God's judgments in the latter days. (1-8) The extent of these judgments. (9-17) The blessings the church shall enjoy. (18-21)
Verses 1-8 The restoration of the Jews, and the final victory of true religion over all opposers, appear to be here foretold. The contempt and scorn with which the Jews have often been treated as a people, and the little value set upon them, are noticed. None ever hardened his heart against God or his church, and prospered long.
Verses 9-17 Here is a challenge to all the enemies of God's people. There is no escaping God's judgments; hardened sinners, in that day of wrath, shall be cut off from all comfort and joy. Most of the prophets foretell the same final victory of the church of God over all that oppose it. To the wicked it will be a terrible day, but to the righteous it will be a joyful day. What cause have those who possess an interest in Christ, to glory in their Strength and their Redeemer! The acceptable year of the Lord, a day of such great favour to some, will be a day of remarkable vengeance to others: let every one that is out of Christ awake, and flee from the wrath to come.
Verses 18-21 There shall be abundant Divine influences, and the gospel will spread speedily into the remotest corners of the earth. These events are predicted under significant emblems; there is a day coming, when every thing amiss shall be amended. The fountain of this plenty is in the house of God, whence the streams take rise. Christ is this Fountain; his sufferings, merit, and grace, cleanse, refresh, and make fruitful. Gospel grace, flowing from Christ, shall reach to the Gentile world, to the most remote regions, and make them abound in fruits of righteousness; and from the house of the Lord above, from his heavenly temple, flows all the good we daily taste, and hope to enjoy eternally.
Joel 3:1-21 . GOD'S VENGEANCE ON ISRAEL'S FOES IN THE VALLEY OF JEHOSHAPHAT. HIS BLESSING ON THE CHURCH.
1. bring again the captivity--that is, reverse it. The Jews restrict this to the return from Babylon. Christians refer it to the coming of Christ. But the prophet comprises the whole redemption, beginning from the return out of Babylon, then continued from the first advent of Christ down to the last day (His second advent), when God will restore His Church to perfect felicity [CALVIN].
2. Parallel to Zechariah 14:2 Zechariah 14:3 Zechariah 14:4 , where the "Mount of Olives" answers to the "Valley of Jehoshaphat" here. The latter is called "the valley of blessing" (Berachah) ( 2 Chronicles 20:26 ). It lies between Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives and has the Kedron flowing through it. As Jehoshaphat overthrew the confederate foes of Judah, namely, Ammon, Moab, &c. ( Psalms 83:6-8 ), in this valley, so God was to overthrow the Tyrians, Zidonians, Philistines, Edom, and Egypt, with a similar utter overthrow ( Joel 3:4 Joel 3:19 ). This has been long ago fulfilled; but the ultimate event shadowed forth herein is still future, when God shall specially interpose to destroy Jerusalem's last foes, of whom Tyre, Zidon, Edom, Egypt, and Philistia are the types. As "Jehoshaphat" means "the judgment of Jehovah," the valley of Jehoshaphat may be used as a general term for the theater of God's final judgments on Israel's foes, with an allusion to the judgment inflicted on them by Jehoshaphat. The definite mention of the Mount of Olives in Zechariah 14:4 , and the fact that this was the scene of the ascension, makes it likely the same shall be the scene of Christ's coming again: compare "this same Jesus . . . shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven" ( Acts 1:11 ).
all nations--namely, which have maltreated Judah.
plead with them--( Isaiah 66:16 , Ezekiel 38:22 ).
my heritage Israel--( Deuteronomy 32:9 , Jeremiah 10:16 ). Implying that the source of Judah's redemption is God's free love, wherewith He chose Israel as His peculiar heritage, and at the same time assuring them, when desponding because of trials, that He would plead their cause as His own, and as if He were injured in their person.
3. cast lots for my people--that is, divided among themselves My people as their captives by lot. Compare as to the distribution of captives by lot ( Obadiah 1:11 , Nahum 3:10 ).
given a boy for . . . harlot--Instead of paying a harlot for her prostitution in money, they gave her a Jewish captive boy as a slave.
girl for wine--So valueless did they regard a Jewish girl that they would sell her for a draught of wine.
4. what have ye to do with me--Ye have no connection with Me (that is, with My people: God identifying Himself with Israel); I (that is, My people) have given you no cause of quarrel, why then do ye trouble Me (that is, My people)? (Compare the same phrase, Joshua 22:24 , Judges 11:12 , 2 Samuel 16:10 , Matthew 8:29 ).
Tyre . . . Zidon . . . Palestine--( Amos 1:6 Amos 1:9 ).
if ye recompense me--If ye injure Me (My people), in revenge for fancied wrongs ( Ezekiel 25:15-17 ), I will requite you in your own coin swiftly and speedily.
5. my silver . . . my gold--that is, the gold and silver of My people. The Philistines and Arabians had carried off all the treasures of King Jehoram's house ( 2 Chronicles 21:16 2 Chronicles 21:17 ). Compare also 1 Kings 15:18 , 2 Kings 12:18 , 14:14 , for the spoiling of the treasures of the temple and the king's palace in Judah by Syria. It was customary among the heathen to hang up in the idol temples some of the spoils of war as presents to their gods.
6. Grecians--literally, "Javanites," that is, the Ionians, a Greek colony on the coast of Asia Minor who were the first Greeks known to the Jews. The Greeks themselves, however, in their original descent came from Javan ( Genesis 10:2 Genesis 10:4 ). Probably the germ of Greek civilization in part came through the Jewish slaves imported into Greece from Phoenicia by traffickers. Ezekiel 27:13 mentions Javan and Tyre as trading in the persons of men.
far from their border--far from Judea; so that the captive Jews were cut off from all hope of return.
7. raise them--that is, I will rouse them. Neither sea nor distance will prevent My bringing them back. Alexander, and his successors, restored to liberty many Jews in bondage in Greece [JOSEPHUS, Antiquities, 13.5; Wars of the Jews, 9,2].
8. sell them to . . . Sabeans--The Persian Artaxerxes Mnemon and Darius Ochus, and chiefly the Greek Alexander, reduced the Phoenician and Philistine powers. Thirty thousand Tyrians after the capture of Tyre by the last conqueror, and multitudes of Philistines on the taking of Gaza, were sold as slaves. The Jews are here said to do that which the God of Judah does in vindication of their wrong, namely, sell the Phoenicians who sold them, to a people "far off," as was Greece, whither the Jews had been sold. The Sabeans at the most remote extremity of Arabia Felix are referred to (compare Jeremiah 6:20 , Matthew 12:42 ).
9. The nations hostile to Israel are summoned by Jehovah to "come up" (this phrase is used because Jerusalem was on a hill) against Jerusalem, not that they may destroy it, but to be destroyed by the Lord ( Ezekiel 38:7-23 , Zechariah 12:2-9 , Zechariah 14:2 Zechariah 14:3 ).
Prepare war--literally, sanctify war: because the heathen always began war with religious ceremonies. The very phrase used of Babylon's preparations against Jerusalem ( Jeremiah 6:4 ) is now used of the final foes of Jerusalem. As Babylon was then desired by God to advance against her for her destruction, so now all her foes, of whom Babylon was the type, are desired to advance against her for their own destruction.
10. Beat your ploughshares into swords--As the foes are desired to "beat their ploughshares into swords, and their pruning hooks into spears," that so they may perish in their unhallowed attack on Judah and Jerusalem, so these latter, and the nations converted to God by them, after the overthrow of the antichristian confederacy, shall, on the contrary, "beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks," when under Messiah's coming reign there shall be war no more ( Isaiah 2:4 , Hosea 2:18 , Micah 4:3 ).
let the weak say, I am strong--So universal shall be the rage of Israel's foes for invading her, that even the weak among them will fancy themselves strong enough to join the invading forces. Age and infirmity were ordinarily made valid excuses for exemption from service, but so mad shall be the fury of the world against God's people, that even the feeble will not desire to be exempted (compare Psalms 2:1-3 ).
11. Assemble--"Hasten" [MAURER].
thither--to the valley of Jehoshaphat.
thy mighty ones--the warriors who fancy themselves "mighty ones," but who are on that very spot to be overthrown by Jehovah [MAURER]. Compare "the mighty men" ( Joel 3:9 ). Rather, Joel speaks of God's really "mighty ones" in contrast to the self-styled "mighty men" ( Joel 3:9 , Psalms 103:20 , Isaiah 13:3 ; compare Daniel 10:13 ). AUBERLEN remarks: One prophet supplements the other, for they all prophesied only "in part." What was obscure to one was revealed to the other; what is briefly described by one is more fully so by another. Daniel calls Antichrist a king, and dwells on his worldly conquests; John looks more to his spiritual tyranny, for which reason he adds a second beast, wearing the semblance of spirituality. Antichrist himself is described by Daniel. Isaiah ( Isaiah 29:1-24 ), Joel ( Joel 3:1-21 ) describe his army of heathen followers coming up against Jerusalem, but not Antichrist himself.
12. See Joel 3:2 .
judge all the heathen round about--that is, all the nations from all parts of the earth which have maltreated Israel; not merely, as HENDERSON supposes, the nations round about Jerusalem (compare Psalms 110:6 , Isaiah 2:4 , Micah 4:3 Micah 4:11-13 , Zephaniah 3:15-19 , Zechariah 12:9 , 14:3-11 , Malachi 4:1-3 ).
13. Direction to the ministers of vengeance to execute God's wrath, as the enemy's wickedness is come to its full maturity. God does not cut off the wicked at once, but waits till their guilt is at its full (so as to the Amorites iniquity, Genesis 15:16 ), to show forth His own long-suffering, and the justice of their doom who have so long abused it ( Matthew 13:27-30 Matthew 13:38 Matthew 13:40 , Revelation 14:15-19 ). For the image of a harvest to be threshed, compare Jeremiah 51:33 ; and a wine-press, Isaiah 63:3 and Lamentations 1:15 .
14. The prophet in vision seeing the immense array of nations congregating, exclaims, "Multitudes, multitudes!" a Hebraism for immense multitudes.
valley of decision--that is, the valley in which they are to meet their "determined doom." The same as "the valley of Jehoshaphat," that is, "the valley of judgment" Joel 3:12 , "there will I sit to judge,." which confirms English Version rather than Margin, "threshing." The repetition of "valley of decision" heightens the effect and pronounces the awful certainty of their doom.
16. (Compare Ezekiel 38:18-22 ). The victories of the Jews over their cruel foe Antiochus, under the Maccabees, may be a reference of this prophecy; but the ultimate reference is to the last Antichrist, of whom Antiochus was the type. Jerusalem being the central seat of the theocracy ( Psalms 132:13 ), it is from thence that Jehovah discomfits the foe.
roar--as a lion ( Jeremiah 25:30 , Amos 1:2 , 3:8 ). Compare as to Jehovah's voice thundering, Psalms 18:13 , Habakkuk 3:10 Habakkuk 3:11 .
Lord . . . the hope of his people--or, "their refuge" ( Psalms 46:1 ).
17. shall ye know--experimentally by the proofs of favors which I shall vouchsafe to you. So "know" ( Isaiah 60:16 , Hosea 2:20 ).
dwelling in Zion--as peculiarly your God.
holy . . . no strangers pass through--to attack, or to defile, the holy city ( Isaiah 35:8 , 52:1 , Zechariah 14:21 ). Strangers, or Gentiles, shall come to Jerusalem, but it shall be in order to worship Jehovah there ( Zechariah 14:16 ).
18. mountains . . . drop . . . wine--figurative for abundance of vines, which were cultivated in terraces of earth between the rocks on the sides of the hills of Palestine ( Amos 9:13 ).
hills . . . flow with milk--that is, they shall abound in flocks and herds yielding milk plentifully, through the richness of the pastures.
waters--the great desideratum for fertility in the parched East ( Isaiah 30:25 ).
fountain . . . of . . . house of . . . Lord . . . water . . . valley of Shittim--The blessings, temporal and spiritual, issuing from Jehovah's house at Jerusalem, shall extend even to Shittim, on the border between Moab and Israel, beyond Jordan ( Numbers 25:1 , 33:49 , Joshua 2:1 , Micah 6:5 ). "Shittim" means "acacias," which grow only in arid regions: implying that even the arid desert shall be fertilized by the blessing from Jerusalem. So Ezekiel 47:1-12 describes the waters issuing from the threshold of the house as flowing into the Dead Sea, and purifying it. Also in Zechariah 14:8 the waters flow on one side into the Mediterranean, on the other side into the Dead Sea, near which latter Shittim was situated (compare Psalms 46:4 , Revelation 22:1 ).
19. Edom--It was subjugated by David, but revolted under Jehoram ( 2 Chronicles 21:8-10 ); and at every subsequent opportunity tried to injure Judah. Egypt under Shishak spoiled Jerusalem under Rehoboam of the treasures of the temple and the king's house; subsequently to the captivity, it inflicted under the Ptolemies various injuries on Judea. Antiochus spoiled Egypt ( Daniel 11:40-43 ). Edom was made "desolate" under the Maccabees [JOSEPHUS, Antiquities, 12.11,12]. The low condition of the two countries for centuries proves the truth of the prediction (compare Isaiah 19:1 , &c. Jeremiah 49:17 , Obadiah 1:10 ). So shall fare all the foes of Israel, typified by these two ( Isaiah 63:1 , &c.).
20. dwell for ever--( Amos 9:15 ), that is, be established as a flourishing state.
21. cleanse . . . blood . . . not cleansed--I will purge away from Judah the extreme guilt (represented by "blood," the shedding of which was the climax of her sin, Isaiah 1:15 ) which was for long not purged away, but visited with judgments ( Isaiah 4:4 ). Messiah saves from guilt, in order to save from punishment ( Matthew 1:21 ).