Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Study of the Prophets #35: Joel (Cont.)
Before we move to Chapter 4, the last chapter in the book of Joel, I want to cover a couple of points about the early and latter rains in Chapter 2:21.
The wintertime of world history began with Yahshua’s first event. Believers were given the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) that is symbolic of the “early rain,” but we are rapidly approaching the time of the “latter rain.” Whether this will happen in our lifetimes or not is irrelevant. The point is, it will happen and we must be ready lest we be caught unawares and unprepared. During the time of the latter rain, the Ruach HaKodesh will be poured out as in the times of Pentecost (Shavu’ot). The latter rain will probably not commence until the Tribulation and will be concluded at its end. During the Tribulation, humanity who embrace YHVH and deny the anti-messiah will need supernatural powers to help withstand the onslaught of evil of HaSatan and his minions. We will initially see this supernatural power manifested in the first 144,000 of the twelve tribes of Israel, sealed to HVH as they speak in the Name of YHVH to a lost world.
When the Ruach HaKodesh came the first time at the Temple Mount during Herod’s reign, this “early rain” was described as the sound of a “rushing mighty wind.” At the commencement of the “latter rain” we can again expect a sound of a “rushing mighty wind.”
ON the day of Shavu’ot, Peter quoted Joel to explain the coming of the Ruach HaKodesh. We read this in Acts 2:16-20: “But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith YHVH, I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh: your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: And I will show wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the L-rd come.”
According to Peter, this early and last rain will come in the last days. Peter also wrote in 2 Peter 3:8 that “one day with the L-rd as a thousands years and a thousand years as one day.”
It is important to note that Joel described both the beginning and the end of this time just preceding the “day of YHVH.” It is obvious that the sun has not turned to darkness or the moon into blood on the day the Ruach HaKodesh empowered the believers. In fact, it has been 2000 years since that event and the sun and moon have not changed into darkness or blood. It follows that the prophecy still awaits fulfillment. People who play loose and free with the scriptures to fortify their own denominational doctrines in order to lend credibility to false doctrines will someday be accountable to YHVH.
In the end, Joel explained the primary factor that will introduce the end of this age and the introduction of the “latter rain” in Joel 4:1 where we begin this week’s study: “For behold, in those days, and in that time, when I shall bring again the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem.” We must be very careful in the reading of this verse for the word “captivity” is the Hebrew word “sheb-ooth,” meaning a “former state of prosperity.” In this context, the verse refers to the reestablishment of the Jews in the land of Israel in 1948, but following verses warn that the return of the Jewish people to Israel will lead to the most devastating war in history. The remainder of chapter 4 describes this terrible war and G-d’s judgement in the end.
4:2 “I will gather all of the nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat and I will contend with them there concerning My people and My possession, Israel, that they dispersed among the nations, and they divided up my land…”
At that time HaShem will incite all of the nations to join with Gog and Magog, and ascend against Jerusalem, as described in Ezekiel 39:2 (Radak). They shall be brought down to the valley where they will stand to be judged. The Valley of Jehoshaphat refers to the Valley of Berachah, where the army of Jehoshaphat battled the armies of Ammon, Moab, and Seir. HaShem commanded Jehoshaphat and his army to refrain from battle, and He incited the attacking armies against one another, causing their destruction (II Chron. 20).
HaShem will exact retribution particularly from the nation of Rome, who under the leadership of Titus, conquered the Land of Israel and scattered its inhabitants among the nations (Radak).
Alternatively, this phrase responds to the defense offered by the attacking nations: They were merely following G-d’s command to punish His people for their sins. To this Joel replies that they abused their mission in three ways. First, although the exile was Divinely ordained, they allowed the Jews no rest even in exile, causing them so much suffering that they continued to be dispersed to all ends of the earth. Also, the nations assumed ownership of the Land of Israel as if it were allocated to them. Finally, they enslaved the Jewish people (Malbim).
Some commentators interpret that the war of Gog and Magog refers to a war to be fought between the armies of Edom (Christian nations) and Yishmael (the Arab peoples). G-d will incite them to meet in battle in the vicinity of Jerusalem, where they will destroy each other as punishment for their persecution of the Jewish people (Abarbanel; Malbim).
4:3-4 “…and they cast lots upon My people; they gave boys for harlot’s [fee], and they sold girls for wine and drank [it].
They drew lots to see who would receive whom as a slave. The degradation of the Jewish prisoners was so great that a Jewish boy would serve merely as payment for the services of a prostitute, and a girl would be traded for a cask of wine (Malbim).
Joel now addresses those who allied themselves with the armies that attacked the Jewish nation; Tyre and Sidon. Speaking in the Name of G-d, he first challenges them to produce evidence of any provocation that would warrant their behavior, then specifies the hostile acts for which they are to be punished. Finally, he describes the retribution to be exacted upon them for their wickedness.
Also, what are you to Me, O Tyre and Sidon and all the districts of Philistia? What is there between us that you have entered My Land for hostile purposes, rather than coming to My aid as would befit neighboring countries? (Radak) The nations in whose hands I placed My people were sent here by My word; only their excesses were sinful. You however, had no right to harm My people (Malbim).
Are you paying requital to Me? And if you are requiting Me, swiftly and soon will I return your requital upon your head…”
Are you coming to avenge previous wrongs that I have done to you? (Ibn Ezra; Radak; Malbim) If that is your claim, I challenge you to cite any action I have taken to harm you (Radak). Rashi translates this as “Is this the payment you render Me; i.e., in this how you repay the kindness shown to you by King Solomon, who gave Hiram, king of Tyre, a gift of 20 cities 1 Kings 9:11).
If your attack is not due to any past grievances but is rather an unprovoked act of aggression (Radak), I will exact retribution swiftly and within a short period of time (Abarbanel; Malbim). For I view any action taken against the Jewish people as if it were directed against Myself (Radak). This statement is made in light of the following statement:
4:5-6 “… for you have taken My silver and My gold and you have brought My desirable and good possessions to your palaces; and you sold the children of Jerusalem to the children of the Greeks in order to distance them from their border.”
Joel now specifies the acts of hostility performed by these neighboring nations. You looted the treasures of the Jewish people, which in reality are Mine, since I gave them these possessions (Abarbanel; Malbim). When the Jewish people were still in their own land, you would kidnap their children from their homes and sell them to far-off lands in order to make sure they would not return. Alternatively, this applies to the exile: You came with the enemies of the Jewish people and took their children captive and sold them (Radak). Malbim adds that this is even worse than your theft of their gold and silver, that it was done for the sake of profit, whereas you sold the children to distant lands purely out of hatred and cruelty.
4:7 “Behold, I will rouse them from the place to which you sold them, and I will return your requital upon your head. And I will sell your sons and daughters into the hands of the children of Judah, and they will sell them to Sabeans, to a distant people, for HaShem has spoken.
Although you have sent the children of Judah and Jerusalem to distant lands, I will yet arouse them or their children-or perhaps both them and their children. I will arouse them at the time of the Revivication and their descendants at the time of the Redemption- to return to their homes (Radak), and exact retribution from you for your evil (Ibn Ezra; Metzudos).
I will deliver your children into the hands of the returning children of Israel, who, in turn, will sell them to the Sabeans, a nation even more distant than the Greeks (Radak). This punishment will not only include the sons, but the daughters, despite the fact that women do not wage war [and they were not actively involved in your misdeeds]. “For HaShem has spoken.” This is a promise of G-d that no one can annul or prevent.
Now Joel returns to the topic of the great gathering of armies that will take place in the Valley of Judgement (Jehoshaphat).
4:9 “Announce this among the nations; prepare for war; arouse the mighty men; let all the men of war approach and ascend. Beat your plows into swords and your pruning forks into spears; even the weak one will say, “I am mighty.” Let all the surrounding nations hurry and come, and let them gather together; there HaShem will demolish your warriors. Let the nations rouse themselves and go up to the Valley of Jehoshaphat, for there I will sit to judge the nations from all around.”
By one interpretation, this describes the place where, in the presence of Jehoshaphat, King of Judah, YHVH annihilated the Gentile coalition of Moab, Ammon, and Edom. This may have indicated an actual valley euphemistically called by the Jews êmêq Berâkâh (“valley of blessing”), situated in the desert of Teqo’a near Khirbet Berekut, west of the Khirbet Tequ’a (about eleven miles from Jerusalem). Alternatively, it may refer to an indeterminate valley of judgment, since “Jehoshaphat” means “YHVH judges”. In Joel 3:14 the same valley is called “valley of destruction” (“valley of decision”). The chapter describes how the nations that afflicted Judah and Jerusalem during their Babylonian captivity and return from exile shall receive Divine Judgement. The prophecy also describes the Divine Judgement of the nations that will take place in the future. This begs the question that if the Valley of Jehoshaphat is to be the place of G-d’s judgment on the nations, how does this fit into Har Megiddo (Armageddon)? Can they be the same place? Is the use of Jehoshaphat to give reference to judgment?
A key passage associated with the Campaign of Armageddon mentions that God will assemble all nations in the “Valley of Jehoshaphat” (Joel 3:2; 3;12). Some hold that the Valley of Jehoshaphat (“YHVH shall judge”) refers to the valley situated between Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives to the east. It was in this valley where king Jehoshaphat is thought to have overthrown the enemies of Israel, the “valley of Berachah” (2Chr. 20:26).
Its identification with the Kidron Valley, which began in the fourth century, is somewhat uncertain since no actual valley of this name is known to pre-Christian antiquity. Eusebius in the Onomasticon (ed. Klostermann, p. 70) located the valley of Jehoshaphat in the Valley of Hinnom, possibly because of the judgments that were associated with that place in connection with the idolatrous kings of Judah (cf. Jer. 7:31;19:5, where it is called “the valley of Slaughter”). Since the time of the Pilgrim of Bordeaux (A.D. 333), however, the Kidron has become increasingly the site popularly accepted.
Others suggest the name is descriptive of what God will accomplish (judgment) at the location rather than any association with an event in the life of King Jehoshaphat. Perhaps it is to be associated with the plain of Esdraelon:
It is clear both from the contexts of Joel 3:2; 3:13 and from the term used twice in Joel 3:14, “the valley of decision” (cf. Zeph. 3:8), that the name is to be interpreted as the scene of judgment, and not taken from the king of the same name. Ezek. 39:11 and Rev. 16:16 seem to locate it in the plain of Esdraelon (Armageddon).
Therefore, I submit that the Valley of Jehoshaphat (Judgement) will be held at Har Megiddo (Armageddon), and that there is no contradiction in use of either or both names for the same event.
Now we are given more insight to how this event will come to pass. All of the hostile nations are told to gather for battle to see whether they are able to engage war against HaShem. Unlike a human monarch, who seeks to limit the size of the opposing forces, HaShem urges them to gather in force so that He can exact judgment against all of them at one time for their sins (Alshich).
So great will be the scope of this battle that the people will need to change their farming tools into weapons in order to supply the great army. However, once this battle is over, recall that Isaiah speaks of the reverse happening “And they will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning forks” (Radak on Isaiah 2:4). Even the weak will be inspired to join in the battle; they will gather their courage and join the battle.
Having foretold the fate of the distant nations, Joel redirects his words to the neighboring states of Tyre, Sidon, and Philistia and challenges them to gather for battle. Even those who are seemingly unable to come to the Valley of Judgment will be brought there by Divine decree in order to annihilate them (Alshich).
“…there HaShem will demolish your warriors.”
There, in the Valley of Judgment, your mighty will be crushed. Others translate this as bringing down, interpreting this in the imperative mode: Bring down your mighty angels, HaShem [to participate in this battle] (Ibn Ezra; Radak).
“Let the nations rouse themselves and go up to the Valley of Jehoshaphat, for there I will sit to judge the nations from all around.”
All of the nations will be aroused to come to the Valley of Judgement where this great battle will take place, and there they will be judged for their persecutions of the Jewish people (in reality all true believers; Jews as defined by Yahshua in Romans Chapter 2-3). There is an interesting interpretation by Alshich which may or may not be accurate, but is worth citing for your consideration:
Alshich cites the Sages (Avodah Zarah 2b) that in the End of Days, when HaShem will judge the nations for their actions against true believers, He will first deal with Rome, then Persia, then the others. Although the Persians will see that the Romans are dealt with harshly, they will ascend to be judged and to argue their case. They believed that their merit of rebuilding the Temple, in contrast to the Romans who destroyed it, would vindicate them. Even after they are sentenced harshly, the other nations will ascend to present their cases. They assumed they have a better chance of vindication than Rome and Persia, who conquered and subjugated the Jewish nation, whereas they did not. This is alluded to by the seemingly contradictory phrase “go up” to the Valley of Judgment. They will present their case under the assumption that the judgment will be in their favor and they will thus ascend. IN reality, however, they will be descending into an abyss, for HaShem will find them all guilty of persecuting His people (all true believers).
As Messianic Jews (not Christians), we have the additional insight provided by Yahshua through the writers He chose to document the B’rit Chadashah (Refreshed, renewed Covenant), so called the “New” Testament. We can correlate the prophecy of Joel to the book of Revelation perfectly in the description of the battle of Armageddon. First we read in Rev. 16:12-16 “The sixth one(angel) poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water dried up, in order to prepare the way for the kings from the east. And I saw three unclean spirits that looked like frogs; they came from the mouth of the dragon, from the mouth of the beast and from the mouth of the false prophet. They are miracle-working demonic spirits which go out to the kings of the whole inhabited world to assemble them for the War of the Great Day of Adonai-Tzva’ot. (Look! I am coming like a thief! How blessed are those who stay alert and keep their clothes clean, so that they won’t be walking naked and be publicly put to shame!)”. And they gather the kings to the place which in Hebrew is called Har Megiddo.”
Moving on to Rev. 20:7 reads “When the thousand years are over, the Adversary will be set free from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle. There number is countless as the sand on the seashore; and they came up over the breadth of the Land and surrounded the camp of G-d’s people and the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and consumed them. The Adversary who had deceived them was hurled into the lake of fire and sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet were; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. Next I saw a great white throne and the One sitting on it. Earth and heaven fled from His presence, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, both great and small, standing in front of the throne. Books were opened; and another book was opened, the Book of Life; and the dead were judged from what was written in the books, according to what they had done. The sea gave up the dead in it; and Death and Sh’ol gave up the dead in them; and they were judged, each according to what he had done. Then Death and Sh’ol were hurled into the lake of fire. This is the second death [ the lake of fire. Anyone whose name was not found written in the Book of Life was hurled into the lake of fire.”
There is much to explore in these verses, but it is beyond the scope of this teaching and is introduced only to show the correlation between Joel’s prophecy concerning HaShem’s judgment and how it is described in the book of Revelation.
Next week we will conclude our study of Joel. May the Ruach HaKodesh prompt our hearts to diligently study, pray, and prepare. The wisdom of men who try to predict when these events will take place is faulty and can only lead to death (Prov. 16:25; 21:16). Let us fill and keep our lamps filled with oil (Matt. 25).
Rabbi Tamah Davis