“Sun, stand motionless [Hebrew dôm] in Gibeon, and Moon, in the Valley of Aijalon,” says a verse in the Bible. And the Sun remained motionless, and the Moon came to a halt [Hebrew ‘amad], till the country exacted retribution on its foes.” A lot of the Bible isn’t meant to be taken literally anymore. Though evidence of massive floods has been found throughout history, it’s doubtful that the whole animal life on Earth went boating. However, astronomers Colin Humphreys and Graeme Waddington were drawn to a particular section in 2017. Based on further text translations and scientific understanding, they concluded that the line may be referring to a solar eclipse.
“The Hebrew term dôm implies to be silence, deafeningly deafeningly deafeningly deafeningly deaf the term ‘amad’ refers to a larger concept of stopping or standing. Modern English translations of this passage, such as the NRSV [New Revised Standard Version] cited above, have all assumed that the Hebrew text means that the Sun and Moon have stopped moving, as did the King James Authorized Version (KJAV) of The Bible, which was translated in 1611 “In their paper, published in the journal Astronomy and Geophysics, the team writes.” “However, another possible interpretation is that the Sun and Moon ceased to perform what they regularly do: they ceased to shine. To put it another way, the passage is alluding to a solar eclipse, which occurs when the Sun stops shining.”
It has previously been established that no total eclipses occurred in this location throughout the battle’s probable timeframe. However, the researchers speculated that it may be a partial eclipse. “The Sun did not hasten to set for approximately a whole day,” according to a later passage in Joshua. This might have been caused by light dips as the eclipse approached dark, according to the study. “In the afternoon, the light from the Sun on Canaan began to fade from its typical level at 15:30 until it was nearly 10 times less strong than normal at around 16:50, and darkness came in,” the researchers said.
“However, by 17:10, the amount of illumination would have been restored significantly before night struck and the Sun set at 17:38. Such an unexpected departure from typical Sun behavior could only inspire amazement in pre-scientific civilizations, and the apparent drop in ambient light level would easily lend itself to explanation in terms of the normal order of things – notably, sunset. A twofold dusk would have been visible to the Israelites.” They point out that the Moon was in conjunction with the Sun in the days leading up to the eclipse, which meant that the Moon was not visible in the sky.
They suggest that the Israelites, who were well aware of the cycle, may have utilized the darkening sky to conceal their initial attack on Gibeon. The researchers looked for possible solar eclipses and used certain data to help them narrow down their search. They had a rough idea of the dates of the monarchs participating in the conflict. Merneptah, for example, is thought to have lived between 1213 and 1203 BCE, or even later, between 1204 and 1194 BCE. In approximately 500 years, they were only able to identify one eclipse viewable from the prospective battlegrounds.
“According to our estimates, the only annular eclipse visible from Gibeon between 1500 and 1050 BC […] occurred in the afternoon on 30 October 1207 BC.” The findings have ramifications beyond determining the date of a biblical war. “We have dated it to 30 October 1207 BC,” the scientists said in their report, “making it arguably the oldest datable solar eclipse known.” “This allows us to fine-tune the dates of several Egyptian pharaohs, such as Ramesses the Great. It also implies that existing formulas for estimating variations in the Earth’s rate of rotation may be confidently extended back 500 years, from 700 to 1200 BC.”