Damien F. Mackey
“Then Joshua spoke to the Lord in the day when the Lord delivered up the Amorites before the sons of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, ‘O sun, stand still at Gibeon, And O moon in the valley of Aijalon’. So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, Until the nation avenged themselves of their enemies. Is it not written in the book of Jashar? And the sun stopped in the middle of the sky, and did not hasten to go down for about a whole day. And there was no day like that before it or after it, when the Lord listened to the voice of a man; for the Lord fought for Israel”.
Whatever really happened on this particular occasion – and the suggestions about how to explain this colourful biblical account are manifold – Catholics, in particular, know of a modern-day Miracle of the Sun that was far greater than the Joshuan one, it being foretold months in advance of its actual occurrence on the 13th of October, 1917, and witnessed by tens of thousands, including hardened atheists:
The Great Solar Miracle: Fatima October 13, 1917
Miracles, according to Saint Thomas Aquinas, cannot be ascribed to anything other than God. A miracle, he wrote, is “an event that happens outside the ordinary processes of the whole of created nature” (Summa Theologiae, Ia, 110. 4). The Fatima phenomenon of 1917, estimated to have been witnessed by 70,000-100,000 people, was certainly a miracle fitting Aquinas’s description. The vision of it was limited almost entirely to the local Fatima region, and it did not in any way affect the usual motions of the observed heavenly bodies.
Let is briefly re-visit my description of the Fatima Solar Miracle in the above article:
…. And suddenly, as the crowd looked upwards, the clouds opened and exposed the blue sky with the sun at its zenith. But this sun did not dazzle. The people could look directly at it. It was like a shining silver plate. Then the sun trembled. It made some abrupt movements. It began to spin like a wheel of fire. Great shafts of coloured light flared out from its centre in all directions, colouring in a most fantastic manner the clouds, trees, rocks, earth, and even the clothes and faces of the people gathered there, in alternating splashes of red, yellow, green, blue and violet – the full spectrum of rainbow colours.
After about five minutes the sun stopped revolving in this fashion. A moment later, it resumed a second time its incredible motion, throwing out its light and colour like a huge display of fireworks. And once more, after a few minutes, the sun stopped its prodigious dance.
After a short time, and for the third time, it resumed its spinning and fantastic colours. The crowd gazed spellbound. Then came the awful climax. The sun seemed to be falling from the sky. Zig-zagging from side to side, it plunged down towards the crowd below, sending out a heat increasingly intense, and causing the spectators to believe that this was indeed the end of the world.
People stood wild-eyed, or sank to their knees in the mud, as the sun rushed towards them. A desperate cry went up from the crowd, begging God, or the Blessed Virgin Mary, for mercy, asking pardon for their sins. The sun halted, stopping short in its precipitous fall, and then it climbed back to its place in the sky, where it regained its normal brilliance.
Then the dazed people, who had just experienced the wonder of the age – or what Cardinal Laraana would later call “the greatest Divine intervention since the time of Our Lord” (Soul, Sep-Oct, 1990, p. 6) – found that another miracle had occurred. This apocalyptic scene, full of majesty and terror, had ended with a delicate gift, which showed the motherly tenderness of the Immaculate Heart of Mary for her children. Their sodden clothes were dry and comfortable, without a trace of mud and rain. ….
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For those present that day –
“And there has never been a day like it before or since …” (Joshua 10:14)
– the Sun appeared to do what it does not normally do, and, moreover, “the people could look directly at it”.
Since God, who provided us with Nature and the Cosmos, both heralded, and then performed, this terrifying event, might it not offer clues for us when attempting to make sense, too, of the Joshuan miracle of the sun that He also performed?
Did Joshua and his men really observe a miraculous intervention by God that, as in the case of Fatima, did not in any way affect the cosmological order, nor was seen elsewhere in the world?
A miraculous provision of extra light to the advantage of the fighting Israelites by the God who created light (Genesis 1:3).
Recall the Fatima miracle again, with its wonderful abundance of light: “Great shafts of coloured light flared out from its centre in all directions, colouring in a most fantastic manner the clouds, trees, rocks, earth, and even the clothes and faces of the people gathered there …. it resumed a second time its incredible motion, throwing out its light and colour like a huge display of fireworks”.
Whilst the extra light on the Joshuan occasion had enabled the Israelites to complete their victory, the light and “a heat increasingly intense” at Fatima served the more benign purpose of drying the sodden crowd.
If this is the explanation, then biblical enthusiasts may be wasting their time looking for ancient records of a long day in China, or Peru, or wherever. Or from supposed evidence from NASA, or other quasi-scientific theories (http://www.thechristianexpositor.org/page432.html):
Some adopt the position that God stopped the entire solar system. They make Joshua’s day 23 hours and 20 minutes. The other 40 minutes are said to be found in 2 Kings 20:8-11, where the sun went ten degrees backward for a sign to Hezekiah that his life would be extended. Alternately, it has been suggested that prolonged light resulted from (1) the slowing of the earth’s rotation so that one day is missing in the earth’s astronomical calendar; or (2) the temporary tilting of the earth’s axis.4 Some adopt the position that God blacked out the sun rather than continued its shining by appealing to a particular translation, e.g., The Berkeley Version translates it, “O Sun, wait in Gibeon”, and in the American Standard Version the marginal reading is, “Sun, be silent.”
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Or whether or not the Joshuan text is evidence needed to support Geocentrism.