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Or, the better question is: did the earth really stop rotating?

Joshua 10:12-14

New International Version (NIV)

12: 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.”

13: So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, till the nation avenged itself on[a] 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.

14: 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!

Obviously, if the earth really did stop spinning for extended period of time, it would have severe implications.

For one, rotation velocity is 1,674.4 km/h at the equator. This means that if the Earth suddenly stopped spinning everything would be launched in a ballistic trajectory sideways. All of the masses would be scoured clean of anything. This means rocks, trees, buildings, warriors fighting right then and there, and etc, would be swept away into the atmosphere.

And/or, Earth would be torn apart by the gigantic deceleration forces. Seismic waves will flow through the earth causing massive earthquakes. The atmosphere would possibly boil over. Also lets not forget the 2.58x10^29 Joules of rotational energy. all that energy has to go somewhere.

Why do I feel like I am writing xkcd what-if article? Anyway...

Unless by some miracle God was able to stop the Earth from spinning without the consequences, this act would be impossible.

So did he really stop the Earth from spinning? Or was it only an illusion?

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closed as off-topic by Mr. Beatitude, Flimzy, fredsbend, curiousdannii, bruised reed Jun 16 at 5:37

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Or is it a legend? –  Bruce Alderman Apr 8 '13 at 3:58
Or a miracle? Dun dun DUN! Seriously though, if God can stop the Earth from spinning, He can surely stop everything on it too. (As a side note, welcome back! :D) –  El'endia Starman Apr 8 '13 at 4:11
I can't imagine what sort of answer you could hope to get here. The Bible tells of God doing much more surprising things than temporarily altering the motion of Earth, moon and sun. If He did it, I suppose the only way we'd ever be able to guess how He did it would be by divine revelation, and even then it might be beyond comprehension. Also, the distinction between illusion and reality becomes a bit arbitrary here. What would it mean for God to create an illusion that everybody experiences? How is such an illusion any different from what God created that you call reality? –  Patrick87 Apr 8 '13 at 5:25
That's a meaningless distinction as far as God's actions are concerned. He could certainly create consequences as well, right - or the illusion of consequences. In fact, maybe everything from that point in time on has been an "illusion" in which God is still allowing the string of illusory consequences to unfold? –  Patrick87 Apr 8 '13 at 5:39
To put my objection to the question another way... you use the phrase "unless by some miracle..." I'm pretty sure this is about as close to a miracle as you can get, it's sort of the whole point of the episode. –  Patrick87 Apr 8 '13 at 5:44

3 Answers 3

up vote 16 down vote accepted

Yes it was a miracle. It is clearly stated that God did this for Israel. There is no need to fall back on "illusion" if this is marked as a miracle. When a miracle happens, "natural laws" might as well no longer apply, because God applies. That is part of what "miracle" means.

You've made a number of assumptions that I think are unwarranted. The passage states that both the sun and the moon stopped moving. Their orbits around the earth are not synchronized, so we can rule out the possibility that God only stopped the rotation of the earth. Though even if He did stop its rotation, why would there be a problem? Imagine the even application of a force to every single particle on the entire planet.

He might have stopped the rotation of the earth and then moved the moon as well. Or He might have turned space around the earth to counteract its rotation, and then turned space again at some point past the moon, to counteract its rotation.

Alternatively, God may have swung the sun and moon and stars around the earth. This would have caused the distant galaxies to move at far, far, far beyond the speed of light. Again, no acceleration forces if God were "putting His hand on" every particle. This would have been trivial for God, who created everything and is infinitely powerful. That's not mathematical infinity. It's Divine infinity.

Or He might have done it in some way far, far, far beyond our comprehension. It is a miracle, and marked as such. What's the problem, again?

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Mind blowing. Thanks for the answer. –  Phonics The Hedgehog Apr 8 '13 at 18:02
Being a sci-fi nerd the first way that God might have done it that I think of is that all time stopped except for on that particular battlefield. Since the story is about time to finish God's commands and promises that fits in well to show that God is the master of time as well. Great answer. –  fredsbend Apr 8 '13 at 18:42
@fredsbend That is certainly another very interesting possibility! It would leave other parts of the world unaffected, though we could (perhaps foolishly) wonder about how God continued to allow the same amount of light to stream in. The major point of any miracle, I think, is that God is fully in control, that nothing depends on the laws of nature, that all depends on God. If He wanted to dip the Sun into the ocean to show us something, He could do that, though I suspect that He might not do this out of kindness to all the people who might go insane upon seeing this happen. –  Alypius Apr 8 '13 at 19:36
Yes, there is no doubt this was a genuine miracle (assuming you think the story is fact). "The major point of any miracle ... is that God is fully in control." Yep. –  fredsbend Apr 8 '13 at 23:28
I haven't had the time to checkout the various stories myself yet. But some have even claimed that there are various records from different observational points in the world claiming simular sights about the same time. For example in south america there are legends of a long night from about that period. Do some googleing. Like I said I haven't checked out those claims yet, but they're out there. –  2tim424 Apr 10 '13 at 7:34

Similar to this question (Where did Noah find polar bears and penguins in Palestine?), there are two distinctly different answers, depending on your underlying assumptions.

  1. Everything in the bible is literally true as written. In this case the answer is simple: God made it so because God made it so. Reason, causality, laws of physics, and logic can be disbanded at will. If God can stop the earth (or moon, or sun) he can surely deal with physical side effects of this as well.
  2. The bible was written (and edited and translated) by humans that were trying to make a point to the best of their abilities and within their frame of reference given by their times, society, and environment. In this case the answer is equally simple: neither sun, moon, nor earth did actually stop and it’s just a metaphor, allegory, or symbolism used by the author to convey his/her message.

I don't think there are a lot of view points in between that hold together without internal contradictions, so you probably just have to have pick one.

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Remember that in the minds of the Hebrews (and pretty much all of humanity for most of our existence), the Earth has always been stationary and the various lights in the sky moved around us on some variation of a crystal sphere or firmament


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But the qustion isn't "what did they think happened," it's "what actually happened?" –  Ryan Frame Apr 10 '13 at 0:09
@Ryan the important point there, though, is that we can't assume it is a literal event. As such, if it is metaphorical, we need to understand that metaphor in terms of the beliefs / knowledge of the people creating the metaphor. Our modern understanding of such is very different to how the original authors would have intended it to be taken, due to our very different knowledge of the physical universe. –  Marc Gravell Apr 17 '13 at 7:22

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