Joel 3:1-8: I will Curse those that Curse You
“For behold, in those days and at that time, when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. And I will enter into judgment with them there, on behalf of my people and my heritage Israel, because they have scattered them among the nations and have divided up my land, and have cast lots for my people, and have traded a boy for a prostitute, and have sold a girl for wine and have drunk it. “What are you to me, O Tyre and Sidon, and all the regions of Philistia? Are you paying me back for something? If you are paying me back, I will return your payment on your own head swiftly and speedily. For you have taken my silver and my gold, and have carried my rich treasures into your temples. You have sold the people of Judah and Jerusalem to the Greeks in order to remove them far from their own border. Behold, I will stir them up from the place to which you have sold them, and I will return your payment on 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 nation far away, for the Lord has spoken.”
A Persecuted People
The word “genocide” is a combination of the Greek word génos (race, people) and the Latin suffix -cide (act of killing), and was first coined by Jewish lawyer Raphäel Lemkin. He fled Poland in 1943 after losing 49 members of his family in concentration camps; he invented the word in order to describe what was happening to the Jews in Nazi occupied Europe. This persecution unfortunately was not new for the Jews, Satan hates the Jews and has sought their extermination throughout history. Also, no other culture has a term that describes hatred for that culture, this is unique to the Jews – anti-Semitism. Satan has used that hatred effectively throughout history.
The question that is most often asked regarding the plight of the Jews is “where was God when the Jews needed Him?” God was not taken by surprise by this persecution of His chosen people, in fact He predicted it! In giving His laws to Moses, which were the basis for the covenant agreement between God and Israel, God warned Moses of the consequences for breaking the covenant. In Deuteronomy 28, God firstly explains the blessing for staying in a covenant relationship with Him, but then goes on to reveal the consequences of breaking the covenant. Verses 55 to 56 highlight the plight of the rebellious nation, “and among these nations (where they will be scattered to) you shall find no respite, and there shall be no resting place for the sole of your foot, but the Lord will give you there a trembling heart and failing eyes and a languishing soul. Your life shall hang in doubt before you. Night and day, you shall be in dread and have no assurance of your life.”
At the exit to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum, there is a comments book for people to express their thoughts and feelings. The most common comment is “may this never happen again”, unfortunately “the time of Jacob’s trouble” – a time of unprecedented persecution – still awaits the nation of Israel. Will there ever be justice for the Jews? Joel chapter 3 gives a clear and resounding yes to that question.
Jesus has chosen Jerusalem to be His capital, which is why it will be at the center of the End Times conflict. Jerusalem is to be “the city of the Great King” (Matthew 5:35) where Jesus will set up His seat of government and establish His throne (Jeremiah 3:17). Therefore, Satan the great counterfeiter will do all in his power to ensure Jerusalem becomes his seat of authority. In this endeavour, Satan will succeed for a short time through the rise of the Antichrist, who will set up his capital in Jerusalem. Zechariah 14:2-4 prophesies that Jerusalem will be at the center of the End Times battle when Jesus returns, and defeats the Antichrist and establishes His kingdom. The Lord makes the facts very clear to us in scripture, that Jerusalem is now – and will continue to be until His return – the focus of intense spiritual warfare. This is why the call to believers to pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122:6-7), is so vitally important. God requires the Church to be the watchmen who intercede for Jerusalem, which is made so clear for us in Isaiah 62:6: “I have posted watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem; they will never be silent day or night. You who call on the Lord, give yourselves no rest, and give him no rest till he establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth.” The great Christian theologian, John Nelson Darby wrote of Jerusalem, “But as for God, He ever thinks of it; it is ever His house, His city. His eyes and His heart are there continually, now faith understands this”.
Yahweh Judges 1
“1 For behold, in those days and at that time, when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, 2 I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat” (Joel 3:21).
In Chapter 3, Joel pulls back the curtain of time to reveal the judgement of the nations by the Messiah on His return. To many it seems out of sequence, as Joel 3 moves backwards in time from the judgement to the End Time’s great battle of Armageddon. However, as the battle occurs because of the despicable treatment of the Jews, Joel links the final conflict of the Great Tribulation with God’s judgement of the Gentile nations.
Joel draws the reader’s attention to the important events that are about to unfold with the dramatic words, “For behold”. This is indeed a momentous occasion, for the Lord is restoring His covenant promise with Israel. The twelve tribes are brought to Jerusalem in preparation for their settlement on the land promised to Abraham (Gen. 15:18) some 3 800 years ago, where they will live under the rule of the Son of David – Yeshua. The Jews are not the only ones gathered; Joel explains that all the Gentiles living at the end of the Tribulation will be gathered together in the Valley of Jehoshaphat. Some believe that this valley is the Beracah Valley, where King Jehoshaphat saw God deliver Israel from the threat of the Moabite and Ammonite armies. However, the most likely venue is the Kidron Valley which runs between the Mount of Olives and Jerusalem, the evidence being:
- Ezekiel states that Yeshua on His return will enter and leave the city through the East Gate (which faces the Mount of Olives), and sit in its entrance (44:1-2).
- The name Jehoshaphat means “Yahweh judges,” a play on words; and kings sat in judgement at the gates of their cities in Biblical times, not in an open valley.
- The massive earthquake spoken of in Zechariah will divide the Mount of Olives in two, on an East-West line, so there will be a large open area for the nations of the world to be gathered.
“And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south” (Zechariah 14:4).
People to be Judged – The Philistines
The reality of the future valley of Jehoshaphat judgement, is emphasized by Joel in his moving on in verse 4 to the judgement of the nations of his era. These judgements being a forewarning of the greater judgement yet to come.
“What are you to me, O Tyre and Sidon, and all the regions of Philistia?” (Joel 3:4)
God holds all nations accountable for their attitude toward Israel, however Joel puts forth Tyre, Sidon and Philistia as examples because of their harsh treatment of Israel. The lands occupied by the Phoenicians and Philistines were included in the territory allocated to Abraham for his descendants by God. The nation of Israel, during the time of the Judges, failed to fulfil the command of God to rid the land of the pagan tribes (Jud. 1:27-36). In time, both nations became a thorn in Israel’s side (Jud. 2:1-6).
From the time of Samson to the height of David’s reign, the Philistines were a constant threat to the safety of the Israelites. David subdued the threat, but during Joel’s time they had once more established themselves as a military force. They plundered Jerusalem during the reign of Jehoram, with only his youngest son Jehoahaz surviving (2 Chr. 21:16-17). Note in verse 5 that after the Philistines pillaged Jerusalem, God states that they were not taking the treasures of Judah, but says “you have taken my silver and my gold”. By them dedicating the loot to their pagan gods they once more insulted God, presenting His treasures before demonic entities of wood, metal and stone.
People to be Judged – the Phoenicians
The Phoenicians were a seafaring people dominating trade around the Mediterranean. They traded in a variety of goods, but one of their greatest sources of income was the slave trade, i.e. trafficking in human souls. The Phoenicians bought the Jews captured by the Philistines, and then traded them to all parts of the Mediterranean. This was a betrayal of a “brotherly covenant” between Solomon and Tyre’s King Hiram (Amos 1:6, 9). The removing of the Jews “far from their borders” (vs. 6), weakened the nation of Judah, which resulted in them being dominated by the Philistines.
In verse 4, God asks the Philistines and Phoenicians two questions: “what are you to me, O Tyre and Sidon, and all the regions of Philistia? Are you paying me back for something?”. God is asking them what they have in common with Him, which was nothing! Then God makes it clear that by injuring His people they are injuring Him. God will retaliate to these injustices “swiftly and speedily,” by returning the same treatment on them as they had poured out on Judah.
There are numerous examples in history of God metering out judgement on those who had mistreated the Jews. One need look no further than Nazi Germany:
- Under Nazi Germany, the Germans put the Jews in ghettos, locked behind high walls and shot them if they climbed over.
- In 1961 Germany was divided by a wall and the Germans were shot if they tried to climb over.
- The Germans looted the wealth of the Jews.
- The Allied forces looted the homes of the Germans as they made their way through Germany to Berlin – from the East by the Russians and the from the West by the French, British and American forces.
- The Jews of Europe fled their homes and became refugees in other countries.
- In the latter stages of World War II, Germans fled their homes becoming refugees.
- The Germans placed captured Jews in concentration camps, gassing them and burning their bodies.
- The allies bombing campaign involved high explosives with incendiary devices, which ignited the destroyed buildings. Germans in cities such as Dresden, Cologne and Hamburg were cooked alive in their bomb shelters. There are descriptions from survivors of a Dresden bombing, of the heat being so intense over the city, that hurricane force winds blew people down streets into the flames.
Be sure, that at the end of the Tribulation, Jesus will return to bring swift judgement on Israel’s enemies!
Purpose of Judgement
The Church must be clear on this matter, God will judge all for how they have treated the Jews, His “people and… heritage” (Vs. 2), even to the extent of the choices they make. Obadiah makes it clear, that even standing on the side-line and celebrating the suffering of the Jews will bring judgement; much in the same way as Jesus explained at the Sermon on the Mount – what we desire in our hearts, is considered as good as the deed being done by God. These countries had “scattered [the Jews] among the nations and [had] divided up [God’s]) land”.
Throughout their history the Israelites had been removed from their land, the main examples being:
- The Assyrians moved the Israelites to the Assyria empire.
- The Babylonians moved the Judeans to the Babylon empire.
- The Romans moved the Jews to all parts of the Roman empire.
Then, not only did these nations scatter the Israelites, but they then preceded to divide up the land God promised to Abraham. For the last nineteen centuries the land of Israel has been occupied by some fourteen different powers at one time or another.
The Israelites have an unbroken covenant promise of God’s commitment to them. This is especially seen in Genesis 12:3, where God’s promise to “bless those who bless [them], and whoever curses [them] [He] will curse”. To be clear – God sees taking over land belonging to Israel, and dividing it up for personal gain, as a curse.
Dividing God’s Land
“And I will enter into judgment with them there, on behalf of my people and my heritage Israel, because they have scattered them among the nations and have divided up my land” (Joel 3:2b).
Examples of God holding those accountable for dividing His land, is seen in the wars fought by the Arabs to gain control of Israel – each one resulting in devastating losses for the countries involved. Also, four Israeli Prime Ministers have been held accountable for making land deals:
- Menachem Begin was forced to resign in disgrace with regards to Israel’s support of the Lebanese Phalangists who slaughtered refugees in 1982. This occurred after Begin had given back the Sinai to Egypt.
- Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated in Tel Aviv in 1995, by a religious Yemenite Jew. This occurred after Rabin declared that he would “give peace a chance” with a land-for-peace deal, and started to withdraw troops from the West Bank and Gaza.
- Ehud Barak was forced to resign in 2000 after his government’s failure to deal with the Second Intifada (Palestinian uprising). This occurred after he had entered into negotiations with Yasser Arafat in which he was willing to concede land for peace, which would have included the Arab areas of East Jerusalem.
- In 2005, after a meeting with President Bush, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon agreed to the closing of twenty-five settlements. Less than four months after handing over Gaza to the Palestinians, Sharon suffered a devastating stroke that left him in a coma. Sharon eventually died in January 2014.
The nations were judged by God for three reasons: Scattering His people, dividing His land, and thirdly because these Gentile nations sold the sons and daughters of Judah into slavery (Vs. 3; 6). A boy was given into slavery for one night with a prostitute, and a girl for a mere bottle of wine! After the Roman army quelled the Jewish uprising in AD 70 the markets were flooded, with Jerusalem alone providing 97,000 Jewish slaves. The tallest and most beautiful of the slaves were sent to Rome to be displayed as part of the triumph possession. Of the rest, those over 17 years of age became gladiators, or were sent to work in the mines in Egypt. Those under 17 were traded in the slave markets and dispersed throughout the empire.
During the Tribulation, Israel will once again experience the hatred and persecution by the Gentiles. In the last days of the Tribulation, when the nations of the world converge on Israel for the final great battle, two thirds of the population of Israel will be destroyed (Zech. 13:8), and one half of Jerusalem taken captive: “the city shall be taken and the houses plundered and the women raped. Half of the city shall go out into exile” (Zech. 14:2).
Those that Curse Israel, will be Cursed
“Behold, I will stir them up from the place to which you have sold them, and I will return your payment on 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 nation far away, for the Lord has spoken.” (Joel 3:7-8)
This prophecy by Joel links to the prophecy of the destruction of Tyre recorded in Ezekiel 26:7-14. Ezekiel marvellously details the destruction of Tyre by Nebuchadnezzar, who besieged the city for 13 years, only to find the city empty when he finally broke through the city walls. The citizens of Tyre had moved all their valuables to the island section of the city. Unable to cash in on the riches, Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the city, turning it into a pile of rubble. Years later, Alexander the Great, used the city rubble to build a causeway out to the island of Tyre and captured it. As Joel had prophesied, the captured Phoenician citizens were sold to Israel, who in turn, at a reasonable profit no doubt, sold them to the Sabeans. The Lord, as He predicted, returned the payment for His people onto the heads of the Phoenician.
Yahweh Judges 2
Just as the Philistines and Phoenicians were held accountable by God for their treatment of the Jews, so too will the End Time nations be held accountable at the return of Jesus. This will take place in the valley of Jehoshaphat (vs 2), and must not be confused with the White Throne Judgement. This judgement takes place at the end of the Tribulation, and will be used to determine who goes on to live during the Millennial Kingdom.
In the parable of the sheep and the goats (Mt. 25), Jesus indicates that there will be a judgement of individual Gentiles for their treatment of those Jesus calls “brethren”. Jesus is a Jew; His brethren are the Jews. These Gentiles will not be able to blame their poor treatment of the Jews on oppressive governments, as each person has free will and is able to make a choice, and God always holds us accountable for the choices we make. In Matthew 25:40, Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it for me”. The judgement will occur at the time of Jesus’ return to earth to set up His kingdom, and all nations will be judged on how they have treated the Jews during the seven-year Tribulation.
There are three categories in the parable of the sheep and the goats:
- The Gentile sheep will be blessed under the promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:3, for their care of the Jews during the Tribulation, and will go on to live during the Millennial period, repopulating the earth.
- The Gentile goats will be put to death, and go on to Sheol (place of departed spirits) to await the Great White Throne of eternal judgement, which will result in their being thrown into the Lake of Fire (Mt. 25:33; 41).
- The Tribulation period is a time of sifting for the Jews, and those that reject the Antichrist after he claims godhood, will realise that Yeshua is their true Messiah. Those Jews who continue in worship of the Antichrist will die during the judgements of the last months of the Tribulation. Jesus’ brethren (believing Jews), are restored to their Messiah at the return of Yeshua to earth (Romans 11:26).
God has said of the people of Israel, that whoever “touches you touches the apple of (my) eye,” (Zech. 2:8). This refers to the aperture of the eye, and bluntly stated means, when you persecute the Jews you poke God in the eye. This should be a serious warning to all.
This warning of course includes the Church, God will judge the Church on how they treat the Jews before He judges the nations. The evidence of this is that each and every Christian receives his or her ‘judgement’ for sinful behaviour here and now (Psalm 89:30-34). God deals with us as His children. If our behaviour is wayward, He will introduce methods to correct our behaviour here and now; we do not have a judgement in heaven for sin, we are washed by the blood of the Lamb. Likewise, the Church will be judged for its treatment of Israel before the nations of the Gentiles are judged. There will be a sifting of the Church. God is using Israel as an anvil against false teachings within the Christian Church. To be on the wrong side of God when He is dealing with His everlasting covenant, is a dangerous place to be. God requires us to support Israel through prayer, material blessing and public vocal support. The Church must identify itself with the nation of Israel to receive His blessing. “The true Church lines up with God’s prophetic plan as outlined in the Bible. The true Church blesses the Jewish people. The true Church is the faithful and wise servant, living in the blessed hope, patiently waiting for the coming of the Lord Jesus and the marriage supper of the Lamb” (1).
(1) McTernan, John P. As America has done to Israel. Whitaker House, 2006.