Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Study of the Prophets #30: Joel (Cont.)
This week we begin with Chapter 2 and the bad news continues:
“Blow the shofar in Zion and sound the trumpet on My holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble; for the day of HaShem has come; it is near-a day of darkness and thick darkness, a day of cloud and thick cloud, spreading over the mountains like the dawn- a numerous and mighty people; its like has not been from eternity, and after it there will never again be, until the years of generation after generation.”
According to some commentators, this section begins a new phase of Joel’s prophecies. Previously, Joel exhorted the people to fast and assemble prior to the plague, perhaps hoping to obtain a stay on this terrible event and appeal to G-d’s mercy. Now, the locusts have actually descended upon the land, and there is one last chance to inspire people to repentance (Ibn Ezra; Malbim; Abarbanel.) Others see it as an intensification of Joel’s’ urging for repentance (Rashi; Alshich).
Joel is admonishing the people to sound the shofar to alert the people of Israel to repent before it is too late and the L-rd’s decree falls upon them (Rashi). They had already been exhorted to declare a fast and gather in prayer, just as Torah teachers admonish their flocks today, and anyone else who has ears to hear. Now that this has either proven ineffective, or is just too late, it is now time to sound the shofar, which can evoke fear in all who hear it. This is interesting, because even many unbelievers have heard of the shofar and the implications when they hear it; even if they only consider the Rapture or Day of Judgment. Unfortunately, many disregard researching the import of the shofar and its various blasts. However, when the shofar is sounded at this time, there will be no doubt there is something “big” about to happen. Joel hopes the sounding of the shofar may prompt the people to repentance; sort of a last chance to join those who have been faithful to the L-rd and will be counted with G-d’s People.
Blowing the shofar and sounding the trumpet used in verse 1 are synonymous phrases Joel uses to enhance the effect of his plea. Alternatively, Malbim interprets this as a two-step process to avoid the impending doom; blow the shofar to call the people in Jerusalem together, then sound the trumpet with shofar blasts on G-d’s holy mountain to prompt them to repentance.
“For the day of HaShem has come; it is near” refers to the Day of the L-rd; the day of G-d’s vengeance mentioned in 1:15 has arrived and the plague of locusts is imminent (Rashi). The impending decree issued by a human cannot be described as already having happened since there is always the possibility that it will be averted. However, when G-d issues a decree, it cannot/has not ever been forestalled without repentance. Now that it is imminent, Joel proclaims that the Day of HaShem has come (Malbim). It is a humbling thought to consider that the Day of the L-rd has been decreed by G-d, prophesied by Joel, and will happen. This provides additional validation for what is written in Revelation. We can know that the general population of the nations will not repent, even as the last 3 ½ years of the Tribulation lies at the doorstep following the abomination of desolation. This fact should prompt G-d’s people to action; sharing G-d’s Torah with anyone who will listen and demonstrating its concepts taught by Yahshua through an observant lifestyle.
The day of darkness and thick darkness, a day of cloud and thick cloud will be a great day of tragedy and suffering; as it was when the Temple was destroyed and the people taken into exile, and in the future after the abomination of desolation. Malbim explains that the darkness will be so great it cannot be compared to a simple description of darkness. Rather, it describes the absence of light and a darkness that can be felt, just as that in Egypt before the Exodus. The Day of the L-rd will be like no other, but the palpable darkness may be compared to that experienced in Egypt as far as we may discern. Whether the invasion is that of locusts or invading human armies, both can result in darkness. The number of locusts can certainly block out the sun, and the smoke or nuclear fallout can also blot out the sun.
“Spreading over the mountains like the dawn” is interpreted in several ways. Rashi explains that the locusts will spread over the mountains just as the dawn spreads through the entire world. Ibn Ezra and Radak posit that it refers to the dawn, which appears suddenly over the mountaintops where it is first seen; similarly, the locusts will descend upon you rapidly, just like the dawn. Malbim interprets this phrase comparing the dawn first appearing above the mountaintops as a distinct light amid the darkness, the locusts will be viewed as a glimmer of light in the distance when they first approach over the mountains. Interestingly, the sight of tanks, mounted rockets, and other artillery in the distance can also appear as a glimmer on the horizon.
“A numerous and mighty people; its like has not been from eternity, and after it there will never again, until the years of generation after generation.”
This is an ominous statement that is not difficult to imagine in the global community in which we live today; a precursor to the one world order. Malbim posits that the swarm will be a united multitude, exceptional both in numbers and strength. The different species will combine to form a multitude so great that it will be unique in history, never to occur again even until the end of all generations, the end of time (Metzudos). Today we are witnessing the gathering, formation of this united force through the alliances that are being formed by Israel’s enemies. The Chinese have been building their military for many years. Since October, the Chinese army is changing who it recruits.
According to the Ministry of National Defense (MND) on Monday, graduates from colleges, middle and vocational schools will be targeted in an effort to modernize the army. Previously, China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) primarily recruited the unemployed or rural youths. To be able to enlist people with higher educations the MND is lowering its vision requirements for college graduates saying that demographic typically has poor eyesight as a result of constant reading.
“It will give more high-quality young people the opportunity to join the army,” said an official from the office. Age requirements will also change. New recruits are usually young men between 18-20 years old and 18-19 year -old women. Men with higher educations can now enroll if they are 22 years old or younger and 17year- old women can also now volunteer. Graduates of 2008-2009 were eligible for enrollment under the new guidelines. During this timeframe, more than 5 million students graduated college, the MND said. Nearly 10 million males graduated from middle schools and vocational schools and were not projected to pursue further education. “This means there is an enormous group of high-quality youths available for recruitment,” the official said.
Young people who excelled in reconstruction after the devastating May 12 earthquake would also be given priority to join the army, said the ministry.
The PLA recruits nationwide once a year. New recruits usually retire after complete two years of service. China currently has 2.3 million service members. Chinese women comprise about 7.5 percent of total military personnel in the PLA (Xinhua net, 2008). Though most women soldiers still serve in traditional women roles or in military support positions, more women soldiers appear on positions that involved dangerous tasks. In 2009, the first batch of female jet fighter pilots, aged 21 to 24, graduated after 44 months of training (China news, 2009). There are also women serve in Marine Corps, Special Forces, drug criminal police, etc. I call special attention to the Chinese army because they are the kingdom of the East spoken of in Revelation: Let’s explore this scenario that will follow the Day of the L-rd:
16:12 And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared.
The Sixth Bowl Judgment – Euphrates Dried Up: The sixth bowl judgment comes in 2 parts. (1) the drying up of the Euphrates River, which will be a preparation for the “battle on the great day of G-d Almighty;” and (2) the tremendous demon forces that will bring the rebellious armies of the world to the Valley of Megiddo for the purpose of opposing the L-rd.
The Euphrates River is the eastern border of the land G-d gave to Abraham (Gen. 15 v.18). It is about 1800 miles long and so large that it forms a natural barrier against the armies of the world. Most people are not particularly conscious of the fact that it served as the eastern border of the Roman Empire. The sixth bowl judgment will dry up that river to make way for the “kings of the East.”
It is likely that when the Euphrates River – the natural boundary between east and west is dried up,” the “kings from the east” will march a sizable army across to battle with the King of kings. That army will probably be 3 to 5 million strong. Recall China has over 2 million soldiers at present! These forces will be joined in the valley of Megiddo by huge armies from all over the world, and while that valley is vast as Napoleon has said, “the most ideal, natural battlefield in the world”, even it has a limit to how many people it can hold.
This river could have dried up because of the problems caused by some of the other vials. There will be such a drought that this waterway will dry up and these armies from the east will come into Israel on dry land.
These kings from the east have befuddled Bible prophecy scholars for many years, for few scholars mentioned anything about them. That is, until the communist takeover of China after WWII. Since then it has become apparent that this largest of all countries, by population, has a prophetic role in end time events.
China is controlled by some of the most dedicated Communists in the world. They are not “reformers” or “progressive” as our media tried to represent them a few years ago. They are a ruthless group of elite gangsters who have never wavered in their plan to use China as a military platform from which to conquer the world. The events of the next 2 decades, if indeed we have that long, will prove that point. One thing we can be certain: China is not going to go away. John the Revelator saw them as players on the world scene in the end times.
Even so, the Bible has very little to say about China. In fact, what is said includes more than just China, for the terms “kings from the east” really means “kings for the rising sun,” which would include Japan and possibly other Asian countries.
Dr. John F. Walvoord (1910-2002) was considered perhaps the world’s foremost interpreter of biblical prophecy. He was a member of the Dallas Theological Seminary faculty. He was considered the dean of prophecy scholars when he wrote: There has been some tendency to take the expression “the kings of the east” literally, “the kings of the sunrise” as referring specifically to Japan where the rising sun is a symbol of its political power. However, it is more natural to consider the term “rising sun” as a synonym for east. The Euphrates River, one of the first rivers mentioned in the Bible, has served for centuries as the natural dividing line between East and West.
The significance of the rise of China to become a principal player among the nations of the world was not lost on Dr. John Walvoord. He saw the prophetic significance of the Chinese rise to prominence back in 1967 when he wrote:
The fact that the rise of Asia has occurred in the 20th century with so many rapid and unexpected developments is further evidence that the world is moving toward its final climax and the end of the times of the Gentiles. In Asia, as in other parts of the world, the stage is being set for the final drama in which the kings of the east will have their important part.
If he were writing on that subject today, he might be inclined to say the curtain is about to rise. We are the first generation to witness the sleeping giant of China reach the potential of fulfilling this prophecy. No one doubts China will gain control of most of the countries of the East, with whom she shares many religious and cultural similarities.
It is realistic to believe that she could be led in these very days by her master, the dragon, “that old serpent, the devil,” to so rebel against G-d that she would actually join the armies of the world in opposition to Yahshua’s coming. What is needed to bring her to that point? The deceiving spirit of HaSatan and his false prophet will be the catalyst. China is almost there today. Control of the armies of the east is not far away. This brings us back to Joel 2:2 “…a numerous and mighty people; its like has not been seen from eternity, and after it there will never again be, until the years of generation after generation.”
On to verse 3 “Before It a fire consumes and after it a flame scorches; before it the Land was like the Garden of Eden, but after it a desolate desert; there is no remnant from it.”
So great will the destruction form the locusts/armies be that it will far exceed the ravages of a natural plague of locusts (Metzudos). Rather, it will seem as if locusts were preceded by a fire that consumed everything in its path and were followed again by a flame (Rashi) that extended the destruction even to the roots of all the vegetation (Malbim). Radak interprets before and after as the places surrounding the swarm/armies. The locusts/armies will assemble in one area and spread out consuming all the vegetation, causing such devastation that the surrounding land will appear to have been consumed by a fire. The actual area where they will land/assemble is not described because they will cover the land completely.
There will be no vegetation left. According to Abarbanel, this verse refers to the remnant of the Jewish nation, which was left in Israel under the guardianship of Gedaliah after the destruction of the first Temple. Yishmael ben Nethanaih murdered Gadaliah and thereby caused the dispersal of the last vestige of Jewish society in Judah (Jer. Chs. 40,41).
Next week we will begin at verse 10 where Joel begins to describe the plague of locusts in terms that are more familiar to the people in order that he may be even more effective.
Shalu Shalom Yerushalayim (Pray for the peace of Jerusalem)
Rabbi Tamah Davis