Many people want to understand the Bible but have difficulty answering questions about some of the seemingly unbelievable miracles that God has performed. But Peter exhorts us to be ready always to give an answer to every man (1 Peter 3:15).
I would like to offer just such an answer as we analyze the miracle of the long day in Joshua chapter 10. The Israelites had just defeated Jericho and Ai in their initial invasion of the Promised Land.
Five Amorite Kings — fearing they would be next — formed an alliance to repel the Israelite invasion. In the ensuing battle, Joshua quickly gained the upper hand, but he also realized that he was running out of daylight to fully route this unholy alliance. With nightfall looming, the Amorites would be able to safely withdraw from the battlefield and regroup for a later attack. To stop this from happening, Joshua called upon God to stop the sun from setting.
12 “He said in the sight of Israel, ‘O sun, stand still at Gibeon, And O moon in the valley of Aijalon.’ 13 So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, Until the nation avenged themselves of their enemies. Is it not written in the book of Jashar? And the sun stopped in the middle of the sky and did not hasten to go (down) for about a whole day.”
This was a substantial miracle but is there any proof — besides what is written here — that it actually took place? This is not easy to answer since this event is termed a “singularity” meaning it occurred only once, has not happened since, and is not re-creatable. But if you believe the Bible is the infallible word of God then you already have your answer — it happened.
However, we do have additional evidence. The documentation comes in the form of oral and written traditions from other cultures around the globe. It makes sense that if the sun and moon stood still, then someone else — other than Joshua — was bound to notice and that is exactly what happened.
One of the more interesting accounts comes from the Maori people of New Zealand. They record how their hero Maui slowed the sun before it rose. The time difference between the Middle East and New Zealand is approximately 11 hours. Therefore, while Joshua was experiencing a long day, the Maori people would have experienced a long night, exactly as was recorded!
Further testimony is found in North America in the Mexican Annals of Cuauhtitlan (the history of the empire of Culhuacan and Mexico). These historical documents record a night that continued for an extended time. Again it would have been night in Mexico, while this miracle was taking place in broad daylight in Israel.
Another account of a long day is seen in the Greek legend of Apollo’s son, Phaethon, who disrupted the sun’s course for a day. Since Greece and Israel have only a one hour time difference, it makes sense that they, like Joshua, would have extended daylight.
So here we have a number of independent sources from different cultures, some thousands of miles apart, that verify Joshua’s long day did take place.
But is there a scientific explanation for what happened that day?
Several theories have been put forward to explain this miracle. Most revolve around a slowing or stopping of the earth’s rotation. Such an event would have put an enormous strain on the geological structures of the earth, resulting in earthquakes, tidal waves and other catastrophes. It would be the earth’s equivalent of slamming on the brakes.
In Habakkuk 3, the prophet may be alluding to Joshua’s infamous long day in verse 11, which he appears to have seen in a prophetic vision. But it’s interesting to study the numerous events he saw occurring in conjunction with this day.
There are clear indications of earthquakes:
- The curtains of the Midian tents trembled (v 7);
- Some mountains were shattered (v 6), while others quaked (v 10);
- Hills collapsed (v 6).
The prophet also saw the catastrophic effects that the stopping of the earth’s rotation had on the oceans. He seems to be referring to tidal waves when he talks about flooding that violently cleaved the earth (v 9), raging oceans (v 8) and surging waters (v 10).
Habakkuk had no way of knowing that these events would be the normal results of a sudden stopping of the earth’s rotation. This revelation could only have one source — God Himself.
The evidence for Joshua’s long day is beyond circumstantial and the impact of that day was clearly seen around the world.
Brian Sass, B.SC. Paleobiology, works in the information technology industry. He has also served as Director of Technical Development for Creation Generation. Brian has been part of two expeditions into the interior of the African rainforest in 2003 and 2004 searching for evidence of modern dinosaurs. These expeditions turned into significant missionary outreaches as he shared the gospel with a number of isolated African tribal communities.