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Bible Commentaries

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
Joel 1

 

 

Verse 1

(1) Joel.—Compounded of Jehovah—El, the composite title of the God of Revelation and of Nature, which is the subject of Psalms 19. It was a favourite name among the Jews, and was borne by an ancestor of Samuel, who gave it to his elder son. There is nothing known of the personal history of Joel the prophet, except the name of his father, Pethuel, or—LXX.—Bethuel.


Verse 2-3

(2, 3) Hath this been in your days.—The introduction points to the startling nature of the portent: it was unexampled; it was a cause of consternation to all who beheld it; it would be recollected as a subject of wondering comment among succeeding generations. The hand of God was evident, recalling the marvellous things he did in the land of Egypt, in the field of Zoan.


Verse 4

(4) That which the palmerworm hath left.—The picture is introduced suddenly and graphically. “Behold the desolation!” “Note the cause.” The earth is bared by locusts beyond all previous experience. There were different sorts of locusts; as many as ninety have been reckoned. The four names, palmerworm, locust, cankerworm, caterpiller, indicate different swarms of the insect. The first—Gazam—points to its voracity; the second—Arbeh—its multitude; the third—Yelek—its manner of “licking up” the grass like cattle; the fourth—Chasil—its destructive effect. The number enumerated, four, draws attention to the “four sore judgments” with which Ezekiel was instructed to threaten Jerusalem, and to the four foreign invasions by the Assyrians, Chaldæans, Macedonians, and Romans.


Verse 5

(5) Awake, ye drunkards—i.e., awake from such an insensibility as wine causes. The people failed to see the hand of God in the terrible calamity, like an acted parable, of the locusts. Insensate, as the revellers in the halls of Belshazzar, they carried on their feasting even while the enemies were at the city gates.

It is cut off from your mouth.—Either joy and gladness, as given in the LXX., or the means of indulgence have been suddenly taken away.


Verse 6

(6) A nation.—It was not uncommon with Hebrew writers to apply the name people or folk to animals, as, “The ants are a people not strong;” “The conies are but a feeble folk” (Proverbs 30:25-26); but the word used by Joel is different from that in the Proverbs. He selected a word indicative of foreign nations, suggestive of attack, including both the irrational invader and the foreign conqueror. The surpassing strength of the nation is indicated by the extraordinary power of the locust’s teeth, compared to that of the lion’s jaws. The same comparison is made by St. John (Revelation 9:8): “Their teeth (the locusts) were as the teeth of lions.”


Verse 7

(7) My vine.—This expression might well captivate the Jewish ear. God appropriates to Himself this land on which the trouble was, by His providence, to fall, and in wrath remembers mercy. It is “my vine,” “my fig-tree,” the people of God’s own choice, that were afflicted; and the affliction, however fully deserved, was, to speak as a man, painful to the Lord, “who doth not afflict willingly.” Yet the devastation was to be complete. God’s pleasant vine was doomed, and the fig-tree was to be cut down.


Verse 8

(8) For the husband of her youth.—The land is addressed as a virgin betrothed, but not yet married, and forfeiting her marriage by unworthy conduct. Such was the relation of Israel to the Lord: He was faithful, but Israel unfaithful. Now let her mourn the penalty.


Verse 9

(9) The meat offering and the drink offering—i.e., all the outward and visible signs of communion with God are cut off. The means are lost through this visitation. There is a total cessation of “the creatures of bread and wine.” The immediate significance of this fact is naturally appreciated first by “the priests, the Lord’s ministers.”


Verse 10

(10) The new wine.—The necessaries and delights of life are all gone: “the wine that maketh glad the heart of man, the oil that makes his face to shine, the bread that strengthened man’s heart” (Psalms 104:15).


Verse 12

(12) The vine is dried up.—The ravages produced by the locusts and the drought are universal. There seems to be a method in the enumeration of the trees. The vine is the favourite term for the chosen people; the fig-tree has its life prolonged at the intercession of the “dresser of the vineyard,” in our Lord’s parable (Luke 13:8); the tall and stately pomegranate is of such importance as to give its name to the idol Rimmon; yea, and the palm-tree, even that is gone; the apple also, including the lemon, citron, &c.—all joy is vanished.


Verse 13

(13) Gird yourselves, and lament.—The priests are exhorted to commence preparations for a national humiliation, beginning with themselves; for the visitation touches them in a vital part: they have no sacrifices to offer to the Lord.


Verse 14

(14) A solemn assembly.—The Hebrew word strictly means a festival day, on which the people gathered themselves together, being relieved from work. Here they are summoned for a fast. The word may also be translated, as in the margin, “a day of restraint,” its root signifying to shut, to hold back.


Verse 15

(15) Alas.—The exclamation is repeated three times in the LXX. and Vulg., thus giving occasion to Jeremy Taylor’s comment: “When the prophet Joel was describing the formidable accidents in the day of the Lord’s judgment, and the fearful sentence of an angry judge, he was not able to express it, but stammered like a child, or an amazed imperfect person, A. A. A. diei, quia prope est Dies Domini” (“Christ’s Adv. to Judgment,” Serm. iii., pt. 3).

Almighty.—Shaddai. A title signifying the omnipotence of God, especially with reference, as here, to His power to destroy. The Hebrew preserves the alliteration, Shod Mishaddai, destruction from the destroyer. The Almighty was the general title of God. “I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob by the name of God ALMIGHTY, but by My name JEHOVAH was I not known unto them.” (See Note on Genesis 17)


Verse 17

(17) The corn is withered.—The results of the terrible drought, coincident with the ravages of the locusts, are now described. The ancient versions present difficulty and variety in the exact rendering of this verse, owing to several words occurring in it being not found elsewhere in Holy Scripture. On the whole the English text seems correct and satisfactory.


Verse 18

(18) How do the beasts groan.—All creation is represented as sharing in the dread perplexity; the beasts are involved in it, as also in Nineveh the animals were united in the proclamation of the general fast by the king’s decree, when he had heard of the preaching of Jonah.


Verse 19

(19) The fire hath devoured.—This may be explained as produced by the scorching heat bringing about spontaneous combustion, or by the efforts of the people to exterminate the locusts by burning the trees, or by the mark, as of fire, left upon all vegetation after the locusts had finished their work of devastation.


Verse 20

(20) The beasts of the field cry also unto thee.—The prophet has cried to God; the very beasts echo that cry, “looking up” to Him. As yet, man seems dumb.

 


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Bibliography Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Joel 1:4". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/joel-1.html. 1905.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, December 5th, 2019
the First Week of Advent
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