1. Joshua 10:13 (ESV)
  2. Exposition

Did the sun really stop in the middle of the sky?

Joshua 10:13 (ESV)

13 And the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, until the nation took vengeance on their enemies.Is this not written in the Book of Jashar? The sun stopped in the midst of heaven and did not hurry to set for about a whole day.

The precise nature of the miracle is unclear, and there are lots of different ways in which Christians have understood the meaning of Joshua 10:12–13. The traditional interpretation is that the sun stopped in its normal course so that the day was longer than an ordinary 24-hour day. Exactly how the Lord accomplished this miracle we do not know, but he is the Creator of the sun and the moon, and he can command and control them as he pleases (Genesis 1:14–17; Isaiah 40:26; Jeremiah 31:35).

However, why would Joshua request the sun to stand still in the morning with the moon still visible,  the battle was still young and many hours of daylight remained?1 In light of this, some argue that a natural explanation must be sought. Perhaps sunlight was being diffused due to rain or a solar eclipse, causing the sun to not shine as brightly as normal. Joshua’s request may also be for relief from the sun, indicating cloud cover or extended darkness. In the context of the ancient Near East, Joshua could also have asked for an omen involving astrological signs, a special alignment of the sun and moon that the Amorites would see as a negative omen causing them to panic.

Finally, there is also the suggestion that the words are figurative, describing the battle in poetic terms but making no comment on the extraordinary position of the sun or the moon. God was directing the sun and moon to fight for Israel in the same way that the stars fought for Israel in Deborah’s day (Judges 5:20) or they were to stand amazed just as they did in Habakkuk 3:11.2