Part of the judgment/restoration prophesies in Joel deal with valleys. The word “valley” occurs five times, but they come from two different Hebrew words: emeq and nachalah. Nachalah means a narrow valley and is associated with the “winter rains” and the wadi the water flows in. It is used once in Joel. Emeq is a broad valley or vale, this word is used four times. The different valleys are part of the metaphors that God uses to speak the truths He wants us to see about Him, so being able to visualize these landforms is important. (See the post Valleys.)
Given the intensity of Joel’s prophesies my mental image of the valleys has been a rough place with steep sides. So it did surprise me to find that the valley of Jehoshaphat and the valley of decision were emeq. Now my mental picture is a place that can hold many people, and you can get into it easily (or out of it easily).
The first two uses (3:2, 12) of emeq are the Valley of Jehoshaphat which means the valley of the Eternal Judge. In both of these, He is commanding the nations into the valley to be judged. Several sources will note that the locust in the first part of the book could represent nations or that the nations will be like locust. There is a valley near Jerusalem that is known by this name. But given other prophecies and the history of the land, you would think of the valley of Megiddo.
Emeq is also used in 3:17 where it is the valley of decision. Decision in Hebrew is the word charuts. Again my paradigm did not cover the many uses of this word. This word is translated gold, diligent, sharp cutting objects, and refers to a wall. Most of the uses of charuts as “gold” are in the book of Proverbs: 3:14, 8:10 & 19, and 16:16. In these verses, they are associated with wisdom and knowledge. When translated “diligent” it is also in Proverbs: 10:4, 12: 24 & 27, 13: 4, 21: 5. In these verses, it is associated with wealth and valued possessions. When it is translated as “sharp objects” it refers to threshing or harvesting implements and how the work is being done. Daniel 9: 25 has it as a wall that will be finished in a time of distress.
All of these different uses challenged what I thought people would be deciding about; I assumed it would be to choose God or not. Even though I still think this; I now see the reasons they are in the valley choosing. People will be in the valley choosing between God and money, God and their knowledge, God and destruction (getting cut down), and/or God and their man-made walls/excuses. This is where the type of valley (emeq) becomes important; it will be easy to get into that situation, but it will be just as easy to get out of it. Joel 3: 14 says “the Lord” will be heard sounding the coming judgment, but that He will be a refugee and stronghold for His people (Israel = those who have struggled with God).
The promises of the last five verses in Joel also center on a valley – Nachalah. It is called the valley of acacias which is a thorny plant that grows in places where it seldom rains but when it does it is a flash flood. The promise is that this rough place will become a blessing by a continual flow of water (Holy Spirit) from the throne of God.