Analysis of Joel 2:20, specifically “the northern army”

On 24 August 2016, Turkey initiated “Euphrates Shield”, a military operation in Syria purportedly against ISIS but actually against Kurdish forces that have been fighting ISIS.

At first, some 350 soldiers – 200 for mechanised units including tanks and 150 special forces – together with a Turkish backed Syrian militia, all supported by the Turkish air force, attacked Jarablus under the pretext of liberating Jarablus from ISIS.

The day before, the Syrian rebel commander of Jarablus Military Council, a part of the “Syrian Democratic Forces” or SDF, was assassinated by Turkish intelligence, MIT.

The town of Manbij, liberated 2 weeks earlier from ISIS by the SDF and America, also came under attack by Turkish artillery.

Officially, Turkey has demanded all Kurds, such as the YPG, a Kurdish armed force in Syria fighting in the SDF, retreat to the east of the Euphrates. At least 2 Kurdish led SDF groups have publicly pledged to resist Turkey’s move into Syria.

Thus, today, more Turkish forces are readying to move into Syria, including advanced Leopard 2 tanks. In effect, the 2nd largest military in NATO is mobilising and moving closer towards Israel.

That said, let’s examine Joel 2:20.

To begin with, the KJV’s English translation of Joel 2:20 is different from the Tanakh’s. The KJV translates הַצְּפוֹנִי as “the northern army”, whereas the Tanakh translates the same as “the northern one”. In the KJV the word “army” is in italic, so that means it is not there in the Hebrew. It has been added by the translators to make sense of the whole verse.

“But I will remove far off from you the northern army, and will drive him into a land barren and desolate, with his face toward the east sea, and his hinder part toward the utmost sea, and his stink shall come up, and his ill savour shall come up, because he hath done great things.”
– Joel 2:20, KJV

“But I will remove far off from you the northern one and will drive him into a land barren and desolate with his face toward the eastern sea and his hinder part toward the western sea; that his foulness may come up and his ill savour may come up because he hath done great things.”
– Joel 2:20, Tanakh

וְאֶת הַצְּפוֹנִי אַרְחִיק מֵעֲלֵיכֶם וְהִדַּחְתִּיו אֶל אֶרֶץ צִיָּה וּשְׁמָמָה אֶת פָּנָיו אֶל הַיָּם הַקַּדְמֹנִי וְסֹפוֹ אֶל הַיָּם הָאַחֲרוֹן וְעָלָה בָאְשׁוֹ וְתַעַל צַחֲנָתוֹ כִּי הִגְדִּיל לַעֲשׂוֹת.

Joel 2:20, Tanakh

I would say, the KJV’s interpretation of הַצְּפוֹנִי is correct, for 3 reasons.

First, though the Antichrist will come from the north of Israel i.e. Nineveh, he will be beaten in Israel, within the LORD’s land. This is stated in Isaiah 14:24-25.

“The LORD of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand: That I will break the Assyrian in my land, and upon my mountains tread him under foot: then shall his yoke depart from off them, and his burden depart from off their shoulders.”
– Isaiah 14:24-25

Furthermore, the Antichrist will be beaten by Jesus Christ himself, not by any human army. This is stated in Daniel 8:25.

“And through his policy also he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand; and he shall magnify himself in his heart, and by peace shall destroy many: he shall also stand up against the Prince of princes; but he shall be broken without hand.”
– Daniel 8:25

So, Joel 2:20 cannot mean the Antichrist will be driven far off from Israel and then killed.

Second, since the verse makes a point to emphasise stink, it should be said that a single corpse would not make as much a stink as the corpses of an entire army.

Third, it would take an army, such as that of the 6th trumpet and Joel 2:2-11, to push an army away from Israel.

“A day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness, as the morning spread upon the mountains: a great people and a strong; there hath not been ever the like, neither shall be any more after it, even to the years of many generations. A fire devoureth before them; and behind them a flame burneth: the land is as the garden of Eden before them, and behind them a desolate wilderness; yea, and nothing shall escape them. The appearance of them is as the appearance of horses; and as horsemen, so shall they run.”
– Joel 2:2-4

Remember, prophetically at some point, Israel will be compassed by several armies.

“And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh.”
– Luke 21:20

“Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem.”
– Zechariah 12:2

Then, the Antichrist and those fighting for him will enter Israel.

“He shall enter also into the glorious land, and many countries shall be overthrown…”
– Daniel 11:41

The Antichrist will even set up his headquarters on the Temple Mount.

“And he shall plant the tabernacles of his palace between the seas in the glorious holy mountain; yet he shall come to his end, and none shall help him.”
– Daniel 11:45

“… that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.”
– 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4

And then, at the appointed time, Judah will be liberated, and all the nations that have come against Jerusalem will be destroyed.

“The LORD also shall save the tents of Judah first, that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem do not magnify themselves against Judah. In that day shall the LORD defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and he that is feeble among them at that day shall be as David; and the house of David shall be as God, as the angel of the LORD before them. And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.”
– Zechariah 12:7-9

This will involve the archangel Michael helping a reinvigorated IDF, Daniel 12:1 and Zechariah 12:8, as well as a powerful army from the east helped by 4 hitherto bound angels, Revelation 9:14-16.

“Saying to the sixth angel which had the trumpet, Loose the four angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates. And the four angels were loosed, which were prepared for an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year, for to slay the third part of men. And the number of the army of the horsemen were two hundred thousand thousand: and I heard the number of them.”
– Revelation 9:14-16

Here notice that humans alone cannot defeat the 4th Beast, which will have demons on its side, even Satan.

“And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him? And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months.”
– Revelation 13:4-5

This is why the 4th Beast will only be destroyed at the appointed time, when the LORD wills it.

One element of this will be the removal of “the northern army” far off from Israel, as per Joel 2:20.