Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Natural Order, and the Sun In Giveon

In Haazinu, some of the praises of Hashem:

ד הַצּוּר תָּמִים פָּעֳלוֹ, {ס} כִּי כָל-דְּרָכָיו מִשְׁפָּט: {ר} אֵל אֱמוּנָה וְאֵין עָוֶל, {ס} צַדִּיק וְיָשָׁר הוּא. {ר}4 The Rock, His work is perfect; for all His ways are justice; a God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and right is He.

Ibn Ezra appears to understand the perfection of the natural order to be a wonderful thing, and a praise of Hashem.

He writes on this pasuk, in Haazinu:
כי כל דרכיו משפט -
שלא ישתנו רק הם על משפט אחד, וזו היא התהלה (התחלה) וכל הנבראים ישתנו מעשיהם כפי צרכיהם ומעשי השם )לכבודו) (בספר הנ"ל גרס לבדו) בגבורה כפי החכמה. ואין לטעון מעמידת השמש כי סודו ברור במלת: וירח בעמק אילון, כאשר פירשתי במקומו
Thus, the sun seems to have deviated. And this would be problematic, either because Hashem changed the order, or else because the natural order is not supposed to change. But Ibn Ezra notes that not only the sun is addressed, but also the moon. And he explains it in its place.

Alas, as far as I can tell, we don't have any extant sefarim by Ibn Ezra on sefer Yehoshua, so we do not know just how he explained this sod there. But various supercommentators attempt to explain it.

The pesukim in sefer Yehoshua, perek 10:

יב אָז יְדַבֵּר יְהוֹשֻׁעַ, לַה', בְּיוֹם תֵּת יְהוָה אֶת-הָאֱמֹרִי, לִפְנֵי בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל; וַיֹּאמֶר לְעֵינֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, שֶׁמֶשׁ בְּגִבְעוֹן דּוֹם, וְיָרֵחַ, בְּעֵמֶק אַיָּלוֹן.12 Then spoke Joshua to the LORD in the day when the LORD delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel; and he said in the sight of Israel: 'Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Aijalon.'
יג וַיִּדֹּם הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ וְיָרֵחַ עָמָד, עַד-יִקֹּם גּוֹי אֹיְבָיו--הֲלֹא-הִיא כְתוּבָה, עַל-סֵפֶר הַיָּשָׁר; וַיַּעֲמֹד הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ בַּחֲצִי הַשָּׁמַיִם, וְלֹא-אָץ לָבוֹא כְּיוֹם תָּמִים.13 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.
יד וְלֹא הָיָה כַּיּוֹם הַהוּא, לְפָנָיו וְאַחֲרָיו, לִשְׁמֹעַ ה', בְּקוֹל אִישׁ: כִּי ה', נִלְחָם לְיִשְׂרָאֵל. {ס}14 And there was no day like that before it or after it, that the LORD hearkened unto the voice of a man; for the LORD fought for Israel. {S}

Rabbi Shmuel Motot explains on the basis of Volume II of Moreh Nevuchim, chapter 34 {36 is a typo}, that where it says וְלֹא-אָץ לָבוֹא כְּיוֹם תָּמִים, it does not mean that the Sun halted in its place for a full day. Rather, it means that the day was a complete day -- the full number of hours a day would have were it a summer day, when days are longest.

Therefore, it was not entirely outside of derech hateva. The Sun, at other times in the year, takes this long to go around the earth. But the sun was not supposed to take this long on that day. So it was a matter of extending the day by a few hours, to equal a certain natural day.

I highly doubt that this was Ibn Ezra's intent. For if so, how does וְיָרֵחַ בְּעֵמֶק אַיָּלוֹן solve the problem?

I would assert that Ibn Ezra is not troubled, as a rationalist, with how to account for the deviation from the normal workings of the world.

Rather, his trouble is that the pasuk states that the natural order, and the movements of the celestial bodies, is a perfect system that Hashem created and set into motion. If so, stopping the sun would spoil it. The planets and stars dance about the earth in their orbits, and perhaps also influence mazal down here on earth. Thus, the science of astrology. And they work in sync. Halt the sun for a day, or even a few hours, and the entire system is out of wack! For while the sun was halted, all the other celestial bodies presumably continued their orbits. So the Sun is out of place. Furthermore, Hashem set the system in motion at the very start, and this modification of only one element in the system represents a Change.

Now that we understand the question, we can suggest an answer. And hopefully, if and when they find Ibn Ezra's commentary on sefer Yehoshua, we will discover that we have intuited the correct answer.

The answer, to my mind, is simply that it was not only the Sun that stopped. The Moon also stopped. And if so, Mars, Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn also stopped. This was not a modification of certain elements of the system, such that it is a change. Rather, Hashem hit the pause button. And pressed play when the battle was over. If so, the system as set up during Maaseh Bereishit was not changed by this temporary pause, and Ibn Ezra is happy.

Of course, this works on a geocentric model rather than a heliocentric model. But the point of this post is to understand the problem and solution of Ibn Ezra on this pasuk.


Joe in Australia said...

And if so, why not mention the stars and the other planets? Presumably they (unlike the sun and the moon) are generally not visible during the day; and either the verse describes the sky from the viewpoint of people in Israel or, the world being flat, it is daytime for everyone at the same time.

ZB said...

Well from the heliocentric model we can explain that the earth stopped or slowed down its rotation, making it just look like the sun, moon, and even stars stood still. This would not effect the orbits of any other planets or stars. So here is another way to make the Ibn Ezra happy. :-)

joshwaxman said...

perhaps. makes sense. alternatively, Yehoshua chose a nice poetic parallelism for shemesh, and so moon worked best; and then ibn ezra made use of it to extrapolate to a larger point.

true. although of course the is the added difficulty that everyone should have been flung into space. :) this would indeed have preserved the natural orbits of everything, although since the planets would have continued their revolution around the sun, from our perspective things might be slightly, although perhaps imperceptibly, shifted in the night sky.


David Guttmann said...

The Malmad Hatalmidim understands that the pursuit was so hot and successful that they were able to accomplish as if the day was longer. IOW there was no unnatural event.


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