Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Study of the Prophets #36: Joel (Conclusion)
Last week we learned that the Valley of Decision/Jehoshaphat/Judgment, is the same as Har Meggido where HaShem will judge the nations after the Millennial Reign. Now Joel, describes the winepress; a terribly awesome event. The conclusion of the book describes the final triumph of Judah and the destruction of Edom and Egypt; the enemies of G-d and the evil way of life.
4:13 “Extend the sickle, for the harvest has ripened! Come and trample the [the grapes], for the winepress is full, the vats have overflowed! – for their evil is great.
G-d has a plan for history that includes a final date for His vengeance against His enemies and the redemption of His nation. This verse depicts that time as the harvesting of ripe grain and the collection of pressed wine, symbolizing the nations’ ripeness for punishment at that time due to the magnitude of their crimes (Abarbanel). The sickle being extended means to stretch out the swords, those who go on the mission of G-d to destroy G-d’s enemies (Rashi). They are to go down into the Valley of Judgement and destroy the nations assembled there, for they are like a winepress filled with grapes, ready to be trampled. This event is written as “The Battle Hymn of the Republic“, also known as “Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory” outside of the United States, is a song by American writer Julia Ward using the music from the song “John Brown’s Body”. Howe’s more famous lyrics were written in November 1861. The song links the judgment of the wicked at the end of time (Old Testament, Isaiah 63; New Testament, Rev. 19) with the American Civil War. Since that time, it has become an extremely popular and well-known American patriotic song. Interestingly, I have not heard the song for several years. The blood of the nations is ready to be spilled, like overflowing wine vats.
4:14 “Multitudes upon multitudes [will fall] in the Valley of the [Final] Decision, for the Day of HaShem is near in the Valley of the [Final Decision].”
Many groups of people will gather in the Valley of Judgment, where they will be judged and destroyed. The Valley is called the Valley of Judgment and Decision because of the two events that will happen there. The differentiation is elaborated on in Revelation 14:14-20: “Then I looked, and there before me was a white cloud. Sitting on the cloud was someone like a Sone of Man with a gold crown on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand. Another angel came out of the Temple and shouted to the one sitting on the cloud, ‘Start using your sickle to reap, because the time to reap has come- the earth’s harvest is ripe!’ The one sitting on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth, and the earth was harvested.
“Another angel came out of the Temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle. Then out from the altar went yet another angel, who was in charge of the fire; and he called in a loud voice to the one with the sharp sickle, ‘Use your sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of grapes from the earth’s vine, because they are ripe!’ The angel swung his sickle down unto the earth, gathered the earth’s grapes and threw the into the winepress of G-d’s fury. The winepress was trodden outside the city, and the blood flowed from the winepress as high as the horses’ bridles for two hundred miles!”
The day HaShem will take vengeance is near.
4:15: “The sun and moon have become blackened and the stars have withdrawn their shine.”
One interpretation is that the astrological influence on these celestial bodies will be negated in order to allow for the colossal magnitude of G-d’s punishment (Abarbanel; Malbim). Another interpretation is that The punishment that falls upon the nations will be so intense that it will seem like the sun, moon, and stars have ceased to shed their light (Metzudos). Perhaps G-d will cause the moon, stars, and sun to withhold their light as the darkness of judgment and destruction prevails over the nations. As the nations’ refused the Light of the world, perhaps HaShem will withhold any light to be seen as He exacts punishment.
4:16 “And HaShem will roar from Zion and will emit His voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and earth will tremble.”
From Zion and Jerusalem, the place of the Divine Presence, shall come out of G-d’s mighty roar; the Lion of Judah, which will cause the nations to tremble in fear (Radak). According to some commentators, this is the roar of G-d’s judgment, which will be passed upon these nations. Radak translates this as a great earthquake that will occur at that time, as depicted in the prophecies of Ezekiel 38 and Zechariah 14. This view is supported by Revelation 16:17-21 with the seventh bowl of G-d’s fury:
“The seventh one [angel] poured out his bowl on the air, and a loud voice came out of the Temple from the throne saying “it is done!” There were flashes of lightning, voices and peals of thunder; and there was a massive earthquake, such has never occurred since mankind has been on earth, so violent was the earthquake. The great city was split into three parts, the cities of the nations fell, and G-d remembered Bavel the Great and made her drink the wine from the cup of his raging fury. Every island fled, and no mountains were to be found. And huge seventy-pound hailstones fell on people from the sky. But the people cursed G-d for the plague of hail, that it was such as terrible plague.”
“But HaShem will be a shelter for His people and a stronghold for the Children of Israel.”
HaShem will protect true believers from the assembled nations as well as from the earthquake (Radak). In addition, He will fortify and strengthen them further, beyond their natural limits (Malbim).
4:17 “Thus you will know that I am HaShem your G-d, Who dwells in Zion, My holy mountain; Jerusalem will be holy, and aliens will no longer pass through her.”
When you witness the Divine retribution exacted from your enemies, you will finally achieve absolute faith in Me, along with full recognition that I am indeed the G-d Who oversees and controls all that happens in the universe. Never again will invading nations be able to enter Jerusalem to harm the people of G-d.
4:18 “And it shall be on that day that the mountains will drip with wine, the hills will flow with milk, and all the watercourses of Judah will flow with water, and a spring will go out from the House of HaShem and water the valley of Shittim.”
After the defeats of Israel’s enemies, G-d’s people will be blessed with abundance. This will be provided without sowing. Until now, there was no water in Judah except for that which flowed from the spring of Shiloah. Far from Jerusalem, therefore, water was very expensive. But when G-d’s people in Judah finally bask in the full blessing of HaShem, water will be available for all. The waters from the well in the Temple will flow all the way to the Valley of Shittim, outside Israel (Mahari Kara). This is also interpreted metaphorically, referring to the Torah going forth from Jerusalem to the entire world (Abarbanel; Malbim). Shittim translates as “Acacia trees” The designation of a region in the plains of Moab just NE of the Dead Sea. It is prob. the same as Abel-shittim in Numbers 33:49. Abel-shittim, however, is cited as the last encampment site in the record of the journey from Egypt to the Jordan River (ibid.). It is clear that Shittim was the scene of the final events before the passage of the Jordan, thus making quite certain the identification of Abel-shittim with Shittim (Num. 25:1ff.). If the two designations refer to the same place, Shittim would then be a commonly used abbreviation of the longer Abelshittim (stream of the Acacia trees).
Shittim figures prominently in the history of the Hebrews. It was the site of the last encampment of Israel before crossing the Jordan River into Canaan. Here the people sinned as many Israelites took wives from among the Moabites (25:1). This was apparently done at the instigation of Balaam who otherwise failed in his attempts to aid the Moabites in driving out the Hebrews (31:16). A plague, in which twenty-four thousand died, was the punishment for their intermarriage and idolatry (25:9).
It was here that a census was taken of those twenty years of age and over as a military conscription but was done also with a view toward the eventual settlement of the people in Canaan (26:2; cf. v.53).
Moses learned here that he would not see the Promised Land and that Joshua was to succeed him as the leader of the people (27:13-23). A successful military campaign against the Midianites was conducted by the Israelites during the encampment, which resulted in the gain of much booty. The tribes of Reuben and Gad and half of the tribe of Manasseh determined to remain on the E side of the Jordan River, but only after Moses exacted a promise from them that they would aid the rest of the Israelites in their conquest of Canaan. Moses delivered his farewell address here, then viewed the Promised Land from Mt. Nebo just before his death.
It was from Shittim that Joshua sent two spies to scout the city of Jericho (Josh 2;1) and from here the Israelites departed for the passage of the Jordan (3:1).
Micah refers to “what happened from Shittim to Gilgal” (Mic.6:5), evidently reminding the Israelites of the grace of G-d revealed in the Jordan crossing. Joel’s reference to a fountain which shall “water the valley of Shittim” may be representative of the arid wilderness which Joel envisions as being transformed. Therefore, it is significant that either water, Torah, or both will extend to the Valley of Shittim. Shittim (Acacia) trees often assume a characteristic umbrella-like form. The wood is close-grained and is not readily attacked by insects. It would be well suited for such purposes as described, the construction of the ark of the covenant, the altar and boarding of the tabernacle.
4:19: “Egypt will become a desolation and Edom will become a desolate wilderness; because of the robbery of the children of Judah, for they shed innocent blood in their land.”
In the End of Days, G-d will wreak the final destruction on the Arab world (Edom) that includes Rome (Dan. 2:40) and all of her daughters mentioned in Revelation. Edom is also represented by Egypt, the homeland of Ishmael’s wife, who was the mother of the Arab peoples. These two nations were most prominent in their mistreatment of G-d’s people and are therefore singled out (Radak). Other commentators contend that Egypt is singled out because it was the first people to enslave the Israelites. Therefore, they and the Romans, who brought about the final destruction of the Holy Land, will be utterly destroyed. The Christian nations will initiate this action by attacking Egypt on their way to invading Israel. This will provoke a massive retaliation by the Arabs who will annihilate the Roman kingdom (Abarbanel; Malbim).
4:20: “Judah will exist (be inhabited) forever, and Jerusalem from generation to generation.”
In contrast to Edom and Egypt, both of which will be destroyed, Judah and Jerusalem within her will exist forever (Radak).
4:21 “Their bloodguilt, which I have not pardoned, I will pardon, when HaShem dwells in Zion.”
The book of Joel provides an ominous warning to those who have rejected and offended G-d; prepare for war. We have been given much information about the Day of the L-rd and can rest assured that if our hearts souls, and minds belong to Him, we will one day have the privlege of exalting Him as our victorious King and Messiah to live with Him forever and ever.
Shalu Shalom Yerushalayim,
Rabbi Tamah Davis