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Bible Commentaries
Joel 3

Barnes' Notes on the Whole BibleBarnes' Notes

Verse 1

For, behold - The prophet by the word, “for,” shows that he is about to explain in detail, what he had before spoken of, in sum. By the word, “behold,” he stirs up our minds for something great, which he is to set before our eyes, and which we should not be prepared to expect or believe, unless he solemnly told us, “Behold.” As the detail, then, of what goes before, the prophecy contains all times of future judgment on those who should oppose God, oppress His Church and people, and sin against Him in them and all times of His blessing upon His own people, until the Last Day. And this it gives in imagery, partly describing nearer events of the same sort, as in the punishments of Tyre and Sidon, such as they endured from the kings of Assyria, from Nebuchadnezzar, from Alexander; partly using these, His earlier judgments, as representatives of the like punishments against the like sins unto the end.

In those days and in that time - The whole period of which the prophet had been speaking, was the time from which God called His people to repentance, to the Day of Judgment. The last division of that time was from the beginning of the Gospel unto that Day. He fixes the occasion of which he speaks by the words, “when I shall bring again the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem.” This form was used, before there was any general dispersion of the nation. For all captivity of single members of the Jewish people had this sore calamity, that it severed them from the public worship of God, and exposed them to idolatry. So David complains, “they have driven me out this day from abiding in the inheritance of the Lord, saying, go serve other gods” 1 Samuel 26:19. The restoration then of single members, or of smaller bodies of captives, was, at that time, an unspeakable mercy. It was the restoration of those shut out from the worship of God; and so was an image “of the deliverance from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the sons of God” Romans 8:21, or of any “return” of those who had gone astray, “to the Shepherd and Bishop of their souls 1 Peter 2:25. The grievous captivity of the Jews, now, is to Satan, whose servants they made themselves, when they said, “we have no king but Caesar; His Blood be upon us and upon our children.” Their blessed deliverance will be “from the power of Satan unto God” Acts 26:18. It is certain from Paul Romans 11:26, that there shall be a complete conversion of the Jews, before the end of the world, as indeed has always been believed. This shall probably be shortly before the end of the world, and God would here say, “when I shall have brought to an end the “captivity of Judah and Jerusalem,” i. e., of that people “to whom were the promises” Romans 9:4, and shall have delivered them from the bondage of sin and from blindness to light and freedom in Christ, then will I gather all nations to judgment.”

Verse 2

I will gather all nations and bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat - It may be that the imagery is furnished by that great deliverance which God gave to Jehoshaphat, when “Ammon and Moab and Edom come against” him, “to cast God’s people out of” His “possession,” which “He gave” them “to inherit” 2 Chronicles 20:11, and Jehoshaphat appealed to God, “O our God, wilt Thou not judge them?” and God said, “the battle is not yours but God’s,” and God turned their swords everyone against the other, “and none escaped. And on the fourth day they assembled themselves in the valley of Berachah” (blessing); “for there they blesed the Lord” 2 Chronicles 24:26. So, in the end, He shall destroy antichrist, not by human aid, but “by the breath of His mouth,” and then the end shall come and lie shall sit on the throne of His glory to judge all nations. Then shall none escape of those gathered against Judah and Jerusalem, but shall be judged of their own consciences, as those former enemies of His people fell by their own swords.

That valley, however, is nowhere called “the valley of Jehoshaphat.” It continued to be “called the valley of Berachah,” the writer adds, “to this day.” And it is so called still. Caphar Barucha, “the village of blessing,” was still known in that neighborhood in the time of Jerome ; it had been known in that of Josephus . Southwest of Bethlehem and east of Tekoa are still 3 or 4 acres of ruins , bearing the name Bereikut , and a valley below them, still bearing silent witness to God’s ancient mercies, in its but slightly disguised name, “the valley of Bereikut” (Berachah). The only valley called the “valley of Jehoshaphat” , is the valley of Kedron, lying between Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives, incircling the city on the east.

There Asa, Hezekiah, and Josiah cast the idols, which they had burned 1 Kings 15:13; 2Ch 30:14; 2 Kings 23:6, 2 Kings 23:12. The valley was the common burying-place for the inhabitants of Jerusalem . “There” was the garden where Jesus oftentimes resorted with His disciples; “there” was His Agony and Bloody Sweat; there Judas betrayed Him; thence He was dragged by the rude officers of the high priest. The temple, the token of God’s presence among them, the pledge of His accepting their sacrifices which could only be offered there, overhung it on the one side. There, under the rock on which that temple stood, they dragged Jesus, “as a lamb to the slaughter” Isaiah 53:7. On the other side, it was overhung by the Mount of “Olives,” from where, “He beheld the city and wept over it,” because it “knew” not “in” that its “day, the things which belong to its peace;” whence, after His precious Death and Resurrection, Jesus ascended into, heaven.

There the Angels foretold His return, “This heaven shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven” Acts 1:11. It has been a current opinion, that our Lord should descend to judgment, not only in like manner, and in the like Form of Man, but in the same place, over this valley of Jehoshaphat. Certainly, if so it be, it were appropriate, that He should appear in His Majesty, where, for us, He bore the extremest shame; that He should judge “there,” where for us, He submitted to be judged. “He sheweth,” says Hilary (in Matthew 25:0), “that the Angels bringing them together, the assemblage shall be in the place of His Passion; and meetly will His Coming in glory be looked for there, where He won for us the glory of eternity by the sufferings of His humility in the Body.” But since the Apostle says, “we shall meet the Lord in the air,” then, not “in” the valley of Jehoshaphat, but “over” it, in the clouds, would His throne be. : “Uniting, as it were, Mount Calvary and Olivet, the spot would be well suited to that judgment wherein the saints shall partake of the glory of the Ascension of Christ and the fruit of His Blood and Passion, and Christ shall take deserved vengeance of His persecutors and of all who would not be cleansed by His Blood.”

God saith, “I will gather all nations,” of the gathering together of the nations against Him under antichrist, because He overrules all things, and while they, in “their” purpose, are gathering themselves against His people and elect, He, in His purpose secret to them, is gathering them to sudden destruction and judgment, “and will bring them down;” for their pride shall be brought down, and themselves laid low. Even Jewish writers have seen a mystery in the word, and said, that it hinteth “the depth of God’s judgments,” that God “would descend with them into the depth of judgment” , “a most exact judgment even the most hidden things.”

His very presence there would say to the wicked , “In this place did I endure grief for you; here, at Gethsemane, I poured out for you that sweat of water and Blood; here was I betrayed and taken, bound as a robber, dragged over Cedron into the city; hard by this valley, in the house of Caiaphas and then of Pilate, I was for you judged and condemned to death, crowned with thorns, buffeted, mocked and spat upon; here, led through the whole city, bearing the Cross, I was at length crucified for you on Mount Calvary; here, stripped, suspended between heaven and earth, with hands, feet, and My whole frame distended, I offered Myself for you as a Sacrifice to God the Father. Behold the Hands which ye pierced; the Feet which ye perforated; the Sacred prints which ye anew imprinted on My Body. Ye have despised My toils, griefs, sufferings; ye have counted the Blood of My covenant an unholy thing; ye have chosen to follow your own concupiscences rather than Me, My doctrine and law; ye have preferred momentary pleasures, riches, honors, to the eternal salvation which I promised; ye have despised Me, threatening the fires of hell.

Now ye see whom ye have despised; now ye see that My threats and promises were not vain, but true; now ye see that vain and fallacious were your loves, riches, and dignities; now ye see that ye were fools and senseless in the love of them; but too late. “Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” But ye who believed, hoped, loved, worshiped Me, your Redeemer, who obeyed My whole law; who lived a Christian life worthy of Me; who lived soberly, godly and righteously in this world, looking for the blessed hope and this My glorious Coming, “Come ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom of heaven prepared for you from the foundation of the World - And these shall go into everlasting fire; but the righteous into life eternal.” Blessed he whoso continually thinketh or foreseeth, provideth for these things.”

And will plead with them there - Woe to him, against whom God pleadeth! He saith not, “judgeth” but “pleadeth,” making Himself a party, the Accuser as well as the Judge , “Solemn is it indeed when Almighty God saith, “I will plead. He that hath ears to hear let him hear.” For terrible is it. Wherefore also that “Day of the Lord” is called “great and terrible.” For what more terrible than, at such a time, the pleading of God with man? For He says, “I will plead,” as though He had never yet pleaded with man, great and terrible as have been His judgments since that first destruction of the world by water. Past are those judgments on Sodom and Gomorrah, on Pharaoh and his hosts, on the whole people in the wilderness from twenty years old and upward, the mighty oppressions of the enemies into whose hands He gave them in the land of promise; past were the four Empires; but now, in the time of antichrist, “there shall be tribulation, such as there had not been from the beginning of the world.” But all these are little, compared with that great and terrible Day; and so He says, “I will plead,” as though all before had not been, to “plead.””

God maketh Himself in such wise a party, as not to condemn those unconvicted; yet the “pleading” has a separate awfulness of its own. God impleads, so as to allow Himself to be impleaded and answered; but there is no answer. He will set forth what He had done, and how we have requited Him. And we are without excuse. Our memories witness against us; our knowledge acknowledges His justice; our conscience convicts us; our reason condemns us; all unite in pronouncing ourselves ungrateful, and God holy and just. For a sinner to see himself is to condemn himself; and in the Day of Judgment, God will bring before each sinner his whole self.

For My people - o: “God’s people are the one true Israel, “princes with God,” the whole multitude of the elect, foreordained to eternal life.” Of these, the former people of Israel, once chosen of God, was a type. As Paul says, “They are not all Israel which are of Israel” Romans 9:6; and again, “As many as walk according to this rule” of the Apostle’s teaching, “peace be on them and mercy, and upon the Israel of God” Galatians 6:16, i. e., not among the Galatians only, but in the whole Church throughout the world. Since the whole people and Church of God is one, He lays down one law, which shall be fulfilled to the end; that those who, for their own ends, even although therein the instruments of God, shall in any way injure the people of God, shall be themselves punished by God. God makes Himself one with His people. “He that toucheth you, toucheth the apple of My eye” Zechariah 2:8. So our Lord said, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?” Acts 9:4 and in the Day of Judgment He will say, “I was an hungered and ye gave me no meat. Forasmuch as ye did it not unto one of the least of these My brethern, ye did it not to Me” Matthew 25:34-35. : “By calling them “My heritage,” He shows that He will not on any terms part with them or suffer them to be lost, but will vindicate them to Himself forever.”

Whom they have scattered among the nations - Such was the offence of the Assyrians and Babylonians, the first ““army,” which God sent against His people. And for it, Nineveh and Babylon perished. : “Yet he does not speak of that ancient people, or of its enemies only, but of all the elect both in that people and in the Church of the Gentiles, and of all persecutors of the elect. For that people were a figure of the Church, and its enemies were a type of those who persecute the saints.” The dispersion of God’s former people by the pagan was renewed in those who persecuted Christ’s disciples from “city to city,” banished them, and confiscated their goods. Banishment to mines or islands were the slightest punishments of the early Christians .

Verse 3

And they have cast lots - They treated God’s people as of no account, and delighted in showing their contempt toward them. They chose no one above another, as though all alike were worthless. “They cast lots,” it is said elsewhere, “upon their honorable men” Nahum 3:10, as a special indignity, above captivity or slavery. A “girl” they sold for an evening’s revelry, and a “boy” they exchanged for a night’s debauch.

Verse 4

Yea, and what have ye to do with Me? - Literally, “and also, what are ye to Me?” The words, “And also,” show that this is something additional to the deeds of those before spoken of. Those, instanced before, were great oppressors, such as dispersed the former people of God and “divided their land.” In addition to these, God condemns here another class, those who, without having power to destroy, harass and vex His heritage. The words, “what are ye to Me?” are like that other phrase, “what is there to thee and me?” (Joshua 22:24, etc; Matthew 8:29, ...), i. e., what have we in common? These words, “what are ye to Me?” also declare, that those nations had no part in God. God accounts them as aliens, “what are ye to Me?” Nothing. But the words convey, besides, that they would, unprovoked, have to do with God, harassing His people without cause. They obtruded themselves, as it were, upon God and His judgments; they challenged God; they thrust themselves in, to their destruction, where they had no great temptation to meddle, noticing, but inbred malice, to impel them.

This was, especially, the character of the relations of Tyre and Zidon and Philistia with Israel. They were allotted to Israel by Joshua, but were not assailed . On the contrary, “the Zidonians” are counted among those who “oppressed” Israel, and “out of” whose “hand” God “delivered” him, when he “cried” to God Judges 10:12. The Philistines were the unwearied assailants of Israel in the days of the Judges, and Saul, and David Judges 13:1; 1 Samuel 4:0; 1 Samuel 13:0; 1 Samuel 17:0; 1 Samuel 23:1; 1 Samuel 30:0; 1 Samuel 31:1-13; during 40 years Israel was given into the hands of the Philistines, until God delivered them by Samuel at Mizpeh. When David was king of all Israel, the Philistines still acted on the offensive, and lost Gath and her towns to David in an offensive war 2 Samuel 5:17-25; 2 Samuel 8:1; 1 Chronicles 18:1; 2 Samuel 21:18; 2 Samuel 13:9-16. To Jehoshaphat some of them voluntarily paid tribute 2 Chronicles 17:11; but in the reign of Jehoram his son, they, with some Arabians, marauded in Judah, plundering the king’s house and slaying all his sons, save the youngest 2 Chronicles 21:16-17; 2 Chronicles 22:1. This is the last event before the time of Joel. They stand among the most inveterate and unprovoked enemies of God’s people, and probably as enemies of God also hating the claim of Judah that their God was the One God.

Will ye render Me a recompense? - People never want pleas for themselves. The Philistines, although the aggressors, had been signally defeated by David. People forget their own wrong-doings and remember their sufferings. It may be then, that the Philistines thought that they had been aggrieved when their assaults were defeated, and looked upon their own fresh aggressions as a requital. If moreover, as is probable, they heard that the signal victories won over them were ascribed by Israel to God, and themselves also suspected, that these “mighty Gods” 1 Samuel 4:7-8 were the cause of their defeat, they doubtless turned their hatred against God. People, when they submit not to God chastening them, hate Him. This belief that they were retaliating against God, (not, of course, knowing Him as God,) fully corresponds with the strong words, “will ye render Me “a recompense?” Julian’s dying blasphemy, “Galilean, thou hast conquered,” corresponds with the efforts of his life against the gospel, and implies a secret consciousness that He whose religion he was straining to overthrow “might” be, What he denied Him to be, God. The phrase “swiftly,” literally “lightly, and speedily, denotes” the union of easiness with speed. The recompense is returned “upon” their head, coming down upon them from God.

Verse 5

Ye have taken My silver and My gold - Not the silver and gold of the temple, (as some have thought.) At least, up to the prophet’s time, they had not done this. For the inroad of the Philistines in the reign of Jehoram was, apparently, a mere marauding expedition, in which they killed and plundered, but are not said to have besieged or taken any city, much less Jerusalem. God calls “the silver and gold” which He, through His Providence, had bestowed on Judah, “My” gold and silver; as He said by Hosea Hosea 2:8.

“She knew not that I multiplied her silver and gold, whereof she made Baal;” and by Haggai, “The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine, saith the Lord of Hosts” Haggai 2:8. For they were His people, and what they had, they held of Him; and the Philistines too so accounted it, and dedicated a part of it to their idols, as they had the ark formerly, accounting the victory over God’s people to be the triumph of their idols over God.

Verse 6

The children also - Literally, “And the sons of Judah and the sons of Jerusalem have ye sold to the sons of the Greeks.” This sin of the Tyrians was probably old and inveterate. The Tyrians, as they were the great carriers of the world’s traffic, so they were slave-dealers, and, in the earliest times, men-stealers. The Greek ante-historic tradition exhibits them, as trading and selling women, from both Greece and Egypt . As their trade became more fixed, they themselves stole no more, but, like Christian nations, sold those whom others stole or made captive. Ezekiel speaks of their trade in “the souls of men” Ezekiel 27:13 with “Greece” on the one side, and “Tubal and Mesech” near the Black Sea on the other. The beautiful youth of Greece of both sexes were sold even into Persia .

In regard to the Moschi and Tibareni, it remains uncertain, whether they sold those whom they took in war (and, like the tribes of Africa in modern times, warred the more, because they had a market for their prisoners,) or whether, like the modern Cireassians, they sold their daughters. Ezekiel however, says “men,” so that he cannot mean, exclusively, women. From the times of the Judges, Israel was exposed in part both to the violence and fraud of Tyre and Sidon. The tribe of Asher seems to have lived in the open country among fortified towns of the Zidonians. For whereas of Benjamin, Manasseh, Ephraim, Zabulon, it is said that the old inhabitants of the land dwelt among them Judges 1:21, Judges 1:27, Judges 1:29-30, of Asher it is said, that they “dwelt among the Canaanites,” the “inhabitants of the land” Judges 1:31-32, as though these were the more numerous. And not only so, but since they did “not drive out the inhabitants” of seven cities, “Accho, Zidon, Ahlab, Achzib, Helbah, Aphek, Rehob,” they must have been liable to incursions from them.

The Zidonians were among those who “oppressed Israel” (Judges 5:30; see Judges 4:3, Judges 4:7, Judges 4:13, Judges 4:15-16). Sisera’s army came from their territory, (for Jabin was king of Hazor,) and Deborah speaks of “a damsel or two,” as the expected prey of each man in the whole multitude of his host. An old proverb, mentioned 427 b.c., implies that the Phoenicians sent circumcised slaves into the fields to reap their harvest . But there were no other circumcised there besides Israel.

But the Phoenician slave-trade was also probably, even in the time of the Judges, exercised against Israel. In Joel and Amos, the Philistines and Tyrians appear as combined in the traffic. In Amos, the Philistines are the robbers of men; the Phoenicians are the receivers and the sellers Amos 1:6, Amos 1:9. Pagan nations retain for centuries the same inherited character, the same natural nobleness, or, still more, the same natural vices. The Phoenicians, at the date of the Judges, are known as dishonest traders, and that, in slaves. The Philistines were then also inveterate oppressors. On one occasion “the captivity of the land” coincided with the great victory of the Philistines, when Eli died and the ark of God was taken. For these two dates are given in the same place as the close of the idolatry of Micah’s graven image. It endured “unto the captivity of the land” Judges 18:30-31 and, “and all the time that the house of God was at Shiloh,” from where the ark was removed, never to return, in that battle when it was taken.

But “the captivity of the land” is not merely a subdual, whereby the inhabitants would remain tributary or even enslaved, yet still remain. A captivity implies a removal of the inhabitants; and such a removal could not have been the direct act of the Philistines. For dwelling themselves in the land only, they had no means of removing the inhabitants from it, except by selling them; and the only nation, who could export them in such numbers as would be expressed by the words “a captivity of the land,” were the Zidonians. Probably such acts were expressly prohibited “by the brotherly covenant” (see the note at Amos 1:9) or treaty between Solomon and Hiram King of Tyre. For Amos says that Tyre forgot that treaty, when she sold wholesale the captive Israelites whom the Philistines had carried off. Soon after Joel, Obadiah speaks of a captivity at “Sepharad,” or “Sardis” (see the note at Obadiah 1:20), the capital of the Lydian empire.

The Tyrian merchants were “the” connecting link between Palestine and the coasts of Asia Minor. The Israelites must have been sold there as slaves, and that by the Phoenicians. In yet later times the Tyrian merchants followed, like vultures, on the rear of armies to make a prey of the living, as the vultures of the dead. They hung on the march of Alexander as far as India . In the wars of the Maccabees, at Nicanor’s proclamation, a thousand (2 Macc. 8:34) merchants gathered to the camp of Gorgias “with silver and gold, very much, to buy the children of Israel as slaves” (1 Macc. 3:41), and with chains , wherewith to secure them. They assembled in the rear of the Roman armies , “seeking wealth amid the clash of arms, and slaughter, and fleeing poverty through peril.” Reckless of human life, the slave-merchants commonly, in their wholesale purchase of captives, abandoned the children as difficult of transport, whence the Spartan king was praised for providing for them .

The temptation to Tyrian covetousness was aggravated by the ease with which they could possess themselves of the Jews, the facility of transport, and, as it seems, their value. It is mentioned as the inducement to slave-piracy among the Cilicians. “The export of the slaves especially invited to misdeeds, being most gainful, for they were easily taken, and the market was not so very far off and was most wealthy .

The Jewish slaves appear also to have been valued, until those times after the taking of Jerusalem, when they had become demoralized, and there was a plethora of them, as God had predicted . The post occupied by the “little maid” who “waited on Naaman’s wife” 2 Kings 5:2, was that of a favorite slave, as Greek tradition represented Grecian maidens to have been an object of coveting to the wife of the Persian Monarch . The “damsel or two” for the wives of each man in Jabin’s host appear as a valuable part of the spoil. The wholesale price at which Nicanor set the Jews his expected prisoners, and at which he hoped to sell some 180,000 , shows the extent of the then traffic and their relative value. 2 British pounds. 14 shillings, 9d. as the average price of each of 90 slaves in Judea, implies a retail-price at the place of sale, above the then ordinary price of man.

This wholesale price for what was expected to be a mixed multitude of nearly 200,000, (for “Nicanor undertook to make so much money of the captive Jews as should defray the tribute of 2000 talents which the king was to pay to the Romans” (2 Macc. 8:10)), was nearly 5 times as much as that at which Carthaginian soldiers were sold at the close of the first Punic war . It was two-thirds of the retail price of a good slave at Athens , or of that at which, about 340 b.c., the law of Greece prescribed that captives should be redeemed ; or of that, (which was nearly the same) at which the Mosaic law commanded compensation to be made for a slave accidentally killed Exodus 21:30. The facility of transport increased the value. For, although Pontus supplied both the best and the most of the Roman slaves , yet in the war with Mithridates, amid a great abundance of all things, slaves were sold at 3 shillings 3d. .

The special favors also shown to the Jewish captives at Rome and Alexandria show the estimation in which they were held. At Rome, in the reign of Augustus , “the large section of Rome beyond the Tiber was possessed and inhabited by Jews, most of them Roman citizens, having been brought as captives into Italy and made freedmen by their owners.” On whatever ground Ptolemy Philadelphus redeemed 100,000 Jews whom his father had taken and sold , the fact can hardly be without foundation, or his enrolling them in his armies, or his employing them in public offices or about his own person.

Joel lived before the historic times of Greece. But there are early traces of slavetrade carried on by Greeks . According to Theopompus, the Chians, first among the Greeks, acquired barbarian slaves in the way of trade . The Ionian migration had tilled the islands and part of the coasts of Asia Minor with Greek traders about two centuries before Joel, 1069 b.c. . Greeks inhabited both the coasts and islands between Tyre and Sardis, where we know them to have been carried. Cyprus and Crete, both inhabited by Greeks and both in near contact with Phoenicia, were close at hand.

The demand for slaves must have been enormous. For wives were but seldom allowed them; and Athens, Aegina, Corinth alone had in the days of their prosperity 1,330,000 slaves . At the great slave-mart at Delos, 10,000 were brought, sold, removed in a single day .

That ye might remove them far from their border - The Philistines hoped thus to weaken the Jews, by selling their fighting men afar, from where they could no more return. There was doubtless also in this removal an anti-religious malice, in that the Jews clung to their land, as ““the Lord’s land,” the land given by Him to their fathers; so that they, at once, weakened their rivals, aggravated and enjoyed their distress, and seemed again to triumph over God. Tyre and Sidon took no active share in making the Jews prisoners, yet, partaking in the profit and aiding in the disposal of the captives, they became, according to that true proverb “the receiver is as bad as the thief,” equally guilty of the sin, in the sight of God.

Verse 7

Behold I will raise them - If this promise relates to the same individuals who had been sold, it must have been fulfilled silently; as indeed the return of captives to their own land, unless brought about by some historical event, belongs not to history, but to private life. The prophet, however, is probably predicting God’s dealings with the nations, not with those individuals. The enslaving of these Hebrews in the time of Joram was but one instance out of a whole system of covetous misdeeds. The Philistines carried away captives from them again in the time of Ahaz 2 Chronicles 28:18, and yet again subsequently Ezekiel 16:27, Ezekiel 16:57; and still more at the capture of Jerusalem Ezekiel 25:15.

Verse 8

I will sell your sons - God Himself would reverse the injustice of people. The sons of Zion should be restored, the sons of the Phoenicians and of the Philistines sold into distant captivity. Tyre was taken by Nebuchadnezzar, and then by Alexander, who sold “more than 13,000” of the inhabitants into slavery ; Sidon was taken and destroyed by Artaxerxes Ochus, and it is said, above 40,000 of its inhabitants perished in the flames . The like befell the Philistines (see the notes at Zephaniah 2:4-7). The Sabaeans are probably instanced, as being the remotest nation in the opposite direction, a nation, probably, the partner of Tyre’s traffic in people, as well as in their other merchandise, and who (as is the way of unregenerate nature) would as soon trade in Tyrians, as with Tyrians. The Sabaeans were like the Phoenicians, a wealthy merchant people, and, of old, united with them in the trade of the world, the Sabaeans sending forth their fleets across the Indian Ocean, as the Tyrians along the Mediterranean. Three fathers of distinct races bore the name Sheba; one, a descendant of Ham, the other two, descended from Shem. The Hamite Sheba was the son of Raamah, the son of Cush Genesis 10:7, and doubtless dwelt of old in the country on the Persian gulf called by the name Raamah . Traces of the name Sheba occur there, and some even after our era . The Shemite Sabaeans, were, some descendants of Sheba, the tenth son of Joktan Genesis 10:28; the others from Sheba, the son of Abraham and Keturah Genesis 25:3. The Sabaeans, descended from Joktan, dwelt in the southwest extremity of Arabia, extending from the Red Sea to the Sea of Babel-mandeb. The country is still called “ard-es-Seba” , “land of Saba;” and Saba is often mentioned by Arabic writers .

To the Greeks and Latins they were known by the name of one division of the race (Himyar) Homeritae. Their descendants still speak an Arabic, acknowledged by the learned Arabs to be a distinct language from that which, through Muhammed, prevailed and was diffused ; a “species” of Arabic which they attribute “to the times of (the prophet) Hud (perhaps Eber) and those before him.”

It belonged to them as descendants of Joktan. Sabaeans are mentioned, distinct from both of these, as “dwelling in Arabia Felix, next beyond Syria, which they frequently invaded, before it belonged to the Romans.” These Sabaeans probably are those spoken of as marauders by Job ; and may have been descendants of Keturah. Those best known to the Greeks and Romans were, naturally, those in the south western corner of Arabia. The account of their riches and luxuries is detailed, and, although from different authorities consistent; else, almost fabulous.

One metropolis is said to have had 65 temples , private individuals had more than kingly magnificence . Arabic historians expanded into fable the extent and prerogatives of their Paradise lands, before the breaking of the artificial dike, made for the irrigation of their country . They traded with India, availing themselves doubtless of the Monsoon, and perhaps brought thence their gold, if not also the best and most costly frankincense . The Sheba of the prophet appears to have been the wealthy Sheba near the Red Sea. Indeed, in absence of evidence to the contrary, it is natural to understand the name of those best known.

Solomon unites it with Seba Psalms 72:10, (the Aethiopian Sabae.) The known frankincense-districts are on the southwest corner of Arabia . The tree has diminished, perhaps has degenerated through the neglect consequent on Muslim oppression, diminished consumption, change of the line of commerce; but it still survives in those districts ; a relic of what is passed away. Ezekiel indeed unites “the merchants of Sheba and Raamah” Ezekiel 27:22, as trading with Tyre. “The merchants of Sheba and Raamah, they were thy merchants; with the chief of all spices and with all precious stones and gold they occupied in thy fairs.” It may be that he joins them together as kindred tribes yet it is as probable that he unites the two great channels of merchandise, east and west, Raamah on the Persian Gulf, and Sheba near the Red Sea. Having just mentioned the produce of Northern Arabia as poured into Tyre, he would, in this case, enumerate north, east, and west of Arabia as combined to enrich her.

Agatharcides unites the Sabaeans of southwest Arabia with the Gerrhaeans, who were certainly on the Persian Gulf . “No people,” he says , “is apparently richer than the Sabaeans and Gerrhaeans, who dispense forth everything worth speaking of from Asia and Europe. These made the Syria of Ptolemy full of gold. These supplied the industry of the Phoenicians with profitable imports, not to mention countless other proofs of wealth.” Their caravans went to Elymais, Carmania; Charrae was their emporium; they returned to Gabala and Phoenicia . Wealth is the parent of luxury and effeminacy. At the time of our Lord’s Coming, the softness and effeminacy of the Sabaeans became proverbial. The “soft Sabaeans” is their characteristic in the Roman poets . Commerce, navigation, goldmines, being then carried on by means of slaves, and wealth and luxury at that time always demanding domestic slaves, the Sabaeans had need of slaves for both. They too had distant colonies , where the Tyrians could be transported, as far from Phoenicia, as the shores of the Aegean are from Palestine. The great law of divine justice, “as I have done, so God hath requited me” Judges 1:7, was again fulfilled. It is a sacred proverb of God’s overruling Providence, written in the history of the world and in people’s consciences.

Verse 9

Proclaim ye this among the Gentiles - God having before said that He would “gather all nations,” now, by a solemn irony, bids them prepare, if, by any means, they can fight against Him. So in Isaiah; “Associate yourselves, O ye people, and ye shall be broken in pieces; and give ear, all ye of far countries; gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces; gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces; take counsel together, and it shall come to nought; speak the word, and it shall not stand, for God is with us” (Isaiah 8:9-10; see also Ezekiel 38:7-23).

Prepare - Literally, “hallow, war.” To “hallow war” was to make it holy, either in appearance or in truth, as the prophet bade them, “sanctify a fast,” i. e., keep it holily. So God calls the Medes, whom He employed against Babylon, “My sanctified ones” Isaiah 13:0, and bids, “sanctify the nations against her” Jeremiah 51:27; and the enemies of Judah encourage themselves, “sanctify ye war against her” Jeremiah 6:4; and Micah says, that whosover bribed not the false prophets, “they sanctify war against him” Micah 3:5, i. e., proclaim war against him in the Name of God. The enemies of God, of His people, of His truth, declare war against all, in the Name of God. The Jews would have stoned our Lord for blasphemy, and, at the last, they condemned Him as guilty of it. “He hath spoken blasphemy. What further need have we of witttesses? behold, now ye have heard His blasphemy” Matthew 26:65. And He foretold to His disciples, “Whosoever killeth you, will think he doeth God service” John 16:2.

Stephen was persecuted for speaking “blasphemous words against Moses and against God, this holy place and the law” Acts 6:11, Acts 6:13. Paul was persecuted for “persuading people to worship God contrary to the law and polluting this holy place” Acts 18:13; Acts 21:28; Acts 24:6. Antichrist shall set himself up as God, “so that he, as God, sitteth in the temple of God shewing himself that he is God” 2 Thessalonians 2:4. Heretics and unbelievers declaim against the Gospel, as though it, and not themselves, were opposed to the holiness and Majesty and love of God. The Gnostics of old spake against the Creator in the Name of God. Arians affected reverence for the glory of God , being, on their own mis-belief, idolaters or polytheists . The Apollinarians charged the Church with ascribing to our Lord a sinful soul, as though the soul must needs be such , find themselves held the Godhead to have been united to a soulless, and so a brute, nature.

Manichaeans accused her of making God the author of evil, and themselves, as do Pantheists now, invented a god who sinned . Novatians and Donatists accused the Church of laxity. Pelagians charged her with denying the perfectibility of man’s nature, themselves denying the grace whereby it is perfected. Muhammed arrayed the truth of the Unity of God against His Being in Three Persons, and fought against the truth as idolatry. Some now array “Theism,” i. e., truths as to God which they have stolen from Holy Scripture, against the belief in God as He has revealed Himself. Indeed, no imposture ever long held its ground against truth, unless it masked itself under some truth of God which it perverted, and so “hallowed” its “war” against God in the Name of God.

Wake up the mighty men - Arouse them, as if their former state had been a state of sleep; arouse all their dormant powers, all within them, that they may put forth all their strength, if so be they may prevail against God.

Let all the men of war draw near - , as if to contend, and close, as it were, with God and His people (see 1 Samuel 17:41. 2 Samuel 10:13), as, on the other hand, God says, “I will come near to you to judgment” (Malachi 3:5; see Isaiah 41:1; Isaiah 50:8). “Let them come up” into His very presence. Even while calling them to fulfill this their vain purpose of striving with God, the prophet keeps in mind, into whose presence they are summoned, and so calls them to “come up,” as to a place of dignity.

Verse 10

Beat your plowshares into swords - Peace had been already promised, as a blessing of the gospel. “In His days,” foretold Solomon, “shall the righteous flourish, and abundance of peace, so long as the moon endureth” Psalms 72:7. And another, “He maketh thy borders peace” Psalms 147:14. Peace within with God flows forth in peace with man. “Righteousness and peace kissed each other” Psalms 85:10. Where there is not rest in God, all is unrest. And so, all which was needful for life, the means of subsistence, care of health, were to be forgotten for war.

Let the weak say, I am strong - It is one last gathering of the powers of the world against their Maker; the closing scene of man’s rebellion against God. It is their one universal gathering. None, however seemingly unfit, was to be spared from this conflict; no one was to remain behind. The farmer was to forge for war the instruments of his peaceful toil; the sick was to forget his weakness and to put on a strength which he had not, and that to the uttermost. But as weakness is, in and through God, strength, so all strength out of God is weakness. Man may say, I am strong; but, against God, he remains weak as, it is said, that weak man Psalms 10:18) from the earth may no more oppress.

Verse 11

Once more all the enemies of God are summoned together. “Assemble yourselves,” (Others in the same sense render, “Haste ye,) and come, all ye pagan, round about,” literally “from round about,” i. e., from every side, so as to compass and hem in the people of God, and then, when the net had been, as it were, drawn closer and closer round them, and no way of escape is left, the prophet prays God to send His aid; “thither cause Thy mighty ones to come down, O Lord.” Against “the mighty ones” of the earth, or “the weak” who “say” they are “mighty,” (the same word is used throughout,) there “come down the mighty ones of God.” The “mighty ones of God,” whom He is prayed to “cause to come down,” i. e., from heaven, can be no other than the mighty angels, of whom it is said, they “are mighty in strength” Psalms 103:20 (still the same word,) to whom God gives “charge over” Psalms 91:11. His own, “to keep” them “in all” their “ways,” and one of whom, in this place, killed “one hundred and fourscore and five thousand” 2 Kings 19:35 of the Assyrians. So our Lord saith, “The Son of man shall send forth His Angels, and they shall gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and them that do iniquity” Matthew 13:41.

Verse 12

Let the pagan be awakened - This emphatic repetition of the word, “awaken,” seems intended to hint at the great awakening, to Judgment , when they “who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, being awakened” from the sleep of death. Another word is used of “awakening” . On the destruction of antichrist it is thought that the general Judgment will follow, and “all who are in the graves shall hear the voice of the Son of Man and shall come forth” John 5:27-29 : They are bidden to “come up” into the valley of Jehoshaphat , “for to come into the presence of the most High God, may well be called “a coming up.” For there will I sit to judge all the pagan round about,” (again literally “from round about,) from every side,” all nations from all the four quarters of the world. The words are the same as before. There “all nations from every side” were summoned to come, as they thought, to destroy God’s people and heritage. Here the real end is assigned, for which they were brought together, for God would sit to judge them. In their own blind will and passion they came to destroy; in God’s secret overruling Providence, they were dragged along by their passions - to be judged and to be destroyed. So our Lord says, “When the Son of Man shall come in His Glory, and all the Holy Angels with Him, then shall He sit on the throne of His Glory and before Him shall be gathered all nations” Matthew 25:31-32. Our Lord, in that He uses words of Joel, seems to intend to direct our minds to the prophet’s meaning. What follows are nearly His own words;

Verse 13

Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe - So Jesus saith, “let both grow together until the harvest, and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them;” and this He explains, “The harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the Angels” Matthew 13:30, Matthew 13:39. He then who saith, “put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe,” is the Son of Man, who, before He became the Son of Man, was, as He is now, the Son of God, and spake this and the other things by the Prohets; they to whom He speaketh are His reapers, the Angels; and the ripeness of the harvest is the maturity of all things here, good and evil, to be brought to their last end.

In itself, the harvest, as well as the vintage, might describe the end of this world, as to both the good and the bad, in that the wheat is severed from the chaff and the tares, and the treading of the winepress separates the wine which is stored up from the husks which are cast away. Yet nothing is said, here of storing up aught, either the wheat or the wine, but only of the ripeness of the harvest, and that “the fats overflow, because their wickedness is great.” The harvest is sometimes, although more rarely, used of destruction Isaiah 17:5; Jeremiah 51:33; the treading of the winepress is always used as an image of God’s anger Lamentations 1:15; Isaiah 63:3; Revelation 19:15; the vintage of destruction Isaiah 17:6; Judges 8:2; Micah 7:1; the plucking off the grapes, of the rending away of single lives or souls Psalms 80:12. It seems probable then, that the ripeness of the harvests and the fullness of the vats are alike used of the ripeness for destruction, that “they were ripe in their sins, fit for a harvest, and as full of wickedness as ripe grapes, which fill and overflow the vats, through the abundance of the juice with which they swell.” Their ripeness in iniquity calls, as it were, for the sickle of the reaper, the trampling of the presser.

For great is their wickedness - The whole world is flooded and overflowed by it, so that it can no longer contain it, but, as it were, cries to God to end it. The long suffering of God no longer availed, but would rather increase their wickedness and their damnation. So also, in that first Judgment of the whole world by water, when “all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth, God said, the end of all flesh is before Me” Genesis 6:12-13; and when the hundred and twenty years of the preaching of Noah were ended without fruit, “the flood came.” So Sodom was “then” destroyed, when not ten righteous could be found in it; and the seven nations of Canaan were spared above four hundred years, because the “iniquity of the Amorites was not yet full” Genesis 15:16; and our Lord says, “fill ye up the measure of your fathers - that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth” Matthew 23:32, Matthew 23:35. So , “God condemneth each of the damned, when he hath filled up the measure of his iniquity.”

Verse 14

The prophet continues, as in amazement at the great throng assembling upon one another, “multitudes, multitudes, in the valley of decision,” as though, whichever way he looked, there were yet more of these “tumultuous masses,” so that there was nothing beside them. It was one living, surging, boiling, sea: throngs upon throngs, mere throngs! . The word rendered “multitudes” suggests, besides, the thought of the hum and din of these masses thronging onward, blindly, to their own destruction. They all “tumultuously rage together, and imagine a vain thing, against the Lord and against His Christ” Psalms 2:1-2; but the place where they are gathered, (although they know it not,) is the “valley of decision,” i. e., of “sharp, severe judgment.” The valley is the same as that before called “the valley of Jehoshaphat;” but whereas that name only signifies “God judgeth,” this further name denotes the strictness of God’s judgment. The word signifies “cut,” then “decided;” then is used of severe punishment, or destruction decided and decreed , by God.

For the Day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision - Their gathering against God shall be a token of His coming to judge them. They come to fulfill their own ends; but His shall be fulfilled on them. They are left to bring about their own doom; and being abandoned by Him, rush on the more blindly because it is at hand. When their last sin is committed, their last defiance of God spoken or acted against Him, it is come. At all times, indeed, “the Lord is at hand” Philippians 4:5. It may be, that we are told, that the whole future revealed to us “must shortly come to pass” Revelation 1:1, in order to show that all time is a mere nothing, a moment, a dream, when it is gone. Yet here it is said, relatively, not to us, but to the things foretold, that it “is near” to come.

Verse 15

The sun and the moon shall be darkened - This may be, either that they shall be outshone by the brightness of the glory of Christ, or that they themselves shall undergo a change, whereof the darkness at the Crucifixion was an image. An ancient writer says ; “As in the dispensation of the Cross the sun failing, there was darkness over all the earth, so when the ‘sign of the Son of man’ appeareth in heaven in the Day of Judgment, the light of the sun and moon and stars shall fail, consumed, as it were by the great might of that sign.” And as the failure of the light of the sun at our Lord’s Passion betokened the shame of nature at the great sin of man, so, at the Day of Judgment, it sets before us the awfulness of God’s judgments, as though “it dared not behold the severity of Him who judgeth and returneth every man’s work upon his own head;” as though “every creature, in the sufferings of others, feared the judgment on itself.”

Verse 16

The Lord shall roar out of Zion - As in the destruction of Sennacherib, when he was now close upon his prey, and “shook his hand against the mount of the daughter of Zion, the hill of Jerusalem, the Lord of hosts lopped the bough with terror, and the high ones of stature were hewn down, and the haughty were humbled Isaiah 10:32-33, so at the end. It is foretold of antichrist, that his destruction shall be sudden, “Then shall that Wicked one be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of His Coming” 2 Thessalonians 2:8. And Isaiah saith of our Lord, “He shall smite the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips shall He slay the wicked” Isaiah 11:4. When the multitudes of God’s enemies were thronged together, then would He speak with His Voice of terror. The terrible voice of God’s warnings is compared to the roaring of a lion. “The lion hath roared, who will not fear? the Lord hath spoken, who can but prophesy?” Amos 3:8. Much more, when those words of awe are fulfilled. Our Lord then, “The Lion of the tribe of Judah” Revelation 5:5. Who is here entitled by the incommunicable Name of God, I am, shall utter His awful Voice, as it is said; “The Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the Archangel and with the Trump of God” 1 Thessalonians 4:16; and He Himself says, “The hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice and shall come forth, they that have done good unto the Resurrection of life, and they that have done evil unto the resurrection of damnation” John 5:28-29.

And shall utter His voice from Jerusalem - that is, either from His Throne aloft “in the air” above the holy city, or from the heavenly Jerusalem, out of the midst of the tens of thousands of His holy angels Matthew 16:27; Matthew 25:31; Mark 8:38; 2 Thessalonians 1:7, and saints Zechariah 14:5; Jude 1:14, who shall “come with Him.” So terrible shall that voice be, that “the heavens and the earth shall shake,” as it is said, “the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up” 2 Peter 3:10; and “heaven shall open for the coming of the saints,” and ‘hell shall be moved at the coming’ Isaiah 14:9 of the evil. : “Nor shall it be a slight shaking of the earth at His Coming, but such that all the dead shall be roused, as it were from their sleep, yea, the very elect shall fear and tremble, but, even in their fear and trembling, shall retain a strong hope. This is what he saith immediately, ‘The Lord will be the hope (or place of refuge)’ of His ‘people, and the strength (or stronghold) of the children of Israel,’ i. e., of the true Israel, the whole people of the elect of God. All these He will then by that His Majesty at once wonderfully terrify and strengthen, because they ever hoped in God, not in themselves, and ever trusted in the strength of the Lord, never presumed on their own. Whereas contrariwise the false Israelites hope in themselves, while, ‘going about to establish their own righteousness, they submitted themselves not to the righteousness of God.’ Romans 10:3. The true Israel shall trust much more than ever before; yet none can trust then, who in life, had not trusted in Him Alone.

Verse 17

God Himself wondrously joins on His own words to those of the prophet, and speaks to His own people; “so (literally, and) ye shall know,” by experience, by sight, face to face, what ye now believe, “that I am the Lord your God, dwelling in Zion, My holy mountain.” So He saith in the second Psalm, “Then shall he speak unto them” Psalms 2:5-6 (the enemies of His Christ) “in His wrath, and vex them in His sore displeasure; And I have set My king on My holy hill of Zion;” and, “Behold the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, their God” Revelation 21:3, dwelling with them and in them, by an unvarying, blissful, hallowing presence, never withdrawn, never hidden, never shadowed, but ever shining upon them. “Your God,” your own, as much as if possessed by none besides, filling all with gladness, yet fully possessed by each, as though there were none besides, so that each may say, “Thou art my Portion, O Lord” Psalms 119:57; Lamentations 3:24; my “Lord, and my God” John 20:28, as He saith, “I am thy exceeding great Reward” Genesis 15:1.

And Jerusalem shall be holy - Literally, “holiness” as John saith, “He carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God” Revelation 21:10-11.

And there shall no stranger pass through her anymore - “Without,” says John, “are dogs and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie” Revelation 22:15. None alien from her shall pass through her, so as to have dominion over her, defile or oppress her.

This special promise is often repeated. “It shall be called the way of holiness, the unclean shall not pass over it” Isaiah 35:8. “Henceforth there shall no more come into thee the uncircumcised and the unclean” Isaiah 52:1. “The wicked shall no more pass through thee” Nahum 1:15. “In that day there shall be no more the Canaanite in the house of the Lord of hosts” . “And there shall in no wise enter into it anything that defileth” Revelation 21:27. These promises are, in their degree and in the image and beginning, made good to the Church here, to be fully fulfilled when it shall be “a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but holy and without blemish” Ephesians 5:27. Here they do not pass through her, so as to overcome; “the gates of hell shall not prevail against her.” However near, as hypocrites, they come to her, they feel in themselves that they “are not of her” 1 John 2:19. There they shall be severed from her forever. : “Heretics came, armed with fantastic reasons and deceitful arguments; but they could not pass through her, repelled by the truth of the word, overcome by reason, cast down by the testimonies of Scripture and by the glow of faith.” They fell backward to the ground before her. They “go out from her, because they are not of her” 1 John 2:19. They who are not of her can mingle with her, touch her sacraments, but their power and virtue they partake not. They are inwardly repelled.

Verse 18

And it shall come to pass in that Day - After the destruction of antichrist, there will, it seems, still be a period of probation, in which the grace of God will abound and extend more and more widely. The prophet Zechariah, who continues on the image, of the “living waters going out from Jerusalem” Zechariah 14:8, places this gift after God had gathered all nations against Jerusalem, and had visibly and miraculously overthrown them Zechariah 14:2-4. But in that the blessings which he speaks of, are regenerating, they belong to time; the fullness of the blessing is completed only in eternity; the dawn is on earth, the everlasting brightness is in heaven. But though the prophecy belongs eminently to one time, the imagery describes the fulness of spiritual blessings which God at all times diffuses in and through the Church; and these blessings, he says, shall continue on in her for ever; her enemies shall be cut off for ever. It may be, that Joel would mark a fresh beginning and summary by his words, “It shall be in that Day.” The prophets do often begin, again and again, their descriptions. Union with God, which is their theme, is one. Every gift of God to His elect, except the beatific vision, is begun in time, union with Himself, indwelling, His Spirit flowing forth from Him into His creatures, His love, knowledge of Him, although here through a glass darkly.

The promise cannot relate to exuberance of temporal blessings, even as tokens of God’s favor. For he says, “a fountain shall come forth of the house of the Lord, and shall water the valley of Shittim.” But “the valley of Shittim” is on the other side Jordan, beyond the Dead Sea, so that by nature the waters could not flow there. The valley of Shittim or acacia trees is a dry valley, for in such the Easten Acacia, i. e., the sant or sandal wood grows. “It is,” says Jerome (on Isa 12:1-6 :19), “a tree which grows in the desert, like a white thorn in color and leaves, not in size. For they are of such size, that very large planks , are cut out of them. The wood is very strong, and of incredible lightness and beauty. They do not grow in cultivated places, or in the Roman soil, save only in the desert of Arabia.” It does not decay ; and when old becomes like ebony . Of it the ark of God was made, its staves, the table of showbread, the tabernacle and its pillars, the altar for burnt-offerings, and of incense Exodus 25:5, Exodus 25:10, Exodus 25:13, Exodus 25:23, Exodus 25:28; Exodus 26:15, Exodus 26:26, Exodus 26:32, Exodus 26:37; Exodus 27:1, Exodus 27:6; Exodus 30:1; Exodus 35:7, Exodus 35:24; Exodus 36:20, Exodus 36:31, Exodus 36:36; Exodus 37:1, Exodus 37:4, Exodus 37:10, Exodus 37:15, Exodus 37:25, Exodus 37:28; Exodus 38:1, Exodus 38:6; Deuteronomy 10:3. The valley is about six miles from Livias , seven and a half beyond the Dead Sea . It was the last station of Israel, before entering the land of promise Numbers 33:49, from where Joshua sent out the spies Joshua 2:1; where God turned the curse of Balaam into a blessling Numbers 23:0; Numbers 24:0; Micah 6:5; and he prophesied of the Star which should arise out of Israel, even Christ Numbers 24:17; where Israel sinned in Baal Peor, and Phineas turned aside His displeasure Numbers 25:1, Numbers 25:7, Numbers 25:11.

The existence of a large supply of water under the temple is beyond all question. While the temple was still standing, mention is made up of “a fountain of ever-flowing water under the temple,” as well as pools and cisterns for preserving rain-water. One evidently well acquainted with the localities says , “The pavement has slopes at befitting places, for the sake of a flush of water which takes place in order to cleanse away the blood from the victims. For on festivals many myriads of animals are sacrificed. But of water there is an unfailing supply, a copious and natural fountain within gushing over, and there being moreover wonderful underground-receptacles in a circuit of five furlongs, in the substructure of the temple, and each of these having numerous pipes, the several streams inter-communicating, and all these closed up below and on the sides - There are also many mouths toward the base, invisible to all except those to whom the service of the temple belongs. So that the manifold blood of the sacrifices being brought together are cleansed by the gush (of water down) the slope.”

This same writer relates that, more than half a mile from the city, he was told to stoop down and heard the sound of gushing waters underground. The natural fountain, then, beneath the temple was doubtless augmented by waters brought from a distance, as required for the “divers washings” both of the priests and other things, and to carry off the blood of the victims. Pools near the temple are mentioned by writers of the third and fourth century ; and Omar, on the surrender of Jerusalem, 634 a.d., was guided to the site of the ancient temple (whereon he built his Mosk) by the stream of water which issued through a water-channel from it . Whencesoever this water was derived, whether from a perennial spring beneath the temple itself, or whether brought there from some unfailing source without, it afforded Jerusalem an abundant supply of water.

Much as Jerusalem suffered in sieges by famine, and its besiegers by thirst, thirst was never any part of the sufferings of those within . The superfluous water was and still is carried off underground, to what is now “the fountain of the Virgin” , and thence again, through the rock, to the pool of Siloam . Thence it carried fertility to the gardens of Siloam, in Joel’s time doubtless “the king’s gardens” , still “a verdant spot, refreshing to the eye in the heat of summer, while all around is parched and dun.” The blood of the victims flowed into the same brook Kidron, and was a known source of fertility, before the land was given to desolation. The waters of Kidron, as well as all the waters of Palestine, must have been more abundant formerly.

Isaiah speaks of it as “flowing softly” Isaiah 8:6; Josephus , of the “abundant fountain;” an official report , of the “fountain gushing forth with abundance of water.” Still its fertilizing powers formed but one little oasis, where all around was arid. It fertilized those gardens live miles from the city, but the mid-space was waterless , thirsty, mournful . Lower down, the rivulet threaded its way to the Dead Sea, through a narrow ravine which became more and more wild, where Saba planted his monastery. “A howling wilderness, stern desolation. stupendous perpendicular cliffs, terrific chasms, oppressive solitude” are the terms by which one endeavors to characterize “the heart of this stern desert of Judaea” .

Such continues to be its character, in the remaining half of its course, until it is lost in the Dead Sea, and is transmuted into its saltness. Its valley bears the name of desolation, Wady en Nar , “valley of fire.” No human path lies along it. The Kidron flows along “a deep and almost impenetrable ravine” Psalms 46:4, “in a narrow channel between perpendicular walls of rock, as if worn away by the rushing waters between those desolate chalky hills.” That little oasis of verdure was fit emblem of the Jewish people, itself bedewed by the stream which issued from the Temple of God, but, like Gideon’s fleece, leaving all around dry. It made no sensible impression out of, or beyond itself. Hereafter, “the stream”, the Siloah, whose “streamlets,” i. e., the artificial fertilizing divisions, “made glad the city of God” Ezekiel 47:1-12, should make the wildest, driest spots of our mortality “like the garden of the Lord.” Desolation should become bright and happy; the parched earth should shoot up fresh with life; what was by nature barren and unfruitful should bring forth good fruit; places heretofore stained by sin should be purified; nature should be renewed by grace; and that, beyond the borders of the promised land, in that world which they had left, when Joshua brought them in there.

This, which it needs many words to explain, was vivid to those to whom Joel spoke. They had that spot of emerald green before their eyes, over which the stream which they then knew to issue from the temple trickled in transparent brightness, conducted by those channels formed by man’s diligence. The eyes of the citizens of Jerusalem must have rested with pleasure on it amid the parched surface around. Fresher than the gladliest freshness of nature, brighter than its most kindled glow, is the renewing freshness of grace; and this, issuing from mount Zion, was to be the portion not of Judea only, but of the world.

The vision of Ezekiel Ezekiel 47:1-12, which is a comment on the prophecy of Joel, clearly belongs primarily to this life. For in this life only is there need for healing; in this life only is there a desert land to be made fruitful; death to be changed into life; death and life, the healed and unhealed, side by side; life, where the stream of God’s grace reacheth, and death and barrenness, where it reacheth not. The fishers who spread their nests amid “the fish, exceeding many,” are an emblem which waited for and received its explanation from the parables of our Lord.

In the Revelation, above all, the peace, glory, holiness, vision of God, can only be fulfilled in the sight of God. Yet here too the increase of the Church, and the healing of the nations Revelation 21:24-26; Revelation 22:21, belong to time and to a state of probation, not of full fruition.

But then neither can those other symbols relate to earthly things.

The mountains shall drop down new wine - Literally, “trodden” out. What is ordinarily obtained by toil, shall be poured forth spontaneously. “And the hills shall flow with milk,” literally, “flow milk,” as though they themselves, of their own accord, gushed forth into the good gifts which they yield. “Wine” ever new, and ever renewing, sweet and gladdening the heart; “milk,” the emblem of the spiritual food of childlike souls, of purest knowledge, holy devotion, angelic purity, heavenly pleasure. And these shall never cease. These gifts are spoken of, as the spontaneous, perpetual flow of the mountains and hills; and as the fountain gushes forth from the hill or mountain-side in one ceaseless flow, day and night, streaming out from the hidden recesses to which the waters are supplied by God from His treasure-house of the rain, so day and night, in sorrow or in joy, in prosperity or adversity, God pours out, in the Church and in the souls of His elect, the riches of His grace. “All the rivers,” literally “channels, of Judah shall flow with water.” Every “channel,” however narrow and easily drying up, shall “flow with water,” gushing forth unto everlasting life; the love of God shall stream through every heart; each shall he full according to its capacity and none the less full, because a larger tide pours through others. How much more , “in those everlasting hills of heaven, “the heavenly Jerusalem,” resting on the eternity and Godhead of the Holy Trinity, shall that long promise be fulfilled of the land flowing with milk and honey, where God, through the beatific vision of Himself, shall pour into the blessed “the torrent of pleasure,” the unutterable sweetness of joy and gladness unspeakable in Himself; and “all the rivers of Judah,” i. e., all the powers, capacities, senses, speech of the saints who “confess” God, shall flow with a perennial stream of joy, thanksgiving, and jubilee, as of all pleasure and bliss.”

Verse 19

Egypt shall be a desolation - “Egypt” and “Edom” represent each a different class of enemies of the people of God, and both together exhibit the lot of all. Egypt was the powerful oppressor, who kept Israel long time in hard bondage, and tried, by the murder of their male children, to extirpate them. Edom was, by birth, the nearest allied to them, but had, from the time of their approach to the promised land, been hostile to them, and showed a malicious joy in all their calamities (Obadiah 1:10-14; Ezekiel 25:12; Ezekiel 35:15; Ezekiel 36:5; Lamentations 4:22; Psalms 137:7; see the note at Amos 1:11). “Their land,” in which Egypt and Edom shed the “innocent blood of the children of Judah,” may either be Edom, Egypt, or Judaea. If the land was Judaea, the sin is aggravated by its being God’s land, the possession of which they were disputing with God. If it was Egypt and Edom, then it was probably the blood of those who took refuge there, or, as to Edom, of prisoners delivered up to them (see the note at Amos 1:9).

This is the first prophecy of the humiliation of Egypt. Hosea had threatened, that Egypt should be the grave of those of Israel who should flee there Hosea 9:6. He speaks of it as the vain trust, and a real evil to Israel Hosea 7:11-12, Hosea 7:16; Hosea 8:13; Hosea 9:3; Hosea 11:5; of its own future he says nothing. Brief as Joel’s words are, they express distinctly an abiding condition of Egypt. They are expanded by Ezekiel Ezekiel 29:9-12, Ezekiel 29:15; particular chastisements are foretold by Isaiah Isaiah 19:0; Isaiah 20:1-6, Jeremiah Jeremiah 46:0, Ezekiel Ezek. 29–32, Zechariah Zechariah 10:11. But the three words of Joel , “Egypt shall become desolation,” are more comprehensive than any prophecy, except those by Ezekiel. They foretell that abiding condition, not only by the force of the words, but by the contrast with an abiding condition of bliss. The words say, not only “it shall be desolated,” as by a passing scourge sweeping over it, but “it shall itself ‘pass over into’ that state;” it shall become what it had not been ; and this, in contrast with the abiding condition of God’s people. The contrast is like that of the Psalmist, “He turneth a fruitful land into barrenness for the wickedness of them that dwell therein. He turneth the wilderness into a standing water, and dry ground into water-springs” Psalms 107:33-35. Judah should overflow with blessing, and the streams of God’s grace should pass beyond its bounds, and carry fruitfulness to what now was dry and barren. But what should reject His grace should be itself rejected.

Yet when Joel thus threatened Egypt, there were no human symptoms of its decay; the instruments of its successive overthrows were as yet wild hordes, (as the Chaldees, Persians, and Macedonians,) to be consolidated thereafter into powerful empires, or (as Rome) had not the beginnings of being. : “The continuous monumental history of Egypt” went back seven centuries before this, to about 1520 b.c. They had had a line of conquerors among their kings, who subdued much of Asia, and disputed with Assyria the country which lay between there . Even after the time of Joel, they had great conquerors, as Tirhaka; Psammetichus won Ashdod back from Assyria , Neco was probably successful against it, as well as against Syria and king Josiah, for he took Cadytis on his return from his expedition against Carchemish 2 Kings 23:29; Pharaoh Hophra, or Apries, until he fell by his pride Ezekiel 29:3, renewed for a time the prosperity of Psammetichus ; the reign of Amasis, even after Nebuchadnezzars conquest, was said to be “the most prosperous time which Egypt ever saw” ; it was still a period of foreign conquest , and its cities could be magnified into 20,000.

The Persian invasion was drawn upon it by an alliance with Lydia, where Amasis sent 120,000 men ; its, at times, successful struggles against the gigantic armies of its Persian conquerors betoken great inherent strength; yet it sank for ever, a perpetual desolation. “Rent, twenty-three centuries ago, from her natural proprietors,” says an unbelieving writer , “she has seen Persians, Macedonians, Romans, Greeks, Arabs, Georgians, and at length, the race of Tartars, distinguished by the name of Ottoman Turks, establish themselves in her bosom.” “The system of oppression is methodical;” “an universal air of misery is manifest in all which the traveler meets.” : “Mud-walled cottages are now the only habitations, where the ruins of temples and palaces abound. The desert covers many extensive regions, which once raised Egypt among the chief of the kingdoms.” The desolation of Egypt is the stranger, because exceeding misrule alone could have effected it.

Egypt in its largest dimensions, has been calculated to contain 123,527 square miless or 79,057,339 acres, and to be three fourths of the size of France Memoire sur le lae de Moeris. (1843). The mountains which hem in Upper Egypt, diverge at Cairo, parting, the one range, due east, the other northwest. The mountains on the west sink into the plains; those on the east retain their height as far as Suez. About 10 miles below Cairo, the Nile parted, enclosing within the outside of its seven branches, that triangle of wondrous fertility, the Delta. A network of canals, formed by the stupendous industry of the ancient Egyptians, enclosed this triangle in another yet larger, whose base, along the coast, was 235 miles, in direct distance about 181. East of the eastern-most branch of the Nile, lay the “land of Goshen,” formerly, at least for cattle, “the good of the land” Genesis 47:6, Genesis 47:11, a part, at least, of the present esh-Sharkiyyeh, second in size of the provinces of Egypt, but which, 1375 a.d., yielded the highest revenue of the state .

On the western side of the Nile, and about a degree south of the apex of the Delta, a stupendous work, the artificial lake of Moeris , enclosing within masonry 64 34 square miles of water, received the superfluous waters of the river, and thus at once prevented the injury incidental on any too great rise of the Nile, and supplied water during six months for the irrigation of 1724 square miles, or 1,103, 375, acres .

The Nile which, when it overflowed, spread like a sea over Egypt , encircling its cities like islands, carried with it a fertilizing power, attested by all, but which, unless so attested, would seem fabulous. Beneath a glowing heat, greater than its latitude will account for, the earth, supplied with continual moisture and an ever renewed alluvial deposit which supersedes all need of “dressing” the soil, yields, within the year, three harvests of varied produce . This system of canalising Egypt must have been of very early antiquity. That giant conception of the water system of lake Moeris is supposed to have been the work of Ammenemhes, perhaps about 1673, b.c. . But such a giant plan presupposes the existence of an artificial system of irrigation which it expanded. In the time of Moses, we hear incidentally of “the streams” of Egypt, “the canals” (that is, those used for irrigation), and “the ponds” Exodus 7:19; Exodus 8:1, the receptacles of the water which was left when the Nile retired.

Besides these, an artificial mode of irrigation “by the foot” Deut. 11:40 is mentioned, now no longer distinctly known, but used, like the present plans of the water-wheel and the lever , to irrigate the lands for the later harvests. This system of irrigation had, in the time of Joel, lasted probably for above 1000 years. The Egyptians ascribed the first turning of the Nile to their first king, Menes , of fabulous antiquity. But while it lasted in any degree, Egypt could not become barren except by miracle. Even now it recovers, whenever water is applied. “Wherever there is water, there is fertility.” : “The productive powers of the soil of Egypt are incalculable. Wherever water is scattered, there springs up a rapid and beautiful vegetation. The seed is sown and watered, and scarcely any other care is requisite for the ordinary fruits of the earth. Even in spots adjacent to the desert and which seem to be taken possession of by the sands, irrigation brings rapidly forth a variety of green herbs and plants.” For its first crop, there needed but to cast the seed, and have it trodden in by cattle .

Nothing then could desolate Egypt, except man’s abiding negligence or oppression. No passing storm or inroad could annihilate a fertility, which poured in upon it in everrenewing richness. For 1000 years, the Nile had brought to Egypt unabated richness. The Nile overflows still, but in vain amid depopulation, and grinding, uniform, oppression. Not the country is exhausted, but man.

“If” says Mengin , “it is true that there is no country richer than Egypt in its territorial productions, still there is perhaps no one whose inhabitants are more miserable. It is owing solely to the fertility of its soil and the sobriety of its cultivators, that it retains the population which it still has.” The marked diminution of the population had begun before the Birth of our Lord. “Of old,” says Diodorus , “it far exceeded in denseness of population all the known countries in the world, and in our days too it seems to be inferior to no other. For in ancient times it had more than 18,000 considerable villages and towns, as you may see registered in the sacred lists. In the time of Ptolemy Lagus more than 30,000 were counted, a number which has continued until now. But the whole people are said of old to have been about seven million, and in our days not less than three” .

A modern estimate supposes that Egypt, if cultivated to the utmost, would, in plentiful years, support eight million . It is difficult to calculate a population where different ranks wish to conceal it. It has been guessed however, that two centuries ago, it was four million; that, at the beginning of this century, it was two million and a half; and that, in 1845, it was 1,800,000 . The great diminution then had begun 1900 years ago. Temporary causes, plague, smallpox; conscription, have, in this last century, again halved the population; but down to that time, it had sunk to no lower level than it had already reached at least 18 centuries before. The land still, for its fruitfulness, continues to supply more than its inhabitants consume; it yields over and above cotton , for strangers to employ.

Yet its brilliant patches of vegetation are but indications how great the powers implanted in it. In vain “the rising Nile overflows (as it is thought) a larger proportion of the soil” than heretofore; in vain has the rich alluvial deposit encroached upon the gradual slope of the desert; in vain, in Upper Egypt has a third been added since about the time of the Exodus. Egypt is stricken. Canals and even arms of the Nile, were allowed to choke up. Of the seven branches of the Nile, two only, at first artificial, remain. : “The others have either entirely disappeared or are dry in summer.” The great eastern arm, the Pelusian, is nearly effaced “buried almost wholly beneath the sands of the desert.” : “The land at the mouth of the canal which represents it, is a sand waste or a marsh.” : “There is now no trace of vegetation in the whole Pelusian plain. Only one slight isolated rise has some thickets on it, and some shafts of columns lie on the sand.” : “In the midst of a plain the most fertile, they want the barest necessaries of life.”

The sand of the desert, which was checked by the river and by the reeds on its banks, has swept over lands no longer fertilized. : “The sea has not been less destructive. It has broken down the dykes wherewith man’s labor held it in, and has carried barrenness over the productive lands which it converted into lakes and marshes.” A glance at the map of Egypt will show how widely the sea has burst in, where land once was. On the east, the salt lake Menzaleh, (itself from west-northwest to southeast about 50 miles long, and above 10 miles from north to south) absorbs two more of the ancient arms of the Nile, the Tanitic and the Mendesian . The Tanitic branch is marked by a deeper channel below the shallow waters of the lake . The lake of Burlos “occupies from east to west more than half the basis of the Delta.” Further westward are a succession of lakes, Edkou, Madyeh (above 12 12 miles) Mareotis (37 12 miles). : “The ancient Delta has lost more than half its surface, of which one-filth is covered with the waters of the lakes Mareotis, Madyeh, Edkou, Bourlos, and Menzaleh, sad effects of the carelessness of the rulers or rather spoilers of this unhappy country.” Even when the lake Mareotis was, before the English invasion in 1801, allowed nearly to dry up, it was but an unhealthy lagoon; and the Mareotic district, once famous for its wine and its olives and papyrus , had become a desert. So far from being a source of fertility, these lakes from time to time, at the low Nile, inundate the country with salt water, and are “surrounded by low and barren plains” .

The ancient populousness and capabilities of the western province are attested by its ruins. : “The ruins which the French found everywhere in the military reconnaissances of this part of Egypt attest the truth of the historical accounts of the ancient population of the Province, now deserted” ; “so deserted, that you can scarce tell the numbers of ruined cities frequented only by wandering Arabs.”

According to a calculation lower than others, 13 of the land formerly tilled in Egypt has been thrown out of cultivation, i. e., not less than 1,763,895 acres or 2755.710 square miles . And this is not of yesterday. Toward the end of the 14th century, the extent of the land taxed was 3,034,179 feddans , i. e., 4,377,836.56 acres or 6840.13 square miles. The list of lands taxed by the Egyptian government in 1824 yields but a sum of 1,956, 40 feddans , or 2,822,171 acres or 4409 square miles. Yet even this does not represent the land actually cultivated. Some even of the taxed land is left wholly, some partially, uncultivated .

In an official report , 2,000,000 feddans are stated to be cultivated, when the overflow of the Nile is the most favorable, i. e., 47 only of the estimated cultivable amount. The French, who surveyed Egypt minutely, with a view to future improvement, calculated that above 1,000,000 feddans (1,012,887) might be proximately restored by the restoration of the system of irrigation, and nearly 1,000,000 more (942,810) by the drainage of its lakes, ponds and marshes, i. e., nearly as much again as is actually cultivated. One of the French surveyors sums up his account of the present state of Egypt ; “without canals and their dykes, Egypt, ceasing to be vivified throughout, is only a corpse which the mass of the waters of its river inundates to superfluity, and destroys through fullness. Instead of those ancient cultivated and fertile plains, one only finds, here and there, canals filled up or cut in two, whose numerous ramifications, crossing each other in every direction, exhibit only some scarcely distinguishable traces of a system of irrigation; instead of those villages and populous cities, one sees only masses of bare and arid ruins, remnants of ancient habitations reduced to ashes; lastly, one finds only lagoons, miry and pestilential, or sterile sands which extend themselves, and unceasingly invade a land which the industry of man had gained from the desert and the sea.”

Yet this is wholly unnatural. In the prophet’s time, it was contrary to all experience. Egypt is alike prolific in its people and in the productions of the earth. The Egyptian race is still accounted very prolific . So general is this, that the ancients thought that the waters of tim Nile must have some power of fecundity . Yet with these powers implanted in nature unimpaired, the population is diminished, the land half-desert. No one doubts that man’s abiding misgovernment is the cause of Egypt’s desolation. Under their native princes, they were happy and prosperous . Alexander, some of the Ptolemies, the Romans, saw, at least, the value of Egypt. The great conception of its Greek conqueror, Alexandria, has been a source of prosperity to strangers for above 2000 years. Prosperity has hovered around Egypt. Minds, the most different, are at one in thinking that, with a good government, internal prosperity and its farfamed richness of production might at once be restored. Conquerors of varied nations, Persians, Macedonians, Romans, Greeks, Arabs, Georgians, Tartars, or Turks have tried their hands upon Egypt. Strange that selfishness or powerlessness for good should have rested upon all; strange that no one should have developed its inherent powers! Strange contrast. One long prosperity, and one long adversity. One scarcely broken day, and one troubled night. And that doom foretold in the mid-day of its prosperity, by those three words, “Egypt shall be a desolation.”

Edom shall be a desolate wilderness - Edom, long unknown, its ancient capital, its rock-dwellings, have been, within these last forty years, anew revealed. The desolation has been so described to us, that we have seen it, as it were, with our own eyes. The land is almost the more hopelessly desolate, because it was once, artificially, highly cultivated. Once it had the “fatness of the earth and the dew of heaven from above” Genesis 27:39 : it had Numbers 20:17 “cornfields” and “vineyards” in abundance, and “wells” of water; its vegetation, its trees, and its vineyards, attracted the dew by which they were supported. “Petra,” says Strabo, (xvi. 4, 21), “lies in a spot precipitous and abrupt without, but within possessed of abundant fountains for watering and horticulture.” The terrace-cultivation, through which each shower which falls is stored to the uttermost, clothing with fertility the mountain-sides, leaves those steep sides the more bare, when disused. “We saw,” says a traveler , “many ruined terraces, the evidences and remains of a flourishing agriculture, which, in the prosperous days of Edom and Petra, clothed many of these now sterile mountains with fertility and beauty. Fields of wheat and some agricultural villages still exist in the eastern portion of Edom; but, with very slight exceptions, the country is blighted with cheerless desolations and hopeless sterility. The hill-sides and mountains, once covered with earth and clothed with vineyards, are now bare rocks. The soil no longer supported by terraces and sheltered by trees, has been swept away by the rains. The various contrivances for irrigation, which even now might restore fertility to many considerable tracts, have all disappeared. Sand from the desert, and the debris of the soft rock of the mountains, cover the valleys which formerly smiled with plenty.”

Now “the springs have been dried up to such an extent, as to render the renewal of the general fertility of Edom (well nigh) impossible. In places along the course of the stream, reeds and shrubs grow luxuriantly, oleanders and wild figs abound, and give proof that a little cultivation would again cover the rock, and fill the cliffs with the numberless gardens which once adorned them. The traces of former fertility are innumerable; every spot capable of sustaining vegetable life was carefully watered and cultivated. There are numerous grooves in the rocks to carry rainwater to the little clefts in which even now figs are found. Every spot capable of being so protected has been walled up, however small the space gained, or however difficult the means of securing it. The ancient inhabitants seem to have left no accessible place untouched. They have exhibited equal art and industry in eliciting from the grand walls of their marvelous capital whatever the combination of climate, irrigation and botanical skill could foster in the scanty soil afforded them. The hanging gardens must have had a wondrous effect among the noble buildings of the town when it was in all its glory.” This desolation began soon after the captivity of Judah and Edom’s malicious joy in it. For Malachi appeals to Judah, that whereas God had restored him, He had “laid the mountains and the heritage” of Esau “waste for the jackals of the wilderness” Malachi 1:3.

Yet Edom was the center of the conversation of nations. Occupying, as it did in its narrowest dimensions, the mountains between the south end of the Dead Sea and the Aelanitic gulf, it lay on the direct line between Egypt and Babylonia. A known route lay from Heroopolis to Petra its capital, and thence to Babylon . Elath and Ezion-geber discharged through its vally, the Arabah, the wealth which they received by sea from India or Africa. Petra was the natural halting-place of the caravans. “The Nabataeans,” says Pliny , “enclose Petra, in a valley of rather more than two miles in extent, surrounded by inaccessible mountains, through which a stream flows. Here the two roads meet of those who go to Palmyra of Syria, and of those who come from Gaza.” Eastward again, he says , “they went from Petra to Fora, and thence to Charax” on the banks of the Tigris, near the Persian gulf.

Yet further the wealth of Arabia Felix poured by a land-route through Petra. : “To Petra and Palestine, Gerraens and Minaeans and all the neighboring Arabs brought down from the upper country the frankincense, it is said, and all other fragrant merchandise.” Even after the foundation of Alexandria had diverted much of the stream of commerce from Leuce Come, the Aelanitic gulf, and Petra to Myos Hormus on the Egyptian side of the Red Sea, the Romans still connected Elath and Petra with Jerusalem by a great road, of which portions are still extant , and guarded the contact by military stations . Of these routes, that from Arabia Felix and from Egypt to Babylonia had probably been used for above 1000 years before the time of Joel. Elath and Eziongeber were well-known towns at the time of the Exodus Deuteronomy 2:8.

The contact was itself complex and manifold. The land exports of Arabia Felix and the commerce of Elath necessarily passed through Edom, and thence radiated to Egypt, Palestine, Syria. The withdrawal of the commerce of Egypt would not alone have destroyed that of Petra, while Tyre, Jerusalem, Damascus, still received merchandise through her. To them she was the natural channel; the pilgrim-route from Damascus to Mecca lies still by Petra. In Joel’s time, not the slightest shadow was cast on her future. Then Babylon destroyed her for a time; but she recovered. The Babylonian and Persian Empires perished; Alexander rose and fell; Rome, the master alike of Alexandria and Petra, meant Petra still to survive. No human eye could even then tell that it would be finally desolate; much less could any human knowledge have foreseen it in that of Joel. But God said by him, “Edom shall be a desolate wilderness,” and it is so!

As, however, Egypt and Edom are only instances of the enemies of God’s people and Church, so their desolation is only one instance of a great principle of God’s Government, that “the triumphing of the wicked is short, and the joy of the ungodly for a moment” Job 20:5; that, after their short-lived office of fulfilling God’s judgment on His people, the judgment rolls round on themselves, “and they that hate the righteous shall be desolate” Psalms 34:21.

Verse 20

Judah shall dwell for ever - Not earthly Judah, nor earthly Jerusalem, for these must come to an end, together with the earth itself, of whose end the prophets well knew. It is then the one people of God, the true Judah, the people who praise God, the Israel, which is indeed Israel. Egypt and Edom and all the enemies of God should come to an end; but His people shall never come to an end. “The gates of hell shall not prevail against her.” The enemy shall not destroy her; time shall not consume her; she shall never decay. The people of God shall abide before Him and through Him here, and shall dwell with Him forever.

Verse 21

For I will cleanse her blood that I have not cleansed - 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. The whole then cannot be an image taken from the cleansing of physical defilement, like the words in the prophet Ezekiel, “then washed I thee with water; yea, I thoroughly washed away thy blood from thee” Ezekiel 16:9. Nor again can it mean the forgiveness of sins generally, but only the pronouncing innocent the blood which had been shed. This, the only meaning of the words, fall in with the mention of the “innocent blood,” for shedding which, Egypt and Edom had been condemned. The words are the same. There it was said, “because they have shed innocent blood; dam naki;” here, “I will pronounce innocent their blood, nikkethi damam.” “How,” it is not said. But the sentence on Egypt and Edom explains how God would do it, by punishing those who shed it. For in that He punishes the shedding of it, He declared the “blood” innocent, whose shedding He punished. So in the Revelation it is said, “I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held, and they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost Thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?” Revelation 6:10-11. : “Then, at the last judgment, when the truth in all things shall be made manifest, He shall “declare the blood” of His people, who clave to Him and His truth, which blood their enemies thought they had shed justly and deservedly as the blood of guilty persons, to have indeed been innocent, by absorbing them from eternal destruction to which He shall then adjudge their enemies for shedding of it.”

For - (literally and) the Lord dwelleth in Zion He closes with the promise of God’s abiding dwelling. He speaks, not simply of a future, but of an ever-abiding present. He who is, the unchangeable God , “the Lord, infinite in power and of eternal Being, who gives necessary being to all His purposes and promises,” dwelleth now in “Mount Zion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem” (Hebrews 12:22; add Galatians 4:26; Revelation 3:12; Revelation 14:1; Revelation 21:2, Revelation 21:10), now by grace and the presence of His Holy Spirit, hereafter in glory. Both of the Church militant on earth and that triumphant in heaven, it is truly to be said, that the Lord dwelleth in them, and that, perpetually. Of the Church on earth will be verified what our Saviour Christ saith, “lo I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” Matthew 28:20; and of its members Paul saith, that “they” are “of the household of God, an holy temple in the Lord, in whom they are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit” Ephesians 2:19, Ephesians 2:21-22. Of the Church triumphant, there is no doubt, that “He” doth and will there dwell, and manifest His glorious presence forever, “in” whose “presence is the fullness of joy, and at His Right Hand” there are “pleasures for evermore” Psa 16:1-11 :12. It is an eternal dwelling of the Eternal, varied as to the way and degree of His presence by our condition, now imperfect, there perfected in Him; but He Himself dwelleth on for ever. He, the Unchangeable, dwelleth unchangeably; the Eternal, eternally.

: “Glorious things are spoken of thee, thou city of God” Psalms 87:3 Jerusalem, our mother, we thy children now groan and weep in this valley of tears, hanging between hope and fear, and, amid toil and conflicts, “lifting up our eyes” to thee and greeting thee from far. Truly “glorious things are spoken of thee.” But whatever can be said, since it is said to people and in the words of people, is too little for the “good things” in thee, which “neither eye hath seen, nor ear heard, nor hath entered into the heart of man” 1 Corinthians 2:9. Great to us seem the things which we suffer; but one of thy most illustrious citizens, placed amid those sufferings, who knew something of thee, hesitated not to say, “Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” 2 Corinthians 4:17. We will then “rejoice in hope,” and “by the waters of Babylon,” even while “we sit and weep,” we will “remember thee, O Zion. If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget” her cunning. “Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, I do not remember thee, if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy” Psalms 137:1-9.

O blessed longed-for day, when we shall enter into the city of the saints, ‘whose light is the Lamb,’ where ‘the King is seen in His beauty,’ where ‘all tears are wiped off from the eyes’ of the saints, ‘and there shall be no more death neither sorrow nor pain, for the former things have passed away Revelation 21:23; Isaiah 33:17; Revelation 21:4. “How amiable are Thy tabernacle, O Lord of Hosts! My soul longeth, yea fainteth for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God” Psalms 84:1-2. “When shall I come and appear before God?” Psalms 42:2, when shall I see that Father, whom I ever long for and never see, to whom out of this exile, I cry out, “Our Father, which art in heaven?” O true Father, “Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 15:6, ...), “Father of mercies and God of all comfort!” 2 Corinthians 1:3. When shall ‘I see the Word, who was in the beginning with God,’ and who ‘is God?’ John 1:1. When may I kiss His sacred Feet, pierced for me, put my mouth to His sacred Side, sit at His Feet, never to depart from them? O Face, more Glorious than the sun! Blessed is he, who beholdeth Thee, who hath never ceased to say, ‘I shall see Him, but not now; I shall behold Him, but not nigh’ Numbers 24:17. When will the day come, when, cleansed from the defilement of my sins, I shall, ‘with unveiled face, behold the glory of the Lord’ 2 Corinthians 3:18, and see the sanctifying Spirit, the Author of all good, through whose sanctifying we are cleansed, that ‘we may be like Him, and see Him as He is?’ 1 John 3:2. ‘Blessed are all they that dwell in Thy house,’ O Lord, ‘they shall ever praise Thee’ Psalms 84:4; forever shall they behold Thee and love Thee.”

Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Joel 3". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bnb/joel-3.html. 1870.
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