(c) 2000 Dr Hendel; 1st appeared in Torah Forum (c) Project Genesis
Date: Sun, 1 Aug 1999 23:41:51 -0400 (EDT)
From: Russell Hendel < email@example.com>
Subject: Re: Geocentric vs Heliocentric Theories
Miriam Rubin in Torah Forum volume 4 number 78 mentions the "stopping of
the sun" by Joshua in Givon.
A lot has been written about this miracle. I present here the Ralbag's
approach (cited in his commentary on Joshua).
This verse is taken to mean that Joshua literally stopped the sun!!! There
are two objections to such an interpretation.
First we know that Joshua was only a disciple of Moses. The miracles that
Joshua did had their parallel in the miracles of Moses. But we have no such
miracle of Moses stopping the sun. Indeed, it would look extraordinary if
Moses did not stop the sun but Joshua could perform such a great miracle.
Secondly, most miracles do not abrogate natural law but violate laws of
probability. Thus the frogs coming on Egypt was not a violation of basic
natural law...the miracle was that all the frogs came at once. But this
miracle of Joshua would be a total abrogation of natural law...something we
have never heard of in a miracle.
Therefore I (Ralbag) suggest the following interpretation. Suppose for
example I travel from America to Israel and STOP OVER in London. Now
although the plane does STOP in London the real point of the phrase
STOPPED OVER IN LONDON is that LONDON is not the terminal stop of the
plane---rather it is a transient stop---something done quickly. The real
place the plane stops is in ISRAEL.
So too in this war. Under normal circumstances Joshua would have had to
fight many days and years. But the miracle was that Joshua conquered them
QUICKLY (the way a plane stops in London quickly and then goes on with its
Thus the real meaning of the text is that "While the sun is passing over
Givon" the war will be won (in a very short time).
Please see the actual Ralbag (which I have obviously paraphrased). The
Ralbag further makes the point that while the sun is travelling throughout
the day it appears to STOP over a point but is really travelling slowly
(and so the phrase STOPPED OVER is appropriate). All the verse means is
that the war was won quickly while the sun passed over (literally stop
Hence according to Ralbag there was no intention of indicating any dramatic
departure from natural law.
Hope this helps
Russell Jay Hendel; Phd ASA;