The Word Made Fresh
1In those days I will restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem. 2Then I will bring all the nations together in the valley of Jehoshaphat, and I will judge them there on behalf of Israel, my people and my heritage who have been scattered among the nations. My land has been divided 3and my people have been sold. Boys have been traded for prostitutes and girls sold for wine to drink.
4What do you think you’re doing, Tyre and Sidon, and the land of the Philistines? Are you trying to repay me? If so, I will quickly turn your deeds back on your own heads. 5You have stolen my silver and gold and carried my treasures into your own temples. 6You have sold the people of Judah and Jerusalem to the Greeks, and have sent them far away. 7But I am going to encourage them to leave the place to which you sold them. I will turn your actions back on your own heads. 8I will sell your sons and daughters to the people of Judah, and they will in turn sell them to the Sabeans, a people far away. Thus says the LORD.
9So, announce this to the nations:
Prepare for war and rouse the soldiers.
Let all of them approach.
10Hammer your plowshares into swords
and turn your pruning hooks into spears.
Let even the weakest among them declare, “I am a soldier!”
11All you nations around, assemble there
and let the LORD’s army come.
12Let all the nations arise
and bring themselves to the valley of Jehoshaphat,
where I will judge them all.
13Swing the sickle, for the harvest is ready.
Tread the grapes, for the wine press is full.
The vats are overflowing with the sinfulness of the people.
14Many will gather in the valley of decision,
for there the day of the LORD is near.
15The sun and moon will be darkened
and the stars will no longer shine.
16From Zion the LORD roars,
and from Jerusalem God’s voice is heard.
Heaven and earth tremble.
But the LORD is a safe refuge for the people,
a strong fortress for Israel.
17Then you will know that I am the LORD your God
who dwells in Zion, my sacred mountain.
Jerusalem will be holy,
and never again will foreigners walk casually through it.
18When that day comes the mountains will drip with sweet wine
and the hills will flow with milk,
and all the rivulet of Judah will flow with water.
Then a fountain will spring from the LORD’s house,
and water will flow through the Shittim watercourse.
19Egypt and Edom will be a desolate wilderness
because of all the violence they brought on the people of Judah.
In the land of Judah, they shed much innocent blood.
20But Judah will once again be inhabited forever,
and generations will be born in Jerusalem.
21I will avenge the shedding of their blood.
The guilty will not be declared innocent,
for the LORD dwells in Zion.
1-3: Joel is looking to the distant future when Judah and Jerusalem will be restored, and all the nations judged for their part in the suffering of God’s people. The ‘valley of Jehoshaphat’ is not a specific location — no such place name is known — but rather a reference to what is to happen. The name Jehoshaphat means “the LORD is judge.” The nations will be judged for claiming the land for themselves. This is an affront to God because the people of Israel had always lived in the land at God’s pleasure; the land has always belonged to God.
4-8: Tyre, Sidon, and Philistia are held up for the particular crimes of taking the sacred vessels from the temple in Jerusalem and using them in their pagan places of worship, and for engaging in the slave trade to sell God’s people to the Greeks. Their punishment will be that they in turn will be sold to the Sabeans, a region in the Arabian Peninsula in the opposite direction from Greece.
9-10: Joel is told to summon all the nations to war with God and to come with all the firepower they can muster – beating plowshares into swords and pruning hooks into spears is exactly the opposite of what we read in Isaiah 2:4 and will read in Micah 4:3.
11: Joel issues the summons, while at the same time calling on the warriors of the LORD to come down and meet them in battle.
12: God renews the summons to all the nations to the trial, which is now being described as a battle.
13-16: God commands the heavenly host to utterly destroy the armies of the nations, using the imagery of harvesting the grain field and the vineyard. The battle assumes cosmic proportions as the foes clash. All creation is shaken.
17-21: The book ends with a repetition of God’s intent to restore Zion as the “holy mountain,” bless the land, and punish the neighboring peoples who have had a part in causing the suffering of God’s people.
God will always work to rescue the faithful. Our task in life is make sure we belong to that number by devoting ourselves to God’s will for us. “What does the LORD want of me?” is the question we should begin with each day.
So ends the prophesy of Joel, son of Pethuel. Now on to Amos!