Wednesday, May 4, 2016

More Difficult Traveling Through Indonesia – Part II

Continuing from the previous post regarding the difficultly of the Indonesia route for a vessel “driven forth by the wind.” 
    Naturally, the Creator of all things could alter and change anything He chose, but again, He generally, according to the scriptural record, has operated in a much less altering environment as that which would bring about world-wide change. Of course He stopped the descent of the sun and moon’s light in Israel so they could finish their battle: “And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hastened not to go down about a whole day” (Joshua 10:13—but when He has done that, it in part has been for man to understand His power in behalf of them. It was not necessary that Joshua should speak, or the miracle be recorded, according to the modern terms of astronomy.
So let’s take a look at this event. The sun appeared to the Israelites over Gibeon, and the moon over the valley of Ajalon, and there they appeared to be stopped on their course for one whole day. Is anything too hard for the Lord? Yet, there is no such comment of the Lord’s interaction with the natural events of travel or the elements during Lehi’s travel to the Land of Promise—in fact, it covers a short sentence or two, other than the events of the storm.
    In the case of Joshua, however, we are looking at something different. Did he, however, mean the earth stopped actually revolving? Scientists say that this would tear the earth apart! Of course, to the God that created this earth, that may not have been the result. On the other hand, and looking at this from a different perspective, in ancient times the moon is said “to not wait” for the sun when it sets below the horizon before the sun rises. When the moon and sun are seen together then the moon is said “to wait” or “stand” for the sun.  When the moon is said “to stand” it means the moon is not on the horizon but further up in the sky. (Institute for Biblical & Scientific studies; p185). In addition, Dr. John Walton who teaches at Moody Bible Institute, gives two important observations: Firstly, the description in Josahua 10 “Places the sun in the east and the moon in the west, thus… indicating that the prayer was made in the morning.” And Secondly, this day is unique, not because of astronomical phenomenon… but because God listened to the voice of man!”
    In looking at the Hebrew written of this event, the word עמד, which means to “stand still” or “wait,” is used here. But if we are to apply it to the moon and not to the light of the moon, where would be the use of the moon's standing still in the valley of Ajalon, when it would be low down in the sky westward, and incapable of rendering Joshua any help? If we regard the light of the moon as meant, there is no phrase more common in poetry and poetic prose than to speak of moonbeams "resting" upon an object. The people. The word here is גוִי. And the sun stood still. Here the word עָמַד is used of the sun. But, as before, it refers naturally enough to the sun's light.
    We also need to ask ourselves the more important question and that is “how did the people at Joshua’s time understood this?” Well, to answer this let’s take a look at Acts 2:20 where the moon is said to turn "into blood." Does this mean the moon actually turned into real blood? No! It was used figuratively of a lunar eclipse when the moon turns a dull red color, sometimes when the moon is close to the horizon the atmosphere causes the moon to look orange-red in color, or clouds or smoke can darken the moon. Lawson Younger in his book Ancient Conquest Accounts has some very interesting comparisons of Joshua 10 with other ancient Assyrian, Hittite, and Egyptian conquest accounts. Being able to conquer the enemy in a single day is a great victory in ancient times. One implored his god to maintain daylight long enough for their enemies to be defeated, and the supernatural aid of the God in battle with hailstones is told.
So it could be said the Lord did not stay or stop the actual rotation of the sun and moon here, but only retained the moon and sun’s light upon the scene so Israel could complete their task and defeat their enemies. Thus, the declining sun continued to shine upon Gibeon, and in the neighborhood, upon the descent from Beth-heron the Upper, and on the whole region throughout which the fugitive Canaanites were scattered, since it would seem logical that not all the fleeing host took off in just one direction, and possibly in the neighborhood of Gibeon itself there remained quite enough of the scattered portions of the host to need urgently the sun's light to complete their destruction.
    Flavius Josephus in his “Antiquities of the Jews,” writes about Joshua 10:13: “One would not get the impression that the earth actually stopped rotating! So what is going on? How does one get a lengthened day?” Joshua wrote: “"and he said; Before the eyes of Israel,
Sun, on Gibeon be dumb (or silent), and moon, in the valley of Aijalon. And was dumb (or silent) the sun, and the moon stood, until the nation was avenged on its foes. Is it not written in the Book of the Upright? And stood the sun in the midst of the heavens, and did not press to go as on a full day. And never has been a day that before it or after it; For Jehovah listened to the voice of a man. For Jehovah fought for Israel." Two different Hebrew words are used in the passage which are often translated in these verses as "stand still" or "stood still." The first is transliterated as "damam" and it has a basic literal meaning of "to be dumb" and by implication, to be astonished, to stop, or also to perish. And it is many times translated as to be silent. The second word used is transliterated as "amad" and it has a basic literal meaning of "to stand." However, per Strong, it is used in various relations both literal and figurative, and as transitive or intransitive, a wide range of uses. Considering the many varying possibilities such as, to raise up, set forth, dwell, abide, endure, tarry, continue and even cease; the experts are left scratching their heads about the true implications of the Hebrew text.

    We can also take a look at some interesting facts of ancient records that show "heavenly bodies standing still" was common terminology used at the time:
1. "When the day is long according to its calculation, there will be a long reign. The day is calculated to last as long as the Sun remains above the horizon." When a month has 30 days, its days are said to have their full or proper length.
2. "When the Moon stands in a fixed position, there will be want of rain." (Drought…?)
3. "When the sun stands within the "halo of the Moon," (also called a moon ring or winter halo) in all lands they will speak truth." (Rain…?) There’s an old weather saying even today… "Ring around the moon means an approaching storm and rain soon!" There’s truth to this saying, because high cirrus clouds often come before a storm.
4. "When the Moon stops in its course, the market will be low." (Financial…?)
5. "When the Sun stands in the place of the Moon, the king of the land will be secure on his throne." (Israel defeated its enemies!) This is a comparison of Joshua 10:13 and the Lord’s crucifixion (Luke 23:44-47).
6. "If in Adar (12th month of the Hebrew year corresponding to February to March on the Gregorian calendar) the sun stands still in the middle of noontime: the land will experience siege (and) misery." These reports show us that terms like "The sun or moon stood still" were commonly used to describe certain conditions of heavenly bodies that they observed. It does not mean the earth stopped rotating.
7. Another important point is one of the most important calculations in ancient times was the full moon in the middle of the month. The first day of a full moon was when the moon set minutes after sunrise, so that the sun and moon were both visible on opposite horizons. If this was on the 14th, it was a good omen but if on the 15th, it was a bad omen. It says that if "on the fourteenth day the Moon was seen with the Sun. There will be an overthrowing of fortresses and downfall of garrisons (the troops stationed in a fortress or town to defend it!)"
Joshua commands the sun to remain
    The point is, to man God works in mysterious ways, but to God, His ways are natural within the laws he has established, and for the most part he operates within the realm of His established laws that man can easily understand, though at a level or ability man is incapable of achieving.
    Consequently, since God works through his Laws for the benefit of man, allowing man to do all that he can in the process and helping out when necessary, we see a God that is involved in matters, but does not as a rule interfere other than in helpful ways to those he assists. As an example, continuing the light of the Sun and Moon to aid Israel in defeating their enemies—and act that all Israel knew and understood was the hand of the Lord acting in their behalf.
    In the case of Lehi’s travels across the sea, other than the four-day storm, there is no mention of anything in which the Lord was involved, therefore to suggest that he changed the course of wind and waves is neither accurate nor suggested. And certainly, the absence of a statement does not necessarily mean it did not exist, but it certainly should not be considered to have existed in light of suggestions to the contrary.
    Nephi, in guiding his ship, tells us he was “driven forth before the wind” (1 Nephi 18:8,9), and when we understand what that statement means, we can see it could mean nothing else!


  1. Interesting comments. I have this argument with a buddy of mine all the time. He says that the Lord always works within laws as you've stated. I say fine - then explain to me clearly how Christ turned water into wine. There are conditions where miracles happened in the scriptures. Some of them were miraculous as in the case of Ahaz in Isaiah 38:8 - See, I make the shadow cast by the afternoon sun on the dial of Ahaz recede the ten degrees it has gone down. So the sun reversed its descent by ten degrees on the dial.

    My point is there were events in the scriptures that are outside of the laws of nature. Those are called miracles to us. We not only do not understand them but they can't even happen in our understanding.

    In the case of Nephi and Lehi however nothing is mentioned in the Book of Mormon that the Lord altered any natural event in their journey to South America. You've documented a course that is logical and correct in every aspect. Everything lines up and we don't have to resort to miracles to make it work. But that does not mean that the Lord works exclusively within natural law. There are countless examples where He does not. Good comments Del - enjoy them every much. Ira

  2. Actually, I never said the Lord worked within my laws or your laws—but within his laws.
    The points you make (and others can be cited) are not outside the laws of nature—we just don’t know how to do such things yet. They are outside our knowledge of them—however, they are not that I know of events that do not happen in their own method, sequence, or happenings under normal conditions based on the Lord’s superior knowledge. As an example, turning water to wine could be done with a slight variation in ingredients as has been shown by several chemists on this very point—not that it has been done, but they can see how it could be done. In Biblical days, moving a mountain was an impossible thing could not even be envisioned—however, today with big Earth Movers, mountains are moved all the time; and man has walked on the moon—several times, though at the beginning of the last century only science fiction was beginning to look at such possibilities. It is just a matter of perspective in what the Lord does that we cannot.
    As for stopping the light, there is a great explanation as to what is meant by altering the light of the sun and moon and not the orbs themselves, in the days of Joshua, which we have written about.
    Still, nothing is impossible for the Lord, but he seems to operate within a known concept, and though it might be unknown to us, they are still feasible within simple laws to him. Nuclear fission, etc., was unknown to man until this past century and unheard of by man much of the century before that. There was a time when a crossbow would end all war--nothing could ever be a greater weapon. They are within the simple facts of life as the Lord knows them. I doubt the Wright Brothers in their wildest imagination never envisioned man flying a supersonic jet fighter, or the Concord passenger liner, etc. Those evernts before their time woulfd haver been seen like we see some of the Lord’s actions today.
    I see those types of things as very different than the things I refer to as not being done by the Lord. He seldom, if ever has demonstrated a tendency to do for man what man can do for himself—He may assist here or there, but he didn’t step in and wipe out Israel’s enemies the Midianites. He just stopped the ebbing of the light so Israel could continue to fulfill their assignment.
    He didn’t step in and pick up the Lehi Colony and set them down in the Land of Promise—he just showed Nephi how to build a ship that would carry them there.
    Could he have done so? Certainly, but there is no such evidence of anything like that ever happening outside of the process of visions and people finding themselves in areas they have never been, but always to be returned to where they were. The point is, when the sun went backward, it was for a purpose of which people had to do something (fight a battle) it was not the Lord simply defeating the enemy for them. Whatever the principles are the Lord works within, they seem to not eliminate the work and effort of people having to accomplish for themselves what needs to be done--the Lord simply assists.
    This, then suggests to me that he will not operate outside of that principle. Can he? Yes. Will he. Evidently not.

    1. This is a good discussion because many things you've said of course are true of course. There are events that happen completely outside our experience. I do not believe however that Christ added anything to the water to make it wine. That was a bonafied miracle. When the brother of Jared said to mount Zerin remove - bulldozers didn't show up and start moving the mount. It was removed as he said. This completely defies the law of gravity. Same with the sun. I think it stopped and went back as the scriptures say. The sun was darkened when Christ died - same thing - it was a miracle and not an eclipse. Same with raising the South American continent - a miraculous event. But when people say that God changed the currents and wind that just isn't the case. Why? Because He didn't need to. The path was already laid out for Nephi and Lehi. The Lord simply had to lead them to the right spot.

      My conclusion is there are no physical laws that the Lord has to obey. To us they are called miracles. To Him it's just one of His commands to alter or suspend the laws of nature for whatever period He requires. We have a free agency however and that does come into play in many events.

      Thanks for the discussion. Ira

  3. I guess my disagreement lies in what are and what are not the "laws of nature." To me, they are far beyond our comprehension. To God, they are simply within his realm of knowledge. That man has placed a limit on what is "nature" and what is not does not make it so. We have seven children. When each was small, I used to perform "miracles" to them simply because I understood some scientific principles that were far beyond their knowledge at the time. To the aborigine, the gun is a miracle, to the kid, the cockpit of a the SR-71 is a miracle of gadgets he cannot even begin to comprehend,to our family doctor when we were a young family, the Priesthood Blessings I gave our kids were miracles for they "cured" them of maladies he could not always even diagnose. I don't think the Lord suspends the laws of nature--I think the laws of nature are so far beyond our understanding yet, that, as you say, the are "miracles" to us becusue we have no greater knowledge of the facts involved. But to the Lord they are just business as usual.

  4. Continuing...
    Evidently, there are some "physical laws that the Lord has to obey" according to Alma 42:13, or he would cease to be God...I don't begin to claim I understand what those are, but whatever laws that govern the Universe that God has set up evidently cannot be disobeyed, even by him, or violated. Still, to us, it would seem he can do anything.

    1. fair enough. We'll have to wait and see on some of these questions. I often discuss this topic with a buddy of mine. He is always trying to come up with some explanation for the miracle in the scriptures. When he finds something that explains it he tells me - see God works through natural means. So the debate goes on. I believe in the miracles as they are. Christ turned water into wine by using His power. He didn't use chemistry. Your points are well taken however. Thanks, Ira

    2. fair enough. We'll have to wait and see on some of these questions. I often discuss this topic with a buddy of mine. He is always trying to come up with some explanation for the miracle in the scriptures. When he finds something that explains it he tells me - see God works through natural means. So the debate goes on. I believe in the miracles as they are. Christ turned water into wine by using His power. He didn't use chemistry. Your points are well taken however. Thanks, Ira

  5. How about Christ simply being the greatest chemist that has ever lived, knowing exactly the fermentation, inoculating the juice with live yeast, when then carries out the fermentation reaction of C6H1206 → 2C2H5OH + 2CO2 (sorry, this program will not convert two types of script at one time) at the same time turning oxygen into carbon dioxide which oxidizes the phenols and the sugar and ethanol are converted to carbon dioxide and water. It is a simple process as every chemist knows—how to do it is another thing.
    Then he simply removed the unwanted solids, salts and microorganisms, who all obey his voice and remove themselves. When the high biological oxygen demand is produced, he simply commands it to compost or otherwise dispose into other waste elements. Just because God works through commands and all things obey him is not really that different than we working with our hands and physically doing the same thing.
    It is no different than removing a hill or mountain. The Lord speaks (or someone through the priesthood, like the Brother of Jared) and the elements of the earth making up the hill breakdown and move to another location, forming the same basic hill or mountain, or spread thinly over the ground to form a valley. It’s child’s play—you just need to know how to work through command rather than work it yourself—like commanding the big Earth Mover drivers to spread out the dirt from the mountain. Of course, they have to do it by hand, and the Lord does it by command, but the process is not all that different. Someday we will come to know that this is just child’s play when the elements all obey you. ☺

    1. That is my point exactly. Instead of being a chemist however Christ simply says to the water - be wine. The little atoms jump into action and convert themselves into wine. He didn't have to know the fermentation reaction, but only how wine tasted. BTW how do you ferment water? It was through his authority that it happened. Same is true of the sun and the moon at the time of Joshua. Instead of trying to explain it away as not a miracle but the hold over of some light for a long time. The Lord simply spoke and the sun stopped in the heavens. Since He has all power He stopped the earth or rolled it back. It did not cause great upheavals in the atmosphere nor the earth why? Because He controls everything by His power. So I think we agree on this point. It was a miracle and we don't need to look for a logical explanation because for us there is none other than the power of God. Ira

  6. I think we are going to find that it is more than "be wine," but we have to understand how that transition takes place and involved in our thought process if not our command for that to take place. He knows what "little atoms jump where" and combine how and has that in mind when he make his command(s). And I think he most certainly does need to know the process so that he can order it to take place. “And they (the Gods) said: Let there be light; and there was light. And they (the Gods) comprehended the light, for it was bright; and they divided the light, or caused it to be divided, from the darkness” (Abra 4:3-4). “And the Gods also said: Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and it shall divide the waters from the waters. And the Gods ordered the expanse, so that it divided the waters which were under the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse; and it was so, even as they ordered” (Abra 4:6-7). “And the Gods organized the earth to bring forth grass from its own seed, and the herb to bring forth herb from its own seed, yielding seed after his kind; and the earth to bring forth the tree from its own seed, yielding fruit, whose seed could only bring forth the same in itself, after his kind; and the Gods saw that they were obeyed” (Abra 4:12).
    I see in this more than merely making a command. I see a great deal of knowleldge, understanding, and knowing exactly how it happens and that being part of the command, for I think the blade of grass or the seed, or the fermentation or the atoms, etc., must be told what they are to do before they will do it. I see God with an advanced knowledge of all these things so that when he commands, his commands are obeyed. The gods, after all, waiting to see that they were obeyed. While, as I've said, this is child's play to the Lord, it is far beyond what we know today--and even those small parts we may know, we do not know how to command, with faith, and be obeyed. So it is a miracle to us but a known fact of process to the Lord.

    1. Very true - God does know everything after all. Since Christ grew from grace to grace meaning He didn't know everything however I'm not so sure He knew all things at that time. Maybe He did however.

      When I was in the mission field back 40+ years ago we gave blessings and people were healed immediately. I did not know the process that would have been required to do the healing. To me it was simply a miracle. I had the authority of the priesthood to bless and the person or people I blessed had the faith. Both together made it possible for them to be healed. Was the healing done simply by God in that case who knew how to do it? Or did I having the authority able to perform the healing. Don't know - I'll have to ask some day. It certainly was a miracle to me.

      I know from Isaiah that when Moses raised his hands at the time of the Exodus that it was the Angel of the Lord's presence that divided the Red Sea. I don't know if Moses knew that or not. perhaps it is the same with us. Don't know - hopefully find out some day.

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