Harry Whittaker
The Time Of The End

9) The Valley Of Jehoshaphat

Joel 3

The concluding section of Joel’s prophecy is mainly concerned with a more detailed expansion of the threat of divine judgement against the inveterate enemies of Israel, a judgement that has already been pronounced in chapter 2: 20, 30, 31. The reason for this anger is given with detail and indignant emphasis. Israel has been ravished by a host of enemies—Tyre and Zidon, Philistia, Egypt, Edom (vv. 4, 19). Neither the mighty Assyrian nor the barbarian northern tribes are hinted at, but only those names, which represent the Arab nations, round the state of Israel in the twentieth century.

The picture is one of savage inhuman treatment meted out to Land and people alike. The Land is divided up amongst the invaders (v. 2) and ruthlessly plundered (v. 5), the people are exported to far-off lands as slave labour1[9] (vv. 6, 8) and are even used as currency to purchase self-indulgence (“they have given a boy for an harlot, and sold a girl for wine”)—and all this to work off a grudge and a spite against the Jews. Yet this sanctification of a Holy War (v. 9) is really an attempt at reprisal against God: “will ye repay a deed of mine?”(v. 4) It was God who brought Israel back to their land. Then how can Arabs hope to set themselves against the plan of the Almighty?


God in His indignation will bring these adversaries into “the valley of Jehoshaphat,” the valley where Jehovah is One who metes out judgement. It is a mistake to seek a geographical identification of this valley, even though there are plenty of maps, which confidently, though for no good reason, place it to the east or south of Jerusalem. The allusion is to God’s marvellous deliverance of His people in the days of king Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 20). On that occasion a great confederacy from Ammon, Moab and Edom (v. 22) came against a king and people who abandoned all trust in themselves and who instead leaned for help on the God of their fathers. So the “Lord sent liers in wait” against the enemy, and there was a great overthrow. These “liers in wait” were evidently angels who, unseen, set the invaders against one another (v. 23), as in the day of Midian (Judges 7: 22; Isaiah 9: 4).

This will happen again. In response to the prayer: “Thither cause thy mighty ones to come down, O Lord,” God will send not only His Gabriel (the Mighty One of God) but also His Messiah—El Gibbor (Isaiah 9: 6).

The ensuing judgement of the nations is pictured in graphic language. There are “multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision.” This Hebrew word translated “decision” is the same as “consumption” in Isaiah 28: 21, 22 which foretells a time of divine intervention when God will “do his work, his strange work; and bring to pass his act, his strange act ... for I have heard from the Lord God of hosts a consumption, even determined upon the whole earth.”


The Isaiah and Joel passages have another link, for the word “act” is used in the same context to signify “labour in agriculture.” Accordingly the Joel prophecy proceeds: “Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe: come, get you down (or, perhaps, tread ye the grapes), for the winepress is full, the fats overflow; for their wickedness is great.” The Septuagint version here suggests that two separate harvests of judgement are foretold, for the word “sickle” is plural. This is the interpretation given in Revelation 14 where “one like unto the Son of man” (that is, according to a familiar Bible idiom, one who is the Son of man), wearing a golden crown and carrying a sharp sickle, is seen coming on a white cloud—the radiant Cloud of the Shekinah Glory. This divine Being—the Messiah—is urged by an eager angel of glory to begin his work of judgement: “Thrust in thy sickle, and reap: for the harvest of the earth is ripe.” Immediately after this an angel similarly equipped with a sickle, is bidden: “Thrust in thy sharp sickle (as the Son of man has done), and gather the clusters of the vine of the land.” When this is done, and the winepress is trodden “without the city (of Jerusalem),” the blood flows forth “even unto the horse bridles” which are “holy to the Lord” (Zechariah 14: 20, 21), “as far as a thousand and six hundred furlongs.” Here is a ghastly River of Death, to contrast with the loveliness of the River of Water of Life, which is to proceed from the throne of God and of the Lamb (Revelation 22:1 and Joel 3:18). Its dire effects carry through a distance of two hundred miles, almost exactly the length of the land from Lebanon to Kadesh, as it is described in a powerful Psalm of Judgement (29: 6, 8; compare also Ezekiel 47: 15, 19).

It is a time not only of wrath but also of deliverance. “The Lord shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem”—the judgements of Revelation 14 are the seven thunders, each introduced by “an angel with a great voice” whose shout is “as a lion roareth”; “and the heavens and the earth shall shake: but the Lord will be the hope of his people (the saints), and the strength of the children of Israel. So shall ye know that I am the Lord your God dwelling in Zion, my holy mountain: then shall Jerusalem be holy, and there shall no strangers pass through her any more.”


This double element of retribution and redemption is well suggested also by the promise: “a fountain shall come forth of the house of the Lord, and shall water the valley of Shittim.” Here, once again, it would be a mistake to seek a merely geographical meaning. The valley of Shittim was where Israel committed fornication with the women of Moab to the honour of Baal-peor (Numbers 25). That iniquity — and all such sins of apostasy in Israel — is to be washed away, as it was by the water that came from the smitten rock after the idolatry of the golden calf (Deuteronomy 9:21). Shittim was also the scene of vengeance against these Moabite (Arab) enemies of Israel. The Land will be washed clean of all the defilement, which they have brought in.

And not only Moab: “Egypt shall be a desolation, and Edom shall be a desolate wilderness, for the violence against the children of Judah, because they have shed innocent blood in their land.” It is impossible to believe that in the last days Egypt and Edom will be punished for their spiteful treatment of Israel thousands of years earlier. This “violence against the children of Judah” must be something recent and specially vile. It is not clear whether the words: “because they have shed innocent blood in their land” refers to what these Arab enemies have done or to what the Jews have done. If the latter—and all Biblical associations of the phrase “innocent blood” point to this interpretation—then the sin referred to is the crucifixion of Jesus. “His blood be upon us and upon our children” is a prophecy, which must continue to be fulfilled until Jewry acknowledges its guilt. But as soon as that repentance is shewn (compare the parable of the prodigal son), “I will cleanse (hold as innocent: RVm) their blood that I have not cleansed, for the Lord dwelleth in Zion.”

The prophecy could have no finer climax.

[9] Compare here the comment made on page 24, on Isaiah 19:18, 20.

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