Question of the week: Does the account of Joshua’s long day in Joshua 10 mean that God stopped Earth’s rotation or altered in some dramatic way the positions of the Sun and Moon?
My answer: Based on Genesis 8:22 alone, the answer is no: “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, and day and night will not cease.” Scientifically, any stoppage in Earth’s rotation or dramatic alterations of the positions of the Sun and Moon would have wiped out all life on Earth. The miracle described in Joshua 10 likely is limited to the geography of the Valley of Aijalon. This valley is small.
Joshua 10 is not an easy text to translate into English. The biblical Hebrew original text here can mean either that God brought about an extended period of light of roughly 24 hours in duration into the Valley of Aijalon or that he brought about an extended period of darkness lasting about 24 hours. Which option is preferred depends on whether one thinks Joshua’s troops needed light to see their enemies or they needed the coolness of night to continue the battle. Since the Valley of Aijalon is located in the Negev Desert, which is noted for its heat, most Old Testament scholars prefer the latter interpretation.
One possible explanation for the miracle of Joshua’s long day would be for God to alter the local weather so as to bring very heavy, low-lying clouds over the Valley of Aijalon sufficient to make the valley as dark, or nearly as dark, as night even at noon. While such a meteorological event occurs on rare occasions at mid- and high-latitude rain forests, it is unheard of in the Negev Desert. Joshua and his troops immediately would have recognized the event as a divine miracle.
Another possible explanation for the miracle of Joshua’s long day would be for God to do something akin to the miracles he performed during the exodus from Egypt. There God either put a “pillar of fire” or a “pillar of cloud” adjacent to the Israelite encampment. In the Valley of Aijalon God could have illuminated the valley with “fire” or darkened the valley with “cloud.”
God is light both spiritually and physically. Yet another option for Joshua’s long day would be for God to shine his Shekinah glory into the valley. God also has the power to cause a dark shadow to enshroud the valley.
Joshua 10 gives no specific details on the nature of the extended darkness or extended light in the Valley of Aijalon or exactly how God performed the miracle. Therefore, the list of options for the miracle of Joshua’s long day I have just described is not complete. I provide a more thorough explanation of the miracle of Joshua’s long day in a DVD entitled Mysteries Examined, a video recording of a television episode in which I describe the miracles of Joshua’s long day, Hezekiah’s sundial, and Jonah and the whale.