THE SUN STANDING STILL
IF any proof were needed that the Bible teaches the doctrine of a stationary earth and a moving sun and moon, it is given in the tenth chapter of the book of Joshua. Here it is recounted how Joshua, the leader of the Israelites after the death of Moses, and the armies of Israel fought against the five kings of the Amorites and their armies, the Lord also casting great hailstones down from heaven upon the enemies of His chosen people. “Then spake Joshua to the Lord in the day when the Lord delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and said in the sight of Israel; —
Sun, stand thou still up on Gibeon; and thou Moon, in the valley of Aijalon.
And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the nation had avenged themselves of their enemies.” Rev. Ver.
Now although this account is evidently quite as historical as the account of the rest of the Israel’s doings and battles, yet because the teaching conflicts with the views of men and the theories of modern astronomers it is tortured and twisted by labored “explanations” to mean anything and everything but what the words naturally mean on the face of them. And, as though to prove that all these fanciful “explanations” are off the track, no two expositors are perfectly agreed, or give exactly the same explanation of the passage. They are only alike in one laudable but misguided intent, and this is, to save the Scriptures from reproach and to “harmonize” the account with the theories of modern astronomy and the views of so-called “scientists.” It never seems to enter the minds of these well-meaning expositors to question the truth of this modern “science,” but only how most plausibly to “reconcile” with it ancient and Biblical Cosmogony. This is not as it ought to be. We shall make no such futile attempt, neither shall we pause to vindicate the character of Israel’s God, who will, we believe, do this Himself perfectly when the day of final judgment arrives; but we shall proceed to shew the unsatisfactory nature of all attempts at reconciling the Bible with modern astronomical theories, and boldly challenge any man, either scientist or sceptic, to give us one reasonable and practical proof that the earth has any of the awful motions attributed to it by them. If they cannot do this, and we have hitherto asked for the proof in vain, then we have both right and reason to believe that Joshua was correct in believing, with other Bible worthies, that the motion of the sun, and not of the earth, was and is, the cause of day and night.
The latest effort we have seen at impossible reconciliation calls forth these remarks. We give the writer credit for sincerity and devotion. As he has sent us a copy of his pamphlet we thank him for it, but he must excuse us pointing out clearly and conscientiously where his effort, like that of others has failed. His pamphlet is entitled “Joshua commanding the Sun to stand still. The miracle explained and defended. A lecture,” by the Rev. W. W. Howard, price 3d., to be obtained from the author, 47, Heman’s Street, Liverpool,”
We cordially agree with the opening paragraph; —
“The subject we have to discuss tonight has engaged great attention for ages. Believers in revelation have explained and defended the wonderful occurrence with great learning, zeal, and ingenuity, and infidels have made it the favorite object of their scorn and raillery. Many theories have been advanced with a view to give satisfaction to faith and remove doubt; and the way in which the event is still regarded today, both among believers and unbelievers shews that not any of them have met with much success.”
This is quite true, especially the closing sentence; and we think the present effort is doomed to like failure with former efforts. And for the same reason, viz; lack of faith, on the part of “believers in revelation” in not receiving the account as it stands, and ignorance of true science on the part of infidels, and others, who unreasonably revile what they do not understand, and who credulously believe any absurd theory if propounded in learned jargon and uttered in the name of “Science.” Thus, the “Christian” has generally much too little faith in the All-wise God and His Revelation to believe it, so he explains it away; and the infidel has a great deal too much faith in ever erring mortals and their philosophy, so he proudly scorns and rejects it. But, of the two, the infidel is the more consistent; for the Christian expositor, like himself, unquestionably accepts those astronomical theories which makes the Word of God of none effect, while the sceptic does not believe in a Divine Revelation. But Zetetics can boldly challenge the truth of those theories, yea, more, they can shew that even as theories they are false to Nature, as well as to the Scriptures; and so, the infidel’s raillery is checked—and in all reason it ought to be—until he becomes sufficiently instructed to offer some decent proof in support of his position.
FOUR LEADING THEORIES
Referring to the printed lecture before us we find that Mr. Howard selects four as the leading theories by which this miracle has been explained, and which even he himself cannot accept. The first is called
“THE POETICAL THEORY.”
Those who accept this theory, he says, suppose that the hours of sunlight did really appear to them to be lengthened? Someone afterwards expressed his feelings in poetry, “with the usual poetical license,” whatever that is, and incorporated his poem in a book of military songs called “The Book of Jasher.’ We reject this exposition for the same reasons as the writer; because “firstly, there is possibly a more reasonable view; and, secondly, the genius of Hebrew poetry lends no confirmation to its position.” And we further cordially agree with him when he adds—
“I have sought all through the Bible and have not discovered one instance of a natural event being exalted into a miracle by any of its bards.” …. This enquiry into the veracity of Hebrew poetry has amazed me—made me feel how, contrary to the general view, in all their highest inspirations, the Bible bards kept a clear eye upon the sober truth.’’
This, we think, is well and truthfully spoken. The second theory, he says, is called
“THE SPIRITUAL THEORY.”
There are those who hold that God, at the command of Joshua, allowed the sun and moon to go on their journey as usual, but in their places “two other bodies of a spiritual kind were slipped in so stealthily that the Israelites were unaware of what was done.” This theory, commonly held by Swedenborgians, the writer very properly rejects as charging God with deception, and assuming an impossibility. He gives his reasons, which those who are interested to know can find by obtaining the pamphlet. Our space compels us to be brief. The next exegesis reviewed is, thirdly,
“THE OPTICAL THEORY.”
Under this heading Mr. Howard says: —
“It is true that light is refrangible, and also that we see, not as we think, always straight and direct, but on lines of light. When light, in its flight, strikes a medium denser than that it has been travelling through, it is turned aside somewhat, and we are led to think that objects are not where they really are. If you thrust a stick into water it appears to bend at the surface of the water . . . We may also say that the stars are never where we seem to see them in the heavens, but where they were when the light, we see them by left them.”
So far, we have been happy to agree with Mr. H., but from this he begins to flounder unconsciously in the meshes of absurd and extravagant philosophical theories. He re-affirms the popular fallacy that the sun is seen in the morning “eight minutes before he is above the horizon,” that the light from some stars “would require thousands of years to cover the distance between us,” and that a “star or nebula might be completely annihilated, and yet it would not seem to disappear from its position in the universe till its last beam of light had reached us, and that might be 20,000 years or even longer!”
He further affirms that “the axis of the earth is inclined to her orbit,” that the “pole” dips so that “anyone living at the north pole would see the sun 12 or 13 days’ time before he actually rose above the horizon” (!) and moreover, that “this would follow from the atmosphere bending the light beams, and the north pole rising by gentle graduation into the zone of day”! Italics ours. The writer innocently calls this contradiction “a fact,” and says: “From this fact some have argued that the light rays of the sun and moon were bent, at Joshua’s petition, to give him an extra 12 hours light to exterminate the enemy.” And he quotes James Austin Bastow who supports this view in his Bible Dictionary. However, this theory, though “plausible” is rejected as “delusive,” there being a vast difference “between the refraction of a few degrees on the one hand and that of half a circle on the other.” We are then informed that
“THE FOURTH THEORY IS THE ASTRONOMICAL ONE.”
Here of course, the tangle becomes greater than ever. We are told that
“The rotary motion of the earth was arrested, the arrested motion was prevented becoming heat, the water in the oceans, seas, lakes, and rivers was kept from obeying its natural laws, and the solar system was guarded against injury.”
The writer, while agreeing, of course, with the “science” of the above paragraph, sympathizes with men like Huxley and Tyndale, in their refusal to accept such an explanation, adding that Professor Tyndale, in Fragments of Science, remarks:
“There is scientific imagination as well as an historic imagination; and when, by the exercise of the former, the stoppage of the earth’s rotation is clearly realized, the event assumes proportions so vast in comparison with the result to be obtained by it, that belief reels under the reflection. The energy here involved (in the “scientific imagination”?) is equal to that of six trillions-of-horses working for the whole of the time employed by Joshua in the destruction of his foes. The amount of power thus expended would be sufficient to supply every individual of an army a thousand times the strength of that of Joshua, with a thousand times the power of each of Joshua’s soldiers, not for the few hours necessary to the extinction of a handful of Amorites, but for millions of years.”
These calculations are all very pretty, but they are worse than useless as the Bible does not speak of “arresting the earth’s motion,” but of the sun standing still. Hence, they are utterly beside the mark; but the above quotation serves to shew how men of “science” are led away from the Scriptures by unfaithful expositors and a false philosophy until, as Tyndale confesses, “Belief reels under the reflection.” While Christian men and so-called “Reverend Divines,” who are paid to defend the Holy Writings, play into their hands by ignorantly, or cowardly, yielding the claims of unfounded astronomical theories so utterly subversive of Bible teaching and true Natural Science. However, it is only fair to the writer of the pamphlet under consideration to say that he rejects this “explanation” also; although, at the same time, he holds those astronomical theories by which it is supported. He also makes the same mistake of talking about the earth’s motion being arrested instead of that of the sun, for he says;
“Why did not the ocean overflow the land? Run with a pail of water until you come in contact with a wall, and observe the effect upon the liquid, how it will dash over the side: and the sudden stoppage of the rotary motion of the earth (!) would naturally send the sea almost all over the dry land . . . You know the shaking you get with the violent stoppage of an express train going at sixty miles an hour, and we ask you, please, to fancy the result to us, and to all cattle, dwelling houses, monuments, and even trees, if the earth, which at the equator moves nearly 1,100 miles an hour, was brought quickly to a standstill.”
Now that is altogether and utterly irrelevant. When will professed defenders of the Bible let it speak in its own terms? What infidel could wrest the Scriptures more from their plain literal and grammatical sense? The American infidel Ingersol writes just in the same strain respecting this miracle in his so-called “Mistakes of Moses.” But is it not rather a mistake, and a grave mistake, of Ingersol, Tyndale, Howard & Co., to speak of the Bible arresting the earth’s motion, when the account says nothing whatever of the kind; but distinctly tells us that it was the sun and moon which stood still? They may charge the Bible, if they like, with being contrary to modern science; but we should retort that it is both illogical and unscientific to condemn the Bible on such a charge until the “science” in question has first been shewn and proved to be true. Let them first prove the earth has any motion, before talking about the “arresting” of it. And we want something better than Foucault’s pendulum experiment for this—especially as different pendulums will sometimes oscillate in opposite directions!—and more especially as practical experiments have already proved that the earth has no such motions as those attributed to it. The account of these experiments may be found in Parallax’s great work, “Earth not a Globe.” We have no space now to quote these experiments, as we are at present only engaged in shewing up the inconsistency of those who wrest the plain statements of the Holy Scriptures to suit the fanciful and absurd theories of modern “Science,” falsely so-called. They may yet appear in the Earth Review in due course, if our friends will only come forward and sustain our hands in this unequal conflict. Some of them have already appeared.
THE SUN STANDING STILL.
THE LATEST EXPOSITION.
But our readers will naturally be anxious to know what is the final “explanation” given by the writer in question, who acknowledges that he had previously been “utterly bewildered with every attempt either to explain the miracle, or to explain it away.” We shall let him speak for himself. He says—
“I have now a FIFTH VIEW to lay before you, which appears to be both rational and simple.”…. “My belief is this: Joshua and his men having walked all night, as the 9th verse tells us, would be tired next morning, but God caused a great trembling to spread itself amongst the foe, and there was an easy victory. When the war had pursued the Amorites some distance, hail stones fell upon them and did much damage. At the approach to Beth-horon the hailstorm increased in fury; and Joshua, seeing the devastation produced, and being cognisant of the fatigue of his men, prayed Heaven to let the hurricane go on till total and irreparable disaster was inflicted.”
We refrain from saying all we think about this so-called “explanation,” as the writer is evidently both sincere and devout; and he says that “it flashed across my mind many years ago, when I was on my knees.” But we think it doomed to the same failure as the rest, and for similar reasons; it is not true to the sacred narrative. It reminds us of what the editor of the Daily Chronicle said of Dr. Geikie’s book, The Bible by Modern Light. “He makes assertions which have the charm of novelty, but also the vice of inaccuracy.” (See fuller remarks from the D.C. in another page). This is the case with the present attempt. We have no record that Joshua “prayed Heaven to let the hurricane go on.” This is an assertion, not of the narrator, but of the “expositor.” Joshua prayed for the sun to “stand still.” not for the hailstorm to proceed, and we are told that “there was no day like that, before it or after it, that the Lord hearkened unto the voice of a man for the Lord fought for Israel.” But to get rid of this fact our expositor says—
“The chapter (10th of Joshua) is made up of two accounts; the one historical, the other poetical. The poetical extends from the 12th to the 15th verse. The rest is historical.”
This is oracular and authoritative! Mr. Howard comes back after all to a “Poetical Theory” although such a theory was the first one he so conclusively rejected. This only proves the impossibility of explaining the account in harmony with modern science on any theory. In short the narrative needs no explanation in itself; IT ONLY NEEDS BELIEVING! And, as “all men have not faith,” let anyone of those without try to prove, if he can, that the account is not in harmony with the facts of Nature. This would be straight forward and reasonable; but to wrest the Scriptures, to twist and torture their language until it is made to mean anything the writer wishes, is neither strictly honest nor truly scientific. The very attempt to do so only serves to shew the unconscious influence and injurious effect modern astronomy has had on the minds of otherwise good and honest searchers after truth. Only let the incubus of this superstition (and we use the word “superstition” advisedly as of something standing above, or outside, natural facts) only let this incubus be removed from their minds, and the skill such writers manifest might do credit to the expository science they affect; but while their minds are, consciously or unconsciously, enchained by the trammels of a false philosophy, imposed upon them while they were too young to question it, they will not only “wrest the Scriptures,” as they do, but writhe as it were in the meshes of a critical snare evidently laid for us by the Arch Deceiver of mankind. We have need to pray that our minds, and that the minds of our “Ministers,” may be delivered from this “snare of the fowler.” The miracle under consideration shews that God hears prayer, and answers it; but when He does He never flashes ideas or interpretations across the mind which are out of harmony with the general statements of that Divine Cosmogony revealed in his Holy Word.
“To the Law and to the Testimony; if they speak not according to this Word, it is because there is no light in them.” —Isaiah. 8:20.
Before concluding our paper let us briefly consider the validity of some of the reasons given for this novel interpretation. Firstly, the employment of a hailstorm was a “means already in operation, and in every way capable of securing the end in contemplation.” This is so utterly beside the question that we dismiss it at once. We might deny the hailstorm itself on such flimsy grounds. Secondly, we are told that “the language of the inspired penman suits this theory, and no other!” We will content ourselves with putting a note of exclamation after that!
Then “It is poetical, and all poets are allowed some latitude in their descriptions.” Our expositor ought to be a poet of no mean standing for he evidently claims a poet’s privilege! He says the account is extracted from the Book of Jasher, which seems to have been made up of martial odes, intended to “develop patriotism and faith in God.” If Mr. Howard had not prefixed the title “Rev.” to his name, a title which his Master has practically forbidden (Matthew 23:8) we might have thought this the suggestion of a sceptic, that “faith in God” could be developed by the poetical recounting of a false miracle! But supposing that Mr. H’s bare assertion that “the poetical portion extends from the 12th to the 15th verse” were true, what has
“I have sought all through the Bible and have not discovered one instance of a natural event being exalted into a miracle by any of its bards. Great occurrences which are wonderful in themselves are greatly adorned, but left free from all miraculous elements… This enquiry into the veracity of Hebrew poetry has amazed me—made me feel how, contrary to the general view, in all their highest inspirations, the Bible bards kept a clear eye on sober truth—a remark, I think, which applies to the poets of no other nation.”
Thus his own words are sufficient to answer the supposition that the account in question is a “poetical” figment. But we do not admit that three verses are poetical. They seem to us just as historical as the rest of the chapter, and ancient Israel believed them to be so. We believe that Mr. H. would never have objected to them as equally historical with the rest of the chapter were it not for the absurd idea that we are living on a vast globe, turning us all head over heels once every twenty-four hours, and so alternately bringing day and night. This appears from his further remarks. He says;
“The first remark I have to make upon these words, as here rendered, is that if the prayer had been answered the day would not have been lengthened. To lengthen the day the earth must either slow in her rotatory motion or stop it altogether; and Joshua, had he wanted more hours of light, should have said, ‘EARTH pause in thy revolution upon thy axis, or go slower.’ Thus you see our Versions take all the meaning out of Joshua’s prayer. Our View shows its point and beauty.”
This would really be amusing to Zetetics if the matter were not otherwise so serious, and the writer evidently so earnest. He calls poetry, Hebrew, and astronomy all to his aid. He says that the Hebrew word dom never means to “stand still.” It may not be again so translated, not exactly, and yet it may have this meaning. We think it has. The root word is damam. The writer admits it is once translated “tarry,” I Samuel 14:9. Although the word sometimes may be rendered be silent, this passage clearly shews it also means to stand still. It reads,
“If they say unto us, Tarry (damam) until we come to you, then we will stand still (amad) in our place.”
This latter word amad is the very Hebrew term used in Habakkuk 3:11, which again speaks of the sun standing still! Is this wrong also? We have faith in the translators to believe that they understood Hebrew as well, if not better, than the writer; and they, while giving various shades of meaning in the margin, give unmistakably the right meaning in the text, “Sun stand thou still” for we read “the sun stood still (amad) in the midst of heaven.” v.13. Mr. H. says the latter term means to rise up. But it can not mean this only, for Parkhurst gives the primary meanings, “To stand, stand still, stay, remain.” This Hebrew Lexicographer also says that “The Seventy generally render the verb by istemi to stand, and its compounds.” As it may interest the reader we will give the translation from the Septuagint, shewing, how ancient Greek translators, untrammelled by modern astronomical theories, understood this passage;
“Then Joshua spoke to the Lord, in the day in which the Lord delivered the Amorite into the power of Israel, when He destroyed them in Gabaon, and they were destroyed from before the children of Israel. And Joshua said, Let the sun stand over against Gabaon, and the moon over against the valley of Aelon. And the sun and the moon stood still, until God executed vengeance on their enemies.”
Italics of course are ours. Those who wish to pursue this point further will find the same Hebrew word (amad) translated “stand still,” or its equivalent, in the following passages—Joshua 3:8, Joshua 3:17, Joshua 10:13, Joshua 11:13, I Samuel 14:9, 2 Samuel 2:23, 2 Samuel 2:28, as also in the remarkable passage referred to in Habakkuk 3:11. It plainly appears, therefore, unless the translators did not understand Hebrew, that “stood still” is a correct and frequent translation of amad; and doubtless it never would have been called into question as applied to the sun were it not for the baseless theories of modern astronomy. These are at the bottom of the whole contention. The passage had to be harmonized with a philosophical, or rather an unphilosophical, theory; so the translation must be altered to suit! As Mr. H. remarks;
“When once a theory takes holds it grows apace and wields a power over future ages that is seen in expositions, annotations, and translations… till the original modicum of truth is distorted or lost in the process.”
And again, we quote with approval—
“The Bible itself will have to be studied anew in its own light; and when this is done, and we get back to its grand and simple truths unmixed with false views from extraneous sources, we shall be delighted with what it is and what it has to tell us.”
This is good advice, if followed. And amongst the grand and simple truths of the Bible will be found that the sun has motion (Psalm 19:4); that the earth (or land) rests on “foundations” (I Samuel 2:8); and that it is so established “that it should not be removed for ever.” (Psalm 104:5) etc, etc. Yet in spite of this good advice, and the fact that the Scriptures do teach the Plane system, the writer speaking about his new theory or explanation says—
“Our theory disposes of an old infidel objection to revelation. Sceptics sneer at the Scriptures because as they say, they inculcate the Geo-centric system of astronomy. instead of the true (!)—the Helio-centric; and this miracle has ever been the prop of their charge. ‘See,’ they have said, ‘when Joshua wanted the day lengthening, he commanded the sun and moon to stand still, thinking falsely (?) that they circled round the earth every 24 hours; whereas it is the earth (oh!) revolving round on her own axis, that makes day and night.’ But our theory will put an end to this, and prove that Joshua knew what he was doing.”
Vain hope! No mere “theory” will put an end to the infidel’s sneer. Our plan is not to oppose theories or quibbles to the sneer of the sceptic, but facts; and then let him sneer if he can for shame. If the infidel can prove that water is convex, or that the earth really tumbles at all, land and water, topsy-turvy once every twenty-four hours, then he has a right to sneer at Joshua’s ignorance; but if he cannot, and the pages of the Earth Review are open for any respectable effort, then we shall sneer at his ignorance, his lack of reasoning power, and his consummate folly for allowing himself to be duped out of Eternal Life over the simple and plain facts of Nature! We have a word also for the Christian. Why should you allow infidel theories respecting the universe, its form and its origin, to blind your eyes to the facts you see, or may see, around you, and to the harmonious teachings of that Divine system of Cosmogony revealed in Holy Writ? You need not attempt to make truth “reasonable”; it is reasonable, to the unfettered and really free thinking mind. Neither need you attempt to “explain” a miracle; it is above you. While the attempt to “defend” a miracle is puerile and absurd. A miracle is its own defence. All you have to do is to believe it, when attested. Defending a miracle is like a child defending a giant, or a fox defending a lion! But if you cannot believe your Bible, and if you are too indifferent or too ignorant to go into the proofs offered around you, then honestly join the infidel party, and prove the Bible is wrong in its Creation and its Cosmology, that is if you can.
We shall conclude our paper with a quotation from Josephus, a Jewish writer and historian who lived in the first century of the Christian era, and who was doubtless well acquainted both with the language of the Jews and the remarkable and miraculous history of Israel. Respecting the miracle in question he writes—
“Joshua made haste with his whole army to assist them (the Gibeonites), and marching day and night, in the morning he fell upon the enemies as they were going up to the siege; and when he had discomfited them he followed them, and pursued them down to the descent of the hills. The place is called Bethhoron; where he also understood that God assisted them, which He declared by thunder and thunder-bolts, as also by the falling of hail larger than usual. Moreover it happened that the day was lengthened that the night might not come on too soon, and be an obstruction to the zeal of the Hebrews in pursuing their enemies”….
“Now that the day was lengthened at this time, and was longer than ordinary, is expressed in the books laid up in the Temple.”
—Antiquities of the Jews, Book V, 1:17
In a note under this paragraph Mr. Whiston, the learned compiler of Josephus’ works, while hesitating what explanation to give the miracle says;
“The fact itself was mentioned in the Book of Jasher, now lost, Joshua 10:13, and is confirmed by Isaiah 28:21, Habakkuk 3:11, and by the son of Sirach (Ecclesiastes 46:4). In the 18th Psalm of Solomon, ver. ult. it is also said of the luminaries, with relation no doubt to this and the other miraculous standing still and going back, in the days of Joshua and Hezekiah. ‘They have not wandered from the day He created them, they have not forsaken their way, from ancient generations, unless it were when God enjoined them (so to do) by the command of his servants.’ See Authent. Rec. part I, p. 154.”
“Hear the just law, the judgment of the skies,
He that hates truth shall be the dupe of lies;
And he that will be cheated, to the last
Delusions strong as Hell shall bind him fast.”