When the Sun Stood Still
The evil effects of the unhappy alliance with the men of Gibeon soon began to be manifested. When the nations of the contiguous territories learned what had taken place, they formed a confederation, headed by Adonizedek, king of Jerusalem, and set out to attack Gibeon, as a warning to the people of other districts, not to make peace with Israel. This at once led the Gibeonites to call for help from their new allies, and in order to redeem their pledges it became necessary for Joshua to lead the host of the Lord up from Gilgal to attack the confederated armies. Had it not been for the blunder into which they had been betrayed by failing to consult the Lord, they would not have had to meet so vast an army at one time, but the conquest of Canaan would have proceeded in a more orderly way as city after city fell before them, even as Jericho and Ai had done.
We have seen that the seven nations of Canaan, who were determined to contest Israel’s right to take possession of the land, picture for us the spiritual foes who ever seek to hinder our entering into the enjoyment of the inheritance which is ours by title from the moment we are saved. We wrestle, not with flesh and blood, but with wicked spirits in the heavenlies, the world-rulers of this darkness, or, the rulers of this dark world. Of these Satan is himself the chief, even as Adonizedek headed up the coalition against Israel.
We know that a former king of Jerusalem, Melchizedek, was priest of the Most High God and was a type of our resurrected Lord, made a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek, a name that means “King of Righteousness.” Adonizedek means “lord of righteousness.” He was not a priest of the Most High, but was the avowed enemy of the people of God. In this he pictures Satan, the accuser of the brethren, who accuses them before our God day and night. Pretending to be concerned about the maintaining of righteousness on the part of those who profess faith in Christ, he both seeks to lead them into sin and then accuses them of unrighteousness when or if they yield to the temptations he sets before them. Thus he seems to be the lord of righteousness, and his ministers, we are told, pass for ministers of righteousness (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). In meeting such, we need to remember that “the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds; casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”
It is of this conflict in the heavenlies that the opening verses of our chapter speak if we look at them in their typical aspect.
“Now it came to pass, when Adinizedec, king of Jerusalem, had heard how Joshua had taken Ai, and had utterly destroyed it; as he had done to Jericho and her king, so he had done to Ai and her king; and how the inhabitants of Gibeon had made peace with Israel, and were among them; that they feared greatly, because Gibeon was a great city, as one of the royal cities, and because it was greater than Ai, and all the men thereof were mighty. Wherefore Adonizedec, king of Jerusalem, sent unto Hoham, king of Hebron, and unto Piram, king of Jarmuth, and unto Japhia, king of Lachish, and unto Debir, king of Eglon, saying, Come unto me, and help me, that we may smite Gibeon: for it hath made peace with Joshua and with the children of Israel. Therefore the five kings of the Amorites, the king of Jerusalem, the king of Hebron, the king of Jarmuth, the king of Kachish, the king of Eglon, gathered themselves together, and went up, they and all their hosts, and encamped before Gibeon, and made war against it.” In their terror and alarm, the Gibeonites appealed to Joshua for help.
“And the men of Gibeon sent unto Joshua to the camp of Gilgal, saying, Slack not thy hand from thy servants; come up to us quickly, and save us, and help us; for all the kings of the Amorites that dwell in the mountains are gathered together against us. So Joshua ascended from Gilgal, he and all the people of war with him, and all the mighty men of valour.”
Although this conflict was precipitated by their own failure, yet God in His grace gave assurance to His servants that He would destroy their foes as they went up against them in dependence on His might:
“And the Lord said unto Joshua, Fear him not: for I have delivered them into thine hand; there shall not a man of them stand before thee.”
Acting in accordance with the word of the Lord, Joshua came upon the allied Canaanite armies suddenly, going up from Gilgal all night. He attacked the detachments besieging Gibeon first, and defeated them utterly. As they fled with Israel pursuing, panic overtook the other Canaanites and they did not even attempt a united stand against the host of the Lord.
The battle raged all day long, and as twilight was falling the event occurred at which skeptics have sneered for all the centuries since.
We read: “Then spake Joshua to the Lord in the day when the Lord delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon. And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day. And 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.”
Just what did take place we may not know; whether an actual day was lost in astronomical reckoning, as some reputable scientists have insisted, or whether by the phrase, “the sun stood still” we are to understand a miracle of refraction, we cannot say, but we do know from the inspired record that the light continued for nearly another whole day, until all the battered hosts of the allies were destroyed and their kings taken captive. Scripture uses the language to which men are accustomed. We speak of the sun rising and setting, even though we understand that this is not literally true. So with the expression “the sun stood still.” To human sight this was a fact. How it came to pass we can leave with God.
Following this great victory, Joshua returned to Gilgal, the place of self-judgment. There the five confederate kings were brought out from the caves in which they had been imprisoned while the battle went on and we are told that “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” (v. 24). How this reminds us of Romans 16:20: (The God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly.”
This great victory was followed up by attacks upon city after city and the discomfiture and utter destruction of their defenders. After each new victory the triumphant Israelites returned to Gilgal, there to give thanks to God, who had thus given deliverance, as He had promised.
The series of victories is summed up for us in verses 40 to 43:
“So Joshua smote all the country of the hills, and of the south, and of the vale, and of the springs, and all their kings: he left none remaining, but utterly destroyed all that breathed, as the Lord God of Israel commanded. And Joshua smote them from Kadesh-barnea even unto Gaza, and all the country of Goshen, even unto Gibeon. And all these kings and their land did Joshua take at one time, because the Lord God of Israel fought for Israel. And Joshua returned, and all Israel with him, unto the camp to Gilgal.”