For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2002 James Melough

3:1.  “For, behold, in those days, and in that time, when I shall bring again the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem,”

The days and the time here are the seven year Tribulation era out of which will emerge the believing remnant that will be the new converted nation Israel, and the Millennium into which they will be brought, when God will reverse the fortunes of Israel by setting her in the place of preeminence over the other nations, and by fulfilling to her all His promises given to Abraham.       

3:2.  “I will also gather the 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.”

This gathering of the nations into the valley of Jehoshaphat, meaning Jehovah is judge, (known also as Megiddo or Armageddon), will occur at the end of the Tribulation after the destruction of the rebel armies in the battle of Armageddon described in verse 9-11 and in Re 16:16, “And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon, meaning hill of slaughter(There is no place known specifically as Armageddon, but most commentators agree that the reference is to a place in the vicinity of Megiddo, or to the wider area known as the plain of Esdraelon).  For a detailed description of the gathering of earth’s armies which will precede this gathering, please see Re 19:11-21, and Dan 7:10-14.

The gathering here in verse 2 is not of armies, but of the nations, and not for war but for judgment, as described in Mt 25:31-46, “And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on his left.  Then shall the king say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.... then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.... And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.”

“... will plead with them” is more accurately translated, “will execute judgment upon them.”

This judgment, which is premillennial, and to determine who will pass into the enjoyment of millennial blessing, is not to be confused with the judgment of the great white throne mentioned in Re 20, which is postmillennial, and is to determine the degree of punishment to be endured eternally by each unbeliever.

It is to be noted that salvation by works is not implied in the fact that it is their treatment of believing Jews in the Tribulation that will determine whether those being judged shall enter the millennial kingdom or go away into everlasting punishment.  The good works are the evidence of believing faith, but do not themselves constitute that faith.

3:3.  “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.”

This is the graphic description of the value of the Jews in the eyes of the Gentiles amongst whom they have been scattered during the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities, and the Diaspora of AD 70.  They were considered worthless.  But how different is their value in God’s sight!  To Him they are dear, and following the Tribulation from which the believing remnant will emerge, He will show the nations just how precious they are to Him.

3:4.  “Yea, and what have ye to do with me, O Tyre, and Zidon, and all the coasts of Palestine?  will ye render me a recompense?  and if ye recompense me, swiftly and speedily will I return your recompense upon your own head;”

“... what have ye to do with me” is better translated, “what are ye to me?” or “what do you expect from me?”  Jehovah will show His estimate of them on that day when He gathers them for judgment in the valley of Armageddon, and punishes them for their harsh treatment of His beloved people Israel.

Another translation of “will ye render me a recompense?” is “Will ye render retribution on My behalf?”  In other words, God is asking the Gentiles if they thought they were executing judgment against Israel on His behalf.  What a mistake they were making!  Concerning Israel, God has written, “After the glory hath he sent me unto the nations which spoiled you: for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple (pupil) of his (God’s) eye.  For, behold, I will shake mine hand upon them, and they shall be a spoil to their servants: and ye shall know that the Lord of hosts hath sent me,” Zec 2:8.  God Himself will chastise His people, but woe betide those who delight in making themselves instruments of judgment.  His warning to them is, “... swiftly and speedily will I return your recompense upon your own head.”

3:5.  “Because ye have taken my silver and my gold, and have carried into your temples my goodly pleasant things:”

The reference here is to the plundering of the Temple by Babylon, but it looks on also to the same evil activity of Rome in AD 70.

3:6.  “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.”

This continues to express God’s displeasure with these same nations for having sold Jewish captives as slaves.

3:7.  “Behold, I will raise them out of the place whither ye have sold them, and will return your recompense upon your own head:”

Here God is pointing to a day still future (the Tribulation and the Millennium) when He will regather His people back into Palestine from the lands amongst which they have been scattered by the Assyrians and Babylonians, but particularly by Rome following its destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.

That that day of Israel’s restoration is near is declared by the fact that in 1948 her autonomy and her land were restored, as thousands of Jews streamed back to their homeland, and have continued to return daily since then.  The “fig tree” is beginning to bud again, the witness to that budding being this present generation, in regard to which God has declared, “This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled,” Mt 24:34.

“... and will return your recompense upon your own head.”  In the Millennium, Israel which for the past two thousand years has been trodden under the feet of the Gentiles, will be given dominion over them, as it is written, “And the Lord shall make thee the head, and not the tail; and thou shalt be above only, and thou shalt not be beneath,” Dt 28:13.

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.”

The picture seems to continue to be of Israel’s promotion in the Millennium, for there is no historical record of this in her past experience.  But all that is written concerning millennial conditions seems to preclude the idea of slavery in any form during those thousand years, and that being so it seems to limit the meaning of “sell” to a figurative rather than a literal meaning, and Strong’s Concordance states in fact that that is how the word is also used in Scripture, so that this verse may simply be pointing to the fact that in the Millennium all nations will be subject to Israel’s authority. 

3:9.  “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:”

This clearly refers to the gathering of earth’s armies to the battle of Armageddon at the end of the Tribulation prior to the gathering of the nations mentioned in verse 2, and the place to which these Gentile armies will go up is the valley of Jehoshaphat (Megiddo or Armageddon), to fight against Christ, with the result that He will destroy them, see Re 16:14-21; “And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet... which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty ... and he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon,” and Re 19:19-21, “And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army.  And the beast was taken, and  with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshiped his image.  These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.  And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh.”  

3:10.  “Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruninghooks into spears: let the weak say, I am strong.”

In Isa 2:4 it is written that in the Millennium “... they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more,” but here the very opposite is commanded in preparation for that great conflict between man and God just prior to Christ’s inauguration of His millennial kingdom.

3:11.  “Assemble yourselves, and come, all ye heathen (Gentile nations), and gather yourselves together round about: thither cause thy mighty ones to come down, O Lord.”

Here God calls on the Gentile armies to come to the valley of Jehoshaphat (Megiddo or Armageddon), and they in their mad folly will accept His challenge, in the false confidence of emerging from that conflict as victors. 

The final clause, “... thither cause thy mighty ones to come down, O Lord,” is the prophet’s call to God to come down with his invincible hosts and destroy the arrogant rebels.  There can be little doubt that it will be also the cry of the persecuted remnant near the end of the Tribulation when it will seem that the enemy is about to destroy them.

3:12.  “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.”

The Speaker is God, and the time is at the end of the Tribulation after Christ’s destruction of the Gentile armies discussed above.  Having destroyed their armies, Christ will then stir up the Gentile nations to assemble in the valley of Jehoshaphat meaning Jehovah is judge, not for war, but for judgment, He Himself being the Judge.

3:13.  “Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe: come, get you down; for the press is full, the vats overflow; for their wickedness is great.”

The language here is almost identical with that of Re 14:14-20, “And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle.  And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to him that sat on the cloud, Thrust in thy sickle, and reap: for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe.  And he that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped.  And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle.  And another angel came out from the altar, which had power over fire; and cried with a loud cry to him that had the sharp sickle, saying, Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe.  And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God.  And the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand six hundred furlongs.”

The One upon the white cloud with the sharp sickle in His hand is the Lord Jesus Christ, and His reaping the harvest of the earth is the symbolic announcement of His judgment of the Gentile nations at the end of the Tribulation.  In the second part, the angel coming out of the temple and having also a sharp sickle, is still the Lord Jesus Christ, but the gathering of the clusters of the vine of the earth makes it clear that this judgment is of Israel, she being described in other Scriptures under the figure of a vine, see for example Ps 80:8.  Her wickedness is also great and she is accordingly also judged, the extent of the slaughter resulting from that judgment being declared in the depth of the blood coming out of the winepress.  (A more detailed exposition of this section of Revelation is given in the author’s book Revelation Verse by Verse, also available on this web site).

3:14.  “Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision (judgment): for the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision.”

There will be millions gathered in that dread valley on that terrible day when the Lord Jesus Christ, no longer as the Lamb, but as the Lion, executes judgment against earth’s unbelieving masses.  “... the day of the Lord” is to be understood here as relating specifically to that day of judgment. 

What a reversal of things there will be on that day!  In that valley of decision the multitudes whose decision had been not to accept the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior, will find themselves become the object of His decision, their rejection of Him as Savior leaving Him with no other choice than to consign them to hell and everlasting torment, their rejection of His salvation making it impossible for Him to admit them to God’s holy heaven.

3:15.  “The sun and the moon shall be darkened, and the stars shall withdraw their shining.”

Having regard to the context of this verse there doesn’t seem to be any reason to reject a literal interpretation, unless the writer is reverting to his description of what will be in the Tribulation prior to Christ’s return, in which case see comments on 2:10.

3:16.  “The Lord 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.”

This thunderous voice is that of Christ come as the Lion of Judah to execute judgment upon His enemies, and to deliver the believing remnant of Israel and of the Gentiles at the end of the Tribulation.

Since Zion is the name usually associated with the sanctuary in Jerusalem, the Lord’s roaring out of both Zion and Jerusalem may be to remind us that He is Lord, not just of the spiritual realm, but of the temporal also.

His being “the hope of his people” emphasizes His relationship to believing Gentiles, while His being “the strength of the children of Israel” speaks of His relationship to believing Jews.  He will be the Hope and Deliverer of both just when it will seem that the Beast and his followers are about to annihilate them.

3:17.  “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.”

This carries us forward to the Millennium.  His people, believing Jews and Gentiles, delivered out of the hand of the Beast, and brought into the enjoyment of millennial blessings, will rejoice at the delivering display of His almighty power, their enemies all having been swept from the earth into hell to await their final consignment to eternal torment in the lake of fire.

Jerusalem also will experience a radical change.  As the earthly center of God’s government, and the place of His Temple, she will never again be under Gentile dominion, but will be rather the center to which the peoples of the millennial earth will come up to worship, see Zec 14:16, “And it shall come to pass, that everyone that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles.”

3:18.  “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, and a fountain shall come forth of the house of the Lord, and shall water the valley of Shittim.”

The fertility of the millennial earth is described here in poetic language, abundance being not only in Palestine but throughout the world, with the exception of those parts which God has appointed to be barren, see e.g., Ez 47.11, “But the miry places thereof shall not be healed; they shall be given to salt.”

The reference to Judah’s rivers flowing with waters is related to the fact that there have always been in the land stream beds which are dry except for brief periods in the rainy season.  There will be no such fluctuating supply of water in the Millennium.

Relative to the fountain coming forth out of the Temple to water the valley of Shittim, this is described in detail in Ez 47:1-12, most commentators taking the valley of Shittim to be the arid Kidron valley.  The river will flow west to the Mediterranean Sea, and east to the Dead Sea turning its salt waters to fresh, and filling them with fish, see Ez 47:1-12.

3:19.  “Egypt shall be a desolation (waste), and Edom shall be a desolate wilderness, for the violence against the children of Judah, because they have shed innocent blood in their land.”

The Edomites and the Egyptians were both enemies of Israel, and were guilty of shedding Jewish blood without cause; but there was a difference between them: the Edomites (children of Esau who was Jacob’s elder brother) were related to Israel by blood; the Egyptians were not, so that while Egypt and Edom are both to be punished, Egypt is then to be forgiven and blessed in the Millennium, see Isa 19:17-25; but the Edomites are to be “cut off by slaughter,” for ever, Ob 9-10, and their land made a permanent wilderness.

3:20.  “But Judah shall dwell for ever, and Jerusalem from generation to generation.”

The Jews and their city Jerusalem have always been the objects of the bitter hatred of the Gentiles who have sought in vain through the centuries to destroy both, but without success.  God has preserved His people and His city, and will establish them, not only in millennial Canaan, but for ever in the new earth that will replace this present one after the Millennium.

3:21.  “For I will cleanse their blood that I have not cleansed: for the Lord dwelleth in Zion.”

Interpreters are divided as to the meaning of this verse, some taking it to mean that God will forgive Israel’s sins; others, that He will avenge the Jewish blood spilt by their enemies, often wantonly and cruelly.  The word “their blood” leaves little doubt that the latter is the correct interpretation.  God will not rest until He has avenged the blood of His people Israel.

“... for the Lord dwelleth in Zion.”  This seems to imply that He could not dwell there leaving the blood of His people unavenged.



     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough