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The Lord’s Case Against the Nations
1For see, in those days and at that time,#a. [4:1] Jer 33:15; 50:4, 20.
when I restore the fortunes
of Judah and Jerusalem,
2I will gather all the nations
and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat.#Valley of Jehoshaphat: one of the symbolic names of the place of punishment for Judah’s enemies; the other is “Valley of Decision” (v. 14). The name Jehoshaphat means “the Lord judges.” If the popular identification of this place as the Kidron Valley is accurate, Joel may imagine the Lord seated above the valley on Mount Zion directing his troops in the destruction of nations in the valley below.
There I will enter into judgment with them
on behalf of my people, my heritage, Israel;
Because they scattered them among the nations,
they divided up my land.#b. [4:2] Is 66:18; Zec 14:2.
3For my people they cast lots,
trading a young boy for the price of a prostitute,
exchanging a young girl for the wine they drank.#c. [4:3] Ob 11, 16.
4#This prose material may be a later addition to the book. It illustrates a common biblical theme (cf. Ps 7:16; 9:16; 35:8; 37:14–15; 57:7), having one’s evil deed (selling Judahites into slavery) turned into one’s own punishment (being sold into slavery by the Judahites). Moreover, what are you doing to me, Tyre and Sidon, and all the regions of Philistia? Are you paying me back for something? If you are, I will very quickly turn your deeds back upon your own head.#d. [4:4] Ob 15. 5You took my silver and my gold and brought my priceless treasures into your temples! 6You sold the people of Judah and Jerusalem to the Greeks, taking them far from their own country! 7Look! I am rousing them from the place to which you sold them, and I will turn your deeds back upon your own head. 8I will sell your sons and daughters to the Judahites who will sell them to the Sabeans,#Sabeans: traders from the southwestern tip of the Arabian peninsula, present-day Yemen (cf. 1 Kgs 10:1–2; Ps 72:10; Jer 6:20). a distant nation. The Lord has spoken!
The Nations Destroyed
9Announce this to the nations:
Proclaim a holy war!
Alert the warriors!
Let all the soldiers
report and march!#e. [4:9] Jer 6:4.
10#The Lord directs the troops to forge military weapons out of the agricultural tools necessary for life during peacetime. In Is 2:4 and Mi 4:3, both in contexts presuming the defeat of Israel’s enemies, this imagery is reversed. Beat your plowshares into swords,
and your pruning knives into spears;
let the weakling boast, “I am a warrior!”#f. [4:10] Is 2:4; Mi 4:3.
11Hurry and come, all you neighboring peoples,
assemble there!
Bring down, Lord, your warriors!
12Let the nations rouse themselves and come up
to the Valley of Jehoshaphat;
For there I will sit in judgment
upon all the neighboring nations.
13Wield the sickle,#g. [4:13] Is 63:1–6; Rev 14:15.
for the harvest is ripe;
Come and tread,
for the wine press is full;
The vats overflow,
for their crimes are numerous.#Their crimes are numerous: the nations are ripe for punishment. Joel uses the vocabulary of the autumn grape harvest to describe the assault of the Lord’s army against these nations. In Is 63:1–6, grape harvest imagery also controls the description of the Lord’s return from Edom with blood-spattered clothing after having trod his enemies into the ground as if they were grapes (cf. Jer 25:30).
14Crowds upon crowds
in the Valley of Decision;
For near is the day of the Lord
in the Valley of Decision.#h. [4:14] Ob 15.
15Sun and moon are darkened,
and the stars withhold their brightness,#i. [4:15] Jl 2:10; 3:4.
16The Lord roars from Zion,
and from Jerusalem raises his voice,#j. [4:16] Jer 25:30; Am 1:2.
The heavens and the earth quake,
but the Lord will be a shelter for his people,
a fortress for the people of Israel.
A Secure Future for Judah
17Then you will know#Then you will know: this verse further develops the motif of knowledge introduced in 2:27. The Judahites will learn that the Lord is present in their economic prosperity and political autonomy, even though they did not associate God’s presence with their crop failure. that I the Lord am your God,#k. [4:17] Ob 17; Na 2:1.
dwelling on Zion, my holy mountain;
Jerusalem will be holy,
and strangers will never again travel through her.
18#Images of agricultural abundance illustrate the harmony and order Joel expects the Lord to establish in Judah; like 2:18–27, this section reverses the deprivation and drought of chap. 1. A spring…house of the LORD: streams of water flowing from the Temple of an ideal Jerusalem also appear in Ez 47:1. The Valley of Shittim: or “the ravine of the acacia trees”; while there is a Shittim east of the Jordan, the reference here is probably to that rocky part of the Kidron Valley southeast of Jerusalem, an arid region where acacia trees flourished. On that day
the mountains will drip new wine,
and the hills flow with milk,
All the streams of Judah
will flow with water.
A spring will rise from the house of the Lord,
watering the Valley of Shittim.#l. [4:18] Ez 47:1–12; Am 9:13; Zec 14:8.
19Egypt will be a waste,
Edom a desolate wilderness,
Because of violence done to the Judahites,
because they shed innocent blood in their land.#m. [4:19] Ob 10.
20But Judah will be inhabited forever,
and Jerusalem for all generations.
21I will avenge their blood,
and I will not acquit the guilt.
The Lord dwells in Zion.