Home > Book of Joshua > Daniel Katterns on the miracle of Joshua

Daniel Katterns on the miracle of Joshua

January 5, 2015

Daniel Katterns was the author of a critique on a paper by J. von Gumpach: ON THE MIRACLE OF JOSHUA,  [The Journal of sacred literature, ed. by J. Kitto. vol 3. 1949. pp. 136-151.
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Both articles have the same title. Katterns’ critique appears in: The Journal of Sacred Literature, C. Cox, vol V, 1851. pp. 209-222.
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Katterns wrote:

Sir,—The paper on which I submit the following observations appeared in the fifth number of your Journal, from the pen of Mr. J. von Gumpach. From the evident learning and general candour of the writer, that article certainly deserves a more full and extended examination than it has hitherto received. Mr. Taylor’s strictures, though very worthy of grave consideration, do not comprehend the entire subject, yet, for the sake of truth, it is highly desirable that both sides of the question should be placed fairly before your readers. Had any other advocate of the received opinion gone over the whole ground occupied by your correspondent, you would not have been troubled with this communication. Under these circumstances, I trust that the acknowledged importance of the inquiry will be a sufficient apology for my intrusion.

My observations will fall under two general divisions: first, I shall attempt to meet and obviate the preliminary objections against the vulgar interpretation of the passage; and secondly, adduce some arguments against that view which Von Gumpach has endeavoured to establish.

The first objection is based upon the rule that ‘the necessary qualification of a miracle is its answering some grand, lasting, and ostensible purpose.’ Now the ostensible purpose of the assumed miracle was the conquest of the five kings of the Amorites. But the results of this victory were not of a nature so vast and important, and of a tendency so lasting, as to justify the conclusion of their having been obtainable only by the Omnipotent (whose administration, as Dr. Chalmers remarks, is coeval with the first purpose of his uncreated mind, and points to eternity) suspending to that end the unchangeable laws of his creation.’ This is, in fact, the old objection that such a miracle was an uncalled-for and preposterous exertion of the Divine power, out of all proportion to the occasion. Here let it be noticed, first, that, whatever force this objection may possess, it militates not only against the miracle in question but, by parity of reason, against any miracle, and yet Von Gumpach confesses that the events of that day were miraculous in contradiction to his own rule; secondly, the truth of that rule may be reasonably disputed because there is another miracle of the same kind on record wrought for Hezekiah’s personal satisfaction, and without a grand, lasting, and ostensible purpose, viz., when the shadow went back ten degrees upon the dial of Ahaz to the astonishment of all the astronomers of Babylon; but thirdly, admitting the rule, and grantingfor a moment that, as far as we can see, the ends in view were not sufficient to justify so great a miracle, it does not follow that there were no higher ends to be accomplished which we cannot see. This one chapter records, in a very brief manner, the various battles which issued in the entire conquest of the south of Canaan. Is it to be reasonably expected that in such mere notes of important engagements we should find all the reasons for such an interposition of the Divine power, and, failing to find them, then, on the strength of a mere negation, affirm that there was no miracle at all? I confess that I cannot presume to argue that there ought to have been a miracle, but for the same reason let no man argue that there ought not to be one on the single ground that the occasion was not sufficient to justify it. Who can decide that point with certainty? Without referring just now to the reasons for the miracle, which, of course, as they may be found in every commentary, Von Gumpach has weighed in the balances and found wanting, it is enough to ask, who is competent to say how far God ought or ought not to put forth his power, and when he ought or ought not to work a stupendous miracle? For this is, in reality, the very point which the argument involves. We are inquiring into the fact whether this miracle was wrought, and Von Gumpach reasons that it was not because the occasion was not worthy of it, and that, if God had wrought it, he would have ‘ suspended the eternal laws of his creation for no other purpose than that (he speaks with due reverence) of puzzling the human mind.’ There are hundreds of plain men who will think, on his own showing and by his own translation, that an ordinary event has been represented in very strange and embarrassing language if no miracle is to be understood. Once more, it may be affirmed that the alleged miracle did answer a grand, lasting, and ostensible purpose, and therefore falls within the rule. I respectfully, submit to M. von Gumpach that he is wrong in looking at this as an isolated battle, whereas it was one, and the most important one, in a rapid succession of battles which led to what is commonly called the conquest of Canaan. With the exception of the miraculous taking of Jericho and the overthrow of Ai (a very small place), it was the very starting point in their career of victory. It was of the utmost importance that such a conflict should be marked by the strongest evidences of the Divine interposition; for if that interposition be resolved into nothing more than a shower of hailstones, the miracle, admitting it to be such, was not of that striking character to justify the repeated declarations by which, in subsequent times, it was impressed upon the minds of the Jews that * they got hot the land in possession by their own sword, neither did their own arm save them, but thy right hand and thine arm,’ &c. (Ps. xliv. 3.) Besides, the conquest of Canaan, with which the battle of Gibeon is inseparably connected, must not be considered in relation to the Jews alone, but as constituting one of the great epochs in the history of Redemption. Much more might be added to prove that, although the results may not have been so grand and lasting as Von Gumpach could desire, yet a purpose can be pleaded here at least as considerable as can be pleaded on behalf of most of the Old Testament miracles. Yet he says, ‘ The fruits of a victory to-day may, without leaving so much as a trace, be swept away by a defeat to-morrow.’ True; but what is this to the purpose, since the fruits of this series of victories were not swept away, but were as lasting as the Jewish dispensation? 4 The Jews had previously,’ he proceeds, ‘without the miraculous interposition of the Deity, overcome their enemies, and they overcame them thereafter; they had before been Vol. vi.—No. xi. r suffered suffered to be beaten, and they were suffered to be beaten again.’ True; but no subsequent victory ever gave them possession of another land of promise, nor did any subsequent defeat finally deprive them of this which they now subdued, till after the coming of Messiah. Further, it is said that this miracle did not awe the Canaanites into subjection, because the children of Judah could not drive out the Jebusites, the inhabitants of Jerusalem; as if the holding out of one oity for a time rendered all their other and wide-extended conquests of no account. Von Gumpach will not be satisfied unless he see the Canaanites abandon their strongholds without a struggle, and fly before the Israelites like chaff before the wind. He allows nothing for their unbelief and hardness of heart, and does not consider that it was the declared purpose of God that some of the enemies of his people should remain to test their obedience, and be their scourges when they rebelled. In a word, after reviewing carefully every sentence on this part of the argument, it is evident that, for aught that has yet been shown, there was a grand, lasting, and ostensible purpose to be answered by the miracle. Yet, be it observed, that I do not adopt the conclusion upon which your correspondent would fain precipitate his opponents. I do not say that these results were obtainable only by the Omnipotent’s suspending the unchangeable laws of His creation, I merely say that He may suspend them whenever He may judge it proper to do so. Von Gumpach insists that we ought not to suppose Him to have done it but for a grand, lasting, and ostensible purpose. Admitting the justice of this requirement, we have enough before us to show that in this case it has been met.

Dismissing now this preliminary reason for regarding the common interpretation of this miracle as erroneous, we are prepared to consider the two or three striking features of the narrative, which, we are told, can hardly fail to force themselves upon our attention. Let the lovers of the marvellous prepare to stagger under the blow which their ‘inherited impressions’ must needs receive from the astounding fact that the Lord had before the contest commenced, and before the Jewish leader had pronounced his celebrated address to the sun, already given him the promise of victory’ Why then, after this promise, still demand an additional, a useless miracle? Did he doubt the promise? This is contradicted by the history. Was it for a sign to his followers? This, we are assured, would have been ‘presumptuous beyond all bounds,’ and likely to bring ‘ down upon his head the just anger of God’s offended majesty.’ Yet every reader of Scripture must see that men of God have been constantly guilty of the same presumption, because it is evident that for a mortal man to ask for a miracle under any circumstances would render him just as liable to the charge as Joshua in the case before us. But really this loose way of talking (for it must not be called reasoning) is quite beside the mark. Nobody has said, or is likely to say, that the intention of the miracle was simply to confirm Joshua’s faith or that of his followers. The results were much more substantial, since it enabled them to accomplish in one day the work of two or three days; nay, to terminate at once a struggle that might have been indefinitely prolonged if their adversaries had been allowed the shelter and breathing time of the intervening nights. This, and not simply to encourage Joshua and his men, was the grand object to be attained; and therefore to argue that they did not need that encouragement, because they had a previous promise sufficient for the purpose, is quite irrelevant to the inquiry, viz., whether the result”, not of that victory alone, but of the whole series to which it belongs, were not sufficiently grand, lasting, and ostensible to justify us a priori in believing that the occasion was worthy of so great an interposition of the Divine power.

In connection with the preceding argument Von Gumpach adduces, as an important consideration, that in the main account of the battle of Gibeon (v. 8, 9) not the slightest allusion to the assumed miracle occurs. It is found only in what he calls a mere episode, contained in verses 12-14, which chronologically belongs to the passage first referred to. Von Gumpach, however, does not contend that such transpositions are unusual with the sacred historians. He knows, indeed, that the Old Testament is crowded with the same violations of chronological order, otherwise the fact which he has noted (assuming it to be a fact) might have been remarkable. As it is, the instance is not singular, and the mention of it is therefore but a commonplace, which might well have been spared. But I should like to know on what ground these verses are to be treated as a mere episode. No sound principles of criticism will justify us in supposing a transposition without some strong and evident reason. When there are difficulties in a narrative which cannot otherwise be obviated, or discrepancies which cannot otherwise be reconciled, then a conjecture of this kind is lawful; yet even in such cases a judicious expositor will propose the solution with caution and diffidence. In the present case the order of events, as they stand in the chapter, is sufficiently perspicuous, without having recourse to a perfectly gratuitous assumption: first, the battle itself is related briefly in which the Amorites were discomfited before Israel; next, in the flight of the enemy towards Beth-horon, they are overtaken by a tremendous hailstorm, which must have involved a temporary obscuration of the sun to both armies. After this comes the famous apostrophe in question, which is probably in its right place for three reasons: first, because no reason is before us requiring a transposition; secondly, because such an apostrophe would be natural and” easy when that orb was seen emerging from the cloud; and thirdly, because, in that stage of affairs, it would become apparent to the Jewish general that the day was wearing away, and that night must put an end to the pursuit and slaughter, if not rob them of the decisive fruits of their victory. Then, giving its due weight to the ardour of military enthusiasm, strengthened and directed by faith in God, is it unreasonable to suppose that Joshua, perceiving the importance of the emergency, and inspired by the re-appearance of the sun after so severe a tempest, appealed to God to lengthen out their space and opportunity for the utter destruction of the enemy; and finally, in His name, though according to his own notions, commanded the sun to stand still until the desired work was accomplished? “What need to change the order of such a clear and consistent narrative? Has no general, besides Joshua, carried away by a similar enthusiasm, under like circumstances, wished that it were possible to lengthen a day for a similar purpose? Every thing else has been realized in warfare except the event, and that is recorded in terms, the very recital of which is fatal to Von Gumpach’s whole theory: ‘And there was no day like unto that, before or after it, as to the Lord’s hearkening to the voice of a man; for the Lord fought for Israel.’ For to interpret these expressions simply as referring to the shower of stones, is to interpret it in a sense absolutely false, because that circumstance has many parallels in history, both sacred and profane, and involves nothing that is of necessity miraculous.

The second distinguishing feature of the narrative is that in the (so-called) episode itself it is positively stated that the miraculous occurrence of the day, and the object of Joshua’s prayer to the Lord, were confined to his direct assistance, the fighting of the Lord himself for Israel. What can be more plain, asks Von Gumpach, than these words? Yet, plain as they are, there are still many who will think that the Lord’s fighting for Israel may be interpreted, not only of the shower of hailstones, but also of the very miracle in question, especially as these expressions are found in a verse which declares the events of the day to be without parallel, before or since. Your correspondent must explain yet more at large in what respects they are inconsistent with the received interpretation. It would have been better, indeed, if he had” devoted to this purpose the remainder of the paragraph now under consideration, rather than to the oratorical trumpet blast expressive of astonishment that views opposed to his own should have been so long entertained by men of piety and learning, rounded off with a resolution of that fact into the powerful grasp which the love of the marvellous and the influence of inherited impressions have upon the mind—an account of the matter, by the way, not more creditable to his own modesty than complimentary to his opponents.

The third feature of the passage is that the expedition of Joshua was undertaken upon his own advice, and without the express command of Jehovah. Hence it is argued that it wants that character by which it would have been distinguished if the Lord had intended it to subserve one of his Divine purposes. “Was not the conquest of Canaan, then, one of the Divine purposes? The great fault of Von Gumpach all along is that the view which he entertains obliges him to treat this event as mean and trivial, in order to show that the occasion was not worthy of the miracle. But others will have widely different views of its importance, and, whether an express command can be pleaded or not, they will believe that Joshua virtually acted under Divine direction. He did not need a special command to do that which he had been appointed and commanded to do on every suitable occasion. He could not withhold his aid from the Gibeonites without violating the spirit and intention of that league which, though they had obtained by craft, was ever afterwards respected, and on one occasion (2 Sam. xxi. 1) divinely vindicated when it had been despised. Moreover, it is certain by the promise that God sanctioned the expedition by an express revelation of the result before the battle began. Without a special command his path of duty was clear, and who shall say that he entered upon this work without consulting the will of God? True it is not on record ; but what does this silence prove? Von Gumpach thinks that it militates against the supposition that the Divine Being would work a miracle for the success of an expedition undertaken without His express command. Yet it was clearly sanctioned, and Von Gumpach consents that another miracle was wrought, which, after all, may have been no miracle, viz., the shower of stones. Why, then, is he so embarrassed by an unimportant circumstance? If one miracle, why not another? If the objection amounts to any thing, it ought to be argued that the events of the day were common, and that there was no miracle at all. But this would flatly contradict Scripture, and therefore it is clear, from his own showing, that God did work a miracle in a contest undertaken without a special command.

Further, it is objected that the presumed miracle rests upon erroneous views of the mighty mechanism of God’s creation. ‘With the error the miracle vanishes, how then can it have ever existed?’ But the miracle itself does not rest upon the error. Nothing rests upon the error, except the mode of describing or explaining it. The assumed miracle is that, according to the astronomical notions then prevalent, the sun actually stood still in the heavens, instead of descending to the horizon; whereas, according to our notions, it only seemed to stand still. Explain the fact (assuming it to be a fact) as you please, the objection proves no more than that Joshua did not speak in the language of modern astronomy. The intention of the prayer and the object of the miracle was the lengthening of the day, and in those times it would naturally be thought that the readiest way of accomplishing this end was to arrest the progress of the sun towards the horizon. It is true that those notions are now proved to be false, yet the very same effect, which the sacred writer has described popularly rather than philosophically, might have been produced in another manner. It might have been produced, for instance, by suspending the rotation of the earth upon its axis, or by some miraculous accommodation of the laws of refraction, causing the sun to appear above the horizon after it had actually set; but, in any case, it may be presumed that Joshua would have spoken in the same terms, and the account would have been given, as it is, by the inspired historian. The event would have been described as it appeared, for the language which a modern astronomer might have employed on the occasion would not only have been unintelligible to the Jews, but would have puzzled the minds of men for above 3000 years even more than Von Gumpach himself is puzzled by the narrative. Yet, because Joshua does not say, O earth, cease to revolve upon thy axis; or, Ye laws of refraction, protract the day; ergo, no miracle is to be believed. The Jewish general thought that the sun moved, he commanded it to stand still; he prayed that it might stand still, and it did stand still. No; all this is mere delusion, because Joshua was not acquainted with the Copernican system! Of course the description of the event does not square with that system, but it agrees exactly with what would be the popular expressions even now in the case supposed, and modern philosophy cannot convict it of more than a technical inaccuracy. What then becomes of the objection? But the difficulty of Von Gurapach does not vanish with the miracle. His own translation embodies the same erroneous views of the mechanism of the universe, and precisely the same kind of argument which he applies to the narrative before us might be applied by an infidel to shake the credit of the sacred writings with terrible effect, if-only such reasoning were admissible.

Again, it is objected that we find the assumed miracle in no one instance adverted to in the subsequent writings of the Old Testament. This assertion, however, is somewhat too positive and sweeping. Isaiah (xxviii. 21) says, ‘ The Lord shall be wroth as in the valley of Gibeon, that he may do his work, his strange work, and bring to pass his act, his strange act.’ This multiplication of terms seems to point out some very extraordinary event. Von Gumpach interprets it only of the hailstorm; no very strange act, since he himself inclines ‘to the opinion that the sacred text alludes to one of those fearful hailstorms of not very unfrequent occurrence in the East, single stones of w hich have been found to weigh two pounds and upwards.’ But the prophet Habakkuk also says (iii. 11), ‘ The sun and moon stood still in their habitation,’ an expression which is very summarily dismissed from the argument with the curt observation that the supposed reference to the miracle which it contains rests entirely on a misconception of the meaning of his words. Yet these words follow almost immediately upon expressions which look very much like a reference to the passage of the Jordan, ‘ Was the Lord displeased against the rivers? Was thine anger against the rivers?’ And again, ‘ The mountains saw thee and they trembled, the overflowing of the water passed by, the deep uttered his voice and lifted up his hands on high;’ then follows the text, ‘ The sun and moon stood still in their habitation :’ compare also vers. 12, 13. I for one shall sincerely thank M. von Gumpach if he will inform me to what other event these words refer if not to that now under consideration. Subsequently, however, in reply to Mr. Taylor, ‘a Jesus the son of Sirach,’ and ‘the marvel-loving Josephus’ are pitched overboard without ceremony. Yet your readers need hardly be told, that the book of Jesus, supposed to have been written about 230 years before Christ, is by far the most valuable of the Apocryphal writings, and, next to the inspired books, has the highest claim upon our respectful attention, his interpretation is clear: ‘Did not the sun go back by his (Joshua’s) means? Was not one day as long as two?’ (xlvi. 4.) Josephus is not, therefore, indulging in his love of the marvellous when he gives a sense to the passage which was already current, and appeals to the books laid up in the temple in proof of his statement. Now here are two ancient interpreters agreeing together in asserting that this miracle was wrought, and asserting it as an undisputed fact, resting for its authority on the text before us. If they were making an original statement of the same marvellous nature, we we might well require some further confirmation, but they are simply giving their own impression of the meaning of inspired truth, and their exposition is borne out by the very terms of the controverted passage (which must seem strange and obscure on any other supposition), and coincides with the common sense views of almost all the world for the last 2000 years. Under these circumstances, to thrust them out of court in the contemptuous style adopted by Von Gumpach is, on the part of one who professes to be inquiring after truth, an act of absolute insanity. Yet what has he to oppose to them? Nothing but the silence of subsequent Scriptures, which may be accidental, backed by the absence of all allusions on the part of heathen writers to an event which took place at least many centuries before such history commences. In what histories, let me ask, does Von Gumpach expect to find the testimonies which he requires? for, of course, he will not be satisfied with probable traces of it in fable. We justly reject Romish innovations from the silence of history, because all along the existence of the Catholic Church our historical documents and other writings are most copious and satisfactory. Can this be said of that period extending over a thousand years after Joshua, to which, however, your correspondent, without misgiving, applies the very same argument? No matter whether the witnesses be few or many—ten writers or ten thousand—their silence upon a given fact is equally convincing! Surely a reasoner who overlooks such an obvious distinction must be read with great caution, if not suspicion. There is little appearance of candid inquiry after the truth, when all the witnesses who have spoken for the last 2000 years are rudely put aside, and the mind shields itself from conviction in the obscurity of a yet more ancient period, all whose records have perished. The only thing substantial in the whole objection is the paucity of references in the subsequent books of Scripture themselves, yet I know of no portion, other than those mentioned, in which it could have been introduced without violence to the scope and intention of the writer. Nor is this the only remarkable event in the same predicament, yet nothing surely could be more unreasonable and vicious than the principle of denying every thing which has not been confirmed by subsequent writers.

Lastly, it is said that the address of Joshua, ‘Sun, stand thou still on Gibeon, and thou moon over Ajalon’s vale,’ clearly forms no finished sentence; for if so, both sun and moon, supposing God to have given effect to Joshua’s command, ought to have remained stationary from that moment for all future times. Well, grant that the sentence is unfinished; what then? Joshua fixes no limit; he leaves it to God, who alone knew how long a period was necessary for the purpose; but how does this bear upon the argument? The limit is ascertained, viz., until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. The sacred writer says, ‘It seemed a whole day;’ and a people who measured their time by the apparent progress of the sun could only guess what space had really elapsed. Hence the peculiarity of expression, on which Yon Gumpach has lavished such an amount of useless criticism. Useless to himself, I mean, because, so far from weakening the evidence evidence on behalf of this miracle, it rather strengthens it by showing that the narrator could not speak with certainty of the lapse of time, because the only dial which they possessed was rendered worthless during its continuance, ‘The sun hasted not to go down, it seemed a whole day.'”

Such, then, are the ample grounds on which, according to Von Gumpach, the commonly received interpretation of the passage is to be rejected, and the way cleared for a new exposition. Waiving all further comment upon them, I leave your readers to attach to them whatever weight they may think they deserve, and proceed to examine the interpretation which it is the main object of his paper to establish. For the sake of brevity, I shall confine my observations to that part of the chapter in which the presumed miracle is recorded, and accept his own translation as sufficiently accurate for my purpose, that no time may be spent on merely verbal criticism. The amended translation is the following:—

But in the sight of Israel he said:
Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon,
And thou, moon, over Ajalon’s vale
—And the sun stood still, the moon stayed—
Until the people
Shall have avenged themselves upon Israel’s foes.’
Is not this written in the Sepher Hajashar?
’13 So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down, it seemed a whole day.
’14 And there has been no day like unto that, either before or after it, as to the Lord’s hearkening to the voice of man; for the Lord himself fought for Israel.’

The interpretation is the following:—Joshua had, most likely with the view of surprising the enemy, chosen the hottest part of the day for the attack. The sun was standing nearly in his zenith; the moon, about to set, was still visible in a south-easterly direction over the valley of Ajalon, and, pointing to those two glorious luminaries, ‘they shall not decline in the heavens,’ he concluded his harangue to his companions, ‘until they shall have witnessed our triumph;’ nor was the prediction vain. The sudden and irresistible attack of the Israelites during midday at once decided the contest in so incredibly short a time, it appears to the narrator, as if the sun, instead of an hour, had tarried in the midst of heaven a whole day. Now let me offer a few remarks on this representation.

I. I notice that Von Gumpach holds himself at liberty to choose his own time of day for beginning the battle. Joshua, with a view of surprising the enemy, falls upon them at midday, or about half-past eleven o’clock in the morning (a strange time for taking men by surprise), his own troops having slept out all the morning in perfect safety, and in the presence of the enemy, without being discovered. Von Gumpach chooses this hour for no other reason except that it agrees with his own interpretation, without offering a single particle of evidence for even the probability of the conjecture; on other grounds, indeed, that conjecture is extremely improbable. It may be presumed that a general in that climate would either begin battle early in the morning, or, if deferred, that he would wait till the intense heat of noon had passed away; or, if his object were a surprise, that he would attack them when it was yet dark, or else fall upon them as soon as he came up with them. But all this is mere supposition on both sides. Yet observe, the interpretation of Von Gumpach absolutely requires that the engagement should begin at half-past eleven o’clock in the morning. The hour at noon during which in that country the sun appears to be stationary, and casts no perceptible shadow, is all the explanation which he has to give of this remarkable text—his only refuge from the grand difficulty, viz., the difficulty of believing the alleged miracle. To those who entertain a different view, the time is of no consequence. Whether the sun were ascending or descending, or in its zenith, its apparent progress could be stayed in any quarter of the heavens. But to the argument of Von Gumpach the time of the day is vital. Joshua must utter his address to the sun when it is directly over his head, or else Von Gumpach cannot explain the passage. This, again, is unlikely. The sun, in that position, would not naturally attract the eye and inspire an enthusiastic general with a sudden gleam of thought. He must stretch his neck in a painful and most unpoetic manner, out of deliberate intention, even to glance at it. But when lower down in the heavens and emerging from a cloud, it would attract attention in a moment; and such circumstances would render that apostrophe exceedingly beautiful, sublime, and impressive which, on the theory of Von Gumpach, is forced and unnatural, clothed in the forms of poetry indeed, but without its soul. Dispensing, however, with all gratuitous assumptions one way or the other, we want the evidence to prove that the engagement did begin at that hour of the day. Circumstantial evidence will do, but some evidence we must have, because, if it did not, Von Gumpach’s doctrine falls to the ground. We put the matter fairly to issue. Beginning at halfpast eleven, we are told that in the compass of one hour the irresistible attack of the Hebrews accomplished a work which Von Gumpach confesses to be incredible, and of which the sacred historian says, ‘it seemed a whole day.’ Subsequently there was a pursuit in one direction to Bethhoron, and in another as far as Azekah and Makkedah, distances so considerable that, whoever estimates them, must be convinced that the time allotted was not sufficient for the pursuit alone, to say nothing of the capture of Makkedah itself, which took place the same day. If the enemy fled, not in two divisions and in two different directions, but, as the eleventh verse seems to imply, in one body, first northwards, and afterwards, discovering that they were wandering from home, turned southwards, the way would be materially lengthened and the difficulties of the case increased. Now all these transactions must have taken place in less than six hours and a half, because time must be reserved for the judgment and execution of the five kings, whose bodies were left hanging on the trees till the going down of the sun. All this, which is utterly incredible, we are required to believe, because we are not allowed the miracle by which the day was lengthened, and because, apart apart from that miracle, the only supposition by which that passage can be explained renders it absolutely essential that the engagement should begin at about half an hour before noon. But this supposition is perfectly gratuitous, and is adopted by Yon Gumpach only because it squares with his own interpretation. We reply in his own words to Mr. Taylor, ‘We must on similar unprincipled conjectures and gratuitous opinions opposed to conclusive arguments waive all comment.’

II. But, in the second place, we will, for the sake of argument, admit the supposition that Joshua apostrophized the sun at the time when, in the ordinary course of things, it was about to stand still in the heavens, what is the solution of that strange and obscure expression, ‘The sun hasted not to go down, it seemed a whole day?’ First, a quotation from the Talmud, which, literally translated, reads thus, ‘From the half-past sixth till the half-past seventh (Jewish) hour {from about half-past eleven to half-past twelve o’clock, according to our mode of reckoning} the sun stands still over the head of all men, throwing his shadow straight forward down before him, and inclining to neither side; but after the half-past seventh hour he declines in the heavens towards evening.’ ‘Here,’ says Von Gumpach, ‘we have the solution of our last remaining scruple, for, knowing that, according to the view of the ancient Hebrews, a view evidently reflected in the passage of Joshua, the sun every day tarried or stood still in the midst of heaven for the space of about one hour, that passage no longer presents any difficulty; but, in connection with the preceding explanations, at once assumes a perfectly clear and intelligible meaning.’ Now that clear and intelligible meaning is, that Joshua simply intended to say, pointing to those two luminaries, ‘They shall not decline in the heavens until they shall have witnessed our triumph.’ Thus what appears to an ordinary reader to involve a stupendous miracle is resolved into an every-day occurrence. But not to indulge in any expression of astonishment which such an exposition is well fitted to excite, it will be observed that it leaves the standing still of the moon wholly unaccounted for. Yet it is not only said that the sun stood still, but the moon stayed. If there were no miraculous change of any kind in nature, the sun only appeared stationary from its position in the zenith, and the moon, being near to the horizon and ‘ about to set,’ ought to have gone down as usual. But it is said, ‘the moon stayed.’ How then is this to be explained? Must it be resolved into a mere poetical exaggeration? But it is not the custom, I submit, of inspired poets to indulge themselves in pure fiction. There must have been a sense in which the moon stayed, not explained by Von Gumpach, to justify this language even in a poet, and vindicate it from the charge of being a gratuitous invention. Even poets must write intelligibly and in accordance with truth, so that men of plain understandings may know when they are stating a fact, and when they are giving the rein to their imaginations, much more poets whose writings are embalmed in the book of God as containing matters to be believed. Once admit the principle of nullifying an author’s words because they are in verse, and then what portion of the sacred volume will be secure from the devastations of a daring and unbridled criticism? We have a right, therefore, to ask Von Gumpach to reconcile his theory with this statement, which he has left unexplained. And if he shall say that it is poetry, and is not to be interpreted literally, let us know what fragment of truth the writer had in his mind on which to build such a bold exaggeration of the wonders of that day.

III. But if there were not this palpable objection to the solution here offered of a difficult and controverted text, it seems to me that, to an unbiassed inquirer after truth, it must appear extremely forced and unnatural. No sooner do we turn from the gloss m to Von Gumpach’s own translation than the discrepancy between them strikes the mind in a moment. For the words of Joshua are a command addressed to the sun and moon, ‘Sun, stand thou still,’ &c. This is changed into a simple declaration, ‘They shall not decline in the heavens until they have witnessed our triumph.’ This, be it observed, is not a paraphrastic rendering, but a change in the entire form of expression, which completely alters the sense. It can hardly, therefore, be called fair criticism, but rather a mode of critical torture—a kind of Procrustean bed, on which almost any poetical portion of Scripture might be stretched or shortened according to the preconceived notions of an expositor. One would have thought the bare reading of vers. 13, 14 enough to scatter Von Gumpach’s interpretation to the winds, ‘The sun stood still in the midst of heaven’—’it hasted not to go down’— ‘the moon stayed’—’it seemed a whole day.’ The first phrase, however, we are told, means nothing, except as it is interpreted by the second, ‘hasted not to go down,’ i.e. did not hurry his course, was not deprived of motion, but only of accelerated motion. So saith our gloss. ‘The moon stayed;’ here the gloss is silent. ‘It seemed a whole day.’ How? Why truly because the overthrow of the Amorites was effected in such an incredibly short space of time as if the sun, instead of an hour, had tarried in the midst of heaven for a whole day. What does Von Gumpach gain by denying one miracle, if he is obliged to invent another? ‘Dum miraculum quod clare Scriptura tradit, declinant, novae ipsi cudunt miracula.’ But in what respect was there no day like that, before or after, as to the Lord’s hearkening to the voice of a man? Because the Lord fought for Israel by sending a shower of hailstones upon the enemy in their flight. What! is this the circumstance which is so far beyond all parallel? It was outdone in the destruction of Sennacherib at the prayer of Hezekiah. The voice of a man prevailed with God to a greater extent when the heavens were shut up for three years and six months at the entreaty of Elijah. It was surpassed over and over again in the Mosaic miracles. On the other hand, the miracle which I plead for has never been paralleled, nor is there such another instance on record of answer to prayer. Ou every other supposition the statement is questionable, if not false; on mine alone, it is evidently true.

IV. But there is a yet further objection to the exposition of Von Gumpach, and that is the multiplicity of expressions in which the event is recorded. If only one strange and obscure phrase had required elucidation, then we might have been disposed to accept any plausible supposition as to its meaning, without building a stupendous miracle upon the strength of one or two doubtful terms. But the sacred writer crowds one phrase upon another, as though he would insist upon impressing on our minds the truth and reality of the fact which he records: first, Joshua utters his address, ‘Sun, stand thou still,’ &c.; next, the fulfilment of the command is described in corresponding terms, And the sun stood still &c. Again, the duration of the event is specified in two ways, ‘Until the people have avenged themselves upon their enemies,’ and ‘it seemed a whole day.’ Then further, the sacred writer refers to his authority, viz., Sepher Hajashar. Finally, the inspired narrative takes up and repeats the statement, ‘So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down; and there was no clay like that,’ &c. Here, therefore, are no less than nine or ten phrases, all of which require to be lowered in their signification before we can get rid of the miracle; and yet, as we have seen, there is one leading phrase among them, twice repealed, which cannot be explained on any other supposition. Is it reasonable to suppose that any author (not to say an inspired author) would have indulged in such an accumulation of terms merely to describe an every-day occurrence, referring most unaccountably to an authority for a fact familiar to everybody, and wind up all by saying, ‘There was no day like that, before or after,’ &c.? Surely a man must be possessed with a spirit of most determined and persevering incredulity to set himself to the task of levelling so many mountains of difficulty lying in the way of his interpretation. Nothing but the absolute impossibility of solving the problem in any other way could justify him even in attempting it; but impossibility is not affirmed. The pleas urged are, conclusive arguments, the absence of adequate purpose, and the obvious meaning of the narrative. As to the first and second, your readers may form their own judgments; and with respect to the third, a meaning can hardly be called obvious which flatly contradicts the views entertained by almost all men for at least two thousand years, and with regard to which even Von Gumpach has some scruple remaining until it is solved by a questionable statement from the Talmud. In the mean time this chain of phrases stands on record, and, until a clearer signification can be found than that which has been commonly received, will continue to convey to the minds of ordinary readers the same ideas which they did to the ‘newfangledness’ of ‘a Jesus, the son of Sirach,’ and ‘the marvel-loving Josephus;’ for it is not reasonable to expect that a forced and partial interpretation, which is only half illustrated by light from the Talmud, will take the place of one which is straightforward and without any difficulties, except those which vanish in a moment before the sovereign wisdom and almighty power of the Most High.

Long as this paper is, I must yet beg room for a few sentences more to sum up the argument. This, then, was the most important battle of the whole series that led to the conquest of Canaan—the day that decided the fate of the country and dealt to the inhabitants of the South particularly a destruction from which they never afterwards recovered; therefore there was a grand, lasting, and ostensible purpose to be accomplished, which however, judging from other instances (as that of Hezekiah), is not absolutely necessary to justify us a priori in expecting a miracle. Secondly, we have seen that the necessity for it was not superseded by the promise of victory previously given, since its object was neither the gaining of the battle nor the confirmation of the faith of Joshua and his men, but the lengthening of the day to render the defeat and ruin of the enemy decisive and irreparable. Thirdly, we have seen that no reason has been assigned for treating vers. 12-14 as a mere episode chronologically out of place, since the order of events is perfectly clear without that gratuitous assumption. Fourthly, in what way the Lord himself directly fought for Israel has not been explained, except by a circumstance which strips the expression of its extraordinary emphasis. Fifthly, it is obvious that the mechanism of the heavens presents no insurmountable difficulty, because, in what way soever the effect was produced, it would be described as it appeared, and modern discoveries can detect nothing but a popular rather than a philosophical mode of description. Finally, the paucity or, if you will, the absence of references to so great an event in subsequent Scriptures, though a circumstance worthy of observation, is manifestly indecisive; because, since it is no part of the design of sacred writers to repeat and confirm the statements of their predecessors, whenever they do so, they do it incidentally, and therefore an omission may be purely accidental. On the other hand, denying the miracle, we shall be constrained to believe that, beginning at half-past eleven in the morning, a great battle was fought, followed by a pursuit and slaughter, northwards, in the direction of Bethhoron, and then winding southward to Azekah and Makkedah, leaving him for the capture of Makkedah itself and for the judgment and execution of the five kings, whose bodies hung till sunset—all were accomplished in six hours and a half! We shall be constrained to believe that an accumulation of phrases unexampled in history or poetry, which has misled the minds of men for many generations, points only to an every-day occurrence which no one has ever noticed except the writers of the Talmud: one phrase, however, and that a leading one, being left wholly unexplained even by those grave authorities. In one word, to get rid of a miracle, first, resolve your passage into poetry; secondly, produce your own translation, which will give you the double advantage of choosing your own out of a great variety of admissible meanings, and of securing you, in case of need, a snug retreat among the Hebrew roots; then lastly, distil your poetry into prose, which process will enable you to throw off all that is supernatural as bold figures and embellishments, leaving a very small and common-place residuum, whose only remaining difficulties, if any, may be easily disposed of by a judicious application of Rabbinical learning. Such, or nearly such, is the course adopted by your correspondent. But the records of the book of God are far too sacred and important to be submitted to such an uncandid and distrustful analysis. Believing that he can do all things, and that His wisdom is the sole judge as to the suitability of the occasion, we should be content with child-like simplicity to accept for truth whatever the obvious meaning of His words implies. For, whether the statement comes to us in the form of history or poetry, we may be assured that neither historian nor poet, under Divine inspiration, would have given us fictions instead of facts; thus laying at the same time a broad foundation for reasonable scepticism and a snare for the understandings of common men.

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