Joshua and the day of Jesus’ greatest victory.


ladder 2The Old Testament leader Joshua is called “Jesus” in the King James version of the New Testament, (see Acts 7:45 and Hebrews 4:8). Technically Joshua, (Hebrew “Yhowshua”) is a more formal version of Jesus name, “Yeshua”. But it is still the same name. In fact the Old Testament uses the more “modern” spelling “Yeshua” for “Yahowshua” when newer books refer back to the ancient hero, see Nehemiah 8:17 for instance.

In modern English we still see how variant spellings of a name develop with the fashions and over time, “Stephen” becomes “Steven” and colloquially just “Steve”.

And so “Yahowshua” becomes “Yeshua” which in turn seems to have become simply “Yasha” or “Yeshu” in day-to-day talk by Jesus’ day (see the Arabic Peshitta or the Jewish Talmuds). All  of these Hebrew variants for the word or name “Salvation” can be found in the Old Testament and can therefore point us towards Jesus of the New Testament..

But sticking with Joshua, the Old Testament makes the connection between Moses’ successor Joshua and Jesus even clearer. Joshua had a father called “Nun”. According to Strong’s Concordance “Nun” means “perpetuity” from a root that means to “re-sprout” or to “continue” or to be “perpetual”, so by extension ”Nun” can be “everlasting” or “eternal”.

“Joshua the son of Nun”, Joshua 1:1, is equivalent to “Jesus the perpetual/eternal Son”!

And indeed there are lots and lots of ways in which Joshua stands typologically as a model of his future namesake, Jesus.

But for the purpose of this post I just want to highlight the parallels between the heavenly signs that accompanied Jesus’ and Joshua’s greatest victories.

joshua battle

Days when “The Sun failed and the Moon was presented”.

Joshua’s greatest victory came on a day when he defeated five Ammorite kings including the King of Jerusalem, and the King of Hebron. In popular tellings of the story we say that the Sun and the Moon “stood still” or “stopped” in the sky. Although the Bible doesn’t actually say that this was what happened!

What the Bible actually says is that: “The sun was silent and the moon was presented/present.”  It then goes on to say how another book (but not the Bible) recorded how :“the sun was silent in the middle of the sky, it did not rush to set, it was a whole day”, Joshua 10:13.

This is actually a description of a solar eclipse, the sun stops shining in the middle of the day without setting and the moon is in the sky at the same time. It was not a short day with the sun setting earlier than expected.

If we accept that Joshua’s victory was accompanied by a solar eclipse then we can actually date it quite precisely. There was a total eclipse over Gibeon on July 14th in 1406 BC which has been identified by archaeologist David Rohl as Joshua’s eclipse, it started at 3:15pm.

Before this according to the Bible there had been a huge hail storm before the Sun “ceased”, Joshua 10:11, so the sun would have been partially darkened by clouds for some time even before it was totally obscured (for about seven minutes) by the moon. The eclipse would have caused people to look more intently at the sky even in the middle of the battle and they would have seen the moon present in the middle of the afternoon, just as recorded.

Now the Bible calls this a unique day, because “YHWH listened to the voice of a man and YHWH fought for Israel”, Joshua 10:14.

The day was unique in the Old Testament but it foreshadowed the day when Jesus in His humanity would offer a sacrifice that released victory through His Divinity. There is not the space in this post to explore  just how both Jesus’ humanity and His divinity worked together to produce the full impact of the Cross, but both were required. And the image drawn from Joshua 10 of the full Godhead acting for humanity in response to the intercession of a man captures the truth of the Cross very well in deed.

CalvaryAnd so it is interesting to see how on April 3rd 33AD, the day Jesus was crucified, the day He won his greatest victory, we find Old Testament events repeating themselves as they so often do in the life of Jesus.

First there is a strange darkness from about 12pm to 3pm paralleling Joshua’s storm. The Easter darkness was almost certainly a Kamsin Dust storm in the high atmosphere. While common in April these dust storms normally occur at ground level, very occasionally they can get trapped in the higher-layers of air pressure, when that happens they create an eerie still darkness as they block out the sun’s light.

Just after 3pm, at the same time that Joshua’s eclipse happened, (3:15), Jesus who is called the “Sun of Righteousness” cries out for the last time and is then silent; He ceases or stops, just like the sun of Joshua’s day.

Now the moon was not immediately present after the Easter darkness because this darkness was not a solar eclipse.  That can only happen at the start of a lunar month and Passover happened in the middle of the month. But people would have looked for the moon’s rising because sunset heralded the start of Passover. And on April 3rd 33 AD at 6:20pm the moon rose blood red in a lunar eclipse… it presented itself in an unusual way that caused people to talk. So that at Pentecost seven weeks later Peter can mention the blood red moon of PASSOVER and say “as you yourself know”, Acts 2:17-22.

Darkness, the Sun/Son stopping and the Moon presenting itself as a sign… and there is a final piece to the picture; Joshua started and finished his day from a place called Gilgal.

There are actually several places called Gilgal in the Bible, the name is made by doubling up the word “g-l” which can mean “a stone”, “a wheel”, “circle” or even “rolling”. Joshua had erected a circle of stones at his Gilgal. But it is as “round-stone” rather than as a “stone circle” that the name makes it way into the New Testament. We know the name now as “Golgotha” or the “place of the skull” where Jesus won His great victory, because the skull is the round-stone when it comes to describing bones. A quick check of Strong’s concordance will show you that the Greek “Golgotha” was from the Aramaic “G-lg-lth”, “Gilgal” with an extra letter, interestingly that letter is the Hebrew “tav”, which in Joshua’s day would have been written as a cross. “Gilgal” was “Golgatha” minus the Cross.

There is one key bit of symbolism in Joshua’s story that reflects a difference between the Old Testament victory and the New Testament one. In the Old Testament Joshua wins by putting the five kings in a cave and sealing it by rolling a stone in front of the entrance, whereas in the New Testament Jesus is sealed in the tomb, but the stone gets rolled away.

So What?

The paralleling of significant historic events in the Life of Jesus is a part of Christo-typology that doesn’t get written about much, perhaps because people don’t know what to make of it! But there is more of it in scripture than people realise.

Matthew  points out some instances of it in his gospel, leaving it to the reader to work out what the significance is. For instance, Jesus goes down to Egypt to escape death and then returns to the promised land just as Israel was called “out of Egypt”, Matthew 2:15.

There is though much more of this than Matthew shows us.  In the Jesus Centred Bible notes we will highlight these parallel events as they happen.

In trying to explain what they mean and why these patterns exist I can only offer you my own experience. As I’ve seen these patterns it has shaped my understanding at an emotive level of how all things are summed up in Christ, even the patterns and seasons of history. It seems that the life of Christ is the source of all of many life patterns whether personal, national or global.

Jesus recapitulates history.


Christen Forster

Christen Forster is widely recognised as an original Bible teacher who brings people into a love of and confidence in scripture.

Christen has planted churches, been a youth worker, mission administrator and church leaders. The author of several books, Christen is now an itinerant minister, helping churches to step into a more deliberately spiritual experience of the Christian life while at the same time firmly rooting their practice in scripture.

© 2000 - 2024 Christen Forster
Christen Forster

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