Joshua: the sun standing still


Hi All,

In Joshua, he commands the sun to stand still. This was done so that Joshua could have more time to win a battle against the combined armies of five Amorite kings. The Lord grants his request.

Joshua 10:12 On the day the Lord gave the Amorites over to Israel, Joshua said to the Lord in the presence of Israel: “Sun, stand still over Gibeon, and you, moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.” 13 So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, till the nation avenged itself on its enemies, as it is written in the Book of Jashar."

I believe this verse was used in the middle ages to justify the idea that the sun moves around the earth. And was a text used against Galileo in an inquisition in 1616 where the idea that the earth moves around the sun was declared heretical (?).

Please can someone explain what is the modern Catholic view of the passage in Joshua and how Catholics today should interpret passages like this. Thanks.


The Inquisition is a horror story in the history of the Church.

As far as the sun standing still, there is actually proof that points to that possibility. Testing of the magnetic polarity of soil on the earth suggests that the earth has flipped on it’s axis in the past. Hence, the sun “stood still” because that would have changed the direction in which we experience the sun rising and setting. Other evidence suggests that this can happen again. The earth is gradually tilting on it’s axis now, and if it reaches the “tipping point” such an event could occur again.

This also explains parts of scripture where the raining down of rocks from the heavens occurs. Should the earth tilt again the sun will rise in the west instead of east.

So basically the story in scripture is not far fetched and actually has some scientific proof behind it at this time. As for the inquisition, that seems to simply show that humans are perpetually ignorant, even those who are suppose to be leaders of the faithful. It was a disgusting time in our history.


Interesting. I had not heard that explanation before.


This was actually discovered by a scientific group trying to prove that the “sun never stood still” in an effort to discredit the Bible. They found just the opposite and where shocked!

I really don’t remember who started the investigation or effort. However, this has happened in other areas as well. For example, a well known atheist tried to show that the Shroud of Teran (spelling???) was a fake. That it could not be from the tomb of Jesus or the cloth that wrapped his body. Well, he got a real shock, in he could not prove it was fake.

In fact, he determined that for someone to create this they would have had to use a paint brush with a single bristle, and that was at least 3 feet long (I think from the hand of the “painter.”) If someone else knows about this and can correct me in anyway feel free. This person also discovered that the pigment used to make the impression on the cloth is blood and I think they showed how old it was, which matched the time of Jesus’ crucifixion.

I think just about anytime someone has tried to use science as a way to disprove the existence of God, or stories in the Bible they have failed. They have in fact shed light on evidence of the truth that is in the Bible. Nice twist if you ask me.



This passage was explained to me by my pastor as very similar to Moses’ rod being held up, and the other passages that refer to God enabling His chosen people to conquer their enemies, while supporting the people who are righteous. It’s about realizing that God has everything in hand, that HE alone controls everything, and our part is about doing God’s will, and letting Him take care of the rest.


Thanks all for your answers. I think the spiritual meaning of the scripture makes sense - God supporting the people who are righteous and enabling his chosen people to conquer their enemies.


D-R Bible, Haydock Commentary:

Ver. 12. Them. This may be considered as a canticle of victory, containing a fervent prayer, which was presently followed with the desired effect. — Aialon. Hebrew, “Sun, in Gabaon, be silent; (move not) and thou, moon, in the valley of Aialon,” or “of the wood,” which was probably not far from Gabaon. Josue had pursued the enemy at mid-day, to the west of that city, when turning round, he addressed this wonderful command to the sun. It is supposed that the moon appeared at the same time. But the meaning may only be, that the sun and the course of the stars should be interrupted for a time. (Calmet) — The sun and the moon stood still in their habitation, Hebrews iii. 11. (Menochius) — Many have called in question this miracle, with Maimonides, or have devised various means to explain it away, by having recourse to a parhelion or reflection of the sun by a cloud, or to a light which was reverberated by the mountains, after the sun was set, &c. (Prœdam iv. 6.; Spinosa; Grotius; Le Clerc) — But if these authors believe the Scriptures, they may spare themselves the trouble of devising such improbable explanations, as this fact is constantly represented as a most striking miracle. If St. Paul (Hebrews xi. 30,) make no mention of it, he did not engage to specify every miracle that had occurred. He does not so much as mention Josue, nor the passage of the Jordan, &c., so that it is a matter of surprise that Grotius should adduce this negative argument, to disprove the reality of the miracle. (Calmet) — The pretended impossibility of it, or the inconvenience arising to the fatigued soldiers from the long continuance of the day, will make but small impression upon those who consider, that God was the chief agent; and that he who made all out of nothing, might easily stop the whole machinery of the world for a time, and afterwards put it in motion again, without causing any derangement in the different parts. (Calmet) — It is not material whether the sun turn round the earth, or the contrary. (Haydock) — The Hebrews generally supposed that the earth was immovable; and on this idea Josue addresses the sun. Philosophers have devised various intricate systems: but the Scripture is expressed in words suitable to the conceptions of the people. The exterior effect would be the same, whether the sun or the earth stood still. Pagan authors have not mentioned this miracle, because none of the works of that age have come down to us. We find, however, that they acknowledged a power in magic capable of effecting such a change.

Cessavere vices rerum dilataque longâ,

Hæsit nocte dies: legi non paruit æther,

Torpuit & præceps audito carmine mundus. (Lucan, Phars. vi.)

See Homer, Odyssey xii. 382., and xxiii. 242.

This miracle would not render Josue superior to Moses, as some have argued. For all miracles are equally impossible to man, and equally easy to God: the greatness of a miracle is not a proof of greater sanctity. (Calmet) — Aialon lay to the south-west of Gabaon. (Haydock) — Josue ordered the moon to stop, as a necessary consequence of the sun’s standing still. God condescended to grant his request. (Worthington)



Ver. 13. The book of the just. In Hebrew Sepher hayashar; an ancient book long since lost. (Challoner) — It was probably of the same nature with that of the wars of the Lord, (Numbers xxi. 4,) containing an account of the most memorable occurrences which concerned the people of Israel, the just, or Ischuron, Deuteronomy xxxiii. 5. Josephus ([Antiquities?] v. 2,) says, such “records were kept in the archives of the temple.” They were drawn up by people of character. The quotations inserted are in a poetical style, as the book might contain various canticles, though the rest was written in prose. See 2 Kings i. 18. It might appear unnecessary for Josue to appeal to this work, as the fact in question was known to all. (Calmet) — But too great precaution could not be taken to prevent the danger of people calling in question the reality of the miracle. If the book of the just was a more detailed history of facts, out of which this work of Josue has been compiled, as Theodoret supposes, the author might very well remit the more inquisitive reader to that authentic source. (Haydock) — Midst. It was then almost noon. (Calmet) — Josue was nevertheless afraid lest the day should not allow them time to destroy their fleeing enemies completely. (Haydock) — If the evening had been at hand, he would have said, return sun towards Gabaon, as it would have been on the west of his army. The battle had begun early in the morning, and the pursuit had lasted perhaps four or five hours. (Calmet) — Day. Hebrew, “about a whole day.” Many think that a day here comprises 24 hours; and as the sun had been above the horizon six hours, and continued other six, it must have been visible for the space of 36 hours, as the Jews believe, and as it is specified in St. Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho. The author of Ecclesiasticus xlvi. 5, says, Was not the sun stopped in his anger, and one day made as two? that is, 24 hour long, allowing 12 unequal ones to form a day, according to the reckoning of those times. Others suppose that the day of Josue might consist of 18 (Calmet) or of 48 hours. But how would the soldiers be able to support such a fatigue? They had been marching all the preceding night from Galgal. (Haydock) — If they had stopped to take refreshment, their enemies would have escaped. Hence some of the Fathers imagine, that God enabled his people to pursue them without taking any food. (St. Jerome, contra Jov. ii.) They might, however, take some along with them, as it was then customary; and eat as they pursued, whenever they could find an opportunity. Josue had given no prohibition; and Jonathan observed that his father, Saul, had troubled Israel, by following a different plan, 1 Kings xiv. 24. (Calmet)


Without doing injustice to the inspired word of God and to the truth of the miracle, I think it would be acceptable to hold if one wants too that God caused the earth to stand still and stop revolving on its axis which would make it appear as the sun standing still as the people in times past thought the sun revolved around the earth. God could also cause the moon to stand still and not revolve around the earth.


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