Joel Chapter 3  PDF  MSWord

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Go to Bible: Joel 3
Joe 3:1(top)
Joe 3:2

“I will gather all nations.” In this context, “all nations” are the nations that are enemies of Israel and of God. They will be gathered for war (Rev. 16:12-16) and gathered for judgment.

“Valley of Jehoshaphat.” For more on the Valley of Jehoshaphat, see commentary on Joel 3:12.

Joe 3:3

“have cast lots for my people.” Occasionally when large numbers of people were captured at one time the captive slaves would be gambled for to decide who got which slave or slaves. That apparently happened in some of the captivities of the people of Judah.

“have traded a boy for a prostitute and sold a girl for wine.” In the ancient world when a nation conquered a foreign nation or even a large city, the people were usually taken as slaves. It sometimes happened that immediately after a conquest there were so many slaves that they were sold for ridiculous prices. That is depicted here: when God’s people were conquered and enslaved by foreign nations a boy was sold for the price of a prostitute, and a girl for some wine.

Joe 3:4

“and what would you do to me.” The sentence is unfinished in Hebrew, and is thus an anacoluthon, showing God’s great emotion at His people being conquered, mistreated, and scattered (cp. Keil and Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary). The verb is supplied in the REV for clarity of meaning.

“Are you repaying me for something I have done?” God asks the Phoenicians and the Philistines if their evil treatment of Israel is the result of some perceived wrong that Israel has done to them. The expanded translation in the REV follows the pattern in many English versions that expand the verse for clarity (cp. ESV; NAB; NIV; RSV; TNK). One of the lessons of this verse is that hurting God’s people is hurting God, and God will repay. Similarly, in the Church today, hurting Christians is hurting Christ (Acts 9:4).

“I will swiftly and speedily return your repayment on your own head.” The perceived justification for attacking and hurting Israel is not actual justification, and God says He will avenge His people. Evil people do their evil without considering that there will be a Judgment Day in the future, but there will be and things will not go well for the wicked.

Joe 3:5

“my gold.” Just as the grapevines and fig trees were God’s in Joel 1:7, here we see that the gold and silver in Judah and especially in the Temple belonged to God. God’s enemies had killed the vines and trees and taken the valuables home to their nations. But God will gather those enemies to Judah (the Valley of Jehoshaphat) and “judge” them, which in this context involves both killing them and then judging them on Judgment Day (Joel 1:2, 12).

Joe 3:6

“people of Judah.” The Hebrew text reads “the sons of Judah and the sons of Jerusalem,” which in this context is idiomatic for the people of Judah and Jerusalem.

“To the Greeks.” The Hebrew text reads, “to the sons of the Greeks,” which is a Hebrew idiom for “the Greeks,” and many English versions read that way.

“remove them far from their territory.” Selling Jews to faraway places often ensured that they would never be able to return to Israel, even if they were freed from slavery.

Joe 3:7

“and will return your repayment.” It is important to notice that the Bible does not say it is the Jews who return to take revenge on those who have sold them. Joel 3:7 speaks of two different actions. God will “rouse” His people, and the verb can mean rouse, stir up, or awaken. Some of God’s people were “roused, stirred up” historically, and went back to Israel, for example, Alexander the Great let many Jews return to Israel. Other Jews died in captivity but will be “awakened” at the resurrection and return to the land of Israel (see commentary on Jer. 32:37).

Joe 3:8

“I will sell your sons and your daughters into the hands of the people of Judah.” This did not happen wholesale, at one specific time, but did occur over time. Interestingly, Alexander the Great and his successors set many Jews that were in their conquered lands free and allowed them to return to Israel. In contrast, Greek rulers enslaved many people in their conquered lands and sold them. For example, in 345 BC, Antiochus III sold the people of the Phoenician port city of Sidon into slavery, and in 332 BC, Alexander the Great enslaved the people of Tyre and Gaza. The close proximity of those cities to Israel would have generally ensured that at least some of those slaves were sold to Jews, who in turn would sell them to people with whom they traded (cp. Leslie Allen, The Books of Joel, Obadiah, Jonah, and Micah, NICOT, p. 114).

Joe 3:9

“Prepare for war!” In Joel 3:9-11 the nations, who have been so quick to fight and conquer Israel, are now challenged to fight with God. The nations are told to “Stir up the mighty men” (v. 9); “Beat your plowblades into swords, and your pruning hooks into spears” (v. 10); and call even the weak man strong (v. 10). Then all the nations around Israel are called to gather together to fight with God (v. 11). But the last sentence of Joel 3:11 changes and addresses God, not the enemy nations. “Cause your mighty ones to come down there, O Yahweh.” So in Joel 3:9-11 the nations are summoned together to fight with God.

However, the last sentence of Joel 3:11 is a complete change. Someone, likely the prophet although the speaker is not identified, requests that God send down His “mighty ones” (or “strong ones,” “warriors,” “heroes”) to fight this army of unbelievers. This is clearly a foreshadowing of the Battle of Armageddon when God’s heavenly army will come down from heaven and fight and destroy the army on earth that Satan has gathered (Rev. 16:12-16; 19:11-21). This idea is reinforced by the fact that after the battle in Joel 3:11, the Judgment is portrayed in the next verse, Joel 3:12.

Joe 3:10

“Beat your plowblades into swords, and your pruning hooks into spears.” This is an ironic twist of the statement made in Isaiah 2:4 and Micah 4:3 that in the future Millennial Kingdom of Christ, God’s people will beat their swords into plowblades and their spears into pruning hooks because there will be no more war.

Here in Joel 3:10, God is preparing for the Final Battle, Armageddon, and the judgment that will follow, and so he calls all of God’s enemies to Israel (represented by the “Valley of Jehoshaphat.” The name “Jehoshaphat” means “Yahweh has judged”). Here in Joel, God gathers His enemies to Israel so he can fight and destroy them, but in the Book of Revelation it is demons sent out by the Devil, the Antichrist (the “Beast”), and the false prophet that gather the people of the world to Israel to fight against God (Rev. 16:12-16). Revelation is literal, God only gathers His enemies in the sense that He stands for righteousness, obedience, and love and His enemies hate that and rebel against it (this is known as the “idiom of permission,” see commentary on Exod. 4:21).

Joe 3:11

“Hurry and come.” This may be the speaker (perhaps the prophet) exhorting God’s enemies to hurry to the battle, or it may even be the enemies exhorting each other to hurry, but in any case, the enemies of God are being exhorted to come to battle with God and His people. The enemy would be bloodthirsty and arrogant in their false confidence of victory and domination, but they are hurrying to their doom because he who fights with God fights a losing fight. The Egyptians did not win at the Exodus, the Canaanites did not win at the time of Joshua, and the enemy will not win at the Battle of Armageddon, their dead bodies will be food for the carrion birds (Rev. 19:19-21).

“Cause your mighty ones to come down there, O Yahweh.” The subjects shifts to someone, perhaps the prophet, speaking directly to God and requesting that He send down His mighty ones. This will happen when the heavenly armies come down and fight the Battle of Armageddon. [For more context of this, see commentary on Joel 3:9].

Joe 3:12

“the valley of Jehoshaphat.” The word “Jehoshaphat” means “Yahweh judges” (or, “Yahweh has judged” or “Yahweh will judge”). This valley is not identified in Scripture. It is called “the Valley of Jehoshaphat” here in Joel 3:12 and also in Joel 3:2 which are the only times the phrase is used in the Bible or in secular history. It is called “the valley of decision” in Joel 3:14. It has long been thought that the “Valley of Jehoshaphat” is the Kidron Valley east of Jerusalem, partly based on Zechariah 14:2. “Christian tradition made this identification at least as early as the fourth century AD, perhaps beginning with the Bordeaux Pilgrim’s account” (The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, “Jehoshaphat, Valley of.” The Bordeaux Pilgrim account is from 333-334 AD). However, Eusebius (c. 260-339) identified it as the Valley of Hinnom just south of Jerusalem, but the famous Saint Jerome (347-420 AD), who lived in Bethlehem and did most of the translation of what is now known as the Latin Vulgate, identified it as the Kidron Valley, and his opinion became generally accepted Christian tradition. Nevertheless, even though many scholars have followed Jerome, there are good reasons to understand that the location of the Valley of Jehoshaphat is outside of the Jerusalem area.

For one thing, it must be remembered that from quite early on in Christian history the actual way that the end times events will occur was lost. This was no doubt due in part to the persecution and killing of Christians that started officially in 64 AD with Nero and continued to 312 AD, and many knowledgeable Christian leaders were killed in that persecution. It was also due in part to the Greek concept of the “eternal soul” coming into Christianity both from the converted Greeks (such as Augustine) and Greek-speaking Jews who had been raised on the Septuagint and not the Hebrew text. In those early centuries the concept that believers who had died would “be in heaven forever” replaced the clear teaching of Scripture that Christ would come to earth, conquer it, and set up his kingdom on earth (note Jesus’ teaching, “the meek will inherit the earth” in Matt. 5:5).

Once the concept of Christ coming to earth and fighting the Battle of Armageddon and conquering the earth was lost, then the meaning of the Sheep and Goat Judgment (Matt. 25:31-46) was lost too. But the Sheep and Goat Judgment is an essential part of understanding what is going to happen in the future and Christ’s Millennial Kingdom on earth, because the Battle of Armageddon will not kill everyone on earth. Some people will survive the battle, and with over seven billion people on earth today, those survivors could number in the millions. But all those survivors will not be allowed into Christ’s kingdom because many of them are evil and God-rejectors. So when Christ comes back to earth as king, he will set up a judgment to decide who gets to enter his earthly kingdom and who does not, and that judgment is called the Sheep and Goat Judgment.

The Bible says that once Jesus conquers the earth he will set up his throne and the people who are alive on earth will be gathered before him and judged (Matt. 25:31-32). The exact location of that judgment is not known today, although it might have been known in biblical times. The location of the “Valley of Jehoshaphat” and “valley of decision” seems to be “in the wilderness,” as Ezekiel says, “I will bring you into the wilderness of the peoples, and there I will enter into judgment with you face to face” (Ezek. 20:35). The place of judgment cannot be the Kidron Valley or the Valley of Hinnom because Ezekiel 20:38 says it will not be in Israel: “I will purge out from among you those who are rebelling and those who are transgressing against me. I will bring them forth out of the land where they live, but they will not enter into the land of Israel, and you will know that I am Yahweh.” The identification of the Valley of Jehoshaphat as the Kidron Valley has been supported by associating it with Zechariah 14:2, but Zechariah is speaking of the Battle of Armageddon and its effects, not the judgment after the Battle of Armageddon. Even if some of the survivors of Armageddon are in Israel, Ezekiel says they will be brought out from there to the place of judgment (Ezek. 20:38).

So the Sheep and Goat Judgment will be in the Valley of Jehoshaphat, but where is that? In taking a close look at the “Valley of Jehoshaphat,” there are some important things we should know. The name “Jehoshaphat” is significant because it can mean “Yahweh will judge,” and it could be the actual historic name of a valley or it could be a symbolic name that is applied to the valley in prophecy because that is where the Sheep and Goat judgment and perhaps other judgments as well, will take place. Also, the Hebrew word translated “valley” is in Hebrew is amaq (#06010 עֵמֶק), and it can refer to a valley with steep sides, but also it can mean a lowland, open country, or plain. For example, the “Valley of Jezreel” (Josh. 17:6) is a plain many miles wide, but it is bordered by mountains on the north and south. The huge variation in what a “valley” can actually look like means we cannot just go to a topographical map, locate a suitable steep valley, and say that is likely the place of judgment. It might be on a plain, not in what we typically think of as a valley. Another important thing is that in the days of Jehoshaphat, God did indeed judge people in the “wilderness” as Chronicles states.

During the reign of Jehoshaphat the armies of Moab, Ammon, and the area of Edom, attacked Judah (2 Chron. 20:1,10). They came up from the south through the wilderness of Judah to En-gedi, then moved inward toward the hill country of Judah via the ascent of Ziz, a little way north of En-gedi (2 Chron. 20:16). Jehoshaphat’s forces traveled south from Jerusalem and stopped in the wilderness of Tekoa (2 Chron. 20:20), and began to sing and praise, and when they did, the armies of the enemy fought with each other until there was not a man left alive (2 Chron. 20:22-24). So in Jehoshaphat’s situation, his name, “Yahweh will judge” was prophetic because God judged the nations, and furthermore, He did so “in the wilderness,” just as Ezekiel says a coming judgment will be in the wilderness (Ezek. 20:35). It could be that the future judgment in the “Valley of Jehoshaphat” spoken of in Joel will be in the same “valley” (or plain) where the enemies of Judah killed each other as 2 Chronicles 20 records, and it became known as the Valley of Jehoshaphat because of the great victory that occurred there. However, it seems more likely that the place where Christ will set up his throne for the judgment will be in the wilderness and outside of the territory of Israel, as Ezekiel states. In that case, the reason the place is called “the Valley of Jehoshaphat” would be to remind people of God’s victory over His enemies and thus encourage people to obey God. In that sense, God’s judgment on His enemies in the wilderness at the time of Jehoshaphat is typological of the coming Sheep and Goat judgment, which will be in the wilderness and at which time God’s enemies will be destroyed while His followers will be blessed.

[For more on Christ’s Millennial Kingdom on earth, see Appendix 3, “Christ’s Future Kingdom on Earth.” For more on a person’s soul not being an “eternal soul,” see Appendix 7, “Usages of Soul.” For more on dead people being dead and awaiting a resurrection, see Appendix 4, “The Dead are Dead.” For more on the chronology of the End Times, see commentary on Matt. 25:32].

Joe 3:13(top)
Joe 3:14

“Multitudes, multitudes.” The immediate doubling of the word “multitudes” is the figure of speech epizeuxis, which is used for emphasis. There will be a huge multitude at the Sheep and Goat Judgment (Matt. 25:32).

“the valley of decision.” This is apparently the Valley of Jehoshaphat of Joel 3:2 and 3:12; see commentary on Joel 3:12. [For more on the Sheep and Goat Judgment, see commentary on Matt. 25:32].

Joe 3:15(top)
Joe 3:16(top)
Joe 3:17(top)
Joe 3:18

“a spring will flow out from the house of Yahweh.” The Hebrew is more literally, “a spring will come forth out of the house,” but it refers to the water flowing out of the Millennial Temple. The water flowing out of the Temple is also mentioned in Ezekiel 47:1-9 and Zechariah 14:8.

[For more on the Millennial Kingdom, see Appendix 3, “Christ’s Future Kingdom on Earth.”]

“Valley of Acacia Trees.” The Hebrew word for the acacia tree is “shittim,” and many English versions leave the Hebrew untranslated. However, in this context understanding that this is a valley named because of its abundance of acacia trees is important and points to its geographical location. Acacia trees grow in very dry and therefore relatively infertile soil, and that kind of soil is found in Israel in the Arabah, the land that bordered the Dead Sea and northward up the Jordan Valley for some 40 miles. So the river described in Joel 3:18 is also mentioned in Ezekiel 47:1-12 and Zechariah 14:8.

Joe 3:19(top)
Joe 3:20(top)
Joe 3:21(top)

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