The first verse: "For behold, in those days and at that time, when I bring back the captives of Judah and Jerusalem", points clearly to a time when the Jews, who were taken captive from the kingdom of Judah and its capital Jerusalem, will be brought back by the LORD to their country.
It is to be noted that, assuming (as is most probable) that this prophecy was written before king Joash became of age, the kingdom of Judah had at that time full sovereignty and its inhabitants would only be taken captive three centuries later. Even the neighbouring kingdom of Israel would only be destroyed a hundred years after this prophecy was written.
There has been some speculation as to the days and time of restoration that this verse refers to, whether it has to do with the partial restoration of the people to their land after the exile to Babylon, from the time of Ezra, Nehemiah, to early in the Christian era. It is tempting to do so, because of the names of the enemies of the Jews of ancient times mentioned for punishment.
Some even take the view that the phrase "at that time" refers vaguely to the time when those who call on the Lord will be saved including our own time, therefore God will not only bless believers with everything they need but He will also bless them by destroying all evil and ending the pain and suffering on earth. This is a way of "spiritualising" a clear prophecy concerning God's intervention in the world.
As we saw in the previous chapter, there is going to be a time in the future when Israel will be restored by God to the land He gave them. This chapter follows on from there, and relates to the same period in history, which comes after the great tribulation.
The remnant of the nation of Israel will be rescued from its enemies at the end of the tribulation by the Lord Jesus, who will come a second time to set up His kingdom. Their enemies will confront His might at the great battle that precedes the Messiah's reign over the earth (Revelation 20:7-9).
Again we see that it has nothing to do with the Day of Pentecost, for the LORD says, "When I bring back the captives of Judah and Jerusalem." He certainly did not bring them back at Pentecost; in fact, the Lord Jesus did the reverse because He said, "… ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth" (Acts 1:8). Instead of bringing the captivity back to Jerusalem, Christ, as head of the church, said to those who now have been born again and are in the body of believers, "Go to the ends of the earth. Take the message out that I am raised from the dead. Tell them that God is gracious and long-suffering and merciful, and that whosoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved."
Before the Lord Jesus comes again to the earth, believers since the time of Pentecost will already have appeared before His judgement seat to see whether or not they are to receive a reward. When He again comes to the earth, He will "gather all nations, and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat"; there He will "enter into judgement with them on account of My people, My heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations; they have also divided up My land…" The Lord Jesus referred to this judgement of nations before His kingdom as we read in Matthew 25:31-46.
This is a prophecy repeated time and again by later prophets, right up to the last, Zechariah, who writes: "For thus says the LORD of hosts: 'He sent Me after glory, to the nations which plunder you; for he who touches you touches the apple of His eye. For surely I will shake My hand against them, and they shall become spoil for their servants. Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent Me. Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion! For behold, I am coming and I will dwell in your midst,' says the LORD. 'Many nations shall be joined to the LORD in that day, and they shall become My people. And I will dwell in your midst. Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent Me to you.'" (Zechariah 2:8-12).
This is the same thing Joel told the people at the beginning. This was their great hope, their bright hope, that the Lord will come to establish His Kingdom on the earth and the Spirit will be poured out on all flesh.
The Israelites have been suffering much cruelty at the hands of the Gentile nations ever since they were forced to leave their land. Even before Rome the children of Israel were being sold into slavery.
God's judgement of Tyre and Sidon, prophesied also by Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and Isaiah, has all been literally fulfilled already.
It is interesting to see a mention of the Greeks so early in history by this prophet. The Greeks only became a world power through the conquests of their Macedonian kings Philip and Alexander more than four centuries later, but they were already known in those times because of their merchant shipping.
Tyre consisted of two distinct parts, a rocky fortress on the mainland, called "Old Tyre," and the city, built on a small, rocky island about half-a-mile distant from the shore. It was a place of great strength. It was besieged by Shalmaneser, who was assisted by the Phoenicians of the mainland, for five years, and by Nebuchadnezzar (BC 586-573) for thirteen years, apparently without success.
It afterwards fell under the power of Alexander the Great, after a siege of seven months, but continued to maintain much of its commercial importance till the Christian era. It is referred to in Matthew 11:21 and Acts 12:20. In AD 1291 it was taken by the Saracens, and has remained a desolate ruin ever since.
Sidon (a fishery), is about 25 miles north of Tyre. It received its name from a grandson of Noah, son of Canaan (Genesis 10:15,19).
From its extensive commercial activity it early became a "great" city (Joshua 11:8; 19:28), famous for its manufactures and arts, as well as for its commerce (1 Kings 5:6; 1 Chronicles 22:4; Ezekiel 27:8). It was also overtaken by the Greeks. It is now a town of 10,000 inhabitants, with remains of walls built in the twelfth century AD and is of no significance today.
Verses 9 to 16 repeat the theme of verses 9-32 in the previous chapter.
Verses 9-14 refer to Armageddon, and here the Gentile nations are told to prepare for war. They are given warning beforehand of judgement to come, and no matter how powerfully they prepare themselves: "Wake up the mighty men, let all the men of war draw near, let them come up; beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears; let the weak say, 'I am strong'", defeat is imminent. Verses 15,16 are parallel with Joel 2:30-32
In the Olivet Discourse the Lord Jesus said that He will judge the nations and that He will judge them according to the way they have treated His people. Jewish witnesses (144,000 of them) will be appointed to preach the gospel throughout the world during the tribulation years. It may then be a risk of life to give a cup of cold water to any of them but Gentiles who have sufficient kindness and godliness to do so will be considered fit for the Kingdom of Christ.
The "harvest" and "sickle" are symbols of the judgement at the end of the age. Like grapes, evil mankind will go through the winepress, and the vat will overflow such is the wickedness which will be found in it. All this comes within the boundaries of the Day of the Lord which begins after the Rapture of the church with the Great Tribulation and continues through the second coming of Christ to establish His Kingdom and the judgement as to who will enter the Kingdom. After that Christ will reign during a millennium; there will then be a rebellion when Satan is let loose, then the final judgement. All of that is included in the Day of the Lord.
1 "For behold, in those days and at that time, when I bring back the captives of Judah and Jerusalem,
2 I will also gather all nations, and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; and I will enter into judgement with them there on account of My people, My heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations; they have also divided up My land.
3 They have cast lots for My people, have given a boy as payment for a harlot, and sold a girl for wine, that they may drink.
4 "Indeed, what have you to do with Me, o Tyre and Sidon, and all the coasts of Philistia? Will you retaliate against Me? But if you retaliate against Me, swiftly and speedily I will return your retaliation upon your own head;
5 because you have taken My silver and My gold, and have carried into your temples my prized possessions.
6 Also the people of Judah and the people of Jerusalem you have sold to the Greeks, that you may remove them far from their borders.
7 "Behold, I will raise them out of the place to which you have sold them, and will return your retaliation upon 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 people far off; for the LORD has spoken."
9 Proclaim this among the nations: "Prepare for war! Wake up the mighty men, let all the men of war draw near, let them come up.
10 Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears; let the weak say, 'I am strong.' "
11 Assemble and come, all you nations, and gather together all around. Cause Your mighty ones to go down there, O LORD.
12 "Let the nations be wakened, and come up to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; for there I will sit to judge all the surrounding nations.
13 Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come, go down; for the winepress is full, the vats overflow - for their wickedness is great."