Joel 3

Introduction

‘In those days and at that time, when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, I will gather all nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. There I will put them on trial for what they did to my inheritance, my people Israel, because they scattered my people among the nations and divided up my land. They cast lots for my people and traded boys for prostitutes; they sold girls for wine to drink.’ Joel 3:1-3

The Nations Judged

Everything in this chapter is to occur ‘after the outpouring of God’s Spirit upon all flesh’, Joel 2:28. God will judge all nations on account of His people, especially Judah’s enemies, Tyre, Sidon, Philistia, Egypt and Edom.

The gathering the nations, Joel 3:2, is a reference to the gathering of spiritual Israel out of all nations through the preaching of the Gospel, Matthew 28:19-20 / Mark 16:15-16 / Acts 8:4.

The Valley of Jehoshaphat, Joel 3:2, isn’t a literal place in Palestine but a figurative place where God will bring His judgment, kind of like the place ‘Armageddon’ in Revelation 16.

The Valley of Jehoshaphat which means ‘God shall judge’ and ‘Armageddon’ are the places where God will vent His anger and wrath upon all those who oppose Him. 

When the Israelites were taken into Assyrian and Babylonian captivity, their captors showed little consideration for the people. ‘They cast lots for my people’, Joel 3:3, refers to the sinfulness of Israel’s enemies, drunkenness, and human slavery, especially child abuse, are prominent here.

‘Now what have you against me, Tyre and Sidon and all you regions of Philistia? Are you repaying me for something I have done? If you are paying me back, I will swiftly and speedily return on your own heads what you have done. For you took my silver and my gold and carried off my finest treasures to your temples. You sold the people of Judah and Jerusalem to the Greeks, that you might send them far from their homeland. ‘See, I am going to rouse them out of the places to which you sold them, and I will return on your own heads what you have done. I will sell your sons and daughters to the people of Judah, and they will sell them to the Sabeans, a nation far away.’ The LORD has spoken.’ Joel 3:4-8

Tyre, Sidon and Philistia had mistreated God’s people and they will reap what they sow, Galatians 6:7. They will be treated as they treated others around them, especially God’s people.

They stole the temple treasures of Israel and placed them in their pagan temples of false gods, Hosea 2:8 / Haggai 2:8. They traded in slavery by selling Israelites to other nations, Amos 1:6 / Amos 1:9 / Ezekiel 27:13 / Ezekiel 27:19.

Later, the very people to whom they had sold God’s people, the Greeks, would eventually be the people who would conquer and sell them as slaves to other nations. They eventually reaped what they sowed when Alexander the Great conquered their cities.

Allen, says the following, concerning Joel 3:7-8.

‘To pay back these nations, the Lord said He would revive the Israelites in the remote places to which they had been sold. The Israelites would grow strong there and would sell the descendants of these Phoenicians and Philistines to the Sabeans, cf. Ezekiel 27:22-23. Thus He would pay them back in kind, which is His customary method of retribution, Galatians 6:7. This may have been fulfilled in the fourth century B.C., or the fulfilment may still be future. Allen saw Antiochus III’s enslavement of the people of Sidon in 345 B.C. and Alexander the Great’s enslavement of the citizens of Tyre and Gaza in 332 B.C. as a partial fulfilment, assuming Jews were involved in these transactions.’ 

Dr Constable, says the following, concerning Joel 3:7-8.

‘Probably the fulfilment lies in the future, specifically the end of the Tribulation, since this whole section of Joel deals with what God will do in that day of the Lord. Again, Phoenicia and Philistia probably represent all the enemies of Israel, cf. Isaiah 25:10-12 / Obadiah 1-21, over whom Israel will eventually gain ascendancy.’

‘Proclaim this among the nations: Prepare for war! Rouse the warriors! Let all the fighting men draw near and attack. Beat your ploughshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears. Let the weakling say, ‘I am strong!’ Come quickly, all you nations from every side, and assemble there. Bring down your warriors, LORD! ‘Let the nations be roused; let them advance into the Valley of Jehoshaphat, for there I will sit to judge all the nations on every side. Swing the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come, trample the grapes, for the winepress is full and the vats overflow—so great is their wickedness!’ Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision. The sun and moon will be darkened, and the stars no longer shine. The LORD will roar from Zion and thunder from Jerusalem; the earth and the heavens will tremble. But the LORD will be a refuge for his people, a stronghold for the people of Israel. ‘Then you will know that I, the LORD your God, dwell in Zion, my holy hill. Jerusalem will be holy; never again will foreigners invade her.’ Joel 3:9-17

The nations, Tyre, Sidon, Philistia, Egypt and Edom are called to prepare for battle, they are called to come to the ‘Valley of Jehoshaphat’, Joel 3:2 / Joel 3:12, where the Lord will judge the nations.

This again, speaks of judgement on Judah’s enemies. God will overthrow these people and He will use the judgment of these people in reference to any people who come up against Judah.

The word, ‘warriors’, Joel 3:11, means mighty ones, this could be either angels, Daniel 9:10ff / Matthew 13:39 / Revelation 14:14-20, or cherubim, Ezekiel 10. Whoever they are, they are God’s chosen fighters. God’s enemies will have no chance.

Notice that Joel calls the place the ‘valley of decision’, Joel 3:14, which simply means the valley of judgment. In other words, the nations were called by God to judgment.

The nations were so evil, that God now decides to judge them and destroy them, Joel 3:15-16, which meant God’s people would be free from them. This is a picture of God’s kingdom standing and the earthly kingdoms falling.

As we noted earlier, the mention of the sun and the moon being darkened is figurative judgment talk, Joel 3:16 / Judges 5:4 / Psalms 18:7 / Psalms 77:18 / Isaiah 13:10 / Isaiah 13:13 / Ezekiel 32:7 / Zechariah 14:6-7, which symbolises the end of the kings and rulers of the nations, Hebrews 12:22-29. In other words, there are going to be big changes.

God is described as roaring like a lion towards His enemies, Joel 2:11 / Jeremiah 25:30 / Amos 1:2. But at the same time, He speaks of hope and strength to His own people, Joel 3:16.

When God carried out His judgment on the nations, the promise was that no conquering strangers would pass through Jerusalem again.

Because of the judgments which God is bring upon the nations, His people will know that He will once again dwell in Jerusalem with them and no one will invade Jerusalem again.

Blessings for God’s People

‘In that day the mountains will drip new wine, and the hills will flow with milk; all the ravines of Judah will run with water. A fountain will flow out of the LORD’s house and will water the valley of acacias. But Egypt will be desolate, Edom a desert waste, because of violence done to the people of Judah, in whose land they shed innocent blood. Judah will be inhabited forever and Jerusalem through all generations. Shall I leave their innocent blood unavenged? No, I will not.’ The LORD dwells in Zion!’ Joel 3:18-21

Coffman, in his commentary, says the following.

‘Joel 3:18 begins a paragraph concluding the whole prophecy in which there is a metaphorical description of the wonderful blessings available to the children of God in their service of Christ and his kingdom’.

‘What is seen in this verse is a picture of universal peace, security, plenty, and tranquillity. It is appropriate to remember that even for Christians the blessings here are not literal, but spiritual. A literal view of this passage is impossible. It is a picture of the spiritual joys in the days of the outpouring of God’s Spirit, namely, in the days of the present dispensation of the New Testament.’

‘In that day,’ the blessings will be abundant, there will be blessings of security and there will be a future for God’s people. Judah shall be blessed by a ‘fountain, from the house of the Lord,’ Ezekiel 47:1-23, even the ‘valley of acacias’, ‘Shittim,’ Numbers 33:49 / Joshua 3:1, which was a very dry place would be blessed, Joel 3:18.

Clarke, in his commentary, says the following.

‘As Shittim may signify thorns, it may figuratively represent the most uncultivated and ferocious inhabitants of the earth receiving the Gospel of Christ, and being civilized and saved by it. We know that briers and thorns are emblems of bad men, Ezekiel 2:6. Thus all the figures in Joel 3:18, will point out the happy times of the Gospel: the mountains shall drop down new wine; the hills flow with milk; the thorny valleys become fertile.’

Egypt and Edom, Joel 3:19, who symbolise God’s enemies will be desolate because of their violence, Obadiah 10-14 / Ezekiel 25:12 / Ezekiel 35:15 / Ezekiel 36:5 / Lamentations 4:22 / Psalms 137:7 / Amos 1:11.

Barnes, in his commentary, says the folowing, concerning Joel 3:21.

‘The word rendered “cleansed” is not used of natural cleansing, nor is the image taken from the cleansing of the body. The word signifies only to pronounce innocent, or to free from guilt. Nor is “blood” used of sinfulness generally, but only of the actual guilt of shedding blood.’

Judah and Jerusalem shall abide forever, acquitted of their guilt, Joel 3:20-21. God won’t free the wicked but bring just judgment on them for the harm that they brought on His people.

Dr Constable, says the folowing.

‘God’s final promise through Joel was that He would avenge the blood shed by these enemies of Israel, which He had not yet avenged in the prophet’s day. He promised to do this because He dwelt in Zion, that is, He had a special covenant relationship with Israel, Ezekiel 43:1-12 / Zechariah 2:10-13.’

Some commentators suggest that Joel 3:17 and Joel 3:21, are speaking of the new Jerusalem, and spiritual city of God, the church, that descended from heaven, Hebrews 12:22 / Revelation 3:12 / Revelation 14:1 / Revelation 21:2 / Revelation 21:10. In other words, no stranger, unbeliever, would pass through the church because God dwells within His church.

Application

When difficult times come into our lives, they can actually be a blessing, if they turn us back to God, Amos 4:6-12 / Job 1:20-22. God sees all, the good and the bad, He sees those who oppose Him and His people and promises they will be judged.

He also promises that repentance is available to all, but if people don’t repent then they will be judged, 2 Corinthians 7:8-10 / Joel 2:13. Israel was chosen in 586 B.C. but in A.D.70 they were punished because they didn’t change their ways.

We must remember that ‘The Day of the Lord’ is coming for us all, 2 Peter 3:7-10, after which there will be no more chances to repent, and so we must prepare now, 2 Peter 3:11-14.

The good news is that God doesn’t want anyone to perish because He loves us too much and the reason He hasn’t returned yet is because He’s giving people time to come to Him, 2 Peter 3:9.

 
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