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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible
Joel 3

 

 

Verses 1-6

The Consequence Of YHWH’s Blessing Of His People Must Be The Judgment Of The Nations Who Have Oppressed His People (Joel 3:1-6).

The judgment of the locusts has carried Joel’s thoughts forward to the final Day of YHWH. No time scale is given, but Joel knew that the consequence of YHWH’s future pouring out His Spirit on His people must be the restoration of all His scattered people, and the judgment of the nations who had oppressed them. The two always go together, the blessing and the cursing. And as the nations have mistreated His people, so must they receive their recompense.

This picture of judgment has come to Joel’s mind as a result of the awful plagues of locusts which had seemingly taken over Judah and Jerusalem. They were a revelation of what God could do, and an indication of the inexorable activity of YHWH. They were a reminder of coming Days of YHWH and of the final Day of YHWH. But as we have already seen it also included blessing on God’s people.

No Valley of Jehoshaphat is known, and it is very likely that it is a symbolic valley found only in the mind of Joel and in the mind of God, the Valley of YHWH IS JUDGE, for in one sense YHWH’s judgment would take place over the centuries, until it finalised in the final Judgment. In other words YHWH has in His own mind a place where He will judge the nations. And what they will be called to account for, both now and especially in the future, will be how they have behaved towards His people (compare Matthew 25:31-46. Both are parabolic pictures expressing a greater reality). The people of YHWH will emerge in triumph, whilst those who have rejected Him and persecuted His people will reap what they have sown.

Analysis of Joel 3:1-6.

· For, behold, in those days, and in that time, when I will bring back the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem (Joel 3:1).

· I will gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of YHWH is Judge (Jehoshaphat), and I will execute judgment on them there for my people and for my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations, and they have parted my land, and have cast lots for my people, and have given a boy for a harlot, and sold a girl for wine, that they may drink (Joel 3:2-3).

· Yes, and what are you to me, O Tyre, and Sidon, and all the regions of Philistia? Will you render me a recompense? And if you are recompensing me, swiftly and speedily will I return your recompense on your own head (Joel 3:4).

· Forasmuch as you have taken my silver and my gold, and have carried into your temples my goodly precious things, and have sold the children of Judah and the children of Jerusalem to the sons of the Greeks, that you may remove them far from their border (Joel 3:5-6).

· Behold, I will stir them up out of the place where you have sold them, and will return your recompense on your own head, and I will sell your sons and your daughters into the hand of the children of Judah, and they will sell them to the men of Sheba, to a nation far off, for YHWH has spoken it (Joel 3:7-8).

Note that in ‘a’ YHWH will bring back the captivity of His people, and in the parallel he will stir them up out of the place to which they have been sold. In ‘b’ the nations are accused of scattering YHWH’s people by selling them as slaves, and in the parallel He describes how they have done this. Central in ‘c’ is that He will recompense them for what they have done.

Joel 3:1

‘For, behold, in those days, and in that time,

When I will bring back the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem,

The time indications are vague, as indeed they had to be, for the time when YHWH would do this was seen to be in His hands, but when that time came YHWH would restore His people from their captivity. This captivity is immediately explained, it is the captivity of those who have been carried off in the ancient slave trade, and in numerous battles, as the nations round about took advantage of Judah’s weakness in order to send bands of slave traders into Judah so that they could carry them off and sell them as slaves. This will now be described in more detail, and as Amos 1:6-12 makes clear, it was a particular feature of this period. There is an important lesson in this. YHWH’s concern was finally not for His land but for His people. Although they would soon be forgotten, even by their fellow Israelites, they were not forgotten by Him. He knew each one of them, and where they were, and what they were suffering. And one day, if they were faithful to Him, He would bless them.

Joel was speaking as a prophet to Judah and Jerusalem, but notice how easily he can slip into speaking of Israel. For in the eyes of the prophets Judah and Israel were one people, YHWH’s inheritance. It should be recognised that in fact Judah and Jerusalem were a cosmopolitan community, for people came to live in and near Jerusalem from many parts of the surrounding area, as is clear from the many names which indicate the foreign source of their bearers (‘Uriah the Hittite’ etc). The people of Israel had never really ever been made up purely of descendants of Abraham. That was a myth as the Law of Moses makes clear. They had always included descendants of servants and foreign slaves who had served the Patriarchs, they included descendants of the mixed multitude (Exodus 12:38) who had left Egypt with the Israelites and had entered the covenant at Sinai, they included many who had since made common cause with Israel. All who submitted to YHWH and to circumcision could enter the covenant (Exodus 12:48). It was thus in Joel’s time a good representation of the people of God of all ages. (That is how the church became Israel, they were simply incorporated into the new Israel of God established by Jesus Christ and His Apostles). And we consequently have here God’s guarantee of the final prosperity of His people when their necessary hardships are behind them.

‘I will bring back the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem.’ This could equally be translated as ‘restore the fortunes of ---.’ But that this includes restoration from captivity is made clear in the context.

Joel 3:2-3

‘I will gather all nations,

And will bring them down into the valley of YHWH is Judge (Jehoshaphat),

And I will execute judgment on them there,

For my people and for my heritage Israel,

Whom they have scattered among the nations,

And they have parted my land,

And have cast lots for my people,

And have given a boy for a harlot,

And sold a girl for wine, that they may drink.’

But at that time those who have persecuted God’s people will be called to account. For both during history and in the final day there will be a judgment of all nations by YHWH in the place of His appointing. This is a remarkable statement of YHWH’s overlordship and sovereignty over the whole world. All nations were to take note of the fact that in the end in one way or another they had to render account to Him.

The judgment of Tyre and Philistia would take place in the following centuries through the invasions of the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians and finally the Greeks (a nice irony in the face of the accusation). Compare for this Amos 1. But they still also await the judgment in the last day (Matthew 11:21). His prime accusation at this time is the way in which they have deliberately enslaved many of His people for profit. It had been well organised, and they had worked together on it. They had divided up Judah and Israel into sections, so that they did not interfere with each other’s activities (just think of that, we can hear Joel saying, they have divided up YHWH’s inheritance), and then they had snatched the boys and girls of Judah, cast lots for them (compare Obadiah 1:11; Nahum 3:10) and sold them off so that they could buy themselves harlots and strong drink. Thus were YHWH’s people already scattered among the nations. The scattering is not to do with the later exiles. This was the scattering of His people by means of the slave trade, and through men and women taken in battle or by invasion.

And there in the valley of ‘YHWH is Judge’ (Jeho-shaphat) He will execute judgment on the nations in accordance with how they have treated His people, those who are His inheritance. (A valley would appear to Joel as the natural place for such a gathering). We have already seen how important God’s heritage were to Him (see Joel 2:17). This final ‘judgment of the nations’ is represented in many ways in Scripture (e.g. Isaiah 24; Matthew 25:31-46; John 5:28-29; Revelation 6:12-17; Revelation 11:15-18; Revelation 14:14-20; Revelation 19:11-21), and none more awesome than the account in Revelation 20:11-15.

‘The valley of Jehoshaphat.’ In the Hebrew the text reads ‘yehoshephet we nishphatti’, ‘(the valley of) YHWH is Judge and there He will execute judgment’. It is YHWH’s own ‘secret’ valley, reserved by Him as a place of judgment. We have no indication anywhere of any such literal valley. Later it will be called ‘the Valley of Decision’ (Joel 3:14).

Note on the Valley of Jehoshaphat.

All attempts to identify the valley are purely speculative and without foundation. We simply do not know of any such valley, and the link of the name with its purpose suggests that it is a name invented for the purpose. The Targums (Aramaic paraphrases of the Scriptures) saw them as having no specific place in mind and Targum Jonathan renders it as ‘the plain of the decision of judgment’. Ibn Ezra sought to identify it as the valley of Berachah, south of Bethlehem, where Jehoshaphat’s forces gathered after success in battle (2 Chronicles 20:26), but with no real grounds. Zechariah might be seen as placing the valley of judgment near to Jerusalem in a valley to be formed by divine activity (Zechariah 14:4). 1 Enoch 53:1 sites it in a valley near the valley of Hinnom. Later tradition has identified it as the Kidron valley and have made it into a burial ground in readiness for the day (even investing it with a tomb of Jehoshaphat, which is really a Graeco-Roman tomb). But Kidron is not an ‘emeq (Joel’s word) but a nahal (ravine). From all this it is quite clear that, as so often, ‘nobody knows except God’.

End of note.

Joel 3:4

‘Yes, and what are you to me, O Tyre, and Sidon,

And all the regions of Philistia?

Will you render me a recompense?

If you are recompensing me,

Swiftly and speedily will I return your recompense,

On your own head’

His accusation against Tyre, Sidon and Philistia (who were the ones mainly engaged in the slave trade in Amos 1:6-10) was that they were seeking to get their own back on Him, as if that were possible. In attacking His people they were attacking Him. But they will soon learn their mistake, for if they are recompensing Him they can be very sure that He will respond swiftly and speedily, and will return their recompense on their own head.

These regions might well have felt bitter because of their subjection to Israel/Judah in the days of the empires of David and Solomon, (even though Tyre and Sidon had a treaty arrangement, it would have been as a very junior partner), and in what followed, and thus almost have seen it as their right to ‘get their own back’ on the God Who had so subjected them.

Joel 3:5-6

‘Forasmuch as you have taken my silver and my gold,

And have carried into your temples my goodly precious things,

And have sold the children of Judah and the children of Jerusalem to the sons of the Ionians (Greeks),

That you may remove them far from their border,’

But they needed to recognise that when they had invaded Judah/Israel it was YHWH’s gold that they had taken, it was YHWH’s possessions that they had stolen, and even dared to put in their own temples, and it was YHWH’s children (Deuteronomy 14:1) that they had sold to the Ionians. To be sold so far away meant that there was no opportunity for buying them back (compare Nehemiah 5:8). They were, humanly speaking, lost for ever. (Which was why the selling on of slaves taken in war was forbidden in the Law - Deuteronomy 21:14). Thus these peoples were directly accountable to Him for what they had done.


Verse 7-8

‘Behold, I will stir them up out of the place where you have sold them,

And will return your recompense on your own head,

And I will sell your sons and your daughters into the hand of the children of Judah,

And they will sell them to the men of Sheba,

To a nation far off,

For YHWH has spoken it.’

But YHWH would not leave His people in the places where they had been sold. One day He would stir them up out of their place and restore them to Himself. And He would also recompense Himself on those who had stolen from Him. He would do it by Himself selling their children to Judah who in turn would sell them in the east, to the Sabeans (the opposite direction to the Greeks). If carried out at all this specific judgment would have been carried out in later centuries and is not to be seen as something that will happen in the future. YHWH’s judgments extend over a long period before they are finally summed up in the final judgment. But there is good reason for seeing this as simply an example of retribution not to be taken literally. (It is quite clear that YHWH Himself would certainly not ‘sell slaves’ to anyone).

‘To a nation far off.’ Just as the Judean slaves had been carried over the seas, so would the Tyrian and Philistine slaves be carried afar off, for the Sabeans would sell them on to many places in Africa. And all this would happen because YHWH had purposed it. It would result from the powerful word of YHWH which always accomplished its purpose (Isaiah 55:10-13).

There is in fact no record of this selling of slaves to the Sabeans, and it is very possible that this was simply intended to say graphically, ‘what you have sown you will reap’, or in Old Testament terms, ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’. As already mentioned, it is quite clear that YHWH would not literally sell slaves to Judah. It was simply His way of reminding the nations of what He could do if he wished, and what the future would hold for them in general because of their opposition to Him. It was also a guarantee of the prosperous future of Judah.


Verses 9-14

YHWH Calls The Nations To Judgment Before Him And His Mighty Ones (Joel 3:9-14).

The final day of YHWH is set up and the nations are called for judgment. The nations send out the call because they clearly think that they will be able to do battle with YHWH (as they always do) but really it is YHWH Who has called them, and they are reduced to helplessness by YHWH’s Mighty Ones. In the midst of life and expectation of great booty they are suddenly and unexpectedly faced up with YHWH’s judgment. For there in ‘the valley of YHWH is Judge’ the nations are brought to judgment, not by earthly forces but by heavenly ones. And there they are called on to pay the price for their wickedness.

Analysis of Joel 3:9-14.

a Proclaim you this among the nations, “Prepare war, stir up the mighty men, 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.’ ” (Joel 3:10).

b Haste yourselves, and come, all you nations round about, and gather yourselves together.

c There cause your mighty ones to come down, O YHWH.

d Let the nations bestir themselves, and come up to the valley of YHWH is Judge (Jehoshaphat), for there will I sit to judge, all the nations round about (Joel 3:12).

c Put you in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe, come, tread you, for the winepress is full, the vats overflow, for their wickedness is great (Joel 3:13).

b Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! (Joel 3:14 a)

a For the day of YHWH is near in the valley of decision (Joel 3:14 b).

Note that in ‘a’ the call to the nations goes out that they are to prepare themselves to face YHWH, and in the parallel the day of YHWH is near in the valley of decision. In ‘b’ the nations are to make haste to gather themselves together, and in the parallel there are multitudes in the valley of decision. In ‘c’ YHWH will make His mighty ones come down, and in the parallel they put in the sickle and reap. Central in ‘d is the purpose of it all, the nations are to come to the valley of YHWH is Judge in order to be judged by YHWH.

Joel 3:9-10

‘Proclaim you this among the nations,

“Prepare (literally ‘sanctify’) war,

Stir up the mighty men,

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.”

The heralds of the nations are commanded by YHWH to call their nations to battle. It is as usual a silent command, and the nations would not be aware that they were responding to YHWH’s call. Their view would be that they were following out their own political decisions. But the call was in fact YHWH’s for the time had come for the nations to be judged.

‘Sanctify war.’ This is a reminder that Judah were not the only nation to call on their deity for assistance in war. Every nation believed that their own gods would give them victory a long as they treated him properly and fulfilled his ritual requirements. And their heralds would therefore call on them to perform those necessary rituals. The difference was that their gods had no roar (see Joel 3:17), and could do nothing when YHWH was calling the nations to judgment..

So just as YHWH had stirred up His own people to return to Him (Joel 3:7), the nations were now to stir themselves up to come to judgment. They were to do so by sanctifying themselves for war, mustering their mighty men, calling up the men of war, turning their farm implements into weapons, and encouraging the waverers to be strong. The turning of their sharp farming instruments into weapons was not just symbolic. Many warriors would have no other weapons. Little would those who were mustered realise that they were simply providing evidence to YHWH when they come before Him for judgment. We have precisely the same idea presented in Revelation 19:11-21 where the gathering of the earthly forces was not directly aimed at the figure on the white horse, but at His people on earth. It is only we who are permitted to see the heavenly side of things as YHWH’s great ones come to carry out God’s judgment.

Joel 3:11

‘Haste yourselves, and come, all you nations round about,

And gather yourselves together.’

The call goes out for the nations to hurry themselves up. It is a time for war. They are to gather themselves ready for their attack on God’s people. Little do they realise as they excitedly come together what they are hurrying towards. Their eyes are glistening with the hope of spoils, they do not realise that it is they who will be the spoils.

Joel 3:11

There cause your mighty ones to come down,

O YHWH.’

For unknown to them their Enemy is also mustering His troops, and what troops they are. YHWH is causing His Great Ones to come down from heaven ready for what is to come. He is offering divine protection for His people (the protection that was not called on by Jesus Christ Who trod the way of suffering alone - Matthew 26:53).

Joel 3:12

‘Let the nations bestir themselves,

And come up to the valley of YHWH is Judge (Jehoshaphat),

For there will I sit to judge,

All the nations round about.’

Now it is YHWH Who sends out His summons. Let the nations bestir themselves and make haste, for they are coming to the valley of YHWH is Judge, where YHWH is waiting to judge them. As in the case of Revelation 19 there is to be no battle. Who can battle against the Almighty or against the Lamb? Rather they will discover that YHWH is seated there on His judgment seat ready to act as Judge.

Joel 3:13

‘Put you in the sickle,

For the harvest is ripe,

Come, tread you,

For the winepress is full,

The vats overflow,

For their wickedness is great.

And there in that valley of YHWH’s judgment the angels are commanded to ‘put in the sickle and reap’ because the harvest is ripe. The wicked have come to full ripeness and it is the time for the nations to be judged. The angels are to reap the grain, gather the grapes and tread the winepress which will then be full to overflowing, with the result that the winevats will also overflow, because the wickedness of the nations is very great.

This vivid picture is taken up again in Revelation 14:14-20 which is another picture of the last judgment, and is also in mind in Matthew 13:30; Matthew 13:41-43; Matthew 13:49-50. All that Joel lacks is awareness of Jesus Christ as Lord of Lords, and King of Kings.

The picture is in some ways deliberately parallels that in Joel 2:24, except that the message is different. But both harvests would benefit His people. It is a reminder that because of their repentance the future of Judah has changed.

Joel 3:14

‘Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision!

For the day of YHWH is near in the valley of decision.’

The passage closes off with ominous words. ‘Multitude, multitudes in the valley of decision, because the day of YHWH is near in the valley of decision.’ The picture is of the massed multitudes of the enemy, gathered in numbers beyond counting (indicated by the repetition of ‘multitudes’), and unaware that the day of YHWH is almost upon them. (What a contrast they are with another multitude which no man could number which was made up of the chosen of YHWH - Revelation 7:9 ff.).


Verses 15-21

The Final Showdown (Joel 3:15-21).

Joel closes his prophecy by declaring what YHWH will do for His people as by His mighty roar, and by portentous signs, He demonstrates to the world His watch over them. As a result all will know that Judah and Jerusalem are under His protection and therefore not to be touched. This will be because they have become so holy that no foreigner can be allowed to come among them. Their enemies, on the other hand, will be left a desolation (as Judah had been after the locust invasion, and possibly as a result of YHWH’s judgment), whilst in contrast Judah will become well-watered and fruitful, having not only fully recovered from the locusts, but also having become a land flowing with wine, milk, and rivers, as well as being provided with a God-given spring which will come directly from the house of YHWH (and will therefore not be dependent on rain).

As so often with these descriptions of the final consummation what is described is other-worldly. This does not have in mind a so-called millennium (here southern neighbours are desolate while Judah and Jerusalem are so holy that no foreigner can enter Jerusalem, which is in total contrast to Zechariah 14:16-21 where foreigners will flock to Jerusalem and the flourishing of the nations depends on their attendance at the Feast of Tabernacle). Rather YHWH’s people have become perfect, and the spring coming out of the house of YHWH is clearly not of this world. It is a continual miracle. Meanwhile Judah’s existence is guaranteed for ever. It is quite clear that the everlasting kingdom is in mind.

Analysis of Joel 3:15-21.

a The sun and the moon are darkened, and the stars withdraw their shining, and YHWH will roar from Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem, and the heavens and the earth will shake, but YHWH will be a refuge to his people, and a stronghold to the children of Israel (Joel 3:15-16).

b So will you know that I am YHWH your God, dwelling in Zion my holy mountain, then will Jerusalem be holy, and there shall no foreigners pass through her any more. (Joel 3:17).

c And it will come about in that day, that the mountains will drop down sweet wine, and the hills will flow with milk, and all the brooks of Judah will flow with waters, and a spring will come forth from the house of YHWH, and will water the valley of Shittim (Joel 3:18).

b Egypt will be a desolation, and Edom will be a desolate wilderness, for the violence done to the children of Judah, because they have shed innocent blood in their land (Joel 3:19).

a But Judah will abide for ever, and Jerusalem from generation to generation. and I will cleanse their blood, that I have not cleansed, because YHWH dwells in Zion (Joel 3:20-21).

Note that in ‘a’ YHWH will roar from Zion, and will be a refuge to His people, and in the parallel YHWH will dwell in Zion and will enable Judah and Jerusalem to abide for ever. In ‘b’ no foreigners will pass through Jerusalem any more, and in the parallel we learn what will happen to foreigners in order to prevent that. Centrally in ‘c’ Judah will flourish and be exceedingly fruitful.

Joel 3:15-16

‘The sun and the moon are darkened,

And the stars withdraw their shining.

And YHWH will roar from Zion,

And utter his voice from Jerusalem,

And the heavens and the earth will shake,

But YHWH will be a refuge to his people,

And a stronghold to the children of Israel.’

Presumably as a consequence of YHWH’s judgment there will be portents in the heavens, the sun and moon will be darkened and the stars will withdraw their shining, just as they had during the plague of locusts (Joel 2:31). There it had indicated the displeasure of YHWH. Here it is evidence that God is directly at work on behalf of His people against their enemies. There were many ways in which the sun could be darkened, by the smoke resulting from the despoiling of the countryside by an invader, as a result of volcanic action, clouds of locusts in the sky, a heavy storm, a sirocco, etc. It may also here include the thought that the gods of the nations, represented by sun, moon and stars, had been nullified. Now there was only YHWH for the world to look to. Incidentally this is possibly the first such description of such phenomena, on which the other prophets would later expand, although consider Judges 10:12 where Joshua’s command to the sun and moon was to be ‘silent’ or ‘still’, and Exodus 14:19-20 where the Egyptian army were prevented from catching up with the fleeing Israelites by cloud and fire.

Meanwhile YHWH will roar from Zion (compare Amos 1:2; Hosea 11:10) and speak from Jerusalem, and will do it so powerfully that the heavens and the earth will shake (compare Haggai 2:21; Exodus 19:18-19), a clear testimony to YHWH’s presence. His word will go forth to accomplish His purpose. And meanwhile YHWH will be a refuge to His people, a stronghold to the children of Israel. He will be dwelling among them permanently and no longer be angry with them because they will have become a faithful people.

Joel 3:17

‘So shall you know that I am YHWH your God,

Dwelling in Zion my holy mountain,

Then will Jerusalem be holy,

And there shall no foreigners pass through her any more.’

There will be no more separation between YHWH and Judah. Judah will have full confidence that YHWH is their God, dwelling among them in His holy mountain, Zion. The result will be that Jerusalem will be ‘holy’, set apart wholly to YHWH. And this will be so much so, that no foreigners will be allowed to enter. This does not simply mean that no foreign conquerors will come, but that Jerusalem is so ‘holy to YHWH’ that only those within the covenant and ritually clean will be allowed to enter, in the same way as previously men could not enter the Tabernacle area unless they were ritually clean. Compare the vivid picture in Isaiah 4:2-6. Compare also the words of Revelation 21:27, ‘nothing unclean shall enter it, nor anyone who practises abomination (idolatry) or deceit, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life’. This is clearly a picture of the everlasting kingdom where YHWH will continually be with His people (Revelation 21:22-23; Revelation 22:4-5).

There was, of course, a preliminary fulfilment when YHWH descended on the temple mount in fire and wind and filled the infant church which was gathered there. From then on His people would be YHWH’s temple and dwelling place. As Paul put it, ‘we are the temple of the living God, even as God said, “I will dwell in them, and walk in them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people, --- and will be a Father to you, and you will be My sons and My daughters”, says the Lord Almighty’ (2 Corinthians 6:16-18), this in accordance with Jesus’ promise in John 14:23.

Joel 3:18

‘And it will come about in that day,

That the mountains will drop down sweet wine,

And the hills will flow with milk,

And all the brooks of Judah will flow with waters,

And a spring will come forth from the house of YHWH,

And will water the valley of Shittim.

The consequence of YHWH’s continual dwelling among them will be that the vineyards on the mountains will flourish (compare Amos 9:13), their herds and flocks on their hillsides will produce an abundance of milk (the Promised land was to be a land of milk and honey), and all their rivers will continually flow with water, making them as fruitful as Egypt. The picture is one of Paradise restored, a new Eden (compare Revelation 22:1-5). But above all else will be the fact that from the house of YHWH will flow a permanent spring, as YHWH guarantees direct provision for His people, similar to but far better and more permanent than the water that came from the rocks in the wilderness. His people will find permanent satisfaction for their thirst from Him. They will not hunger any more, nor will they thirst any more, an idea taken up in Revelation 21:3-4. It is the result of the fact that ‘the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them --.’ The picture is taken up by Ezekiel in Ezekiel 47.

‘And will water the valley of Shittim or Acacias.’ Acacias often grew in very arid places, and the idea is probably that even a valley which had never known water would now continually be fed with water.

Joel 3:19

‘Egypt will be a desolation,

And Edom will be a desolate wilderness,

For the violence done to the children of Judah,

Because they have shed innocent blood in their land.

Egypt and Edom are selected because they above all had proved themselves to be Judah’s enemy. Egypt had enslaved Israel in Egypt and had thereby been responsible for many thousands of deaths of innocent people, including the infant boys who had been slaughtered, and as the largest nation in the area they were the most to be feared. They were the one nation that Judah could never hope to finally win against. Furthermore Shishak’s invasion of Israel had taken place possibly a hundred or so years before, and had cause a further large numbers of deaths. Thus as far as they knew there was always a constant fear of further invasion from Egypt.

Edom were their brother tribe and yet had refused to allow Israel to pass through their territory when they were approaching Canaan (Numbers 20:14-21). Furthermore they were organisers of the slave trade (Amos 1:6; Amos 1:9) which no doubt resulted in many deaths as a result of the slave-gathering raids, and meant that many Israelites were transported to places from which there was no return by ransom. The practising of this trade demonstrated the hatred of Edom against Judah. To make matters worse on the death of Solomon Hadad of Edom had organised guerilla warfare against Israel/Judah (1 Kings 11:14 ff.), and following that Edom had warred with Judah in the time of Jehoram, the son of Jehoshaphat (2 Kings 8:22), as a result of having broken away from Judah’s control (having thus reneged on a solemn treaty), which probably meant that they were still seen as rebels and traitors, with the reciprocal hatred which that engendered. They probably still harassed Judean caravans using the trade route to the port of Ezion-geber.

The two together, who were a continual threat to Judah’s southern borders, (Judah had Israel to the north) thus symbolised all nations who shed the blood of Judeans in raids and warfare, being the ones who had most recently done so and were an ever present threat. And it was because of their shedding of ‘innocent blood’, i.e. the blood of those not acting in warfare, including women and children, that they would now be especially punished by YHWH.

Joel 3:20-21

‘But Judah will abide for ever,

And Jerusalem from generation to generation.

And I will cleanse their blood, that I have not cleansed,

Because YHWH continually dwells in Zion.’

In contrast with the desolation of Egypt and Edom would be the fact that Judah and Jerusalem would be established for ever, and would receive cleansing for their own blood guilt which had not yet been cleansed. There were no sacrifices available for blood guilt, for it was a capital crime. Thus cleansing demanded deeper repentance than for everyday sins. But Judah and Jerusalem would have the assurance of such cleansing, and we know that the reason for this would be the cross. And it would be because YHWH dwelt continually in Zion that they would have full cleansing from all sin. Thus the book ends with the assurance that one day God would make provision for all sin, even the most heinous.

Some translate the MT as, ‘And shall I leave their bloodshed unpunished? I will not, as surely as YHWH has His home in Zion,’ thus ending the book on the motive of revenge against Egypt and Edom.

 


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Joel 3:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/joel-3.html. 2013.

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