Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
For, behold, in those days, and in that time, when I shall bring again the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem,III.
(1) That time.—The whole course of the events of the world is shown to lead up by Divine providence to the Great Day of the Lord, when “the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain, and the Lord shall be exalted.” Then will be “the times of the restitution of all things;” then will the people of God be brought out of captivity, and vengeance executed upon their enemies. This progress, with its final consummation, is the subject of the concluding lines of Joel’s prophecy.
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) The valley of Jehoshaphat.—Some fifty years before Joel prophesied the kingdom of Judah had been menaced by an imposing confederacy of hostile tribes. It was an occasion of great anxiety. A national fast was proclaimed, and after it Jehoshaphat engaged and completely routed the enemy in a valley in the wilderness of Tekoa. (See 2 Chronicles 20) The victory was an occasion of immense exultation, and seems to supply the imagery with which Joel describes the day of the Lord. The name of Jehoshaphat was at some period given to the Kedron Valley, but it is here used rather in its grammatical meaning as the scene of the Divine judgment, the words signifying “the valley where Jehovah judgeth.”
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) Cast lots . . .—The nations who oppressed and carried away the Jews treated them as chattels, cast lots for the possession of them as slaves, and purchased a night’s revelry or other indulgence with the captives they had taken.
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) What have ye to do with me?—Rather, What are ye to me? God, identifying Himself with His people, threatens retaliation upon their enemies for the wrongs they had inflicted upon them. Tyre and Zidon had oppressed the Jews in the time of the judges, and would do so again: the Philistines also were to the last the inveterate enemies of Israel; but in the end, could they measure strength with God?
Because ye have taken my silver and my gold, and have carried into your temples my goodly pleasant things:(5) My silver.—Mine, as being the property of my people, not as being dedicated to the service of the Temple. In the time of Jehoram, the Philistines and others had “carried away all the substance that was found in the king’s house” (2Chronicles 21:17).
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) Unto the Grecians.—Javan, the Hebrew name for Greece, is mentioned in Ezekiel as one of the representatives of the heathen nations who “traded (with Tyre) the persons of men and vessels in her market” (Ezekiel 27:13). The Grecian traffic in slaves was enormous.
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) I will sell your sons. . . .—The Philistines came under the power of Uzziah and Hezekiah, who may have sold them to the Sabeans on the Persian Gulf, by whom they would have been passed on to India. The Philistines were also sold in great numbers by the Grecian conquerors in the time of the Maccabees.
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) Prepare war . . .—Literally, sanctify war. It was to be taken up deliberately, and after due religious rites, according to the customs of the nations. They are thus challenged, or rather summoned, to a trial of strength with Jehovah at a typical “Armageddon.”
Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruninghooks into spears: let the weak say, I am strong.(10) Beat your plowshares . . .—When the contest was over, and the victory of the Lord achieved, Micah foresaw the reversal of this order: the weapons of offence were once more to resume their peaceful character. “They “—i.e., the nations—“shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Micah 4:3).
Assemble yourselves, and come, all ye heathen, and gather yourselves together round about: thither cause thy mighty ones to come down, O LORD.(11) Thy mighty ones—i.e., thy, because Jehovah had summoned them to take arms, as champions against Him in the final conflict.
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) Put ye in the sickle.—In the enthusiasm of his vision the prophet crowds together metaphors to intensify the description of the coming encounter between Jehovah and the enemies of His people. It is represented by the judgment seat, the harvest, and the vintage. The hour of judgment has arrived—Jehovah Himself is judge. The harvest-time, which is the end of the world, has come—let the angel-reapers put in their sickle. In the wine-press the grapes are gathered in—let the labourers hasten to press the juice out with their feet.
Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision.(14) Multitudes.—The command has gone forth; it is obeyed; and the prophet stands aghast at the vast multitudes assembling in the valley of decision, the place of judgment.
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) The Lord also shall roar . . .—This is the key-note of the prophecy of Amos, who opens his appeal with these words. The majestic roar of the lion is transferred to express victorious utterance of the Lord’s judgment: it is irresistible. As St. Paul wrote, “The Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God” (1Thessalonians 2:16). The temporal success of the Jews in their future conflict with their enemies is blended with the final triumph of the Lord in the judgment day.
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) No strangers pass through her.—Strangers signify the aliens who had hitherto oppressed. They are like the spots and wrinkles which would defile the bride—the Church of God.
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) The mountains shall drop down new wine.—The material prosperity depicted in these verses symbolises the glorious reign of Jehovah when the last enemy has been destroyed, and “God is all in all.”
A fountain shall come forth.—The spiritual fertilising power of the knowledge of the Lord is compared to the life-giving influence of a stream of water, which causes luxuriance to the trees on its banks. This imagery is exemplified by Ezekiel, who traces the course of the waters issuing from under the threshold of the house of the Lord (Ezekiel 47). (Comp. Zechariah 14:8; Revelation 22:1.)
The valley of Shittim.—Heb., acacias. Shittim, in the land of Moab, is symbolical of the barrenness and sterility of land where there is no water; of the dry places of the world, where there are trees lacking moisture: the heathen, to whom God is not known, shall yet become covered with the knowledge of the Lord.
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) Egypt shall be a desolation.—Egypt and Edom always excited feelings of abhorrence in the hearts of the Jews. The memory of the exile in Egypt was always fresh and keen; no retrospect of their past history could leave it out of account. And the national detestation of the false and cruel-hearted Idumæan kinsmen is recalled by Obadiah in his prophecy and touching record; as also in Psalms 137, as rendered in the Prayer Book, “Remember the children of Edom, O Lord, in the day of Jerusalem, how they said, Down with it, down with it, even to the ground.”
For I will cleanse their blood that I have not cleansed: for the LORD dwelleth in Zion.(21) I will cleanse . . .—The LXX. translate this sentence, “I will avenge their blood, and not leave it unavenged”—i.e., the “innocent blood” mentioned in Joel 3:19; but the promise seems rather to indicate, as in the English Version, the extension of God’s pardon to those hitherto unpardoned.
The Lord dwelleth in Zion—i.e., over a raging and swelling world, probably unconscious of Him, the Lord nevertheless reigns in the heavenly Jerusalem, and all His redeemed shall dwell securely under His eternal rule. “And the name of the city from that day shall be Jehovah Shammah, the LORD IS THERE (Ezekiel 48:35).