Joshua 8-10
(The LORD is Victorious)
March 6th

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

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Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

The LORD said to Joshua, “Take all the soldiers with you and go on up to Ai. Don't be afraid or discouraged. I will give you victory over the king of Ai; his people, city, and land will be yours. You are to do to Ai and its king what you did to Jericho and its king, but this time you may keep its goods and livestock for yourselves. Prepare to attack the city by surprise from the rear.”

- Joshua 8:1-2 (GNB)

Summary of Chapters

After 40 years in the desert, the Israelites had finally been led by God into the Promised Land, with Joshua as the divinely appointed new leader. With God's guidance they had a big victory in Jericho, but when the they failed to follow his instructions they failed miserably. They had set out on their own to conquer a place called Ai, and suffered a major defeat. In chapter 8 of today's reading, Joshua returns to Ai with a clever strategy explained to him by the LORD, which enabled a decisive victory.

The one mistake by the Israelites recorded in this section was their failure to consult with God before making a treaty with the crafty Gibeonites. The treaty was made under false pretenses, but Joshua and the leaders of Israel upheld their commitment to stand by Gibeon in the event of an attack. The test came shortly after when five other kingdoms from the southern part of Canaan formed an alliance against Gibeon and Israel. The opponents of Israel were defeated again, with the help of an abnormally prolonged period of daylight.

    On the day the LORD gave the Amorites over to Israel, Joshua said to the LORD in the presence of Israel:

      Sun, stand still over Gibeon,
         and you, moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.”
      So the sun stood still,
         and the moon stopped,
         till the nation avenged itself on its enemies,

    as it is written in the Book of Jashar.

    The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day. There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the LORD listened to a human being. Surely the LORD was fighting for Israel!

    - Joshua 10:12-14 (NIV)

Reflection and Application

For some readers of the Bible, the book of Joshua is one of the most difficult books. It’s a relatively straight-forward story, but reads more like a military history than a spiritual book. Moreover, the contrast between Joshua and Jesus is striking. In later generations, the Israelites longed for a Messiah that was a warrior like Joshua, and had a hard time believing that a peaceful rabbi named Jesus was this Messiah. For Christians who know Jesus, there is an uncomfortable contrast between “love your neighbor” and “kill all the Amorites and hang their kings on the trees.”

A number of people have approached me regarding the struggle to reconcile the apparent contrast between the “God of the Old Testament” and the “God of the New Testament.” If we take selected passages from the Old Testament we observe the vengeful nature of God as he strikes down enemy nations and executes severe punishment on his own people. When we study the characteristics of Jesus in the New Testament we conclude that he never struck an opponent with intent to harm, but turned his own cheek, and touched many with his healing and forgiving power. How can two parts of the same God behave so differently? This is a good question to bring up for discussion and should prompt us to continue to take deep dives into both testaments in order to achieve a better understanding of the full context in each. My first response is that I can say with great confidence that there is only one God: The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who loved the world so much that he gave us his only begotten son, Jesus.

Is there more warfare on behalf of Israel in the Old Testament than the New Testament? Yes, but there is also many instances of love and mercy. Note the story of Rahab in Joshua chapters 2 and 6. She was a woman of ill repute in a cursed city, but she was saved: "Joshua spared Rahab the prostitute, with her family and all who belonged to her, because she hid the men Joshua had sent as spies to Jericho—and she lives among the Israelites to this day (Joshua 6:25 - NIV)." Isn't this similar to the stories of the undesirables that Jesus encountered and embraced?

Does Jesus advocate forgiveness and love of neighbor? Yes, but he also warns of the price of rejecting him and the day of judgment when the faithful will be taken to heaven and the unrepentant will suffer and gnash their teeth for an eternity. Consider the following tough-love quotes from Jesus that we will read in the New Testament later this year:

    “ I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled?

    But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!

    Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division:

    For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three."

    - Luke 11:49-52 (KJV)

    "The time of the Son of Man will be just like the time of Noah— everyone carrying on as usual, having a good time right up to the day Noah boarded the ship. They suspected nothing until the flood hit and swept everything away."

    "It was the same in the time of Lot—the people carrying on, having a good time, business as usual right up to the day Lot walked out of Sodom and a firestorm swept down and burned everything to a crisp. That's how it will be—sudden, total—when the Son of Man is revealed. "

    "When the Day arrives and you're out working in the yard, don't run into the house to get anything. And if you're out in the field, don't go back and get your coat. Remember what happened to Lot's wife! If you grasp and cling to life on your terms, you'll lose it, but if you let that life go, you'll get life on God's terms."

    "On that Day, two men will be in the same boat fishing—one taken, the other left. Two women will be working in the same kitchen—one taken, the other left."

    - Luke 17:26-36 (MSG)

As for Joshua and his contemporaries, they learned that when our sin is revealed, God wants us to recognize it, repent, and try again. They cleansed themselves of the sin of Achan and prepared to re-try their battle against Ai. Take note that this section of the Bible is quite explicit in attributing each victory to the LORD.

    All these kings and their lands Joshua captured all at once, for the LORD, the God of Israel, fought for Israel.

    - Joshua 10:42 (NAB)

The lessons we learn from our own failures should help us to prepare for our next situation. We also learned that Joshua was fooled by Gibeonites, but he kept his word – we should maintain the same integrity. If we have given a promise, then we are obligated to keep it.

The author of Joshua says that God responded to Joshua’s prayer to hold the sun to help them in their battle against the southern Amorites. Verse 10:13 says that “The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day.” With our modern scientific understanding we would re-phrase this statement as a request to stop the earth from spinning so that daylight is prolonged. Even with this rephrasing, this account is another part of Joshua that may be difficult for us to accept.

Could God have made the earth stand still? Perhaps we should first ask what makes the earth spin and whether it constantly spins at the exact same rotational speed. The generally accepted scientific theory is that the universe began as a swirling collection of dust that created the suns and planets as it spun. The current spinning of the planets, therefore, is a continuation of the original spin. This theory is known as the conservation of angular momentum (1).

From the perspective of the average earthling, it may appear that the spin cycle of the earth is a constant 24 hour cycle, but this is not true. The actual time is a little bit less, and varies slightly from year to year in a pattern that is not fully predictable. Scientists have determined that the rate of the spin is affected by other forces, including gravitational pull from the moon and the movement of tectonic plates. In fact, the Sumatra earthquake that caused a deadly tsunami on December 26th, 2004 was so powerful that it resulted in an acceleration of the earth’s rotation by about three milliseconds (2).

How do we know that the earth spins? As citizens of the 21st century we have evidence of the earth spinning in videos taken from space, like the one below, which a 256-frame time-lapse motion picture taken from the Galileo satellite shows a 25-hour period of Earth's rotation and atmospheric dynamics.

But earlier generations had to choose to accept the theories or refuse to believe them. Indeed, the heliocentric theory of the earth circling the sun was difficult for people to swallow when Galileo Galilei was promoting it in the early 1600s (hence the satellite named after him). The theory was denounced by the Roman Catholic church and Galileo was put under house arrest because the theory appeared to conflict with scripture such as "The Lord set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved (Psalm 104:5)(3)." We understand this verse to be more poetic than literal - God created the earth but it does not sit on a foundation. The world eventually accepted the heliocentric theory as fact, even though nobody could actually observe the earth spinning until the late 1950s.

So, given what we know about the rotation of the earth, do you think that God could have stopped or slowed down the spin of the earth?

Yes, he could.

God created the original swirling mass of dust that resulted in the entire universe. He was victorious over the armies of the land of Canaan and was victorious over death at Golgotha. He can speed up the rotation of the earth around its axis or he can slow it down. With God anything is possible. But the question remains, was it his will to prolong daylight on the day of the battle with Joshua? An episode on the History Channel attempted to explain how this phenomenon took place. One of the main premises of the explanation was that Joshua was attacking Makkedah from the west, late in the day, when the sun would shine right in their eyes, giving him a tactical advantage that was not necessarily attributed to the sun staying in place.

We can choose to believe the Bible, the History Channel, or other opinions, but I choose to believe the Bible. I don’t think I can pick and choose what parts of the Bible to believe. Either I believe it in its entirety, even though I can't explain everything, or I suspect it’s all a fabrication. I also believe that God can intervene in our lives to help us achieve our victories - when it's in his will to do so.

Can man stop and speed up time?

We can create the illusion, but the reality is beyond our grasp. Consider one more time lapse perspective of the rotation of the earth. In this case, an artist has prepared a series photographs over a period of three days in order to capture the opening of the cherry blossoms at the Brooklyn Botanical gardens. It’s a beautiful way to see one of God’s creations unfold. Move your cursor over the image below and then click on the arrow to begin the video (Adobe Flash Player required or click on the link underneath):

"2008 Cherry Blossom Time-lapse at Brooklyn Botanic Garden (4)"

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. When in your life did time seem to stand still?
    2. What is the hardest part of this story to believe?
    3. In what battles would you like to see God’s intervention?
    Recommended Prayer
    Father in heaven, please help us to believe your word and call for intervention in our world.

    Suggested Prayer Concerns
    Scientists who struggle with a conflict with faith


    (1 )“Why do planets rotate?” Curious About Astronomy Web Site:
    (2) Hopkin, Michael, "Sumatran quake sped up Earth's rotation" Nature News, 30 December 2004, “
    (3)"Galileo_Galilei," Wikipedia,, 3/5/11
    (4)"2008 Cherry Blossom Time-lapse at Brooklyn Botanic Garden" from Brooklyn Botanic Garden on Vimeo

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: Joshua 11-13 (Victory in the North)

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