Joel 3
Pulpit Commentary
For, behold, in those days, and in that time, when I shall bring again the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem,
Verses 1-3. - These verses describe the deliverance of God's people and the destruction of his enemies because of their injurious, insulting, and ignominious treatment of his people. Verse 1. - The time referred to: In those days, and in that time, is the first point to be determined. The reference is obviously to the period spoken of in the twenty-eighth verse of the second chapter, where we read, "And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flush." This seems to fix the date at least of the commencement of the events recorded in these verses. These events must have been subsequent to that Pentecostal outpouring of the Holy Spirit. But a still closer specification of the time is added by way of apposition, namely (asher supplemented by bahem or bah), when I shall bring again the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem. This form of expression includes, beside the restoration of God's people from their dispersion and redemption out of captivity or distress of any kind, their elevation also to a higher position of dignity and to greater prosperity than they had ever before enjoyed. Thus of Job we read (Job 42:10)," And the Lord turned the captivity of Job... also the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before." The ki which introduces the verse gives assurance that the blessing promised in the concluding verse of the preceding chapter shall be realized; while the hinneh directs attention to the novelty and importance of the subject introduced in the first verse of this present chapter.
I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat, and will plead with them there for my people and for my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations, and parted my land.
Verse 2 represents pictorially God's passing sentence on the nations that had been hostile to his people, with a general summary of the injuries inflicted on them. I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat. More than eight centuries before the Christian era King Jehoshaphat had gained a splendid victory over the allied army of the neighbouring peoples - Moabites, Ammonites, and Edomites - who had united their forces against Jerusalem. The king had been assured of this victory by the prophecy of Jahaziel. Songs of praise had preceded the battle, and songs of thanksgiving had succeeded the victory; hence the place was called the valley of Berachah, or blessing. The remembrance of such a remarkable deliverance, not more than half a century before the prophet's time, would make a vivid impression on the mind of the prophet and his people. Accordingly, this splendid piece of past history is interwoven with the prophet's prediction of the future, and forms its groundwork. It is as though he said, "On a memorable occasion and in a well-known valley God was pleased to vouchsafe to his people and prince a glorious victory over the combined forces of their enemies; so at a future period, under the reign of Prince Messiah, God will subdue and destroy the Gentile nations that had oppressed his people." It matters little whether we understand the valley of Jehoshaphat in the literal sense, as perhaps the valley of the Kedron between Jerusalem and Olivet, or in a figurative sense; the representation is equally appropriate, and the imagery equally impressive. "This," says Aben Ezra, "was the war in which the children of Moab and Ammon and Seir combined their force together to a very great multitude, while Jehoshaphat had out of Judah and Benjamin mighty men of valour; and the valley of Jehoshaphat is the valley of Berachah, for Jehoshaphat called its name so." Kimchi gives the following alternative sense: "There shall be the war, and this valley belonged to King Jehoshaphat; perhaps he built there, or made there a work, and it was called after his name, and the valley was near to the city of Jerusalem; or it is called the valley of Jehoshaphat after the name of the judgment, as he said, 'I will plead with them there.'" And will plead with them there for my people and for my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations. God would plead, or contend, with the nations, and pass sentence upon them on account of their dispersion of his heritage - nachalathi, his peculiar people, and their partition of his land, 'artsi, or kingdom. This must be referred to the long subsequent time when Palestine became a Roman province, and its capital levelled with the ground; then the great dispersion of the covenant people among the nations commenced, and continues till the present day.
And they have cast lots for my people; and have given a boy for an harlot, and sold a girl for wine, that they might drink.
Verse 3. - They have cast lots for my people; and have given a boy for an harlot, and sold a girl for wine, that they might drink. Such was the contumely with which they were treated at the time of the great catastrophe referred to. The captives were distributed by lot among the conquerors; these in turn sold them to the slave-dealers for the merest trifle - a slave-boy for the hire of a harlot, or a slave-girl for a glass or draught of wine. Such treatment had been predicted ages before, and was verified by contemporaneous history (comp. Leviticus 26:33, sqq., and Deuteronomy 28:36 for the prediction; and Josephus, . De Bell. Jud., 6.9.2,3, for the fulfilment). Ninety-seven thousand prisoners were disposed of as follows: those under seventeen years of age were publicly sold; some exiled to work in Egyptian mines; others reserved to fight with wild beasts in the amphi-theatre. Also in the time of Hadrian four Jewish captives were sold for a measure of barley. Nay, more, the Syrian commander, Nicanor, bargained by anticipation for the sale of such Jews as should be taken cap-tire in the Maccabean war. The prophet, moreover, looks forward in prophetic vision to the day of final judgment, when God will, in just retribution, pour out the vials of his wrath on all the oppressors of his Church and people.
Yea, and what have ye to do with me, O Tyre, and Zidon, and all the coasts of Palestine? will ye render me a recompence? and if ye recompense me, swiftly and speedily will I return your recompence upon your own head;
Verses 4-8. - In these verses the prophet pauses before proceeding to describe the final judgment of the world-powers for their hostility to and oppression of his Church, and points out the bitter enmity of neigh-bouring nations to the covenant people in the prophet's own day, with a prediction of the righteous retribution that awaited them. Verse 4. - The northern sea-board of the Phoenicians, including the famous cities of Tyre and Sidon, also the southern sea-coast and plain of the Philistines, with their five principalities, are joined by vegam with the nations notorious for injuring and oppressing the people of God. The words rendered in the Authorized Version, What have ye to do with me? rather mean, What would ye with me? or still better, What are ye to me? that is. how worthless and despicable in my sight! The disjunctive question which follows becomes clearer by adopting the rendering of Keil and Wunsche, Will ye repay me a deed, or do anything against me? that is, will ye repay me some wrong-doing which ye fancy I have inflicted on you? or will ye, without such supposed provocation, and of your own free will, do or attempt to do anything against me? The double question with veim instead of im repeats, in other words or in a modified form, the preceding question; while the question itself, as often, implies a negative sense to the effect that they had neither right nor reason for averting themselves on the people of God - for God here identifies himself with his people - nor for attempting wantonly and gratuitously to harm them. The consequence would only be a swift and speedy return of the mischief on their own head, so that, as is usual with the wicked, they fall themselves into the pit which they dig for others. The idea of revenge rather than of punishment gets too great prominence in the old versions and commentators. The comment of Kimchi is instructive, though more in harmony with the rendering of the Authorized Version than with that which we prefer; it is as follows: "What have I to do with you, that ye enter my land while ye are neighbours? and it behoved you to do good to my people, but ye have not done so; but when ye saw that the kings of the nations (Gentiles)came upon them, ye allied yourselves with them to plunder and spoil.... Why is it, then, that ye are doing evil to me, if ye think to avenge yourselves of me because I have done you evil? When did I do you evil? Or if you will say that of yourselves ye are doing evil to me now, for he that does evil to Israel from his thought of doing evil to me, they are my children... swiftly and suddenly will I return your doing on your own head."
Because ye have taken my silver and my gold, and have carried into your temples my goodly pleasant things:
Verses 5, 6. - The prophet proceeds to enumerate the injuries sustained by his people at the hands of their enemies, and the evil attempted against himself.

(1) My sliver and my gold. The silver, gold, and precious or desirable things, whether taken immediately from the temple of God or plundered mediately from the palaces or wealthy mansions of his people, they transferred to their temples and suspended as trophies therein - a custom common among ancient nations.

(2) The children also of Judah and the children of Jerusalem have ye sold unto the Grecians. The part which the Phoenicians had in the transaction was the purchase and sale of the Jewish captives who had fallen into the hands of the Philistine conquerors. The mention of Grecians, or sons of Javan, brings for the first time the Hellenic and Hebrew races into contact - a contact sad and sorrowful for the latter. That ye might remove them far from their border. This was at once the climax of their cruelty and the aggravation of their crime. The object which their enemies had in view in selling the Hebrew captives to the sons of Javan, or Ionian Greeks of Asia Minor, was by that remote exile to prevent the possibility of their return to their own land. The historic reference is thought by some to be the event narrated in 2 Chronicles 21:16, 17, where it is written, "The Lord stirred up against Jehoram the spirit of the Philistines... And they came up into Judah, and brake into it, and carried away [margin, 'carried captive'] all the substance that was found in the king's house, and his sons also, and his wives."
The children also of Judah and the children of Jerusalem have ye sold unto the Grecians, that ye might remove them far from their border.
Behold, I will raise them out of the place whither ye have sold them, and will return your recompence upon your own head:
Verse 7. - Behold, I will raise them out of the place whither ye have sold them. Instead of "raise," some prefer "waken," "rouse," or "stir up." The Judaeans would be roused out of the countries into which they had been sold, and restored to their own land, and the measure which had been meted to them meted in turn to their enemies. The deliverance mentioned here may be exemplified, if not realized in part, in the time of Alexander the Great and his successors, when Jewish captives in many lands were set at liberty. Thus Demetrius, in his letter to Jonathan, writes, "I also make free all those Jews who have been made captives and slaves in my kingdom." And will return your recompense upon your own head; better rendered, and will turn back your doing upon your head. A righteous retaliation awaited Philistines and Phoenicians. They in turn would fall into the hands of the Judaeans, and be made prisoners of war, and, as they had done, so should it be done to them.
And I will sell your sons and your daughters into the hand of the children of Judah, and they shall sell them to the Sabeans, to a people far off: for the LORD hath spoken it.
Verse 8. - And I will sell your sons and your daughters into the hand of the children of Judah, and they shall sell them to the Sabeans, to a people far off. The Hebrew expression does not mean "to sell by the hand of," as it is erroneously rendered by some; but "to sell into the hand," that is, to deliver over into the power of the children of Judah. The Sabeans were the inhabitants of Sheba, in Arabia Felix, a people actively engaged in trade, and related to the Pales-tinians in the south, as the Grecians in the north. They were a people as far off (or more so) in an easterly direction as the Greeks of Ionia in a westerly; and so Kimchi, "They were far off from their land more than the Javanites." "As the Tyrians sold Jewish prisoners to the maritime people of the far West, so the Jews should sell Tyrians to traders of the far East." The LXX., mistaking שבאים for the plural of שְׁבִי, translate the clause, "They shall sell them into captivity to a far-distant nation." If we are not to understand these predictions, with Hengstenberg, as an application of the general truth that God shall gather again the dispersed of Judah and the captives of Israel, we may find their fulfilment in such events as the following: the defeat of the Philistines by Uzziah, "when he went forth and warred against the Philistines, and brake down the wall of Gath, and the wall of Jabneh, and the wall of Ashdod, and built cities about Ashdod, and among the Philistines;" their defeat also by Hezekiah, when "he smote the Philistines even unto Gaza, and the borders thereof, from the tower of the watchman to the fenced city;" and the temporary subjection of portions of Palestinian and Phoenician territory to the Jews in Maccabean times, together with the siege and destruction of their cities, as narrated by the Jewish historian Josephus and in the First Book of Maccabees. We learn also from Diodorus that thirteen thousand captive Tyrians were sold into slavery after the victory of Alexander the Great.
Proclaim ye this among the Gentiles; Prepare war, wake up the mighty men, let all the men of war draw near; let them come up:
Verses 9-17. - After a parenthesis of five verses, viz. 4-8, detailing the injurious treatment of the Jews by some of the surrounding nations, and the righteous retribution visited on those nations, the prophet resumes the subject broached at the beginning of the chapter, especially in ver. 2, about the judgment to be visited on the nations in general. The verses now before us describe very graphically the execution of that judgment. Verse 9 pictures the proclamation and other preliminaries of war. Heralds are sent out to make proclamation among the nations. Prepare (margin, sanctify) war. Certain formalities of a religious nature were customary among the heathen when war was proclaimed and prepared for. Thus also among the Jews supplication was made and sacrifices offered, as we read in 1 Samuel 7:8, 9, that before the battle with the Philistines at Mizpeh, the people urged Samuel to make earnest supplication and sacrifice for them, when in compliance he "took a sucking lamb, and offered it for a burnt offering wholly unto the Lord: and Samuel cried unto the Lord for Israel;" and thus a preparation for war was a consecration of war by religious rites. Wake up the mighty men; or rather,

(1) according to Keil, waken up or arouse the mighty men.

(2) A preferable rendering, according to Wunsche, is, "Wake up, ye mighty men;" while he understands the whole address as directed to the covenant people. It is observable theft one manuscript has העיזו, equivalent to "make strong," i.e. the heroes. In either case, the heroes may be conceived as enjoying peaceful repose when they are rudely roused by the declaration of war; and as the word "war" is indefinite through the absence of the article, it implies, "What a war! how great and terrible!" Let all the men of war drew near; let them come up. The terms here used are technical military terms, summoning the warriors to advance and march onward in haste to the place of conflict.
Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruninghooks into spears: let the weak say, I am strong.
Verse 10. - Beat your ploughshares into swords, and your pruning-hooks into spears. The weapons of war are to be provided; and the speediest way in which the manufacture of those weapons could be effected was by turning their implements of husbandry into them. The figure may, perhaps, have been suggested by the interest King Uzziah took in, and the encouragement he consequently gave to, husbandry and vine-culture, if we may presume Joel to have been in part contemporary with that king, of whom we are informed that "he had much cattle, both in the low country, and in the plains: husbandmen also, and vinedressers in the mountains, and in Carmel: for he loved husbandry." It is also a familiar fact that Isaiah and Micah reverse the expression in their description of Messianic times; while well-known parallels are quoted from the Latin classics. Let the weak say, I am strong; or, a hero. The approaching war was to be one in which no release, no excuse, and no exemption from any cause would be allowed, nay, the excitement of the occasion should warm the cold blood of the weakling into some degree of warlike enthusiasm. The address, it will be observed, of the previous verse is to the heroic chiefs; that of this verse, to the rank-and-file of the army.
Assemble yourselves, and come, all ye heathen, and gather yourselves together round about: thither cause thy mighty ones to come down, O LORD.
Verse 11. - This verse expresses the precipitancy with which the procession of the hostile nations is hurried on in order to meet their doom, as also the prophet's prayer for the descent of Jehovah's mighty ones to the slaughter. Assemble yourselves, and come. It is rather, hasten, and come; the word עוּשׁוּ, only occurring here, being equivalent to חוּשׁוּ, equivalent to "hasten ye." The LXX. and Chaldee, indeed, favour the sense of "assemble;" the former has συναθροίζεσθε. But that idea is expressed afterwards by the verb קְבָּצוּ, which is an anomalous form of the imperative Niph. for הִקָּבְצו, though some take it for the perfect with vau consec. The word hanchath is usually and properly taken as the imperative Hiph., from nachath, to come down, the pathach taking the place of tzere on account of the guttural and the nun retained without assimilation, as the nun rarely falls away in verbs that have a guttural for their second stem-letter. The meaning

(1) then, is, "Assemble yourselves." The margin,

(2) however, has, "The Lord shall bring down," i.e. cause to succumb, destroy, "thy mighty ones," which must then signify "the mighty ones of the enemy."

This, though supported by the Chaldee, Syriac, Vulgate, and Jerome, is less simple and obvious, necessitating also a corresponding change of the verbal form into חִנְחִת or הִנְחִית. The LXX. rendering is peculiar, and as follows: "Let the meek become a warrior."
Let the heathen be wakened, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat: for there will I sit to judge all the heathen round about.
Verse 12. - This verse points out the place where the great assemblage of the heathen is to hold, and the final decision in answer to the prophet's prayer is to take place. Let the heathen he wakened, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat. All the nations that have opposed the kingdom of God, as well as those hostile nations from round about Israel and Judah, in their more immediate neighbourhood; though these, no doubt, are primarily meant. The expression, "be wakened," of this verse corresponds to "waken up" of ver. 9. The force of coming up is explained by some

(1) as implying the ascent to Palestine in order to reach the valley of Jehoshaphat. It is rather

(2) to be understood in the general sense of advancing or marching on; otherwise "to come into the presence of the Most High God" may well be called "a coming up." The decision takes the form of a judicial process conducted by Jehovah, who as Judge takes his seat on a throne of judgment.
Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe: come, get you down; for the press is full, the fats overflow; for their wickedness is great.
Verse 13. - The just decision being come to, and the righteous sentence passed, the execution follows. Jehovah's mighty ones are summoned to execute it. By the mighty ones or heroes of Jehovah are meant his heavenly hosts or angels; thus Kimchi says, "Thy mighty ones are the angels;" so also Aben Ezra.

(1) The execution of Jehovah's command is represented under a double figure, that of reaping grain in harvest or treading grapes in the vintage. Similarly in Revelation 14:15, 18, we find the two figures - that of reaping the ripe grain, and of gathering the grapes and treading them. The ripeness of the grain and of the grapes is here, perhaps, the prominent idea. "He compares," says Kimchi, "those nations to the produce which is ripe, and its time for harvesting has approached, that man should thrust in the sickle to reap it. So with respect to these nations, their season to die by the sword in this valley has arrived."

(2) Hitzig conceives that the twofold command of Jehovah is to cut off the grapes and then tread them in the wine-press. He proceeds on the wrong assumption that qatsir, harvest, is employed in the sense of batsir, vintage; that maggal (from nagal, unused to cut, pierce, wound) is for mazmerah, the hook of the vinedresser; while bashal, ripe, which he restricts to grapes, applies to grapes and corn alike. The passage in Revelation already cited decides us in favour of (1), the judgment being represented first by the reaping of ripened grain, and then by treading grapes in the wine-press. The verb רְדו, from radah, to trample underfoot, and not from yarad, to descend, is more poetic and emphatic than the usual דרד; though Kimchi maintains the contrary, saying, "Descend ye into this valley, for it is as it were the press which is full of grapes, when it is fit to tread them; so ye house of Israel, tread these nations in this valley, and thrust in among them the sword." The fulness of the vats, again, represents the masses of the sinful nations ripe and ready for destruction; what the wine-press is to the grapes, the wine-press of God's wrath is to the wicked.
Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision.
Verse 14. - This and the following verses, instead of expressly narrating the execution of the Divine command, present a picture of it. In one part the prophet sees in vision and shows us pictorially the multitudes of the nations pouring on in one continuous stream into the fatal valley. In another compartment of the picture, Jehovah is seen in the awfulness of his majesty and in the fearfulness of his judgments on the wicked, while he is a Refuge and Strength for his people. Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision. These multitudes are the tumultuous masses. Hamon is from the root הָמָה, to be noisy, or tumultuous. "It is identical," says Pusey, "with our ' hum; ' then noise, and, among others, the hum of a multitude, then a multitude even apart from that noise. It is used of the throng of a large army." The repetition emphasizes the masses as pits, pits, equivalent to "nothing but pits;" or ditches, ditches, equivalent to "full of ditches;" or it expresses diversity, equivalent to "multitudes of the living and multitudes of the dead." Decision is charuts, cut, something decided;

(1) so sharp, severe judgment, from chafers, to cut into, sharpen, dig.

(2) Others understand it in the sense of a threshing-wain, equivalent to charuts morag, a sharpened threshing-instrument. All things being now ready, the immediate proximity of the judgment is announced to be at hand.
The sun and the moon shall be darkened, and the stars shall withdraw their shining.
Verses 15-17. - These verses picture the accompaniments of the judgment, yet not the judgment itself. Verse 15. - The sun and the moon shall be darkened, and the stars shall withdraw their shining. The densely packed masses are already in the valley of decision, awaiting the judgment about to be executed upon them. But before the judgment actually bursts upon them, and in preparation for it, the sky is overcast; darkness, as a portent of the approaching storm, envelops them; the lights of heaven are put out. The pitchy darkness of a night in which neither moon nor stars appear is sufficiently dismal and awful; still more terrible, if possible, is darkness in the daytime, when the light of the sun is turned into blackness. The first accompaniment of the storm is addressed to the eye, and consists in the extinguishing of the greater light which rules the day, and the lesser lights which rule the night. The next accompaniment of the coming tempest is addressed to the ear, and consists in the voice of the Lord rolling in terrific peals along the heavens - the voice of the Lord like the roaring of a lion ready to pounce upon its prey: the utterance of the Divine voice when the God of glory thundereth. The third accompaniment is yet more awe-inspiring., consisting in a convulsion that pervades both earth and sky; the whole frame of nature shakes; the earthquake's shock, so frightful to bird and beast and man, has a corresponding agitation in the heavens.
The LORD also shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake: but the LORD will be the hope of his people, and the strength of the children of Israel.
Verse 16. - Out of Zion. The presence of Jehovah is the immediate occasion of these terrors; and hence his voice proceeds from Jerusalem, or more particularly from Zion, where the visible symbol of his presence long dwelt. "For there," says Kimchi, "was his dwelling in Jerusalem; and as if from thence he roared and uttered his voice against them." Thus far the prophet pictures in very vivid, indeed terribly vivid, colours the frightful scene in the valley of decision: then stops short without describing the sad catastrophe resulting from the actual execution of the judgment. This he omits, either from revulsion of feeling from such misery. or the reader is left to imagine it himself. But the Lord will be the Hope of his people, and the Strength of the children of Israel. He shrinks, as we have seen, from describing the actual execution of judgment, and, breaking off with somewhat of abruptness, exhibits the bright side of the picture. With the destruction of his foes is joined, as usual, the deliverance of his friends. To his people he stands in the double relation of a Place of refuge (machseh) and a Place of strength (ma'oz), that is, not only a place to which they may flee for safety, but a place in which, as a stronghold, they shall be kept safe.
So shall ye know that I am the LORD your God dwelling in Zion, my holy mountain: then shall Jerusalem be holy, and there shall no strangers pass through her any more.
Verse 17. - Jerusalem will be a sanctuary, and strangers will not pass through it any more. In the beginning of this verse Jehovah promises to be the God of his people; he points to the place of his abode, and purifies Jerusalem by judgment that it will be a true holy place, untrodden by the foot of Gentile stranger or Jewish unbeliever any more. His people would recognize his presence and his power by the wonderful deliverance vouchsafed to them. "Jerusalem," says Kimchi, "shall be a sanctuary, like the sanctuary which was forbidden to strangers; and strangers shall not pass through it any more to do injury to them as they have done up to this day. It may also be explained that strangers shall not enter into Jerusalem, for its holiness shall be great for the future. And as the temple was forbidden even for Israel to enter there, so all the city shall be a sanctuary into which strangers out of the nations of the world shall not enter."
And it shall come to pass in that day, that the mountains shall drop down new wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the rivers of Judah shall flow with waters, and a fountain shall come forth of the house of the LORD, and shall water the valley of Shittim.
Verses 18-21. - These verses picture Judah and Jerusalem as scenes of most abundant blessings, while Egypt and Edom are doomed to irretrievable barrenness and desolation. But, as the language must be understood figuratively, the prosperity of the Lord's laud is set in contrast with the countries of the world-powers; but the contrast includes, as we think, the allotments of eternity as well as the destinies of time. Verse 18. - In that day. These words express the state of things consequent on the judgment just executed. The mountains shall drop down new wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the rivers of Judah shall flow (margin, go) with waters. Thus the mountains are represented as covered over with vines of richest growth and terraced to the top; the hills as affording most luxuriant pastures and clothed with flocks; the rivers, dried up in summer and reduced to dried-up river-beds, flowing unintermittingly and coursing along with full stream. To exuberance of wine and milk is added, what is no less valuable in a thirsty Eastern land, abundance of water. The source of this abundant supply is a fountain; the fountain-head is the house of the Lord; thence proceeds a broad deep stream, which makes its way to the Jordan valley and across the river to the dry trans-Jordanic valley of acacias, as it is added: A fountain shall come forth of the house of the Lord, and shall water the valley of Shittim; from which statement we must conclude the figurative signification of the whole of this and the following verses. Parallels for some of the above expressions are not far to seek. Ovid's description of the golden age, in which be speaks of rivers of milk and rivers of nectar and honey dropping from the green palm tree, is cited by Rosenmuller; while the 'Speaker's Commentary' quotes from the 'Bacchae' of Euripides the lines about the plain flowing with milk, flowing with wine, and flowing with the nectar of the bees. Instead of the "hills flowing with milk," we should rather expect the milk to be spoken of as flowing; the hypallage, however, as we may consider it, makes the clause more symmetrical with those between which it stands. Thus Kimchi: "The meaning of 'They shall flow (go) with milk,' is from the abundance of the flowing and running: he applies the name of flowing (going) to the hills, even although that the milk is that which goes and flows." And in reference to the following clause he says, "He uses the name of going to the channels." That is one side of the picture. We are now invited to look on this -
Egypt shall be a desolation, and Edom shall be a desolate wilderness, for the violence against the children of Judah, because they have shed innocent blood in their land.
Verse 19. - Egypt shall be a desolation, and Edom a desolate wilderness, for the violence against the children of Judah. The curse of barrenness and utter desolation falls on the enemies of Judah - the nearer and the more remote - because of that very enmity and the violence which was its outcome. The Edomite enemies in the south revolted from Judah in the days of Jehoram; the Edomites compassed him in, and, by thus surrounding him, placed him in extreme peril; and though it is said he smote them, yet his expedition proved unsuccessful, for it is added by the chronicler that "the Edomites revolted from under the hand of Judah unto this day." The Egyptian enemies in the more distant south made a still more formidable attack on the capital city, Jerusalem, under the famous Shishak, in the fifth year of the reign of Rehoboam, plundering the palace and temple. What acts of violence were perpetrated in these or other wars unrecorded we know not. A more specific charge follows: Because they have shed innocent blood in their land. This is understood by some to refer to the blood of captive or fugitive Jews in the lands of their Edomite and Egyptian enemies. It seems preferable to understand the suffix answering to "their" of the laud of Judah, on the occasion of some hostile inroad into Jewish territory.
But Judah shall dwell for ever, and Jerusalem from generation to generation.
Verses 20, 21. - The contrast which these verses present to what precedes is very striking. While Egypt and Edom are devoted to desolation and destruction, Judah, personified, shall dwell (margin, abide), and Jerusalem, or rather, as we think, Judah shall be dwelt in, as also its capital, from generation to generation. In the concluding verse a reason is assigned. For I will cleanse their blood that I have not cleansed. The blood shed by the Egyptians and Edomites is proved by Jehovah to be innocent blood, because he promises to avenge it in the end, though for wise and good reasons he had delayed to do so. This closing thought is well explained by Keil in the words, "The eternal desolation of the world-kingdoms mentioned here will wipe out all the wrong which they have done to the people of God, and which has hitherto remained un-punished." When Jehovah thus wipes out the bloodguiltiness of the enemies of Judah by punishing them with destruction for their cruelties, while he exalts gloriously, finally, and for ever his people, he proves his sovereignty over them and his dwelling-place in Zion. The Hebrew interpreters, with the exception of Abarbanel, understand this passage

(1) literally; thus Kimchi: "At that time (the day of the Lord), after making an end of the nations there, great goodness shall accrue to Israel;" the same is seen in the exposition of the last verse of the chapter. Rashi says, "Even if I shall cleanse them of the remaining transgression which is in their hands, and the evil-doing which they have done to me, the blood of the children of Judah I will not cleanse from them;" also in commenting on the same, Kimchi says, "For their silver and their gold which they took I will cleanse the nations, for Israel also shall take from them in the future, and they shall become their spoil; but for their blood which they have shed I will not cleanse them, but life shall be for life - the life of those that shed it, or of their children after them; for for all the silver and the gold that is in the world which they shall give as a ransom of their souls they shall not be cleansed of the blood which they have shed;" also, "For the ages of eternity shall his dwelling-place be in Zion, after that it shall return there in the days of the Messiah."

(2) Some refer the passage to millennial times.

(3) Others to the time of the consummation of all things. Thus Keil, comparing Ezekiel 47, Zechariah 14, Revelation 21. and 22, says, "This passage does not teach the earthly glorification of Palestine, and desolation of Egypt and Idumaea, but that Judah and Jerusalem are types of the kingdom of God, whilst Egypt and Edom are types of the world-powers that are at enmity against God; in other words, that this description is not to be understood literally, but spiritually;" he had previously intimated that spiritual sense, "For Zion or Jerusalem is, of course, not the Jerusalem of the earthly Palestine, but the sanctified and glorified city of the living God, in which the Lord will be eternally united with his redeemed, sanctified, and glorified Church."

For I will cleanse their blood that I have not cleansed: for the LORD dwelleth in Zion.
The Pulpit Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 2001, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2010 by BibleSoft, inc., Used by permission

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