So the sun stood still and the moon stopped until the nation took vengeance upon its enemies. Is this not written in the Book of Jashar? "So the sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day."
For ages multitudes of Bible readers have seen in this narrative a stupendous miracle. Seeing the statement some have rebelled against it, and refused to believe it. Others have conscientiously striven to believe the statement, and defend it. Now, if a miracle is really declared to have taken place upon that day, its stupendous nature forms no objection whatever to my faith. Every miracle is to me stupendous, or else it is no miracle at all. Where God is concerned nothing is impossible. What objection then is there? The first, that such an act would seem, at any rate to be out of keeping with God's economy of power; it serves no direct purpose here. Mere flourishes of almightinesses are never found in the Bible. Every miracle in the Bible is a means to an end, and there is a proportion between the means and the end in view. There is no waste. I search the Bible in vain for any reference to the fact that the earth was stopped, or the sun stayed. I find no such reference at all. No use whatever is made of this in any other age, or in any other book. God led His people out of Egypt with a high hand, and the nation was cradled among miracles, and these miracles are appealed to time after time, age after age, to the end of the Bible. But there is a remarkable silence with regard to this. But my chief objection to the ordinary view is that I do not believe that the Bible says there was a miracle at all. I hold that, given a fair translation of this chapter, and an average amount of intelligence in the reader, and a reasonable freedom for traditional bias, the alleged stupendous miracle disappears entirely, and gives way to something far more valuable. And I claim that it is one of the inestimable and innumerable benefits conferred upon us by the Revised Translation of the Bible, that by its means the average reader can, without the help of any commentary, see at a glance how the case stood, and what really took place on that great day. Now, you will ask, What is the difference, then, between the Revised and the Old Version? Why, simply this. If you read this chapter in the Old Version the verses follow one another in unbroken continuity, and no hint what ever is given to the reader that when he arrives at the twelfth verse he is no longer reading what the author of the Book of Joshua himself wrote; he is not warned that the author, at the twelfth verse, breaks off from telling his own story, and introduces a quotation as a climax to the description of the battle, and that that quotation is a poetical one, taken from a book once popular, but now entirely lost, the Book of Josher. If you read the Old Version it would seem to you that from the twelfth to the fifteenth verses is as much prose as the rest of the chapter, whereas in the Hebrew Bible, from the first, these verses were marked as a piece of quoted poetry; and in the Revised Version the thing is done almost in the same way. So that the reader who just looks at this chapter as it stands in the Revised Version will see that in the first part of the chapter he has to deal with history, and in this part he has to deal with poetry — a poetical quotation introduced by the historian as the climax of his description of the great battle of Bethhoron. Now it appears to me that this simple fact solves the difficulty entirely — relieves the faith of multitudes from a great burden; and, best of all, deprives a certain class of unbelievers of a very coarse but at the same time a very effective weapon. What; have we here, then? precisely what we have in many other parts of the Bible — namely, two accounts of the same thing: one the sober account of the historian, and the other the more glowing account of the poet. For instance, you have the same thing in the Book of Judges. You will remember — for you are Bible readers — you remember the great battle of Mount Tabor, The Jews were groaning under the tyranny of Jabin, the king of Jerusalem, and at last there arose Deborah. She aroused Barak, Barak routed the army of Sisera; Jael completed Barak's work, and with a tent-pin and a hammer killed Sisera in her tent. This is the story of the battle of Mount Tabor, as told by the historian. But in the chapter next to it you will find the song of Deborah, and in that song an inspired poetess gives her account of the battle from the standpoint of the poet. She says: "They fought from heaven; the stars in their courses fought against Sisera." It was Barak who did it, and Jael, and the tent-pin and the hammer. No, no; they fought out of heaven. "The stars in their courses," says Deborah, "fought against Sisera." Is there any man on the face of the earth that has ever stood up to say that because Deborah said that the battle of Mount Tabor was actually won by planetary impulses, therefore the stars really entered the Jewish army and fought against the oppressor? Who is there that does not see at once that in that case we have to deal with poetry? We have something like that even in the New Testament. Our Lord Jesus Christ said on the very first day when discipleship was born — He said to one of His first disciples — "Ye shall see the heavens opened, and the angels ascending and descending upon the Son of Man." Did they ever? Never, never. They never saw the blue rent; they never saw angels walking up and down the body of Christ. Never; it was a poetical form — a great mystical spiritual promise thrown into the larger language of poetry. And so the Gospel closes — "They shall take up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing it shall do them no manner of harm." Is that being carried out in everybody or in anybody that believes the name of Christ? No, not literally. The serpent will kill a Christian as well as an infidel. Poison is as effective on a saint as on a sinner. What does it mean then? It is a grand spiritual fact, put in the large language of poetry. And that is what we have in this chapter. But you will say, Is not the Bible a serious book? Of what value is the introduction of a bit of poetry like this when it misleads so many? I reply —
Whatever opinions we may entertain relative to the exact nature of the incident celebrated in the poem of the Book of Jasher, there are certain general principles and religious truths which that poem brings distinctly before us.
I. GOD IS ACTIVELY CONCERNED WITH THE EVENTS OF HUMAN HISTORY. Divine powers aided Joshua in resisting the onslaught of the Canaanites. God is present, when He is not clearly so recognised, in all crises of life.
(1) His overruling power so disposes of the order of creation that even without miracle the outward world works His will.
(2) His providential control of the minds of men and the course of their lives determines ultimate events. Therefore note: God has not left the world to go its own course only to be judged and rectified at a future judgment day. lie judges now, and intervenes now, and works on the side of right, for the protection of those who submit to His rule, and to the loss of such as fight against His will (Psalm 68:1, 7, 24).
II. NATURE IS SUBSERVIENT TO THE WILL OF GOD. Miracles are not rare and occasional instances of the way in which God makes His will felt in nature. They are rather abnormal manifestations of the Divine power which is equally present in the regular course of nature. God is as much working in the natural as in the miraculous event, though the miraculous serves to impress us with the consciousness of His power. If we believe in God at all, it is unreasonable to suppose that He would create the universe in some age of dim antiquity, and then leave it to itself like a self-acting machine, which being once wound up only needs adjusting by miracle now and again to suit special emergencies. It is much more reasonable to regard the universe as an organism of which God is at once the creating, the inspiring, the energising, and the controlling spirit. Thus the sun and moon and stars and the earth always move by His power, and at every moment express His will (Psalm 104:2-4, 16, 21, etc.; Romans 1:20).
III. NATURAL EVENTS ARE LINKED WITH HUMAN DESTINIES. Like all great delusions which have exercised wide influence over men, astrology was the perversion of a deep truth. Our lives are connected with the stars. All nature is one, and we - in our earthly life - are part of nature. The processes of nature affect us; e.g., possibly sun spots acting through atmospheric phenomena have some influence over human calamities, and even over moral relations. Therefore note:
(1) God touches us through nature, and we must regard nature as an instrument in His hands for our discipline.
(2) Nature should be studied in its bearings upon human life for our practical instruction.
IV. NATURE FIGHTS AGAINST THOSE WHO RESIST THE WILL OF GOD. The Canaanites were resisting God's will concerning the settlement of the land, and thus they made themselves enemies to God's servant, nature. So the stars out of their courses fought against Sisera (Judges 5:20). It is objected that it is unworthy of the character of God to suppose that He would intervene by means of natural agencies to assist in a work of destruction. But it should be remembered that God is always employing destructive agencies in nature, as earthquakes, storms, etc., and that physical destruction is a less evil than moral corruption. - W.F.A.
The sun stood still, and the moon stayed.
In some respects this victory had a special significance. In the first place, it had a most important bearing on the success of the whole enterprise; its suddenness, its completeness, its manifold grandeur being admirably fitted to paralyse the enemy in other parts of the country, and open the whole region to Joshua. By some it has been compared to the battle of Marathon, not only on account of the suddenness with which the decisive blow was struck, but also on account of the importance of the interests involved. It was a battle for freedom, for purity, for true religion, in opposition to tyranny, idolatry, and abominable sensuality; for all that is wholesome in human life, in opposition to all that is corrupt; for all that makes for peaceful progress, in opposition to all that entails degradation and misery. The prospects of the whole world were brighter after that victory of Bethhoron. The relation of heaven to earth was more auspicious, and more full of promise for the days to come. In the next place the tokens of Divine aid were very impressive. After the experience which Joshua had had of the consequences of failing to ask God for direction when first the Gibeonites came to him, we may be very sure that on the present occasion he would be peculiarly careful to seek Divine counsel. And he was well rewarded. Then as to the miracle of the sun and the moon standing still. It is well known that this was one of the passages brought forward by the Church of Rome to condemn Galileo, when he affirmed that the earth and the moon revolved round the sun, and that it was not the motion of the sun round the earth, but the rotation of the earth on her own axis that produced the change of day and night. No one would dream now of making use of this passage for any such purpose. Whatever theory of inspiration men may hold, it is admitted universally that the inspired writers used the popular language of the day in matters of science, and did not anticipate discoveries which were not made till many centuries later. A far more serious question has been raised as to whether this miracle ever occurred, or could have occurred. To those who believe in the possibility of miracles, it can be no conclusive argument that it could not have occurred without producing injurious consequences the end of which can hardly be conceived. For if the rotation of the earth on its axis was suddenly arrested, all human beings on its surface, and all loose objects whatever must have been flung forward with prodigious violence; just as, on a small scale, on the sudden stoppage of a carriage, we find ourselves thrown forward, the motion of the carriage having been communicated to our bodies. But really this is a paltry objection; for surely the Divine power that can control the rotation of the earth is abundantly able to obviate such effects as these. We can understand the objection that God, having adjusted all the forces of nature, leaves them to operate by themselves in a uniform way without disturbance or interference; but we can hardly comprehend the reasonableness of the position that if it is His pleasure miraculously to modify one arrangement, He is unable to adjust all relative arrangements, and make all conspire harmoniously to the end desired. But was it a miracle? The narrative, as we have it, implies not only that it was, but that there was something in it stupendous and unprecedented. It comes in as a part of that supernatural process in which God has been engaged ever since the deliverance of His people from Egypt, and which was to go on till they should be finally settled in the land. It naturally joins on to the miraculous division of the Jordan, and the miraculous fall of the walls of Jericho. We must remember that the work in which God was now engaged was one of peculiar spiritual importance and significance. He was not merely finding a home for His covenant people; He was making arrangements for advancing the highest interests of humanity; He was guarding against the extinction on earth of the Divine light which alone can guide man in safety through the life that now is, and in preparation for that which is to come. Who will take upon him to say that at an important crisis in the progress of the events which were to prepare the way for this grand consummation, it was not fitting for the Almighty to suspend for a time even the ordinances of heaven, in order that a day's work, carrying such vast consequences, might not be interrupted before its triumphant close? One other notable feature in the transaction of this day was the completeness of the defeat inflicted by Joshua on the enemy. This defeat went on in successive stages from early morning till late at night. First, there was the slaughter in the plain of Gibeon. Then the havoc produced by the hail and by Joshua on the retreating army. Then the destruction caused as Joshua followed the enemy to their cities. And the work of the day was wound up by the execution of the five kings. Moreover, there followed a succession of similar scenes at the taking and sacking of their cities. When we try to realise all this in detail, we are confronted with a terrible scene in blood and death, and possibly we may find ourselves asking, "Was there a particle of humanity in Joshua, that he was capable of such a series of transactions?" But it must be said, and said firmly for Joshua, that there is no evidence of his acting on this or on other such occasions in order to gratify personal feelings; it was not done either to gratify a thirst for blood, or to gratify the pride of a conqueror. Joshua all through gives us the impression of a man carrying out the will of another; inflicting a judicial sentence, and inflicting it thoroughly at the first so that there might be no need for a constant series of petty executions afterwards. This certainly was his aim; but the enemy showed themselves more vital than he had supposed. And when we turn to ourselves and think what we may learn from this transaction, we see a valuable application of his method to the spiritual warfare. God has enemies still, within and without, with whom we are called to contend. "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." When we are fighting with the enemy within our own hearts leniency is our great temptation, but at the same time our greatest snare. What we need here is courage to slay. And in reference to the outside world, want of thoroughness in warfare is still our besetting sin. If only the Church had more faith, and, as the fruit of faith, more courage and more enterprise, what help from heaven might not come to her! True, she would not see the enemy crushed by hailstones, nor the sun standing in Gibeon, nor the moon in the valley of Ajalon; but she would see grander sights; she would see men of spiritual might raised up in her ranks; she would see tides of strong spiritual influence overwhelming her enemies. Jerichos dismantled, Ais captured, and the champions of evil falling like Lucifer from heaven to make way for the King of kings and Lord of lords. Let us go to the Cross of Jesus to revive our faith and recruit our energies.
CONSIDER THE ARGUMENTS, USUALLY ADVANCED AGAINST THE POSSIBILITY OF THE SUN AND MOON STANDING STILL IN THE HEAVENS. Not merely is it objected that such an occurrence would be an unwarrantable interference with the laws of nature; but the historian's veracity has also been called in question. It is argued that in recording the circumstance he does not express himself scientifically; but that, on the contrary, he evinces ignorance of the true principles of astronomy: that therefore he should not be regarded as an inspired writer, this circumstance being sufficient in itself to shake credit in his testimony. To this objection we reply — Joshua did not mean to furnish us with a treatise on astronomy. He expressed himself according to the opinion formed on scientific topics during the times in which he lived. Do not we, ourselves, who know that it is the earth which moves, and not the sun, commonly speak of his rising and setting; while perfectly aware that in reality he neither rises nor sets. Certainly the lengthening out of the day (on the occasion of Joshua defeating the five kings) must have been caused by the earth not revolving so rapidly on its axis as it usually does. It is well known that in the equatorial regions the earth moves from west to east at the rate of one thousand miles in the hour; and that the rapidity of motion gradually diminishes as we go from the equator to the poles; so that, at the poles, there is no motion whatever. Supposing that, instead of moving at its usual speed, our earth were to revolve, on its axis, only five hundred miles in the hour: the result would be that the day would be protracted to double the ordinary length, because the apparent passage of the sun first, and of the moon next, over the concave surface would be proportionally retarded. But it is further objected that such an interference with the course of nature would have occasioned irreparable mischief. What! Is anything too hard for God? Cannot He, who called nature into existence, suspend its laws and operations when He pleases? Is any man so well acquainted with the complex machinery of nature as to be prepared to say that the conception and development of animal life are possible things; but that the slackening of the earth's rotary motion is an impossibility? And now, before dismissing this head of our subject, we shall adduce from pagan mythology a proof that the miracle referred to in our text did really occur. The superstitious Greeks, in olden times, worshipped the sun, under the name of Apollo, who (according to them) had a son who was called Phaeton. Apollo was supposed to drive the chariot of the sun daily through the skies. Phaeton requested his father to permit him to drive the chariot for a single day. Apollo granted the request. Phaeton proved an unskilful charioteer, in being unable to curb the horses, which therefore went out of the proper track. Jupiter (whom the ancient pagans regarded as the supreme god) irritated at Phaeton's rashness, and fearing that a conflagration of heaven and earth might ensue, struck the youth with the thunderbolt and hurled him into the river Po in Italy. This heathen anecdote cannot be altogether an invention. There lies a truth at the bottom of it. Some irregularity in the sun's apparent diurnal course must have occurred at an early period of history; otherwise ancient heathens would have no foundation whereon to build their superstitious legend. And let us observe that where heathen testimony can be brought to corroborate revelation the testimony is invaluable; because it is the testimony of enemies.
II. We proceed to show that THERE EXISTED AN ABSOLUTE NECESSITY FOR THE MIRACLE IN QUESTION BEING PERFORMED. Yes; there is an intimate connection between this miracle and the redemption which is in Jesus Christ. If sun and moon had not stood still at Joshua's command there would (on human calculation) have been no chance of salvation for a single member of our fallen race. If Israel had not had sufficient light to guide them in pursuing their Canaanite enemies these enemies would have escaped during the darkness of the night. Had they escaped the five kings might have rallied; and, instead of Israel exterminating them, they might have exterminated Israel. Thus the advent of the promised Redeemer would have been prevented: for God had decreed that of Jacob's seed (in the line of Judah) Messiah should descend. No doubt the Divine plans have long been settled in the councils of eternity; and the Most High will take good care that Satan shall not defeat them. But then God employs second means to work His ends. He ordains every single step and event which will be conducive thereto in order that a single link may not be broken in the chain of His providential dealing.
III. The conflict which Israel, under Joshua, had to maintain with the wicked nations of Canaan prefigured that deadlier conflict which we ourselves, under a greater than Joshua, have to keep up with the world, THE DEVIL, AND THE FLESH. TO enable us to make head against these spiritual foes, who have in view nothing less than our destruction, God in mercy lengthens out the day. There is a spiritual sun, and there is a spiritual moon: even as there exist a literal sun and moon. God has set these moral luminaries in the spiritual firmament, to give such persons as have hitherto turned a deaf ear to the gospel space to believe it and be saved, ere it be too late; and also to afford light to those who already believe that they may continue firm to the end.
I. YES, THE BIBLE IS INTENSELY SERIOUS. This is not quoted as an ornament; it is for use. And if you ask, What is the value of it? I reply it is immensely valuable. Apart from this poetical quotation the whole chapter is comparatively worthless. Why? Because a body without a soul is worthless. The Bible is valuable to us in so far as it touches my life and yours. To tell me that Joshua routed those people does not help me very much. That is the body of it. I want to get at the soul of it. I want to understand Joshua himself, to modernise him, to make him a brother and to get some good out of him. Well, this bit of poetry helps me: this is the key to it. If I read this i see how the thing is done, and I see how I can do the same thing, in a measure, when I am called upon to do it. This piece of poetry is a window through which we can look into Joshua's heart. The great battle of Bethhoron was a battle that threatened to be a drawn battle. There stands the man on the ridge. The men have been running away faster than he has been able to pursue them, and at this moment it seemed as if nature were conspiring against him; as if he were not to have the usual hours of the day. A black, mysterious cloud was coming to help the people who were running away from him. Don't you understand the agony that would come into a man's soul at that moment? — the impassioned prayer that would go up to God from his heart — not to stretch the laws of nature till they crack — but to give him the usual day, to keep the sun from going down at noon. No child was Joshua, crying for the moon. No man with such sick fancies could have done the work he did. What this man prayed for was a fair day's light to do a fair day's work in the strength of and for the glory of God. And do not you know something of the fear that came over him? If you are trying to do any work you too will come to this point. It will seem to you as if God were going to make your day too short. You will see the night falling all too soon. The night cometh, and you will say, "Oh, for more light. Life is not long enough; I am being taken away in the very middle of my days." And you will then know what it is to cry, "Sun, stand thou in the heaven; and thou, moon, in the valley of Ajalon."
II. "AND THE SUN STOOD STILL, AND THE MOON STAYED, UNTIL THE NATION HAD AVENGED THEMSELVES." That is the key — "until the nation had avenged themselves." What was coming up from the Mediterranean was not some awful preternatural piece of night, as Joshua feared. It was only a shower: a hailstorm. It was not going to help his enemies, but to slay them. The sun was not hasting from the heavens; the heavenly orbs would do their work as usual. The sun and moon were to be depended on; but if Joshua really wanted to have a longer day than usual, that did not depend on the sun and moon, he had to make it himself. How? Just as he lengthened the preceding night. From Gilgal to Gibeon, how long? Three days' journey. What did Joshua do? Why, he took the twelve hours and stretched them till they became thirty-six. He did three days' march in one night. So if Joshua wants a longer day on Bethhoron, it is not the sun that can make it for him, nor the moon either. He must go back on his recipe of the night before, and take the twelve hours of the day and stretch them. It is for Joshua himself to make the day longer, for it is not up in the skies that days are lengthened, but here on earth. The secret of a long day lies with Joshua, and not with the sun. No, the sun will not wait for you; but you can quicken your pace, and so lengthen your days. The longest day in your life is the day in which you work hardest, think the closest, live noblest.
III. Is that all? No. WAS NOTHING DONE BY GOD? YES, EVERYTHING, "And there was no day like that," says the old poet, "before it, or after, that the Lord hearkened unto the voice of a man." By stopping the sun? No; "The Lord fought for Israel." That cloud coming up from the Mediterranean, that Joshua mistook for the night, was one of his own soldiers marching to meet him; it was one of his own allies. Nature herself was in league with him. It was the hailstorm, one of God's reinforcements coming to do the work of God. It is one of the deepest truths of experience that "all things work together for good to them that love God." The hailstorms are still in league with the Joshuas. Are you false and mean in your aims? Are your ways corrupt on the earth? Then I tell you, whoever you are, you may succeed for a while, or you may seem to succeed, as the tares that ripen in the autumn sun that the fire may burn them all the easier by and by. You may seem to succeed for a while, but the very framework of the universe must be shattered; God's throne must crumble in decay; heaven itself must be carried at the assault of hell's dark troops before you can ultimately and really succeed. You too will be caught some day between Joshua and the hailstorm of the Lord. But are you seeking to be true, trying to be right, yet often finding things arrayed against you? Then, in God's name, go on. You misread the signals. The blackness that threatens you is only an ally in disguise. You are bound to succeed in the battle of the Lord. The nature of things is in league with righteousness.
IV. "AND JOSHUA RETURNED INTO THE CAMP AT GILGAL." Did he know what he had done? No. He knew he had done something; that it had been a great day, but he had no idea how great it was. It was one of the thousand-year days of God. It is still with us. That sun that Joshua cried to is still shining, and the moon has never left the vale of Ajalon. Serve the Lord with all your might, and you will do a work greater than you imagine, or dream, or desire. Our time-tables are altogether wrong — sixty seconds to the minute, sixty minutes to the hour; that will do very well for the rough and tumble work in the city, but apply a time-table like that to Gethsemane. Read the Gospels, watch in hand, beneath the shadow of the Cross — "From the sixth to the ninth hour Jesus hung on the Cross, dying." Sixty minutes to the hour, sixty seconds to the minute! It will not do. These are eternal things, and they upset all our calculations. We do not know what we do when we serve God. Life is greater, grander than we dream. Do not think life is small. We sow time, and, lo, we reap eternity. We may so live as to leave behind us a light shining till the world itself shall end. "Returned to the camp." Ah, men and women, the pathos of that old phrase! You and I will return to the camp very soon. The day over. Well, you may arrest the sun before night; but the sun, once it has dipped beneath the western wave, cannot be brought back. Yesterday! Where is it? It is beyond, in the great eternity. Can you run after the lightning and catch it and bring it back? Sooner shall you do that than at the end of the day recover the sun that has set. We shall be returning to camp soon. What histories are we bringing back — you and I? The number of our days is with God; but the length, fulness, quality, and eternalness arc with us.
()1. We may learn whither to have recourse for help whenever the state of the weather has proved unfavourable to our respective undertakings. Is our land drenched with floods, that threaten to wash away or decay the seed lately sown? or chilled by cold and blighting winds? or parched up with a scorching heat, unmitigated by a passing cloud or a solitary shower? To complain and murmur under such visitations is as vain as ii is impious; whereas prayer for their alleviation or removal will probably procure us God's favourable consideration, and certainly work for our spiritual profit.
2. Again, we learn by what unlikely means the Almighty brings about the deliverance of His people and the discomfiture of His enemies. To promote this great end, all hearts are in His hand, all events are at His disposal; yea, He directs and controls the elements themselves, so as to extort from the sons of men the confession, "This is God's doing; it is marvellous in our eyes." What befell the Spanish Armada, fitted out for the invasion and conquest of Great Britain? "The Lord sent a great wind into the sea," to destroy the remnant of those ships which had hitherto escaped defeat; so that the final discomfiture of the fleet was as much owing to the tempestuous violence of the ocean as to the desperate valour of the English. However inextricable your difficulties, however insuperable your dangers may appear, the time for surmounting or escaping them may be at hand: your last extremity is God's gracious opportunity: the valley of Achor He is changing into the door of hope, and making the vast magazine of ordinary and extraordinary dispensations instrumental to your eventual happiness and eternal glory. But tremble, ye wicked, though peace and prosperity at present attend your path. The resources in the hand of a retributive Providence are leagued against you, which, if delayed now, will fall on your devoted heads with tripled weight hereafter.
3. But I may instance some still clearer points of resemblance between this special interference of the Almighty in the case of Joshua and His providential arrangements at the present day. Every year presents to us an appearance in the heavens as deserving our surprise and admiration as that which attracted the notice of the camp of Israel. From the depth of winter to the height of summer the sun gradually travels over a wider space in its daily course. Morning after morning it rises earlier; evening after evening later sets. At length it escapes nut sight for a few hours only; and during that short interval the twilight in great degree compensates for its absence. Lest, moreover, during winter nearly utter darkness should veil the skies, on account of the sun's few and contracted visits, the stars on frosty nights shine with a brilliancy unknown in summer, while the unclouded moon supplies its place, a welcome substitute, guided by whose friendly rays at any time the wanderer may confidently rely on reaching his place of destination. I scarcely need remind you what assistance this lesser light lends the labourer in late harvests by rising about the full at the same hour for some evenings in succession; or how, when the sun does not rise above their horizon for months together, and they would otherwise be enveloped in continual darkness, Divine Providence lights up for the inhabitants of the polar regions the brilliant aurora borealis, or northern lights, to illumine and cheer their "noonday nights." Is not as effectual a provision made for light by these contrivances as though the sun and moon in set terms stood still, and hasted not to go clown about a whole day? Are they not as hard to be accounted for?
4. By comparing this miracle wrought by the hand of Joshua with those performed by Jesus Christ, we may learn to ascribe all proper honour to His person, all due reverence to the religion He came hither to establish.
() — A new suggestion in regard to the standing still of the sun and the moon at the apostrophe of Joshua is given by the Rev. J. Sutherland Black in his edition of "Joshua," issued as one part of the Smaller Cambridge Bible series. His new postulate is to the effect that no physical miracle occurred, or was desired; he thinks the cosmical features of the event do not touch upon the supernatural at all. His explanation runs thus: "To understand the quotation from the Book of Jasher, we must figure to ourselves the speaker at two successive periods of the summer day — first on the plateau to the north of the hill of Gibeon, with Gibeon lying under the sun to the south-east or south, at the moment when the resistance of the enemy has at last broken down, and again, hours later, when the sun has set, and the moon is sinking westward over the valley of Ajalon, threatening by its disappearance to put an end to the victorious pursuit. The appeal to the moon is, of course, for light — i.e., after sunset. The moon appears over Ajalon; that is somewhat south of west, as seen by one approaching from Beth-horon. There was, therefore, evening moonlight. Joshua prayed first that the sunlight, and then that the moonlight following it, might suffice for the complete defeat of the enemy."It is the language of the passions, in the midst of a fervid and impetuous career. "Sun, stand thou still," equally exclaim the sons of pleasure and of ambition: every rank, pursuit, and age joins in the same prayer. In the morning of our existence, when all things display their fairest aspect, and in the midst of a succession of pleasurable scenes time rolls rapidly along: should a moment of reflection intervene, who does not exclaim, with a sigh, "How brief, how vain is life! how silently and swiftly do the hours advance and vanish!" "O sun, stand thou still"; give us a few more of thy bright morning beams, that we may a little longer taste the sweetness of unsullied pleasure. When we advance to the noon of the human course; amidst all the weighty cares, the thronging projects and objects of strenuous pursuit, that by turns awaken our ardour and elude our expectation — if, amidst this busy scene, we throw a glance upon the enlarged and enlarging space we have already passed, and the short and shortening limits of that which remains — how naturally does the heart send forth the involuntary, fruitless wish, "'Sun, stand thou still.' Hasten not so precipitately to crush our aspiring hopes, and extinguish in untimely darkness our unripened purposes: shine a little longer in thy meridian brightness, that we may not only exert our strength, but reap some recompense of our toil." Arrived at this period of imaginary tranquility — though many ties may be loosened which once bound us to the world, yet new objects of attachment rise, and new motives for wishing that our stay might be prolonged — or if expectation saddens, and all around the prospect grows more dim and desolate, still do we linger fondly on the verge of life, though bereft of its most valued comforts, from that unconquerable dread with which the untried and unknown future strikes the imagination. "O sun, stop, stop thy course. Stand thou still in the midst of heaven, yet another year, another day, to soften our removal from the cheerful light, from the society of our fellow-beings, that, with more composed and collected thoughts, we may stand before the tribunal of our Creator." Thus various and inexhaustible are the excuses of each successive stage for wishing to lengthen out the brief span of life; and the same sentiment pervades all the different conditions and circumstances of mankind. If prosperity smile upon us, we think the sun, which lights us every day to a succession of pleasures, moves too quickly to his setting: "O sun, stand thou still" in the midst of this fair horizon — hasten not to draw the veil of night over these delightful prospects. And if adversity oppress our spirits, we complain that the days which are clouded with grief, like those which are illumined with joy, equally pass away never to return. "O Sun, stand thou still," let the dark and lowering tempest pass from before thy refulgent orb: let thy sweet and pleasant light again gladden our hearts, that our few remaining hours may glide peacefully to the close. But if he, who, without his own fault, and by inevitable circumstances, has been deprived of happiness, may complain of the swiftness of time and the brevity of life, how much deeper regret must that man feel who is conscious of having wasted its most valuable seasons, in thoughtless inactivity! Well may he cry out to time, to suspend its course, "Sun, stand thou still," or rather reverse thy flaming and impetuous career. On the other hand, the virtuous man. But who is so virtuous as to have no faults to repair, no defects to supply — the man, however, comparatively virtuous, whose youthful days have been introductory to a scene of honourable and useful exertion; who may justly look upon himself as a blessing to his fellow-creatures; and who is pursuing, with steady vigour, his well-chosen course; gradually extending his usefulness and his good affections; and is a progressive pattern of every social and every religious duty; though he may submissively await the Divine disposal, yet will he view, not without awe, the narrow space which even virtue itself can boast of here below; and will be almost tempted to wish that it might be the will of Divine Providence to protract the duration of a span so brief, so inadequate to his views and his desires: "'Sun, stand thou still'; withdraw not thy precious and useful light so soon; let me still pursue the happy course on which I have entered." Unavailing are all such wishes; the tide of time will be neither accelerated nor retarded by our entreaties; the sun will neither suspend nor deviate from his course. Since, therefore, we cannot rule the course of nature, let us endeavour to rule ourselves. If we are so unhappy as to have wasted our past hours in folly or to have abused them by misconduct it is in vain to sit down and fold our arms in melancholy inaction; wishing that the past might be recalled, and grieving that the future cannot be hindered from advancing. We should rather call upon our souls and all that is within us to amend our faults, and repair the ills we have thereby incurred, before it be too late; like travellers who having wandered from the right path hasten to regain it before the sun goes down. If, on the contrary, we have happily chosen the path of virtue, let us cheerfully and thankfully pursue our way. Pleasant but fleeting is the season of youth, life's cheerful morning. You cannot prolong its absolute duration; but you can add inestimably to its value. You can extend its happy influence over every remaining period, and draw from it a rich harvest of knowledge, virtue, and true felicity. Youth is the blossom, the promise of mature years these are equally transitory with the former. In vain you implore the sun to stay, but you may call him to witness a train of pious and charitable actions as he passes; you may crowd into a small extent a multitude of valuable labours; it is not for us to fix the limits, but to fulfil the duties of life — well pleased to act in concert with the great first mover of all things, among the innumerable instruments of His benevolent designs, and not unwilling to cease from action, whenever He shall see fit to transfer the pleasing though arduous toil from ourselves to others. No sooner has the sun passed his meridian than the shadows lengthen and night approaches. The dawn, the noon, the evening, all glide with uninterrupted speed; and the hour when we must bid farewell to all their successive scenes nature cannot now long delay. All that remains is, by reason and reflection, by prayer and repentance, to calm the perturbation of our minds — by holy resignation to the will of God, and a cheerful performance of our remaining duties, to seek His aid and protection — then, though we cannot escape the stroke of death, we shall render it less painful and alarming; thus disarmed of its sting, it will lose its greatest terrors; and will appear somewhat like a sound and refreshing slumber, falling on the over-wearied mariner, who is within sight of his desired haven, and who expects, with the dawn of the succeeding day, to meet the glad congratulations of all whom he loves.
()"Oh," you say, "the sun and moon didn't stand still." One man comes to me and says, "According to the Copernican system the sun stood still anyhow, and it was no miracle for it to stand still." Another man says, "If you stop the sun, you upset the whole universe, and throw everything out of order." Another man tells me it was only the refraction of the sun's rays which made the sun seem to stand still. Another man tells me that all that was necessary to have this miracle right, was to stop the world on its own axis, and it was not necessary to stop it in its revolution through its orbit. The universe is only God's watch. I suppose He could make it. Then I suppose He could stop it. Then I suppose He could start it again, and stop it again. Oh! not the sun standing still! Yes. A bad man does not live out half his days. His sun may set at noon. But a good man may prolong his days of usefulness. If a man, in the strength of Joshua, will go forth to fight against sin and in behalf of the truth, he shall live; a thousand years will be as one day. John Summerfield was a consumptive Methodist. He stood looking fearfully white in Old Sand Street Methodist Church, preaching the glorious gospel, and on the anniversary platform in New York pleading for the Bible until the old book unrolled new glories the world had never seen. And on his death-bed he talked of heaven until the wing of the angelic messenger brushed the pillow on which he lay. Has John Summerfield's sun set? Has John Summer-field's day ended? No! He lives in the burning words he uttered in behalf of the Christian Church. He lives in the fame of that Christ whom he recommended to the dying people. He lives in the eternal raptures of that heaven into which he has already introduced so many immortal souls. Faint, and sick, and dying, and holding with one hand to the rail of the altar of the Methodist Church, with the other hand he arrested the sun in the heavens, seeming to say, "I can't die now; I want to live on, and live on; I want to speak a word for Christ that will never die; I am only twenty-seven years of age. Sun of my Christian ministry, stand still over America." And it stood still. Robert M'Cheyne, of Scotland, was a consumptive Presbyterian. He used to cough in his sermon so hard that the people thought that he would never preach again; but thousands in Aberdeen, and Edinburgh, and Dundee, heard the voice of mercy from his lips. The people rejoiced under his ministry. His name to-day is fragrant in all Christendom, and that name is "mightier than ever was his living presence. The delirium of his last sickness was filled with prayer, and when in his dying moment he lifted his hand for a benediction upon his friends, and upon his country, he was only practically saying, "I can't die now; I want to live on for Christ; I am only thirty years of age. Sun of my Christian ministry, stand still over Scotland." And it stood still.
NoI. THERE HAD BEEN NONE LIKE IT IN THE NUMBER AND STRENGTH OF THE CONFEDERACY WHICH WAS GATHERED AGAINST ISRAEL. The highlanders, and lowlanders, and the maritime tribes combined their forces to oppose and crush the invaders, who now, by the defection of Gibeon, possessed a pathway into the heart of the country. Israel had previously dealt with separate cities, Jericho, At, Gibeon; but now six of the seven nations of Canaan joined together at the summons of the king of Jerusalem, who was allied with the kings of Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish, and Eglon.
II. THERE WAS NONE LIKE IT IN JOSHUA'S LIFE FOR HEROIC FAITH.
1. It was a day of vigour. As soon as he received the message he saw the importance of at once vindicating the trust reposed in him. Inertness and indolence ill become those who are entrusted with great concerns. The stirring of God's Spirit in man makes the pulse throb quickly, purposes form themselves in the will; and all the nature is braced, and knit, to subserve the heroic soul.
2. It was a day of fellowship. Soon after the first message had come, with surely a certain amount of startling surprise, God had spoken to him and said, "Fear them not," &c. And so we may expect it to be always. Sometimes the assurance comes first to prepare us for what is at hand. But if not then it will reach us simultaneously with the alarm, reassuring us, and giving us quiet confidence in the midst of evil tidings, as the bird rocks in its nest over the rush of the waterfall, serene, though the branch beneath it sways in the storm. There are high days in human lives when thought and purpose, which had been quietly gathering strength, like waters swelling against a barrier, suddenly leap from their leash, and vent themselves in acts, or words, or prayers, such as stand out from the ordinary routine of existence, like the cathedral of Cologne from the mean houses that gather around its base. We are not, then, drunk with wine, but we are flushed, as to our spirits, with the exhilaration and sense of power which the Spirit of God alone can give, or, to put it in another form, we catch fire. There is too little experience of this capacity of rising into the loftiest experience of that Spirit life which is within the reach of us all, through living fellowship with God; but whenever we realise and use it, it is as when the feeble, smouldering wick is plunged into oxygen gas, or as when a flower, that had struggled against the frost, is placed in the tropical atmosphere of the hot-house. In such hours we realise what Jesus meant when He said, "Whosoever shall say unto this mountain," &c.
3. It was a day of triumphant onlook. The kings were summoned from their hiding-place, and as they crouched abjectly at the feet of their conquerors, Joshua called for all the men of Israel, and said unto the chiefs of the men of war, "Come near, put your feet upon the necks of these kings." And whilst they stood in that attitude of unquestioned victory, there broke on the exalted spirit-kindled imagination of the warrior-chieftain the sure prevision of the ultimate issue of the conflict in which they were engaged. He already saw the day when every knee should bow before Jehovah's might, when every king should be prostrate before Israel's arm, and when the whole land should be subdued.
III. THERE HAD BEEN NONE LIKE IT IN THE EXTRAORDINARY CO-OPERATION OF JEHOVAH. The Israelites were the executioners of Divine justice, commissioned to give effect to the sentence which the foul impurities of Canaan called for. There is a judgment-seat for nations as well as for individuals. Within the limits of the ages as they pass, and on the surface of this earth, that throne is erected and that judgment is proceeding. We get some glimpse of this in the hand that wrote the doom of Belshazzar's kingdom on the walls of the palace which beheld a scene of wanton revelry lit by the light of the temple's sacred lamps. And the almighty Judge sees to it that His sentences are carried out. He has many agents — the Persian legions to execute his sentence on Babylon, the Vandals on Rome, the Russian Cossacks on Napoleon, as the Israelites on the Amorites, whose iniquity was now full, and threatened to infect the world.
IV. SUCH DAYS COME STILL TO MEN. There are days in our lives so extraordinary for the combination of difficult circumstances, human opposition, and Satanic combination, that they stand out in unique terror from the rest of our lives. Looking back on them, we may almost adopt the language of the sacred historian, "there was no day like that before it or after it." But these days do not come if we are living in friendship with God, intent on doing His will, without there coming also His sweet "Fear them not, for I have delivered them into thine hands." Our only anxiety should be that nothing should divert us from His path, or intercept the communication of His grace. Like a wise commander we must keep open the passage back to our base of operations, which is God. Careful about that, we need have no anxious care beside. The greatness of our difficulties is permitted to elicit the greatness of His grace. He covers our heads in the day of battle. He is our shield and exceeding great reward. Though an host should encamp against us, we will not fear; though war should rise against us, in this we will be confident. Moreover, these days may always be full of the realised presence of God. All through the conflict Joshua's heart was in perpetual fellowship with the mighty Captain of the Lord's host, who rode beside him all the day. The blessed colloquy between the two was unbroken, as between a Wellington and a Blucher, a Napoleon and a Marshal Ney. So amid all our conflicts, our hearts and minds should thither ascend and there dwell where Christ is seated, drawing from Him grace upon grace, as we need, like the diver on the ocean floor who inhales the fresh breeze of the upper air. At these times it is very necessary not merely to ask God to help us, because the word "help" may mean that there is a great deal of reliance on self, and whatever there is of ourselves is almost certain to give way in the strain of battle. Achilles was mortally wounded in the heel, the one place which did not share in the plunge given him by his goddess mother into the immortal stream. The Divine part of our deliverance will be nullified by the alloy of our own energy, strength, or resolution. Let us substitute for the word "help" the word "keep." Let us put the whole matter into the hands of God, asking Him to go before us, to fight for us, to deliver us, as He did for His people on this eventful day. "The Lord discomfited them before Israel."
PeopleAdonizedec, Amorites, Debir, Eglon, Gibeon, Hoham, Horam, Israelites, Japhia, Jasher, Joshua, Piram
PlacesAi, Azekah, Beth-horon, Debir, Eglon, Gaza, Gezer, Gibeon, Gilgal, Hebron, Jarmuth, Jericho, Jerusalem, Kadesh-barnea, Lachish, Libnah, Makkedah, Negeb, Valley of Aijalon
TopicsAttackers, Avenged, Book, Delayed, Didn't, Enemies, Full, Hasted, Hasten, Heaven, Heavens, Hurry, Isn't, Itself, Jashar, Jasher, Kept, Middle, Midst, Moon, Nation, Perfect, Punishment, Recorded, Rest, Sky, Space, Standeth, Standing, Stayed, Stood, Stopped, Taketh, Themselves, Till, Upright, Vengeance, Waiting, Written
Outline1. Five kings war against Gibeon
6. Joshua rescues it
10. God fights against them with hailstones
12. The sun and moon stand still at the word of Joshua
16. The five kings are murdered in a cave
22. They are brought forth
24. scornfully used
26. and hanged
28. Seven kings more are conquered
43. Joshua returns to Gilgal
Dictionary of Bible ThemesJoshua 10:13
5608 warfare, strategies
1416 miracles, nature of
LibraryFive Kings in a Cave
TEXT: "And it came to pass, when they brought out those kings unto Joshua, that Joshua called for all the men of Israel, and said unto the captains of the men of war which went with him, Come near, put your feet upon the necks of these kings. And they came near, and put their feet upon the necks of them. And Joshua said unto them, Fear not, nor be dismayed, be strong and of good courage: for thus shall the Lord do to all your enemies against whom ye fight."--Joshua 10:24-25. The history of the …
J. Wilbur Chapman—And Judas Iscariot
Praying Saints of the Old Testaments
The Holy Spirit will give to the praying saint the brightness of an immortal hope, the music of a deathless song, in His baptism and communion with the heart, He will give sweeter and more enlarged visions of heaven until the taste for other things will pall, and other visions will grow dim and distant. He will put notes of other worlds in human hearts until all earth's music is discord and songless.--Rev. E. M. Bounds Old Testament history is filled with accounts of praying saints. The leaders of …
Edward M. Bounds—Prayer and Praying Men
Gibeon. Josh 10:06
John Newton—Olney Hymns
The Northern Coast of Judea. Beth-Horon.
This coast is marked out Joshua 18:12; where, at verse 14, are very many versions to be corrected, which render the sea; such are, the Syriac, the Seventy, the Vulgar, the Italian, ours, &c.: whence ariseth a sense of insuperable difficulty to a chorographical eye: when it should, indeed, be rendered of the west, as the Chaldee, Arabic, R. Solomon, &c. rightly do. We read of a double Beth-horon in the Old Testament, but one only under the second Temple... At that place that great Canaanitish army …
John Lightfoot—From the Talmud and Hebraica
Subterraneous Places. Mines. Caves.
Thus having taken some notice of the superficies of the land, let us a little search into its bowels. You may divide the subterraneous country into three parts: the metal mines, the caves, and the places of burial. This land was eminently noted for metal mines, so that "its stones," in very many places, "were iron, and out of its hills was digged brass," Deuteronomy 8:9. From these gain accrued to the Jews: but to the Christians, not seldom slavery and misery; being frequently condemned hither by …
John Lightfoot—From the Talmud and Hebraica
Sign Seekers, and the Enthusiast Reproved.
(Galilee on the Same Day as the Last Section.) ^A Matt. XII. 38-45; ^C Luke XI. 24-36. ^c 29 And when the multitudes were gathering together unto him, ^a 38 Then certain of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, Teacher, we would see a sign from thee. [Having been severely rebuked by Jesus, it is likely that the scribes and Pharisees asked for a sign that they might appear to the multitude more fair-minded and open to conviction than Jesus had represented them to be. Jesus had just wrought …
J. W. McGarvey—The Four-Fold Gospel
Subjects of Study. Home Education in Israel; Female Education. Elementary Schools, Schoolmasters, and School Arrangements.
If a faithful picture of society in ancient Greece or Rome were to be presented to view, it is not easy to believe that even they who now most oppose the Bible could wish their aims success. For this, at any rate, may be asserted, without fear of gainsaying, that no other religion than that of the Bible has proved competent to control an advanced, or even an advancing, state of civilisation. Every other bound has been successively passed and submerged by the rising tide; how deep only the student …
Alfred Edersheim—Sketches of Jewish Social Life
The Hebrews and the Philistines --Damascus
THE ISRAELITES IN THE LAND OF CANAAN: THE JUDGES--THE PHILISTINES AND THE HEBREW KINGDOM--SAUL, DAVID, SOLOMON, THE DEFECTION OF THE TEN TRIBES--THE XXIst EGYPTIAN DYNASTY--SHESHONQ OR SHISHAK DAMASCUS. The Hebrews in the desert: their families, clans, and tribes--The Amorites and the Hebrews on the left bank of the Jordan--The conquest of Canaan and the native reaction against the Hebrews--The judges, Ehud, Deborah, Jerubbaal or Gideon and the Manassite supremacy; Abimelech, Jephihdh. The Philistines, …
G. Maspero—History Of Egypt, Chaldaea, Syria, Babylonia, and Assyria, V 6
Meditations of the True Manner of Practising Piety on the Sabbath-Day.
Almighty God will have himself worshipped, not only in a private manner by private persons and families, but also in a more public sort, of all the godly joined together in a visible church; that by this means he may be known not only to be the God and Lord of every Singular person, but also of the creatures of the whole universal world. Question--But why do not we Christians under the New, keep the Sabbath on the same seventh day on which it was kept under the Old Testament? I answer--Because our …
Lewis Bayly—The Practice of Piety
Divine Support and Protection
[What shall we say then to these things?] If God be for us, who can be against us? T he passions of joy or grief, of admiration or gratitude, are moderate when we are able to find words which fully describe their emotions. When they rise very high, language is too faint to express them; and the person is either lost in silence, or feels something which, after his most laboured efforts, is too big for utterance. We may often observe the Apostle Paul under this difficulty, when attempting to excite …
John Newton—Messiah Vol. 2
The book of Joshua is the natural complement of the Pentateuch. Moses is dead, but the people are on the verge of the promised land, and the story of early Israel would be incomplete, did it not record the conquest of that land and her establishment upon it. The divine purpose moves restlessly on, until it is accomplished; so "after the death of Moses, Jehovah spake to Joshua," i. 1. The book falls naturally into three divisions: (a) the conquest of Canaan (i.-xii.), (b) the settlement of the …
John Edgar McFadyen—Introduction to the Old Testament
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