The Pulpit Commentary

Joel 3:4-8 (Joel 3:4-8)

In these verses the prophet pauses before proceeding to describe the final judgment of the world-powers for their hostility to and oppression of his Church, and points out the bitter enmity of neigh-bouring nations to the covenant people in the prophet's own day, with a prediction of the righteous retribution that awaited them.

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Joel 3:4 (Joel 3:4)

The northern sea-board of the Phoenicians, including the famous cities of Tyre and Sidon, also the southern sea-coast and plain of the Philistines, with their five principalities, are joined by vegam with the nations notorious for injuring and oppressing the people of God. The words rendered in the Authorized Version, What have ye to do with me? rather mean, What would ye with me? or still better, What are ye to me ? that is. how worthless and despicable in my sight! The disjunctive question which follows becomes clearer by adopting the rendering of Keil and Wunsche, Will ye repay me a deed, or do anything against me? that is, will ye repay me some wrong-doing which ye fancy I have inflicted on you? or will ye, without such supposed provocation, and of your own free will, do or attempt to do anything against me? The double question with veim instead of im repeats, in other words or in a modified form, the preceding question; while the question itself, as often, implies a negative sense to the effect that they had neither right nor reason for averting themselves on the people of God—for God here identifies himself with his people—nor for attempting wantonly and gratuitously to harm them. The consequence would only be a swift and speedy return of the mischief on their own head, so that, as is usual with the wicked, they fall themselves into the pit which they dig for others. The idea of revenge rather than of punishment gets too great prominence in the old versions and commentators. The comment of Kimchi is instructive, though more in harmony with the rendering of the Authorized Version than with that which we prefer; it is as follows: "What have I to do with you, that ye enter my land while ye are neighbours? and it behoved you to do good to my people, but ye have not done so; but when ye saw that the kings of the nations (Gentiles)came upon them, ye allied yourselves with them to plunder and spoil … . Why is it, then, that ye are doing evil to me, if ye think to avenge yourselves of me because I have done you evil? When did I do you evil? Or if you will say that of yourselves ye are doing evil to me now, for he that does evil to Israel from his thought of doing evil to me, they are my children … swiftly and suddenly will I return your doing on your own head."

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Joel 3:1-8 (Joel 3:1-8)

Deliverance and destruction.

The causal particle, with which the first verse of this chapter commences, connects it closely with the preceding. It not only introduces a further explanation, but confirms the statements there made. The course of the predictions contained in the foregoing chapter embraced the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost; the establishment of the Christian Church; the great catastrophes and troubles that should succeed; the destruction of the holy city and the dispersion of its inhabitants, here called "the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem;" the deliverance of a remnant from those troubles—at all events, the eternal salvation of the godly who cleaved to the Lord and his service. Of the general promise, a particular instance is given in the case of the Jews. But the promise to Judah and Jerusalem is a pledge of the spiritual deliverance of his Church and people, as also of temporal deliverance when and wheresoever such may be required.

I. DELIVERANCE THE PEOPLE OF GOD .

1 . The relation in which Israel stood to God is symbolical of the relation in which God's people stand to him still. They are his people; " my people," he is pleased to call them; " my heritage," he names them. They are his "peculiar treasure," and "the lot of his inheritance," as he elsewhere designates them. Their land is his land. We thus see how dear God's people are to him, and what a deep interest he takes in their persons and in their property—in fact, in all that concerns them. They are his for correction when that is needed; they are his for protection from their enemies; they are his to right their wrongs, and to take vengeance on their adversaries; they are his to preserve to them their possessions, and to punish all who trespass thereon, or expel them therefrom. He keeps them and all they have as in the hollow of his hand; and they are dear to him as the apple of his eye.

2 . This promise comprehends in itself a series; it is, indeed, instanced in a single case, yet it is not confined to it, but multiplies itself. Just as the Israelites were delivered out of the bondage of Egypt, and Jerusalem out of the hands of Sennacherib in the reign of Hezekiah, and the Jews out of the captivity in Babylon, and other deliverances of the Jewish Church and people took place before the advent of Messiah, so has the promise repeated itself in the many deliverances of God's people since then. Especially is it exemplified in the great deliverance from sin and Satan wrought out for us by Messiah; and shall have its complete consummation in the judgment of the great day.

II. DESTRUCTION OF THE ENEMIES OF GOD 'S PEOPLE .

1 . Simultaneous with the year of the redeemed shall be the year of recompense for the controversy of Zion. The salvation of God's people and the destruction of their enemies go hand in hand together. They are frequently connected in time, almost always in prediction.

2 . The place as well as the time is indicated, namely, the valley where Jehoshaphat gained his notable victory, and where the allies slew one another, as if a similar fate awaited all the enemies of Israel; or the valley so called in the neighbourhood, and within view of Jerusalem, that their destruction might be within view of the very people they sought to injure; or, as the name denotes, the "valley of judgment," for whatever be the particular place intended, it will be a place of justice.

3 . The destruction shall proceed according to strict justice. God will plead the cause of his people, in proof that he deals judicially, not capriciously, nor causelessly, with their enemies. In this way their destruction shall be seen to be the result of a judicial process, and fully deserved.

4 . There is an enumeration of the pleas advanced, and an example of the pleading adopted.

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Joel 3:2-8 (Joel 3:2-8)

Retribution.

Joel's prophetic foresight beholds the calamities that are to come upon the Jews, his countrymen. Looking back upon the past, we are able by the records of history to verify the justice of these predictions. The transportations into the East, the oppression under Antiochus, the dispersion by the Romans,—these awful events in Hebrew history rise before our view. But where shall we look for a fulfilment of the predictions of vengeance and of retribution? Surely God in his providence has spoiled the spoilers, and led captivity captive! There is but a name and a memory left of the proud conquerors and the mighty nations that oppressed and scattered Israel. An omen this of final judgment—a picture of the purposes of the Eternal. The Lord reigneth, and none can stay his hand.

I. THE OPPRESSION OF GOD 'S PEOPLE BY THEIR FOES .

1 . The laud is parted. The sacred soil is divided among strangers, for the tribes to whom it was allotted are dispossessed. The heirs become slaves, and toil upon their own inheritance.

2 . The treasures are carried away. The silver, the gold, the pleasant things, which have been a delight to the eyes and an enrichment to the population,—these are carried off to adorn the palaces and temples of the conquerors and captors.

3 . The inhabitants of the land are led into captivity, are scattered among the nations, far from the homes of their ancestors and the scenes of their childhood.

4 . Nay, even worse, the children are sold as slaves, as worthless trifles, or as ministers to the luxury or the lust of heathen masters.

II. THE RESCUE OF GOD 'S PEOPLE FROM THEIR FOES .

1 . The enemies and oppressors shall be themselves defeated and vanquished. The valley of Jehoshaphat, or "the judgment of Jehovah," is to be the scene of a righteous retribution, in which the cause of God's people shall be maintained, and their enemies judged.

2 . The people of God shall be restored to their dwelling-places, and their former happiness and privileges; the mischief shall be undone.

3 . And the oppressors shall in turn endure the fate they inflicted upon the Lord's people; they who sold Israelites into captivity in the West shall themselves be deported as slaves into the East. From this prediction the great lesson may be learned that the Lord reigneth—that he suffers nothing to happen to his people that he will not overrule for their good and for his glory.—T.

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Joel 3:1-8 (Joel 3:1-8)

The persecution of good men.

"For, behold, in those days," etc. "In this chapter the prophet returns from the parenthetic view which he had exhibited of the commencement of the Christian dispensation and the overthrow of the Jewish polity, to deliver predictions respecting events that were to transpire subsequent to the Babylonish captivity, and fill up the space which should intervene between the restoration of the Jews and the first advent of Christ. He announces the judgment to be holden on their enemies after their return to Judaea" (Henderson). And in these two verses he specifies the reason why they were to be punished. Our subject is the persecution of good men on earth.

I. THERE HAVE EVER BEEN GOOD MEN ON EARTH . Corrupt as the world has been for sixty centuries, there have always been in every generation some men whose characters in the main have been good, and in whom the great Governor of the world has manifested a special interest. These are in the holy book called by a large variety of names. They are called here:

1 . " My people. " They are his.

2 . " My heritage. " In Exodus 19:5 you have these words, "Now therefore if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine." He who owns the universe, esteems holy souls as the most valuable of his possessions. The vast universe of matter is in his estimation worth nothing in comparison with one truly virtuous spirit.

II. THESE GOOD MEN ON EARTH HAVE GENERALLY BEEN SUBJECT TO PERSECUTION . "Whom they have scattered among the nations, and parted my land." The faithful and the true amongst the Jews had, subsequent to their restoration from Babylonish captivity, been driven by violence amongst the nations. The indignities and cruelties which they. were subject are specified in the subsequent verses. "Persecution.". says an old writer, "is the reigning sin of the world." The enmity between the seed of the woman and the serpent has shown itself from the beginning. "Marvel not," said Christ, "that the world hate you." There is a persecution that, whilst it does not involve bonds, imprisonments, and physical violences, involves the malice of hell, and inflicts grievous injury. There is social calumny, scorn, degradation, and various disabilities. The good must ever suffer in a world like this for conscience' sake.

III. THEIR PERSECUTION WILL BE AVENGED BY HEAVEN . "I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat, and will plead with them there for my people and for my heritage Israel." It is not necessary to suppose that the valley of Jehoshaphat here means the vale through which the Kedron flows, lying between the city of Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives; or the valley of blessings mentioned in 2 Chronicles 20:1-37 ; or any other particular place. Its literal meaning is, "the valley where God judgeth." It means here the scene where God would deal out retribution upon the nations that persecuted his people. It was in the valley of Jehoshaphat that in all probability the army of Sennacherib was slain by Heaven's avenging angel. Ah! the time hastens when persecutors of all types and ages will have full retribution dealt out to them in some great valley of Jehoshaphat.—D.T.

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