Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Did an eclipse save Joshua's army?

MORE ASTRONOMICAL PHENOMENA: Eclipse ‘stopped the sun’ for biblical Joshua, Israeli scientists say. Researchers claim to pinpoint the exact date — October 30, 1207 BCE — and explanation for an astounding event in the Battle in Gibeon (Times of Israel).
According to the biblical story, Joshua got help from the sun to earn the Israelites one of their most epic victories. Now, a team of Israeli scientists say they’ve figured out how: The battle coincided with a solar eclipse.

Using NASA data, three scientists from Beersheba’s Ben Gurion University, in a newly published paper, dated the eclipse and the battle to October 30, 1207 BCE.

Nope, not buying it. It doesn't make a great deal of sense. The point of the poetic quotation is that whatever happened with the sun and moon led to the Israelites winning the battle at Gibeon. I don't see how a lunar eclipse that made everything dark would have been much use to anyone at any battle.

The prose text following the poetic quote in Joshua 10:12-13 says that the sun stayed in the sky for a full day until the Israelites won, which at least makes some sense. Nevertheless it too is probably wrong, a guess at the meaning of a piece of poetry that was already archaic when the book of Joshua was written. The actual meaning of the poetic passage probably involved a propitious arrangement of the sun and moon in the sky that gave the Israelites an omen of success for the battle. More on that interpretation here and here.