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Three valleys are mentioned in Joel 3:

  1. The Valley of Jehoshaphat (2, 12)
  2. The Valley of Decision (twice in 14)
  3. The Valley of Shittim (18)

I'm wondering:

  • Are any of these known, historical places? Are they different places or one place with multiple names? In particular, is "the valley of decision" another name for "the valley of Jehoshaphat" as it seems it may be in the context?
  • What is the spiritual signification of the valleys in this text, if any?
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2 Answers 2

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The first two valleys use the word "emek". The names appear to be purely symbolic in context though the Jehosaphat valley might be associated with a historical event connected with the king of the same name, see Wikipedia. Most of the traditional commentators say that the valleys in 4:12 and 4:14 (Yehoshaphat and "Decision") are the same valley. The name in 14 is "haruts", that might be better translated "valley of the condemned", or at least "verdict" rather than "decision". The context is one of retribution.

The word translated as "valley" in 18 is "nahal" rather than "emek" and means a stream, drainage or ravine. The context is one of blessing rather than retribution. The intent seems to be that a wadi or drainage previously known for its dryness will be slaked from a spring that will flow from the house of the LORD. So it would seem that this Acacia Valley would need to be somewhere along the continuation of the Kidron valley in the Judean desert between Jerusalem and the Jordan valley.

Besides the symbolic meaning of the living spring, the blessing in this might also refer to the problematic nature of supplying the Temple with water for the various washings, libations, purifications and just plain cleaning up in the time of Joel. The prophesy was fulfilled in a prosaic way in Second Temple times by the building of the Biyar aquaduct and water works.

In both instances, the prophet seems to be speaking in symbolic terms without necessarily referencing identifiable places or historical events that we could know.

[This answer needs some work regarding the use of valley and wadi imagery in parallel passages.]

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The spiritual meaning is derived by looking for the Christological elements with puns and riddles.

Jehosephat - God - judge

Decision - judgement

Shittim - wooden branches from the acacia tree, a pun of Sattah - turn aside, from a root meaning pierce

The scenario that is portrayed in Joel 3 is that all the nations have been gathered for the final battle against God/and they receive judgement. But the judgement is taken by Christ on the cross.

As a result of the cross, their children are sold to Sabbeans (drunkards) as a riddle of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

Instruments for tilling the soil, or plowing the rough soil are turned into swords/(the Word of God), and we are made strong in the Lord.

The tribulation of Christ was great, and the sun and moon turned dark upon the cross.

The new wine is the grace of removing sin, not merely the old wine of being long-suffering over it.

These are just the highlights of the hidden picture of Christ in Joel 3.

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