A Day of Retribution 2
Another ASPECT of judgment is,
The Reasons for Judgment
Let’s look at verse 3. “They have cast lots for My people, they have traded a boy for a prostitute, and sold a girl for wine, and have drunk it.” Place this in the context of what Jesus said in Matthew 25:40, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” Israel’s conquerors then, and in the future, place so little value on the lives of those they conquered. By the way, this callousness toward life wasn’t a one-off situation, it was more like standard procedure. Let me give you a few examples from history.
After the collapse of the empire of Alexander the Great, around 300 BC, control of this area of the world seesawed back and forth between the Ptolemies and the Seleucids. Israel was often caught in the middle of this ongoing conflict. During this time, history records that 90 Jewish captives were sold for a talent. When Jerusalem fell to the Roman general Titus, in AD 70, huge numbers of young people were sold as slaves, 97,000 under the age of 17. During Hadrian’s War against Israel in AD 133, captives were so numerous that four were sold for a few bushels of barley at the slave market in Hebron. Later, during the various conquests of Islam, captives were so numerous that many were slaughtered on the spot.
Verse 4 in Hebrew begins with the words “and also.” This alerts us to the fact that God took special note of the way the Phoenicians (Tyre and Sidon) and the Philistines had mistreated His people. He asks several times in this verse, “what are you repaying me for? What is the reason for so frequently invading and plundering my land and people?” In God’s view, the attacks of the Phoenicians and Philistines against Israel were unprovoked and unjustified.
According to Genesis 15:18 and Joshua 1:4, the land God gave to Israel included: everything from the Nile River in Egypt to Lebanon (south to north) and everything from the Mediterranean Sea to the Euphrates River (west to east). Looking at the map of the area today, Jehovah gave Abraham and his descendants all of the land that the modern state of Israel currently possesses, all of the so-called West Bank and Gaza, all the land of Jordan, some of Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia. So, from God’s perspective, the Phoenicians and Philistines were seen as interlopers or “squatters” on His land.
God asks rhetorically, “What do we have in common,” or “what do I have to do with you?” And then He promises to repay them quickly and hastily for the evil done to His people. He will overcome them easily in spite of their presumed fierceness!
As neighbors to Israel, they had a duty to be helpful, but instead, they took advantage of their plight. Historically, the Philistines were the archenemies of Israel, but the Phoenicians were close to the Israelites in every respect. They spoke the same language, they wrote in the same script, and they even built Jerusalem together – remember David and Solomon’s friendship with King Hiram? Neither the Phoenicians nor the Philistines were powerful enough to destroy or overcome Israel on their own, but when other, more powerful enemies attacked Israel, these neighbors “piled on” adding insult to injury.
The prophet Amos singles out both Tyre, that’s Phoenicia, and Philistia “Because they delivered up the whole captivity to Edom and did not remember the covenant of brotherhood.” You can read about that in Amos 1:6 to 10. Remember, Edomites were the descendants of Esau, Jacob’s brother. God would eventually judge Edom for their perpetual hostility.
While these actions by Phoenicia and Philistia were horrible, there was a worse sin for which God would judge them. It was “because you have taken My silver and My gold, And have carried into your temples My prized possessions [my precious good things].” These nations had robbed Israel’s treasures, including the sacred vessels of the Temple, and dedicated them to their worthless gods in their heathen temples! You might be able to get away with that kind of behavior when dealing with powerless idols, but not with the true God, Jehovah.
And then, finally, in verse six, God says “Also the people of Judah and the people of Jerusalem you have sold to the Greeks, that you may remove them far from their borders.” This charge was particularly directed at the Phoenicians.
If you know your history, you know that the Phoenicians were a seafaring people. Their empire was unique in that it was built on trade instead of military power. So, when the Philistines would take captives from Judea, they would sell them to the Phoenicians who in turn would sell them as slaves to the Greeks who inhabited the western coasts of Asia Minor, modern-day Türkiye. And of course, as God says here in the text, that resulted in His people being removed far from their borders, far from home.
So, these are the reasons why God will judge all the nations in that future Day of the Lord, and especially the Phoenicians and Philistines. You and I can be assured that God will be absolutely just in His judgment. No one will receive more or less than what he or she deserves. It will be a day of retribution.
Rest assured, when you and I stand before the judge of all the earth, there will be no arguing. God is an accurate record-keeper! No one will be able to accuse God of injustice or of treating people unfairly. He will be able to spell out the reasons for judgment on rebellious humans with the same specifics just as He did for Phoenicia and Philistia. And for Believers, the judgment of our works will likewise be without partiality. God’s reasons for judgment will be 100% accurate and justified.
The Final ASPECT of Judgment is,
The Proclamation of Judgment
The final verses of our text command our attention; BEHOLD! “Behold, I will raise them [the children of Israel] out of the place to which you have sold them and will return your retaliation upon your own head. I will sell your sons and your daughters into the hand of the people of Judah, and they will sell them to the Sabeans, to a people far off; for the Lord has spoken.”
In some respects, this promised return of the Jews to their land began in earnest in the late 1800s. In 1880 the total number of Jews in the land was somewhere between 20 and 25 thousand. By the eve of independence in 1948, the estimated Jewish population was 650,000. Today, 75 years after the founding of the modern Jewish state, more than 7 million Jews live in Israel. The regathering foretold by Israel’s prophets is proceeding according to God’s timetable.
God’s primary method of retribution is to pay back His enemies in kind. In other words, the suffering imposed on God’s people by their enemies will be visited on them. Jesus said, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” Galatians 6:6 reminds us, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.” This is a universal principle, an inescapable law of nature.
In that future day, God will reverse the fortunes of His people and raise up the captives of Judah and Jerusalem out of these far-flung areas. Then, it will be the sons and daughters of Philistia and Phoenicia that will be sold into the hands of the people of Israel. In turn, they will sell those captives to the godless Sabeans.
The Sabeans were a fierce, nomadic people group from Sheba, present-day Yemen. This area was highly urbanized and had reached a complex degree of civilization by this time in history. They were caravan traders and their trade included slaves. Remember, the Queen of Sheba visited Solomon and brought him many trade articles as gifts, according to 1 Kings 10:1-13.
Like other aspects surrounding the Day of the Lord, there may have been an earlier, partial fulfillment of these judgments. In 343 BC, the Persians conquered and enslaved Sidon. Just over a decade later, 30,000 people from the city-state of Tyre were sold into slavery by Alexander the Great when he conquered the city in 332 BC after a long siege. But none of these deportations were on the scale predicted here.
We need to pay special attention to the final words of verse 8. “The Lord has spoken!” Someone once said, “God said it, I believe it, and that settles it.” But I must point out that whether or not you or I believe what God has said, it really doesn’t matter from God’s perspective. If God said it, that settles it. Believing it or refusing to believe it will have consequences for us, but it won’t change the facts.
The same fate that befell Phoenicia and Philistia will be the fate of all the Gentile nations gathering in the Valley of Jehoshaphat. They will descend on Israel during the Great Tribulation with the express purpose of wiping God’s ancient, chosen, earthly people off the face of the earth. But it is they who will meet their demise when the Lord Jesus returns in triumph!
Let’s not forget the eternal principle outlined in Genesis 12:3 in God’s covenant promise to Abraham. “I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Secular and religious history have both proven this promise to be true for more than 4,000 years!
Satan has been trying to thwart God’s promises to the Jewish people ever since he made His covenant with Abraham, calling him out and setting him apart to carry out the promised plan of redemption. He has tried time and time again to destroy the Jews as a people. He has not succeeded, and He will not, but he will continue trying up to the moment when he is consigned to the pit of Hell forever. You can read about his final end in Revelation chapter 20.
A day of retribution is coming, the Scriptures are clear about that. Satan, his demons, and all human beings who serve him will suffer the righteous wrath of Almighty God in eternal torment. Some today deny the reality of Hell. Others try to minimize its horror. I am content to let God have the last word.
“And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.”
To avoid this day of retribution, this reality of eternal torment, there is only one avenue of escape. His name is Jesus. He took on Himself the penalty for our sins so that we might be made righteous in the sight of God. If you have not, by faith, entered into His righteousness, I urge you to do that today – before it’s too late!