THE SUN STANDS STILL
Ephesians 3:20a, ESV
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think...
JOSHUA 9:3-13, NIrV
3 The people of Gibeon heard about what Joshua had done to Jericho and Ai. 4 So they decided to trick the Israelites. They packed supplies as if they were going on a long trip. They loaded their donkeys with old sacks and old wineskins. The wineskins were cracked but had been mended. 5 They put worn-out sandals on their feet. The sandals had been patched. They also wore old clothes. All the bread they took along was dry and moldy. 6 They went to Joshua in the camp at Gilgal. They spoke to him and the Israelites. They said, “We’ve come from a country that’s far away. Make a peace treaty with us.”
7 The Israelites said to the Hivites, “But suppose you live close to us. If you do, we can’t make a peace treaty with you.”
8 “We’ll serve you,” they said to Joshua.
But Joshua asked, “Who are you? Where do you come from?”
9 They answered, “We’ve come from a country that’s very far away. We’ve come because the Lord your God is famous. We’ve heard reports about him. We’ve heard about everything he did in Egypt. 10 We’ve heard about everything he did to Sihon and Og. They were the two kings of the Amorites. They ruled east of the Jordan River. Sihon was the king of Heshbon. Og was the king of Bashan. He ruled in Ashtaroth. 11 Our elders and all the people living in our country spoke to us. They said, ‘Take supplies for your trip. Go and meet the Israelites. Say to them, “We’ll serve you. Make a peace treaty with us.” ’ 12 Look at our bread. It was warm when we packed it. We packed it at home the day we left to come and see you. But look at how dry and moldy it is now. 13 When we filled these wineskins, they were new. But look at how cracked they are now. And our clothes and sandals are worn out because we’ve traveled so far.”
Knowing that the cities of Jericho and Ai had been burned to the ground, the people of Gibeon were shaking in their sandals. Why? Because they lived just a few miles away. Soon Joshua would march his men over to destroy their city, too! Since they couldn’t defeat the Israelites with swords and spears, the Gibeonites hatched a plan to defeat them using moldy bread and shabby sandals. They disguised themselves as worn-out travelers and told a whopper of a lie to the Israelites: “We’ve traveled from very far away and have heard of the power of your God. Please, let’s make a peace deal.”
+ How did the Gibeonites make it seem like they came from far away? (vs. 4-5)
+ What lie did the Gibeonites tell about their bread? (vs. 12)
JOSHUA 9:14-18, NIrV
14 The Israelites looked over the supplies those people had brought. But they didn’t ask the Lord what they should do. 15 Joshua made a peace treaty with the people who had come. He agreed to let them live. The leaders of the community gave their word that they agreed with the treaty.
16 So the Israelites made a peace treaty with the people of Gibeon. But three days later they heard that the people of Gibeon lived close to them. 17 So the Israelites started out to go to the cities of those people. On the third day they came to Gibeon, Kephirah, Beeroth and Kiriath Jearim. 18 But they didn’t attack those cities. That’s because the leaders of the community had given their word and made a peace treaty with them. They had given their word in the name of the Lord, the God of Israel.
The whole community told the leaders they weren’t happy with them.
Israel’s leaders checked out the moldy bread of their out-of-town guests. They checked out their shabby sandals. They checked out their crumbling clothes and broken bags of wine. But they did not check to see what the Lord God had to say. They trusted their own eyes, believed the lies of the Gibeonites, and made an unbreakable promise of peace with them. But after just three days, they finally figured out they’d been fooled. These men weren’t from the other side of the world – they were their next-door neighbors! But it didn’t matter how mad they felt – a promise was a promise!
+ What important thing did the leaders of Israel not do? (vs. 14)
+ After angrily marching to Gibeon, why didn’t the Israelites army attack them? (vs. 18)
JOSHUA 9:19-27, NIrV
19 But all the leaders answered, “We’ve made a peace treaty with them. We’ve given our word in the name of the Lord, the God of Israel. So we can’t touch them now. 20 But here is what we’ll do to them. We’ll let them live. Then the Lord won’t be angry with us because we didn’t keep our promise.” 21 They continued, “Let them live. But make them cut wood and carry water to serve the whole community.” So the leaders kept their promise to them.
22 Joshua sent for the people of Gibeon. He said to them, “Why did you trick us? You said, ‘We live far away from you.’ But in fact you live close to us. 23 So now you are under a curse. You will always serve us. You will always cut wood and carry water for the house of my God.”
24 They answered Joshua, “We were clearly told what the Lord your God had commanded his servant Moses to do. He commanded him to give you the whole land. He also ordered him to wipe out all its people to make room for you. So we were afraid you would kill us. That’s why we tricked you. 25 We are now under your control. Do to us what you think is good and right.”
26 So Joshua saved the people of Gibeon. He didn’t let the Israelites kill them. 27 That day he made them cut wood and carry water. They had to serve the community of Israel. They also had to do work connected with the altar of the Lord. The altar would be at the place the Lord would choose. And they still serve the Israelites to this day.
The Gibeonites’ plan worked perfectly – they had bamboozled the Israelites into making an unbreakable promise of peace. And because of that deal, their city wouldn’t end up burned to the ground like Jericho and Ai. The leaders of Israel had sworn their promise in the name of the Lord God, so they would keep it, no matter how much they felt like breaking it! The Gibeonites would not be destroyed. Still, they had told a terrible lie to God’s special people. And for that dastardly deceitful deed, the Gibeonites would be cursed to a life of hard work serving the Israelites.
+ When Joshua asked, “Why did you lie to us?”, what did the Gibeonites say? (vs. 24)
+ What job did Joshua make the Gibeonites do? (vs. 27)
JOSHUA 10:1-5, NIRV
1 Adoni-Zedek was the king of Jerusalem. He heard that Joshua had captured Ai. He found out that the city had been set apart to the Lord in a special way to be destroyed. He heard that Joshua had done to Ai and its king the same thing he had done to Jericho and its king. Adoni-Zedek heard that the people of Gibeon had made a peace treaty with Israel. He also found out that they were living among the Israelites. 2 The things he heard alarmed him and his people very much. That’s because Gibeon was an important city. It was like one of the royal cities. It was larger than Ai. All its men were good soldiers. 3 So Adoni-Zedek, the king of Jerusalem, made an appeal to Hoham, the king of Hebron. He appealed to Piram, the king of Jarmuth. He appealed to Japhia, the king of Lachish. He also made an appeal to Debir, the king of Eglon. 4 “Come up and help me attack Gibeon,” he said. “Its people have made peace with Joshua and the Israelites.”
5 Then the kings of Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish and Eglon gathered their armies together. Those five Amorite kings moved all their troops into position to fight against Gibeon. Then they attacked it.
Adoni-zedek was king of a city called Jerusalem. He knew all about the Israelite army burning Jericho and Ai to the ground. But his heart melted with fear the moment he learned that the mighty men of Gibeon had made a peace deal with Joshua’s army. If Gibeon’s big, bad dudes were too scared to battle, how big and bad must the Israelites be? Because the Gibeonites had given up and surrendered to their enemies, Adoni-Zedek marched his own army over to teach them a lesson. But he wasn’t alone – he convinced the kings of Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish, and Eglon to team up with him!
+ What made King Adoni-Zedek so afraid? (vs. 1-2)
+ What were the names of the four kings who joined King Adoni-Zedek in battle? (vs. 3)
JOSHUA 10:6-8, NIRV
6 Joshua was in the camp at Gilgal. The people of Gibeon sent a message to him there. They said, “Don’t desert us. We serve you. Come up to us quickly! Save us! Help us! All the Amorite kings from the central hill country have gathered their armies together to fight against us.”
7 So Joshua marched up from Gilgal with his whole army. The army included all his best fighting men. 8 The Lord said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid of them. I have handed them over to you. Not one of them will be able to fight against you and win.”
The people of Gibeon knew they stood no chance against King Adoni-Zedek and his five-army team. So they sent a message to Joshua asking him to come to their rescue. The Israelites had no choice but to say yes; it was part of the peace deal the Gibeonites tricked them into making. However, before Joshua had much time to worry about fighting five armies at one time, the Lord God came to him with some pretty great news. “Don’t fear. I’ve given you total victory over them. By the time the fight is finished, not a single one of your enemies will be left standing.”
+ Who did Joshua bring with him as he marched to help Gibeon? (vs. 7)
+ Why could Joshua trust that God could keep his promise to win the battle?
JOSHUA 10:9-15, NIRV
9 Joshua marched all night from Gilgal. He took the Amorite armies by surprise. 10 The Lord threw them into a panic as Israel marched toward them. Then Joshua and the Israelites won a complete victory over them at Gibeon. The Israelites chased them along the road that goes up to Beth Horon. They struck them down all the way to Azekah and Makkedah. 11 The Amorites tried to escape as Israel marched toward them. They ran down the road from Beth Horon to Azekah. Then the Lord threw large hailstones down on them. The hailstones killed more of them than the swords of the Israelites did.
12 So the Lord gave the Amorites over to Israel. On that day Joshua spoke to the Lord while the Israelites were listening. He said,
“Sun, stand still over Gibeon.
And you, moon, stand still over the Valley of Aijalon.”
13 So the sun stood still.
The moon stopped.
They didn’t move again until the nation won the battle over its enemies.
You can read about it in the Book of Jashar.
The sun stopped in the middle of the sky. It didn’t go down for about a full day. 14 There has never been a day like it before or since. It was a day when the Lord listened to a mere human being. Surely the Lord was fighting for Israel!
15 Joshua and his whole army returned to the camp at Gilgal.
Knowing that God had promised his people a smashing victory, Joshua confidently marched his men all night long until they reached Gibeon. The Israelites showed up so suddenly, it took Adoni-Zedek and his five-team army by surprise. And right from the start, it was obvious that the mighty Lord God was fighting for his people Israel.
As the battling began, God threw the enemy into a complete panic. Instead of bravely rushing towards the Israelites, the soldiers of Adoni-Zedek’s five-city army ran away like scaredy cats! They skittered away so quickly, it was difficult for Joshua’s men to get within sword-swinging distance.
The scared soldiers might have been able to outrun the army of Israel, but there was no way they could run away from Israel’s God. The Lord pounded the fleeing fighters with hailstones, giant iceballs from the sky. The sudden storm was so deadly that God’s hailstones knocked out more enemy soldiers than all of Israel’s swords!
And here’s the amazing thing: God’s soldier-smashing hailstone storm wasn’t even the most memorable part of this battle! As Adoni-Zedek’s warriors ran for the hills, Joshua prayed perhaps the most outrageous prayer of all time: “Sun, stand still! Moon, stay down in the valley!” Joshua prayed that God would stop the sun still in the sky. And get this – God actually did it!
How did God do it? The Bible doesn’t tell us exactly. But stopping the sun in its tracks would have been a piece of cake for God. After all, he was the one who made that big, fiery ball in the first place! We can be certain of this: there’s never, ever been a day like the day God made the sun stand still.
By his power, the Lord gave the Israelites a double day’s worth of sunshine. And with God’s sun-stopping power on their side, the Israelites wiped out every single member of Adoni-Zedek’s five-army team. That included King Adoni-Zedek himself and his four king buddies!
When we zoom forward in our Bibles and read all the amazing stories of Jesus’ mighty miracles, we shouldn’t be too surprised. After all, he was the Son of the Lord God! With the same power that stopped the sun for the Israelites, Jesus healed the sick, fed 5000 people with a little boy’s lunch, and even raised the dead!
And best of all, Jesus didn’t just have sun-stopping power – he had sin-smashing power! On the cross, he was able to pay for our forever, fiery punishment of death in just a few hours. And with the same power that rained hail stones on Israel’s enemies, Jesus rolled away the stone from his own grave and rose from the dead!
+ How was Israel’s, with just one army, able to defeat five armies at once?
+ When Joshua prayed, “Sun, stand still!”, what did God do? (vs. 13)