Joel 3:8
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.
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(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.

3:1-8 The restoration of the Jews, and the final victory of true religion over all opposers, appear to be here foretold. The contempt and scorn with which the Jews have often been treated as a people, and the little value set upon them, are noticed. None ever hardened his heart against God or his church, and prospered long.I will sell your sons - God Himself would reverse the injustice of people. The sons of Zion should be restored, the sons of the Phoenicians and of the Philistines sold into distant captivity. Tyre was taken by Nebuchadnezzar, and then by Alexander, who sold "more than 13,000" of the inhabitants into slavery ; Sidon was taken and destroyed by Artaxerxes Ochus, and it is said, above 40,000 of its inhabitants perished in the flames . The like befell the Philistines (see the notes at Zephaniah 2:4-7). The Sabaeans are probably instanced, as being the remotest nation in the opposite direction, a nation, probably, the partner of Tyre's traffic in people, as well as in their other merchandise, and who (as is the way of unregenerate nature) would as soon trade in Tyrians, as with Tyrians. The Sabaeans were like the Phoenicians, a wealthy merchant people, and, of old, united with them in the trade of the world, the Sabaeans sending forth their fleets across the Indian Ocean, as the Tyrians along the Mediterranean. Three fathers of distinct races bore the name Sheba; one, a descendant of Ham, the other two, descended from Shem. The Hamite Sheba was the son of Raamah, the son of Cush Genesis 10:7, and doubtless dwelt of old in the country on the Persian gulf called by the name Raamah . Traces of the name Sheba occur there, and some even after our era . The Shemite Sabaeans, were, some descendants of Sheba, the tenth son of Joktan Genesis 10:28; the others from Sheba, the son of Abraham and Keturah Genesis 25:3. The Sabaeans, descended from Joktan, dwelt in the southwest extremity of Arabia, extending from the Red Sea to the Sea of Babel-mandeb. The country is still called "ard-es-Seba" , "land of Saba;" and Saba is often mentioned by Arabic writers .

To the Greeks and Latins they were known by the name of one division of the race (Himyar) Homeritae. Their descendants still speak an Arabic, acknowledged by the learned Arabs to be a distinct language from that which, through Muhammed, prevailed and was diffused ; a "species" of Arabic which they attribute "to the times of (the prophet) Hud (perhaps Eber) and those before him."

It belonged to them as descendants of Joktan. Sabaeans are mentioned, distinct from both of these, as "dwelling in Arabia Felix, next beyond Syria, which they frequently invaded, before it belonged to the Romans." These Sabaeans probably are those spoken of as marauders by Job ; and may have been descendants of Keturah. Those best known to the Greeks and Romans were, naturally, those in the south western corner of Arabia. The account of their riches and luxuries is detailed, and, although from different authorities consistent; else, almost fabulous.

One metropolis is said to have had 65 temples , private individuals had more than kingly magnificence . Arabic historians expanded into fable the extent and prerogatives of their Paradise lands, before the breaking of the artificial dike, made for the irrigation of their country . They traded with India, availing themselves doubtless of the Monsoon, and perhaps brought thence their gold, if not also the best and most costly frankincense . The Sheba of the prophet appears to have been the wealthy Sheba near the Red Sea. Indeed, in absence of evidence to the contrary, it is natural to understand the name of those best known.

Solomon unites it with Seba Psalm 72:10, (the Aethiopian Sabae.) The known frankincense-districts are on the southwest corner of Arabia . The tree has diminished, perhaps has degenerated through the neglect consequent on Muslim oppression, diminished consumption, change of the line of commerce; but it still survives in those districts ; a relic of what is passed away. Ezekiel indeed unites "the merchants of Sheba and Raamah" Ezekiel 27:22, as trading with Tyre. "The merchants of Sheba and Raamah, they were thy merchants; with the chief of all spices and with all precious stones and gold they occupied in thy fairs." It may be that he joins them together as kindred tribes yet it is as probable that he unites the two great channels of merchandise, east and west, Raamah on the Persian Gulf, and Sheba near the Red Sea. Having just mentioned the produce of Northern Arabia as poured into Tyre, he would, in this case, enumerate north, east, and west of Arabia as combined to enrich her.

Agatharcides unites the Sabaeans of southwest Arabia with the Gerrhaeans, who were certainly on the Persian Gulf . "No people," he says , "is apparently richer than the Sabaeans and Gerrhaeans, who dispense forth everything worth speaking of from Asia and Europe. These made the Syria of Ptolemy full of gold. These supplied the industry of the Phoenicians with profitable imports, not to mention countless other proofs of wealth." Their caravans went to Elymais, Carmania; Charrae was their emporium; they returned to Gabala and Phoenicia . Wealth is the parent of luxury and effeminacy. At the time of our Lord's Coming, the softness and effeminacy of the Sabaeans became proverbial. The "soft Sabaeans" is their characteristic in the Roman poets . Commerce, navigation, goldmines, being then carried on by means of slaves, and wealth and luxury at that time always demanding domestic slaves, the Sabaeans had need of slaves for both. They too had distant colonies , where the Tyrians could be transported, as far from Phoenicia, as the shores of the Aegean are from Palestine. The great law of divine justice, "as I have done, so God hath requited me" Judges 1:7, was again fulfilled. It is a sacred proverb of God's overruling Providence, written in the history of the world and in people's consciences.

8. sell them to … Sabeans—The Persian Artaxerxes Mnemon and Darius Ochus, and chiefly the Greek Alexander, reduced the Phœnician 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 Phœnicians 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). I will sell your sons and your daughters; give them up into the hands of the Jews, who thereby shall have opportunities of disposing of them as they see good; so you did with my people, so I will recompense you.

Into the hand of the children of Judah; to the Jews, the posterity and kindred of those you sold.

They shall sell them; either as factors for Nebuchadnezzar or Alexander the Great and his successors, or else as merchants trading on their own account, they shall make this one part of their trade, to sell Grecians, Tyrians, &c. Now though we should not have any particular history that relates the transactions of those people in this kind, yet we may rest assured it was done, since God said it should be done; nor can we expect, or is it necessary it should be, that the Jews should by a conquest of these people bring them captives, and sell them: the Zidonians, Tyrians, and Philistines did not so against the Jews, but they bought particular persons out of the hands of Syrians and Assyrians, who took the Jews captives; so when Tyre, and Zidon, and the Philistines shall be captivated by the Babylonish power, or by the Grecian, these shall sell their captives either into the hands or by the hands of the Jews.

Sabeans were a people in the parts of Arabia most remote from Tyre and Zidon; they were accounted the ends of the earth, Matthew 12:42, and spread themselves along by the sea-coast on both sides of the Arabian bay or Red Sea, and passed over that sea, and planted in Africa, and were part of that country which now doth, or lately did belong to the emperor of Abyssinia, who (as the king of Spain in both Indies) glorieth in being king of both Sabeas, and successor to the queen of Sheba; to one or both of these Sabeans did the Jewish men-sellers dispose of those slaves.

To a people far off: this may be an elliptic speech, thus to be filled up, and the Sabeans shall sell them (i.e. whom they bought of the Jews) unto another nation far off from the Sabeans; or else it is an additional description of this people and their country,

For the Lord hath spoken it; then it was done, whether we know when, or by whom, or how many were sold, or not.

And I will sell your sons and your daughters into the hand of the children of Judah,.... That is, deliver them into their hands, to dispose of them; this is thought to have been literally fulfilled in the Tyrians, when thirty thousand (g) of them were sold for slaves, upon the taking of their city by Alexander, who put some of them into the hands of the Jews, they being in friendship with him: it mystically designs the power that the Jewish church, converted, and in union with Gentile Christians, will have over the antichristian states:

and they shall sell them to the Sabeans, to a people far off; the inhabitants of Sheba, a country by the Jews reckoned the uttermost parts of the earth; see Matthew 12:42. These are not the same with the Sabeans, the inhabitants of Arabia Deserts, that took away Job's oxen and asses; but rather those who were the inhabitants of Arabia Felix, which lay at a greater distance. So Strabo (h) says, the Sabeans inhabited Arabia Felix; and Diodorus Siculus (i) reckons the Sabeans as very populous, and one of the Arabian nations, who inhabited that Arabia which is called Felix, the metropolis of which is Saba; and he, as well as Strabo, observes, that this country produces many odoriferous plants, as cassia, cinnamon, frankincense, and calamus, or the sweet cane; hence incense is said to come "from Sheba, and the sweet cane from a far country", Jeremiah 6:20; and since the Jews traded with these people for those spices, it is easy to conceive how they sold their captives to them: now these lived at a great distance, in the extreme parts of Arabia, both towards the Indian sea and the Arabian gulf. And Diodorus Siculus (k) observes, that , because of the distance of their situation, they never came into the power or under the dominion of any, or were never subdued. These seem to be the descendants of Cush, the son, of Ham; and if they were the descendants of Joktan, the son of Shem, as some think, these are placed by Vitringa (l) in Carmania; and where Pliny (m) makes mention of a city called Sabe, and of the river Sabis; and it is worthy of notice that the ancient Greek fathers (n), with one consent, interpret the Sabeans of the Saracens: and whether they may not design the Turks, in whose possession this country now is, and into whose hands the antichristian powers may be delivered by means of the Christians, both Jews and Gentiles, may be considered;

for the Lord hath spoken it; and therefore it shall be accomplished. The Targum is,

"for by the word of the Lord it is so decreed;''

whose counsels and decrees can never be frustrated. This, in an ancient book of the Jews called Mechilta, is referred to the prophecy of Noah concerning Canaan, whose sons inhabited Tyre, "a servant of servants shall he be to his brethren", Genesis 9:25, as Jarchi observes.

(g) Arriam. de Exped. Alexand. l. 2. c. 24. (h) Geograph. l. 16. p. 536. (i) Bibliothec. l. 3. p. 179, 180. (k) Ibid. p. 181. (l) Comment. in Jessiam, c. 43. 3.((m) Nat. Hist. l. 6. c. 23. (n) In Catena Graec. Patr. apud Spanhem. Hist. Jobi, c. 3. p. 47.

And I will sell your sons and your daughters into the hand of the children of Judah, and they {f} shall sell them to the Sabeans, to a people far off: for the LORD hath spoken it.

(f) For afterward God sold them by Nebuchadnezzar and Alexander the Great, because of the love he had for his people, and by this they were comforted, as though they themselves had sold them.

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[49][50] 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.

[49] .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.

[50] … 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.

Verse 8. - 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. The Hebrew expression does not mean "to sell by the hand of," as it is erroneously rendered by some; but "to sell into the hand," that is, to deliver over into the power of the children of Judah. The Sabeans were the inhabitants of Sheba, in Arabia Felix, a people actively engaged in trade, and related to the Pales-tinians in the south, as the Grecians in the north. They were a people as far off (or more so) in an easterly direction as the Greeks of Ionia in a westerly; and so Kimchi, "They were far off from their land more than the Javanites." "As the Tyrians sold Jewish prisoners to the maritime people of the far West, so the Jews should sell Tyrians to traders of the far East." The LXX., mistaking שבאים for the plural of שְׁבִי, translate the clause, "They shall sell them into captivity to a far-distant nation." If we are not to understand these predictions, with Hengstenberg, as an application of the general truth that God shall gather again the dispersed of Judah and the captives of Israel, we may find their fulfilment in such events as the following: the defeat of the Philistines by Uzziah, "when he went forth and warred against the Philistines, and brake down the wall of Gath, and the wall of Jabneh, and the wall of Ashdod, and built cities about Ashdod, and among the Philistines;" their defeat also by Hezekiah, when "he smote the Philistines even unto Gaza, and the borders thereof, from the tower of the watchman to the fenced city;" and the temporary subjection of portions of Palestinian and Phoenician territory to the Jews in Maccabean times, together with the siege and destruction of their cities, as narrated by the Jewish historian Josephus and in the First Book of Maccabees. We learn also from Diodorus that thirteen thousand captive Tyrians were sold into slavery after the victory of Alexander the Great. Joel 3:8In Joel 3:2 and Joel 3:3 Joel is speaking not of events belonging to his own time, or to the most recent past, but of that dispersion of the whole of the ancient covenant nation among the heathen, which was only completely effected on the conquest of Palestine and destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, and which continues to this day; though we cannot agree with Hengstenberg, that this furnishes an argument in favour of the allegorical interpretation of the army of locusts in ch. 1 and 2. For since Moses had already foretold that Israel would one day be driven out among the heathen (Leviticus 26:33.; Deuteronomy 28:36.), Joel might assume that this judgment was a truth well known in Israel, even though he had not expressed it in his threatening of punishment in ch. 1 and 2. Joe 3:3 depicts the ignominious treatment of Israel in connection with this catastrophe. The prisoners of war are distributed by lot among the conquerors, and disposed of by them to slave-dealers at most ridiculous prices, - a boy for a harlot, a girl for a drink of wine. Even in Joel's time, many Israelites may no doubt have been scattered about in distant heathen lands (cf. v. 5); but the heathen nations had not yet cast lots upon the nation as a whole, to dispose of the inhabitants as slaves, and divide the land among themselves. This was not done till the time of the Romans.

(Note: After the conquest and destruction of Jerusalem, Titus disposed of the prisoners, whose number reached 97,000 in the course of the war, in the following manner: Those under seventeen years of age were publicly sold; of the remainder, some were executed immediately, some sent away to work in the Egyptian mines, some kept for the public shows to fight with wild beasts in all the chief cities of Rome; and only the tallest and most handsome for the triumphal procession in Rome (compare Josephus, de bell. Jud. vi. 9, 2, 3). And the Jews who were taken prisoners in the Jewish war in the time of Hadrian, are said to have been sold in the slave-market at Hebron at so low a price, that four Jews were disposed of for a measure of barley. Even in the contests of the Ptolemaeans and Seleucidae for the possession of Palestine, thousands of Jews were sold as prisoners of war. Thus, for example, the Syrian commander Nicanor, in his expedition against the Jews in the Maccabaean war, sold by anticipation, in the commercial towns along the Mediterranean, such Jews as should be made prisoners, at the rate of ninety prisoners for one talent; whereupon 1000 slave-dealers accompanied the Syrian army, and carried fetters with them for the prisoners (1 Maccabees 3:41; 2 Maccabees 8:11, 25; Jos. Ant. xii. 7, 3).)

But, as many of the earlier commentators have clearly seen, we must not stop even at this. The people and inheritance of Jehovah are not merely the Old Testament Israel as such, but the church of the Lord of both the old and new covenants, upon which the Spirit of God is poured out; and the judgment which Jehovah will hold upon the nations, on account of the injuries inflicted upon His people, is the last general judgment upon the nations, which will embrace not merely the heathen Romans and other heathen nations by whom the Jews have been oppressed, but all the enemies of the people of God, both within and without the earthly limits of the church of the Lord, including even carnally-minded Jews, Mohammedans, and nominal Christians, who are heathens in heart.

(Note: As J. Marck correctly observes, after mentioning the neighbouring nations that were hostile to Judah, and then the Syrians and Romans: "We might proceed in the same way to all the enemies of the Christian church, from its very cradle to the end of time, such as carnal Jews, Gentile Romans, cruel Mohammedans, impious Papists, and any others who either have borne or yet will bear the punishment of their iniquity, according to the rule and measure of the restitution of the church, down to those enemies who shall yet remain at the coming of Christ, and be overthrown at the complete and final redemption of His church.")

Before depicting the final judgment upon the hostile nations of the world, Joel notices in Joel 3:4-8 the hostility which the nations round about Judah had manifested towards it in his own day, and foretels to these a righteous retribution for the crimes they had committed against the covenant nation. Joel 3:4. "And ye also, what would ye with me, O Tyre and Sidon, and all ye coasts of Philistia? will ye repay a doing to me, or do anything to me? Quickly, hastily will I turn back your doing upon your head. Joel 3:5. That ye have taken my silver and my gold, and have brought my best jewels into your temples. Joel 3:6. And the sons of Judah and the sons of Jerusalem ye have sold to the sons of Javan, to remove them far from their border. Joel 3:7. Behold, I waken them from the place whither ye have sold them, and turn back your doing upon your head. Joel 3:8. And sell your sons and your daughters into the hand of Javan, and they sell them to the Sabaeans, to a people far off; for Jehovah has spoken it." By vegam the Philistines and Phoenicians are added to the gōyim already mentioned, as being no less culpable than they; not, however, in the sense of, "and also if one would inquire more thoroughly into the fact" (Ewald), or, "and even so far as ye are concerned, who, in the place of the friendship and help which ye were bound to render as neighbours, have oppressed my people" (Rosenmller), for such additions as these are foreign to the context; but rather in this sense, "and yea also ... do not imagine that ye can do wrong with impunity, as though he had a right so to do." מה־אתּם לי does not mean, "What have I to do with you?" for this would be expressed differently (compare Joshua 22:24; Judges 11:12); but, "What would ye with me?" The question is unfinished, because of its emotional character, and is resumed and completed immediately afterwards in a disjunctive form (Hitzig). Tyre and Sidon, the two chief cities of the Phoenicians (see at Joshua 19:29 and Joshua 11:8), represent all the Phoenicians. כל גּלילות פל, "all the circles or districts of the Philistines," are the five small princedoms of Philistia (see at Joshua 13:2). גּמוּל, the doing, or inflicting (sc., of evil), from gâmal, to accomplish, to do (see at Isaiah 3:9). The disjunctive question, "Will ye perhaps repay to me a deed, i.e., a wrong, that I have done to you, or of your own accord attempt anything against me?" has a negative meaning: "Ye have neither cause to avenge yourselves upon me, i.e., upon my people Israel, nor any occasion to do it harm. But if repayment is the thing in hand, I will, and that very speedily (qal mehērâh, see Isaiah 5:26), bring back your doing upon your own head" (cf. Psalm 7:17). To explain what is here said, an account is given in Joel 3:5, Joel 3:6 of what they have done to the Lord and His people, - namely, taken away their gold and silver, and brought their costly treasures into their palaces or temples. These words are not to be restricted to the plundering of the temple and its treasury, but embrace the plundering of palaces and of the houses of the rich, which always followed the conquest of towns (cf. 1 Kings 14:26; 2 Kings 14:14). היכליכם also are not temples only, but palaces as well (cf. Isaiah 13:22; Amos 8:3; Proverbs 30:28). Joel had no doubt the plundering of Judah and Jerusalem by the Philistines and Arabians in the time of Jehoram in his mind (see 2 Chronicles 21:17). The share of the Phoenicians in this crime was confined to the fact, that they had purchased from the Philistines the Judaeans who had been taken prisoners, by them, and sold them again as salves to the sons of Javan, i.e., to the Ionians or Greeks of Asia Minor.

(Note: On the widespread slave-trade of the Phoenicians, see Movers, Phnizier, ii. 3, p. 70ff.)

The clause, "that ye might remove them far from their border," whence there would be no possibility of their returning to their native land, serves to bring out the magnitude of the crime. This would be repaid to them according to the true lex talionis (Joel 3:7, Joel 3:8). The Lord would raise up the members of His own nation from the place to which they had been sold, i.e., would bring them back again into their own land, and deliver up the Philistines and Phoenicians into the power of the Judaeans (mâkhar beyâd as in Judges 2:14; Judges 3:8, etc.), who would then sell their prisoners as slaves to the remote people of the Sabaeans, a celebrated trading people in Arabia Felix (see at 1 Kings 10:1). This threat would certainly be fulfilled, for Jehovah had spoken it (cf. Isaiah 1:20). This occurred partly on the defeat of the Philistines by Uzziah (2 Chronicles 26:6-7) and Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:8), where Philistian prisoners of war were certainly sold as slaves; but principally after the captivity, when Alexander the Great and his successors set many of the Jewish prisoners of war in their lands at liberty (compare the promise of King Demetrius to Jonathan, "I will send away in freedom such of the Judaeans as have been made prisoners, and reduced to slavery in our land," Josephus, Ant. xiii. 2, 3), and portions of the Philistian and Phoenician lands were for a time under Jewish sway; when Jonathan besieged Ashkelon and Gaza (1 Maccabees 10:86; 11:60); when King Alexander (Balas) ceded Ekron and the district of Judah (1 Maccabees 10:89); when the Jewish king Alexander Jannaeaus conquered Gaza, and destroyed it (Josephus, Ant. xiii. 13, 3; bell. Jud. i. 4, 2); and when, subsequent to the cession of Tyre, which had been conquered by Alexander the Great, to the Seleucidae, Antiochus the younger appointed Simon commander-in-chief from the Ladder of Tyre to the border of Egypt (1 Maccabees 1:59).

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