Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Chap. 3. (Hebrews 4). The Judgement on the heathen world, and the glorification of the people of God
In the day when Jehovah restores Israel He will contend in judgement with all nations in the valley of Jehoshaphat for the wrongs which they have done to His people (Joel 3:1-3): especially will He mete out retribution to the Phoenicians and Philistines for having plundered Judah and Jerusalem, and sold their children into slavery (Joel 3:4-8). There follows a description of the judgement which Jehovah will then hold in the valley of Jehoshaphat. The nations are invited to arm themselves, and muster for the contest: multitudes are already thronging in the “valley of decision”; Jehovah also has his heavenly warriors in readiness; clouds darken the heavens; in the storm which follows Jehovah’s thunders annihilate the foe, while His own people emerge unscathed (Joel 3:9-16). Then will the heathen no more defile Jerusalem with their presence; the land of Judah, protected by the Divine presence, will be blessed with abiding fertility, while the land of Judah’s foes will become a desolate waste (Joel 3:17-21).
For, behold, in those days, and in that time, when I shall bring again the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem,1. For] The chapter is closely connected with Joel 2:28-32, for explaining how the faithful Israelites will be delivered (Joel 2:32); viz. on account of a judgement to be held upon the heathen world, which will have the effect of freeing the Israelites.
behold] The particle, as often, draws attention to some new and important announcement (cf. Isaiah 3:1; Isaiah 7:14; Isaiah 19:1; Amos 6:11, &c.).
in those days, and in that time] The same combination, Jeremiah 33:15; Jeremiah 50:4; Jeremiah 50:20. The time referred to is that of Israel’s deliverance (Joel 2:32).
bring again the captivity] or, perhaps, turn the fortune (comp. on Amos 9:14): upon either interpretation, a decisive change in the condition of Judah and Jerusalem is denoted by the words.
I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat, and will plead with them there for my people and for my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations, and parted my land.2. I will also gather] I will gather: ‘also’ is a misrendering of the Heb. idiom employed (cf. Amos 3:14).
the valley of Jehoshaphat] as is shewn by the play upon the name, which, both here and in Joel 3:12, immediately follows, the place is chosen as the scene of Jehovah’s judgement on account of its name (which means “Jah judgeth”). No doubt there was an actual valley, so named after the king, though where it was, is quite uncertain. It may have been the spot (though this is not called a “valley”) in which, according to a tradition reported by the Chronicler (2 Chronicles 20:20-24), the Moabites, Ammonites, and Edomites, who invaded Judah in the days of Jehoshaphat, fell upon, and slaughtered one another; or it may have been identical with the “valley of Berachah” (or of Blessing) in which four days afterwards (2 Chronicles 20:26) the victorious Judahites assembled to “bless” Jehovah; or, as Joel seems to have in view some spot nearer Jerusalem than this valley (cf. ib. 2 Chronicles 20:27-28), it may have been the fairly broad and open valley between Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives, which already in Eusebius’ time (though we know not upon what grounds) bore, as it bears still, the name, “valley of Jehoshaphat.” This valley is elsewhere always called the Wâdy (Heb. naḥal: see on Amos 5:24) of the Kidron (2 Samuel 15:23; 2 Kings 23:4; 2 Kings 23:6 al.), but it seems to be sufficiently wide to have been termed an ‘çmeḳ, especially as even the ‘ravine’ (gai’) of Hinnom (Joshua 15:8), on the S. of Jerusalem, appears to be so designated in Jeremiah 31:40. Happily, nothing turns here upon the identification of the spot meant, the symbolism of the name being alone significant.
 See the Onomasticon, ed. Lagarde, p. 273.
valley] or vale: Heb. ‘çmeḳ, lit. deepening, “a highlander’s word for a valley as he looks down into it, always applied to wide avenues running up into a mountainous country, like the Vale of Elah, the Vale of Hebron, and the Vale of Ajalon” (G. A. Smith, Geogr. p. 384). In both A.V. and R.V. much confusion is occasioned by the same English word “valley” being used unfortunately for both ‘çmeḳ and gai’, though the latter denoted a much narrower opening, such as we should describe as a ravine or glen. For a list of both the ‘çmeḳs and the gai’s named in the O.T., see Stanley, S. and P. Appendix, §§ 1, 2; and comp. G. A. Smith, l.c. p. 654 f.
plead] the reflexive, or reciprocal, conjugation of shâphat, to judge. The play cannot be preserved exactly in English; though one might paraphrase the “valley of Jehoshaphat” by “the valley of God’s judgement,” and say that Jehovah intended to “contend there in judgement with all nations” on behalf of His people. Plead means dispute in judgement, as a litigant, Jehovah standing on one side, and the nations on the other: for the same term, similarly applied, see Jeremiah 25:31; Ezekiel 38:22; Isaiah 66:16.
scattered among the nations] evidently a considerable dispersion of Israel among the Gentiles is presupposed by these words: comp. Ezekiel 11:17; Ezekiel 12:15; Ezekiel 20:34; Ezekiel 20:41; Ezekiel 22:15; Ezekiel 28:25; Ezekiel 36:19, with reference to the Jews exiled by Nebuchadnezzar in b.c. 597 and 586.
divided my land] viz. among new occupants: cp. for the expression Joshua 13:7; Amos 7:17; Micah 2:4.
And they have cast lots for my people; and have given a boy for an harlot, and sold a girl for wine, that they might drink.3. The reference is to the custom, common in ancient warfare, by which the conquerors divided amongst themselves the captives by lot, to deal with them afterwards as they pleased: and the Jewish prisoners were held by their captors so cheap that one who had received a boy as his lot sold him to a slave-dealer in exchange for a harlot,—or perhaps (Targ. Pesh.) gave him for the hire of a harlot,—and one who had received a girl parted with her for the sake of a carouse of wine.
cast lots] Obadiah 1:11 (of Jerusalem at the time of its capture by the Chaldaeans), Nahum 3:10 (where it is said, as a special indignity, that lots were cast on the “honourable men” of No-amon);—each time the same phrase.
that they might drink] and have drunk.
Yea, and what have ye to do with me, O Tyre, and Zidon, and all the coasts of Palestine? will ye render me a recompence? and if ye recompense me, swiftly and speedily will I return your recompence upon your own head;4. And also what are ye to me?] i.e., apparently, what would ye do to me? the following words, will ye repay &c. explaining in what sense the question is meant.
all the districts of Philistia] lit. circles, i.e. (probably) the districts ruled by the five ‘lords’ of the Philistines: see Joshua 13:2 f., where the same expression also occurs (A.V. “borders,” R.V. “regions”; Heb. gelîlôth), and comp. 1Ma 5:15, where πᾶσα Γαλιλαία ἀλλοφύλων (“all Galilee of the foreigners”) must, it seems, represent the same Hebrew original (ἀλλόφυλοι standing often in LXX. for Philistines).
 “Galilee” is properly “the gâlîl (or ‘circle’)”, Joshua 20:7; in full, “the gâlîl (or ‘circle’) of the nations” (Is. 8:23).
will ye repay a deed of mine, or will ye do aught unto me? (R.V. marg.)] i.e. is there any injustice that I have done to you (through Israel) which you would avenge, or would you even assail me gratuitously? The question is a rhetorical one, to which of course a negative answer is expected: their treatment of Israel has been unprovoked; it is they, and not Israel, who merit vengeance; accordingly the retort follows, Swiftly and speedily will I return your deed (R.V. marg.) upon your own head.
upon your head] for the phrase, comp. Obadiah 1:15 (where ‘reward’ is properly doing, or deed, as here); also Jdg 9:57; 1 Samuel 25:39, &c.
4–8. The Phoenicians and Philistines are here singled out as the nations which have sinned especially against Israel: they have not only enriched their own palaces with the plunder of Judah, but have also sold Judahite captives into slavery to the Greeks; a swift and just retribution is accordingly pronounced against them.
Because ye have taken my silver and my gold, and have carried into your temples my goodly pleasant things:5. my silver and my gold] not necessarily the silver and the gold in the Temple (1 Kings 14:26; 2 Kings 14:14), but more generally what belonged to Jehovah, or His people, whether in the Temple, or in the public treasuries, or in private houses.
temples] or palaces (Amos 8:3 al.), the abodes of the wealthy.
pleasant (or desirable) things] i.e. valuables: see 1 Kings 20:6 (cf. Joel 3:7); Lamentations 1:10-11; Isaiah 64:11.
The children also of Judah and the children of Jerusalem have ye sold unto the Grecians, that ye might remove them far from their border.6. The Phoenicians had further played the part of slave-dealers, and had sold Judahite captives into the hands of the Greeks. The slave-traffic of the Phoenicians is often mentioned; they sometimes kidnapped women and children themselves, sometimes obtained slaves by purchase from uncivilized tribes, or purchased captives taken in war: cf. Amos 1:9, Ezekiel 27:13, 1Ma 3:41, 2Ma 8:11, and the stories in Hom. Od. xiv. 288 ff., xv. 402 ff., Hdt. i. 1, ii. 54. In the classical period, Syrians were very common as slaves in Greece, and the designation probably included Jews as well (cf. Movers, Die Phönizier ii. iii.75 ff.).
the Grecians] Heb. Yewânîm, elsewhere in the sing. (collectively) Yâwân (Genesis 10:2; Genesis 10:4; Ezekiel 27:13; Ezekiel 27:19 (?); Isaiah 66:19; Zechariah 9:13; Daniel 8:21; Daniel 10:20; Daniel 11:2); i.e. the Ionians (Ἰάϝονες, in Homer constantly), the name by which the Greeks were regularly known among both the Hebrews, and other Eastern nations, on account, viz., of the fact that the Ionians (whose colonies extended over a large part of the W. coast of Asia Minor, and many of the Aegean islands) were most active commercially in ancient times, and hence were best known to other nations.
that ye might remove them far from their border] in order to minimize the chances of their return. The real motive of the Phoenician slave-dealers was, no doubt, simply their own gain: but Joel represents pointedly the result of their action as though it were their design.
Behold, I will raise them out of the place whither ye have sold them, and will return your recompence upon your own head:7. Behold, I am stirring them up] i.e. arousing them into activity (Isaiah 13:17; Jeremiah 50:9, R.V.: Isaiah 41:2; Isaiah 41:25; Isaiah 45:13, A.V., R.V. render badly raise up), and enabling them to leave the land of their servitude.
and will return your deed upon your own head] repeated from Joel 3:4 b.
7–8. The punishment, awarded according to the Lex talionis.
And I will sell your sons and your daughters into the hand of the children of Judah, and they shall sell them to the Sabeans, to a people far off: for the LORD hath spoken it.8. You sold the children of Judah into slavery to a nation far off in the North West; I will sell your children into the hand of the Judahites, that they may sell them into slavery to a nation far off in the South East.
the men of Sheba] an important commercial nation of Arabia, described as a ‘son’ of Cush, Genesis 10:7, of Yoḳṭan, Genesis 10:28, and of Yoḳshan son of Ḳeṭurah, Genesis 25:3; celebrated for their wealth in gold, spices, and precious stones, 1 Kings 10:2; 1 Kings 10:10 (the Queen of Sheba), Jeremiah 6:20; Ezekiel 27:22; Isaiah 60:6; Psalm 72:15 (cf. Joel 3:10), and for the trade which their caravans (Job 6:19) carried on, Ezekiel 27:22 f., Ezekiel 38:13. The ancient geographers speak of Sabaeans in the S.W. of Arabia; and recently discovered inscriptions and other monuments shew that they were no mere trading-tribe, but a people inhabiting walled cities, possessing temples and other buildings, and enjoying a settled civilization. Sheba is mentioned also in the Assyrian inscriptions (K.A.T pp. 92, 145 f.). The difference in the genealogies of Sheba is to be explained, probably, partly by the fact that (as in other cases) different theories were current respecting its ethnological affinities, partly by the fact that in Genesis 10:7; Genesis 25:3, if not also in Ezekiel 38:13, a Northern colony, in the neighbourhood of Dedan (S.E. of Edom), is referred to.
 .A.T. … Eb. Schrader, Die Keilinschriften und das A. T., ed. 2, 1883 (translated under the title The Cuneiform Inscriptions and the O. T. 1885, 1888). The references are to the pagination of the German, which is given on the margin of the English translation.
 … Eb. Schrader, Die Keilinschriften und das A. T., ed. 2, 1883 (translated under the title The Cuneiform Inscriptions and the O. T. 1885, 1888). The references are to the pagination of the German, which is given on the margin of the English translation.
far off] comp. the corresponding verb (to make to be far off) in Joel 3:6 : note also in Jeremiah 6:20 ‘a far country’ in parallelism with ‘Sheba.’
for Jehovah hath spoken it] a solemn asseverative formula, found also Isaiah 1:2; Isaiah 22:25; Isaiah 25:8; Obadiah 1:18 : so with the mouth of Jehovah, Isaiah 1:20; Isaiah 40:5; Isaiah 58:14; Micah 4:4.
Proclaim ye this among the Gentiles; Prepare war, wake up the mighty men, let all the men of war draw near; let them come up:9. Proclaim ye] The words are addressed to those whose duty it would be to make such a proclamation (comp. on Amos 3:9), i.e. the heralds, whom the prophet pictures as ready to carry Jehovah’s command to the nations.
this] i.e. the following command.
Gentiles] nations, as Joel 3:2 (twice).
sanctify (or consecrate) war] i.e. begin war; the phrase having reference to the custom of opening a campaign by means of sacrifices. So Micah 3:5, Jeremiah 6:4; also Isaiah 13:3, Jeremiah 22:7; Jeremiah 51:27-28, where the warriors are spoken of similarly as “sanctified.”
stir up the mighty men] i.e. arouse the warriors (Joel 2:7) from the inactivity of peace.
let, &c.] with a dramatic change of person, such as the Hebrew poets love (e.g. Isaiah 34:1; Isaiah 41:1). In the Heb., let draw near, let them come up, consists of two short words only, the second following rapidly upon the first: the concise and forcible style can be better represented in Greek or Latin (accedant, ascendant), than in English.
come up] the expression used of an attacking or invading army (Joel 1:6).
9–17. After the digression on the Phoenicians and Philistines (Joel 3:4-8), the thought of Joel 3:1-3 is resumed; and the description of the judgement on the nations, announced in Joel 3:2, is continued. The heathen are invited to arm themselves, and advance for the great contest with Israel in the valley of Jehoshaphat, Joel 3:9-12; but once arrived there, they are annihilated, amid celestial portents, by the agents of Jehovah’s will, whom He commissions to engage with them, while His own people look on securely.
Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruninghooks into spears: let the weak say, I am strong.10. The nations are to put forth all their strength: the implements of peace are to be transformed into weapons of war; even the weak is to take courage, and feel himself a warrior, “as is wont to happen when martial enthusiasm seizes a whole people” (Hitz.).
Beat, &c.] comp. Isaiah 2:4 (= Micah 4:3), where the opposite process to that which is here commanded is instanced as a feature of the future ideal reign of peace.
spears] lances (1 Kings 18:28), not the word (ḥǎnîth) used in Isaiah 2:4, Micah 4:3 (which is the ordinary one for spear), but one with Aramaic affinities, and otherwise found chiefly either in North-Israelitish writings (Jdg 5:8; 1 Kings 18:28), or in late authors (1 Chronicles 12:8; 1 Chronicles 12:24; 2 Chronicles 11:12; 2 Chronicles 14:7; 2 Chronicles 25:5; 2 Chronicles 26:14; Nehemiah 4:7; Nehemiah 4:10; Nehemiah 4:15 [A.V. 13, 16, 21]: otherwise only Numbers 25:7; Jeremiah 46:4; Ezekiel 39:9). The word being an uncommon one, its use gives a distinctive colouring to the verse of Joel, which ought, if possible, to be preserved in a translation.
I am strong] a mighty man, a warrior: the same word which is used in Joel 3:9.
Assemble yourselves, and come, all ye heathen, and gather yourselves together round about: thither cause thy mighty ones to come down, O LORD.11. Assemble yourselves] The word is found only here, and its meaning is very uncertain. A.V. follows LXX., Targ., Syr., Ibn Ezra, and Kimchi; but the rendering rests upon no philological basis, and is merely conjectured from the context. It is best to suppose an error in the text, and for עושו to read חושו, Hasten.
all ye nations (Joel 3:2) round about, and gather yourselves together] In Ezekiel 36:4; Ezekiel 36:7 the nations round about Israel are its more immediate neighbours; but the context (Joel 3:2; Joel 3:9; Joel 3:12 a) shews that the expression is meant here more generally.
thither cause thy mighty ones (or warriors) to come down] the prophet suddenly turns aside to address Jehovah: he has bidden the nations assemble, for the contest against Israel, in the valley of Jehoshaphat (Joel 3:2; Joel 3:12): he now prays Jehovah to cause His warriors also to descend thither to meet them. The mighty ones are, no doubt, the angelic hosts (Psalm 68:17; Zechariah 14:5), whom Joel pictures as the agents of Jehovah’s will, and who are called in Psalm 103:20 the “mighty in strength.”
Let the heathen be wakened, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat: for there will I sit to judge all the heathen round about.12. Let the nations be stirred up] corresponding to the stir up of Joel 3:9.
for there will I sit to judge all the nations round about] Another, but a different play on the name Jehoshaphat: Jehovah no longer, as in Joel 3:2, stands (Isaiah 50:8) to litigate (נשפט) with the nations, but sits (Isaiah 28:6; Psalm 9:4; Exodus 18:13) to judge (שפט) them. The sentence which the judge passes follows immediately in Joel 3:13.
12–13. Jehovah’s reply: the nations may assemble; He will be ready to meet them: already (Joel 3:13) He commands His ministers to begin the work of destruction.
Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe: come, get you down; for the press is full, the fats overflow; for their wickedness is great.13. The execution of the sentence is represented under two figures, the reaping of a harvest, and the treading of grapes in the wine-press. Comp. the same figures in Revelation 14:15 f. and 19 f.
Put ye in] The command is addressed to the ‘mighty ones’ of Joel 3:11.
the sickle] Heb. maggâl, only besides Jeremiah 50:16. The same word (in the fem., magaltâ) is common in Syriac, and the Arab. manjal is current in Palestine at the present day (P.E.F.Q. St 1891, p. 112). The other Heb. word for sickle is ḥermçsh (only Deuteronomy 16:9, 23:26).
 .E.F.Q. St. … Palestine Exploration Fund, Quarterly Statements.
get you down] viz. into the wine-press (gâth), for the purpose of treading the grapes (on Joel 2:24), here figuratively of the destruction of foes, exactly as Isaiah 63:3.
 The rendering tread (from רדה) is questionable.
the vats overflow] The same words (in a literal sense) Joel 2:24. Here they are meant as a significant indication of the numbers to be judged, as also of their ripeness for judgement: the grapes in the wine-press represent the nations; and the vats overflow with the expressed juice, not in consequence of the grapes being trodden, but before they have been trodden, simply through the weight of the superincumbent mass of grapes themselves.
for their wickedness is great] A second reason, expressed without metaphor, why the judgement is to be put into execution.
Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision.14. The prophet already hears in spirit the distant hum of the multitudes thronging tumultously in the valley of decision.
Multitudes] The Hebrew term is more picturesque than the English one, and suggests the confused noise or hum of a great throng. Cf. Isaiah 17:12 a (where the word uproar is the same, and roar and roaring are the corresponding verb).
the valley of decision] Another name of the ‘valley of Jah’s judgement’ (Joel 3:2; Joel 3:12), so called on account of the ‘decision’ to be executed in it. The word rendered decision is cognate with those rendered decided in 1 Kings 20:40, and determined in Isaiah 10:23; Isaiah 28:22, and identical with that rendered determined in Isaiah 10:22 and Job 14:5 (properly something cut sharply off, de-cision, de-termination). The word ḥârûtz means, however, also a sharp threshing-board (see on Amos 1:3): hence A.V. marg. (following the explanation which David Kimchi seems to prefer) threshing; and so Credner, and a few other moderns, supposing the allusion to be to the cruel method of treating captives mentioned in Amos 1:3 : but there is nothing to suggest that sense here; nor does Joel 3:12 (in which the figure of the wine-press follows that of the harvest) at all lead up to it.
for the day of Jehovah is near, &c.] cf. Joel 1:15, Joel 2:1. The clause states the reason why the “valley of decision” is thus filled with the nations: because, namely, the great ‘day of Jehovah’ is immediately at hand.
The sun and the moon shall be darkened, and the stars shall withdraw their shining.15. The sun and the moon are black; and the stars withdraw their shining] Preternatural signs of the approaching ‘day.’ The words are repeated verbatim from Joel 2:10 b.
The LORD also shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake: but the LORD will be the hope of his people, and the strength of the children of Israel.16. Jehovah draws near in a mighty storm; heaven and earth quake before Him: but His judgement lights only upon His foes; to His own people He proves Himself a stronghold and defence.
And Jehovah shall roar from Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem] Borrowed verbatim from Amos 1:2, where see the note. The figures of the lion’s roar, and of the noise of thunder, are combined. The details of the judgement are not described; but it must no doubt be imagined that in the storm, and the earthquake accompanying it (see the next words), the nations are struck down and destroyed (comp. for the figure Isaiah 28:2; Isaiah 29:6-8; Isaiah 30:30-31). The fact that Jehovah puts forth His power from Zion, His earthly abode, and the sacred capital of the theocracy, is naturally a favourable omen for His faithful people.
and the heavens and the earth shall quake] Cf. Joel 2:10.
but Jehovah will be a refuge unto his people, and a strong hold to the children of Israel] The terms used so often of Jehovah in the Psalms: see e.g. Psalm 14:6; Psalm 46:1; Psalm 27:1; Psalm 31:4; Psalm 43:2.
So shall ye know that I am the LORD your God dwelling in Zion, my holy mountain: then shall Jerusalem be holy, and there shall no strangers pass through her any more.17. In consequence of this deliverance Israel will know that Jehovah is its God, dwelling in its midst, and ready to succour it; Jerusalem also will no more be defiled by the presence in it of strangers.
And ye shall know that I am Jehovah your God] Cf. Ezekiel 38:23; Ezekiel 39:6-7; Ezekiel 39:22; Ezekiel 39:28 : and comp. on Joel 2:27.
dwelling in Zion] Isaiah 8:18, &c.: synonymous with ‘in the midst of Israel,’ Joel 2:27.
and Jerusalem shall be holy, &c.] Cf. Nahum 1:15; Isaiah 52:1 b. Israel’s foes being annihilated, there will no more be any heathen to force their way into the holy city, and defile it.
strangers] members of an alien race, who have no share in Israel or its privileges, and who do not care for them. The word has often this sense, as Hosea 7:6; Jeremiah 30:8; Ezekiel 7:21; Ezekiel 11:9.
And it shall come to pass in that day, that the mountains shall drop down new wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the rivers of Judah shall flow with waters, and a fountain shall come forth of the house of the LORD, and shall water the valley of Shittim.18. in that day] In the era beginning immediately after the judgement on the nations. Cf. on Amos 9:11.
the mountains shall drop down sweet wine, and the hills shall flow with milk] A hyperbolical description of the fertility of the soil (cf. Job 29:6). The words are evidently based upon Amos 9:13 “The mountains shall cause sweet wine to drop down, and all the hills shall melt.” On “sweet wine,” see on Amos 9:13.
rivers] channels, as Joel 1:20. The streams will then no more dry up through a drought, as they had done recently (Joel 1:20).
and a fountain, &c.] A stream issuing forth from the Temple will water the “Wâdy of the Acacias,” which (from the context, as well as probably from the name) must have been some particularly dry and unfruitful Wâdy in Judah. The two parallel passages which ought in particular to be compared are Zechariah 14:8, where it is promised that ‘living’ (i.e. running) waters, flowing alike in summer and winter, shall come forth from Jerusalem in two streams, one going down into the Dead Sea, and the other into the Mediterranean Sea; and Ezekiel 47:1-12, where, in his vision of the territory of the restored people, the prophet sees waters issuing forth from under the Eastern threshold of the Temple, which gradually swelled into a deep stream descending into the Arábah, fertilizing the soil along its banks, and entering finally the Dead Sea, the waters of which it sweetened, enabling fish to live in them. Probably the thought of these passages was suggested by the “waters of Shiloah” (Isaiah 8:6 : cf. Psalm 46:4; John 9:7), which actually gushed out beneath the Temple hill in a perennial stream, fertilizing (as they do still) the parts of the Wâdy of the Kidron in their immediate neighbourhood, though not abundant enough to flow further; and the idea which the three prophets share in common is that these waters should be increased in volume to such an extent as to be capable of fertilizing effectually the barren parts of Judah, especially the Wâdy of the Kidron, the deep and rocky gorge which runs down from Jerusalem into the Dead Sea (see the next note).
the valley of Shittim] the Wâdy of Shittim (or of the Acacias). The word is quite a different one from that rendered ‘valley’ in Joel 3:2; Joel 3:12; Joel 3:14, and means a gorge between hills containing a watercourse, with or without water, as the case might be (see on Amos 5:24). What Wâdy is meant, is however uncertain. According to many, the reference is to the ‘Meadow of Shittim (or of the Acacias)’—part of the broad plain into which the Jordan-valley expands immediately before the river enters the Dead Sea, and now identified generally with the Ghôr es-Seisebân—which was the last camping-ground of the Israelites before they crossed the Jordan (Numbers 33:49; also called simply The Shittim, or The Acacias, ib. Numbers 25:1; Joshua 2:1 al.). But the depression through which the Jordan flows has a special name, the Arábah, and is never called a Wâdy (naḥal); and it is hardly likely that Joel would picture the stream as crossing the Jordan, and fertilizing the soil on the opposite side. Others, therefore (as Credner, Hitzig), prefer to think that the “Wâdy of the Acacias” was the Kidron-Wâdy itself, which starting (under the name Wâdy el-Jôz) a little N.W. of Jerusalem, bends round so as to run along the E. of the city, separating it from the Mount of Olives (cf. above on Joel 3:2), and then, as a deep, rocky gorge (now called, perhaps from the “furnace-like” heat of its lower stretches, the Wâdy en-Nâr or “the Wâdy of Fire”) runs down in a S.E. direction towards the Dead Sea, which it joins at about 10 miles from its N. end (see Plate iv. in G. A. Smith, Geogr.): though in winter-time there is sometimes water in the bed of this naḥal, it is in general quite dry, the soil is rocky, and it runs through the arid and desolate region known as the “wilderness of Judah” (cf. Smith, l.c. p. 511 f.). There is little doubt that this was the naḥal through which Ezekiel pictured the fertilizing waters as flowing, in his vision, ch. 47. For Acacias on the W. shore of the Dead Sea, see Tristram, Land of Isr., pp. 280, 295. Wellhausen thinks of the Wâdy on the S.W. of Jerusalem—usually identified with the Wâdy of Elah of 1 Samuel 17:2—which still bears the corresponding name, Wâdy es-Sunṭ (or Sanṭ): this forms part of the direct route from Jerusalem to Tell eṣ-Ṣâfiyeh (probably Gath), and Ashkelon (cf. G. A. Smith, Plate iv., and pp. 226 f.). The reason why Joel specifies the Wâdy of the Acacias is to be found, no doubt, in the fact that the Acacia (as Jerome, on Isaiah 41:17, already observes) grows in dry soil—it is abundant, for instance, in the peninsula of Sinai; and hence the name might well be given to an arid Wâdy, such as needed fertilizing. Comp. Revelation 22:1-2.
18–20. Israel’s final prosperity. After the judgement upon the nations, the land of Judah will be blessed with preternatural fertility, and will enjoy for ever undisturbed peace, while that of her foes will become a desolate waste.
Egypt shall be a desolation, and Edom shall be a desolate wilderness, for the violence against the children of Judah, because they have shed innocent blood in their land.19. The land of Judah’s foes, on the contrary, will become a barren waste. Egypt and Edom are mentioned, probably, as typical examples of countries hostile to Israel.
The threat in the case of Egypt is the more pointed, as it was in general well-irrigated by the waters of the Nile: it may have been perhaps suggested by Ezekiel 29:9; Ezekiel 29:12; Ezekiel 32:15.
a desolate wilderness] Joel 2:3.
because they have shed innocent blood in their land] The expression hardly points to blood shed in warfare, but rather to the sudden and unprovoked massacre of Jews who were settled and living peaceably in the two countries named, possibly at the time of a revolt.
But Judah shall dwell for ever, and Jerusalem from generation to generation.20. The prophet, continuing the thought of Joel 3:18, reverts again to the future lot of Judah.
shall sit for ever] i.e. remain inhabited. A city, or country, when it continues to flourish and be inhabited, is said in Heb., by a personification, to sit: so Isaiah 13:20 (A.V. be inhabited; in the parallel clause, lit. dwell [not be dwelt in]); Jeremiah 17:6; Jeremiah 17:25; Zechariah 9:5; Zechariah 12:6.
For I will cleanse their blood that I have not cleansed: for the LORD dwelleth in Zion.21. And I will hold as innocent (R.V. marg.) their blood which I have not held as innocent] By the desolation of Egypt and Edom, Jehovah will shew openly that the murdered Judahites (Joel 3:19 b) had suffered innocently. So long, namely, as He permitted their blood to remain unavenged, it might be supposed that they had not been slain unjustly: but by the punishment of the murderers (i.e. here, by the desolation of their country) Jehovah declares (implicitly), what He had not declared before, that their blood was innocent (Joel 3:19 b), and had been unjustly shed. Niḳḳâh, to hold or declare innocent (Exodus 20:7; Job 9:28 al.), is chosen on account of nâḳî’, innocent, in Joel 3:19.
and Jehovah dwelleth in Zion] and is here almost equivalent to as truly as: in corroboration of the promise made in the preceding clause, the prophet appeals to the indisputable truth that Jehovah’s dwelling-place is in Zion. So Hosea 12:5 “and (= as truly as) Jehovah is the God of Hosts, Jehovah is his memorial (= name).”