Pat Robertson Misinterprets Biblical Passage
Posted: January 11, 2006
Televangelist Pat Robertson misrepresented the Hebrew Bible when, in remarks on his nationally televised program The 700 Club, he cited the Book of Joel as "proof" that God caused Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's stroke as punishment for Israel's disengagement from the Gaza Strip and four West Bank settlements.
Robertson cited the fourth Century BCE biblical Prophet Joel to validate his claim that God was punishing Sharon. He quoted the Book of Joel, saying that "God has enmity against those who divide my land."
The Book of Joel is one of the Hebrew Bible's so-called 12 "minor prophets," referring to the abbreviated length of the books. Scholars believe that Joel's prophesy came about in 444 BCE after the canonization of the Torah by Ezra.
Robertson appears to have been referring to a specific passage from Joel, where Joel delivers the words of God:
"I will gather all nations, And will bring them down in the valley of Jehoshapat; And I will enter into judgment with them there
For my people and for my heritage Israel, Whom they have scattered among the nations, And divided my land."
-- Joel, Chapter 4:2 (Soncino Press)
Joel's prophecy follows a devastating plague of locusts that has attacked the land of Israel. Joel contends that the locusts attacked because of the sins of the people, and he calls for the people to repent, after which God shows mercy and the land flourishes again.
Joel then expands this vision and the locusts become a symbol for the enemies of Israel who devoured the land and people and sold the Israelites into slavery. Joel prophesizes that in the future, God will restore the land and people that were destroyed by Israel's enemies.
Given this reading, it is clear that Robertson misreads and misrepresents the text. Joel castigates Israel's enemies – not the people of Israel. Moreover, Ariel Sharon, the prime minister of the sovereign state of Israel, could hardly be considered an enemy of the people of Israel.