There are those who claim science and Scripture are at war with each other. They don’t get along, they don’t play well together. Is that true?
For example, Joshua 10 describes the fantastic defeat of five armies from five cities. Israel battled and God threw hailstones from heaven and the armies ran. To finish the job, Joshua asked God to make the “sun stand still at Gibeon and moon in the Valley of Aijalon,” and the “sun stopped in the midst of heaven and did not hurry to set for about a whole day” (Joshua 10:12-13).
Did it really? Did the sun actually stay in the sky, giving Joshua and his army a longer day so they could bring the victory to completion?
First of all, the sun didn’t stop, because the sun doesn’t rise either. This is phenomenal language, the language of appearance. The sun does not orbit, rather the earth rotates, so, if anything, the earth stopped. Scholars have suggested solutions. One offered that the word for “stand still” may be translated “stand silent.” That means Joshua was not praying for more sun, but less; more night, not more day. In this case, the darkness of night was extended by the a cloud cover. A cloud cover which also hurled “large hailstones from heaven on them” (Joshua 10:11). Maybe. Or maybe the earth’s rotation actually slowed?
As a child, I was told a tale about NASA mapping out the movement of the sun, moon, and planets. They ran into an error of exactly 24 hours missing somewhere back in time. The story goes one of the scientists recalled two lessons from Sunday School. The first was Isaiah asking God to back the sun up 40 minutes as a sign to King Hezekiah (Isaiah 38:8). The other, our passage, which they calculated at 23 hours, 20 minutes. Added together, one complete day, and the computers reconciled the discrepancy. Voila!
Except this never happened. A Mr. Harold Hill fabricated the story when giving lectures on Science and the Bible, and it was published in a newspaper, printed in a book, and passed from pulpit to pulpit. Science argued the miracle was not possible (what miracle is?), yet this is God’s Word, so Mr. Hill created a yarn to tie the two together. (Isn’t the con man in the musical Music Man also named Harold Hill?)
God does not need us to rescue him. When science and Scripture conflict, the issue is as likely to be my interpretation of Scripture as the scientist’s interpretation of nature. God is not anti-science, and good science is not anti-God. Rather, “the heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalm 19:1), and God’s eternal power and divine nature have been clearly perceived ever since the creation of the world in the things that have been made (Romans 1:20).
My answer regarding the sun standing still in Joshua 10? Frankly, I don’t know. “I don’t know” is a good answer when, in fact, you don’t know. The Bible was written for us, but it was not written to us. It was written to people living in a different culture and a different age and what some words meant, we may never know. Nevertheless, I have found every Word of the Bible speaks truth to my life and my life is better for it. When something is puzzling, I look for answers and favor some explanations over others, but when all is said and done, I don’t know, and that’s okay. What I do know is that God speaks to me through his Word, and that’s really okay!
Mighty God, the heavens declare Your glory, and the sky above proclaims Your handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.
I rise to a new day, made by You, and I shall delight in it. I shall stop often and listen to Your voice in the world around me, worship You as I ponder Your creation, stand in wonder at the wisdom of beauty in Your handiwork. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.