Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, June 23rd, 2024
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
StudyLight.org has pledged to help build churches in Uganda. Help us with that pledge and support pastors in the heart of Africa.
Click here to join the effort!

Bible Commentaries
Joel 3

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary


Joel 3:0


The Nations Will Be JudgedGod Judges the Nations(all poetry)The Day of the LORD(vv. Joel 2:28-21)God Will Judge the NationsThe Judgment of the Nations
Joel 2:30-3(prose)Joel 3:1-17 [4:1-7](all poetry)
Joel 3:1-8(vv. Joel 3:1-3 poetry)Joel 3:1-3 Joel 3:1-15(vv. Joel 3:1-3 poetry)The Judgment AnnouncedJoel 3:1-3 [4:1-3]
Charges Against the Phoenicians and Philistines
(vv. Joel 3:4-8 prose)Joel 3:4-8(vv. Joel 3:4-6)Joel 3:4-8(prose)(vv. Joel 3:4-8 prose)Joel 3:4-8 [4:4-8]
(vv. Joel 3:7-8) A Summons to the NationsJoel 3:9-14 [4:9-14]
Joel 3:9-17(poetry)Joel 3:9-17(vv. Joel 3:9-11)Joel 3:9-12(poetry)(vv. Joel 3:9-10)(vv. Joel 3:9-11a poetry)
(vv. Joel 3:11)(vv. Joel 3:11b, poetry)
(vv. Joel 3:12-13)(vv. Joel 3:12)(vv. Joel 3:12-13, poetry)
Joel 3:13-17,(poetry)(vv. Joel 3:13)
(vv. Joel 3:14-16)(vv. Joel 3:14-15)(vv. Joel 3:14-15, poetry)The Day of Yahweh
Joel 3:15-17 [4:15-17](15-16a)
(vv. Joel 3:16)God Will Bless His PeopleJoel 3:16-21(poetry)(vv. Joel 3:16-18)(16b)
(vv. Joel 3:17)(vv. Joel 3:17) (17)
Judah Will Be BlessedGod Blesses His People The Glorious Future of Israel
Joel 3:18-21(poetry)Joel 3:18-21(vv. Joel 3:18)Joel 3:18-21(poetry)(vv. Joel 3:18) Joel 3:18-21 [4:18-21]
(vv. Joel 3:19-21)(vv. Joel 3:19-21)(vv. Joel 3:19-21)

READING CYCLE THREE (see “Guide to Good Bible Reading”)


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the four translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.


A. The book of Joel is divided into two halves: Joel 1:2-17, God's judgment of His people, and Joel 2:18-21, God's restoration of His repentant people and judgment on their oppressors. It is obvious that we are breaking into a literary context as we begin Joel 3:0. The literary context of this chapter is the eschatological event of Joel 2:28-32 where God pours out His Spirit on all mankind in the end-time.

B. Joel 3:0 is a drama drawn from different OT texts: Psalms 43:0, the prophets of Amos, Isaiah and Zechariah 9-14.

C. Many modern commentators have asserted that Joel 3:4-8 are a later assertion because they are prose while the rest of chapter 3 is poetry. However, this structural analysis seems to be modern and presuppositional in my opinion.

Verses 1-8

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Joel 3:1-8 1”For behold, in those days and at that time, When I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, 2I will gather all the nations And bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat. Then I will enter into judgment with them there On behalf of My people and My inheritance, Israel, Whom they have scattered among the nations; And they have divided up My land. 3They have also cast lots for My people, Traded a boy for a harlot And sold a girl for wine that they may drink. 4”Moreover, what are you to Me, O Tyre, Sidon and all the regions of Philistia? Are you rendering Me a recompense? But if you do recompense Me, swiftly and speedily I will return your recompense on your head. 5Since you have taken My silver and My gold, brought My precious treasures to your temples, 6and sold the sons of Judah and Jerusalem to the Greeks in order to remove them far from their territory, 7behold, I am going to arouse them from the place where you have sold them, and return your recompense on your head. 8Also I will sell your sons and your daughters into the hand of the sons of Judah, and they will sell them to the Sabeans, to a distant nation,” for the LORD has spoken.

Joel 3:1 “in those days and at that time” This refers to the eschatological event of Joel 2:28-32.

NASB, NRSV, NJB, JPSOA“I will restore the fortunes” NKJV“I will bring back the captives” TEV“I will restore the prosperity”

The Septuagint, Peshita, and King James have “I shall bring again the captivity.” However, context seems to demand a positive statement (i.e., bring Judah and Jerusalem back from exile, e.g., Deuteronomy 30:3) rather than a negative one (cf. NIV's translation). Other places where this phrase is used are Jeremiah 30:18 and 32:44.

The VERB (BDB 996, KB 1427) is a Qal IMPERFECT, but Jewish scribes recognized a problem and read it as a Hiphil IMPERFECT.

The kethib (“what is written,” i.e., the MT text) has “return the captivity (i.e., the captives,” cf. Jeremiah 30:18; Jeremiah 32:44), while the qere (“what is read,” i.e., the suggestions of the Masoretic scholars) has “restore the fortunes,” cf. Job 42:10; Hosea 6:11; Zephaniah 3:20.

“Judah and Jerusalem” It is obvious from reading Joel 3:1 and 2 in context that God is asserting His ownership of the Promised Land and His promise to the descendants of Abraham (cf. Genesis 12:1-3; Genesis 15:1, Genesis 15:18; Genesis 17:1-5). In Joel 3:2 he uses the word “Israel” to describe Judah and Jerusalem, which are mentioned in Joel 3:1. This shows me that we are in a post-exilic period where Israel has become the collective name for the returning people of God, not the northern ten tribes.


Joel 3:2 “I will gather the nations” The “nations” (i.e., all humanity) has always been the focus of God's activity (cf. Genesis 1:26-27; Genesis 2:7; Genesis 3:15; Genesis 12:3; Exodus 19:5). Because of human sin and rebellion the nations are dealt with in two ways:

1. judgment, Psalms 2:0; Psalms 2:0 (see Acts 4:25-26); 46; 83; Isaiah 66:18-24; Ezekiel 32:0; Ezekiel 38:0; Ezekiel 39:0; Zephaniah 3:8; Zechariah 14:2

2. salvation, Isaiah 42:5-9; Isaiah 45:22-23; Isaiah 49:6; Isaiah 51:4-8; Isaiah 56:6-8; Isaiah 60:1-3; Zephaniah 3:9

Peter's use of Joel 2:28-32 shows the priority of #2. If there is only one God, if He created the world for fellowship with humans, if humans are made uniquely in the image and likeness of God, then God chose Abraham to choose all humanity, not just part of it!

Note the VERBS: YHWH “will gather” (BDB 867, KB 1062, Piel PERFECT), the nations “scattered” (BDB 808, KB 921, Piel PERFECT). In reality it was YHWH who did both! The exile of God's people was allowed/engineered by YHWH Himself. The nations are His instruments of judgment as well as the object of judgment! Not only this, but they are the focus of salvation. See Special Topic: YHWH's ETERNAL REDEMPTIVE PLAN.

“bring them down” This VERB (BDB 432, KB 434, Hiphil PERFECT) is used

1. literally of YHWH bringing someone into a physical valley

2. figuratively of YHWH bringing low (i.e., judging, cf. Isaiah 10:13; Isaiah 43:14; Jeremiah 49:16; Jeremiah 51:40; Ezekiel 26:20; Hosea 7:12; Amos 9:2; Obadiah 1:4)

“the valley of Jehoshaphat” His name means “YHWH judges” (BDB 221). I personally believe that this is not so much a geographical location related to King Jehoshaphat as it is a play on the word “Jehoshaphat.” We see a similar designation in Joel 3:14, “the valley of decision.”

Some visitors to Jerusalem in 333 A.D. record that the Kidron Valley was known as the valley of Jehoshaphat, but Eusebius, an early church historian, says that it was specifically the valley of the sons of Hinnom (just south of Jerusalem).

“I will enter into judgment with them there” This refers to the very army that YHWH has brought against His own people (i.e., Assyria, Babylon). YHWH uses these foreign armies for His purposes, but they are responsible for their acts. YHWH is in control of human history for His purposes! If this is true (and I believe it is) then all history is a result of human rebellion (cf. Genesis 3:0) and God's plan to restore it!

“My people and My inheritance, Israel” This is a series of three covenant terms. God used the family of Abraham to

1. reveal Himself to the nations

2. bring the Messiah into the world

The benefits (and responsibilities) of these chosen, covenant people are spelled out in Romans 9:0.

“My inheritance” alludes to YHWH's unique ownership of the Promised Land (cf. Leviticus 25:23; Isaiah 14:25; Jeremiah 2:7; Ezekiel 36:5; Ezekiel 38:16; Joel 1:6; Joel 3:2). In a sense, all lands belong to YHWH by means of creation, but for His redemptive, Messianic purposes, Palestine is uniquely His land (cf. Genesis 12:1, Genesis 12:7; Genesis 13:15; Genesis 15:18; and its NT interpretation in Galatians 3:16).

“they” The sins of the invaders are listed in the following verses:

1. scattered Israel among the nations

2. divided up and cast lots for Israel's land

3. turned Israel into slaves

4. robbed YHWH's temple of its treasures

Joel 3:3 “also cast lots for My people” This (BDB 391, KB 388, Qal PERFECT) refers to ancient slave trade (cf. historical references: Homer's Odyssey 15.463-84; Heroditus's Persian Wars 1.1; 2.54, 56; biblical references: Obadiah 1:11; Nahum 3:10). It is alluded to in Genesis 37:36; Ezekiel 27:13; Joel 3:6-8; Amos 1:6.

“traded a boy for a harlot” The Peshitta has “for a harlot's hire,” which seems to be the thrust of this verse (cf. Deuteronomy 28:68). This verse highlights the greed and immorality of the invaders. They saw no value in the lives of God's people (cf. Amos 2:6; Amos 8:6).

Joel 3:4-8 This is a prose section surrounded by poetry. It is addressed to Israel's enemies. Their abuse of Israel was, in a sense, an abuse of God (i.e., Matthew 25:40; Acts 9:4; Acts 22:7; Acts 26:14; 1 Corinthians 8:12).

Joel 3:4 “Me” Notice the FIRST PERSON PRONOUNS in the NASB translation of this section (i.e., Joel 3:1-8). The prophet is speaking for YHWH (i.e., “the Lord has spoken,” Joel 3:8):

1. “I,” Joel 3:1, Joel 3:2 (twice),8

2. “My,” Joel 3:2 (thrice),3,5 (thrice)

3. “Me,” Joel 3:4 (thrice)

There is an interchange of persons (i.e., THIRD PERSON, FIRST PERSON) in this chapter:

1. YHWH speaks, Joel 3:1-8

2. the prophet speaks on YHWH's behalf, Joel 3:9-11

3. YHWH speaks, Joel 3:12-13

4. the prophet speaks on YHWH's behalf, Joel 3:14-16

5. YHWH speaks, Joel 3:17-21

It is uncertain how the inspired biblical author received his revelation from the Spirit. It seems the mechanisms were not standard, but fluid (i.e., dreams, visions, direct speech, angelic messengers, current events, precious Scripture).

“swiftly and speedily” These two terms (BDB 886, and 555) are also used in Isaiah 5:26, which speaks of the speed and strength of the Babylonian army (cf. Isaiah 5:26-30), summoned by YHWH for Israel's judgment. But now as they did to others, it will be done to them! This is a typical reversal. Evil plans often return to the planners; righteousness will prevail in the end! This phrase is an idiom of this truth (i.e., we reap what we sow, cf. Galatians 6:7).

“recompense” This PARTICIPLE (BDB 1022, KB 1532, Piel PARTICIPLE) means to restore (cf. Joel 2:25) or require in judgment (cf. Deuteronomy 7:9-10; Jeremiah 51:24, Jeremiah 51:56). The best parallel passage is Isaiah 65:1-7, where the truth of God's love for all people becomes the very ground for His judgment on the nations. He reached out to them, but they rejected Him! God loves the nations and is trying to reach them through Israel, but instead of salvation, their self-centered idolatry resulted in judgment.

Joel 3:5 “Since you have taken My silver and My gold, brought My precious treasures to your temples”

These phrases speak of the common ancient Near East practice of defeated people's temple treasures (BDB 326) being taken to the victor's national temple as a visible token of the superiority of the victor's deity.

If, as I think, this reflects Nebuchadnezzar's conquest of Judah, then the items of YHWH's temple in Jerusalem were taken in 586 B.C. to the temple of Marduk in Babylon and put on display (note, 2 Kings 24:13; 2 Kings 25:15; Daniel 5:2).

It is surprising that “temples” (BDB 228) is plural. Possibly the Babylonians gave some of the temple treasures to the other national armies who were part of the Babylonian army (e.g., Edom spoken of in Obadiah).

The other option is to see the Hebrew word “temples” as referring to “palaces” (cf. Isaiah 13:22; Hosea 8:14; Amos 8:3).

Joel 3:6 “sold the sons of Judah and Jerusalem to the Greeks” Amos 1:6-9 speaks of the slave trade of Gaza and Tyre. The mention of the term “Greeks” has caused concern for many commentators related to the date of Joel: (l) some say that it is a metaphor for far-off peoples and (2) others assert that it refers to the nation of Greece (cf. Genesis 10:2, Genesis 10:4). See Gleason Archer, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, p. 296.

Joel 3:7 This verse is reminiscent of Joel 3:4. Two Hiphil VERBALS describe YHWH's action:

1. one in deliverance, “I am going to arouse them (Israelites sold as slaves),” BDB 734, KB 802, Hiphil PARTICIPLE

2. one in judgment, “I will return your recompense on your head,” BDB 996, KB 1427, Hiphil PERFECT

Again we see the common theological theme of role reversal (cf. Joel 3:8)!

Joel 3:8 “Also I will sell your sons and your daughters” God gives to them what they gave to others. We learn from history that the city of Sidon was captured and sold into slavery by Antiochus III in 345 B.C. We also learn that the cities of Tyre and Gaza were captured and sold into slavery by Alexander II, “the Great,” in 332 B.C. The Judeans were sold to a power to the northwest, but the sea people would be sold to a power of the southeastern desert, the Sabeans (BDB 985).

“the Sabeans” This refers to Arab traders who controlled the eastern trade routes until they were overthrown by the Mineans who became the dominant power in southern Arabia around the 400's B.C. The Queen of Sheba was a member of this tribal identity (cf. Psalms 72:10 Jeremiah 6:20 and Ezekiel 27:22).

Verses 9-17

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Joel 3:9-17 9Proclaim this among the nations: Prepare a war; rouse the mighty men! Let all the soldiers draw near, let them come up! 10Beat your plowshares into swords And your pruning hooks into spears; Let the weak say, “I am a mighty man.” 11Hasten and come, all you surrounding nations, And gather yourselves there. Bring down, O LORD, Your mighty ones. 12Let the nations be aroused And come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat, For there I will sit to judge All the surrounding nations. 13Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come, tread, for the wine press is full; The vats overflow, for their wickedness is great. 14Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision. 15The sun and moon grow dark And the stars lose their brightness. 16The LORD roars from Zion And utters His voice from Jerusalem, And the heavens and the earth tremble. But the LORD is a refuge for His people And a stronghold to the sons of Israel. 17Then you will know that I am the LORD your God, Dwelling in Zion, My holy mountain. So Jerusalem will be holy, And strangers will pass through it no more.

Joel 3:9-13 A final end-time attack of the kingdoms of this world against the kingdom of our God and His Christ is mentioned over and over again in Scripture (cf. Isaiah 8:9, Isaiah 8:14; Isaiah 17:12-14; Ezek. 38-39; Zech. 12-14; Revelation 16:14-16; Revelation 19:17-19).

This call to arms has several commands:

1. “proclaim this among the nations,” Joel 3:9, BDB 894, KB 1128, Qal IMPERATIVE, cf. Isaiah 40:6; Amos 3:6

2. “prepare a war” (i.e., “consecrate,” cf. Joel 1:14; Joel 2:15), Joel 3:9, BDB 872, KB 1073, Piel IMPERATIVE, cf. Joshua 7:13; Jeremiah 6:4; Jeremiah 22:7; Jeremiah 51:27-28

3. “rouse the mighty men.” Joel 3:9, BDB 734, KB 802, Hiphil IMPERATIVE, cf. Isaiah 41:2, Isaiah 41:25; Jeremiah 50:9; Jeremiah 51:1

4. “Let all the soldiers draw near,” Joel 3:9, BDB 620, KB 670, Qal IMPERFECT used in a JUSSIVE sense, cf. Jeremiah 46:3

5. “Let them come up,” Joel 3:9, BDB 748, KB 828, Qal IMPERFECT used in a JUSSIVE sense, cf. Isaiah 7:6; Isaiah 36:10; Jeremiah 48:18

6. “Beat your plowshares into swords,” Joel 3:10, BDB 510, KB 507, Qal IMPERATIVE, usually the opposite, Isaiah 2:4; Micah 4:3

7. “Let the weak say,” Joel 3:10, BDB 55, KB 65, Qal IMPERFECT used in a JUSSIVE sense

8. “Hasten” (i.e., “lend aid”), Joel 3:11, BDB 736, KB 804, Qal IMPERATIVE, found only here in the OT

9. “Come,” Joel 3:11, BDB 97, KB 112, Qal IMPERATIVE (used in sense of “come and join with”)

10. “gather yourselves there,” the MT has a Niphal PERFECT (BDB 867, KB 1062), but it could also be a Niphal IMPERATIVE, which would match the series of IMPERATIVES in Joel 3:9-13

11. “Bring down,” Joel 3:11, BDB 639, KB 692, Hiphil IMPERATIVE, the Hiphil is found only here and refers to YHWH's mighty army, cf. Isaiah 13:3

12. “Let the nations be aroused,”Joel 3:12; Joel 3:12, BDB 734, KB 802, Niphal IMPERFECT used in a JUSSIVE sense, similar to Joel 3:9

13. “Come up,” Joel 3:12, BDB 748, KB 828, same as Joel 3:9

14. “Put in the sickle,” Joel 3:13, BDB 1018, KB 1511, Qal IMPERATIVE (i.e., the harvest of judgment is ripe, cf. Jeremiah 51:33)

15. “Come,” Joel 3:13, BDB 97, KB 112, Qal IMPERATIVE, cf. Joel 3:11, used of YHWH coming down in judgment (“day of the LORD,” Joel 3:12-14)

16. “tread” (i.e., “come down”), Joel 3:13, BDB 432, KB 434, Qal IMPERATIVE (or possibly from BDB 921, KB 1190 I) used of YHWH coming down in judgment (“day of the LORD,” Joel 3:12-14)

Joel 3:10 “Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruning hooks into spears” This is exactly the opposite of the eschatological peace which was promised in Isaiah 2:4 and Micah 4:3. Violence precedes peace (cf. Matthew 24:0; Luke 21:0; Mark 13:0).

“Let the weak say, 'I am a mighty man,'“ In context this refers to agricultural workers who are now called on to be soldiers (opposite of Deuteronomy 20:8). This shows the all-out military effort of the kingdoms of this world. In Zechariah 12:8 this same metaphor is used, but of the people of God.

Joel 3:11 “Bring down, O LORD, Thy mighty ones” This may refer to the invisible angelic army of God in 2 Kings 6:16, 2 Kings 6:17; Zechariah 14:5, (cf. NIDOTTE, vol. 1, pp. 811-812). Other allusions to God's army of angels are found in Deuteronomy 33:2, Deuteronomy 33:3; Matthew 16:27; Matthew 25:31; Mark 8:38; 2 Thessalonians 1:7; and Revelation 19:14. However, because of Isaiah 13:3 it may refer to human armies (i.e., Cyrus, cf. Isaiah 44:28-7) used by YHWH.

Joel 3:13-14 There are three agricultural metaphors used to describe God's judgment: (l) the sickle (BDB 618); (2) treading grapes (BDB 432); and (3) “to drag over a threshing floor” which is the etymological background for the term “decision” (BDB 358) used in verse Joel 3:14 (twice). The sickle is mentioned in Isaiah 63:1-6, while the treading of the grapes is mentioned of judgment in Micah 4:12-13. Both metaphors are mentioned in Revelation 14:15, Revelation 14:18, Revelation 14:20.

Joel 3:13 “the vats overflow” The parallelism clearly shows this is a metaphor of evil:

1. the wine press is full

2. the vats overflow

3. their wickedness is great

This same VERB (BDB 1003 II, KB 1448, Hiphil PERFECT) is used in Joel 2:24 to describe YHWH's restoration of covenant blessing (cf. Deuteronomy 28:0), but here to describe the extent of the evil of the nations! The nations reap judgment, but the covenant people reap blessing (cf. Joel 3:18-21).

Joel 3:14 “Multitudes, multitudes” This large army is described in Isaiah 34:2-8.

“For the day of the LORD is near” The time element is the crucial question. It can be explained in light of prophetic literature taking a current event (i.e., locust plague, cf. Joel 1:15) and projecting it into the future (end-time battle between the nations and the nation of God, cf. Joel 2:1; Joel 3:14). For a good discussion, see Hard Sayings of the Bible, pp. 327-328. See Special Topic: That Day.

“the valley of decision” This is possibly the valley mentioned in Zechariah 14:4.

Joel 3:15 “The sun and moon grow dark” This is apocalyptic language to describe God's coming to His creation (cf. Joel 2:10, Joel 2:31; Isaiah 13:10; Jeremiah 4:23; Ezekiel 32:8; Zechariah 14:6). The permanent creation is permanent no longer. Time is no more!

“the stars lose their brightness” This VERB (BDB 62, KB 74, Qal PERFECT) is used both here and in Joel 2:10 in a context that demands diminishing, yet the word is not ordinarily used in this sense. It usually refers to gathering at harvest time or YHWH gathering His people back to Palestine.

Here apparently it has the connotation of “taking away” (i.e., harvesting) the light of the stars to match the darkening of the sun and moon.

Joel 3:16 “The LORD roars from Zion” Since I hold to a late post-exilic date, I believe that Joel quotes Amos (cf. Amos 1:2; also note Jeremiah 25:31).

NASB“the heavens and the earth tremble” NKJV“the heavens and the earth will shake” NRSV“the heavens and the earth shake” TEV, NJB“earth and sky tremble”

Heavens and earth are the two inclusive objects of Elohim's creation in Genesis 1:1. Therefore, they are the two oldest and most permanent aspects of creation.

Their trembling is noted in Joel 2:10. It occurs

1. at YHWH coming to Mt. Sinai, Exodus 19:18; Psalms 68:8

2. at YHWH coming from Seir, Judges 5:4

3. at YHWH's anger, 2 Samuel 22:8-9; Isaiah 13:13; Jeremiah 51:29

4. at YHWH's eschatological coming, Joel 2:10; Joel 3:16; Haggai 2:6 (also note Habakkuk 3:6)

The “trembling” (BDB 950, KB 1271, Qal PERFECT) in the NT denotes the New Age, New Kingdom, New People that are not to be shaken (cf. Hebrews 12:26-28; Isaiah 54:10).

“But the LORD is a refuge for His people” This term “refuge” (BDB 340, KB 337) is used often of the safety to be found in YHWH.

1. the VERB, 2 Samuel 22:3; Psalms 2:12; Psalms 5:11; Psalms 7:1; Psalms 11:1; Psalms 16:1; Psalms 18:2; Psalms 25:20; Psalms 31:1, Psalms 31:19; Psalms 34:8, Psalms 34:22; Psalms 37:40; Psalms 57:1; Psalms 64:10; Psalms 71:1; Psalms 118:8, Psalms 118:9; Psalms 141:8; Psalms 144:2; Isaiah 57:13

2. the NOUN, Psalms 14:6; Psalms 46:1; Psalms 61:4; Psalms 62:7, Psalms 62:8; Psalms 71:7; Psalms 73:28; Psalms 91:2, Psalms 91:9; Psalms 142:5; Proverbs 14:26; Isaiah 4:6; Isaiah 25:4; Isaiah 32:2; Jeremiah 17:17

For me, Joel 3:3 and 91:1-4 are the best series of metaphors describing YHWH's protection and care to those who know Him and trust Him and obey Him!

“And a stronghold to the sons of Israel” This is another wonderful metaphor of God's protection (BDB 731). “Refuge” and “stronghold” are both found in Psalms 31:2, Psalms 31:5; Psalms 37:39, Psalms 37:40; Isaiah 25:4; Nahum 1:7. It is also found in Psalms 27:1; Psalms 28:8; Psalms 43:2; Psalms 52:7; Isaiah 17:10; Isaiah 27:5; Jeremiah 16:19. Our strength and protection are in YHWH and in Him alone!

Joel 3:17 “Then you will know that I am the LORD your God” This emphasizes the personal relationship involved in the Covenant between YHWH and His people (see note at Joel 2:27). This emphasis on personal relationship in the word “know” (BDB 393, KB 390, Qal PERFECT) can be seen in Genesis 4:1 and Jeremiah 1:5.

The term “LORD” is YHWH (BDB 217); the term translated “God” is Elohim (BDB 43). These names hold theological significance. See Special Topic: The Names for Deity at Obadiah 1:0.

“Zion My holy mountain So Jerusalem will be holy” Notice the parallelism: (1) Zion = Jerusalem and (2) holy mountain = temple (Mt. Moriah). Jerusalem is holy because of the personal presence of YHWH. His temple (esp. the Ark of the Covenant) is the special place where heaven and earth meet. YHWH symbolically dwelt between the wings of the Cherubim on the lid (mercy seat) of the Ark. Heaven was His dwelling place, but the Ark was His footstool.

“And strangers will pass through it no more” This is an emphasis on no more military invasions (cf. Isaiah 52:1; Nahum 1:15; Zechariah 9:8; 1 Peter 1:4).

Verses 18-21

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Joel 3:18-21 18And in that day The mountains will drip with sweet wine, And the hills will flow with milk, And all the brooks of Judah will flow with water; And a spring will go out from the house of the LORD To water the valley of Shittim. 19Egypt will become a waste, And Edom will become a desolate wilderness, Because of the violence done to the sons of Judah, In whose land they have shed innocent blood. 20But Judah will be inhabited forever And Jerusalem for all generations. 21And I will avenge their blood which I have not avenged, For the LORD dwells in Zion.

Joel 3:18 “it will come about in that day” This metaphor of a special “day” dominates Joel. In Joel 1:1-17 it is a day of invasion and destruction because of Israel's sin, but in Joel 2:28-21 it becomes a day of renewal and restoration. This fluctuation illustrates that the coming of YHWH can be for judgment or blessing. Believers' lifestyle faith determines which one! YHWH wants a holy people to reflect His character to the world. In the end-time this redemptive purpose will be fulfilled and God's people will be changed and prepared for an eternal fellowship with the one and only creator, redeemer, covenant-making God!

“the mountains will drip with sweet wine” This end-time restoration is also seen in Isaiah 35:0; Amos 9:13-15; and Ezekiel 47:0. On “sweet wine,” see Special Topic: Biblical Attitudes Toward Alcohol and Alcoholism.

“And all the brooks of Judah will flow with water” There will be seasonal and abundant rain (cf. Joel 2:23), which is the opposite of chapter 1.

“And a spring will go out from the house of the LORD” This is a common eschatological motif (cf. Psalms 46:4; Psalms 65:9-13; Ezekiel 47:1-12; Zechariah 14:8; Revelation 22:1, Revelation 22:2). Water is a sign of the blessings and presence of God (e.g., Psalms 36:5-9; Isaiah 12:3).

“To water the valley of Shittim” This means “wadi of Acacias” (BDB 1008). Shittim is a place name, but it is on the eastern side of the Jordan River opposite Jericho and, therefore, cannot be the focus of this passage. Therefore, this is another metaphor of agricultural abundance; even the deserts will be well watered and bloom!

Joel 3:19 “Egypt. . .Edom will become a desolate wilderness” There has been much discussion as to whether this was to have been fulfilled historically or if these countries are simply traditional enemies used in an eschatological end-time sense (God's people blessed, unbelievers cursed). It is my opinion that they are traditional enemies used in a symbolic way.

The specific mention of Edom, a much smaller nation than Egypt, probably relates directly to Obadiah (esp. Joel 3:10).

Joel 3:20 “Judah will be inhabited forever, and Jerusalem for all generations” This has not been fulfilled historically, which seems to make it eschatological (i.e., Amos 9:15). There is some wonderment today whether the current state of Israel is God's fulfillment of ancient prophecy. I must admit that I have some doubts. However, God uses who and what He wants to accomplish His redemptive purposes!

My doubts about the modern state of Israel being the fulfillment of OT national prophecies are:

1. The modern state of Israel is made up mostly of proselyte Jews, not ethnic Jews (i.e., Russian and European Jews are from the European Kahzar conversion in the Middle Ages (740 A.D.). Therefore, the promises to Abraham and his seed of Genesis 12:15, Genesis 12:17 cannot be racial, but must be a faith issue (cf. Romans 2:28-29).

2. The OT covenantal promises are made to a believing, faithful remnant. They are conditional promises! If the NT is God's revelation and Jesus is God's Messiah, then modern Israel is not believing Israel (e.g., Zechariah 12:10; Romans 9-11; Galatians 3:0). See Special Topic: Why are OT Covenant Promises so Different from NT Covenant Promises?.

Joel 3:21

NASB“And I will avenge their blood which I have not avenged” NKJV“For I will acquit them of bloodguilt, whom I had not acquitted” NRSV“I will avenge their blood, and I will not clear the guilty” TEV“I will avenge those who were killed, I will not spare the guilty” NJB“I shall avenge their blood and let none go unpunished” LXX“I will make inquisition for their blood, and will by no means leave it unavenged” PESHITTA“For I will avenge their blood, and I will not absolve the offenders” REB“I shall avenge their blood, the blood I have not yet avenged” JPSOA“Thus I will treat as innocent blood which I have not treated as innocent”

This is a very difficult verse to translate (cf. The Bible in Twenty-six Translations for a multiplicity of English translations of this ambiguous Hebrew phrase).

The MT Hebrew text has the VERB (BDB 667, KB 720, Piel PERFECT) meaning

1. “hold innocent” or “acquit,” cf. Job 9:28; Job 10:14; Psalms 19:13

2. “leave unpunished,” cf. Exodus 20:7; Deuteronomy 5:11; Jeremiah 30:11; Jeremiah 46:28

Some translations prefer (BDB 667, KB 721) the meaning “avenge,” cf. 2 Kings 9:7; Jeremiah 51:36. In context, the “shed innocent blood” of Joel 3:19 must relate to Joel 3:21. Either the Israelites will be forgiven or the invading armies will be held accountable. Whichever it is, Israel is restored and established!

“For the LORD dwells in Zion” (cf. Joel 2:27). The term “dwells” (BDB 1014, KB 1496, Qal ACTIVE PARTICIPLE) is from the same root as Shekinah. God dwelling with His people is the emphasis of Genesis 1:0 and also Revelation 21:3 (also note Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23; John 14:23).


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Has this restoration already occurred or is it future?

2. Is this restoration referring to racial Jews only, or is the Church somehow included?

3. When, where and how will the end-time battle occur?

4. Why has there been so much disagreement and controversy over this subject?

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Joel 3". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/joel-3.html. 2021.
Ads FreeProfile