, moon - The words addressed to the moon as well as to the sun, indicate that both were visible as Joshua spoke. Below and before him, westward, was the valley of Ajalon; behind him, eastward, were the hills around Gibeon. Some hours had passed, since in the early dawn he had fallen upon the host of the enemy, and the expression "in the midst of heaven" Joshua 10:13 seems to import that it was now drawing toward mid-day, though the moon was still faintly visible in the west. If the time had been near sunset, Joshua would have seen the sun, not, as he did, eastward of him, but westward, sinking in the sea.
The valley of Ajalon - i. e. "the valley of the gazelles." This is the modern Merj Ibn Omeir, described by Robinson, a broad and beautiful valley running in a westerly direction from the mountains toward the great western plain. The ancient name is still preserved in Yalo, a village situated on the hill which skirts the south side of the valley.
on Joshua 10 :12