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the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Joel 3

Gaebelein's Annotated BibleGaebelein's Annotated

Verses 1-21



1. The judgment of the nations (Joel 3:1-8 )

2. The preceding warfare of the nations and how it ends (Joel 3:9-16 )

3. Jehovah in the midst of His People (Joel 3:17-21 )

Joel 3:1-8 . The first verse specifies the time when Jehovah will do what He announces in the two verses which follow. It will be in those days, in that time, when the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem is brought back. Clearly then up to this time this cannot yet have been, for the captivity of His people is not yet ended. They are still scattered in the great dispersion among the nations of the earth, The time is future when the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem is brought back. Israel, the ten tribes are not mentioned here, but they are included in the prophecy; they will likewise be brought back. Joel only mentions Judah, because His prophecy was addressed to Judah and Jerusalem. The captivity, or dispersion, which is the same thing, of the people Israel will not end till divine power accomplishes it according to the many promises in the Word of God. And when at last the heavens are silent no longer and Jehovah in His power begins to fulfil His promises and their captivity ends, it will mean judgment for the nations.

It is Jehovah Himself who speaks, what He is going to do in that day, when He arises and has mercy on Zion. “I will also bring together all nations and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat.” How the Lord will bring these nations together and then accomplish His purpose is revealed in Joel 3:9-12 . We therefore pass it by for the present till we reach the second part of this chapter. But here is also the place mentioned where this great judgment of nations will be executed. It will be in the valley of Jehoshaphat. The word means translated “Jehovah judges.” This name occurs elsewhere in the Word of God. King Jehu was the son of Jehoshaphat and he was the son of Nimshi 2 Kings 9:22 . Significant names of the king who had to judge, for Jehu means “He is Jehovah; ” Jehoshaphat, “Jehovah judges; ” Nimshi, “Jehovah reveals.”

In 2 Chronicles 20:1-37 we read the account of King Jehoshaphat’s victory over hostile nations. But the place where this took place is not the valley of Jehoshaphat, but it was called “Berachah,” that is blessing. We mention this for some expositors have claimed that the place where King Jehoshaphat brought judgment upon these nations is the valley of which Joel speaks.

The valley of Jehoshaphat must be looked for in the immediate vicinity of Jerusalem. It is generally placed in the valley of the Kidron on the East of Jerusalem. It may not yet be in existence. In Zechariah 14:1-21 we read of the same events which are here predicted. When the Lord appears His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives in that day. The Mount of Olives will then cleave in the midst and there will be formed a very great valley Zechariah 14:4 . This great valley may be the valley where the Lord judges the nations.

In the valley of Jehoshaphat the Lord will deal with the nations and His judgment will be on account of His people and heritage Israel. The nations scattered them and divided His land. They treated His people like slaves, casting lots for His people, sold a girl for wine and drank it.

The great sin of the nations, the Gentile world-powers, is the sin against Israel. This is repeatedly mentioned by God’s prophets. The foundation of the judgment of the nations of which our Lord speaks in Matthew 25:1-46 is likewise the treatment of the Jew. Read also Psalms 79:1-3 ; Psalms 83:1-18 ; Isaiah 29:1-24 ; Isaiah 34:1-17 ; Jeremiah 25:13-38 ; Zechariah 1:14-21 ; Zechariah 12:2-14 .

In Joel’s day such wickedness as described here of casting lots for His people and selling boys and girls was partially known. The Philistines had done this, as well as Tyre and Sidon. But these words were fulfilled during the Babylonian captivity and in that great dispersion which was brought about by the Roman Empire. After the destruction of Jerusalem in the year 70 the very thing happened spoken by the prophet. Nearly a million and a half of human beings perished in Jerusalem and the land in that awful warfare. Over 100,000 were taken prisoners. These hundred thousand Jews were disposed by Titus according to Josephus in the following manner: “Those under seventeen years of age were publicly sold; of the remainder, some were executed immediately, some sent away to work in the Egyptian mines (which was worse than death), some kept for public shows to fight with wild beasts in all the chief cities; only the tallest and most handsome were kept for the triumphal procession in Rome.” Jews were sold for so small a price as a measure of barley; thousands were thus disposed of. And what else could we add from the history of centuries, the cruel and terrible persecutions God’s heritage suffered, the thousands and tens of thousands massacred, tortured, outraged and sold as slaves. Have we not beheld but recently similar horrors in Germany? And that history is not yet finished. Outbreaks of hatred against the heritage Israel are still to come and the time of Jacob’s trouble soon to come will eclipse all their former suffering. It will be a time of trouble such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now nor ever shall be Matthew 24:21 . The day will come when the Lord will judge the nations for the evil they have done.

Joel 3:9-16 . This is a prophecy showing what precedes the judgment of these nations. The judgment hosts of the Lord, the angels, are seen coming down, then He appears in all His majesty, while sun and moon are darkened. It is a great dramatic scene which the Spirit of God unfolds. We arrange it, adding the different speakers, to bring out its full value:

The Lord speaking:

Proclaim this among the nations;

Declare a war,

Arouse the mighty ones,

Let all the men of war draw near, let them come up!

Beat your ploughshares into swords,

And your pruning hooks into spears.

Let the weak say, I am strong.

Come together

All ye nations round about

Gather yourselves together.

The Prayer of the Prophet:

Thither cause Thy mighty ones to come down,

O Jehovah!

The Lord speaking:

Let the nations arise and come up

To the valley of Jehoshaphat,

For there will I sit to judge all the nations round about.

The Lord to His judgment hosts:

Put in the sickle,

For the harvest is ripe;


For the wine-press is full,

The vats overflow;

For their wickedness is great.

The Prophet beholding the gathering:

Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision!

For the day of Jehovah is at hand in the valley of decision.

The sun and the moon are darkened

And the stars withdraw their shining.

And Jehovah shall roar from Zion

And send forth His voice from Jerusalem,

And the heavens and the earth shall shake;

But Jehovah will be a refuge for His people

And a fortress for the sons of Israel.

Throughout the prophetic Word we read that great nations confederated will oppose God and His purposes when this age closes. There will be a great western confederacy, the restored Roman Empire. (See annotations on Daniel 2:1-49 ; Daniel 7:1-28 .) There will also be a great northeastern alliance of nations. This is in view here. Consult Psalms 2:1-12 , Psalms 68:1-6 ; Isaiah 29:1-24 ; Isaiah 34:1-17 ; Jeremiah 25:29-38 ; Ezekiel 38:1-23 ,Zechariah 12:1-14 ; Zechariah 14:1-21 , and Revelation 19:19 . Judgment then falls upon these opposing nations. The judgment is mentioned as reaping and treading the winepress, the same as in Revelation 14:14-20 .

Joel 3:17-21 . Like nearly all the other prophetic books Joel ends with the vision of the kingdom and the Lord dwelling in the midst of His people. He will appear in all His glory. Jehovah will be a refuge for His people. Then they will come to that knowledge which they so long refused, that the delivering Jehovah is their God. But the Jehovah who appears there is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ, the one who was in their midst and who was delivered by the people to be crucified. What a day it will be when “They will look upon Him whom they have pierced and mourn for Him” Zechariah 12:10 . He will dwell in Zion, the mountain of glory. The glory from above will find a resting place on that holy hill. There He will be enthroned as King Psalms 2:6 . From there the glory will be spread over all Isaiah 4:5-6 ; Psalms 68:16 . “For the Lord hath chosen Zion; He hath desired it for His habitation. This is my rest forever; here will I dwell for I have desired it” Psalms 132:13-18 . It is the literal Zion and not something spiritual. Even good expositors of the Bible have missed the mark. One good commentator says: “For Zion or Jerusalem is of course not the Jerusalem of the earthly Palestine, but the sanctified and glorified city of the living God, in which the Lord will be eternally united with His redeemed, sanctified and glorified Church.” Such exposition emanates from ignorance of God’s purposes with His earthly people and in not dividing the Word of Truth rightly.

Joel speaks also of the judgment which will fall upon Egypt in that day. Isaiah also tells of judgment, but through him we learn that Egypt will turn to the Lord and the Lord will graciously heal Egypt Isaiah 19:1-25 ). Judah will abide forever. His people will be cleansed. Jehovah, our ever blessed Lord, will dwell in Zion. The happy and glorious state of the land and the whole earth during the millennium is thus tersely stated. For when He reigns there will be righteousness and peace; glory will cover the earth as the waters cover the deep. Thus ends the great vision of Joel, the son of Pethuel. May the eye of faith behold these blessed revelations and may we live in anticipation of what is soon to be.

Bibliographical Information
Gaebelein, Arno Clemens. "Commentary on Joel 3". "Gaebelein's Annotated Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/gab/joel-3.html. 1913-1922.
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