Researchers have found a scientific explanation for a biblical episode in 1207 B.C., in which Joshua, the leader of the Israelites, prayed and saw the sun stand still in the midst of battle, though they argued that what really happened was a solar eclipse, in which the sun disappeared.
Breaking Israel News reported on Thursday that Hezi Yitzchak, Daniel Weistaub, and Uzi Avneer of Ben Gurion University in Israel's Negev suggested that the miracle of God making the sun "stand still" could be aligned with a solar eclipse that also took place at that time.
Joshua 10:13 in the Bible describes the battle between the Israelites and five kings in order to help the Gibeonites, where Joshua prayed for the sun to stand still in the sky, so that there would be enough time to complete the victory. The passage reads:
"And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the nation had avenged themselves of their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jashar? And the sun stayed in the midst of Heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day."
The researchers reportedly used astronomical data from NASA and found that a solar eclipse took place on Oct. 30, 1207, B.C., which is around the period when the Jews are believed to have entered Israel.
A difficulty in aligning the solar eclipse and the biblical account appeared to be the fact that during an eclipse, the sun disappears, rather than visibly lingering in the sky, but the researchers took to Hebrew etymology to resolve the contradiction, The Times of Israel added.
The researchers suggested that the word "dom," translated as "stand still" in the passage, actually means to "become dark," which would fit right in with the characteristics of an eclipse.
Other classical Jewish sources, such as Rabbi Moses ben Maimon, a 12th century Spanish Torah authority, also suggested that what Joshua experienced was a visible phenomenon rather than an extension of time.
The scientific team noted that it was not necessarily looking to prove that everything in the Bible is true, and accepted that its findings could be held up to scrutiny.
"Not everyone likes the idea of using physics to prove things from the Bible, and I know that it may be interpreted as if you are rationalizing your faith," Yitzhak told Haaretz.
"We do not claim that everything written in the Bible is true or took place ... but there is also a grain of historical truth that has archaeological evidence behind it."
Some Christian pastors, such as Dan Delzell of Wellspring Lutheran Church in Papillion, Nebraska, have focused on the great importance of Joshua's biblical battle, noting that it points the way toward victory over sin.
"Like Joshua, most Christians come to their own 'Jericho.' It's the biggest roadblock in your life of discipleship, but one which you must get past if you are going to move on to other victories over sin in your life," Delzell wrote in an op-ed for The Christian Post in 2015.
"Your Jericho may be an addiction of some kind; or a deep-seated grudge which has lasted for years; or even a persistent thought pattern such as worry, lust or fear. But there is a way for the walls of this habitual sin to come down," he added.
"Repentance, faith, prayer and obedience are all part of God's plan for freedom in the life of a Christian."