We of course do not want to state more than the Bible says. If the Bible text does not state that the sun stood in the sky, then we have no business to believe it. On the other hand, if it does so state the event, then we should believe it.
So although we welcome what the scriptures say, we should not be afraid to see what it really does say. Unfortunately, some come to the scriptures with a mindset that miracles cannot happen. (See the chart below).
In other words, they don’t believe such and such a thing could happen so they try to use other interpretations of what is said in the scriptures. Unfortunately a person’s bias will shape ones interpretations. See the chart on the left.
This is mighty dangerous. Basically, a person comes to God’s Word with doubt and looks for ‘excuses’ to live the way they do so that they would not challenged by God's piercing truths. But if we come to study a passage in faith, we can study with real clarity. We are open to miracles. But we do not make them up. We can see if the passage really necessitates a miracle or not. This passage is very much like that. Let’s look at some ways people understand this passage.
Whether in the Hebrew Bible or the English, portions of Joshua 10:12-13 are written in poetic form rather than prose (narrative). This is true. One can see this in some versions by the special indentation used identifying the short poem. Most of the books like Joshua are narrative in style so that when there is a poem, very easy to identify.
Some suggest that because it is poetry, then it can not be counted on to clearly describe the event. Poetry does have a certain license in using descriptive language. We need to be careful in interpreting these verses. For example, they propose in this case the poetry form suggests a very special time where an impossible amount of work was done during one what seems long day.
Does this mean that it is just a memorable way of remembering the wonderful victory that day? I don’t think so. Take a careful look at the later part of verse 13 and 14. They were not in poetic form but back to the more common narrative form. Furthermore, these narrative verses clearly restate what was so special that day. The poetic portion of verses 12-13 are indeed more poetic than the other parts but this does not mean they do not state the truth about the sun remaining longer in the sky. In fact, having both the poem and the narrative restatement acts as a powerful confirmation that this is the interpretation that we should have of the text. Another confirmation is that an outside resource also recounts what the author here knows.
We might not know what it means by the sun stopped in the middle of the sky but at least we can accept this as being what it says.
Confused about the time
Others think that the people back then were very confused about the sun. They were so busy in battle that they totally forgot to closely observe the sun. After all, they did not sleep at night. They about being an extra day long because it just seemed like a very long day. But those who do not use clocks are very attentive to the sun and its patterns. We might not be used to using the sun as a clock, but they sure did.
A Cool day
There are others that speculate what is here described has more to do with what kind of day Joshua was asking for so that he could effectively defeat his enemies. They believe that Joshua was asking for a cloudy day so that they could win a more decisive victory. They would see a special answer to prayer in the great storms of that day where more enemy soldiers were killed by hail stones than by the army (verse 11). But a cloudy overcast is not what is asked. After the hail storm, it seems that Joshua said his prayer.
A Hidden sun
Another version, a bit similar to the one above, attempts to use other meanings of the Hebrew word for ‘stand still’ to mean dim or cease. In other words the sun was made 'dim' by the storm clouds. Indeed this Hebrew word is sometimes used in this way. But the question is, “Does it mean 'dim' in this case?” This word is used for the sun and the moon in verse 12. But in verse 13 it is hard to continue on with this viewpoint.
There are three major problems with this interpretation.
(1) The parallel word for sun is the moon. Verse 13 uses a word that simply means to stand or stay where appointed;
2) Verse 13 uses the word ‘not hasten’ to describe the event which does not at all make sense with the meaning 'dim'; and
3) It also does not match the sun being in the middle of the sky (10:13). It would seem that this interpretation is not accurate.
Extended day hours
Others have written the opposite. The sun and moon stopped still in the sky so that Joshua and his armies would have more daylight to carry about a more decisive victory. Of course, the problem with this is the objection that the sun cannot stand still. We know that the sun can’t just stay still. Everything is in a massive rotation.
But do we know for sure that the Creator is not able to do what He wants with the universe? Can we insist that there is no way to do this? How do we know that there is no way to do this? Is our confidence derived from knowledge or ignorance?
This does not create any problems with me even though I love science and mathematics. Why? Because it is reasonable. Think of it this way. If the Creator had put the two lights in the sky in the first place, could He not manipulate them the way He wants? The key question is if we accept God as He has defined Himself in the scripture as being the Mighty Creator. The opposing side, though, has to discount God's Creatorship and involvement in the world. This goes too far for me. God and His word has shown Himself very reliable on other matters. So I will accept the miracle for what it says. Afterall, I hardly understand the sun and the moon. Am I to profess more knowledge than God about these things? This is very unreasonable!
Major Points from Joshua 10:12-14
Here are five major points that clearly stand out in the passage.
1. Something miraculous took place that day that enabled them to have a wonderful victory.
2. That miracle came about because of Joshua’s prayer.
3. That miracle had something to do with the sun and moon, with which only God could affect.
4. That the victory had to do with an extended time to fight the enemy before they scattered back to their cities.
5. That God was fighting for Israel.
Any interpretation that leaves out these emphases is inconsistent to what is being taught. Those people that were there recognized something miraculous happened that day. It left a tremendous impression upon them. Unless we can accept this, then we can learn nothing from the Word of God.
The main point is that God not only gave them a great victory, but the victory came about in such a manner that made a great impression on the Israelites and the enemies about them. Remember verse 14, “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.”
We must have faith to rightly approach this passage just like Genesis 1:1-6. We are not meant to be able to prove these things happen. We cannot recreate the creation event nor can we bring a star into our labs for testing. Just recently we gathered a little dust from a meteor and we are so excited. Man regularly throws away old theories for new ones. Those captured dust particles are no exception. We are light years away from understanding many galactic events and phenomena. We should not be so arrogant to think that we understand everything. We still cannot understand many things. It is not unreasonable that the Creator could do such a thing. It is unreasonable to think that man could do such a thing. It might be inconsistent with what we normally observe but the Maker of all thing certainly could have inserted subroutines within the laws of the universe.