sundial02I received the following question:

Nathan, I don’t have any written material from you concerning Isaiah 38:8.  Was wondering if you have commented on this passage concerning the sun dial of Ahaz moving back 10 degrees.

1. How much time is ten degrees on a sun dial?  
2. Was it only Ahaz’s sun dial that moved?  
3. Did time actually shift, and would it have been for the whole world or only for the purpose of the sign it was to be for Hezekiah?

I remember someone a long time ago ridiculing the Bible and this was one of his points of contention.  “How could you believe a book that says that once time moved backwards?”  was his argument.  Of course you could say that about anything you choose not to believe, whether in the Bible or anywhere else.  Blue Letter Bible seems to conclude that is was restricted to “the land” and that time did not actually move, but was a miracle involving the shifting of the light on this particular sun dial.

A very interesting question.

1. It is impossible to say for sure how much time 10 degrees was, since we do not know how many degrees the sundial was divided into. If we were to assume 360 degrees on a sundial, as we have 360 degrees in a circle, then there would be 30 degrees in an hour, so 10 degrees would be 20 minutes. This is probably as good a guess as any.

2. I do not think that God created just an illusion on Hezekiah’s sundial. I think He worked this miracle to actually have the sun regress 10 degrees, so that its shadow also regressed this amount. This would be a very powerful miracle, of course, but not one that I think is beyond God. Of course, the earth’s momentum could not be reversed in this way by any science known to us, but nothing is too hard for the Lord.

3. I don’t think time shifted. Time moved forward on earth at the same rate it always does. There is a difference between time itself and our marking time, which we do by heavenly bodies, especially the sun. Assuming the 20 minutes idea to be true, that day would have been longer by about 40 minutes than its allotted 24 hours. But this did not change time at all, just our marking of time by the sun. Really, this miracle was hardly less than when the sun stood still for almost a whole “day” while Israel fought God’s enemies. That was basically the same, with God having to stop the earth’s rotation and then dampen the centrifical force which normally would have sent everything on earth flying off into space upon such a sudden stop.

The sun moving backwards is not the same thing as time moving backwards. This scoffer demonstrates the careless criticism that all those who have no love for the Scriptures will regularly display. The problem is not that he does not believe the Bible, but that he does not believe in a God Who is powerful enough to do miraculous works in His creation. If you keep God in the Bible, then suddenly its records of miracles do not seem far-fetched at all.

Hope this helps. Thank for the great question.