Commentary on the
BOOK OF JOEL
Joel's prophecy of the Day of the Lord was cited by Peter in his first sermon on the day of Pentecost. It's imagery was adapted by John in Revelation. The book of Joel thus stands as one of the great "end time" prophecies of Israel's prophets.
|CHAPTER TWO||CHAPTER THREE||CHAPTER ONE|
1 – For, behold, in those days, and in that time,
The word “for” ties what is said here to what went before, indicating that “in those days, and at that time” has reference to the period earlier described as “afterward,” or the “last days” of the pre-messianic age (Joel 2:28; Acts 2:17-21). Thus, the judgments depicted in the following verses are connected with the “great and terrible day of the Lord” portrayed in the closing verses of the preceding chapter, and are part of the “deliverance” of God’s people from their adversaries (Joel 2:32).
when I shall bring again the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem,
To“bring again the captivity” refers to the return of those captured and taken into captivity by a foreign enemy where they were made slaves or forcibly resettled. However, the phrase was also used parabolically for one’s deliverance from affliction. Hence, scripture says “the LORD turned again the captivity of Job” (Job 42:10), although Job had not been carried into captivity by a foreign enemy. This wider, parabolic sense of restoring the fortunes of Israel was used to describe the salvation and blessed state of God’s people by the coming of the Messiah. Hence, the Psalmist says “Oh that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion! When the Lord bringeth back the captivity of his people, Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad” (Ps. 14:7; cf. 53:6). Similarly, in a passage quoted by James as being fulfilled in Christ (Acts 15:14-18), the Lord said “I will bring again the captivity of my people of Israel” (Amos 9:14). In still another messianic passage, the prophet Isaiah foretold the time when the Lord would “set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people” (Isa. 11:11). Finally, Hosea wrote “Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the LORD their God, and David their king; and shall fear the LORD and his goodness in the latter days” (Hos. 3:5). “David their king” is a clear reference to Christ and shows that, although the prophets in these passages had in immediate view the return of the Assyrio-Babylonian captivities, the plenior sensus looked to the gathering of God’s scattered people by the gospel of Christ. Moreover, the context of the present passage allows us to go further and say that to “bring again the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem” includes the “times of refreshing” (Acts 3:19) that would attend the second coming of Christ when he would redeem his people out of the hand of their persecutors and put his enemies (the Jews and Romans) beneath his feet.
2 – I will also gather all nations,
The day of the Lord upon Jerusalem and the Jewish nation now widens to include the nations of the Roman Empire that would participate in persecution of Christ’s people and gospel. Christ’s government over all nations was foretold by the Psalmist when he wrote: “Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt rule them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel” (Ps. 2:8, 9). Jesus represents this prophecy as an accomplished fact in John’s missal to the church in Thyatira: “But that which ye have already hold fast till I come. And he that overcometh and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father” (Rev. 2:25-27). Jesus’ words to the church in Thyatira indicate that his coming was near, and prove that the second coming was not a far off or distant event, but would be accomplished within the lifetimes of first-generation believers. In fact, the imagery of Revelation is a portrayal beforehand of Christ’s coming to vindicate his gospel and redeem his church out of the hands of her persecutors by the judgments he visited upon the Jews and nations of the Roman Empire. It is this judgement that Joel sees here.
and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat,
It is helpful to our understanding of the valley of Jehoshaphat if we first speak briefly about the valley of Megiddo. The valley of Megiddo was a strategic location originally captured by Joshua (Josh. 12:21) and later fortified by Solomon (I Kng. 9:15). It was in Megiddo that Deborah and Barak defeated Sisera, captain of the host of Jabin, king of the Canaanites (Jud. 5:19). The valley of Megiddo was also the place where Gideon defeated the Midianites (the valley below the hill of Moreh - Jud. 7:1).Megiddo was located on the southwestern portion of the plain of Esdraelon. The area around the city of Jezreel in the same plain was sometimes called the valley of Jezreel (Hos. 1:5). Jezreel was the capital of the northern kingdom under Ahab (I Kng. 18:45, 46; 21:1, 23); it was the place where Jehu defeated the house of Abab, and where queen Jezebel was slain (II Kng. 9:30-37). Ahaziah, king of Judah, who was allied with the house of Ahab, was wounded in the battle of Jezreel, and fled to Megiddo where he died of his wounds (II Kng. 9:27). Hence, Megiddo was the site of several historic battles in which the Lord destroyed his enemies; it therefore attained symbolic eschatological importance as the place where the enemies of Christ would be defeated at his second coming (Rev. 16:16). The valley of Jehoshaphat is Joel’s eschatological equal of Megiddo as the place where God would judge the nations and enemies of his people.
The valley of Jehoshaphat attained symbolic significance when God destroyed the allied armies of the Moabites, Ammonites, and the inhabitants of Mount Seir when they came up against Judah. Jehoshaphat was told that they would not have to fight, but only to trust in God, who would deliver these three armies into his hand. Jehoshaphat and Judah thus marched into the wilderness singing unto the Lord where they found the armies of the Moabites, Ammonites, and Mount Seir had destroyed one another, leaving the valley filled with dead bodies. The abundance of riches and precious jewels discovered among the dead bodies was more than could be carried away, so that they were three days in gathering the spoils it was so much. On the fourth day they assembled and blessed the Lord for causing them to rejoice over their enemies, and called the name of the place the “valley of Berachah” (“blessing”), which name it retained thereafter (II Chron. 20:1-30). Joel thus evokes this valley to foreshow the great deliverance God would work for his people at the time of the eschaton, when Nero, the nations of the Roman Empire, and the Jews were gathered against the church to exterminate it.
and will plead with them there
The prophet has placed the time of this judgment in the New Testament era by the words “in those days, and at that time” (v. 1), referring to the period marked by the outpouring of the Holy Ghost. This time of judgment would attend the commencement of Christ’s universal government over the nations. Paul thus told his Gentile audience at Athens:
Forasmuch as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art of man’s device. And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent: Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead. Acts 17:29-31
In saying God had “appointed a day,” Paul does not mean that the judgment would last only one day, but rather that it would commence on a set day and thus continue thereafter. All judgment has been given unto the Son (John 5:22; Acts 10:42) and as long as the world endures he is its ruler and judge. Moreover, whereas God had not undertaken specifically to eradicate idolatry from the nations in former times, he now would, and his wrath is upon any nation that persists in rebellion against the gospel.
for my people and for my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations,
The prophecy pertains to New Testament times, but evokes past offences of Israel’s neighboring nations. Since it seems unlikely that these offenses would only belatedly become ripe for judgment after the appearance of Christ, the better view is that they are cited because they are representative of the sort of violence and depredations God’s people had historically suffered, but which Christ would reverse and avenge as he advanced the fortunes of his people and put his enemies beneath his feet. Since this time of judgment occurs in the era of the Spirit, “my people” and “my heritage Israel” should be understood to refer to the New Testament church, which is the Israel of God by faith (Rom. 9:6-8; Gal. 6:16). Even so, there is a continuity of identity of the people of God that transcends the Testaments. Although branches of the unbelieving Jews were broken off and believing Gentiles were grafted in in their place, the olive-tree of God’s people, supported by the root, which is Christ (Rom. 11:16-23), reaches across the Testaments. The woman in Revelation twelve is the Old Testament people laboring to be delivered from her enemies, but becomes the New Testament people by the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ (Rev. 12:1-17). The scattering of God’s Old Testament people occurred primarily through wars and invading armies; scattering the church began as early as the persecution that arose over Stephen (Acts 8:1, 4; 11:19). Like scattered coals and embers of a fire that catch flame in the grass, the Jews’ persecution of the church only served to spread the gospel; for those that were scattered “went everywhere preaching the word” (Acts 8:4).
and parted my land.
When enemy forces invade a land, whole villages and cities often take flight, abandoning their homes and possessions, which the enemy then occupies. Joel evokes this familiar image against the enemies of God’s people when he mentions “parting my land,” of which the Old Testament provides several examples (I Sam. 31:7; I Chrn. 10:7). Christians who fled for their lives at the outbreak of persecution necessarily had to abandon their homes and property, which their persecutors then plundered and spoiled, as testified by the epistle to the Hebrews:
But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great flight of afflictions; partly, whilst ye were made a gazingstock both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, whilst ye became companions of them that were so used. For ye had compassion on me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance” (Heb. 10:32-34).
3 – 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.
Having taken a city or village, ancient warfare was such that the inhabitants were sometimes sold into slavery or required to pay ransom for their release. In such cases, the captives were treated like part of the booty for which soldiers would gamble and cast lots. Intent upon carousing and fornicating after their victory, the soldiers might then part with their captives cheaply, giving a boy for money to buy a harlot, or a girl for money to buy drink.
4 – 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 recompence me, swiftly and speedily will I return your recompence upon your own head;
National and regional jealousies historically incited military violence by neighboring peoples against Israel, seeking to settle old scores and grudges. The inhabitants of Tyre and Zidon were Phoenician; the inhabitants of the coasts of Palestine were Philistines. The prophet Amos mentions similar acts of predation by Tyrus against the Jews:
Thus saith the Lord: For three transgressions of Tyrus, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they delivered up the whole captivity to Edom, and remembered not the brotherly covenant. But I will send a fire on the wall of Tyrus, which shall devour the palaces thereof.” Amos 1:9, 10
The punishment of Tyrus mentioned by Amos was almost certainly accomplished in the Assyrio-Babylonian invasions, particularly the armies of Nebuchadnezzar (Ezek. 26-28), and shows that judgment mentioned by Joel should be understood typically, as pointing in a general way to the time of Messiah, when his providential rule of the nations would avenge the oppression of his people against their enemies, of which of Tyre, Zidon, and Palestinia were examples.
5 – Because ye have taken my silver and my gold, and have carried into your temples my goodly pleasant things:
II Chronicles records events in the days of Jehoram, the son of Jehoshaphat, who ruled after his father’s death, which may recount the incidents here referred to. Jehoram was a wicked king who walked in the ways of the house of Ahab, for he had the daughter of Ahab for a wife. In his days, Edom revolted and the Philistines invaded and carried away all the substance of the king’s house (II Chrn. 21:1-20; cf. Amos 1:6-12). The atrocities and predations of the Philistines and Edomites alluded to here may have been avenged in part in the days of Uzziah (II Chrn. 26:6, 7) and Hezekiah (II Kng. 18:8), kings of Judah, as it seems was foretold by Amos when he wrote “The LORD will roar from Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem” against Edom and remnant of the Philistines (Amos 1:7, 8, 1, 12).
6 - 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.
It is likely that at the time Edom revolted and the Philistines invaded Judah during the days of Jehoram that captives were taken and sold to various peoples, including the Greeks. Although these ravishes were permitted against Judah and Jerusalem for its sins, the bitter hatred and cruelty of the Edomites and Philistines was deserving of divine vengeance and would not go unpunished.
7 – Behold, I will raise them out of the place whither ye have sold them, and will return your recompence upon your own head:
It was a strategy of ancient warfare to prevent renewal of hostilities by deporting conquered peoples to foreign lands. This would not work in the present case, for God would bring again the captives. This may have been fulfilled in the time of Alexander the Great and his successors when many Jewish slaves were set at liberty. Ptolemy Philadelphus set free a vast number of Jews to secure a translation of the Hebrew scriptures for his library in Alexandria (Josephus, Ant. 12.2.3), and Demetrius wrote to Jonathan Maccabeus, to secure him as an ally, that he set at liberty all Jews who were captive or slaves in his kingdom (Josephus, Ant. 13.2.3).
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: for the LORD hath spoken it.
Given notes that following the seven month siege of Tyre by Alexander the Great, 13,000 citizens were sold into slavery. During the period of the Maccabees, the Tyrians together with the citizens of Ptolemais made an incursion into Galilee to waste the Jews, but were defeated and chased to the very gates of Ptolemais by Simon Maccabeus, who slew about 3,000 of them, took the spoils of those they had slain; also Simon took captive the inhabitants of Galilee and Arbattis together with their wives and children, and carried them into Judea (I Macc. 5.14-23; Josephus, Ant. 12.13.1, 2).
9 – 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 4-8 stand as something of a parenthesis recounting the past offenses of Israel’s neighbors and their vindication, which would be typical of the vengeance Christ would accomplish for his New Testament church. Hence, Christ’s coming against the church’s enemies would be spiritual and providential, not physical and visible, just as it had been against Tyre, Zidon, and the Philistines during the intertestamental period. Christ thus issues the war cry against the unregenerate of the nations that they should prepare for war, because his wrath would shortly overtake them for their persecution of his people. The marginal reading is “sanctify for war,” pointing to the religious rites used by various nations to evoke the favor of the gods in preparing for battle. At bottom, the contest would be spiritual; drawn along religious lines; divided between those who served Christ and those that opposed him.
10 – Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruning hooks into spears: let the weak say, I am strong.
The exigencies of war require the quick manufacture of arms; men are thus urged to convert their implements of agriculture into swords and spears to meet the crisis before them. None are exempted from the contest; all must prepare; the weak amongst the heathen must take courage and say he is able and strong. The case is therefore the opposite of the people of Christ’s kingdom. When the Jews disobeyed the Lord, he left the nations of Canaan unconquered in order to “teach them war” (Jud. 3:2; cf. 2:1-23), meaning to teach them the horrors of war and the terrible price of their rebellion and disobedience to the voice of the Lord. Conversely, the prophecies of Isaiah and Micah looked to a time when God’s people would “beat their swords into plowshares and the spears into pruning hooks” and would not “learn war anymore” because of their faith and obedience to Christ (Isa. 2:2-5; Mic. 4:1-5). In the coming battle against the heathen persecutors, Christ would wage war on his people’s behalf; like in the days of Jehoshaphat when Judah marched into the wilderness only to spoil the dead, Christ’s church would not have to fight, but merely stand by and watch the destruction of their enemies.
11 – Assemble yourselves, and come, all ye heathen, and gather yourselves together round about: thither cause thy mighty ones to come down, O LORD.
This verse describes the marshaling of heathen armies unto their doom. But the heathen here must be understood to include the apostate nation of Jews, for they were allied with Rome against Christ and the church. “Thy mighty ones” is God’s angelic host whose unseen orchestration of events works providentially to defeat the enemy.
12 – 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.
Gathering unto the valley of Jehoshaphat is merely figurative, and describes the nations’ persecution of the church under Nero and the Jews, and the victory God would work on his people’s behalf. Ezekiel describes Nero’s end-time persecution under the imagery of Gog and Magog, a great heathen hoard that descends like a storm upon “restored Israel” (the church), which dwell in “un-walled villages, having neither bars nor gates” (possessing no earthly defenses) (Ezek. 38:1-11):
Therefore, son of man, prophesy and say unto Gog, Thus saith the Lord God; In that day when my people of Israel dwelleth safely, shalt thou not know it? And thou shalt come from thy place out of the north parts, thou, and many people with thee, all of them riding upon horses, a great company, and a might army: And thou shalt come up against my people of Israel, as a cloud to cover the land; it shall be in the latter days, and I will bring thee against my land, that the heathen may know me, when I shall be sanctified in thee, O Gog, before their eyes. Ezek. 38:14-16
Like Pharaoh and Egypt whom God raised up in order to show his power by putting them down (Ex. 9:16; cf. Rom. 9:17), Christ would manifest his divine power and godhead in Nero, the Jews, and the nations of the Roman Empire when he avenged the blood of his apostles and prophets.
13 – 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.
Christ’s vengeance upon his enemies is likened unto treading a wine press; men and nations are brought together in war where they are made to drink the cup of divine wrath. Isaiah foretold the time when God’s servants would see his wrath upon their oppressors:
Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? This that is glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength?
I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save.
Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the winefat?
I have trodden the wine press alone; and of the people there was none with me: for I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them I my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment. For the day of vengeance is in mine heart, and the year of my redeemed is come. Isa. 63:1-4
14 – Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision:
Josephus reports that 1,100,000 Jews perished in the siege of Jerusalem. However, the whole number Jews that perished in the war was 1,337,490. According to Josephus, “the multitude of those that therein perished exceeded all the destructions that either men or God ever brought upon the world.” But heaven’s wrath was not confined to the Jews. Italy and Rome also bore the stamp of divine disapproval:
Upon this year, disgraced by so many deeds of shame, Heaven also set its mark by tempest and by disease. Campania was wasted by a whirlwind, which far and wide wrecked the farms, the fruit trees, and the crops, and carried its fury to the neighbourhood of the capital, where all classes of men were being decimated by a deadly epidemic. No outward sign of a distempered air was visible. Yet the houses were filled with lifeless bodies, the streets with funerals. Neither sex nor age gave immunity from danger; slaves and free-born populace alike were summarily cut down, amid the laments of their wives and children, who, themselves infected while tending or mourning the victims, were often burnt upon the same pyre. Knights and senators, though they perished on all hands, were less deplored—as if, by undergoing the common lot, they were cheating the ferocity of the emperor.
for the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision.
These were but the beginnings of sorrows. In the very midst of the Jews’ war with Rome, civil war broke out in the Roman Empire and the “year of four emperors” (AD 69) ensued. The slaughter of Romans by Romans was exceeding great, as the armies of competing claimants for the throne destroyed one another. Tacitus reports that Otho’s troops “‘burned, devastated, and looted” Italy “as if they were on foreign shores and in an enemy’s cities.” The armies of Vitellius behaved much the same:
But the distress of Italy was now heavier and more terrible than that inflicted by war. The troops of Vitellius, scattering among the municipalities and colonies, indulged in every kind of robbery, theft, and violence and debauchery. Their greed and venality knew no distinction between right and wrong; they respected nothing, whether sacred or profane. There were cases too where, under the disguise of soldiers, men murdered their personal enemies; and the soldiers in their turn, being acquainted with the country, marked out the best-stocked farms and richest owners for booty or destruction, in case any resistance was made. The generals were subject to their troops and did not dare to forbid them…Italy, whose wealth had long before been exhausted, now found all these troops, foot and horse, all this violence, loss, and suffering an intolerable burden.
Dio Cassius reports that 40,000 fell in one battle between the forces of Otho and Vitellius. Some forty days after the battle, Vitellius surveyed the scene where the corpses of 40,000 soldiers lay rotting: “When he came to the plains where the battle was fought and some shuddered with horror at the mouldering corpses, he had the audacity to encourage them by the abominable remark that the odour of a dead enemy was sweet and that of a fellow citizen sweeter still.” Later, in a battle between the forces of Vitellius and Vespasian, 50,000 perished at Cremona and 50,000 more in the siege of Rome.
15 – The sun and the moon shall be darkened, and the stars shall withdraw their shining.
Armies going forth to battle look for favorable signs and portents to heighten their morale for the battle. Instead, darkness and despair descend upon the disobedient of the nations; the sun and moon are darkened and the stars withdraw their bright shining. 
16 – The LORD also shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake:
Like a lion roaring upon his prey, the Lord would shout from Zion and utter his voice from Jerusalem. The sound would be so terrible, the very heavens would shake and the foundations of the earth would be moved out of place. The disorders of the natural world bespeak the upset of earthly political and military powers as Christ establishes his kingdom over the world.
but the LORD will be the hope of his people, and the strength of the children of Israel.
Although there would be great wrath upon the nations, God would be a sun and a shield to his people.
17 – So shall ye know that I am the LORD your God dwelling in Zion, my holy mountain: then shall Jerusalem be holy,
Under the Old Testament economy, God’s presence dwelt in Zion between the cherubim within the Holy of Holies (Ex. 33:7-11 34:34; 7:89; I Sam. 4:4). However, the earthly Jerusalem of the Old Testament was replaced by the heavenly Jerusalem of the New Testament, and the tabernacle has been replaced by the church:
Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; in whom all the building fitly framed together growth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit. Eph. 2:19-22; cf. I Pet. 2:5, 6
and there shall no strangers pass through her any more.
The meaning here is that the heavenly Jerusalem, the church, will never suffer capture by foreign armies, but will rest secure as the spiritual city and covenantal habitation of the saints. According to John “And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Rev. 21:27).
18 – 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,
“In that day” describes the era marked by the outpouring of the Spirit. New wine, milk, and waters bespeak the fatness of the land and great plenitude God’s people would enjoy. Following the vengeance upon the persecutors, God’s people would enjoy great peace and plenty, irrigated by the Spirit of God and the word of the Gospel.
and a fountain shall come forth of the house of the LORD,
The fountain is the gospel; the house of the Lord, the church. The world would be irrigated with the gospel of salvation by the church preaching the word. Zechariah uses similar imagery to speak of the redemption and remission of sins that would flow from Jesus’ cross: “In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness” (Zech. 13:1). Ezekiel describes the gospel as a small rivulet flowing from the house of the Lord that grew as proceeded until it became a mighty river bringing life wherever it went, even healing the waters of the Dead Sea (Ezek. 47:1-12).
and shall water the valley of Shittim.
The valley of Shittim is the plain east of Jordan opposite of Jericho where the Israelites encamped before crossing Jordan. (Num. 25:1; 33:49). It is also the place where the Jews committed whoredom with the daughters of the Moabites and seems here to symbolize the great trackless wastes of paganism that would be water with the gospel and bear fruit to God.
19 – 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.
Egypt and Edom were ancient oppressors and persecutors of God’s people, and thus stand for all who set themselves as enemies of Christ and the gospel. Although the gospel would irrigate the world and bring salvation to all peoples, the enemies of the gospel are destined to become desolate wastes “because they have shed” the blood of the saints “in their land.” Ezekiel makes the same point when he says that, although the river of the gospel would carry life wherever it went, “the miry places thereof and the marshes thereof shall not be healed; they shall be given to salt” (Ezek. 47:11). The miry places and marshes represent the nations of those refusing the gospel, who instead of receiving life and blessing, are given over to “salt” and burning. Zechariah makes the same point this way:
And it shall be, that whoso will not come up of all the families of the earth unto Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, even upon them shall be no rain. And if the family of Egypt go not up, and come not, that have no rain; there shall be plague, wherewith the Lord will smite the heathen that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles. This shall be the punishment of Egypt, and the punishment of all nations that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles” Zech. 14:17-19
The “feast of tabernacles” commemorated the Jews first encampment at Succoth after departing from Egypt; which term signifies booths, thus serving for the name of the feast tabernacles, and thus stood for God’s great deliverance (Ex. 12:37; Num. 33:5; cf. Lev. 23:39-44). However, here, rather than pointing back to the exodus from Egypt, tabernacles looks to our salvation from sin by the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ and is therefore the symbolic equal of Christ as our Passover Lamb.
20 – But Judah shall dwell forever, and Jerusalem from generation to generation.
This verse bespeaks the security of God’s people. Under the Old Testament economy, possession of the land had been provisional and conditional upon obedience to the law of the covenant. When the Jews broke the law, abandoning God, their nation was invaded and the people were carried into captivity. The spiritual nation of the New Testament, although equally capable of apostasy by individual members, can never be carried into captivity itself, but rests secure within the breast of all sincere believers wherever they may be.
21 – For I will cleanse their blood that I have not cleansed: for the LORD dwelleth in Zion.
When Judah was carried into captivity to Babylon, it was because God was unwilling to forgive the innocent blood shed by Manasseh:
Surely at the commandment of the Lord came this upon Judah, to remove them out of his sight, for the sins of Manasseh, according to all that he did; and also for the innocent blood that he shed: for he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood; which the Lord would not pardon. II Kng. 24:3, 4
The innocent blood that God was unwilling to forgive leading to the captivity would be pardoned and the Jews restored to their land. Hence, the captivity of the Jews was followed by a second exodus from Assyria and Babylon and all the places where God had driven them, and thus became a prophetic foreshadow of the great deliverance that God would affect in Christ by whose cross God would cleanse the blood theretofore he had not cleansed, forgiving us all our trespasses, reconciling us to himself by the blood of Jesus.
 J.J. Given “The Book of Joel” in The Pulpit Commentary (Peabody, MS, Hendrickson), 49.
 Josephus, Wars, 6.9.3, 4
 Tacitus, Histories, 2:12.
 Dio Cassius, Roman History, 63.10.3
 Evoking similar imagery, Shakespeare thus causes the heavens to be frown upon Richard the Third as he goes to meet his doom in battle:
K. Rich: “Tell the clock there. Give me a calendar. Who saw the sun today?”
Rat: “Not I, my Lord.”
K. Rich: “Then he disdains to shine; for by the book He should have brav’d the east an hour ago: A black day will it be to somebody. Ratcliff—“
Ratcliff: “My lord?”
K. Rich. “The sun will not be seen to-day; The sky doth frown and lower upon our army.”
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