The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Joel 3

Joe 3:1

WHEN I RESTORE THE FORTUNES: Or, better, "when I bring again [ie bring back from] captivity" (AV). The translation of the AV is supported by the ancient versions (LXX, Syr) and by such texts as Deu 30:3; Jer 29:14; 30:3; 33:7,11,26 mg; Zep 3:20; Amo 9:14.

THE VALLEY OF JEHOSHAPHAT: In the context, a place -- near Jerusalem -- where God enters into judgment with the nations, not necessarily a known valley, as the wordplay makes clear (ie, "The valley of judgment", "I will judge": cf v 12). Joel subsequently called it "the valley of decision" (v 14).

Joe 3:2

ALL NATIONS: Cp Zep 3:8; Zec 12:2,3; 14:2. Some of the nations, which joined Assyria in the onslaught on Judah, are named: Tyre and Zidon, Edom and Egypt (Joel 3:4,19). The last of these was an enemy of Assyria, but that did not stop a massive Egyptian army from ravaging southern Judah before meeting with defeat at El-tekeh. Others in the confederacy against Judah are identified in the "Gentile" section of Isaiah (Isa 13-23).

THERE I WILL ENTER INTO JUDGMENT: Much better than the AV: "there I will PLEAD". This "pleading" is of the very sternest quality!

Joe 3:3

THEY CAST LOTS FOR MY PEOPLE AND TRADED BOYS FOR PROSTITUTES; THEY SOLD GIRLS FOR WINE THAT THEY MIGHT DRINK: Jerusalem will be captured, and half its population (the Jewish half, of course) will be hauled away to endure every horror of captivity that Arab cruelty can devise (Zec 14:2; cp Nah 3:10). There will be competition for possession of slaves (the Arab races have maintained slavery long after the rest of the world has given it up). The prostitute and the saloon keeper and the drug dealer will take their fees in this new currency of slaves.

Joe 3:4

Vv 4-8: "And those miscreant neighbours of Israel [Tyre, Sidon, Philistia, Egypt, Edom...], who had thrown in their lot with the Assyrians, as a means of saving their own skins, took a special pleasure in rounding up captives (besides the two hundred thousand whom Sennacherib's men had marched off to Nineveh and Babylon; Taylor Prism) in order to sell them off to slave-dealers and those who specialised in catering for the lustful appetites of the legionaries" (WJoel).

PHILISTIA: See Lesson, Philistia in prophecy.

Joe 3:5

FOR YOU TOOK MY SILVER AND MY GOLD AND CARRIED OFF MY FINEST TREASURES TO YOUR TEMPLES: "It goes without saying that there will be a ruthless plundering of every Israeli resource worth plundering. In the prophet's own day the personal pronouns used here had special force -- there being a literal temple to plunder. The sanctuary in Jerusalem was stripped of its finest treasures in a desperate but futile attempt to buy off the invader (2Ki 18:16). And, whilst there is no holy building in Jerusalem today dedicated as it should be to the glory of Yahweh, it may be taken as certain that the magnificent Muslim mosque on Mount Zion ('temples' being taken as an intensive plural) will be jubilantly adorned with all the finest trophies captured from the Israelis" (WJoel).

Joe 3:6

THE GREEKS: With whom the city of Tyre traded (Eze 27:2,19).

Joe 3:8

I WILL SET YOUR SONS AND DAUGHTERS TO THE PEOPLE OF JUDAH, AND THEY WILL SELL THEM TO THE SABEANS, A NATION FAR AWAY: "This v 8 is difficult, for its picture of a restored Judah turning itself into a nation of slave-traders at the behest of Jehovah is unseemly. But ought not this to be seen as the Almighty's salvation to the mixed population problem in Israel? Wealth appropriated from oil-rich Arabs will easily pay for the transplanting of 800,000 hate-filled sons of Esau back into the land that God assigned to Esau (Gen 36:6,8). It was this very solution, which was advocated by Professor Brodetsky (Leeds University) in 1929. The cost, then: £11m" (WJoel).

Joe 3:9

PREPARE: Heb "qadash" = sanctify, or make holy. Thus a "holy war", or "jihad": in Muslim holy writings, an armed struggle against "infidels" (ie anyone who does not believe in Allah and in Mohammed as his prophet). According to the Koran, anyone who dies in a "jihad" goes directly to "Paradise"; it is an irrevocable duty. Notice the nations listed in Joel 3: Tyre and Sidon, Philistia, Egypt, and Edom. Sennacherib regarded this particular campaign as a war between Ashur, the god of Nineveh, and Jehovah. Cp also Joel 2:17: "Why should they say among the peoples, 'Where is their God?' "

Joe 3:10

BEAT YOUR PLOWSHARES INTO SWORDS AND YOUR PRUNING HOOKS INTO SPEARS: There is an obvious connection between the exhortation to the enemy to "beat plowshares into swords, and pruning hooks into spears" and its converse in Isaiah's prophecy of the Messianic kingdom (Isa 2:4; Mic 4:3). First the enemy appropriates resources that much more legitimately should have gone to feed and care for the poor, and misuses them in a "holy war" against the infidels. But thereafter, and in the aftermath of Messiah's victories, all such resources will be returned to their rightful uses, in a kingdom of peace and righteousness and prosperity.

LET THE WEAKLING SAY, "I AM STRONG!": An easy connection with Muslim terrorists and warriors: (1) a very few terrorists -- with modern technology -- may wreak the most enormous and hideous damage upon their enemies; and (2) even the weakest soldiers will profess they are strong, and rush headlong into battle, if they believe that death means for them an immediate reward in "heaven"!

Joe 3:11

NATIONS FROM EVERY SIDE: See Lesson, Nations "round about".

Joe 3:12

THERE WILL I SIT TO JUDGE: A play on the word for "judge" -- "shaphat"!

ALL THE NATIONS: See Joel 3:2n.

Joe 3:13

// Rev 14:15-18; Isa 63:1-6.

Joe 3:14

THE VALLEY OF DECISION: "A dramatic declaration of a "day of decision" -- and the primary meaning of this word is '"threshing" (see Isa 28:22,27; 41:15; Mic 4:13 would seem to be a very close parallel)" (WJoel).

Joe 3:15

// Joel 2:10,31; Mat 24:29; Luk 21:25,26; Rev 6:12,13.

Joe 3:16

THE LORD WILL ROAR FROM ZION AND THUNDER FROM JERUSALEM: "Here comes the only reference in Joel to the Messiah, and that in an indirect fashion, for how will God ROAR out of Zion except through the LION of Judah (Rev 5:5; cp Gen 49:9)? This will be Messiah's first manifestation when the Glory of the Lord is seen returning to Jerusalem from the mount of Olives, where he ascended to heaven (Eze 43:1,2).

Joel borrows this highly dramatic declaration from Amos 1:2, the introduction to the peremptory sequence of judgments which fill Amos 1; 2 there. But it would be a serious error to attempt to see those ten edicts of punishment as a chronological sequence, for certainly the last two come first, and the others enumerate the 'all nations' of Joel 3:2" (WJoel).


Earthquakes accompany awesome manifestations of God: Exo 19:18; Jdg 5:4; Psa 77:18; 114:4; Isa 2:10-22; Jer 4:24; Eze 38:20; Joe 3:16; Amo 9:1,5; Zec 14:4; Rev 6:12; 11:19; 16:18.

"An earthquake has one of two associations: (a) the wrath of God (as in Psa 18:7); (b) the removing of an old disreputable system (Heb 12:26,27). Generations later, Haggai picked up Joel's language 'Yet once (ie, uniquely)... I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land. And I will shake all nations (Joel 3:2) and the desire of all nations (this implies a gospel preached to the Gentiles) shall come' (Hag 2:6,7). It is fairly evident that the use of those words in Heb 10:37; 12:26,27 provides another example of the 1st century church's expectation of an early coming of the Messiah. The 'shaking' certainly happened in AD 70 with its shattering of the Mosaic system -- but no Messianic kingdom. Here is another passage needing to be explained (and not juggled with). Revelation 16:18 appears to fall into the same category.

"It will be at a time when there seems to be nothing left to salvage from the wreck of the state of Israel (as happened in AD 70), that God's rescue operation will startle the world. 'The Lord (note the Covenant Name here) will be the hope of his people.' When Paul declared with such emphatic witness: 'For the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain' he was looking back to the great Promise made to Jacob of a multitudinous seed bringing blessing on all nations (Gen 28:13,14). How fitting it will be that at the very time when the national flame appears to be on the verge of extinction, Messiah should be manifest, imparting a new and quite unquenchable vigour to the Hope which Israel itself has not believed for centuries" (WJoel).

Joe 3:17

THEN YOU WILL KNOW THAT I, THE LORD YOUR GOD, DWELL IN ZION, MY HOLY HILL: "The primary intention behind this Messianic intervention is not to rebuke the Gentiles or to castigate the pride of Israel's enemies but to re-assert in plain and utterly undeniable fashion to His own people that God is, and that He is the God of Israel. To be sure, the Gentiles also -- and especially the Arab enemies (Psa 83:18; Eze 35:15; see contexts) -- will also be made to understand that Yahweh and not Allah is Lord of all.

"And of course He will dwell in Zion, His holy mountain. Where else?" (WJoel). Cp 2Ch 6:6; 12:13; Psa 125:1; 132:13.

JERUSALEM WILL BE HOLY; NEVER AGAIN WILL FOREIGNERS INVADE HER: "Jerusalem truly will become a holy city, not after the fashion of Mecca, nor according to the pattern of the Wailing Wall (whilst the rest of the city is given over to sight-seeing and profit-making), nor after the manner of the first century, Jerusalem with its genius for making God angry. Instead, a true holiness, far out-matching even the best days of David or Solomon or Hezekiah. Today Jews have no rights in what was the temple area. Instead, the 'strangers' who at present forbid their entry and who defile that holy site with their false religion shall 'pass through her no more' (cp Zech 14:20,21)" (WJoel). Cp Eze 44:9.

Joe 3:18

"Such a land as the Holy Land needs only the blessing of the clouds, and nothing can restrain its fertility. Not for nothing is it called 'a land flowing with milk and honey' (grass and flowers!). So the promised Jubilee would bring copious refreshing rains to beautify the Land and to gladden the hearts of men and beasts alike" (WJoel).

(LD) An unimaginable prosperity of the Land, during the Kingdom of God: Psa 72; Isa 35.

A FOUNTAIN WILL FLOW OUT OF THE LORD'S HOUSE: A fountain of cleansing from sin and impurity (Zec 13:1).

Joe 3:19

EGYPT: Where Israeli captives and slaves are taken and installed in labor camps. From their five cities in Egypt they will cry out, speaking the language of Canaan (Isa 19:18-20). When these cry unto the Lord (a phenomenon not known in modern Israel thus far), He will send them their Messiah. The power of Egypt will be completely broken in the Kingdom: Zech 14:18.

EDOM: Cp parallels, Isa 63:1-4; 34:6,8; Oba 1: 19,20; Ezek 35; 36:1-5; Psa 83:1-8; Lam 4:21,22.

Joe 3:20

JUDAH WILL BE INHABITED FOREVER AND JERUSALEM THROUGH ALL GENERATIONS: "Just as king Hezekiah provided an awe-inspiring type of the Messiah, in suffering and in glory, so also the events of that era (Joel's own) are to be read as a striking and unbelievably accurate foreshadowing of the Last Days. At last a repentant and reformed Judah and Jerusalem will come into their own" (WJoel).

Cp Psa 89:34-37; Luke 1:33.

Joe 3:21

THEIR BLOODGUILT, WHICH I HAVE NOT PARDONED, I WILL PARDON: It was they, in the first place, who declared; "Let his blood be on us and on our children!" (Mat 27:25).

"And so a short but violent Arab oppression will seem to declare to the world that the sins of Jewry are still held against them by their God. But a sensational Messianic deliverance, following immediately on the penitence of Jehovah's 'seven thousand' will be sufficient before God to bring an end to the pogrom (Hebrew for 'corpse of the People') of many centuries. They will suddenly find themselves declared blameless, and instead of guilt there will be a clean sheet, a robe of righteousness and loving kindness; they will then know themselves to be in truth 'beloved for their fathers' sakes'. And now, after seemingly endless years of estrangement, 'Jehovah (the Covenant Name!) dwelleth in Zion'. Ezekiel copied this matchless conclusion for his own unique message: 'Jehovah Shammah: the Lord is gone thither'. [Eze 48:35]" (WJoel).

THE LORD DWELLS IN ZION: Yahweh's intention will thus be fulfilled (Eze 43:1-7; Zech 14:4; Acts 1:8-11.
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