This chapter prophesies the return of Jewish exiles to Israel, followed by Israel's fall to the Antichrist. God then proclaims a holy war and calls all nations to gather for judgment. Jesus roars from Zion, delivers Israel, and restores the land.
This chapter prophesies the end-time return of Jewish exiles to Judah and Jerusalem (v1), followed by a gathering of all nations for the battle of Armageddon in the Valley of Jehoshaphat. 'Jehoshaphat' means 'the Lord has judged'. Verse 1 starts with 'For look,' making a connection with the previous chapter. It is possible that chapter 3 should be understood as the more literal explanation for what is described metaphorically in chapter 2.

According to verse 2, God will judge the nations because of their treatment of the people of Israel. God says they scattered the people of Israel among the nations and partitioned 'my land'. They traded Jewish children as sex slaves (v3), sold his people to the Ionians (Ionia included Greece and the western coast of Turkey) (v6), and plundered their valuables (v5). He particularly accuses Tyre and Sidon (Lebanon) and Philistia (Gaza). God promises to bring the Jews back from the places to which they sold them, and to avenge what these nations have done against the Jews. In verse 8, God says he will sell the sons and daughters of these nations to the people of Judah, who will sell them to the Sabeans. Sabeans were the people of the Yemeni kingdom of Saba, but may just represent far away nations.

When does all this happen? The modern-day return of Jewish exiles to Israel (known as 'Aliyah') began in 1882 after the establishment of the Zionist movement, and accelerated after the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. There were also much smaller examples of Pre-Zionist Aliyah in the preceding centuries. So verse 1 has already been fulfilled, although various scriptures indicate there will be a more complete Aliyah at the beginning of the Millennium. It is likely that the scattering of Jews and partitioning of their land refers to the invasion of the Antichrist and his allies at the beginning of the Great Tribulation (Ezekiel 38 and Zechariah 14). It is also possible that international pressure on Israel causes her to accept a partitioning of the land in the form of a Two-State solution, perhaps as part of Antichrist's peace treaty with Israel (Daniel 9:27).

Why does God call out Lebanon and Philistia? Habakkuk 2:17 seems to indicate that Antichrist will conquer Lebanon, and Ezekiel 28 then identifies Antichrist as the ruler of Tyre. So Lebanon becomes part of Antichrist's empire. At the second coming, Jesus conquers Lebanon (Isaiah 10:34). It is also possible that Hezbollah from Lebanon and Hamas from Gaza will join with the Antichrist in his invasion of Israel. Slave-trading, including trafficking of sex-slaves, has been practiced by Muslims since the time of Mohammed, and was recently practiced by ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Zechariah 14:2 describes the end-time fall of Jerusalem to the Antichrist, including the houses being plundered and the women raped. Such rape and child-slavery are consistent with a Muslim invasion of Jerusalem.

Verses 9 to 16 are a call to the nations to gather for holy war in the land of Israel. Verses 10 to 12 portray farmers beating their metal farm tools into swords and spears, and call the weak to say "I too am a warrior". This portrays a military call-up, not just of professional armies, but also civilians. They are called to lend their aid and come to the Valley of Jehoshaphat, where God will sit in judgment on the surrounding nations (v12). The 'surrounding nations' refers to nations around Israel that are part of Antichrist's empire. According to Micah 5:5, when the Assyrian (the Antichrist) invades Israel, God will raise up seven 'shepherds', representing seven nations, to resist the Antichrist. So it is likely that some of the nations that gather for the battle of Armageddon will be there to fight for Israel, against the Antichrist, in a kind of end-time crusade. In verse 11b the prayer "Bring down, O LORD, your warriors" may refer to resurrected and raptured believers who will come with Jesus to fight for Israel at the battle of Armageddon. Verse 14 describes the crowds gathering in the valley of decision. These soldiers need to decide which side they are fighting on, because they will be judged accordingly. The sun, moon and stars will be darkened (v15) as an end-time sign to warn people that they need to make the right decision. Jesus will roar from Zion, his voice will bellow out, and he will be a refuge and stronghold for the Jews (v16). His roar is a battle cry, but also depicts him as the Lion of Judah. Various scriptures portray Jesus using his voice as a mighty weapon at the battle of Armageddon (Isaiah 11:4, 30:27-28 and Psalm 29). Verse 13 is a picture of Jesus harvesting the nations for judgment, stomping the winepress of God's wrath, as in Isaiah 63:3 and Revelation 19:15.

Verses 17 to 21 portray the aftermath of the battle. The Jews will know Jesus as the Lord their God, dwelling in Jerusalem. Jerusalem will be holy and secure (v17). Water will flow from the temple and water the Valley of Acacias (v18). This is not a known location, but acacia trees are desert trees that can grow in the most arid places. In other words, this water from the temple will bring life, even to the most dry and arid parts of Israel. All the dry stream beds will flow with water, the mountains will drip with wine and the hills with milk (v18). In other words, the land will become fully fertile for both sheep and agriculture. Egypt will be desolate (v19), implying God's judgment on Egypt for fighting against Israel. This will fulfil the prophecies of Jeremiah and Ezekiel against Egypt which were only partially fulfilled by the invasion of Nebuchadnezzar in 568 BC. Ezekiel 29:12 prophesies that Egypt will remain desolate for 40 years, after which it will be restored. Isaiah 19 prophesies that Egypt will be judged by God (Jesus) and the Jews, but ultimately be restored and blessed. Verse 19 also prophesies that Edom will become desolate. Edom refers to southern Jordan and north-western Saudi-Arabia. Many scriptures portray its end-time judgment (Search by Place: Edom). Jerusalem and Judah will be secure forever (v20), and God will live there (v21).
Places: Israel, Jerusalem, Lebanon, Philistia, Gaza, Egypt, Edom, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Saba, Yemen, Surrounding nations
Symbols: Valley of Jehoshaphat, Valley of Decision
Tags: Return of exiles to Israel, Armageddon, Jesus fights muslim nations, Israel partitioned, Two-State solution, Jews enslaved, Jesus treads the winepress, All nations gathered before Jesus for judgment, Valley of Jehoshaphat, Day of Judgment, Judgment of surrounding nations, Jesus musters an army, River of God
The Lord Plans to Judge the Nations
1 For look! In those days and at that time I will return the exiles to Judah and Jerusalem.
2 Then I will gather all the nations, and bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat. I will enter into judgment against them there concerning my people Israel who are my inheritance, whom they scattered among the nations. They partitioned my land,
3 and they cast lots for my people. They traded a boy for a prostitute; they sold a little girl for wine so they could drink.
4 Why are you doing these things to me, Tyre and Sidon? Are you trying to get even with me, land of Philistia? If you are, I will very quickly repay you for what you have done!
5 For you took my silver and my gold and brought my precious valuables to your own palaces.
6 You sold Judeans and Jerusalemites to the Greeks, removing them far from their own country.
7 Look! I am rousing them from that place to which you sold them. I will repay you for what you have done!
8 I will sell your sons and daughters to the people of Judah. They will sell them to the Sabeans, a nation far away. Indeed, the Lord has spoken!

Judgment in the Valley of Jehoshaphat

9 Proclaim this among the nations: “Prepare for a holy war! Call out the warriors! Let all these fighting men approach and attack!
10 Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruning hooks into spears! Let the weak say, ‘I too am a warrior!’
11 Lend your aid and come, all you surrounding nations, and gather yourselves to that place.” Bring down, O Lord, your warriors!
12 Let the nations be roused and let them go up to the valley of Jehoshaphat, for there I will sit in judgment on all the surrounding nations.
13 Rush forth with the sickle, for the harvest is ripe! Come, stomp the grapes, for the winepress is full! The vats overflow. Indeed, their evil is great!
14 Crowds, great crowds are in the valley of decision, for the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision!
15 The sun and moon are darkened; the stars withhold their brightness.
16 The Lord roars from Zion; from Jerusalem his voice bellows out. The heavens and the earth shake. But the Lord is a refuge for his people; he is a stronghold for the citizens of Israel.

The Lord’s Presence in Zion

17 You will be convinced that I the Lord am your God, dwelling on Zion, my holy mountain. Jerusalem will be holy – conquering armies will no longer pass through it.
18 On that day the mountains will drip with sweet wine, and the hills will flow with milk. All the dry stream beds of Judah will flow with water. A spring will flow out from the temple of the Lord, watering the Valley of Acacia Trees.
19 Egypt will be desolate and Edom will be a desolate wilderness, because of the violence they did to the people of Judah, in whose land they shed innocent blood.
20 But Judah will reside securely forever, and Jerusalem will be secure from one generation to the next.
21 I will avenge their blood which I had not previously acquitted. It is the Lord who dwells in Zion!