See Lesson, Prophet, the.
See Lesson, Minor prophets, and their messages.
See Article, Joel, the problem of.
JOEL: Nothing is known of this man except his name.
"Joel" may be a combination of the divine names: "YHWH is EL" (cp Elijah -- the
same in reverse).
PETHUEL: "The prophet's patronymic provides little
assistance, for the resemblance to Hebrew words for 'deceive' and 'sudden' are
not exactly helpful. However, in LXX the name is: Bethuel (an easy confusion
between B and P in Hebrew). This yields the obvious and very meaningful: 'laid
waste by God' (sw Isa 5:6) with reference to the main theme of the prophecy.
Such a meaning would be readily chosen by the prophet himself to prepare his
readers for what is coming, the true patronymic being the much more likely: --
'ben-Azariah' (2Ch 29:12). This would make Joel a Levite, and most probably a
priest. What splendid appropriateness can now be seen in Joel 2:12ff!"
ELDERS: Old men, but here in the sense of leaders and
rulers (cp v 14).
TELL IT TO YOUR CHILDREN, AND LET YOUR CHILDREN TELL IT TO
THEIR CHILDREN, AND THEIR CHILDREN TO THE NEXT GENERATION: "In this simple
way, by God's grace, a living testimony for truth is always to be kept alive in
the land -- the beloved of the Lord are to hand down their witness for the
gospel, and the covenant to their heirs, and these again to their next
descendants. This is our first duty, we are to begin at the family hearth: he is
a bad preacher who does not commence his ministry at home. The heathen are to be
sought by all means, and the highways and hedges are to be searched, but home
has a prior claim, and woe unto those who reverse the order of the Lord's
arrangements. To teach our children is a personal duty; we cannot delegate it to
Sunday School teachers, or other friendly aids; these can assist us, but cannot
deliver us from the sacred obligation; proxies and sponsors are wicked devices
in this case: mothers and fathers must, like Abraham, command their households
in the fear of God, and talk with their offspring concerning the wondrous works
of the Most High. Parental teaching is a natural duty -- who so fit to look to
the child's well-being as those who are the authors of his actual being?"
"The remembering of the outstanding acts of God on behalf of
His people, or in furthering their discipline, must be carried on faithfully
from generation to generation. From earliest days Moses had striven to establish
this tradition: 'Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest
thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen and lest they depart from thy
heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons' sons;
specially the day that thou stoodest before the Lord thy God in Horeb' (Deu
4:9,10). If these exhortations of Joel and Moses had been heeded, would the day
of Babylonian invasion some five generations later have ever
"You are to establish a tradition in your families, urges the
prophet. From father to son to grandson this cherished message must be
faithfully handed on. How many generations are involved here? Is it five or six?
And how many generations of the Truth faithfully preserved are there in these
Last Days, all of them scanning the horizon eagerly for the dawn yet to be seen
rising over the Mount of Olives?
"In modern times the five generations of the New Israel,
having such a Word, as others do not know and with its fulfilment so nigh unto
them are yet content to set their children and their grandchildren a mediocre
characterless example of diluted enthusiasm.
"Remember! Remember! Teach! Teach! These should be welcome
duties. Yet Moses had learned that neglect might overtake them. Specially
pointed and valuable is this precept: 'Teach them thy sons AND THY SONS'
"Yet how often it happens that grandparents treat 'their sons'
sons' as though they were a box of chocolates -- a luxury to be enjoyed now and
then -- and not at all as a holy commission entrusted to their care; [vessels]
to be filled with precious jewels of Truth.
"Alas, it is so much more comfortable to write Joel off as
out-of-date and incomprehensible, and to bequeath THAT tradition to those whose
future is one's own special responsibility!" (WJoel).
This is true, in general, but here the special emphasis is --
not upon the goodness of God's arrangements -- but upon the judgments that Joel
is about to describe. So terrible are these that four or five generations cannot
remember anything that compares
Description of locust invasion: LB 416-419.
"The prophet's language is truly horrific. Crops devastated,
flocks and herds famished through lack of fodder, the sky is darkened with the
spreading cloud of irresistible devastation, the husbandman miserable in his
sense of helplessness, the inexorable advance of a hostile army disciplined to
be ever closing ranks and marching with callous indifference to every
"Another locust swarm, this time of commentators, has decided
that Joel saw a recent locust invasion of the Holy Land as a judgment from God
intended to warn His people of their need for repentance.
"The main idea, of a lesson to be learned from a harrowing
experience, is certainly correct. But was this the horror of a locust swarm or
of an invasion of pitiless Assyrians?
"When the details are considered carefully, it becomes clear
that, if indeed there was a locust invasion, the prophet meant his people to see
it as a God-provided warning of an imminent over-running of the Land by the
worst enemy they had ever encountered [ie, the Assyrians of
"The mention at the outset of four different kinds of locust
is usually taken to indicate different stages of development of these creatures.
[In fact, the Heb words mean, successively, gnawer", "swarmer", "devourer", and
"consumer"!: GB.] But it seems not unlikely that these four names are introduced
to suggest the four great Assyrian monarchs whose campaigns all included
onslaught on the people of God: Tiglath-pileser III, Shalmanezer V (who died at
the siege of Samaria), Sargon II (Isa 20:1) and Sennacherib, the worst of the
"In the mind of Sennacherib there was evidently such an
implacable hatred of Israel and Israel's God that his campaign of destruction
was pursued with almost lunatic ferocity. A conqueror that has his wits about
him will subjugate in order to harness the prosperity of the victim people to
the further enhancement of the civilisation of his own land and people. Other
empire builders had the sense to do this to the progressive glory and luxury of
their reigns. But not so Sennacherib on this occasion! He was set on reducing
Israel to a wilderness. He would show the world what he thought about the God
these Jews worshipped. But Isaiah and Joel knew him to be the instrument of
Jehovah (Isa 8:7,8; 10:5-7). His army was 'MY army' (Joel 2:11)"
(LD) Another possible reason for the FOUR types of locusts:
four separate Arab invaders of Israel; the names mentioned later in the prophecy
suggest Tyre and Zidon (Lebanon); Philistia (the Palestinians); Egypt; and Edom
(Jordan and/or Saudi Arabia).
GREAT LOCUSTS: "Arbeh". The two words arbeh (locust)
and arbi (Arab) are almost identical in the Heb. "Etymologically, an Arab and a
locust are almost the same in radicals and pronunciation... In Jdg 6:5, in the
original, the locust is used to designate the number and character of invading
Arab hosts..." (cp also Jdg 7:12) (Eur 2:458). JT also wrote that the locust is
a well-recognized symbol of the Arab nations, and that "Mohammedan tradition
speaks of locusts having dropped into the hands of Mohammed, bearing on their
wings the inscription, 'We are the army of the great God'." Notice that the
locust invasion of Joe 1; 2 is particularized in Joe 3, ref Tyre, Philistia,
Egypt, and Edom (Joe 3:4,19). Cp also Rev 9:1-11.
EATEN... EATEN... EATEN: "They [the Assyrian armies]
know the military technique of living off the land. Indeed that is what they are
there for. Always, as they go, they are eating, eating, eating. Before them, the
Land is a Garden of Eden, God's own garden; behind them there is only a desolate
wilderness (Joel 2:3) -- vines, fig trees (v 7), cattle and sheep (v 18), all
are lost" (WJoel).
WAKE UP, YOUR DRUNKARDS, AND WEEP!...: "
Of course, there was a reason for God being on the side of the
big brutal battalions. Apart from a faithful remnant (Joel 2:32) the nation was
well on the way to forgetting Hezekiah's great reformation (2Ch 29,30) which for
a time at any rate had pulled the nation back from the brink of complete
apostasy. Priests and aristocrats, for example, were a drunken worldly lot (cp
Drunkenness also sym slavery to false doctrine: Isa 19:14;
24:1-9,20; 28:1,3; Job 12:25; Jer 51:7.
(LD) The corruption of western society has found its way into
modern Israel. There is the same inequality between rich and poor, the same
decadent indulgence in drink and sex and drugs; and the same corruptness of
WAIL... WAIL: Heb "yalal" = to cry out, to lament, to
howl: sw Isa 13:6; 15:3; Jer 25:34; Amo 8:3. This word echoes the Heb "hallel":
to praise, as in "Halleluyah". Cries of praise to God had turned, so easily,
into howls of pain and indignation.
THE NEW WINE... HAS BEEN SNATCHED FROM YOUR LIPS: Cp
A NATION HAS INVADED MY LAND, POWERFUL AND WITHOUT
NUMBER: "These invaders are ruthless cruel empire-building Assyrians. In
fact, not one nation only, but a confederacy of several nations willing to
cooperate with the Assyrians rather than suffer from their matchless cruelty and
barbarism. 'All nations' is Joel's phrase (Joel 3:2)" (WJoel).
MY LAND: Israel, of course: Deu 11:12; Lev 25:23; Jer
IT HAS THE TEETH OF A LION, THE FANGS OF A LIONESS: Not
reasonable, of course, about literal locusts. But easily identified with
Assyria: "Layard and other archaeologists have brought to light that these
Assyrians thought of themselves as a pride of lions. It was a symbol, which the
Babylonians were glad to take over after the collapse of Nineveh (Dan 7:4)"
Lion, generally, sym strength (Num 23:24) and cruelty (Pro
MOURN LIKE A VIRGIN IN SACKCLOTH GRIEVING FOR THE HUSBAND
OF HER YOUTH: Or, more reasonably, as the mg: like a young woman (recently
married) lamenting for the death of her young betrothed. "The figure is an easy
and obvious one -- a young woman betrothed to a husband and looking forward to a
full and satisfying married life, finds herself bereft of the joyous prospect.
Within a short while her husband-to-be wilts and dies, and she is left alone,
pathetic and helpless. But the reader can hardly help wondering if there is not
a special aptness about this simile: just as at the time of the Assyrian
invasion the nation was left without the leadership of its king on whom so much
depended (because of Hezekiah's grievous sickness: Isa 38:1), so also in the
final crisis, soon to come, help against Arab invaders will come too late. For a
good while, the sympathy and material aid so lavishly provided for Israel by USA
and American Jewry has shown signs of drying up. This trend will go further. How
long before Israel finds herself friendless?" (WJoel).
Israel has played the harlot to her betrothed, that is, to
Yahweh: Jer 3:1-4; Eze 23:3.
GRAIN OFFERINGS AND DRINK OFFERINGS ARE CUT OFF FROM THE
HOUSE OF THE LORD: The result of the "locust invasion", or the Assyrian
invasion -- with its terrible depredations.
THE PRIESTS ARE IN MOURNING: Not so much for the sins
against God, which these suffering suggest -- but because the source of their
livelihood has been dried up (cp v 13)!
Vv 10-12: The destruction of all the different crops of the
land, all together, suggests much more than a single locust invasion -- which
might be over and done with in week or two. The effects of this "invasion" last
for many months, all through the various harvests of the year -- such was the
Assyrian invasion of both Israel and Judah.
APPLE: The Heb "tappuwach" is prob derived from the
Hebrew rt meaning "scent, breath" which is related to the Arabic rt meaning
"fragrant scent" (HAL). Hence, the term ref to a fruit with a fragrant scent.
The term occurs 4 times in Song (Song 2:3,5; 7:8; 8:5) and twice outside (Pro
25:11; Joe 1:12). It may ref to "apples" or "apricots" -- known esp for their
fragrance. "...Sometimes associated with the 'apple' tree, but while
domesticated apple trees are now found in Israel, wild specimens are not
believed to have grown there in biblical times since it is a tree native to the
northern hemisphere. Apricots, however, grow in warmer climes and are native to
China; they have long been abundant in Israel and most prob were introduced in
Bible times. Apricots in Cyprus are still known as 'golden apples' [poss ref to
Pro 25:11?]" (ABD).
SACKCLOTH: Sym bitterness and reproach (Amo 8:10; Jer
WAIL: Heb "yalal" (cp v 5).
YOU WHO MINISTER BEFORE THE ALTAR: Num 8:16-19;
18:1-7,20-24; Lev 17:10,11; Mal 1:7-12; Eze 41:22; 44:16.
FAST... SACRED ASSEMBLY: Prob written at or just before
the Day of Atonement. A time of solemn reflection, self-examination, repentance,
SACRED ASSEMBLY: Heb "atserah". As at the feast of
tabernacles, in the 7th month (Lev 23:36).
ALAS FOR THAT DAY!: Isaiah similarly described the
Assyrian invasion as an act of God (Isa 10:5,6; 8:6-8).
FOR THE DAY OF THE LORD IS NEAR: "The day of the LORD
is coming! It is near. There is a real urgency about this message from the
prophet Joel. The day of the LORD could be here at any moment -- and you are not
ready. You need to repent and plead with God for deliverance from the day of His
wrath, Joel told the people of Israel, and you need to do it now before it is
"This message to the people of Israel and Judah is just as
applicable to us in our lives today. In the days Joel spoke, Israel and Judah
were about to be taken into captivity. Nations had invaded them and had sapped
their strength and the final day of the LORD was just around the
"We know that we live in the last days. Nearly everything God
has said will happen before the return of Christ, has happened. When the rest
begins to happen we may find ourselves caught up in what is going on, and it may
be too late for us to do anything about it. The day of the LORD is coming for
us. The message is urgent because we must act while we still have the time --
but time will run out.
"Will you be ready for the day of the LORD?" (RP).
DESTRUCTION FROM THE ALMIGHTY: A pun: 'like destruction
(shod) shall it come from the Almighty (shaddai).' This meaning of this divine
name occurs frequently in Job and Psalms (contrast the alternative derivation
'prosperity, fruitfulness' in the Book of Genesis: WBS 15:01).
THE SEEDS ARE SHRIVELED BENEATH THE CLODS: " 'Under
their clods' is little more than a translator's guess. A cognate word appears in
Jdg. 5:21 (and there is no other occurrence): 'The river Kishon swept them
away.' This might suggest: 'The seed is rotten under their sweeping advance'
(another guess -- by this translator). LXX adds here: 'What shall we lay up for
ourselves?' " (WJoel).
THE STOREHOUSES ARE IN RUINS, THE GRANARIES HAVE BEEN
BROKEN DOWN: "The picture of desolation continues to be painted in lurid
colours, and with special emphasis on food and fodder scarcities. But one detail
serves to reinforce the conclusion already reached that it is the devastation
brought by war and not by locust plague that is being described here, for barns
and granaries are not broken down by a travelling swarm of locusts. Instead,
what is suggested here is the wilful destruction of farm buildings"
Vv 19,20: "Even the best-regulated families of locusts do not
burn up pasture or trees" (WJoel) -- suggesting that this "locust" invasion is
really a human army. (The alternative would be that the effect of the locust
invasion would be the same as a great fire!: cp Joel 2:3.)