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Bible Commentaries

Adam Clarke Commentary


- Joel

by Adam Clarke

Introduction to the Book of the Prophet Joel

Joel, the son of Pethuel, the second of the twelve minor prophets, was, as is said, of the tribe of Reuben, and city of Bethoran; or rather Betharan, for Bethoran was on this side Jordan, in the tribe of Ephraim, and Betharan was on the other side of the river, in the tribe of Reuben. Joel prophesied in the kingdom of Judah; and it is the opinion of some critics that he did not appear there till after the removal of the ten tribes and the destruction of the kingdom of Israel. We do not know distinctly the year wherein he began to prophesy, nor that in which he died. He speaks of a great famine, and an inundation of locusts, which ravaged Judea; but as these are evils not uncommon in that country, and all sorts of events have not been registered in history, we can infer nothing from thence towards fixing the particular period of Joel's prophecy.

St. Jerome, followed by many others, both ancients and moderns, believed Joel to have been contemporary with Hosea, according to this rule laid down by him, that when there is no certain proof of the time wherein any prophet lived, we are to be directed in our conjectures by the time of the preceding prophet, whose epoch is better known. But this rule is not always certain, and should not hinder us from following another system, if we have good reason for doing so. The Hebrews maintain that Joel prophesied under Manasseh; and as collateral circumstances seem to preponderate in favor of this hypothesis, it has been accordingly followed in the margin. Under the idea of an enemy's army, the prophet represents a cloud of locusts, which in his time fell upon Judea, and caused great desolation. This, together with the caterpillars, and the drought, brought a terrible famine upon the land. God, being moved with the calamities and prayers of his people, scattered the locusts, and the wind blew them into the sea. These misfortunes were succeeded by plenty and fertility. After this, the prophet foretold the day of the Lord, and the vengeance he was to exercise in the valley of Jezreel. He speaks of the teacher of righteousness, whom God was to send; and of the Holy Spirit, which was to descend upon all flesh. He says that Jerusalem will be inhabited for ever; that salvation will come out from thence; and that whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. All this relates to the new covenant, and the time of the Messiah. See Calmet.

Bishop Lowth observes that "the style of Joel differs much from that of Hosea; but, though of a different kind, is equally poetical. It is elegant, perspicuous, clear, diffusive, and flowing; and, at the same time, very sublime, nervous, and animated. He displays the whole power of poetic description in the first and second chapters; and, at the same time, his fondness for metaphors, comparisons, and allegories; nor is the connection of his subjects less remarkable than the graces of his diction. It is not to be denied that in some places he is very obscure; which every attentive reader will perceive, especially in the end of this prophecy." Prael. xxi.; and see Dodd. The two first chapters are inimitably beautiful; and the language, in force, and often in sound, well adapted to the subject. See the note on Joel 1:1; (note).