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The Lord Plans to Judge the Nations

(4:1)[a] For look! In those[b] days and at that time
I will return the exiles[c] to Judah and Jerusalem.
Then I will gather all the nations,
and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat.[d]
I will enter into judgment[e] against them there
concerning my people Israel who are my inheritance,[f]
whom they scattered among the nations.
They partitioned my land,
and they cast lots for my people.
They traded[g] a boy for a prostitute;
they sold a little girl for wine so they could drink.[h]
Why are you doing these things to me, Tyre and Sidon?[i]
Are you trying to get even with me, land of Philistia?[j]
If you are, I will very quickly repay you for what you have done![k]
For you took my silver and my gold
and brought my precious valuables to your own palaces.[l]

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  1. Joel 3:1 sn Joel 3:1 in the English Bible is 4:1 in the Hebrew text (BHS). See also the note at 2:28.
  2. Joel 3:1 tc The MT and LXX read, “in those days,” while MurXII reads, “in that day.”
  3. Joel 3:1 tc The Kethib has אָשִׁיב (ʾashiv, “I will return the captivity [captives]”), while the Qere is אָשׁוּב (ʾashuv, “I will restore the fortunes”). Many modern English versions follow the Qere reading. Either reading seems to fit the context. Joel refers to an exile of the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem in 3:2-6 and their return from exile in 3:7. On the other hand, 2:25-26 describes the reversal of judgment and restoration of the covenant blessings. However, the former seems to be the concern of the immediate context.
  4. Joel 3:2 sn There is a play on words here. Jehoshaphat in Hebrew means “the Lord has judged,” and the next line in v. 2 further explicates this thought. The location of this valley is uncertain (cf. v. 12). Many interpreters identified the Valley of Jehoshaphat as the Kidron Valley, located between old Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives. They supposed it was the “Valley of Berachah [“blessing”],” where King Jehoshaphat defeated his enemies (2 Chr 20:26). Since this is described as a scene of future messianic activity and judgment, many Jews and Muslims have desired to be buried in the Kidron vicinity, and there are many graves in the area. A variation of this view, mentioned by Eusebius (Onomasticon 1:10), is the Hinnom Valley, on the south side of the old city, perhaps as a “valley of slaughter” (Jer 7:31-32; 19:5-6). Many modern scholars think Joel’s valley is part of an idealized and nonliteral scene of judgment. Another theory is that there is no reference to the ancient king but to the eschatalogical judgment to occur in the Valley of Esdraelon (Armageddon: Ezek 39:11; Rev 16:16-17; cf. Joel 3:12-21).
  5. Joel 3:2 tn Heb “I will execute judgment.”
  6. Joel 3:2 tn Heb “concerning my people and my inheritance Israel.”
  7. Joel 3:3 tn Heb “gave.”
  8. Joel 3:3 sn Heb “and they drank.” Joel vividly refers to a situation where innocent human life has little value; its only worth is its use in somehow satisfying selfish appetites of wicked people who have control over others (cf. Amos 2:6 and 8:6).
  9. Joel 3:4 tn Heb “What [are] you [doing] to me, O Tyre and Sidon?”
  10. Joel 3:4 tn Or “districts.”
  11. Joel 3:4 tn Heb “quickly, speedily, I will return your recompense on your head.” This is an idiom for retributive justice and an equitable reversal of situation.
  12. Joel 3:5 tn Or perhaps, “temples.”