Matthew Poole's Commentary
For, behold, in those days, and in that time, when I shall bring again the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem,God’s judgments against the enemies of his people, Joel 3:1-17. His blessing upon the church, Joel 3:18-21.
Though our dividing this chapter from the former seems to some a beginning of some new matter, yet indeed the prophet prosecutes his old subject, and proceeds to declare how that great thing mentioned in the last verse of the second chapter should be effected, and in this verse you have a transition to that thing.
Behold: it is a note of great attention, and heeding what is to be here spoken.
When I shall bring again the captivity; when I shall by Cyrus the type bring Judah’s people out of Babylonish captivity, the emblem of a greater and worse captivity. Judah after the flesh as the type, but, according to the mystery of it, Judah signifieth the whole remnant or residue of those God will save.
Jerusalem, both literally and typically understood; so that beside what refers to the history of the two tribes, or kingdom of the house of David, restored out of captivity by Cyrus, the bringing back the captivity of the whole Israel of God by Christ the Messiah is here to be considered, and all along through this chapter.
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.I will also gather all nations: in the type, it is not simply all nations, but all those nations that have with hostile minds oppressed and scattered Judah; in the antitype, it is all nations that have been enemies to Christ and the church.
And will bring them down: this is spoken with respect to the low situation of the place, being a valley, and we descend into low parts; so here they are caused to go down
into the valley of Jehoshaphat: much difficulty interpreters find in explaining this; we must look to it as a type to somewhat signified by it, and so apply it. The valley of blessing where Jehoshaphat discomfited mighty and numerous enemies, and then triumphed in God with praises to him, 2 Chronicles 20:22, &c.: so the whole church may be this valley of blessing, and in this God will judge the enemies of his people, and give them occasions of praising God for his righteous judgments; and Jerusalem his church shall see this, as the inhabitants of Jerusalem might see what is done in the valley of Jehoshaphat, if they would be at a little pains to go out of the city.
Will plead with them; after the manner of a just and impartial judge I will debate my people’s cause, and do them right.
There; in midst of my church, signified by the valley of Jehoshaphat, the valley of the judgment of God.
For my people; Judah, the two tribes, but, as in their history, bearing a type of the church of Christ.
For my heritage Israel; purchased and possessed by me ever since they were brought out of Egypt; though many times invaded and injured by their unjust neighbours, who were so much their enemies because they were my peculiar people, and kept to my worship.
Whom they have scattered among the nations; either by force driving them out of their habitations, or else carrying them into captivity, and dispersing them in their insolent humour, of which dispersion more follows, Joel 3:3,6,8.
And parted my land; divided among themselves the land I gave to my people to hold immediately of me; so it was my land that they divided, their robbery and spoil was sacrilege. Such is the injustice and oppression of persecutors of the church now, and so God will judge them in due time.
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.It was customary with conquerors to divide the captives by lot, and so did these enemies of the Jews, Ob 11; and so did the Chaldeans on the captive Ninevites, Nahum 3:10: though this was grievous, yet it was the common lot of captives.
Have given a boy for an harlot; either procured a boy to bestow on some harlot or other which they kept, or gave a boy, instead of money, the price of an harlot to be enjoyed by lewd soldiers.
And sold a girl; a young girl, which, being captive, fell to their lot, they have valued at a base, low price, and sold
for wine, that they might drink; so much as at one sitting one of them could drink; or perhaps for one draught of wine, when the barbarous soldier was dry or minded to be 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;What have ye to do with me? what just cause of quarrel have you against me? Have I done you any wrong which now you avenge upon my people? or do you begin to violate the law of neighbourhood and friendship, and think to escape? Do ye think you have to do with a poor oppressed people, my people, and I nothing concerned at it?
Tyre, a great mart town, which neighbour to the Jews, and ought to be friends, either joined forces with the enemy against them, or, retaining friendship with the enemy, bought the Jews for slaves, and sold them again to strangers, to Grecians: this, in his man trade, Tyre was accustomed to, Ezekiel 27:13.
Zidon, a famous ancient emporium, whose merchants also bought up captive Jews at cheap rates of these barbarous soldiers.
All the coasts of Palestine, which lay along the midland sea, among which were towns of trade, and merchants that bought and sold these captives.
Will ye render me a recompence? Do ye this by way of reprisal? Have I or my people so dealt with you or yours?
Speedily will I return your recompence upon your own head; I will, since you deal so with my people, and with me, certainly and speedily avenge myself and my people on you; as you have used them they shall use you. It is probable this may refer to the Assyrian invasion, when Sennacherib took all the fenced cities of Judah, and might sell the captives, or to Shalmaneser’s time’, when he captured the ten tribes; or it may be a prediction of what Tyre, and Zidon, and these cities of Palestine would do in the Babylonish successes, and a threat what God would do against them for it; but to whatever particular history it refer, who sees not this in it, that God will plead the cause of his oppressed church, and avenge it as his own cause?
Because ye have taken my silver and my gold, and have carried into your temples my goodly pleasant things:Ye have taken; you Tyrians, Zidonians, and Philistines have received at the hands of those you confederated with, you have taken them either as part of the spoil, or as part of your pay.
My silver and my gold; silver and gold vessels dedicated to my service in the temple, and about the altar.
And have carried into your temples; and in contempt of me, with proud insulting, have presented them in your temples to your idols, as if they were mightier and more glorious than I: so did the Philistines carry the ark into Dagon’s temple, but it cost Dagon his head, 1 Samuel 5:4; and Nebuchadnezzar carried away the sacred vessels when he spoiled the temple.
My goodly pleasant things; God speaks of these after the manner of man, and so accounteth of these things.
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.The children also of Judah, the Jews who dwelt in the land, and the children of Jerusalem, the citizens of Jerusalem; or perhaps the young ones, boys and girls, as Joel 3:3, both of city and country.
Ye; Tyrians, Zidonians, and Philistines, though neighbours, and oftentimes befriended by the Jews, yet you have done this.
Sold unto the Grecians; or sons of Grecians, who either employed them as slaves in Greece, or else sold them to other nations for slaves.
That ye might remove them far from their border; that there might be no hope to these poor captives ever to return to their country, nor fear to the Tyrians and Zidonians of being called to account for the injury by them it was done unto. Amos 1:6,9, mentions this sin of the Philistines, and God’s displeasure at it.
Behold, I will raise them out of the place whither ye have sold them, and will return your recompence upon your own head:Behold; observe it well, for as it will be strange when done, so it shall certainly be done, to your joy, O my people, and to the astonishment of your enemies.
I will raise them; awaken and raise them; though they lay sleeping, or as dead men, I will stir up some who shall befriend them. Out of the place whither ye have sold them; fulfilled when Alexander the Great and his successors, as Josephus, lib. 13. cap. 5, reports, dismissed all Jews that were slaves in Greece, and gave them leave to return to their own country.
And will return your recompence upon your own head; and more than this, I will pay you in your own coin, you shall read and know your sin in your punishment.
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.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.
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:Proclaim; publish, or make known, as by sound of trumpet: some say it is an irony; I rather think it is a declaration of what is to come to pass through some ages before the coming of the Messiah, as will appear probable from what followeth.
This; or these things, which I am purposed to do in retaliating to the enemies of my people; proclaim wars which may make captives for sale under the hand of my people.
Among the Gentiles; the Assyrians, Chaldeans, Babylonians, and Grecians successively. Prepare war; make ready for wars against the enemies of my people, who shall by these be corrected, but their enemies at last shall be destroyed.
Wake up the mighty men; the valiant men, who dare attempt any thing, and are of great strength to execute what they attempt.
Let all the men of war draw near; all the captains, and experienced soldiers, let them appear at the rendezvous.
Let them come up; when marshalled, let them march up on their design, toward the seat of the war, which will now for many ages be in or about the valley of vision, the church, the valley of judgment from the Lord.
Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruninghooks into spears: let the weak say, I am strong.Beat your ploughshares into swords: here is a prediction of war, and such as should continue, with some intermissions, through many years; as, on the contrary, when swords were to be beaten into ploughshares, and spears into pruning-hooks, it was a prediction of peace, Isaiah 2:4: lay aside your husbandry in ploughing and sowing.
And your pruning-hooks into spears; and let gardeners, vinedressers, and planters think of getting spears instead of pruning-hooks.
Let the weak, either of body, through sickness or natural weakness, or else weak of mind, fearful and cowardly, say,
I am strong: put on strength and valour greater than he hath, let none be absent from this war.
Assemble yourselves, and come, all ye heathen, and gather yourselves together round about: thither cause thy mighty ones to come down, O LORD.Assemble yourselves; the war proclaimed, Joel 3:9, pro vision made, Joel 3:10, now hasten to the general rendezvous; embody yourselves as you march, and hasten what you can, as the word imports.
Come all; not simply and in utmost latitude, but all that are here concerned.
Gather yourselves together round about; all round about Judea, the nations near about this valley of vision.
Thither, toward Judea and Jerusalem, the church and heritage of God, cause thy mighty ones to come down; direct and lead them by thy providence, that they may pitch their tents, or encamp there; let all thy mighty ones, whether enemies of thy church gathered against it, or friends of thy church, and gathered for its defence, let them all here encamp; or all those mighty warriors which thou wilt make use of successively to punish the proud oppressors of thy church; so the Chaldeans punished Assyria, Persians and Medes punished Babylon, Alexander punished the Persians, and the divided captains successors plagued one another with wars within sight, as it were, of Jerusalem and Judah.
O Lord; with which the prophet comforts himself and God’s people, intimating that all these mighty ones are under God’s conduct, and he is in the midst of them to save his own people.
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.Let the heathen; the several nations in their appointed time; and perhaps the Assyrians are first to awake and stir under Shalmaneser, next under Sennacherib, both which came up against this valley of Jehoshaphat.
Be wakened, by the sins and divisions of God’s own people, by their own ravenous and turbulent disposition, and by a secret hand of Providence.
And come up, in hostile manner, against the church and people of God, intended here by this valley: so Sennacherib did in Hezekiah’s time.
For there, in the midst of my people and church,
will I sit to judge, to plead with, condemn, and punish by the sword,
all the heathen round about; not all the world, but all the heathen round about Judea, which was oppressed by these heathens: there God judged Sennacherib by his own hand; there God punished the Egyptians by Nebuchadnezzar who defeated Necho; and within sight of the Jews were all the punishments God inflicted on the Assyrian, Babylonish, Persian, and Grecian monarchies executed; and God all this while in the midst of his people preserved them as a bush all in a flame, yet not consumed: so did the Lord lead his mighty ones, and limited their power.
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.Put ye in the sickle; ye mighty ones, ye men of war, executioners of Divine vengeance, begin to reap, cut down sinners ripe for judgment. Let Tiglath-pileser and his soldiers cut down Syria and its king Rezin, 2 Kings xvi., for their violence against my people; let Cyaxares and his armies begin to cut down Assyria, with Nineveh and its king, for their sins are ripe to judgment; let Nebuchadnezzar put in the sickle and cut down Moab, Aremen, Mount Seir, Egypt, Tyre, Zidon, and the Philistines; after this let Cyrus reap down the ripened Babylonians, and Alexander with his mighty ones reap down Medes and Persians, and let divided Grecian captains cut down one another, till the Romans cut them down. And when this is done, God will have mighty ones still to cut down his enemies, persecutors of his church, when the harvest is fully ripe, and till the final and universal judgment, wherein all God’s enemies shall for ever be destroyed.
For the harvest is ripe; the sins of those several nations are fully ripe.
In another metaphor the prophet declares the cutting off the church’s enemies. The press is full: as the grapegatherer cuts off the bunches and brings them into the press till it be full, and then they are trod; so here the enemies of God’s people, ripe in sin and brought together to be punished, are to be trodden in the wine-press of God’s displeasure. The fats overflow; a mighty execution is made, and the blood of slaughtered men runs as wine pressed out in greater abundance than the fats can hold from the press; verified in the slaughter made at the overthrow of the kingdoms here intended. For their wickedness is great; the violence and all manner of sins of these kingdoms is grown exceeding great.
Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision.Multitudes, multitudes; whether prediction or exclamation with wonder, it is doubled to intimate the mighty, numerous armies contending one against another, and thrashing each other, overthrowing numberless men between the conquered and conqueror. So each kingdom was overthrown successively. The Assyrian overthrown by Arbaces and Pul-belochus, conspiring against Sardanapalus, where the multitudes were so great that the blood of the slain is by Diodorus Siculus reported to have coloured the water of a river, and the number of the conspirators’ army before Nineveh is said to be four hundred thousand. After this we meet Sennacherib’s mighty hosts against Egypt and the Philistines, to neither of which could he march but either through part of Judea or very near to it, and after this he hath one hundred and eighty-five thousand slain in one night before Jerusalem; beside Necho’s army marching toward Carchemish, and Nebuchadnezzar’s army in pursuit of the routed Egyptian, and the armies of Alexander the Great, and after these the armies of the Seleucid and the Lagidee.
In the valley of decision; where God, having by wise providence gathered them, did by just determination of the victory decide their quarrels, and by the conqueror punished the conquered for their sins against God and his people.
The day of the Lord; the day of vengeance and righteous recompences upon enemies,
is near: if it begin in the punishment of Nineveh and the Assyrian kingdom, by the cutting off Sennacherib’s army, it was in Joel’s time, not above sixty-four years, supposing Joel prophesied in Jeroboam the Second’s time; and probably not quite twenty years to this day of the Lord if Joel prophesied this in Hezekiah’s time, or after the captivating of the ten tribes by Shalmaneser, which was A.M. 3283, and Sennacherib’s overthrow was 3294, eleven years after the deportation, as Archbishop Usher in his Annals.
The sun and the moon shall be darkened, and the stars shall withdraw their shining.See Joel 2:10. When God doth in the valley of decision punish any of the kingdoms which persecuted and oppressed his church, the punishment shall be so great as to darken the glory of such kingdoms, it shall be to the utter overthrow of those kingdoms and governments; and so it was effected on Babylon by the Mede and Persian; so on this by the Grecians, and on them by their intestine wars, and by the Romans at last on these and on the murderers of Messiah.
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.The Lord; who, Joel 2:27, is the Lord in the midst of Israel or in the midst of his church.
Shall roar; when he brings forth his mighty ones the men of war, and commands them to march out against his and his church’s enemies, he will strike the enemy with astonishment and fear, as the roaring of the lion doth astonish the weaker beasts of the forest. Fear shall surprise them when God shall speak against them.
Out of Zion; the place where God chooseth to dwell, emblem of his church, and of the kingdom of Christ.
And utter his voice, in wrath and indignation against those he will destroy, because they have destroyed his church.
From Jerusalem; typical, so God roared and uttered his voice against Sennacherib; mystical, so he hath often already, and still will further discover his displeasure against his enemies, and he will, as one who dwells in a place for the defence of it, rebuke and check those who assault it: so God dwells in his Jerusalem, as it is Joel 3:17.
The heavens; metaphorically the states and kingdoms, the great ones in those states.
The earth; the common sort of people, the inferior ranks of men; the foundations of those kingdoms shall be shaken and overthrown.
Shall shake, and fly as affrighted, so the word signifieth.
But the Lord; but at that time, and in the midst of all those commotions, the eternal and almighty God, who fills the enemy with fears and astonishment,
will be the hope; shall be the object of his people’s expectation, they shall look for good from him by all these troubles: and so God was to his after their return out of captivity, through the Medo-Persian reign, through the Grecian rule under Alexander, and under the times of Alexander’s successors.
Of his people; of them that believe his word and obey his law.
And the strength, strong defence and fortress, to his, here called the children of Israel, those that are Israelites indeed.
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.So, by these effects of my presence with my people, by my anger against their enemies, by punishing them by each other, overthrowing oppressors, by fulfilling what is foretold, shall ye, ye that suffer for my sake, but hope in my word, and support yourselves on my strength,
know, by most comfortable and unquestionable experience,
that I am the Lord your God; that I have remembered my covenant for you, and acted according to the power and mercy of an almighty and all-gracious God.
Dwelling in Zion; very graciously present with you, and ever watching over you, and delighting to save you, as a man would do his dwellinghouse.
My holy mountain; which is chosen and separated from all others to be the place of his habitation, as Psalm 2:6, which he loves above all places.
Then, after these things are finished, when enemies are destroyed, and the remnant is saved, and the Messiah is come, (for to him and his days do these things finally and ultimately refer,) and the gospel is preached,
shall Jerusalem, the church of Christ, the spiritual Jerusalem,
be holy; be much more holy and pure than now, being made so by the word and Spirit, and afflictions too.
There shall no strangers pass through her any more; no profane and unclean persons shall pass through it as formerly, and bring their strange fashions, rites, worship, or doctrine; though they have done it formerly, as in Solomon’s days, and Ahaz’s and Manasseh’s time, they shall do so no more for ever.
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.In that day; when afflictions, amidst which they were preserved, from which delivered, and by which they were purified.
The mountains; the vines planted upon the mountains, which were dried up, Joel 1:12, shall now be full of juice and fruit.
Shall drop down, shall come down as the showers or dew, sweetly and plentifully, new wine; sweet and delicious.
The hills shall flow with milk; so fruitful shall the hills be, and keep so many cows, sheep, and goats, that milk shall abound every where, as it were a current that ever runs down.
All the rivers of Judah shall flow with waters: in the great drought rivers dried up, now the rivers shall be full of water and ever flow.
A fountain: the prophet alludes to those waters which were conveyed from some spring through conduit pipes towards the altar, of which Ezekiel 47:1-5, for the use of the temple, in which water the priests washed what was to be washed. This no doubt is a shadow of the purifying blood of Christ, and his sanctifying Spirit and word. And in that it is said to
come from the house of the Lord, it intimateth that these glad tidings, this saving grace, shall be first preached from Jerusalem, and by the church, which is the house of God, shall be published to others.
Shall water, refresh, purge, and make fruitful in all holy works,
the valley of Shittim; it was a place in the plains of Moab, on the borders of Israel towards the south-east, Numbers 33:49 Joshua 3:1, not far from the Dead Sea. These spiritual waters shall flow down to the dry and thirsty, the barren and fruitless Gentiles, and make them fruitful.
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.Egypt: it was in Egypt that the people of God were long kept in bondage, which defiled Israel too with its idolatries, contrived the ruin of Israel by a barbarous and unparalleled cruelty, murdering all the new-born males, and with utmost obstinacy resisted the deliverer who came to fetch Israel out of bondage. By Egypt understand we then all the enemies of the church of Christ, who carry it toward the church as Egypt carried it toward Israel. Shall be a desolation; most desolate, when God shall judge and punish; so shall spiritual Egypt, Revelation 11:8.
Edom; the posterity of Esau, of near kin to Israel according to the flesh, whose first father envied Jacob the blessing and vowed his death, and made him flee from his father’s house and become a servant in a strange land, and was the first who denied Israel a friendly passage and the common civility of necessaries for their money, and came out in hostile manner to fight them, Numbers 20:18, &c. It was Edom of whom you read in Obadiah, a most bloody, implacable enemy to Judah in his greatest distress. And all who come under Edom’s character are here intended, and threatened under this name.
Shall be a desolate wilderness; most desolate, and which art cannot repair; desolate houses or vineyards may, but wildernesses cannot, by art be repaired.
The children of Judah; the people of God, his churches.
They have shed innocent blood in their land; where distressed Jews should have found safety, they met their death; in Egypt and Judea.
But Judah shall dwell for ever, and Jerusalem from generation to generation.But and or yet
Judah the chosen peculiar redeemed of the Lord, his church.
shall dwell for ever; no more be captivated and driven from home, but in their own land and houses abide safely and perpetually. This typifieth the eternal peace and rest to which God’s people are redeemed.
Jerusalem; city of God. From generation to generation; through many generations on earth, through eternity in heaven. Some shadow of this possibly we may find in the days of the Maccabees, but the fulness of this we expect when that day, great, dreadful, and finally decisive day, to which interpreters refer this chapter, shall destroy all the wicked and put the godly into possession of eternal mansions of glory.
For I will cleanse their blood that I have not cleansed: for the LORD dwelleth in Zion.For, Heb. And.
Cleanse; purge away, both by the Spirit of sanctification, and by free pardon in the blood of the Redeemer; by their sufferings also, by the waters of affliction, as well as by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost.
Their blood; their moral pollutions and sinfulness, compared here unto blood, as also Ezekiel 16:6,9; and so men in sinful state are called flesh and blood, Matthew 16:17 Galatians 1:16. God will pardon and purify believers, and when they are pardoned and purified, nothing attempted against them shall succeed. That I have not cleansed; which before I had not taken away; what was wanting in their sanctification, or justification and reconciliation, I will make up in them and to them.
For the Lord dwelleth in Zion; and I am Jehovah dwelling in Zion, whence the law of grace was published, where the wonders of pardoning and sanctifying grace are wrought, that Israel might be a people with whom the holy God might dwell. Now whereas this can be done but in part here on earth, there is a Zion above, whither Jehovah who dwells there will take every saint after the day of judgment, having first vindicated, acquitted, and pronounced them holy and meet for enjoyment of the Holy One.