Unseen Wonders in the Land Yet to be Fulfilled
Israel saw the mighty hand of Elohim in Egypt, what He did to the Egyptians by the works of the ten plagues, and how the whole Egypt was destroyed economically, demographically, and militarily. Israel saw them, the Egyptians saw them too, and all other nations heard what the Elohim of the Israelites did to the world power of their time, so that when Israel entered the Land forty years later, the fear of these awesome events were still in their memories.
Then YHVH declared that there would be even more awesome wonders when Israel would start conquering the Land than the ones they had already witnessed in Egypt. But do we see these wonders in the Book of Joshua?
After the golden calf sin, Mosheh pleaded with YHVH to forgive the iniquity and sin of the people, including himself in the nation, and take them back as His inheritance.
YHVH outrightly declared that He would restore and renew the broken Covenant, and not only that but He would do wonders before the whole nation, such as had not been done and seen in all the earth, saying,
Behold, I am making a covenant before all your people I am going to do wonders such as have not been done in all the earth, nor in any nation. And all the people among whom you are shall see the work of Yehovah. For what I am doing with you is awesome. Guard what I command you today. Behold, I am driving out from before you the Amorite and the Kena’anite and the Hittite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Yevusite. (Exo 34:10-11)
The condition the jealous YHVH set before the nation to renew His Covenant, however, was Israel to destroy all the altars and idols of the nations they would disposes, lest they make a covenant with them and bow to their idols, as Israel did before the golden calf (Exo 34:12-14).
In the renewal of His Covenant with the people, YHVH said something that deserves close attention. He solemnly declared, “I am going to do wonders such as have not been done in all the earth, nor in any nation.” The Mighty One of Israel would do awesome wonders never seen before in all the earth!
This raises the inevitable question: Why is the dispossessing of the Kana’anites a greater wonder than the destruction of the entire Egypt by the ten plagues; or greater than the splitting of the Red Sea and the destruction of the military might of Egypt; or perhaps greater than the awesome revelation of YHVH on Mount Sinai with lightening and thunders, and with the sound of a great shofar that made the people tremble in fear? In the Book of Joshua, forty years later, when Israel crossed the Yarden River and started driving out the Kana’anites under the mighty hand of YHVH, we indeed see wonders but not wonders that had exceeded those which Israel had already witnessed.
It is the object of this work to seek the answers to this question, as we will explain the whole matter in the following vein.
Splitting of the Yarden River
When the people set to pass over the Yarden, with the priests bearing the ark of the covenant, and as those bearing the ark came to the Yarden and dipped their feet in the edge of the water, the upstream waters of the river stood still and rose in a heap. And the downstream waters going down into the Salt Sea were completely cut off. And all Israel passed over on dry ground, as they passed over the Red Sea.
And when the priests had come from the midst of the river, and their feet touched the dry land, the waters returned to their place and flowed over all its banks as before (Jos 3:14-17). On that day YHVH made Yehoshua great before all Israel, and they feared him, as they had feared Mosheh, all the days of his life (Jos 4:14).
That was indeed a wonder which YHVH did before the eyes of all Israel, but those who did not die in the desert (the Levites, women, and children) had already seen a mightier wonder of the splitting of the Red Sea forty years earlier.
In 40 years, the reproach was taken away
Perhaps, the wonder YHVH promised to Israel to see was on the day He took away the reproach of Egypt from Israel. YHVH commanded Yehoshua to circumcise all the males who were born in the desert, for they had not been circumcised (Jos 5:4-5). Circumcision was necessary in order to perform the laws of the Pesach of YHVH (Exo 12:48).
We should recall that the male Israelites in Egypt were not circumcised either because they neglected circumcision during their long stay in Egypt, “in order to make themselves appear like the Egyptians”, as Maimonides put it (Guide for the Perplexed, Part 3 Chapter 46).
And after the new generation was circumcised in the Promised Land, YHVH said to Yehoshua,
Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you. (Jos 5:9)
On that very day Israel camped in Gilgal (Hebrew for “wheel”), because there YHVH rolled away the reproach of Egypt. Thus renewed the people were able to perform the Pesach of YHVH on the fourteenth day of the month at evening on the desert plains of Yericho. On that day the manna ceased, and the people ate the lambs with unleavened bread from the grain of the Land.
Flavius Josephus gives his account of this verse in Antiquities, Book 5, Chapter 1:11,
Now the place where Joshua pitched his camp was called Gilgal, which denotes liberty; for since now they had passed over Jordan, they looked on themselves as freed from the miseries which they had undergone from the Egyptians and in the wilderness.
By having come out of Egypt, Israel was liberated not only from the slavery, when they physically came out of Egypt, but also from the sin of rebellion in Egypt. On this day YHVH took Egypt out of Israel so that the people could perform the Pesach of YHVH.
Only when was the rebellious generation replaced and the nation was renewed, Israel could have entered the Land. That the children of Israel were rebellious in Egypt is clearly seen in Jos 24:14 and Eze 20:5-9, as we explained in the foresaid article.
The encounter with the Captain of the heavenly forces
When Yehoshua led the troops to Yericho, he saw a man with his sword drawn in his hand. And Yehoshua said to him, “Are You for us or for our adversaries?” But the man said, “No, for I have now come as Captain of the host of Yehovah”.
When Yehoshua fell on his face to the earth the Captain of the host of YHVH said,
Take your sandal off your foot, for the place where you stand is set-apart. (Jos 5:13-15)
With the words “I have now come as Captain of the host of Yehovah”, the man was about to explain the purpose of his coming, but he was interrupted by the frightened Yehoshua, who fell down before him and said, “What is my master saying to his servant?”
We should note here that Yehoshua did not address the man by Adonai אֲדֹנָי, a title reserved only to YHVH Elohim, but simply as אֲדֹנִי, adoni, “my master”.
Nevertheless, Yehoshua regarded him at once as more than a created angel but as a superior heavenly being, as the Messenger of the Face of YHVH who was second to YHVH Himself, the visible revealer of the invisible Elohim, as soon as he gave him the command to take off his shoes.
We cannot be far away from drawing the supposition that the man must have given some kind of sign, either by glowing his face or something else in that matter, that made Yehoshua recognized him as the Messenger of YHVH. We draw this conclusion from another supposition that this command must have reminded him of the appearance of that Messenger to Mosheh in the burning bush implying that the person who now appeared was the very person who had revealed himself to Mosheh (Exo 3:5).
Yehoshua must have also recalled the appearance of a messenger of YHVH in Num 22:31, when he drew his sword to kill the prophet for profit. Thus, the drawn sword in the hand of the man, by which he manifested himself as a mighty heavenly warrior, must have spoken of itself that led Yehoshua to make this association.
At any rate, this unexpected appearance of the Messenger of YHVH was not in a vision, for Yehoshua saw the warrior with the sword at a certain distance and went up to him to confront him, a fact, as the commentators have noted, incompatible with a vision.
For further knowledge of this peculiar passage, the reader may to refer to what we have written about the Messenger of YHVH in Anointed Metatron and Mediator.
Note: A Bible code is found in the passage of Jos 6:4-6. When counting every 20th letter from the word kohen, “priest”, from right to left, spells a hidden message in Hebrew Yeshuati Yah, or “My deliverance is YHVH”. This may confirm that this Captain of YHVH was Yeshua himself, as the beautiful Hebrew wordplay of Yeshua (short form of Yehoshua, “Yehovah delivers”) and yeshuah (deliverance) prompts to.
If there is any place in which the division of Scripture in chapters is unsuitable, it is here, because the appearance of the Messenger does not terminate with Jos 5:15 but follows in Jos 6:1-5. If we regard the account of the appearance of the Captain of the heavenly forces as terminating with Jos 5:15, then the appearance was for nothing.
Thus, we can safely assume that the Captain of the hosts of YHVH appeared to Yehoshua to give him the plan for the battle of Yericho. We derive this not merely from the fact that Elohim was about to give city into the hands of the Israelites, but in the fact that the city was strongly fortified, and they were to fight for it.
When Yehoshua took off his shoes, the Captain of YHVH made known to him the purpose of his coming speaking on behalf of YHVH giving him the detailed battle plan.
See! I have given Yericho and its king, mighty brave men, into your hand. And you shall go around the city, all the men of battle going around the city once. Do this for six days. And let seven priests bear seven jubilee horns before the ark, and on the seventh day go around the city seven times while the priests blow with the horns. And it shall be, when they make a long blast with the jubilee horn, and when you hear the voice of the horn that all the people shout with a great sound. And the wall of the city shall fall down flat, and the people shall go up every man straight before him. (Jos 6:2-5)
The fall of Yericho
And Yehoshua called the priests and related to them the battle plan of Yericho and in seven days the city walls fell as foretold.
YHVH through the mediation of His Messenger gave up Yericho to the Israelites by a miracle.
Yericho was to be marched around every day for seven days, and seven times on the seventh day. The significance of this repeated marching culminated in the ark of the covenant and the blasts of the jubilee horns.
The first time that we read of a loud and long-continued horn-blast was at Sinai with the descent of YHVH upon the mountain.
The march around Yericho for seven days and to be repeated seven times on the seventh day was equally wondrous. But this miracle does not explain the connection between the blasts of the jubilee horns and the shout of the people and the falling of the fortified walls. As the connection between the staff of Mosheh and the splitting of the sea and the breaking of the Egyptian chariots was not explained.
Yehoshua did not know the meaning of it, nor do we. Yet, it must have had some meaning.
Per Josephus (Antiquities of the Jews, Book 5, Chapter 1:5), the siege of Yericho began on the first day of Unleavened Bread and the city walls fell on the seventh day of the feast, as we read,
Now while the Israelites did this, and the Canaanites did not attack them, but kept themselves quiet within their own walls, Joshua resolved to besiege them; so on the first day of the feast [of the Passover], the priests carried the ark round about, with some part of the armed men to be a guard to it. These priests went forward, blowing with their seven trumpets; and exhorted the army to be of good courage, and went round about the city, with the senate following them; and when the priests had only blown with the trumpets, for they did nothing more at all, they returned to the camp. And when they had done this for six days, on the seventh Joshua gathered the armed men and all the people together, and told them these good tidings, That the city should now be taken, since God would on that day give it them, by the falling down of the walls, and this of their own accord, and without their labor. … He commanded them also to bring together all the silver and gold, that it might be set apart as first-fruits unto God* out of this glorious exploit, as having gotten them from the city they first took; only that they should save Rahab and her kindred alive, because of the oath which the spies had sworn to her. * [Lev 23:6-8]
Because YHVH had given Yericho into the hands of the Israelites, they were to devoted it to Him as a set-apart thing belonging to Him only thus becoming the first-fruits of the land of Kana’an.
Note: Within the Festival of the Unleavened Bread falls another festival, that of the First-Fruits in which the first-fruits of the new harvest belong to YHVH.
The Yarden River split to give Israel an entrance into the land, and now the fortified walls of Yericho fell down to give the Israelites the city as a first-fruit, which they were to give back to the One who gave the victory.
Two such awesome wonders of the work of the Mighty One of Israel that spread the report about Yehoshua in all the land that YHVH was with him (Jos 6:27).
Yericho was not only the first, but the strongest city of Kana’an, and as such was the key to the conquest of the whole land. Elohim gave Israel the first and strongest city, as the first-fruit of the land, as a sign that He was about to give them the whole land for a possession, according to the promise.
But Yericho fell not without fighting on the part of Israel. As we will conclude at the end of this study, there was a reason for this.
Most definitely, the fall of the fortified city of Yericho on the Festival of Unleavened Bread was an awesome miracle, but how close in comparison was that event to the destruction of the whole Egypt by the ten plagues?
The miracle of “standing sun”
And when all the kings heard what Israel did to the habitants of Yericho, they gathered together with one accord to fight with Yehoshua. And YHVH said to Yehoshua, “Do not fear them, for I have given them into your hand. Not one of them does stand before you”.
Then Yehoshua came upon them suddenly, and YHVH threw them into confusion before Israel, and there was a great slaughter. And as they were fleeing before Israel, YHVH threw down large hailstones from the heavens on them, and they died. There were more who died from the hailstones than those whom the Israelites had killed with the sword (Jos 10:8-11).
That shower of hailstones, which fell upon the Kana’anites slew a greater number of them than the swords of the Israelites. This phenomenon, which resembled the terrible hail in Egypt (Exo 9:24), was manifested in a miracle produced by the omnipotent power of Elohim of Israel killing the enemy without injuring the Israelites, who were pursuing them: just like in Egypt. Thus, the Israelites were made to see that it was not their own power, but the supernatural power of YHVH Elohim that had given them the victory.
Then Yehoshua spoke to YHVH before the eyes of all people on that day, when He gave the Amorites in the hands of Israel,
Sun, stand still over Giveon! And you, moon, in the Valley of Ayalon! So, the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, until the nation avenged itself upon their enemies. Is this not written in the Book of Yashar? Thus, the sun stopped in the midst of the heavens, and did not hasten to go down for an entire day. And there has been no day like that, before it or after it, that Yehovah listened to the voice of a man, because Yehovah fought for Israel. (Jos 10:12-14)
Yehoshua’s command to the sun and the moon implies that they were both visible in the sky at the time the Creator of the world would not let them set until Israel had taken vengeance upon its foes. This suggests that the sun and the moon did stand still at Joshua’s word. It follows from this, that Yehoshua merely commanded the day to be lengthened by delaying of the setting of the heavenly luminaries.
There are two explanations of this miraculous event as for the timing of occurrence.
Yehoshua spoke these words in the afternoon, when the sun was beginning to set, and the moon had already risen. But the expression “in the midst of the heavens” opposes this view given the relative position of the two bodies in the sky, the sun at Giveon and the moon in the valley of Ayalon: quite a distance apart.
From Yehoshua’s point of view the sun would be in the east when it stood over Giveon, and the moon in the far west when it stood over the valley of Ayalon. If this supposition is correct then the event must have taken place a few hours after sunrise, when the moon had not yet set in the western sky, and the sun was close to its highest point, hence, “in the midst of the heavens”.
After the battle had lasted for some hours, Yehoshua began to worry that he could not be able to overcome the enemy before the beginning of the night, and he commanded the sun and the moon to stand still. His words were fulfilled and indeed the sun stood still, and the moon stopped setting down.
How are we to understand this awesome phenomenon?
First, we should note here that it is not said that the sun actually stood still in one spot in the sky, but when the following expression, “and did not hasten to go down for an entire day” is considered, it is understood to mean that the sun was slowly setting down. In other words, the course of the sun was slowed.
Because of this unseen heavenly phenomenon, it is said that there was no other day like this on which YHVH slowed the course of the sun, “There was no day like that before it, or after it, that Jehovah hearkened to the voice of a man; for Jehovah fought for Israel”.
But at the same time, it must be kept in mind that it is not stated literally that YHVH had lengthened the day, or that He made the sun stand still a whole day, but simply that He listened to the voice of Yehoshua until Israel had defeated its enemies.
This clarification is not without merit, for a miraculous prolongation of the day would take place not only if the sun’s course was slowed, but also if Yehoshua had such perceived it as a miraculous prolongation and recorded it down as such in the book. As a support of his claim, he quoted the Book of Yashar, where that phenomenon was also recorded.
Note: The Book of Yashar is quoted in Jos 10:13 and 2Sa 1:18. Ironically, today, this book is considered “apocryphal”, i.e., questionable, by the mainstream theologians. The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha are known in Hebrew as Sefarim Chitsonim, literally, the books outside the Bible.
It is not easy to decide between these two opposing views: a literal or metaphorical interpretation of “standing sun”.
Under the pressure of the battle, the time must have been felt longer than usually. During the confusion of the battle hardly Joshua had been watching the shadow of the sun to measure time in order to discover that the sun had actually stood still. This mental perception on part of Yehoshua of a long day, however, cannot explain the verse, because indeed the Scripture says that the sun did not hasten to go down, that is, its course was slowed down, “for an entire day”.
But even by the most literal interpretation of the words, we cannot assume that the sun itself was miraculously made to stand still, but simply supposes an optical illusion of “standing sun”, when the axial revolution of the earth is slowed down to lengthen the day.
Or perhaps there is a very simple explanation of our verse. The greatest Jewish scholar of the Middle Ages, who codified Jewish law in the Talmud, Maimonides (1135-1204) gives a more practical solution to our problem.
In his Guide for the Perplexed, Chapter 35, he wrote, “We must not be misled by the account that the light of the sun stood still certain hours for Joshua”. He then explains that the words keyom tamim “for an entire day” mean “the longest possible day”, because tamim means “perfect” and indicates that that day appeared to be the longest day in the summer, or what we call today “summer solstice” (Latin for “standing sun”) — the day (22 June) on which the sun is at its greatest distance from the celestial equator.
For the Scriptures speak of the words of men which he can understand. According to Maimonides, the day Yehoshua won the battle against the Amorites was 22 June, the longest day of the year, on which day Yehoshua had enough time to finish off the enemies of Israel.
But even if the words really affirmed that a physical lengthening of the day did actually take place by a phenomenon unknown to us, we should have no reason whatever for questioning the credibility of the account, for we should recall that there would be another phenomenon in the Scripture, when in the time of Chizkiyahu King of Yehudah, the day was indeed lengthened by the request of the king by moving the sundial ten degrees backward (2Ki 20:1-11, Isa 38:5-8).
Whether by a natural phenomenon or by a miracle, the long day on which YHVH gave the victory in the hands of Yehoshua was indeed an awesome event, but this too does not compare to the miracle of the three days of darkness in Egypt, when YHVH said to Mosheh,
Stretch out your hand toward the heavens and let there be darkness over the land of Egypt, even a darkness which is felt. And Mosheh stretched out his hand toward the heavens, and there was thick darkness in all the land of Egypt for three days. (Exo 10:21-22)
The darkness was so thick that the Egyptians were not able see one another, nor did anyone rise from his place for three days, while all the Israelites had light in their dwellings.
In conclusion, how can answer the questions we set in the beginning of this stud: Why is the dispossessing of the Kana’anites a greater wonder than all the wonders YHVH had done in Egypt by the ten plagues, at the splitting of the Red Sea, and at Mount Sinai?
Let us again read the declaration of YHVH.
Behold, I am making a covenant before all your people I am going to do wonders such as have not been done in all the earth, nor in any nation. And all the people among whom you are shall see the work of Yehovah. For what I am doing with you is awesome. (Exo 34:10-11)
Perhaps, the answer can be found in the Book of Numbers.
Between the solemn declaration of YHVH that He would unseen and unheard wonders, neither by Israel nor by any nation, and the actual conquest of the Land, stands alone a dark day in the history of Israel.
On that day, it was decreed that Israel would not enter the Promised Land.
On that day, the Temple was destroyed the first and second time.
On that day, hundreds of years later, the Bar Kochba Revolt was brutally suppressed by the Romans, and all hope vanished: the remnant of Israel in the Land, Judea, was taken in the longest exile that lasts even until this very day.
All because of the refusal of ten men to take the Land.
Had Israel accepted the Land, they would have seen these awesome wonders, and we would have known them. But because they said to each other, “Let us appoint a leader, and let us turn back to Egypt” (Num 14:4), most regrettably, we do not know and perhaps will never know how YHVH’s words would have been materialized.
There is nothing that can anger Elohim more than the words: “Let us go back the lands of exile”.
Or we are still to see these awesome wonders in the Land to be fulfilled in the Second, this time the Greater Exodus of Israel.
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May we merit seeing the coming of our Mashiach speedily in our days!