What does the phrase the “valley of decision” in Joel 3:14 mean?

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The prophet Joel wrote, “Multitudes, multitudes, in the valley of decision! For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision” (Joel 3:14). Some understand the words of the phrase “valley of decision” to describe the destiny of humans whose lives hang in the balance and their need to make a decision for God. Others understand the verse as a time of judgment when the Lord decides the fate of the nations. Which understanding is the proper one?

The meaning

To find the right meaning, we must allow the context to decide the choice of meaning. If we study the root of the word “decision” it is charuṣ. This word may be the passive participle of charaṣ which means “to decide,” “to determine,” “to settle,” “to fix.” Charuṣ may mean “decision” in the sense that the fate of the wicked nations is being decided.

Also, charuṣ is an adjective and a noun which may mean “gold” (Psalms 68:13), “moat” (Daniel 9:25), “diligent” (Proverbs 10:4), “having a cut” (or “maimed,” Leviticus 22:22), or “threshing instrument” (Job 41:30; Isaiah 28:27). Of these meanings only “threshing instrument” fits the context. The image we have is then of a valley in which the sinners are being threshed.

The context reveals that the “decision” here is that of God as the Judge and not that of the people who are being judged. In other words, the probation of the wicked has already closed. And it is now God who is going to judge them in “the day of the Lord” (Isaiah 13:6). The LXX reads valley of “punishment,” or “vengeance.” Thus the emphasis of Joel 3 is on the future Day of Judgment.

Supportive verses of the Judgement Day

And we can see that clearly in the following passages: “I will also gather all nations, and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; and I will enter into judgment with them there on account of My people, My heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations; they have also divided up My land” (Joel 3:2). “Let the nations be wakened, and come up to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; for there I will sit to judge all the surrounding nations” (Joel 3: 12).

Jesus spoke of the “valley of decision” in the passage of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:31-46). He said, “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory.  All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats.  And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left” (Matthew 25:31-33).

Conclusion

Though the words “valley of decision” may be borrowed and applied to mean humans are trying to make a decision for God, it should be noted that this is not the right application of the verse, the one meant by the author. The “valley of decision” in Joel 3:14 is not about humans making a decision for Christ rather it is about God making His decision of judgment on the people.

In His service,

BibleAsk Team

This answer is also available in: हिन्दी

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