Did God Stop the Sun in Isaiah 38:8… Or Not?

I’m in the book of Isaiah. Several posts are coming out of it. I’ve got a few more lined up. This one should spark a little discussion. And I’m perposely mispelling alot of werds in this sentince to try to get you OCD’ers to chime n. I’m trying some of John’s advice on how to get lots of comments on a blogpost.

Let the debate begin.

“Behold, I will cause the shadow on the stairway, which has gone down with the sun on the stairway of Ahaz, to go back ten steps.” So the sun’s shadow went back ten steps on the stairway on which it had gone down.”

What I’ve been able to find in my research is that Jews of this time believed that the earth was stationary and that the sun traveled around the earth. Important in the debate… maybe. Just interesting to note.

The chapter opens up with King Hezekiah being sick and about to die. (by the way, this story is also in 2 Kings 20.) Isaiah has come to give a word from God “Thus says the Lord… you’re about to die. Get your house in order.”

Both accounts have Hezekiah getting before God in prayer to plea for healing.

God hears his prayer, and tells Isaiah to go back to Hezekiah and inform him that God has heard his plea, and will actually add 15 years to his life. It is interesting that in the 2 Kings account, Hezekiah asks for a sign that God will hold true to His word and heal him. The Isaiah account doesn’t mention this. Obviously both accounts are just as inspired by God and just as true.  Both accounts have God granting a sign to Hezekiah. God will “make the shadow cast by the sun turn back 10 steps.”

I’ve heard some say that God Stopped the Sun. Which is somewhat crazy, since the sun is already in fact stationary. It is kinda like saying that God made the water wet. We know from our first grade solar system mobile, that the earth orbits the sun. Others will say that the earth stopped orbiting the sun. While yes, God could do this, he wouldn’t necessarily ‘have to do it’ to pull off this sign to Hezekiah. Still others will say that all of the sudden the universe literally took ten steps backward. Note this doesn’t just affect the position of the earth to the sun, this affects all of the universe. All orbits would have changed. All celestial bodies would have been affected. Could God do it? Of course He could. He flung the stars in place. He is in command of all.

How God pulled it off, doesn’t matter. The point is He did. He did it for one person. King Hezekiah was a good king at a time that kings were really bad. Hezekiah was faithful to God and at this moment, God heard Hezekiah’s prayer and performed this incredible miracle for one person’s benefit.

As long as we don’t change our view of who God is and create a ‘new’ God that is incapable of doing these things, in my eyes it really doesn’t matter. Let’s face it, in comparison, God did a much greater thing when he turned back our hearts to Him. His plan that led to our salvation is His symphony. This little sun dial miracle is a parlor trick in comparison.

So what do you think? I’ll chime in with my thoughts if someone will get the ball rolling.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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6 thoughts on “Did God Stop the Sun in Isaiah 38:8… Or Not?

  1. I agree that salvation is the greatest miracle ever. Nothing else can compare with it. All the other miracles (except for Christ’s resurrection – which is directly linked to salvation) had temporary results but salvation has eternal results.

  2. This first caught my eye because I thought it was about a similar Biblical Sun-related event, for which there have been some silly internet chain-hoaxes perpetuated. I’m referring to the sun stopping for a day in Joshua 10:12-14. And unlike that e-rumor’s claim, no, there is NOT a group of astronomers/scientists/etc. who examined star charts with today’s “modern” telescopes and proved that there is a “missing” day.

    But, regarding the question at hand, I’ll add my two cents’ worth, since you’ve advertised that you’ll chime in after a few others “get the ball rolling” … which leads to my first comment: the Earth as a ball rolling around the Sun.
    Yeah, relatively speaking for our solar system, the Sun appears stationary, but of course it too is moving, in its own orbit within this Milky Way galaxy. But everyone knows what you’re talking about — I just had be an astronomy geek and point it out. 🙂

    Secondly, as for Earth “orbiting” the Sun, I don’t think that’s the part people would claim stopped, since Earth’s orbit (path around the Sun) is not what immediately changes the shadows that we see each day. Yeah, I’m sure you meant the Earth’s rotation/spin on its axis, which is what makes the Sun, Moon, and stars appear to go around us on a daily (nightly) basis. And wow, think what it would be like if Earth suddenly came to a stop and reversed its rotation for a bit! (At this point I’ll resist the temptation to think about how far the shadow traveled along those 10 steps of the stairs of Ahaz, and how many hours and minutes that would work out to be.)
    And for you time-travel fans, if God did rewind the whole universe for a little bit, apparently Hezekiah was immune to the effects for he was able to perceive that the shadow reversed.
    And this leads to another unanswered question: How long do you think it took for the shadow to reverse on those 10 steps? Was it at the same speed as the usual shadow movement, or did it happen quickly, in just a few seconds?

    Finally, I wondered if maybe some dude was just holding a very large mirror or shiny thing in the king’s palace, which reflected the sun’s light onto those steps. That would be cool, and no less miraculous due to its timing and accuracy. But (and I’m not looking up Hebrew words here), the passage seems to indicate the sun’s shadow, and though not explicitly ruling out the shadow from a reflection of the sun, it seems to imply the sun’s direct shadow.

    Astronomical movements aside, the fact remains as you describe. Something miraculous happened to testify to God’s omnipotence in general, and to His relationship specifically with one individual. Similarly with His other great miracle of salvation, it’s one that’s provided for all, but is accepted on an individual/personal level.

  3. When you twittered I was all ready to respond to the Joshua stopping the sun story. Since you are referencing an entirely different sun story I have nothing to say 🙂

    Ok. Well…either way I have pretty much the same opinion which probably doesn’t help anyone except me. Do I think that God can do that? Sure, by definition, God is all powerful, which means God has the power to do it if he wants.

    On the other hand, I think that these are both rather minor stories in scripture. In many ways I don’t think there is much difference between restoring sight to someone that has been blind since birth, or restoring the ability to walk to someone that has never walked or raising someone from the dead or stopping the sun. They are all just a matter or degrees, but any of them are miracles that could not be done outside of God’s power. So if you don’t think that God can heal the blind, you probably don’t think that God can stop or move the sun back.

    But in the end, I don’t think it is a requirement for faith. I think that what is important is submission to God, not your believe in supernatural explanations to events. I do not believe you have to believe in a literal 7 day creation to be a Christian, why should you need to believe in a literal stopping of the sun?

  4. OK my thoughts. Note, I have no idea what I am talking about.

    While he could stop the earth on its axis, stop the orbit of earth around the sun. Stop the galaxy rotation in the universe, I don’t think he has to to prove that he is who he is.

    Scripture already says that everything about Him has been made known to us. Romans 1:20 – For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

    God commands light. He defies physics and scientific law. When I read this, I believe that he simply told the light and the shadow that was produced by it to act in such a way that would have no explanation. What is cool is that man had to come up with the sundial in the first place and figure out how it worked. God used a man made creation in this miracle.