The first solar eclipse of 2020, a rare annular eclipse, will appear in the heavens over Israel on Sunday. According to academicians, this type of eclipse described as a “ring of fire” was responsible for Joshua’s miraculous ‘stopping of the sun’ during battle exactly 3,227 years ago.
The eclipse will be visible for a very short time in a 60-kilometer wide path traversing Africa and the Central African Republic, Congo, Ethiopia, Pakistan, India, and China. The eclipse will begin to be visible in Israel at 7:26 AM local time, reach its peak one hour later, and disappear at 9:26. The sun will be 99% obscured by the moon, making the sun’s corona appear as a ring of fire around the dark circle of the moon. Israel experienced a very brief ring of fire eclipse last December during the holiday of Hannukah.
An annular eclipse occurs when the Sun and Moon are exactly in line with the Earth, but the apparent size of the Moon is smaller than that of the Sun. Hence the Sun appears as a very bright ring, or annulus, surrounding the dark disk of the Moon. This is, essentially, the opposite of a supermoon, when the moon is close to the earth making it appear larger. Sunday’s annular eclipse is especially rare as it comes in the summer. The Earth’s orbit around the Sun is elliptical, making the Earth’s distance from the Sun vary throughout the year. This affects the apparent size of the Sun. When Earth is at its farthest distance from the Sun in early July, a total eclipse is somewhat more likely, whereas conditions favor an annular eclipse when Earth approaches its closest distance to the Sun in early January.
ECLIPSE AS OMEN
In its discussion of eclipses, the Talmud (Sukkot 29a) specifically described solar eclipses as being a bad omen for the nations who base their calendars on the solar cycle.
At the end of this section describing the omens contained within eclipses, the Talmud states a disclaimer: “When Israel does the will of the place (God), they have nothing to fear from all of this,” citing the Prophet Jeremiah as a source.
Thus said Hashem: Do not learn to go the way of the nations, And do not be dismayed by portents in the sky; Let the nations be dismayed by them! Jeremiah 10:2
Indeed, the complete solar eclipse that transversed the continental United States in August 2017 ushered in the most devastating hurricane season in US history.
RESEARCHERS ATTRIBUTE JOSHUA STOPPING THE SUN TO ANNULAR ECLIPSE
In a paper published in the scientific journal Astronomy and Geophysics in 2017, researchers from England’s Cambridge University confirmed a theory first suggested by Ben Gurion University researchers: that Joshua’s miraculous ‘stopping of the sun’ during a battle to allow the Israelites more time to defeat their enemies was actually an annular solar eclipse.
They even pinpointed the exact date – the afternoon of October 30, precisely 3,224 years ago.
In the Biblical account, Joshua led the Israelites into battle with the armies of five kings in order to help the besieged Gibeonites, with whom they had signed a pact. As the Israelites began to gain the upper hand, Joshua prayed for the sun and the moon to stand still in order to complete the defeat. His prayers were answered.
And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the nation had avenged themselves of their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jashar? And the sun stayed in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day. Joshua 10:13
The Cambridge researchers understood this passage as an important historical account.
“If these words are describing a real observation, then a major astronomical event was being reported,” said paper co-author Professor Sir Colin Humphreys from the University of Cambridge’s Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy. “The question for us to figure out is what the text actually means.”
The British researchers used the original Hebrew Bible to better understand the exact connotations of the verse.
“Modern English translations, which follow the King James translation of 1611, usually interpret this text to mean that the sun and moon stopped moving,” explained Humphreys. “But going back to the original Hebrew text, we determined that an alternative meaning could be that the sun and moon just stopped doing what they normally do: they stopped shining.
“In this context, the Hebrew words could be referring to a solar eclipse, when the moon passes between the earth and the sun, and the sun appears to stop shining.”
He added that the interpretation was supported by the fact that the Hebrew word meaning ‘stand still’ shares a root with a Babylonian word describing eclipses found in ancient astronomical texts.
The solar phenomenon described in the Book of Joshua could have been an annular eclipse that does not obscure the sun entirely. Since the moon’s passage in front of the sun does not completely cover it, leaving instead its characteristic ‘ring of fire’, an annular eclipse could have been described in the terms used in the Bible.
The Ben Gurion study based its conclusion on the even described in the Book of Joshua as being an annular eclipse on the Bible specifying that the moon was also involved. As described above, an annular eclipse occurs when the moon passes in between the sun and the earth.
They interpreted the word “dom,” which only occurs one other time in the Bible (Psalms 37:7), not as “stand still,” which is how it is traditionally read, but to mean “become dark.”
Their research revealed that there was only one total solar eclipse that occurred in the region between the years 1500-1000 BCE, when the Israelites are believed to have entered the land. The eclipse allowed them to date the battle precisely to 4:28 p.m. on October 30, 1207 BCE.
With the help of the Merneptah Stele, an Egyptian artifact which independently confirms the Israelites’ presence in Canaan, historians have dated Joshua’s entry into the land to between 1500 and 1050 BCE. Using complex calculations, the researchers determined that the only annular eclipse visible from the Canaan during that period took place in October of 1207 BCE. The path of this eclipse passed directly over Canaan.