The Book of Joel presents a unique challenge to those of us trying to piece together the events that bring the children of Jacob back to God. This is the pattern of the Book of Joel:
A Plague of Locusts – Joel 1:1 to Joel 2:11
The Salvation of Israel – Joel 2:12 to Joel 2:32
The Judgment of the Nations – Joel 3:1-17
The Millennium (?) – Joel 3:18-21
A Plague of Locusts
The plague of locusts is pretty easy to figure out, but hard to place. We don’t have a historical record of this event, so we don’t know if this happened during the time of Joel, some time after or whether it will happen in our future.
My assumption is that this plague happened during the time of Joel, to make sure that everyone understood that Joel was a prophet. After all, we have no independent record of Joel. Except for Acts, no other book of the Bible refers to him.
Why is Joel’s relative obscurity important?
Well, when the Old Testament (aka, Tanakh, תנ”ך) was put together (aka, canonized), someone had to know that Joel needed to be in the Bible. It could be that the Holy Spirit tapped the guys responsible (Ezra and Nehemiah) on the shoulder and said that Joel needed to be in the Old Testament. The other possibility is that the prophet Joel, during his life, had gotten a reputation as a prophet of God – so much so that people preserved what he wrote. The third possibility is that Joel wrote his book, and the first part of it was fulfilled so strongly that people never forgot it.
You’ll notice, as you read through the Bible, that the prophets usually had to prove themselves to be prophets. After all, people three thousand years ago were as smart as we are today. They aren’t going to believe that someone is a prophet until they get some proof.
What was Joel’s proof that he was a prophet?
I believe that it’s that first part, the plague of locusts.
Now, I could be wrong. There could be some completely different reason that was written down in history somewhere, but lost in some ancient fire or flood. Anything is possible. But, I just find it interesting that the only other reference to Joel, is from Acts 2 – in Peter’s explanation for those speaking in tongues on the Day of Pentacost. But, that’s not a terribly strong argument, so feel free to ignore my assumption.
Just remember that Ezra and Nehemiah had a truly difficult task, when they sat down to make the final canonization of what we call The Old Testament. They needed to make sure that only those who were truly inspired by God made it into the Bible, and those who were not… didn’t.
Did Ezra turn to Nehemiah and say, “Oh yeah, the one about the locusts. That actually happened.”
However, it’s just as possible that a plague of locusts WILL descend upon Israel in the future. During my time in Israel, the Israelis had to send out planes and helicopters every few years or so, to spray massive swarms of locusts that were heading towards Israeli fields. When Gog and Magog occurs, Israel won’t have the planes and helicopters that they need, to stop the locusts from coming.
Will a massive, unstoppable swarm of locusts descend upon Israel, some time in the future?
After the Battle of Gog and Magog?
We’ll just have to wait and see.
The Salvation of Israel
I’ll leave it to you, to read about the prophecy about the locusts in Joel 1 through Joel 2:11. We are more interested in the second part of Joel – the Return of Jacob to God. And, it starts with God calling calling for repentance in verses 12 through 17 of chapter 2. And, we know that this part is in the future because of what God promises to do in verses 18 through 20:
18 Then the Lord will be zealous for His land,
And pity His people.
19 The Lord will answer and say to His people,
“Behold, I will send you grain and new wine and oil,
And you will be satisfied by them;
I will no longer make you a reproach among the nations.
20 “But I will remove far from you the northern army,
And will drive him away into a barren and desolate land,
With his face toward the eastern sea
And his back toward the western sea;
His stench will come up,
And his foul odor will rise,
Because he has done monstrous things.”
This has never happened, but some might want to say that this part of the prophesy is already in the process of fulfillment. The Lord is clearly zealous for His land. He has begun to pity His people. And, Israel has become a land of abundant agriculture. But, the last part of verse 19 has yet to occur:
I will no longer make you a reproach among the nations.
Unfortunately, there is still a lot of antisemitism. The world is still full of people who love to hate the Jews. Yes, it is true that there is less antisemitism than a hundred years ago, but it is still alive and well in the hearts of far, far too many mor… er …people. But, the more interesting statement is found in the next verse:
But I will remove far from you the northern army,
That sounds a LOT like what Ezekiel talks about in chapters 38 and 39. That northern army WILL be pushed out of Israel, and all the dead bodies of that army will smell terrible. And, if you wonder about what the ‘barren and desolate’ land is, remember that Isaiah 19 speaks of Damascus being destroyed so thoroughly that it will never be a city again.
Oh, and about that word ‘monstrous’. The word is הגדיל (pronounced heeg’deel), and it means ‘great’ or ‘really big’. The translators of the NKJV were adding their own interpretation to that word, which is not something that should be allowed.
But wait, God refers to the locusts as ‘my great army’ in verse 25.
Wouldn’t this be that ‘northern army’?
You would be forgiven for thinking so. But, if you spend any amount of time in Israel, you know that locusts never, ever come from the North. Of course, with God, anything is possible, so if a gigantic swarm of locusts descends from Lebanon and Syria, I’ll take back what I said.
So, where do the locusts come from?
Central and Northeastern Africa, south of Egypt. And, during the summer and early fall, we often get some really strong winds coming from that direction. And, that’s how the locusts would arrive. I have never heard of locust swarms coming from the north. Ever.
However, all of that is less important than what verses 28 through 32 say:
28 “And it shall come to pass afterward
That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
Your old men shall dream dreams,
Your young men shall see visions.
29 And also on My menservants and on My maidservants
I will pour out My Spirit in those days.
30 “And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth:
Blood and fire and pillars of smoke.
31 The sun shall be turned into darkness,
And the moon into blood,
Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord.
32 And it shall come to pass
That whoever calls on the name of the Lord
Shall be saved.
For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be deliverance,
As the Lord has said,
Among the remnant whom the Lord calls.
THAT is the kind of salvation that you and I have experienced. In fact, Peter quotes this passage in Acts 2, to point out to the onlookers that this Day of Pentecost is the same kind of thing that Joel was talking about.
Does this mean that this prophecy from Joel has already been fulfilled?
Yes, Peter makes the connection. But, Peter could NOT have been claiming that this is a full-on fulfillment of Joel 28-32.
Because Peter would have also known that verses 28-32 would NOT be fulfilled until AFTER a great army comes from the north and is destroyed – and smell bad. On the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2, no great army – whether locust or human – had come down just prior to this event. And no, don’t talk to me about the Romans. They weren’t destroyed.
Remember that the Salvation of Jacob does not happen until AFTER – A-F-T-E-R – an army comes down from the north and is destroyed. Period. End-of-Story.
However, the salvation of Israel will be identical in character to what the early church experienced on the Day of Pentecost. In the midst of great devastation, there will be great and incredible joy – and yeah, speaking in tongues too.
Now, we could stop there and be done with Joel. But, we shouldn’t, because the rest of the Book of Joel might help us put the Salvation of Jacob at the right time and place.
The Judgment of the Nations
In the last chapter of Joel, chapter 3, we see God judging the nations for the evil that they did to Israel. And, God also gives us a mystery:
1 “For behold, in those days and at that time,
When I bring back the captives of Judah and Jerusalem,
2 I will also gather all nations,
And bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat;
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.
The passage says ‘all nations’. That seems pretty definitive. But, the place where they are gathered…
The Valley of Jehoshaphat
WHERE is this valley?
There is no place on ANY map, that says ‘The Valley of Jehoshaphat’, and Joel 3 is the only place in the Bible where a ‘Valley of Jehoshaphat’ is mentioned. And, when you do a search using your favorite search engine, you will discover lots and lots of conjecture and supposition. So, let’s try and discover it for ourselves.
First of all, let’s dispense with some foolishness:
Jehoshaphat is a name. A person.
Yes, I know that it means ‘Yehovah has judged’. I get that. But, anyone who knows even a little bit about Hebrew, should know that this is a name. It would be a deliberate distortion of the Bible, to claim that such-and-such a valley is actually is this valley, because God judged someone or something. There are lots of valleys where God judged someone or something. We do not have the right to just pick one and claim that this is the ‘Valley of Jehoshaphat’.
Furthermore, there is only one person in the Bible, of any significance, whose name is Jehoshaphat. And, I think that we need to examine the life of King Jehoshaphat, to see if there is some valley, where something significant occurred, that we might connect to him. Here are the major events that are recorded in the Bible, about King Jehoshaphat:
FIRST – Jehoshaphat visits King Ahab, in the city of Samaria and decides to help Ahab fight the Syrians
– 1 Kings 22:1-28; 2 Chronicles 18
SECOND – Jehoshaphat and Ahab fight against Syria at Ramoth Gilead (Ahab dies)
– 1 Kings 22:29-36
THIRD – Jehoshaphat builds boats Etzion Geber (aka Eilat)
– 1 Kings 22:48; 2 Chronicles 20:36-37
FOURTH – Jehoram, Jehoshaphat and the King of Edom fight against Moab
– 2 Kings 3
FIFTH – Moab, Ammon and others attack Judah. Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah watch God destroy them in the wilderness of Tekoa
– 2 Chronicles 20:1-30
Jehoshaphat did some other things, but there’s nothing else that would make us think of a place called, “The Valley of Jehoshaphat”. So, let’s look at each of these to see if we can find the ‘Valley of Jehoshaphat’.
FIRST – When Jehoshaphat visited King Ahab, he went to the city of Samaria. That would be were modern-day Sebastia is located. Sebastia is northwest of Nablus, and there is nothing around that town that would make you think, ‘Valley of Jehoshaphat’. It’s not near the Jezreel Valley. And, Sebastia sits in the middle of a hilly region that doesn’t seem like a place for large armies.
SECOND – Ramoth Gilead is in northern Jordan, right at the border of Syria, in or near a city called Ar-Ramtha. There’s a LOT of flat land in the area, perfect for assembling a big military force. And, it does look like a valley – kinda.
THIRD – The thing about the boats in Etzion Gever… well …I don’t think that the area around modern-day Eilat would qualify. I’ve been in and out of Eilat a lot, and you could make a case for it being a valley. But, I would never want to assemble an army there. And, none of the other prophecies talk about that area at all.
FOURTH – Then, Jehoram, Jehoshaphat and the King of Edom get together to attack Moab. They swing around the bottom of the Dead Sea and either move up into Edom via today’s Wadi al-Hasa or ascend into the highlands via a wadi/rift further south. Either way, they attack from the wilderness that is to the east of Moab.
How do we know this?
Because, in the morning, the the morning light reflected off of the water that had accumulated in the ditches that had been dug (2 Kings 3:22). Through the prophet Elisha, Jehoshaphat had been commanded to fill the valley with trenches to collect the water that God would miraculously provide for them.
FIFTH – Then, we have the attack on Judah by Moab, Ammon, et. al. The invaders come up from around Ein Gedi into a place called the ‘Wilderness of Tekoa’. There certainly seem to be valleys in the area, and any one of them might qualify as ‘The Valley of Jehoshaphat”
So, which of these is this ‘Valley of Jehoshaphat’?
Well, let’s look at one more clue from further down in the chapter. It’s in verse 14, and it says this:
14 Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision!
For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision.
I remember reading that verse several times over the years, and it never ceased to intrigue me. The words ‘Valley of Decision’ seem so powerful and ominous. There’s gravitas in that name. But, unlike all the other times when I have read those words, this time I chose to look at the original Hebrew. The words ‘Valley of Decision’ in Joel 3:14 are:
It’s pronounced Emek Hey-Cha-Roots (ch as in Bach), and it essentially means Valley of the Ditch. Modern Hebrew also translates חרוץ (cha-roots, ch as in Bach) as ‘diligent’ or ‘industrious’. But, another form of this word, חריץ (cha-reetz) means slot or ditch.
Notice that there is NOTHING about ‘decision’ in this name.
That’s right. It’s yet another maddening example of how awful the translators of the Bible have been. And, the moronic way that they translated these precious words of God… well …it makes me want to scream and break things. Surely, Bible publishers could have gotten translators with a better understanding of Hebrew, instead of using sloppy, second-rate Hebrew students.
Why have they dared to corrupt our Bibles with such sloppy translation?
But, let’s set this aside, and think about what this clue, the ‘Valley of Ditch/Effort/Diligence’ might mean. Remember what I said before, that Jehoshaphat and those with him were commanded to dig ditches in a valley near Moab, to hold the water that God would send them. That verse is here:
And he said, “Thus says the Lord: ‘Make this valley full of ditches.’
– 2 Kings 3:16
Now, the word for ‘ditches’ in that verse is NOT the same as Cha-Roots. But, it still might give us a clue that this great army uses Jordan as a staging area before attacking Israel. There certainly isn’t any other clue about Jehoshaphat that would point us to any other place.
Notice something else:
There’s no Jezreel Valley or Armageddon in this passage.
It doesn’t mean that the biggest valley in northern Israel is not used. It just means that it isn’t mentioned here. I’m sorry that I cannot be more definite, but I don’t know how else to interpret ‘The Valley of Jehoshaphat’ or ‘The Valley of Decision’. But, it’s important to talk about this because – when this part of the prophecy is being fulfilled – you’ll understand what’s happening, at the right time to understand it.
WHY God Judges The Nations
Now that I’ve chased myself all over the place, trying to figure out the ‘Valley of Jehoshaphat’, let’s get back to God’s judgment of the nations. And, WHY He is judging them. And, we’ve already quoted the core reason:
…On account of My people, My heritage Israel,
Whom they have scattered among the nations;
They have also divided up My land.
That’s second half of in Joel 3:2, and it clearly lays out WHY God is going to judge the nations. And, these are the reasons found in verses 3 through 6:
They sold Israel into slavery.
They scattered them across the Earth.
They divided up the Land of Israel.
They plundered the silver, gold and prized possessions of God.
In response to what certain nations have done, God said that He would do this:
7 “Behold, I will raise them
Out of the place to which you have sold them,
And will return your retaliation upon your own head.
8 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 ‘them’ and the ‘they’ are the children of Israel, and THEY will do to the nations what those nations did to them. And, to the extent that there is any truth to the horrible, antisemitic conspiracies being passed around… well …if there’s any truth to them, it’s because of what God has decreed.
If the Jews secretly rule the world (they don’t), it’s because of God.
And no, you cannot fight against God.
The next few verses talk about God calling ALL the nations to come and fight against Israel, but He follows it by saying that He will judge the ‘surrounding nations’. And, those words ‘surrounding nations’ seem to clarify what God means when He says ‘all nations’. If nothing else, it sounds to me that God is going to judge those nations that have persecuted the Jews, and refrain from judging those who have not. Because of what Joel is saying, it seems that this is a judgment of God, prior to the big one that comes at the end of the Great Tribulation.
Then, God goes on to describe the circumstances that surround this judgment:
15 The sun and moon will grow dark,
And the stars will diminish their brightness.
16 The Lord also will roar from Zion,
And utter His voice from Jerusalem;
The heavens and earth will shake;
But the Lord will be a shelter for His people,
And the strength of the children of Israel.
17 “So you shall know that I am the Lord your God,
Dwelling in Zion My holy mountain.
Then Jerusalem shall be holy,
And no aliens shall ever pass through her again.”
When it says ‘The sun and moon will grow dark’, that’s the third time that Joel refers to this. And, here are a couple of other passages in the Bible that refer to this:
“Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
– Matthew 24:29
I looked when He opened the sixth seal, and behold, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood.
– Revelation 6:12
Are all these verses speaking of the same thing?
This could mean that I’ve been barking up the wrong tree, and that this really is at the time when the Lord Returns. Of course, there could be more than one event where the sun goes dark and the moon appears red. If you’ve ever been in a serious dust storm, that can happen.
But, for those of you who believe that Joel is speaking here about the Great Tribulation, think about what God says in verse 16:
But the Lord will be a shelter for His people,
I take great comfort in that, and you should to.
The Millennium (?)
I hate being so hesitant. I’m normally far more definite. But, Joel is a hard book, and this next section offers more opportunities for us to hesitate on being definitive.
The last four verses of Joel definitely/kinda/maybe/probably talk about the Millennium. And, I add a note of doubt because the events the precede the Great Tribulation will seem a lot like this, all by themselves. Catastrophic changes to landscape and weather patterns will occur long before we reach the time of God’s judgment upon the whole Earth.
It’s as if there are two judgments:
There’s the judgment against those who persecuted the children of Jacob.
And then, there’s the judgment of the whole Earth for their sin against God.
Of course, both judgments could happen simultaneously, and I get that. But, it really seems that these two events are separated in time. But, I leave that for you to decide.
So, let’s start with the first of these last four verses of the Book of Joel:
18 And it will come to pass in that day
That the mountains shall drip with new wine,
The hills shall flow with milk,
And all the brooks of Judah shall be flooded with water;
A fountain shall flow from the house of the Lord
And water the Valley of Acacias.
Here we go again with yet another translation error. They translated נחל (pronounced nah-chal, ch as in Bach) to mean valley, when it actually means stream or river. Yes, flowing water tends to carve out parts of a wilderness and create something like a valley, if you wish to stretch that word a bit. But, translators should not be in the business of ‘stretching’ the meanings of words. The word for ‘valley’ in Hebrew is עמק (pronounced Eh-mek). And, Joel uses ‘Emek’, when he talks about the Valley of Jehoshaphat – Emek Yehoshaphat. So, the translators have no excuse for this error.
The next translation issue is less of a problem and is about their use of the word Acacias. Yes, the Hebrew word for Acacia is שטה (pronounced shee-tah), but the word used in Joel 3 is השטים (pronounced ha-shee-teem), or ‘the acacias’. That ‘ha’ (ה) is important. It means ‘the’, and it’s an important ‘the’. It means that these are not just ‘acacias’. This is ‘THE acacias’.
You might not see this dropping of the ‘the’ as important, so let me explain. There really is a place that the Bible calls, השטים. It’s the place where the children of Israel were sitting, just before they went over the Jordan River. And, the translators of the KJV undoubtedly realized that this was a ‘place name’, and that they should leave it alone. If you look up ‘Shittim’ in the KJV, you’ll find references to the place, as well as to shittim wood. The difference is that, in the Hebew, the place called ‘Shittim’ always has that important ה (pronounced: hah) in front of it, making the meaning to be ‘The Shittim’.
Furthermore, we have extra insight from this use of ה – due to the interesting syntax of Hebrew. Whenever you put a ‘the’ in front of a word, you also have to put a ‘the’ in front of all other words describing it. If I say, ‘the red ball’ in Hebrew, I actually have to insert another ‘the’ (ה) and say ‘the ball the red’ (adjectives ALWAYS come after the nouns that they modify). If I say ‘the river of Gad’ (2 Samuel 24:5), I would say ‘the river of the Gad’ (הנחל הגד). But, the Hebrew of Joel 3:18 doesn’t do that. If it was just a river with some acacia trees around it, there would be a ‘the’ (ה) in front of the word ‘river’ in the original Hebrew. But, there is no ‘the’ (ה) before ‘river’ in the Hebrew. So, ‘The Acacias’ (השטים, or hashittim) really is a name and not a description.
This should not have been hard for the translators of the NKJV to see. Why did not is just plain sloppy. And, when it comes to something as precious as the Bible, sloppiness is disgusting and wrong. But, let’s get back to what God is saying through the prophet Joel.
Since we now know that God is referring to HaShittim, the place where Israel crossed the Jordan River, God is saying that the water from the House of the Lord will flow down to the area just north of the Dead Sea. And, if you’ve ever stood on the western side of the Kidron valley, at the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem, you can easily see how water flowing from the Temple Mount would flow into the Dead Sea area. And, that’s exactly what Isaiah 30 and 33 and Ezekiel 47 actually say.
Water will come from where the Temple stood and will flow down into the Dead Sea.
(But, it will be harder for you to see that in this verse, in the NKJV, because of what the translators have done to it. And again, it makes me angry to see such sloppy and/or deceitful work.)
Isaiah 30:25 says much the same thing this flowing water but also adds an explanation:
There will be on every high mountain
And on every high hill
Rivers and streams of waters,
In the day of the great slaughter,
When the towers fall.
That’s an earthquake. A big one. And, that earthquake comes along with the biggest solar flare in world history, a solar flare that I call Ezekiel’s Fire. And, we have discovered that big solar flares are connected to earthquakes. Or, maybe I should say that big solar flares seem to happen alongside big earthquakes. And, super-gigantic earthquake DO change the course of underground streams.
There are lots of underground streams and rivers crisscrossing Israel, and the biggest earthquake in world history will cause them to rechannel water to the surface. To high hills. But, let’s move on to the next verse.
17 “Egypt shall be a desolation,
And Edom a desolate wilderness,
Because of violence against the people of Judah,
For they have shed innocent blood in their land.
If you’ve read Isaiah 19, you know that big trouble is coming for Egypt. Millions upon millions of people will die. And, you can bet that this will cause a lot of desolation in Egypt. But…
Will it STAY desolate?
I think not.
Isaiah 19 indicates that Egypt will be blessed after the difficult times are over.
Yeah, Edom doesn’t get blessed. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Obadiah and Malachi ALL say that Edom will be judged and permanently destroyed. Stay away from southern Jordan and northwest Saudi Arabia. That place will be obliterated.
As a point of interest for some of you, Petra is located right in the middle of the area where Edom existed. Some have speculated that Petra will be that ‘place of safety’ that Israel will flee to, during the Great Tribulation. But, with the prophecy of Edom’s complete and permanent destruction… I would not want to make Petra MY place of safety.
Then, we have the last two verses of Joel that definitely go together:
20 But Judah shall abide forever,
And Jerusalem from generation to generation.
21 For I will acquit them of the guilt of bloodshed, whom I had not acquitted;
For the Lord dwells in Zion.”
THAT is the salvation of Israel. And, when the Lord returns, He WILL dwell in Zion.
Now that we have finished the last four verses of Joel…
…can I take the question mark away from the word ‘millennium’?
I’m still not sure.
I know that some would think that I’m crazy for still being uncertain. But, you would also be uncertain if you knew the amount of chaos and destruction that must happen BEFORE the Antichrist and the Great Tribulation arrives. Most people have not thought through the kind of catastrophe that would be needed to persuade powerful men to give up their power. No one does that voluntarily. Not even Satan’s minions.
Have you noticed how much Satan’s followers fight with each other?
Now, for such a short book, this was a rather long discussion. God, through the prophet Joel, has provided some interesting insight into what is coming, as well as throwing us some curve balls. But, God has reasons for being obscure in His meaning. The Book of Joel is a message from God to a specific group of people who live at a certain time. We are approaching that time, and I believe that WE are the intended recipients of this message. And, the time for us to understand it is coming closer.
We’ll understand, when the time comes.