Joel begins this chapter by giving God’s persecuted people something to be happy about. Israel’s future looked pretty bleak, so Joel reminds them that God always comes through, and that He would judge their enemies
Verse 1a: “For behold, in those days and at that time…”
Joel’s prophecy concerns the same period of time of the “afterward” in Joel 2:28, the day of the Lord, which will begin at the rapture of the church, when Jesus comes to take all believers out of this world.
Verse 1b: “When I bring back the captives of Judah and Jerusalem…” Some translate this as, “When I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem.”
Moses wrote of this day:
Deuteronomy 30:1-10: “Now it shall come to pass, when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations where the Lord your God drives you, and you return to the Lord your God and obey His voice, according to all that I command you today, you and your children, with all your heart and with all your soul, that the Lord your God will bring you back from captivity, and have compassion on you, and gather you again from all the nations where the Lord your God has scattered you. If any of you are driven out to the farthest parts under heaven, from there the Lord your God will gather you, and from there He will bring you. Then the Lord your God will bring you to the land which your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it. He will prosper you and multiply you more than your fathers. And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live. Also the Lord your God will put all these curses on your enemies and on those who hate you, who persecuted you.”
Ezekiel's prophecy of the rebirth of Israel and its precise fulfillment on May 15, 1948 is one of the greatest fulfillments of Bible prophecy:
Ezekiel 37:11,12, “Then He said to me, ‘Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel.’ They indeed say, ‘Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!’ Therefore prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God: Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel.’”
Zephaniah and Jeremiah also speak of this:
Zephaniah 3:18-20 NLT, “I will gather you who mourn for the appointed festivals; you will be disgraced no more. And I will deal severely with all who have oppressed you. I will save the weak and helpless ones; I will bring together those who were chased away. I will give glory and fame to my former exiles, wherever they have been mocked and shamed. On that day I will gather you together and bring you home again. I will give you a good name, a name of distinction, among all the nations of the earth, as I restore your fortunes before their very eyes. I, the Lord, have spoken!”
Jeremiah 30:3 NLT, “For the time is coming when I will restore the fortunes of my people of Israel and Judah. I will bring them home to this land that I gave to their ancestors, and they will possess it again. I, the Lord, have spoken!”
Jeremiah 31:8-11 NLT, “For I will bring them from the north and from the distant corners of the earth. I will not forget the blind and lame, the expectant mothers and women in labor. A great company will return! Tears of joy will stream down their faces, and I will lead them home with great care. They will walk beside quiet streams and on smooth paths where they will not stumble. Listen to this message from the Lord, you nations of the world; proclaim it in distant coastlands: The Lord, who scattered his people, will gather them and watch over them as a shepherd does his flock. For the Lord has redeemed Israel from those too strong for them.”
Verse 2a: “I will also gather all nations, and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat…”
This is the name given in modern times to the valley between Jerusalem and the mount of Olives, the Kidron flows through it. Here Jehoshaphat overthrew the confederated enemies of Israel. This has been fulfilled; but Joel speaks of the final conflict, when God would destroy all Jerusalem's enemies. The “Valley of Jehoshaphat” may therefore be simply regarded as a general term for the theatre of God's final judgments on the enemies of Israel. The name of this valley, which literally means “Jehovah judges” or “Jehovah has judged,” appears to be symbolic. It is also called “the Valley of Decision” in Joel 3:14.
“The Valley of Jehoshaphat is a generic term that describes the theater of God's final judgments on Israel's foes; the modern Middle East is chock full of bitter enemies of Israel, almost 300,000,000 Muslims who desperately want Israel destroyed, nations whose ancestors hated the Jews exceedingly. In fact, this entire area has been mistreating the Jews for several thousand years. We believe the “Valley of Jehoshaphat” may very well be the entire Middle East. Joel 3 describes multitudes upon multitudes of nations being brought into the Valley of Jehoshaphat for judgment at the end of the age”–cuttingedge.org.
Verse 2b: “And I will enter into judgment with them there on account of My people, My heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations; they have also divided up My land.”
In the day when Jehovah restores Israel He will judge all nations in the Valley of Jehoshaphat for the wrongs which they have done to His people.
People who have a limited knowledge of the Bible have the idea that this battle, known as the battle of Armageddon will be between the world’s superpowers in a mighty battle for the supremacy of the world. But United States missiles, hidden away in silos in various states will not be unleashed against the powers of the Russia and the Eastern Bloc nations. This battle refers to the final war between human governments and God. These governments and their supporters oppose God are even now by refusing to submit to His sovereignty.
Psalm 2:2,3, “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, ‘Let us break Their bonds in pieces and cast away Their cords from us.’” The battle of Armageddon will bring human rebellion to an end.
Daniel 2:44, “And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.”
Revelation 16:14;16, “For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty…”And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon.”
This battle is going to be against the nations assembled together who hate Israel. They want to rid the world of God. There are mighty forces in the world today that are already poised to join that army! This will include those who want to erase God from our currency, and the “Pledge of Allegiance;” evil forces who lobby unbelieving politicians to get God out of government; who have already taken God our of our national education system; people who have forced the issue of traditional marriage, abortion, and gay rights. These people are haters of God. Romans 1 describes many of them:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness…because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things…And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality,[c] wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving,[d] unmerciful…” (Romans 1:1-23;28-31).
Following is a description of the battle. Jesus will lead the armies of heaven who will be made up of the believers of the church age, us!
Revelation 19:11-21, “Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND
LORD OF LORDS…”
Revelation 19:19-21, “And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse. And all the birds were filled with their flesh.”
Ezekiel 39:7, “So will I make my holy name known in the midst of my people Israel; and I will not let them pollute my holy name any more: and the heathen shall know that I am the Lord, the Holy One in Israel.”
Verse 3: “They have cast lots for My people, have given a boy as payment for a harlot, and sold a girl for wine, that they may drink…”
“It was customary with conquerors, in those days, to divide the captives, taken in war, among themselves by lot, and so did these enemies of the Jews. And have given a boy for a harlot –By this is meant, that they exchanged, or gave away, Jewish boys, instead of money, for harlots. And sold a girl for wine, that they might drink –For a draught of wine, as it were; that is, at a very vile and low rate. These instances are mentioned, to signify the contempt in which these enemies of the Jews held the worshippers of the true God; they parted with them, when they had taken them captives, upon the vilest terms, as setting little or no value upon them” –Benson.
Verse 4: “Indeed, what have you to do with Me, O Tyre and Sidon, and all the coasts of Philistia? Will you retaliate against Me? But if you retaliate against Me, swiftly and speedily I will return your retaliation upon your own head.”
God virtually challenges the nations to come against Him or His people. God here threatens retaliation on Israel’s enemies for the wrongs they had inflicted upon them. Tyre and Sidon had oppressed the Jews in the time of the judges, and would do so again: the Philistines were continually the enemies of Israel; but in the end, could they fight against with God?
Verse 5: ”because you have taken My silver and My gold, and have carried into your temples My prized possessions…”
The Philistines and Arabians had carried off all the treasures of King Jehoram's house (2 Chronicles 21:16,17). Compare also 1 Kings 15:18; 2 Kings 12:18; 14:14, for the spoiling of the treasures of the temple and the king's palace in Judah by Syria. It was customary among the heathen to hang up in the idol temples some of the spoils of war as presents to their gods.” – Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Verse 6: “Also the people of Judah and the people of Jerusalem you have sold to the Greeks, That you may remove them far from their borders. “Far from their border…”
It was customary for the merchants of the neighboring countries, particularly, Tyre and Sidon, to buy the children of Israel for slaves of their conquerors, in order to sell them again. They removed them far from their home and families, far from Judah; so that the captive Jews were cut off with no hope of returning.
Verses 7,8: “Behold, I will raise them out of the place to which you have sold them, and will return your retaliation upon your own head. I will sell your sons and your daughters into the hand of the people of Judah, and they will sell them to the Sabeans, to a people far off; for the Lord has spoken.”
The nation’s around them had treated God’s people with contempt, and had no sense of their worth selling them into slavery. God will repay them with the same contempt they put upon His people, vowing to return your retaliation upon your own head.
Today many Christians are treated with contempt, persecution is the norm in many nations of the world.
“From verbal harassment to hostile feelings, attitudes and actions, Christians in areas with severe religious restrictions pay a heavy price for their faith. Beatings, physical torture, confinement, isolation, rape, severe punishment, imprisonment, slavery, discrimination in education and employment, and even death are just a few examples of the persecution they experience on a daily basis. According to The Pew Research Center, over 75% of the world's population lives in areas with severe religious restrictions (and many of these people are Christians). Also, according to the United States Department of State, Christians in more than 60 countries face persecution from their governments or surrounding neighbors simply because of their belief in Jesus Christ.” –opendoorsusa.org.
2 Timothy 3:12, “Anyone who wants to live all out for Christ is in for a lot of trouble; there’s no getting around it” (The Message). “Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (New Living Translation).
Jeremiah 20:11, “But the Lord is with me as a mighty, awesome One. Therefore my persecutors will stumble, and will not prevail. They will be greatly ashamed, for they will not prosper. Their everlasting confusion will never be forgotten.”
Matthew 5:10-12, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Romans 12:19, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord…”
Exodus 23:22 NLT, “But if you are careful to obey him, following all my instructions, then I will be an enemy to your enemies, and I will oppose those who oppose you.”
Christian persecution started with Jesus himself. He was asked directly at trial, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?” Jesus left no room for ambiguity – His words were “I am.” (Mark 14:61,62).
Here is an account of early Christian persecution, as compiled from numerous sources, including, Foxes’ Christian Martyrs of the World.
Peter and Paul were both martyred in Rome about 66 AD, during the persecution under Emperor Nero. Paul was beheaded. Peter was crucified, upside down (tradition) at his request, since he did not feel he was worthy to die in the same manner as his Lord.
Andrew, Peter’s brother, who preached the gospel throughout Asia, was crucified.
Thomas, called Didymus, preached the Gospel in Parthia and India, where exciting the rage of the pagan priests, he was martyred by being thrust through with a spear.
Philip was scourged, thrown into prison, and afterwards crucified.
Matthew the tax collector and writer of a Gospel, ministered in Persia and Ethiopia. was preaching in Ethiopia when he suffered martyrdom by the sword.
Bartholomew was cruelly beaten and then crucified by idolaters in India.
James, the son of Alpheus, according to Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, was beaten, stoned and clubbed to death.
James, the brother of Jesus, pastor of the church in Jerusalem was thrown from the temple and clubbed to death. and was the author of an Epistle by his name. At age 94,
Simon ministered in Africa and was crucified.
Matthias was the apostle chosen to replace Judas. Tradition sends him to Syria with Andrew and to death by burning.
John is the only one of the company generally thought to have died a natural death from old age.
Hebrews 11:35-40: “Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted,[f] were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented—of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.”
Unless otherwise noted, the New King James Version of the Bible was used. Also The New Living Translation (NLT); The New American Standard Bible (NASB); The Message (MSG); The New Century Version (NCV); The Amplified Bible (AMP); The King James Version (KJV), The New Life Version (NLV); English Standard Version (ESV); J.B. Phillips New Testament; Easy to Read Version (ERV); Common English bible (CEB); NET Bible (NET) and The Living Bible (TLB).