on Joel 3 :18
In that day - After their return from their captivities.
The mountains shall drop down new wine - A poetic expression for great fertility. Happy times: peace and plenty. The vines shall grow luxuriantly on the sides of the mountains; and the hills shall produce such rich pastures that the flocks shall yield abundance of milk.
And all the rivers of Judah - Far from being generally dry in the summer, shall have their channels always full of water.
And a fountain shall come forth of the house of the Lord - See the account of the typical waters in Ezekiel 47, to which this seems to have a reference; at least the subject is the same, and seems to point out the grace of the Gospel, the waters of salvation, that shall flow from Jerusalem, and water the valley of Shittim. Shittim was in the plains of Moab beyond Jordan; Numbers 33:49; Joshua 3:1; but as no stream of water could flow from the temple, pass across Jordan, or reach this plain, the valley of Shittim must be considered symbolical, as the valley of Jehoshaphat. But as Shittim may signify thorns, it may figuratively represent the most uncultivated and ferocious inhabitants of the earth receiving the Gospel of Christ, and being civilized and saved by it. We know that briers and thorns are emblems of bad men; see Ezekiel 2:6. Thus all the figures in this verse will point out the happy times of the Gospel: the mountains shall drop down new wine; the hills flow with milk; the thorny valleys become fertile, etc. Similar to those almost parallel words of the prince of poets: -
Mistaque ridenti colocasia fundet acantho.
Ipsae lacte domum referent destenta capellae
Ubera: nec magnos metuent armenta leones.
Molli paullatim flavescet campus arista,
Incultisque rubens pendebit sentibus uva:
Et durae quercus sudabunt roscida mella.
Virg. Ed. 4:20.
Unbidden earth shall wreathing ivy bring,
And fragrant herbs the promises of spring.
The goats with streaming dugs shall homeward speed;
on Joel 3 :18
And it shall come to pass in that Day - After the destruction of antichrist, there will, it seems, still be a period of probation, in which the grace of God will abound and extend more and more widely. The prophet Zechariah, who continues on the image, of the "living waters going out from Jerusalem" Zechariah 14:8, places this gift after God had gathered all nations against Jerusalem, and had visibly and miraculously overthrown them Zechariah 14:2-4. But in that the blessings which he speaks of, are regenerating, they belong to time; the fullness of the blessing is completed only in eternity; the dawn is on earth, the everlasting brightness is in heaven. But though the prophecy belongs eminently to one time, the imagery describes the fulness of spiritual blessings which God at all times diffuses in and through the Church; and these blessings, he says, shall continue on in her for ever; her enemies shall be cut off for ever. It may be, that Joel would mark a fresh beginning and summary by his words, "It shall be in that Day." The prophets do often begin, again and again, their descriptions. Union with God, which is their theme, is one. Every gift of God to His elect, except the beatific vision, is begun in time, union with Himself, indwelling, His Spirit flowing forth from Him into His creatures, His love, knowledge of Him, although here through a glass darkly.
The promise cannot relate to exuberance of temporal blessings, even as tokens of God's favor. For he says, "a fountain shall come forth of the house of the Lord, and shall water the valley of Shittim." But "the valley of Shittim" is on the other side Jordan, beyond the Dead Sea, so that by nature the waters could not flow there. The valley of Shittim or acacia trees is a dry valley, for in such the Easten Acacia, i. e., the sant or sandal wood grows. "It is," says Jerome (on Isaiah 12:1-6 :19), "a tree which grows in the desert, like a white thorn in color and leaves, not in size. For they are of such size, that very large planks , are cut out of them. The wood is very strong, and of incredible lightness and beauty. They do not grow in cultivated places, or in the Roman soil, save only in the desert of Arabia." It does not decay ; and when old becomes like ebony . Of it the ark of God was made, its staves, the table of showbread, the tabernacle and its pillars, the altar for burnt-offerings, and of incense Exodus 25:5, Exodus 25:10, Exodus 25:13, Exodus 25:23, Exodus 25:28; Exodus 26:15, Exodus 26:26, Exodus 26:32, Exodus 26:37; Exodus 27:1, Exodus 27:6; Exodus 30:1; Exodus 35:7, Exodus 35:24; Exodus 36:20, Exodus 36:31, Exodus 36:36; Exodus 37:1, Exodus 37:4, Exodus 37:10, Exodus 37:15, Exodus 37:25, Exodus 37:28; Exodus 38:1, Exodus 38:6; Deuteronomy 10:3. The valley is about six miles from Livias , seven and a half beyond the Dead Sea . It was the last station of Israel, before entering the land of promise Numbers 33:49, from where Joshua sent out the spies Joshua 2:1; where God turned the curse of Balaam into a blessling Numbers 23; 24; Micah 6:5; and he prophesied of the Star which should arise out of Israel, even Christ Numbers 24:17; where Israel sinned in Baal Peor, and Phineas turned aside His displeasure Numbers 25:1, Numbers 25:7, Numbers 25:11.
The existence of a large supply of water under the temple is beyond all question. While the temple was still standing, mention is made up of "a fountain of ever-flowing water under the temple," as well as pools and cisterns for preserving rain-water. One evidently well acquainted with the localities says , "The pavement has slopes at befitting places, for the sake of a flush of water which takes place in order to cleanse away the blood from the victims. For on festivals many myriads of animals are sacrificed. But of water there is an unfailing supply, a copious and natural fountain within gushing over, and there being moreover wonderful underground-receptacles in a circuit of five furlongs, in the substructure of the temple, and each of these having numerous pipes, the several streams inter-communicating, and all these closed up below and on the sides - There are also many mouths toward the base, invisible to all except those to whom the service of the temple belongs. So that the manifold blood of the sacrifices being brought together are cleansed by the gush (of water down) the slope."
This same writer relates that, more than half a mile from the city, he was told to stoop down and heard the sound of gushing waters underground. The natural fountain, then, beneath the temple was doubtless augmented by waters brought from a distance, as required for the "divers washings" both of the priests and other things, and to carry off the blood of the victims. Pools near the temple are mentioned by writers of the third and fourth century ; and Omar, on the surrender of Jerusalem, 634 a.d., was guided to the site of the ancient temple (whereon he built his Mosk) by the stream of water which issued through a water-channel from it . Whencesoever this water was derived, whether from a perennial spring beneath the temple itself, or whether brought there from some unfailing source without, it afforded Jerusalem an abundant supply of water.
Much as Jerusalem suffered in sieges by famine, and its besiegers by thirst, thirst was never any part of the sufferings of those within . The superfluous water was and still is carried off underground, to what is now "the fountain of the Virgin" , and thence again, through the rock, to the pool of Siloam . Thence it carried fertility to the gardens of Siloam, in Joel's time doubtless "the king's gardens" , still "a verdant spot, refreshing to the eye in the heat of summer, while all around is parched and dun." The blood of the victims flowed into the same brook Kidron, and was a known source of fertility, before the land was given to desolation. The waters of Kidron, as well as all the waters of Palestine, must have been more abundant formerly.
Isaiah speaks of it as "flowing softly" Isaiah 8:6; Josephus , of the "abundant fountain;" an official report , of the "fountain gushing forth with abundance of water." Still its fertilizing powers formed but one little oasis, where all around was arid. It fertilized those gardens live miles from the city, but the mid-space was waterless , thirsty, mournful . Lower down, the rivulet threaded its way to the Dead Sea, through a narrow ravine which became more and more wild, where Saba planted his monastery. "A howling wilderness, stern desolation. stupendous perpendicular cliffs, terrific chasms, oppressive solitude" are the terms by which one endeavors to characterize "the heart of this stern desert of Judaea" .
Such continues to be its character, in the remaining half of its course, until it is lost in the Dead Sea, and is transmuted into its saltness. Its valley bears the name of desolation, Wady en Nar , "valley of fire." No human path lies along it. The Kidron flows along "a deep and almost impenetrable ravine" Psalm 46:4, "in a narrow channel between perpendicular walls of rock, as if worn away by the rushing waters between those desolate chalky hills." That little oasis of verdure was fit emblem of the Jewish people, itself bedewed by the stream which issued from the Temple of God, but, like Gideon's fleece, leaving all around dry. It made no sensible impression out of, or beyond itself. Hereafter, "the stream", the Siloah, whose "streamlets," i. e., the artificial fertilizing divisions, "made glad the city of God" Ezekiel 47:1-12, should make the wildest, driest spots of our mortality "like the garden of the Lord." Desolation should become bright and happy; the parched earth should shoot up fresh with life; what was by nature barren and unfruitful should bring forth good fruit; places heretofore stained by sin should be purified; nature should be renewed by grace; and that, beyond the borders of the promised land, in that world which they had left, when Joshua brought them in there.
This, which it needs many words to explain, was vivid to those to whom Joel spoke. They had that spot of emerald green before their eyes, over which the stream which they then knew to issue from the temple trickled in transparent brightness, conducted by those channels formed by man's diligence. The eyes of the citizens of Jerusalem must have rested with pleasure on it amid the parched surface around. Fresher than the gladliest freshness of nature, brighter than its most kindled glow, is the renewing freshness of grace; and this, issuing from mount Zion, was to be the portion not of Judea only, but of the world.
The vision of Ezekiel EZechariah 47:1-12, which is a comment on the prophecy of Joel, clearly belongs primarily to this life. For in this life only is there need for healing; in this life only is there a desert land to be made fruitful; death to be changed into life; death and life, the healed and unhealed, side by side; life, where the stream of God's grace reacheth, and death and barrenness, where it reacheth not. The fishers who spread their nests amid "the fish, exceeding many," are an emblem which waited for and received its explanation from the parables of our Lord.
In the Revelation, above all, the peace, glory, holiness, vision of God, can only be fulfilled in the sight of God. Yet here too the increase of the Church, and the healing of the nations Revelation 21:24-26; Revelation 22:21, belong to time and to a state of probation, not of full fruition.
But then neither can those other symbols relate to earthly things.
The mountains shall drop down new wine - Literally, "trodden" out. What is ordinarily obtained by toil, shall be poured forth spontaneously. "And the hills shall flow with milk," literally, "flow milk," as though they themselves, of their own accord, gushed forth into the good gifts which they yield. "Wine" ever new, and ever renewing, sweet and gladdening the heart; "milk," the emblem of the spiritual food of childlike souls, of purest knowledge, holy devotion, angelic purity, heavenly pleasure. And these shall never cease. These gifts are spoken of, as the spontaneous, perpetual flow of the mountains and hills; and as the fountain gushes forth from the hill or mountain-side in one ceaseless flow, day and night, streaming out from the hidden recesses to which the waters are supplied by God from His treasure-house of the rain, so day and night, in sorrow or in joy, in prosperity or adversity, God pours out, in the Church and in the souls of His elect, the riches of His grace. "All the rivers," literally "channels, of Judah shall flow with water." Every "channel," however narrow and easily drying up, shall "flow with water," gushing forth unto everlasting life; the love of God shall stream through every heart; each shall he full according to its capacity and none the less full, because a larger tide pours through others. How much more , "in those everlasting hills of heaven, "the heavenly Jerusalem," resting on the eternity and Godhead of the Holy Trinity, shall that long promise be fulfilled of the land flowing with milk and honey, where God, through the beatific vision of Himself, shall pour into the blessed "the torrent of pleasure," the unutterable sweetness of joy and gladness unspeakable in Himself; and "all the rivers of Judah," i. e., all the powers, capacities, senses, speech of the saints who "confess" God, shall flow with a perennial stream of joy, thanksgiving, and jubilee, as of all pleasure and bliss."
on Joel 3 :18
3:18 The mountains - The vines planted upon the mountains. Shall flow - So fruitful shall the hills be, that milk shall abound every where. A fountain - The prophet alludes to those waters which were conveyed from some spring through conduit pipes towards the altar. This no doubt is a shadow of the purifying blood of Christ, and his sanctifying spirit and word. And in that it is said to come from the house of the Lord, it intimates that this saving grace shall be first preached from Jerusalem, and by the church, which is the house of God, shall be published to others. Shittim - Was a place in the plains of Moab. These spiritual waters shall flow down to the dry and thirsty, the barren and fruitless Gentiles, and make them fruitful.