In the book of Joshua, chapter 10, verses 12 through 15, it is written that God made the sun and moon stand still.

At that time Joshua spoke to the LORD in the day when the LORD gave the Amorites over to the sons of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, “Sun, stand still at Gibeon, and moon, in the Valley of Aijalon. And the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, until the nation took vengeance on their enemies. Is this not written in the Book of Jashar? The sun stopped in the midst of heaven and did not hurry to set for about a whole day. Josh 10:12, 13, ESV.

Is there some ancient Hebrew aphorism (saying or expression) about the sun and moon standing still? When people today say, "there is more than one way to skin a cat," or "kill two birds with one stone", they are not going to literally skin a cat or kill any birds.

To say that the earth stopped turning, the sun remained stationary, and then planet earth resumed turning several hours later most be poetic license.

  • A popular theory is that it may refer to a solar eclipse that happened close to sunset. The theory goes that the Israelites thought that the sun has set already (caused by the solar eclipse), and then suddenly the rays of the sun burst forth before actual sunset, this was attributed to Joshua's power to make the sun "stand still" so to speak, and postpone the sun from setting before the Israelites can win the war (some prefer to translate "sun stop shining", but there are difficulties with that. It's also hard to see how that would help the Israelites). I was always attracted to this theory.
    – bach
    Commented Dec 2, 2022 at 15:44
  • patternsofevidence.com/2017/11/10/…
    – bach
    Commented Dec 2, 2022 at 15:46
  • Are you really asking if there is any "legendary" evidence for the incident in Josh 10?
    – Dottard
    Commented Dec 2, 2022 at 21:04
  • 1
    Or, the sun and the moon are in the firmament (heavens) just as Genesis says, and the earth is not moving just as the Bible says (Psa. 104:5; 1 Chron. 16:30; Psa. 93:1). Believe the Bible or atheistic scientism? See - youtube.com/watch?v=NPJURiSgumw
    – Gina
    Commented Dec 3, 2022 at 12:42

1 Answer 1


First, the passage in question:

'On the day when the Lord gave the Amorites over to the Israelites, Joshua spoke to the Lord; and he said in the sight of Israel,

“Sun, stand still at Gibeon,
    and Moon, in the valley of Aijalon.”
 And the sun stood still, and the moon stopped,
    until the nation took vengeance on their enemies.

There is no known ancient Hebrew aphorism to the effect mentioned in the OP. However, there are notable rabbis who interpreted the story poetically. (It should be noted that this is a minority opinion; Talmudic sources, on the contrary, take the report at face value.) Some have understood Joshua to be singing a song of praise to God in these verses, describing how the victory appeared in the hearts of the Israelites rather than declaring that the sun actually stood still. This is hinted at in Maimonides Guide of the Perplexed 2:35:

We must not be misled by the account that the light of the sun stood still certain hours for Joshua, when “he said in the sight of Israel,” etc.

Gersonides, (Levi ben Gershon - 14th c) speaks more clearly to this effect:

Gersonides was convinced that there was no miracle. If the sun had miraculously stood still, Joshua would have performed a greater miracle than Moses. Moses, Gersonides contends, never performed a miracle in which nature was changed. This supposed fact of a sun standing still, he states, contradicts Deuteronomy 34:10–12, where the Bible clearly testifies that no one performed greater miracles than Moses... Therefore, Gersonides suggests that Joshua was speaking figuratively; he was actually saying that it was a wonder that he and his army were able to defeat the forces of five nations during such a short period, in a single day, while the sun was still shining.

So, while there is no Hebrew aphorism as described in the OP, there is indeed a rabbinical tradition that "the sun stood still" should be interpreted figuratively: God would not have allowed the day to end until the Israelites were victorious, but the sun did not literally stand still.

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