Joel 3

1 Joel indicates he is about to give more details about the time span he has been describing. However, since the time has not been distinctly dated, there is much speculation about it. Some feel that these words refer to battles that have already occurred. Others feel that this refers to the time when the Jews returned from captivity in Babylon. Some write that it refers to the church age from the Gospels to revelation. Still others see it as a long time encompassing all forms of national redemption from the time of this prophecy onward. It is clear that Judah would be restored. Whether this was after the time of Babylonian captivity, the Maccabees revolt, or the restoration of Israel after the Dispersion is unclear.
2 At that time, God will gather all the nations in the "Valley of Jehoshaphat" and judge them there. There has not been a valley with this name, but several have suggested that a valley might form between Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives at Christ's second coming in accordance with Zec 14:2-4. This new valley might displace the Kidron Valley or appear beside it. It is interesting to note that the Atlas of Israel shows several fault lines just to the south of Jerusalem.

The name for this valley literally means "Valley Where Yahweh Judges." In this verse, God indicates that He will plead Israel's case against them. The specific crimes they will be convicted of include scattering the Israelites and dividing the land that He had given them as an inheritance. The unspoken incitement is that they did all this without reverence to God, since there are specific cases where He did send Gentile armies against Israel to punish the nation when it had strayed from God's ways.

3 The invaders treated the Israelites with no respect. As slaves, they were either divided by lot or used in the place of currency during gambling games. They were used in bartering and the children were considered of no greater value than to attain a night's stay with a prostitute or a jug of wine. God does not tolerate such humiliation of people, and much less so for His Chosen.
4 God specifically names the Philistine nation and the Phoenician cities of Tyre and Sidon as offenders. Throughout the Scriptures, the Philistines apparently attacked Israel more frequently and ruled over them longer than any other people group. Israel's victories against them were rare. Perhaps what is hinted at here is "national memory." The Philistines would remember how Israel defeated them and wanted to avenge those defeats with more harsh victories. In addition, Israel usually credited God with their victories. It is not hard to imagine that the Philistines had in mind to attack Israel and, indirectly, the God in whom they did not believe in order to defeat both of them in their own minds.

Despite the good relationship Tyre had with Israel during the time of Solomon, their ruthless behavior on other occasions aroused God's anger enough to curse them (e.g., Ezek 26-28). Both Tyre and Sidon would join with other nations to attack and take advantage of Israel. Both cities had great pride, and especially so for Tyre once it became greater than its parent city, Sidon. The Ezekiel passage indicates that one of Tyre's king had ascribed god-like status to himself, demonstrating the unfettered pride that so offends God. The book of Kings specifically records the spiritual crimes of the Sidonian princess, Jezebel, who infected the Northern Kingdom of Israel with paganism and attempted to destroy the worship of the one true God. The actions and attitudes of these two cities would bring the wrath of God against them.

5 The Phoenicians and Philistines are not recorded to have plundering the Temple, as the Chaldeans are later recorded to have done (2 Ki 24:13, Dan 5:2-3). Neither is it recorded that Israel felt compelled to pay a tribute, as they often did with Assyria (2 Ki 16:8, 2 Ki 18:15-16). Therefore, it appears that what is meant in this verse is Israel's wealth in general. During the many raids from these peoples over the centuries, they had essentially robbed Israel (2 Chr 21:16-17, 1 Sam 4-6). God specifically claims ownership of Israel's wealth (see Hag 2:8). The implication is that He specifically gave wealth to Israel so that they would be stewards of it. To rob Israel, then, was to rob God. To subsequently place these trophies of war in pagan temples to honor their own gods was tantamount to blasphemy (1 Sam 5:2-5).
6 The Philistines were much more inclined to war while the Phoenicians focused on trade, having the only large ports in the area. The Philistines would attack Israel, captured many people, and sell them to the Phoenicians. The Philistines hoped to weaken Israel by selling its inhabitants to far away countries. From Tyre and Sidon, they would be sold to the Ionians, Grecian colonists, who subsequently sold them into Greece. During this time, Greece had a high demand for slaves, and the women apparently appreciated having children slaves. It also appears that, historically, Israeli and Jewish slaves were both prized and favored.
7 Their plans would fail, though, because God would bring His people back from the distant lands. The tables would be turned, and the roles reversed.
8 God would make Judah the victors. The Philistine and Phoenician's children would be sold to distant nations. The Sabeans were an Arab people involved in trade. Several commentators note that this was fulfilled in the 4th century. "The people of Sidon were sold into slavery by Antiochus III in 345 B.C., while the citizens of Tyre and Gaza were enslaved by Alexander in 332 B.C." (Allen, The Books of Joel, Obadiah, Jonah and Micah, p. 114). It is assumed that Jews played a role in these transactions.
9 Joel proclaims a "holy war." All the nations who reject God and persecute His people are to be called together to fight against Him. They are to bring together all their dormant powers and all their soldiers near to God. They would "come up" to Him, probably in reference to His exalted position as God.
10 Even the farmers would be eager to join the battle. They would not be issued weapons by any of the rulers, but they would turn their agricultural tools into swords and spears. This is a reversal of Isa 2:4, which predicts that there will be no more wars when Christ rules. The weakest among the army would encourage himself by claiming to be strong. They will be deluded by their leaders into thinking they can defeat God.
11 This gathering of nations will surround and attack swiftly. In return, God will bring down His own soldiers, mighty warrior angels, to engage in battle.
12 Combining verses 2 and 9, God again calls for all the nations arrayed against Israel to "wake up" and come to the appointed place to face judgment.
13 Judgment Day is likened to a harvest; a metaphor that this agricultural society would be familiar with. God will allow evil in the world to reach its peak, and then mow down the offenders as one who bears a sickle reaps grain. Another picture used is that of a grape crusher treading on grapes in a vat during the grape harvest to make wine. In a like manner, God will trample down His enemies. The picture given in Rev 14:17-20 is even more graphic.
14 The multitude of God's enemies will gather in the Valley of Jehoshaphat, here also named the "valley of decision." Joel uses repetition to emphasize the large number of people as "crowds upon crowds." The soldiers in the army would be too many to count, and the tone of the wording indicates the general confusion and congestion in the gathering. The armies of the world will be arrayed to battle God, not knowing that their judgment was at hand. God will indeed appear at the battle to overthrow those in defiance of Him.
15 See Joel 2:10 and 31.
16 See Joel 2:10-11. God will manifest Himself in Jerusalem, retake His temple, and the city will become the "command center" for the final battle. To His enemies, God is a fearful and powerful opponent, but to His people, He is a safe place to dwell in. The antichrist will think he can conquer Israel, but God will protect it while defeating His opponents.
17 God then speaks to His people. After these events, there will be no doubt that He is "Yahweh God" (the I AM) living with us on Mount Zion, which is His special possession. His presence will make the place holy, and Jerusalem will remain holy because no stranger, no unbeliever, will ever set foot in the city, nor will foreigners ever conquer it again.
18 After the international battle, when God gains victory and undeniably reigns from Mount Zion, there will be abundance in Israel. Instead of laboring with difficultly and uncertainty, the mountains will easily produce a bounty of grapes from which new wine will be made. The flocks will be numerous and produce copious amounts of milk. Presently, the rivers flow low in the summers and the channels dry up in this arid region, but during this future time, all the waterways will remain full. A spring of water will gush out from the Temple and flow to the valley of Shittim (literally, the valley of acacias). The town of Shittim is located on the other side of the Jordan River from Jerusalem, so it is unlikely that this river would flow there unless geological changes take place. However, the Kidron Valley, as it runs towards the Dead Sea, passes through a region known for its acacia trees, which might be what this verse is referring to.
19 Egypt and Edom are given as two examples of Israel's enemies who would suffer desolation. Egypt is known mostly for the enslavement of Israel for centuries, but after the Exile, they also attacked them in the land of Canaan. Edom became notorious for helping Israel's various enemies and rejoicing whenever their "brothers" suffered. Although the immediate context seems to fit best with a discussion of the end times, many have pointed out that this prophecy has been essentially fulfilled already. Barnes has a lengthy article describing the political and agricultural collapse of Egypt from the time of the Persian invasion to the 20th century. Edom was also once apparently quite well off. Despite having little soil, they were able to produce agriculturally because of springs of water in the area. One of the trade routes went through Petra, bringing wealth into the city. After the Maccabees defeated them, the springs dried up and the trade route eventually ceased to exist. Thus, Edom is presently barren and Egypt, while still a large and politically active country, is a mere fraction of what it was in ancient times.
20 In contrast to Egypt and Edom, Judah would always be inhabited and Jerusalem will remain forever. Once God's kingdom is established, it will have no end (Isa 9:7).
21 Some translation render this verse is terms of God avenging any leftover sin of the opposing nations. However, the word used for "avenge" is actually "clean," and is often used to refer to acquittal, not vengeance.

Thus, Joel concludes by promising that God will clean away any remaining "blood" (probably referring to the sum of sins) that His people is guilty of. This falls in agreement with the forgiveness provided for those who believe in Christ. Jesus promised that those who confess their sins and believe in Him would escape condemnation (John 3:14-18). Jesus took the punishment that we deserved for our sins so that we could be made blameless in the eternal Kingdom (1 Pet 2:24).

The conclusion, then, is that despite Judah's broken relationship with God during Joel's time and the eventual destruction of their nation, they would find faith again, God will destroy their enemies, and He would establish His eternal kingdom for all His people.