Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
For, behold, in those days, and in that time, when I shall bring again the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem,
Joe 3:1-21. God's Vengeance on Israel's Foes in the Valley of Jehoshaphat. His Blessing on the Church.
1. bring again the captivity—that is, reverse it. The Jews restrict this to the return from Babylon. Christians refer it to the coming of Christ. But the prophet comprises the whole redemption, beginning from the return out of Babylon, then continued from the first advent of Christ down to the last day (His second advent), when God will restore His Church to perfect felicity [Calvin].
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. Parallel to Zec 14:2, 3, 4, where the "Mount of Olives" answers to the "Valley of Jehoshaphat" here. The latter is called "the valley of blessing" (Berachah) (2Ch 20:26). It lies between Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives and has the Kedron flowing through it. As Jehoshaphat overthrew the confederate foes of Judah, namely, Ammon, Moab, &c. (Ps 83:6-8), in this valley, so God was to overthrow the Tyrians, Zidonians, Philistines, Edom, and Egypt, with a similar utter overthrow (Joe 3:4, 19). This has been long ago fulfilled; but the ultimate event shadowed forth herein is still future, when God shall specially interpose to destroy Jerusalem's last foes, of whom Tyre, Zidon, Edom, Egypt, and Philistia are the types. As "Jehoshaphat" means "the judgment of Jehovah," the valley of Jehoshaphat may be used as a general term for the theater of God's final judgments on Israel's foes, with an allusion to the judgment inflicted on them by Jehoshaphat. The definite mention of the Mount of Olives in Zec 14:4, and the fact that this was the scene of the ascension, makes it likely the same shall be the scene of Christ's coming again: compare "this same Jesus … shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven" (Ac 1:11).
all nations—namely, which have maltreated Judah.
plead with them—(Isa 66:16; Eze 38:22).
my heritage Israel—(De 32:9; Jer 10:16). Implying that the source of Judah's redemption is God's free love, wherewith He chose Israel as His peculiar heritage, and at the same time assuring them, when desponding because of trials, that He would plead their cause as His own, and as if He were injured in their person.
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 for my people—that is, divided among themselves My people as their captives by lot. Compare as to the distribution of captives by lot (Ob 11; Na 3:10).
given a boy for … harlot—Instead of paying a harlot for her prostitution in money, they gave her a Jewish captive boy as a slave.
girl for wine—So valueless did they regard a Jewish girl that they would sell her for a draught of wine.
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—Ye have no connection with Me (that is, with My people: God identifying Himself with Israel); I (that is, My people) have given you no cause of quarrel, why then do ye trouble Me (that is, My people)? (Compare the same phrase, Jos 22:24; Jud 11:12; 2Sa 16:10; Mt 8:29).
Tyre … Zidon … Palestine—(Am 1:6, 9).
if ye recompense me—If ye injure Me (My people), in revenge for fancied wrongs (Eze 25:15-17), I will requite you in your own coin swiftly and speedily.
Because ye have taken my silver and my gold, and have carried into your temples my goodly pleasant things:
5. my silver … my gold—that is, the gold and silver of My people. The Philistines and Arabians had carried off all the treasures of King Jehoram's house (2Ch 21:16, 17). Compare also 1Ki 15:18; 2Ki 12:18; 14:14, for the spoiling of the treasures of the temple and the king's palace in Judah by Syria. It was customary among the heathen to hang up in the idol temples some of the spoils of war as presents to their gods.
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. Grecians—literally, "Javanites," that is, the Ionians, a Greek colony on the coast of Asia Minor who were the first Greeks known to the Jews. The Greeks themselves, however, in their original descent came from Javan (Ge 10:2, 4). Probably the germ of Greek civilization in part came through the Jewish slaves imported into Greece from Ph�nicia by traffickers. Eze 27:13 mentions Javan and Tyre as trading in the persons of men.
far from their border—far from Judea; so that the captive Jews were cut off from all hope of return.
Behold, I will raise them out of the place whither ye have sold them, and will return your recompence upon your own head:
7. raise them—that is, I will rouse them. Neither sea nor distance will prevent My bringing them back. Alexander, and his successors, restored to liberty many Jews in bondage in Greece [Josephus, Antiquities, 13.5; Wars of the Jews, 3.9,2].
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. sell them to … Sabeans—The Persian Artaxerxes Mnemon and Darius Ochus, and chiefly the Greek Alexander, reduced the Ph�nician and Philistine powers. Thirty thousand Tyrians after the capture of Tyre by the last conqueror, and multitudes of Philistines on the taking of Gaza, were sold as slaves. The Jews are here said to do that which the God of Judah does in vindication of their wrong, namely, sell the Ph�nicians who sold them, to a people "far off," as was Greece, whither the Jews had been sold. The Sabeans at the most remote extremity of Arabia Felix are referred to (compare Jer 6:20; Mt 12:42).
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. The nations hostile to Israel are summoned by Jehovah to "come up" (this phrase is used because Jerusalem was on a hill) against Jerusalem, not that they may destroy it, but to be destroyed by the Lord (Eze 38:7-23; Zec 12:2-9; 14:2, 3).
Prepare war—literally, sanctify war: because the heathen always began war with religious ceremonies. The very phrase used of Babylon's preparations against Jerusalem (Jer 6:4) is now used of the final foes of Jerusalem. As Babylon was then desired by God to advance against her for her destruction, so now all her foes, of whom Babylon was the type, are desired to advance against her for their own destruction.
Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruninghooks into spears: let the weak say, I am strong.
10. Beat your ploughshares into swords—As the foes are desired to "beat their ploughshares into swords, and their pruning hooks into spears," that so they may perish in their unhallowed attack on Judah and Jerusalem, so these latter, and the nations converted to God by them, after the overthrow of the antichristian confederacy, shall, on the contrary, "beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks," when under Messiah's coming reign there shall be war no more (Isa 2:4; Ho 2:18; Mic 4:3).
let the weak say, I am strong—So universal shall be the rage of Israel's foes for invading her, that even the weak among them will fancy themselves strong enough to join the invading forces. Age and infirmity were ordinarily made valid excuses for exemption from service, but so mad shall be the fury of the world against God's people, that even the feeble will not desire to be exempted (compare Ps 2:1-3).
Assemble yourselves, and come, all ye heathen, and gather yourselves together round about: thither cause thy mighty ones to come down, O LORD.
11. Assemble—"Hasten" [Maurer].
thither—to the valley of Jehoshaphat.
thy mighty ones—the warriors who fancy themselves "mighty ones," but who are on that very spot to be overthrown by Jehovah [Maurer]. Compare "the mighty men" (Joe 3:9). Rather, Joel speaks of God's really "mighty ones" in contrast to the self-styled "mighty men" (Joe 3:9; Ps 103:20; Isa 13:3; compare Da 10:13). Auberlen remarks: One prophet supplements the other, for they all prophesied only "in part." What was obscure to one was revealed to the other; what is briefly described by one is more fully so by another. Daniel calls Antichrist a king, and dwells on his worldly conquests; John looks more to his spiritual tyranny, for which reason he adds a second beast, wearing the semblance of spirituality. Antichrist himself is described by Daniel. Isaiah (Isa 29:1-24), Joel (Joe 3:1-21) and Zechariah (Zec 12:1-14:21), describe his army of heathen followers coming up against Jerusalem, but not Antichrist himself.
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. See Joe 3:2.
judge all the heathen round about—that is, all the nations from all parts of the earth which have maltreated Israel; not merely, as Henderson supposes, the nations round about Jerusalem (compare Ps 110:6; Isa 2:4; Mic 4:3, 11-13; Zep 3:15-19; Zec 12:9; 14:3-11; Mal 4:1-3).
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. Direction to the ministers of vengeance to execute God's wrath, as the enemy's wickedness is come to its full maturity. God does not cut off the wicked at once, but waits till their guilt is at its full (so as to the Amorites' iniquity, Ge 15:16), to show forth His own long-suffering, and the justice of their doom who have so long abused it (Mt 13:27-30, 38, 40; Re 14:15-19). For the image of a harvest to be threshed, compare Jer 51:33; and a wine-press, Isa 63:3 and La 1:15.
Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision.
14. The prophet in vision seeing the immense array of nations congregating, exclaims, "Multitudes, multitudes!" a Hebraism for immense multitudes.
valley of decision—that is, the valley in which they are to meet their "determined doom." The same as "the valley of Jehoshaphat," that is, "the valley of judgment" (see on Joe 3:2). Compare Joe 3:12, "there will I sit to judge," which confirms English Version rather than Margin, "threshing." The repetition of "valley of decision" heightens the effect and pronounces the awful certainty of their doom.
The sun and the moon shall be darkened, and the stars shall withdraw their shining.
15. (See on Joe 2:10; Joe 2:30).
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. (Compare Eze 38:18-22). The victories of the Jews over their cruel foe Antiochus, under the Maccabees, may be a reference of this prophecy; but the ultimate reference is to the last Antichrist, of whom Antiochus was the type. Jerusalem being the central seat of the theocracy (Ps 132:13), it is from thence that Jehovah discomfits the foe.
roar—as a lion (Jer 25:30; Am 1:2; 3:8). Compare as to Jehovah's voice thundering, Ps 18:13; Hab 3:10, 11.
Lord … the hope of his people—or, "their refuge" (Ps 46:1).
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. shall ye know—experimentally by the proofs of favors which I shall vouchsafe to you. So "know" (Isa 60:16; Ho 2:20).
dwelling in Zion—as peculiarly your God.
holy … no strangers pass through—to attack, or to defile, the holy city (Isa 35:8; 52:1; Zec 14:21). Strangers, or Gentiles, shall come to Jerusalem, but it shall be in order to worship Jehovah there (Zec 14:16).
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. mountains … drop … wine—figurative for abundance of vines, which were cultivated in terraces of earth between the rocks on the sides of the hills of Palestine (Am 9:13).
hills … flow with milk—that is, they shall abound in flocks and herds yielding milk plentifully, through the richness of the pastures.
waters—the great desideratum for fertility in the parched East (Isa 30:25).
fountain … of … house of … Lord … water … valley of Shittim—The blessings, temporal and spiritual, issuing from Jehovah's house at Jerusalem, shall extend even to Shittim, on the border between Moab and Israel, beyond Jordan (Nu 25:1; 33:49; Jos 2:1; Mic 6:5). "Shittim" means "acacias," which grow only in arid regions: implying that even the arid desert shall be fertilized by the blessing from Jerusalem. So Eze 47:1-12 describes the waters issuing from the threshold of the house as flowing into the Dead Sea, and purifying it. Also in Zec 14:8 the waters flow on one side into the Mediterranean, on the other side into the Dead Sea, near which latter Shittim was situated (compare Ps 46:4; Re 22:1).
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. Edom—It was subjugated by David, but revolted under Jehoram (2Ch 21:8-10); and at every subsequent opportunity tried to injure Judah. Egypt under Shishak spoiled Jerusalem under Rehoboam of the treasures of the temple and the king's house; subsequently to the captivity, it inflicted under the Ptolemies various injuries on Judea. Antiochus spoiled Egypt (Da 11:40-43). Edom was made "desolate" under the Maccabees [Josephus, Antiquities, 12.11,12]. The low condition of the two countries for centuries proves the truth of the prediction (compare Isa 19:1, &c.; Jer 49:17; Ob 10). So shall fare all the foes of Israel, typified by these two (Isa 63:1, &c.).
But Judah shall dwell for ever, and Jerusalem from generation to generation.
20. dwell for ever—(Am 9:15), that is, be established as a flourishing state.
For I will cleanse their blood that I have not cleansed: for the LORD dwelleth in Zion.
21. cleanse … blood … not cleansed—I will purge away from Judah the extreme guilt (represented by "blood," the shedding of which was the climax of her sin, Isa 1:15) which was for long not purged away, but visited with judgments (Isa 4:4). Messiah saves from guilt, in order to save from punishment (Mt 1:21).