The Lord Plans to Judge the Nations
1 (4:1)#sn Joel 3:1 in the English Bible is 4:1 in the Hebrew text (BHS). See also the note at 2:28. For look! In those#tc The MT and LXX read “in those days,” while MurXII reads “in that day.” days and at that time
I will return the exiles#tc The Kethib reads אָשִׁיב (’ashiv, “return the captivity [captives]), while the Qere is אָשׁוּב (’ashuv, “restore the fortunes”). Many modern English versions follow the Qere reading. Either reading seems to fit the context. Joel refers to an exile of the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem in 3:2-6 and their return from exile in 3:7. On the other hand, 2:25-26 describes the reversal of judgment and restoration of the covenant blessings. However, the former seems to be the concern of the immediate context. to Judah and Jerusalem.#map For location see Map5-B1; Map6-F3; Map7-E2; Map8-F2; Map10-B3; JP1-F4; JP2-F4; JP3-F4; JP4-F4.
2 Then I will gather all the nations,
and bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat.#sn There is a play on words here. Jehoshaphat in Hebrew means “the Lord has judged,” and the next line in v. 2 further explicates this thought. The location of this valley is uncertain (cf. v. 12). Many interpreters have understood the Valley of Jehoshaphat to be the Kidron Valley, located on the east side of old Jerusalem. Since this is described as a scene of future messianic activity and judgment, many Jews and Muslims have desired to be buried in the vicinity, a fact attested to in modern times by the presence of many graves in the area. A variation of this view is mentioned by Eusebius, Onomasticon 1:10. According to this view, the Valley of Jehoshaphat is located in the Hinnom Valley, on the south side of the old city. Yet another view is held by many modern scholars, who understand the reference to this valley to be one of an idealized and nonliteral scene of judgment.
I will enter into judgment#tn Heb “I will execute judgment.” against them there
concerning my people Israel who are my inheritance,#tn Heb “concerning my people and my inheritance Israel.”
whom they scattered among the nations.
They partitioned my land,
3 and they cast lots for my people.
They traded#tn Heb “gave.” a boy for a prostitute;
they sold a little girl for wine so they could drink.#sn Heb “and they drank.” Joel vividly refers to a situation where innocent human life has little value; its only worth is its use in somehow satisfying selfish appetites of wicked people who have control over others (cf. Amos 2:6 and 8:6).
4 Why are you doing these things to me, Tyre and Sidon?#tn Heb “What [are] you [doing] to me, O Tyre and Sidon?”
Are you trying to get even with me, land of Philistia?#tn Or “districts.”
I will very quickly repay you for what you have done!#tn Heb “quickly, speedily, I will return your recompense on your head.” This is an idiom for retributive justice and an equitable reversal of situation.
5 For you took my silver and my gold
and brought my precious valuables to your own palaces.#tn Or perhaps, “temples.”
6 You sold Judeans and Jerusalemites to the Greeks,
removing them far from their own country.#tn Heb “border.”
7 Look! I am rousing them from that place to which you sold them.
I will repay you for what you have done!#tn Heb “I will return your recompense on your head.”
8 I will sell your sons and daughters to#tn Heb “into the hand of.” the people of Judah.#tn Heb “the sons of Judah.”
They will sell them to the Sabeans,#sn The Sabeans were Arabian merchants who were influential along the ancient caravan routes that traveled through Arabia. See also Job 1:15; Isa 43:3; 45:14; Ps 72:10. a nation far away.
Indeed, the Lord has spoken!
Judgment in the Valley of Jehoshaphat
9 Proclaim this among the nations:
“Prepare for a holy war!
Call out the warriors!
Let all these fighting men approach and attack!#tn Heb “draw near and go up.”
10 Beat your plowshares#sn Instead of referring to the large plow as a whole, the plowshare is simply the metal tip which actually breaks the earth and cuts the furrow. into swords,
and your pruning hooks#sn This implement was used to prune the vines, i.e., to cut off extra leaves and young shoots (M. Klingbeil, NIDOTTE 1:1117-18). It was a short knife with a curved hook at the end sharpened on the inside like a sickle. into spears!#sn This conversion of farming instruments to instruments of war is the reverse of Isa 2:4 (cf. Mic 4:3), where military weapons are transformed into tools for farming. Isaiah describes a time of kingdom blessing and prosperity, whereas Joel describes a time of eschatological conflict and judgment.
Let the weak say, ‘I too am a warrior!’#sn The “weak” individual mentioned here is apparently the farmer who has little or no military prowess or prior fighting experience. Under ordinary circumstances such a person would be ill-prepared for assuming the role of a soldier. However, in the scene that Joel is describing here even the most unlikely candidate will become a participant to be reckoned with in this final conflict.
11 Lend your aid#tn This Hebrew verb is found only here in the OT; its meaning is uncertain. Some scholars prefer to read here עוּרוּ (’uru, “arouse”) or חוּשׁוּ (khushu, “hasten”). and come,
all you surrounding nations,
and gather yourselves#tc The present translation follows the reading of the imperative הִקָּבְצוּ (hiqqavÿtsu) rather than the perfect with vav (ו) consecutive וְנִקְבָּצוּ (vÿniqbbatsu) of the MT. to that place.”
Bring down, O Lord, your warriors!#tc Some commentators prefer to delete the line “Bring down, O Lord, your warriors,” understanding it to be a later addition. But this is unnecessary. Contrary to what some have suggested, a prayer for the Lord’s intervention is not out of place here.
12 Let the nations be roused and let them go up
to the valley of Jehoshaphat,
for there I will sit in judgment on all the surrounding nations.
13 Rush forth with#tn Heb “send.” the sickle, for the harvest is ripe!
Come, stomp the grapes,#tn Heb “go down” or “tread.” The Hebrew term רְדוּ (rÿdu) may be from יָרַד (yarad, “to go down”) or from רָדָה (radah, “have dominion,” here in the sense of “to tread”). If it means “go down,” the reference would be to entering the vat to squash the grapes. If it means “tread,” the verb would refer specifically to the action of those who walk over the grapes to press out their juice. The phrase “the grapes” is supplied in the translation for clarity. for the winepress is full!
The vats overflow.
Indeed, their evil is great!#sn The immediacy of judgment upon wickedness is likened to the urgency required for a harvest that has reached its pinnacle of development. When the harvest is completely ripe, there can be no delay by the reapers in gathering the harvest. In a similar way, Joel envisions a time when human wickedness will reach such a heightened degree that there can be no further stay of divine judgment (cf. the “fullness of time” language in Gal 4:4).
14 Crowds, great crowds are in the valley of decision,
for the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision!#sn The decision referred to here is not a response on the part of the crowd, but the verdict handed out by the divine judge.
15 The sun and moon are darkened;
the stars withhold#tn Heb “gather in.” their brightness.
16 The Lord roars from Zion;
from Jerusalem#map For location see Map5-B1; Map6-F3; Map7-E2; Map8-F2; Map10-B3; JP1-F4; JP2-F4; JP3-F4; JP4-F4. his voice bellows out.#tn Heb “he sounds forth his voice.”
The heavens#tn Or “the sky.” See the note on “sky” in 2:30. and the earth shake.
But the Lord is a refuge for his people;
he is a stronghold for the citizens#tn Heb “sons.” of Israel.
The Lord’s Presence in Zion
17 You will be convinced#tn Heb “know.” that I the Lord am your God,
dwelling on Zion, my holy mountain.
Jerusalem#map For location see Map5-B1; Map6-F3; Map7-E2; Map8-F2; Map10-B3; JP1-F4; JP2-F4; JP3-F4; JP4-F4. will be holy –
conquering armies#tn Heb “strangers” or “foreigners.” In context, this refers to invasions by conquering armies. will no longer pass through it.
18 On that day#tn Heb “and it will come about in that day.” the mountains will drip with sweet wine,#tn Many English translations read “new wine” or “sweet wine,” meaning unfermented wine, i.e., grape juice.
and the hills will flow with milk.#sn The language used here is a hyperbolic way of describing both a bountiful grape harvest (“the mountains will drip with juice”) and an abundance of cattle (“the hills will flow with milk”). In addition to being hyperbolic, the language is also metonymical (effect for cause).
All the dry stream beds#tn Or “seasonal streams.” of Judah will flow with water.
A spring will flow out from the temple#tn Heb “house.” of the Lord,
watering the Valley of Acacia Trees.#tn Heb “valley of Shittim.” The exact location of the Valley of Acacia Trees is uncertain. The Hebrew word שִׁטִּים (shittim) refers to a place where the acacia trees grow, which would be a very arid and dry place. The acacia tree can survive in such locations, whereas most other trees require more advantageous conditions. Joel’s point is that the stream that has been mentioned will proceed to the most dry and barren of locations in the vicinity of Jerusalem.
19 Egypt will be desolate
and Edom will be a desolate wilderness,
because of the violence they did to the people of Judah,#tn Heb “violence of the sons of Judah.” The phrase “of the sons of Judah” is an objective genitive (cf. KJV “the violence against the children of Judah”; NAB, NIV, NRSV “violence done to the people of Judah”). It refers to injustices committed against the Judeans, not violence that the Judeans themselves had committed against others.
in whose land they shed innocent blood.
20 But Judah will reside securely forever,
and Jerusalem will be secure#tn The phrase “will be secure” does not appear in the Hebrew, but are supplied in the translation for the sake of smoothness. from one generation to the next.
21 I will avenge#tc The present translation follows the reading וְנִקַּמְתִּי (vÿniqqamti, “I will avenge”) rather than וְנִקֵּתִי (vÿniqqeti, “I will acquit”) of the MT. their blood which I had not previously acquitted.
It is the Lord who dwells in Zion!