Joel 3:1-2. For, &c. — This particle shows the connection of this chapter with the latter part of the preceding: as if he had said, As an earnest of the accomplishment of these predictions, my people shall be restored to their own land, and then their enemies shall be humbled: see note on Joel 2:28. In those days, when I shall bring again — Namely, out of Babylon, (to which deliverance this promise seems primarily to refer,) the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem — As the type of the whole remnant which shall be saved. I will also gather all nations — In the type the expression means, all those nations that had oppressed Judah; in the antitype, all the nations that had been enemies to Christ and his church. And will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat — That is, into the place of judgment; for the word Jehoshaphat signifies divine judgment, or, the place where Jehovah will execute judgment. Thus the valley of Jezreel signifies the place where God’s arm, or strength, would exert itself. The expression likewise alludes to the valley of Berachah, or of blessing, as it was afterward called, mentioned 2 Chronicles 20:26, the place in which Jehoshaphat obtained a remarkable victory; or, where God, by his miraculous interposition, so infatuated the enemies of his people, that they destroyed one another, and few or none of them that came against Judah escaped. Archbishop Newcome considers it as a prediction of an extraordinary battle which was to be won in that valley, probably, he thinks, by Nebuchadnezzar, which would utterly discomfit the ancient enemies of the Jews, and resemble that victory of Jehoshaphat. But it seems more probable that the prediction principally refers to a general discomfiture of the enemies of God’s church in the latter days, probably to that foretold Isaiah 66:16, or to the battle of Gog and Magog, described Ezekiel 39., and that of Armageddon, spoken of Revelation 16:14; Revelation 16:16. And I will plead with them — I will require of them the reason why they thus used my people. God pleads with men, and vindicates the cause of oppressed truth and righteousness by his judgments. Then the consciences of the guilty fly in their faces, and force them to acknowledge the justice of the punishments they suffer. For my people and for my heritage Israel, &c. — The prophets in the Old Testament often denounced judgments against Edom, Moab, and other hostile neighbours of the Jews, who took advantage of their calamities to vent their spite against them. But since all nations are summoned to answer the impeachment here mentioned, we may suppose the word Israel to comprehend the faithful of all ages; and then we may observe, that the judgments denounced against the church’s enemies, are chiefly for their hatred and cruelty toward God’s servants.
Joel 3:3. They have cast lots for my people — It was customary with conquerors, in those days, to divide the captives, taken in war, among themselves by lot, and so did these enemies of the Jews. And have given a boy for a harlot — By this is meant, that they exchanged, or gave away, Jewish boys, instead of money, for harlots. And sold a girl for wine, that they might drink — For a draught of wine, as it were; that is, at a very vile and low rate. These instances are mentioned, to signify the contempt in which these enemies of the Jews held the worshippers of the true God; they parted with them, when they had taken them captives, upon the vilest terms, as setting little or no value upon them. In Mingrelia, according to Sir John Chardin, they sell captive children for provisions and for wine: see Harmer vol. 2. p. 374.
Joel 3:4. O Tyre, and Zidon, &c. — “When the Babylonians, the appointed instruments of my vengeance, afflict my land, why do you also, and the bordering nations, assist them? Do you take this occasion of avenging the former victories of my people over you? If so, this your act of revenge shall be speedily punished.” — Newcome. The expression which he here uses, What have ye to do with me? signifies the same as that other so common in the sacred books, What have I to do with you? that is, What is the reason of your so frequently invading and plundering my land and people?
Joel 3:5. Because ye have taken my silver and my gold — Have taken out of my temple the silver and golden vessels dedicated to my service; and have carried into your temples my goodly pleasant things — Hebrew, my desirable goodly things. God’s temple was several times despoiled of its ornaments by the Chaldeans. Once in the reign of Jehoiakim, 2 Chronicles 36:7. Then in the short reign of Jehoiachin, 2 Kings 24:13, before the last destruction of it, recorded 2 Kings 25:13. Some part of the furniture might probably be sold to the merchants of Tyre and Sidon. The profanation of God’s temple, and the sacrilegious robbing it of its vessels and ornaments, were crimes remarkably punished by God in heathen and infidels: see Jeremiah 50:28; Jeremiah 51:11. So it was in Belshazzar, Daniel 5:1; in Antiochus Epiphanes, 1 Maccabees 6:12; and afterward in Pompey and Crassus. And no wonder, for God had given remarkable proofs of his divine presence being in that place; and the heathen themselves might have discovered, by the light of nature, that there was but one true and living God.
Joel 3:6. The children also of Judah, &c., have ye sold unto the Grecians — The descendants of Javan, Genesis 10:2; Genesis 10:5. They trafficked with Tyre, and traded in slaves, Ezekiel 27:13. It was customary for the merchants of the neighbouring countries, particularly of Tyre and Sidon, to buy the children of Israel for slaves of their conquerors, in order to sell them again: see 1 Maccabees 3:41. The histories which record the calamities of the Jews, speak of great numbers of them being made captives, and then sold and dispersed into foreign countries. Thus forty thousand were sold by Antiochus Epiphanes, 2 Maccabees 5:14; and about ninety-seven thousand at the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus.
Joel 3:7-8. Behold, I will raise them, &c. — I will restore them, or their posterity, out of their several captivities whither their enemies have dispersed them. Grotius on this place mentions, that Alexander and his successors set at liberty many Jews, who were slaves in Greece. Many also, on occasion of Cyrus’s decree, might return to their country, from such parts of Asia Minor and the Ionian islands as were subject to that monarch. And will return your recompense upon your own head — Will inflict upon you the punishments mentioned in the following verse. I will sell your sons, &c. — This was fulfilled when Alexander took Gaza, Zidon, and Tyre, and made a great multitude of captives, of whom he is said to have sold thirty thousand for slaves. These captives the Jews, who were in favour with him, had the liberty of buying, and probably afterward sold many of them, by way of traffic, to the Arabians, here meant by the Sabeans.
Joel 3:9-10. Proclaim ye this among the Gentiles — “God having foretold these judgments against Tyre and Sidon, the Philistines, and the neighbouring nations, who had used the Jews with injustice and cruelty, proceeds here to confirm his people in the belief of the certainty of their destruction; which he tells them should be as sure as though they themselves had gathered them together by proclamation for it: for so are these words, Proclaim ye, &c., to be understood. Not as commanding what they were actually to do, but in order to excite their attention, and to let them know that God was as certainly preparing to bring this vengeance on their enemies, as though he had actually sent messengers from the Jews to proclaim it among them:” see Chandler. Prepare war, wake up the mighty men — Rouse and bring forward into the field your strong and valiant men. In these words the prophet, in an ironical manner, encourages them to make their utmost effort to oppose the designs of Providence; but signifies that it should be all in vain. For, should they strengthen themselves by all the means in their power, yet they should be overcome and punished. Beat your plough-shares into swords, &c. — That is, make all the provision and preparation for war, or for your own defence, that you possibly can. For a people to beat their very plough-shares into swords, &c., signifies a general arming of themselves, much beyond what had been usual.
Joel 3:11-12. Thither cause thy mighty ones to come down, O Lord — After the prophet has given warning, in the way of irony, to the nations to provide for their defence by all possible means, and to assemble themselves together from all parts, that they might strive with their united force; he, in the conclusion of the verse, calls upon God to cause those to come whom he had appointed to overcome these nations. Some, however, render the clause, the Lord shall cause thy mighty ones to come down, or to be brought low. Let the heathen be awakened — Let their courage be roused up; and come to the valley of Jehoshaphat — To the place of divine judgment.
Joel 3:13. Put ye in the sickle — Ye executioners of divine vengeance: begin to reap; cut down sinners ripe for judgment; let the king of Assyria and his soldiers cut down Syria and its king, for their violence against my people. Let Cyaxares and his armies cut down Assyria. Let Nebuchadnezzar cut down Moab, Ammon, mount Seir, Egypt, Tyre, Zidon, and the Philistines. After this, let Cyrus destroy the Babylonians, and Alexander the Medes and Persians. And let the divided Grecian captains cut down one another, till the Romans cut them down. And when this is done, God will have mighty ones still to cut down his enemies till the final judgment, wherein they all shall for ever be destroyed. For the harvest is ripe — That is, they are fit for destruction, as the ripened corn for reaping. Come, get you down — Namely, into the appointed valley; as though they were going into a vineyard to gather grapes. Here the prophet uses another metaphor to express the cutting off the church’s enemies; for the press is full; the fats overflow — That is, as it is immediately explained, their wickedness is great — It is come to its full measure. And as the grapes in the press are trodden, so the enemies of God’s people are to be trodden in the wine-press of his displeasure.
Joel 3:14-15. Multitudes, &c. — These are Joel’s words, exclaiming, with prophetic warmth and agitation, Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! — As though he had said, See what astonishing numbers are brought together for their destruction! The sentence, thus abrupt and broken, is very strong and emphatical. The place is called the valley of decision, because in it the cause would be decided between God and his enemies, and there he would execute judgment upon them. Houbigant reads, the valley of excision, that is, of cutting off: and Chandler, the appointed valley, namely, where God had appointed to execute his judgments. The sun and the moon shall be darkened — States and kingdoms shall be overthrown; and the stars shall withdraw their shining — Kings and princes shall be cast down from their state of dignity and pre- eminence, and shall be deprived of their power and glory. Or the meaning is, This particular judgment shall be a forerunner of the general one, when the whole frame of nature shall be dissolved.
Joel 3:16. The Lord shall roar out of Zion — He shall strike the enemies of his people with astonishment, as the roaring of the lion astonishes the weaker beasts of the forest. And the heavens and the earth shall shake — The destruction shall be as certain and dreadful as though God’s enemies were destroyed by thunder and lightning from heaven. But the Lord will be the hope of his people — Though the heaven and the earth pass away, his word and promise, given to his servants, shall not pass away.
Joel 3:17. So shall ye know that I am the Lord dwelling in Zion — Very graciously present with you, and ever watching over you and delighting to save you. Then shall Jerusalem be holy — After the church’s enemies are destroyed, the Messiah is come, and the remnant saved, the people of God shall be holy. There shall no strangers pass through her — No profane or unclean person shall be found in the church of Christ.
Joel 3:18. The mountains shall drop down new wine — Namely, the vines planted upon the mountains. The hills shall flow with milk — So fruitful shall the hills be, that milk shall abound everywhere. And all the rivers, &c. — These expressions are all figurative, and highly poetical, and, according to Calmet, symbolical of the doctrine of the gospel; which, accompanied by the Spirit of grace, was to flow forth from Jerusalem, and to water the Gentile world, which had been as a barren and uncultivated land.
Joel 3:19-20. Egypt shall be a desolation, and Edom, &c. — These two people were remarkable for the spite they bore to the Jews. The Egyptians were their oppressors when they first became a nation, and afterward exercised great cruelties upon them, during the reign of the Egyptian kings who were Alexander’s successors. The Idumeans are often reproved and threatened with judgments by the prophets, for the malice they took all occasions to vent against the Israelites, though nearly related to them: see the margin. These two nations, therefore, are taken, in a general sense, for the enemies of God’s people. But Judah — The redeemed of the Lord, his church, shall dwell, or continue, for ever — Free from the annoyance of enemies. The Christian Church is evidently intended, including probably the conversion and final restoration of the Jews.
Joel 3:21. I will cleanse their blood, &c. — The word blood seems here to signify pollution in general; and the promise implies, that God would perfectly purge away the guilt and defilement of all the sins of his people, by a free pardon and entire sanctification. Calmet, who applies this to the times of the gospel, thus interprets the verse: “Jesus Christ cleanses, by the new law, the blood which remained unclean under the old. We find in the sacrament of the new law that real purity, of which the legal ceremonies and purifications were only a figure.” For the Lord dwelleth in Zion —
And his presence shall be a source of purity, as well as of consolation to his people. “It is uncertain,” says Archbishop Newcome, “whether we have the key to this difficult chapter; which may not be fully understood till Jerusalem is rebuilt, and till the prophecies, Ezekiel 39:5; Ezekiel 39:11; Revelation 20:8-9, are accomplished.”
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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Joel 3". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany