Avraham ben Yaakov
JOEL CHAPTER 3
Verse 1: "And it shall come to pass AFTER THIS." - "This refers to the end of days. The verse here says 'AFTER THIS' because the previous verse had said 'And you will KNOW that I am amidst Israel .' (Joel 2:27). However as yet this is not complete knowledge, because even so, you will still relapse and sin again. However, AFTER THIS level of knowledge there will come a time when you will know Me with perfect knowledge and you will no longer sin. This will be in the days of Mashiah, 'for the earth will be full of the knowledge of God' (Isaiah 11:9)" (RaDaK on verse 1).
"I shall pour out My spirit over all flesh." Metzudas David interprets "flesh" as referring to the nations of the world, "for even the heathens will then recognize and know that HaShem is God". However, RaDaK maintains that "all flesh" refers to those Israelites who will be worthy to receive the holy spirit of knowledge and understanding that God will then pour forth (compare Likutey Moharan I:22 on the concept of "flesh"). The verse speaks of "all" flesh to indicate that those worthy will include young and old (cf. Jeremiah 31:33). Even higher will be the levels of "your sons and daughters, your elders. and your young men." They will attain actual prophecy, which will be granted to them through dreams (Numbers 12:6) (RaDaK on v 1).
V 2: "And also upon the servants and the handmaids in those days." Those who will serve Israel in the Land of Israel will also be filled with the spirit of knowledge and understanding (RaDaK).
V 3: "And I will put wonders in the heavens and on the earth: blood and fire and pillars of smoke." "The sign of blood will be on earth because of the great amount of killing there will be. The fire and pillars of smoke will be in the skies - these are the flashes of light that will burn up as they fall and the fires will send up smoke. These will be the sign of the plague upon the nations that come with Gog and Magog against Jerusalem " (RaDaK). Do these flashes of burning light presage nuclear war???
The words "wonders. blood and fire and pillars of smoke" in this verse are brought in the Pesach Haggadah to prove that Deut. 26:8, speaking of how God brought us out of Egypt with "wonders", alludes to the plague of blood.
V 4: "The sun shall be turned into darkness and the moon into blood." Ibn Ezra says the darkening of the heavenly lights will be a sign of terrible wars, and this darkening of the lights will be just before the coming of the day of HaShem - this will be the day of the plague on Gog and Magog and the nations that come up with him. The moon will turn into "blood" in the sense that this will be its color when it is partially eclipsed, while when the eclipse is complete it will be black. Rambam interprets the darkness of the sun and blood of the moon and similar descriptions in Joel 4:15 as metaphors for the troubles that will strike the nations at the time of their downfall. According to Rambam's interpretation, the darkness could also refer to the anguish Israel will suffer just prior to the downfall of Gog and Magog, who will go up with many nations against Jerusalem and make war against the city, and half the people will go out into exile (cf. Zechariah 14:6) - this will be the darkness - while the day of the downfall of Gog and Magog will be "the great and awesome day of God".
V 5: "And it shall be that everyone who will call on the Name of HaShem will be saved." "For then in the war of Gog and Magog it will be a time of great trouble for Israel for a short time (cf. Isaiah 26:20) and then many of Israel will fall, but the KEDOSHIM, the holy ones who truly fear God will be saved (cf. Isaiah 26:20, Psalms 145:18). These are "the remnant whom HaShem shall call" (RaDaK on v 5)
In the Hebrew handwritten scroll there is no break between the end of Chapter 3 and the beginning of Chapter 4: it is one continuous prophecy until Chapter 4 verse 9, which begins a new Parshah Pethuhah.
V 1: "All of this will take place in the days and at the time when I will bring back the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem - these are the days of Mashiah. The verse mentions Judah and Jerusalem because even though ALL ISRAEL will return, Mashiah himself will be from the tribe of Judah and Jerusalem will be the capital of the kingdom and that is where the war of Gog and Magog will take place" (RaDaK).
V 2: "And I shall gather all the nations and I shall take them down to the valley of Yehoshaphat .." This refers to the Kidron Valley , which runs along the eastern wall of Jerusalem separating the Temple Mount from the Mount of Olives . It means "the valley where God will judge". According to the Biblical prophecies, in the war of Gog and Magog the two major coalitions of gentile nations under Esau and Ishmael will join forces against the Jewish state in Israel , which will be overwhelmed and conquered. Its last stronghold will be Jerusalem , which will also be conquered by the gentiles. At that moment God will commence Judgment, saving Israel through plague, rain, fire and stones sent against the gentile nations, whose bodies will fill the Land of Israel taking seven months to bury, and only the gentiles who helped Israel will be spared (cf. Ezekiel 38ff, Daniel 2, Zechariah 14) .
".over My people and My inheritance Israel whom they scattered among the nations and they divided My land". We today are witnesses not only to how Israel has been and still is scattered among the nations, but also to how even after the nations promised to give the Land back to the Jewish People (in the Balfour Declaration 1917), they divided up the land into smaller and smaller strips in the various armistice lines and partition plans that have been and are being debated up until this very day. In the last few years we have all watched the "Separation Wall" built up to divide the Land.
V 3: "And they have cast lots for my people and have given a boy for a harlot and sold a girl for wine that they might drink." How many secularized and assimilated Jewish kids in Israel and throughout the Diaspora have been sold into mental and ideological captivity and slavery in all but name?
V 4: "What are you to me Tyre and Sidon and all the provinces of Philistia .?" In the light of this prophecy about the centrality of these towns of Lebanon and the territories of the Palestinians in the end-of-days war against Israel , it is significant that many of the missiles sent against Israel from Lebanon in the 2006 war came from Tyre and Sidon , while the Palestinians are obviously today's frontline protagonists against Israel .
Vv 5-6 speak of the material plunder taken from Israel by the nations, as well as the plunder of their sons and daughters, who were kidnapped and sold to the Greeks far from their own borders. It is significant that historically the single most powerful ideological challenge to the Torah has come out of Greek culture, which has had a decisive influence on the "western" culture that enslaves assimilated and non-assimilated Jews alike until today.
Vv 7-8: "Behold I will arouse them from the place to which you have sold them." We are today witnessing the arousal of Jews and Israelites all over the world, and we have seen the great influx of Jews into Israel particularly in the last 60 years. This has been paralleled by enormous migrations of gentiles from country to country, where many end up as migrant workers - de facto slaves - as prophesied in Verse 8.
A new section (Parshah Pethuhah) begins at verse 9. Having already prophesied in general terms how God will bring the nations to judgment in the Valley of Yehoshaphat and having laid forth God's testimony against the nations for their crimes against Israel through the ages, the prophet now depicts the war of Gog and Magog in detail:
V 9: "Proclaim this among the nations: Prepare (KADSHU) war, stir up the mighty men." Whereas Joel in ch 2 v 15 called for blasting the Shofar in Zion , "Sanctify (KADSHU) a fast", i.e. repentance on the part of Israel , he now uses the same word KADSHU in a mocking call to the nations to prepare their "holy" war - Jihad? - against Israel .
V 10: Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears." Ironically, this is the opposite of Isaiah's depiction of the age of Mashiah that will follow the war of Gog and Magog, when the nations will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks (Isaiah 2:4). Today we indeed see how mind-boggling sums are invested in weaponry while everywhere people are impoverished and starving.
Vv 11-12: Summons of the nations to the Valley of Yehoshaphat for God's judgment.
Vv 13ff: "Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe." Just when the nations are at their fattest and most prosperous, they will be ripe to be cut down.
Vv 15-16: This will be a moment of cosmic darkness - the sun, moon and stars will be darkened - and precisely then HaShem will roar from out of Zion and give His voice from Jerusalem . "And the heavens and earth will shake" - "First he will exact punishment from the angels of the nations above, and afterwards from the nations on earth" (Rashi).
V 17: The result of all this will be that we will each in our own individual way know that HaShem is God, ruler over all - and at last Jerusalem will be cleansed from the aliens passing through it.
V 18 begins a new Parshah Sethumah - i.e. there is a brief pause before we enter the climactic conclusion of this prophecy in vv 18-21 depicting the wonderful prosperity that will reign in the days of Mashiah after this war.
"And a spring shall go forth from the House of HaShem and water the valley of Shittim ". This spring is described in detail in Ezekiel's prophecy of the Messianic era (Ezekiel 47:1-12). The Midrash states that it waters the valley of Shittim to atone for the sin of Pe'or, which took place when the people dwelled in Shittim (Numbers 25:1; see Rashi on Joel 4:18).
V 19: The future destruction of Egypt and Edom are mentioned together in this verse because just when King David almost completely destroyed Edom, Haddad escaped to Egypt where he found favor in the eyes of Pharaoh, who allowed him to stay until he was able to rise up against Solomon (I Kings 11:16ff; Rashi on Joel 4:19).
Vv 20-21: In the end Judah will endure forever and Jerusalem from generation to generation. Even if God cleanses the nations of their other sins and evil, He will not cleanse them of the blood of Judah . Metzudas David comments that Israel need not fear that since the nations know they are going to be killed, they may make every effort to take revenge against Israel thinking that they are in any case lost, because God dwells in Zion and He will protect His people and the nations will have no power.
God's indwelling presence will rest in Zion for ever - the conclusion of Joel's prophecy is thus parallel to the conclusion of Ezekiel's prophecy, "And the name of the city from that day shall be, The Lord is there" (Ezekiel 48:35; RaDaK on Joel 4:21).
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By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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