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My Commentary On Joel

This Section - Chapter 3:1 - 16

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The Nations Judged (ch. 3:1-16)

Verse 1 says "in those days and in that time."  To me, this tells me that the Day of the Lord is more than just one day, the day Jesus returns to earth.  Joel says that in those days God will restore the fortunes of Israel.  You might say that as Israel was under the rule of King David so it will be, and even more so, the most important nation on earth.      

I believe God began the restoration process of Israel back in the mid 1800's when Jews began to immigrate into what was then called Palestine.  Then, in 1948, the Jews finally had their own nation, although a much smaller land mass that was promised them by the League of Nations in 1922.    

They say in Israel today there are Jews who have relocated from 122 different countries.

The return of the Jews to the Promised Land is the prerequisite to the Day of the Lord being fulfilled. This tells me that we're getting close to the end. 

In verse 2 we see that in the day that God restores the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem "God will gather the nations to the Valley of Jehoshaphat."  The location of this valley has been debated.  It's only mentioned here in the book of Joel.  Thereís much speculation among scholars, but the only consensus is that it is around Jerusalem , possibly the Kidron Valley between Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives or the valley situated just north of Jerusalem that runs from east to west.  I tend to believe the valley is the valley just north of Jerusalem. The name Jehoshaphat means "Yahweh is, or will, judge."  Clearly, the name signifies what will take place in this valley.   

God gathers the nations in this valley to bring judgment on them for the way theyíve treated Israel.  Most Prophetic Futurists view this as the Battle of Armageddon or possibly the war of Ezekiel 38 and 39, depending on how you interpret those wars.  Most think what God does in this period of history is multi-facetted. This battle is no exception.  Part of the reason for this battle is to judge the nations of the world for their treatment of Israel.  From the perspective of the nations and the anti-Christ, it is to wage war on God.  Jesus obviously appears on the scene and defeats the nations and the anti-Christ with a word from His mouth.  

Another reason for this war is to bring one last judgment on Israel so the Jewish survivors of the Great Tribulation will fall on their knees before the Lord Jesus Christ in genuine repentance.  Zechariah 13:8 states that two thirds of Israelis will be killed during what I believe is the tribulation period that ends this age.  

Note also in verse 2 the words "all nations."  All nations of the world will come to fight and be judged by Jesus.  I do not believe that any will be excluded.  There are no exceptions, and that includes any of our western nations.  I understand that the word "all" does not always mean "all" when we read it in the Bible.  The context often has to be addressed to see just how we interpret that word "all," but here, I believe that "all" means "all," as in "all nations."  I know that some believe that only some nations will join in this attack, but that is not my position at the moment.      

One reason why some people believe that not all nations will come to fight the Jews is found in Matthew 25:31 and following.  There Jesus said that He will return in heavenly glory, to sit on His earthly throne in Jerusalem.  Before Him will be gathered the nations of the world.  He will separate the "people," the text states into sheep and goats.  The debate is over whether the word "people" refers to nations or individual people from all nations.  Those who believe that the people are nations will say that there are sheep nations that would not have fought in this last great battle.  In the past I've understood that these people were individuals, not nations.  I can see how you could think the people are nations.  There is one thing to remember here though, and that is this judgment is after the last great war.  Therefore, all nations could still be drawn into this war and then all these nations would be judged.  The counter argument to that is, if all nations attack Israel , wouldn't all nations be goats?  That is a good point.  I have not come to a firm conclusion on the meaning of this passage in Matthew 25.       

There are other Scriptures that tell of this last great war when all nations are gathered in the Valley for Judgment.  Zephaniah 3:8 is another good one.  It reads as follows.  "I have decided to assemble the nations, to gather the kingdoms to pour out my wrath on them - all my fierce anger.  The whole world will be consumed by the fire of my jealous anger."  This is one very powerful verse.  We all should know that no one fools around with God.  The whole world, not one part exempt, will experience the judgment of God.      

We might ask at this point if this last great battle is the battles or battles that Joel spoke of in chapters 1 and 2.  It seems to me that what is being spoken of here is not what was spoken of in chapters 1 and 2.  Because of the nature of the locust invasions, four in all, some suggest that the invading armies take place over time, maybe centuries.  Whatever you think, the Joel 3 war is not what we see in chapters 1 and 2, or so I think.    

Judgment comes to the Jews and to the world in the Great Tribulation.  One reason why the judgment comes to the nations of the world is because of their treatment of the Jews.  Throughout history nations have scattered the Jews as it says here in verse 2.  The interesting part of the last half of verse 2 is that we note God does not like His land, that is Israel being divided.  As I write this, in 2017, the "two state solution" is being talked about for Israel.  That means the nations of the world want to divide Israel in half, half for the Arab Palestinians, and half for the Jews.  God does not like this idea.  Beyond Israel being divided, there is talk about dividing Jerusalem.  Some even want to give Jerusalem to the Arab Palestinians.  This is an abomination in the eyes of God. 

Note in verse 2 the words "my land and my people."  This parcel of land that is so controversial these days doesn't just belong to Israel.  It belongs to God Himself.  Of course, the whole earth belongs to God, but He has taken a portion of the earth which is special to Him, just as He has taken a portion of humanity, that is the Jews, who is also special to Him.

Concerning God's land being divided, that is presently the big debate right now when it comes to Israel.  It's called the "two state solution."  The nations want to actually divide the 25 percent of the land that the Jews were promised back in 1922.  Just think about this.  Great Britain, as representatives of the nations, only gave the Jews 25 percent of the land it was promised and now the nations want to divide that land.  God will not take kindly to that.  Many Prophetic Futurists believe that there will be a division of the land that the anti-Christ will secure through a treaty.  

It has been an ongoing process in the United Nations to pass motions against Israel.  The only nation on earth that has never voted against Israel at the United Nations is Micronesia, a small island nation in the western Pacific Ocean north of Australia.  As of 2016 it had a population of about 105,000 people.     

For some, the words "I will put them (the nations) on trial" relates to what Jesus said in Matthew 25:31 to 46.  There, Jesus gathers the nations of the world as stated here in Joel and elsewhere.  Many Bible teachers believe that the separation of the sheep and goats in this passage is the separation of the nations who are for Israel and those who are against Israel.  This in fact would be a trial as stated here in Joel.  Many Bible teachers believe America will be one of those sheep nations for its support for Israel over the years.  All that being said, not everyone believes that this separation of sheep and goats apply to nations, but rather to individual people.  At the moment, I'm not sure what side of the fence I am on.  At the moment, I'm not sure what side of the fence I am on.  I lean, and have leaned, to the side that Jesus is judging individuals.   

Concerning the dividing of the land of Israel, I believe over the years it has already been divided.  That being said, there are many Prophetic Futurists who believe that the anti-Christ will make a deal between the Arabs and the Jews and divide the land.  I believe that this is the straw that breaks the back of God, so to speak.    

Verse 3 begins with the word "they."   "They" is in reference to the nations who have attacked Israel and scattered the Jews over the centuries.  "They cast lots for my people" suggests the nations deciding what to do with the Jews.  This is a historical reality that can easily be documented in the 20th century prior to 1948.  The trading of boys and girls seen in verse 3 are probably just examples of how the nations have mistreated the Jews over the years. 

Verse 3 speaks of trading boys for prostitutes and casting lots for Godís people. The idea here is that the nationís leaders do what they want with Israel. They tell Israel to take this land and give up that land. Theyíve even stooped as low as to trade boys for prostitutes. Yet all this comes to an end when Jesus returns.  This kind of treatment of Jews has been such over the centuries and culminates in the last seven years of this age.  Zechariah 14:2 speaks of Jerusalem being sacked and the women being raped during this time.

In Exodus 21:16 we see how God views the selling of people into slavery.  "He who kidnaps a man and sells him ... will surely be put to death" (NKJV).  This clearly states the Biblical position on slavery, something some people believe the Bible doesn't really speak to.    

Verses 4 through 6 speak of the way Tyre, Sidon, and the region of Philistia , have dealt with Godís people over the centuries. God asks them if they are repaying Him for something He has done to them.  What you see here is that God takes very seriously anything that is done against His people.  If it is done against Israel, it is done against God. Thus, He will repay the nations of the world Himself for their treatment of His people. This clearly suggests that at the end of this age, God still has a heart for His people the Jews.  This also confirms the point that believers are not to do the repaying of evil.  That is God's job, not our job.

It is interesting to note that both Tyre and Sidon were destroyed by the Muslims in and around the tenth century.  I'm not sure if that means anything to this verse, but both of these regions, along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, part of Israel today, lost their ethnicity centuries ago.    

The land of the Philistia is present day Gaza that Israel has allowed to be self governed by the Arabs who have opposed the Jews of Israel on all fronts.  

The nations of the world are heavily influenced by the devil. 
The question that God asked Tyre, Sidon, and the land
of the Philistia, might well be appropriate  The devil could
be motivating these peoples to fight because they have been judged by God in the past. It's all about retaliation on their
part.  These people are Arabs.    

God specifically states that if Tyre, Sidon, and the land of Philistia are motivated to fight from a perspective of revenge, He will not tolerate that for a moment.  He will bring judgment immediately.  God does not tolerate anything done to Him out of revenge.  His wrath will be poured out on such nations as we see in the last 7 years of this age.

Verses 5 and 6 state why God is upset with Tyre , Sidon , and those in the land of Philistia.  It is because they have stolen treasures from the temple of God and have scattered His people, the Jews.  Anything that we take from God and claim for ourselves is an abomination to the Lord.  I suggest that the world has constantly done this to Israel over the centuries.  When we usurp the authority from God that belongs to Him alone, we steel from Him.  When we claim for ourselves what is God's that is also steeling from Him.  I suggest the theory of evolution is robbing God of the credit that He deserves for creation.  There are many ways in which we rob from God. 

There is no Jewish temple in Jerusalem today where the old temple once was erected, but, over the centuries, when Jews did have their temple; it had been sacked many times.   

Note in verse 5 that which was stolen was
"my silver, gold, and treasures.  God is speaking of the things stolen from the temple in Jerusalem.  He says that they belong to Him.  I find it interesting that when Jesus was on earth He blasted the Jewish leadership for making God's house, the temple, a place to buy and sell when it was meant to be a place of prayer.  The exact temple that Jesus spoke of was Herod's temple that he built to make a name for himself.  It was nothing like the original temple where God's glory could once be found.  I find it interesting that Jesus would call Herod's Temple God's house.  Some struggle over the idea of the Jews rebuilding a temple in Jerusalem .  They mostly struggle over the idea that this rebuilt temple will be God's will.  Whether it is will be God's will or not is debatable, but, jus maybe, Jesus and God will view this rebuilt temple in the same light that Jesus viewed the unholy temple that Herod built. 

Verse 6 states that "you" (the attacking nation) sold the people of Judah and Jerusalem to the Greeks.  The book of Joel, as I said in my introduction, was written sometime between 900 BC to 535 BC.  That is a large gap of time.  During this time period Greece was undergoing great changes and advancements in their culture.  During this period of time some Jews were moving west to Greece, and as it states here, some were bought and sold to people in Greece.  On the other hand, if the text is speaking of Greece, the world empire, not the mere nation of Greece before it became an empire, this verse might well be prophetic of that time in history.      

Verse 7 is one of a number of passages in the Bible that clearly state the God will cause the Jews to return to their homeland.  Once this has taken place, then God will do to those nations what those nations have done to the Jews.  It is all about the Abrahamic Covenant.  That is, "those who bless Israel will be blessed, while those who curse Israel will be cursed."  The nations of the earth should take heed of the Abrahamic Covenant, but of course they don't.

The beginning of the Jews returning to their homeland began in the mid 1800's.  It slowed down during the Hitler years and the Second World War by Great Britain, but since Israel became a nation in 1948, immigration by Jews to Israel has been constant.  That being said, I believe the ultimate fulfillment of the Jews returning to their land as seen in this verse is at the end of this age.     

Verse 8 speaks of the Sabeans.  It says that they are a land far away.  Historically speaking, they are associated with Sheba , in southern most parts of Arabia, living in and around modern day Yemen.  They would be Arabs.  At the moment I am not sure how to understand these people in connection with this verse.    

Verses 8 and 9 show how God will deal with the nations of the world at the end of this age.  He will deal with them in the same way that they have dealt with His people the Jews.  He also says that He will return Israel to the land He gave them, which by the way, is a lot more land than they presently have, as seen in Genesis 15.

Verse 9 is a call for war.  Many people donít view God as a warrior, but here you see Him as being just that.  It is God who actually calls the nations to war, which I believe here, is the last great war we often call the Battle of Armageddon.  God calls the nations to attack Israel.  What He is doing is He is really just setting them up.  They go to fight Israel and find out that they are actually fighting God and end up losing.   

In verse 10 God says to "beat your ploughs into swords," just the opposite of what we normally understand when we hear the words plows and swords.  God doesnít say in this verse to beat swords into ploughs as He does elsewhere.  He is telling the nations to get ready for war, the last great war.  Again, it is not culturally correct these days but God is a God of war.  Look how Jesus is pictured in the first chapter of Revelation and you will see that to be true.

Note the words "let the weak say I am strong."  We sing a Christian song these days with these words in it.  I do not know if the author of this song had this verse in mind, but if he did, the song has the wrong understanding of this verse.  The song suggests that the week can find strength in the Lord, and that is correct, but this verse is all about warfare.  In context, I believe the weak are the nations who attack Israel. 

In verse 12 God tells the nations to come to the Valley of Jehoshaphat and get ready to fight, and come quickly. This is interesting in the sense that we often think that this final battle is the idea of the anti-Christ, but according to this verse it's God's idea.  A close study of the book of Revelation will show you that the nations of the world at this time in history will actually know that they are attempting to fight against God.  As weird as that may sound, the nations will attempt to do just that.  

Going back to verse 11, you will notice the word "quickly."  In our day of jet fighters, drones, computers, and satellite technology, things can happen very quickly, and that includes this war.  In Joel's day, the beginning of a war could take a very long time.    

The nations of the world will think that it is them who have decided to fight, but in reality, as it is with much of history, God is behind this war.  The reason why the nations go to the Middle East is to fight against Israe, but the reason why God brings them to the Middle East is to crush them into the ground, and, to bring Israel to its knees of repentance in the process.   

Note the words "bring down your warriors, Lord."  Some people believe these warriors are angels.  Matthew 25:31 and 32 tells us that all the holy angels will return with Jesus.  At that time, Jesus will judge the nations.  The last great battle ends in the most important court case in history.  Every nation in the world will be judged for how they have treated Israel as verse 12 here in Joel states.  All that being said, in context, and I believe according to the Hebrew text, these warriors are not angels.  They are the attacking army, who, as we have seen earlier in Joel, are called God's army.  See Joel 2:25 where attacking armies are called "my (God's) army.  See also Joel 2:11 where these attacking armies are called the Lord's army.  The attacking armies are God's armies in the sense that they are doing His work, which is, attacking Israel in an act of divine judgment that is meant to bring the Jews to their knees in repentance   

As a side note, Micronesia , has always voted for Israel at the United Nations.  This is an island nation north of Australia .   

In verse 13 we see the words "swing the sickle for the harvest is ripe."   This is a grape harvester's knife.  Isaiah 63 speaks to this verse in Joel.  We see here that Jesus fights and the language here speaks of the winepress of judgment, as we also see in Revelation 14:18 to 20.  This is almost a direct quote from Joel 3:13.  Joel 3:13 is talking about a harvest of judgment, not a harvest of saints as many might think.  The point here is that the land of Israel will be a blood bath at the end of this age.  

In verses 13 and 14 we see multitudes in the valley of decision. Representatives from every nation will be gathered to fight against God.  For these nations it is the ultimate battle, but for God it is the beginning of final judgment.  

Some people might suggest that the word "decision" here is in reference to the armies making decisions.  I see this decision making on God's part.  It is God who is deciding and He is doing so as He puts the nations on trial as we have seen in Matthew 25.

This final great battle is Godís judgment on the nations of the world.  We can't confuse this with the Great White Throne Judgment that appears in Revelation 20.  In that judgment nations aren't judged.  Individuals are judged according to what they have done.  Once this individual judgment is over, this earth and the universe will flee away and disappear.  A new heaven and a new earth will take its place as we read in the last 2 chapters of Revelation. 

In verse 14 we read the words "valley of decision."  We often think of the valley of decision as man making the decision to fight, but many scholars believe this decision refers to God making the decision to judge the nations of the world.

The term "Day of the Lord" in verse 14 in my thinking speaks to that last great day of the Day of the Lord.  It's the ultimate Day of the Lord when Jesus ends it all. 

In verse 15 we see the sun, moon, and stars darkened and not being able to shine.  This confirms for us that what is happening here is certainly at the end of this age. This is end time imagery.  This has never happened in human history to this date.

In verse 16 we note that the "Lord will roar from Zion " and the earth will tremble.  Amos 1:2 says the same thing.  Certainly, if Jesus roars, we know all things will hear the sound of His voice and will shake in great fear. To even suggest that Jesus will roar is blasphemy to some who think Jesus is some quiet individual that wouldnít harm a flea.  The fact of the matter is that the voice of Jesus that is described in the first chapter of the book of Revelation is described as "rushing waters."  Anyone who has ever been to Niagara Falls will then get a brief glimpse at what Jesus' voice will sound like as He returns to earth.  We will not need any human device to hear His voice.  We will all hear Him with our own human ears.     

If you do a serious study or even a close reading of the book of Revelation you may note, as I have, that everything the Apostle John hears from heaven is very loud to his ears.  Either heavenly sounds are louder or our temporal ears just can't handle the sounds of heaven.  Whatever the case, Jesus can, does, and will, roar.  

For God's people Israel, during this time when Jesus roars, He will be a refuge. At the same time, when the wrath of the Lamb is poured out on the nations of the world, God will protect His people.  He will pour out a spirit of grace and supplication as Zechariah 12:10 says.  He will save the survivors of the Great Tribulation, otherwise known as the time of Jacobs trouble as seen in Jeremiah 30:7.

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