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Tuesday, July 16th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
Joel 2

Barnes' Notes on the Whole BibleBarnes' Notes


The prophet begins anew in this chapter, first delineating in greater detail the judgments of God; then calling to repentance. The image reaches its height in the capture of Jerusalem by the Babylonians, itself an image only of worse judgments, first on the Jews by the Romans; then on particular Churches; then of the infliction through antichrist; lastly on the whole world. : “The prophet sets before them the greatness of the coming woe, of the approaching captivity, of the destruction imminent, in order to move the people to terror at the judgment of God, to compunction, to love of obedience. This he does from the manifoldness of the destruction, the quality of the enemy, the nature of the victory, the weight of the misery, the ease of the triumph, the eagerness for ill, the fear of the besieged princes, the sluggishness of the besieged people. He exhorts all in common to prostrate themselves at the feet of the divine judgment, if so be God would look down from His dwelling place, turn the storm into a calm, and at length out of the shipwreck of captivity bring them back to the haven of consolation.” : “It is no mere prediction. Everything stands before them, as in actual experience, and before their eyes.” Future things affect people less; so he makes them, as it were, present to their souls. : “He will not let them vacillate about repentance, but bids them, laying aside all listlessness, set themselves courageously to ward off the peril, by running to God, and effacing the charges against them from their old sins by everrenewed amendment.”

Verse 1

Blow ye the trumpet - The trumpet was accustomed to sound in Zion, only for religious uses; to call together the congregations for holy meetings, to usher in the beginnings of their months and their solemn days with festival gladness. Now in Zion itself, the stronghold of the kingdom, the Holy City, the place which God chose to put His Name there, which He had promised to establish, the trumpet was to be used, only for sounds of alarm and fear. Alarm could not penetrate there, without having pervaded the whole land. With it, the whole human hope of Judah was gone.

Sound an alarm in My holy mountain - He repeats the warning in varied expressions, in order the more to impress people’s hearts and to stir them to repentance. Even “the holy mountain” of God was to echo with alarms; the holiness, once bestowed upon it, was to be no security against the judgments of God; yea, in it rather were those judgments to begin. So Peter saith, “The time is come, that judgment must begin at the house of God” 1 Peter 4:17. The alarm being blown in Zion, terror was to spread to all the inhabitants of the land, who were, in fear, to repent. The Church of Christ is foretold in prophecy under the names of “Zion” and of the holy “mountain.” It is the “stone cut out without hands, which became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth” Daniel 2:34-35. Of it, it is said, “Come ye and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob!” Isaiah 2:3. And Paul says, “ye are come unto mount Zion and unto the city of the living God” Hebrews 12:22. The words then are a rule for all times. The judgments predicted by Joel represent all judgments unto the end; the conduct, prescribed on their approach, is a pattern to the Church at all times. : “In this mountain we must wail, considering the failure of the faithful, in which, “iniquity abounding, charity waxeth cold.” For now (1450 a.d.) the state of the Church is so sunken, and you may see so great misery in her from the most evil conversation of many, that one who burns with zeal for God, and truly loveth his brethren, must say with Jeremiah, “Let mine eyes run down with tears night and day, and let them not cease, for the virgin daughter of my people is broken with a great breach” Jeremiah 14:17.

Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble - o: “We should be troubled when we hear the words of God, rebuking, threatening, avenging, as Jeremiah saith, ‘my heart within me is broken, all my bones shake, because of the Lord and because of the words of His holiness’ Jeremiah 23:9. Good is the trouble which people, weighing their sins, are shaken with fear and trembling, and repent.”

For the Day of the Lord is at hand - “The Day of the Lord” is any day in which He avengeth sin, any day of Judgment, in the course of His Providence or at the end; the day of Jerusalem from the Chaldees or Romans, the day of antichrist, the day of general or particular judgment, of which James says, “The coming of the Lord draweth nigh. Behold the Judge standeth before the door” James 5:8-9. : “Well is that called “the day of the Lord,” in that, by the divine appointment, it avengeth the wrongs done to the Lord through the disobedience of His people.”

Verse 2

A day of darkness and of gloominess - o: “A day full of miseries; wherefore he accumulates so many names of terrors. There was inner darkness in the heart, and the darkness of tribulation without. They hid themselves in dark places. There was the cloud between God and them; so that they were not protected nor heard by Him, of which Jeremiah saith, “Thou hast covered Thyself with a cloud, that our prayers should not pass through” Lamentations 3:44. There was the whirlwind of tempest within and without, taking away all rest, tranquility and peace. Whence Jeremiah hath, “A whirlwind of the Lord is gone forth injury, it shall fall grievously upon the head of the wicked. The anger of the Lord shall not return, until He have executed it” Jeremiah 23:19. “The Day of the Lord too shall come as a thief in the night” 1 Thessalonians 5:2. “Clouds and darkness are round about Him” Psalms 97:2.

A day of clouds and of thick darkness - The locusts are but the faint shadow of the coming evils, yet as the first harbingers of God’s successive judgments, the imagery, even in tills picture is probably taken from them. At least there is nothing in which writers, of every character, are so agreed, as in speaking of locusts as clouds darkening the sun. : “These creatures do not come in legions, but in whole clouds, 5 or 6 leagues in length and 2 or 3 in breadth. All the air is full and darkened when they fly. Though the sun shine ever so bright, it is no brighter than when most clouded.” : “In Senegal we have seen a vast multitude of locusts shadowing the air, for they come almost every three years, and darken the sky.” : “About 8 o’clock there arose above us a thick cloud, which darkened the air, depriving us of the rays of the sun. Every one was astonished at so sudden a change in the air, which is so seldom clouded at this season; but we soon saw that it was owing to a cloud of locusts. It was about 20 or 30 toises from the ground (120-180 feet) and covered several leagues of the country, when it discharged a shower of locusts, who fed there while they rested, and then resumed their flight. This cloud was brought by a pretty strong wind, it was all the morning passing the neighborhood, and the same wind, it was thought, precipitated it in the sea.” : “They take off from the place the light of day, and a sort of eclipse is formed.” : “In the middle of April their numbers were so vastly increased, that in the heat of the day they formed themselves into large bodies, appeared like a succession of clouds and darkened the sun.” : “On looking up we perceived an immense cloud, here and there semi-transparent, in other parts quite black, that spread itself all over the sky, and at intervals shadowed the sun.”

The most unimaginative writers have said the same ; “When they first appear, a thick dark cloud is seen very high in the air, which, as it passes, obscures the sun. Their swarms were so astonishing in all the steppes over which we passed in this part of our journey (the Crimea,) that the whole face of nature might have been described as concealed by a living veil.” : “When these clouds of locusts take their flight to surmount some obstacle, or traverse more rapidly a desert soil, one may say, to the letter, that the heaven is darkened by them.”

As the morning spread upon the mountains - Some have thought this too to allude to the appearance which the inhabitants of Abyssinia too well knew, as preceding the coming of the locusts (see the note at Joel 2:6). A sombre yellow light is cast on the ground, from the reflection, it was thought, of their yellow wings. But that appearance itself seems to be unique to that country, or perhaps to certain flights of locusts. The image naturally describes, the suddenness, universality of the darkness, when people looked for light. As the mountain-tops first catch the gladdening rays of the sun, ere yet it riseth on the plains, and the light spreads from height to height, until the whole earth is arrayed in light, so wide and universal shall the outspreading be, but it shall be of darkness, not of light; the light itself shall be turned into darkness.

A great people and a strong - The imagery throughout these verses is taken from the flight and inroad of locusts. The allegory is so complete, that the prophet compares them to those things which are, in part, intended under them, warriors, horses and instruments of war; and this, the more, because neither locusts, nor armies are exclusively intended. The object of the allegory is to describe the order and course of the divine judgments; how they are terrific, irresistible, universal, overwhelming, penetrating everywhere, overspreading all things, excluded by nothing. The locusts are the more striking symbol of this, through their minuteness and their number. They are little miniatures of a wellordered army, unhindered by what would be physical obstacles to larger creatures, moving in order inimitable even by man, and, from their number, desolating to the uttermost. “What more countless or mightier than the locusts,” asks Jerome, who had seen their inroads, “which human industry cannot resist?” “It is a thing invincible,” says Cyril, “their invasion is altogether irresistible, and suffices utterly to destroy all in the fields.” Yet each of these creatures is small, so that they would be powerless and contemptible, except in the Hands of Him, who brings them in numbers which can be wielded only by the Creator. Wonderful image of the judgments of God, who marshals and combines in one, causes each unavailing in itself but working together the full completion of His inscrutable Will.

There hath not been ever the like - The courses of sin and of punishment are ever recommencing anew in some part of the world and of the Church. The whole order of each, sin and punishment, will culminate once only, in the Day of Judgment. Then only will these words have their complete fulfillment. The Day of Judgment alone is that Day of terror and of woe, such as never has been before, and shall never be again. For there will be no new day or time of terror. Eternal punishment will only be the continuation of the sentence adjudged then. But, in time and in the course of God’s Providential government, the sins of each soul or people or Church draw down visitations, which are God’s final judgments there. Such to the Jewish people, before the captivity, was the destruction of the temple, the taking of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, and that captivity itself. The Jewish polity was never again restored as before.

Such, to the new polity after the captivity, was the destruction by the Romans. Eighteen hundred years have seen nothing like it. The Vandals and then the Muslims swept over the Churches of North Africa, each destructive in its own way. twelve centuries have witnessed one unbroken desolation of the Church in Africa. In Constantinople, and Asia Minor, Palestine, Persia, Churches of the Redeemer became the mosques of the false prophet. Centuries have flowed by, “yet we see not our signs, neither is there any among us, that knoweth how long” Psalms 74:9. Wealthy, busy, restless, intellectual, degraded, London, sender forth of missionaries, but, save in China, the largest pagan city in the world; converter of the isles of the sea, but thyself unconverted; fullest of riches and of misery, of civilization and of savage life, of refinements and debasement; heart, whose pulses are felt in every continent, but thyself diseased and feeble, wilt thou, in this thy day, anticipate by thy conversion the Day of the Lord, or will It come upon thee, “as hath never been the like, nor shall be, for the years of many generations?” Shalt thou win thy lost ones to Christ, or be thyself the birthplace or abode of antichrist? “O Lord God, Thou knowest.”

Yet the words have fulfillments short of the end. Even of successive chastisements upon the same people, each may have some aggravation unique to itself, so that of each, in turn, it may be said, in that respect, that no former visitation had been like it, none afterward should resemble it. Thus the Chaldaeans were chief in fierceness, Antiochus Epiphanes in his madness against God, the Romans in the completeness of the desolation. The fourth beast which Daniel saw “was dreadful and terrible and strong exceedingly, and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it” Daniel 7:7-19. The persecutions of the Roman Emperors were in extent and cruelty far beyond any before them. They shall be as nothing, in comparison to the deceivableness and oppression of antichrist. The prophet, however, does not say that there should be absolutely none like it, but only not “for the years of many genertions.” The words “unto generation and generation” elsewhere mean “forever;” here the word “years” may limit them to length of time. God, after some signal visitation, leaves a soul or a people to the silent workings of His grace or of His Providence. The marked interpositions of His Providence, are like His extraordinary miracles, rare; else, like the ordinary miracles of His daily operations, they would cease to be interpositions.

Verse 3

A fire devoureth before them ... - Travelers, of different nations and characters, and in different lands, some unacquainted with the Bible words, have agreed to describe under this image the ravages of locusts. : “They scorch many things with their touch.” : “Whatever of herb or leaf they gnaw, is, as it were, scorched by fire.” : “Wherever they come, the ground seems burned, as it were with fire.” : “Wherever they pass, they burn and spoil everything, and that irremediably.” : “I have myself observed that the places where they had browsed were as scorched, as if the fire had passed there.” : “They covered a square mile so completely, that it appeared, at a little distance, to have been burned and strewn over with brown ashes. Not a shrub, nor a blade of grass was visible.” : “A few months afterward, a much larger army alighted and gave the whole country the appearance of having been burned.” “Wherever they settled, it looks as if fire had devoured and burnt up everything.” : “It is better to have to do with the Tartars, than with these little destructive animals; you would think that fire follows their track,” are the descriptions of their ravages in Italy, Aethiopia, the Levant, India, South Africa. The locust, itself the image of God’s judgments, is described as an enemy, invading, as they say, “with fire and sword,” “breathing fire,” wasting all, as he advances, and leaving behind him the blackness of ashes, and burning villages. : “Whatsoever he seizeth on, he shall consume as a devouring flame and shall leave nothing whole behind him.”

The land is as the garden of Eden before them - In outward beauty the land was like that Paradise of God, where He placed our first parents; as were Sodom and Gomorrah, before God overthrew them Genesis 13:10. It was like a garden enclosed and protected from all inroad of evil. They sinned, and like our first parents forfeited its bliss. “A fruitful land God maketh barren, for the wickedness of them that dwell therein” Psalms 107:34. Ezekiel fortells the removal of the punishment, in connection with the Gospel promise of “a new heart and a new spirit. They shall say, This land that was desolate is become like the garden of Eden” Ezekiel 36:26, Ezekiel 36:35.

And behind them a desolate wilderness - The desolation caused by the locust is even more inconceivable to us, than their numbers. We have seen fields blighted; we have known of crops, of most moment to man’s support, devoured; and in one year we heard of terrific famine, as its result. We do not readily set before our eyes a whole tract, embracing in extent several of our counties, in which not the one or other crop was smitten, but every green thing was gone. Yet such was the scourge of locusts, the image of other and worse scourges in the treasure-house of God’s displeasure. A Syrian writer relates , “1004 a.d., a large swarm of locusts appeared in the land of Mosul and Bagdad, and it was very grievous in Shiraz. It left no herb nor even leaf on the trees, and even gnawed the pieces of linen which the fullers were bleaching; of each piece the fuller gave a scrap to its owner: and time was a famine, and a cor (about two quarters) of wheat was sold in Bagdad for 120 gold dinars (about 54 British pounds):” and again , “when it (the locust of 784 a.d.,) had consumed the whole tract of Edessa and Sarug, it passed to the west and for three years after this heavy chastisement there was a famine in the land.” : “We traveled five days through lands wholly despoiled; and for the canes of maize, as large as the largest canes used to prop vines, it cannot be said how they were broken and trampled, as if donkeys had trampled them; and all this from the locusts. The wheat, barley, tafos , were as if they had never been sown; the trees without a single leaf; the tender wood all eaten; there was no memory of herb of any sort. If we had not been advised to take mules laden with harley and provisions for ourselves, we should have perished of hunger, we and our mules. This land was all covered with locusts without wings, and they said that they were the seed of those who had all gone, who had destroyed the land.” : “Everywhere, where their legions march, verdure disappears from the country, like a curtain which is folded up; trees and plants stripped of leaves, and reduced to their branches and stalks, substitute, in the twinkling of an eye, the dreary spectacle of winter for the rich scenes of spring.” “Happily this plague is not very often repeated, for there is none which brings so surely famine and the diseases which follow it.” : “Desolation and famine mark their progress; all the expectations of the farmer vanish; his fields, which the rising sun beheld covered with luxuriance, are before evening a desert; the produce of his garden and orchard are alike destroyed, for where these destructive swarms alight, not a leaf is left upon the trees, a blade of grass in the pastures, nor an ear of corn in the field.” : “In 1654 a great multitude of locusts came from the northwest to the Islands Tayyovvan and Formosa, which consumed all that grew in the fields, so that above eight thousand men perished by famine.” : “They come sometimes in such prodigious swarms, that they darken the sky as they pass by and devour all in those parts where they settle, so that the inhabitants are often obliged to change their habitations for want of sustenance, as it has happened frequently in China and the Isle of Tajowak.” : “The lands, ravaged throughout the west, produced no harvest. The year 1780 was still more wretched. A dry winter produced a new race of locusts which ravaged what had escaped the inclemency of the season. The farmer reaped not what he had sown, and was reduced to have neither nourishment, seed, nor cattle. The people experienced all the horrors of famine. You might see them wandering over the country to devour the roots; and, seeking in the bowels of the earth for means to lengthen their days, perhaps they rather abridged them. A countless number died of misery and bad nourishment. I have seen countrymen on the roads and in the streets dead of starvation, whom others were laying across asses, to go bury them. fathers sold their children. A husband, in concert with his wife, went to marry her in some other province as if she were his sister, and went to redeem her, when better off. I have seen women and children run after the camels, seek in their dung for some grain of indigested barley and devour it with avidity.”

Yea, and nothing shall escape them - Or (which the words also include) “none shall escape him,” literally, “and also there shall be no escaping as to him or from him.” The word , being used elsewhere of the persons who escape, suggests, in itself, that we should not linger by the type of the locusts only, but think of enemies more terrible, who destroy not harvests only, but people, bodies or souls also. Yet the picture of devastation is complete. No creature of God so destroys the whole face of nature, as does the locust. A traveler in the Crimea uses unconsciously the words of the prophet; ; “On whatever spot they fall, the whole vegetable produce disappears. Nothing escapes them, from the leaves of the forest to the herbs on the plain. Fields, vineyards, gardens, pastures, everything is laid waste; and sometimes the only appearance left is a disgusting superficies caused by their putrefying bodies, the stench of which is sufficient to breed a pestilence.” Another in South Africa says , “When they make their appearance, not a single field of grain remains unconsumed by them. This year the whole of the Sneuwberg will not, I suppose, produce a single bushel.” : “They had (for a space 80 or 90 miles in length) devoured every green herb and every blade of grass; and had it not been for the reeds on which our cattle entirely subsisted while we skirted the banks of the river, the journey must have been discontinued, at least in the line that had been proposed.” : “Not a shrub nor blade of grass was visible.” The rapidity with which they complete the destruction is also observed. : “In two hours, they destroyed all the herbs around Rama.”

All this which is a strong, but true, image of the locusts is a shadow of God’s other judgments. It is often said of God, “A fire goeth before Him and burneth up His enemies on every side” Psalms 97:3. “The Lord will come with fire; by fire will the Lord plead with all flesh” Isaiah 66:15-16. This is said of the Judgment Day, as in Paul, “The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” 2 Thessalonians 1:7-8. That awful lurid stream of fire shall burn up “the earth and all the works that are therein” 2 Peter 3:10. All this whole circuit of the globe shall be enveloped in one burning deluge of fire; all gold and jewels, gardens, fields, pictures, books, “the cloud-capt towers and gorgeous palaces, shall dissolve, and leave not a rack behind.” The good shall be removed beyond its reach, for they shall be caught up to meet the Lord in the air 1 Thessalonians 4:17.

But all which is in the earth and those who are of the earth shall be swept away by it. It shall go before the army of the Lord, the Angels whom “the Son of man shall send forth, to gather out of His kingdom all things that shall offend and them that do iniquity. It shall burn after them” Matthew 13:41. For it shall burn on during the Day of Judgment until it have consumed all for which it is sent. “The land will be a garden of Eden before it.” For they will, our Lord says, be eating, drinking, buying, selling, planting, building, marrying and giving in marriage Luke 17:27-28, Luke 17:30; the world will be “glorifying itself and living deliciously,” full of riches and delights, when it “shall be utterly burned with fire,” and “in one hour so great riches shall come to nought” Revelation 18:7-8, Revelation 18:17. “And after it a desolate wilderness,” for there shall be none left. “And none shall escape.” For our Lord says, “they shall gather all things that offend; the angels shall come forth and sever the wicked from among the just, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire” Matthew 13:41, Matthew 13:49-50.

Verse 4

The appearance of them, is as the appearance of horses - “If you carefully consider the head of the locust,” says Theodoret, a Bishop in Syria, “you will find it exceedingly like that of a horse.” Whence the Arabs, of old and to this day , say; “In the locust, slight as it is, is the nature of ten of the larger animals, the face of a horse, the eyes of an elephant, the neck of abull, the horns of a deer, the chest of a lion, the belly of a scorpion, the wings of an eagle, the thighs of a camel, the feet of an ostrich, the tail of a serpent.”

Verse 5

Like the noise of chariots on the tops of the mountains shall they leap - The amazing noise of the flight of locusts is likened by those who have heard them, to all sorts of deep sharp rushing sounds. One says , “their noise may be heard six miles off.” Others , “within a hundred paces I heard the rushing noise occasioned by the flight of so many million of insects. When I was in the midst of them, it was as loud as the dashing of the waters occasioned by the mill-wheel.” : “While passing over our heads, their sound was as of a great cataract.” : “We heard a noise as of the rushing of a great wind at a distance.” : “In flying they make a rushing rustling noise, as when a strong wind blows through trees.” : “They cause a noise, like the rushing of a torrent.” To add another vivid description , “When a swarm is advancing, it seems as though brown clouds were rising from the horizon, which, as they approach, spread more and more. They cast a veil over the sun and a shadow on the earth. Soon you see little dots, and observe a whizzing and life. Nearer yet, the sun is darkened; you hear a roaring and rushing like gushing water. On a sudden you find yourself surrounded with locusts.”

Like the noise of a flame of fire that devoureth the stubble - The sharp noise caused by these myriads of insects, while feeding, has also been noticed. : “You hear afar the noise which they make in browsing on the herbs and trees, as of an army which is foraging without restraint.” : “When they alight upon the ground to feed, the plains are all covered, and they make a murmuring noise as they eat, when in two hours they devour all close to the ground.” : “The noise which they make in devouring, ever announces their approach at some distance.” : “They say, that not without a noise is their descent on the fields effected, and that there is a certain sharp sound, as they chew the grain as when the wind strongly fanneth a flame.”

Their noise, Joel says, is like the “noise of chariots.” Whence John says Revelation 9:9, the sound of their wings was as the sound of many horses rushing to battle. Their sound should be like the sound of war-chariots, hounding in their speed; but their inroad should be, where chariots could not go and man’s foot could rarely reach, “on the tops of the mountains” . A mountain range is, next to the sea, the strongest natural protection. Mountains have been a limit to the mightiest powers. The Caucasus of old held in the Persian power; on the one side, all was enslaved, on the other, all was fearlessly free . Of late it enabled a few mountaineers to hold at bay the power of Russia. The pass of Thermopylae, until betrayed, enabled a handful of men to check the invasion of nearly two million.

The mountain-ridges of Spain were, from times before our Lord, the last home and rallying-place of the conquered or the birth-place of deliverance . God had assigned to His people a spot, central hereafter for the conversion of the world, yet where, meantime, they lay enveloped and sheltered “amid the mountains” which “His Right Hand purchased” Psalms 78:54. The Syrians owned that “their God” was “the God of the hills” 1 Kings 20:23; and the people confessed, “as the hills are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about His people” Psalms 125:2. Their protection was a symbol of His. But His protection withdrawn, nothing should be a hindrance to those whom He should send as a scourge. The prophet combines purposely things incompatible, the terrible heavy bounding of the scythed chariot, and the light speed with which these countless hosts should in their flight bound over the tops of the mountains, where God had made no path for man. Countless in number, boundless in might, are the instruments of God. The strongest national defenses give no security. Where then is safety, save in fleeing from God displeased to God appeased?

Verse 6

Before their face the people shall be much pained - The locust being such a scourge of God, good reason have men to be terrified at their approach; and those are most terrified who have most felt the affliction. In Abyssinia, some province of which was desolated every year, one relates , “When the locusts travel, the people know of it a day before, not because they see them, but they see the sun yellow and the ground yellow, through the shadow which they cast on it (their wings being yellow) and immediately the people become as dead, saying, ‘we are lost, for the Ambadas (so they call them) are coming.’ I will say what I have seen three times; the first was at Barva. During three years that we were in this land, we often heard them say, ‘such a realm, such a land, is destroyed by locusts:’ and when it was so, we saw this sign, the sun was yellow, and the shadow on the earth the same, and the whole people became as dead.” “The Captain of the place called Coiberia came to me with men, Clerks, and Brothers (Monks) to ask me, for the love God, to help them, that they were all lost through the locusts.” : “There were men, women, children, sitting among these locusts, the young brood, as stupefied. I said to them ‘why do you stay there, dying? Why do you not kill these animals, and avenge you of the evil which their parents have done you? and at least when dead, they will do you no more evil.’ They answered, that they had no courage to resist a plague which God gave them for their sins. We found the roads full of men, women, and children, (some of these on foot, some in arms) their bundles of clothes on their heads, removing to some land where they might find provisions. It was pitiful to see them.”

Burkhardt relates of South Arabia , “The Bedouins who occupy the peninsula of Sinai are frequently driven to despair by the multitudes of locusts, which constitute a land-plague. They remain there generally for forty or fifty days, and then disappear for the rest of the year.” Pliny describes their approach , “they overshadow the sun, the nations looking up with anxiety, lest they should cover their lands. For their strength suffices, and as if it were too little to have passed seas, they traverse immense tracts, and overspread them with a cloud, fatal to the harvest.”

All faces shall gather blackness - Others, of high-authority, have rendered, shall “withdraw (their) beauty” . But the word signifies to collect together, in order that what is so collected should be present, not absent ; and so is very different from another saying, the stars shall withdraw their shining Joel 2:10; Joel 3:15. The “their” had also needed to be expressed.) He expresses how the faces contract a livid color from anxiety and fear, as Jeremiah says of the Nazarites, “Their visage is darker than blackness” (Lamentations 4:8, see Margin). : “The faces are clothed with lurid hue of coming death; hence they not only grow pale, but are blackened.” A slight fear drives the fresh hue from the cheek: the livid hue comes only with the deepest terror. So Isaiah says; “they look amazed one to the other; faces of flame are their faces” Isaiah 13:8.

Verse 7

They shall run like mighty men - They are on God’s message, and they linger not, “but rejoice to run their course” Psalms 19:5. “The height of walls cannot hinder the charge of the mighty; they enter not by the gates but over the walls” , as of a city taken by assault. People can mount a wall few at a time; the locusts scale much more steadily, more compactly, more determinately, and irresistibly. The picture unites the countless multitude, condensed march, and entire security of the locust with the might of warriors.

They shall march every one on his ways - There is something awful and majestic in the well-ordered flight of the winged locusts, or their march while yet unwinged. “This,” says Jerome, “we have seen lately in this province (Palestine). For when the hosts of locusts came, and filled the air between heaven and earth, they flew, by the disposal of God ordaining, in such order, as to hold each his place, like the minute pieces of mosaic, fixed in the pavement by the artist’s hands, so as not to incline to one another a hair’s breadth.” “You may see the locust,” says Theodoret, “like enemies, both mounting the walls, and marching on the roads, and not allowing itself to be dispersed by any violence, but making the assault by a sort of concert.” “It is said,” says Cyril, “that they go in rank, and fly as in array, and are not severed from each other, but attend one on the other, like sisters, nature infusing into them this mutual love.” : “They seemed to be impelled by one common instinct, and moved in one body, which had the appearance of being organized by a leader.” : “There is something frightful in the appearance of these locusts proceeding in divisions, some of which are a league in length and 200 paces in breadth.” : “They continued their journey, as if a signal had been actually given them to march.”

So, of the young brood it is related; : “In June, their young broods begin gradually to make their appearance; no sooner were any of them hatched than they immediately collected themselves together, each of them forming a compact body of several hundred yards square, which, marching afterward directly forward, climbed over trees, walls and houses, ate up every plant in their way, “and let nothing escape them.” : “They seemed to march in regular battalions, crawling over everything that lay in their passage, in one straight front.” So the judgments of God hold on their course, each going straight to that person for whom God in the awful wisdom of His justice ordains it. No one judgment or chastisement comes by chance. Each is directed and adapted, weighed and measured, by Infinite Wisdom, and reaches just that soul, for which God appointed it, and no other, and strikes upon it with just that force which God ordains it. As we look on, God’s judgments are like a heavy sleet of arrows; yet as each arrow, shot truly, found the mark at which it was aimed, so, and much more, does each lesser or greater judgment, sent by God, reach the heart for which He sends it and pierces it just as deeply as He wills.

Verse 8

When they fall upon the sword - (literally, “among the darts”) they shall not be wounded It may be that the prophet would describe how the locust seems armed as in a suit of armor. As one says , “Their form was wondrous; they had a sort of gorget round their neck like a lancer, and a helm on their head, such as soldiers wear.” But, more, he exhibits their indomitableness and impenetrableness, how nothing checks, nothing retards, nothing makes any impression upon them. : “They do not suffer themselves to be impeded by any obstacles, but fly boldly on, and are drowned in the sea when they come to it.” : “When on a march during the day, it is utterly impossible to turn the direction of a troop, which is generally with the wind.” : “The guard of the Red Town attempted to stop their irruption into Transylvania by firing at them; and indeed when the balls and shot swept through the swarm, they gave way and divided; but having filled up their ranks in a moment, they proceeded on their journey.”

And in like way of the young swarms ; “The inhabitants, to stop their progress, made trenches all over their fields and gardens and filled them with water; or else, placing in a row great quantities of heath, stubble, and such like combustible matter, they set them on fire on the approach of the locusts. But all this was to no purpose, for the trenches were quickly filled up, and the fires put out by infinite swarms, succeeding one another; while the front seemed regardless of danger, and the van pressed on so close, that a retreat was impossible.” : “Like waves, they roll over one another on and on, and let themselves be stopped by nothing. Russians and Germans try many means with more or less success against them, when they come from the waste against the grainlands. Bundles of straw are laid in rows and set on fire before them; they march in thick heaps into the fire, but this is often put out thro’ the great mass of the animals and those advancing from behind march away over the corpses of their companions, and continue the march.” : “Their number was astounding; the whole face of the mountain was black with them. On they came like a living deluge. We dug trenches, and kindled fires, and beat and burned to death heaps upon heaps, but the effort was utterly useless. wave after wave rolled up the mountain side, and poured over rocks, walls, ditches and hedges, those behind covering up and bridging over the masses already killed. After a long and fatiguing contest, I descended the mountain to examine the depth of the column, but I could not see to the end of it.” “It was perfectly appalling to watch this animated river, as it flowed up the road and ascended the hill.”

Both in ancient and modern times, armies have been marched against them ; but in vain, unless they destroyed them, before they were full-grown.

Since the very smallest of God’s judgments are thus irreversible, since creatures so small cannot be turned aside, since we cannot turn away the time of one of the least of our Master’s servants, since they are each as a “man of might”, (so he calls them, it is the force of the word rendered “each”) what of the greater? what of the whole?

Verse 9

They shall run to and fro in the city - “The city” is questionless Jerusalem. So to the Romans, “the city” meant Rome; to the Athenians, Athens; among ourselves, “town” or “the city” are idiomatic names for the whole of London or “the city of London.” In Wales “town” is, with the country people, the neighboring town with which alone they are familiar. There is no ambiguity in the living language. In Guernsey, one who should call Port Pierre by any other name than “the town,” would betray himself to be a stranger. In Hosea, and Amos, prophets for Israel, “the city” is Samaria Hosea 11:9; Amos 3:6. In Solomon Psalms 72:16; Proverbs 1:21; Proverbs 8:3 and the prophets of Judah (Micah 6:9; Lamentations 1:1, etc.; Ezekiel 7:23; Ezekiel 33:21), “the city” is Jerusalem; and that the more, because it was not only the capital, but the center of the worship of the One True God. Hence, it is called “the city of God Psalms 46:4; Psalms 48:1, Psalms 48:8; Psalms 87:3, the city of the Lord” Psalms 101:8; Isaiah 60:14, then “the city of the Great King Psalms 48:2; Matthew 5:35, the holy city” Isaiah 48:2; Isaiah 52:1; Nehemiah 11:1, Nehemiah 11:18; Daniel 9:24; and God calls it “the city I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel 1 Kings 11:32, the city of righteousness” Isaiah 1:26. So our Lord spake, “go ye into the city” Matthew 26:18; Mark 14:13; Luke 22:10, and perhaps, , “tarry ye in the city.” So do His Evangelists Matthew 21:17-18; Matthew 28:11; Mark 11:1, Mark 11:19; Luke 19:41; Acts 7:58; John 19:20), and so does Josephus .

All around corresponds with this. Joel had described their approach; they had come over “the tops of the mountains,” those which protected Jerusalem; and now he describes them scaling “the wall,” “mounting the houses,” “entering the windows,” “running to and fro in the city.” Here the description has reached its height. The city is given over to those who assault it. There remaineth nothing more, save the shaking of the heaven and the earth.

They shall enter in at the windows - So in that first great judgment, in which God employed the locust, He said, “They shall cover the face of the earth, that one cannot be able to see the earth; and they shall fill thy houses, and the houses of all thy servants, and the houses of all the Egyptians” Exodus 10:5-6. : “For nothing denies a way to the locusts, inasmuch as they penetrate fields, cornlands, trees, cities, houses, yea, the retirement of the bed-chambers.” “Not that they who are victors, have the fear which thieves have, but as thieves are accustomed to enter through windows, and plunder secretly, so shall these, if the doors be closed, to cut short delay, burst with all boldness through the windows.” : “We have seen this done, not by enemies only, but often by locusts also. For not only flying, but creeping up the walls also, they enter the houses through the openings for light.” : “a.d. 784, there came the flying locust, and wasted the corn and left its offspring; and this came forth and crawled, and scaled walls and entered houses by windows and doors; and if it entered the house on the south side, it went out on the north; together with herbs and trees it devoured also woolen clothing, and men’s dresses.”

Modern travelers relate the same. : “They entered the inmost recesses of the houses, were found in every corner, stuck to our clothes and infested our food.” : “They overwhelm the province of Nedjd sometimes to such a degree, that having destroyed the harvest, they penetrate by thousands into the private dwellings, and devour whatsoever they can find, even the leather of the water-vessels.” : “In June 1646, at Novogorod it was prodigious to behold them, because they were hatched there that spring, and being as yet scarce able to fly, the ground was all covered, and the air so full of them, that I could not eat in my chamber without a candle, all the houses being full of them, even the stables, barns, chambers, garrets, and cellars. I caused cannon-powder and sulphur to be burnt, to expel them, but all to no purpose. For when the door was opened, an infinite number came in, and the others went fluttering about; and it was a troublesome thing when a man went abroad, to be hit on the face by those creatures, on the nose, eyes, or cheeks, so that there was no opening one’s mouth, but some would get in. Yet all this was nothing, for when we were to eat, they gave us no respite; and when we went to cut a piece of meat, we cut a locust with it, and when a man opened his mouth to put in a morsel, he was sure to chew one of them.” The eastern windows, not being glazed but having at most a lattice-work , presented no obstacle to this continuous inroad. All was one stream of infesting, harassing foes.

As the windows are to the house, so are the senses and especially the sight to the soul. As the strongest walls and battlements and towers avail not to keep out an enemy, if there be an opening or chink through which he can make his way, so, in vain is the protection of God’s Providence or His Grace , if the soul leaves the senses unguarded to admit unchallenged sights, sounds, touches, which may take the soul prisoner. : “Death,” says Jeremiah, “entereth through the window” Jeremiah 9:21. Thy window is thy eye. If thou seest, to lust, death hath entered in; if thou hearest enticing words, death hath entered in: if softness gain possession of thy senses, death has made his way in.” The arrow of sin is shot through them. : “When the tongue of one introduces the virus of perdition, and the ears of others gladly drink it in, “death enters in;” while with itching ears and mouth men minister eagerly to one another the deadly draught of detraction, “death enters in at the windows.” : “Eve had not touched the forbidden tree, except she had first looked on it heedlessly. With what control must we in this dying life restrain our sight, when the mother of the living came to death through the eyes! The mind of the prophet, which had been often lifted up to see hidden mysteries, seeing heedlessly another’s wife, was darkened,” and fell. “To keep purity of heart, thou must guard the outward senses.” An enemy is easily kept out by the barred door or window, who, having entered in unawares, can only by strong effort and grace be forced out. “It is easier,” said the pagan philosopher , “to forbid the beginnings of feelings than to control their might.”

Like a thief - that is, they should come unawares, so as to take people by surprise, that there should be no guarding against them. As this is the close at this wonderful description, it may be that he would, in the end, describe the suddenness and inevitableness of God’s judgments when they do come, and of the final judgment. It is remarkable that our Lord, and His Apostles from Him adopt this image of the prophet, in speaking of the coming of the Day of Judgment and His own. “Behold I come as a thief. This know that if the goodman of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched. Be ye therefore ready also, for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not. Yourselves know perfectly that the Day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. Ye are not in darkness, that that Day should overtake you as a thief” (Revelation 16:15 (add Revelation 3:3.); Matthew 24:43-44; Luke 12:39; 1 Thessalonians 5:2; 2 Peter 3:10).

Verse 10

The earth shall quake before them - “Not,” says Jerome, “as though locusts or enemies had power to move the heavens or to shake the earth; but because, to those under trouble, for their exceeding terror, the heaven seems to fall and the earth to reel. But indeed, for the multitude of the locusts which cover the heavens, sun and moon shall be turned into darkness, and the stars shall withdraw their shining, while the cloud of locusts interrupts the light, and allows it not to reach the earth.” Yet the mention of moon and stars rather suggests that something more is meant than the locusts, who, not flying by night except when they cross the sea, do not obscure either. Rather, as the next verse speaks of God’s immediate, sensible, presence, this verse seems to pass from the image of the locusts to the full reality, and to say that heaven and earth should shake at the judgments of God, before He appeareth. Our Lord gives the same description of the forerunners of the Day of Judgment; “there shall be signs in the sun and in the moon and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring, people’s hearts failing them for fear and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of heaven shall be shaken” Luke 21:25-26.

Verse 11

And the Lord shall utter His voice - The prophet had described at length the coming of God’s judgments, as a mighty army. But lest amid the judgments, people should, (as they often do) forget the Judge, he represents God, as commanding this His army, gathering, ordering, marshalling, directing them, giving them the word, when and upon whom they should pour themselves. Their presence was a token of His. They should neither anticipate that command, nor linger. But as an army awaits the command to move, and then, the word being given, rolls on instantly, so God’s judgments await the precise moment of His Will, and then fall. “The voice of the Lord” is elsewhere used for the thunder; because in it He seems to speak in majesty and terror to the guilty soul. But here the voice refers, not to us, but to the army, which He is imaged as marshalling; as Isaiah, referring perhaps to this place, says “The Lord of hosts mustereth the host of the battle” Isaiah 13:4.

God had spoken, and His people had not obeyed; now He speaks not to them anymore, but to their enemies. He calls the Medes and Persians, “My sanctified ones, My mighty ones” Isaiah 13:3, when they were to exercise His judgments on Babylon; and our Lord calls the Romans His armies. “He sent forth His armies and destroyed those murderers and burned up their city” Matthew 22:7. Then follow as threefold ground of terror. “For His camp is very great.” All the instruments wherewith God punishes sin, are pictured as His one camp, each going, as He commands, “Who bringeth forth the host of heaven by number: He calleth them all by names, by the greatness of His might, for that He is strong in power; not one faileth” Isaiah 40:26. For he is “strong, that executeth His word,” or, “for” it (His camp) is “strong, executing His word.” Weak though His instruments be in themselves, they are mighty when they do His commands, for He empowers them, as Paul saith, “I can do all things through Christ instrengthening me” Philippians 4:13. “For the Day of the Lord is great,” great, on account of the great things done in it. As those are called evil days, “an evil time,” in which evil comes; as it is called “an acceptable time;” in which we may be accepted; so the Day of God’s judgment is “great and very terrible,” on account of the great and terrible acts of His justice done in it. who can abide it? The answer is implied in the question. “No one, unless God enable him.”

This is the close of the threatened woe. The close, so much beyond any passing scourge of any created destroyer, locusts or armies, suggests the more what has been said already, that the prophet is speaking of the whole aggregate of God’s judgments unto the Day of Judgment.

: “The Lord saith, that He will send an Angel with the sound of a trumpet, and the Apostle declares that the resurrection of the dead shall take place amid the sound of a trumpet. In the Revelation of John too, we read that the seven Angels received seven trumpets, and as they sounded in order, that was done which Scripture describes. The priests and teachers accordingly are here bidden to lift up their voice like a trumpet in Zion, that is, the Church, that so all the inhabitants of the earth may be troubled or confounded, and this confusion may draw them to Salvation. “By the Day of the Lord,” understand the Day of judgment, or the day when each departeth out of the body. For what will be to all in the Day of judgment, this is fulfilled in each in the day of death. It is a “day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness,” because everything will be full of punishment and torment.

The great and strong people of the angels will come, to render to each according to his works; and as the rising morn first seizes the mountains, so judgment shall begin with the great and mighty, so that “mighty men shall be mightily tormented” (Wisd. 6:6). “There hath not been ever the like, neither shall be any more after it.” For all evils, contained in ancient histories and which have happened to people, by inundation of the sea, or overflow of rivers, or by pestilence, disease, famines wild beasts, ravages of enemies, cannot be compared to the Day of judgment. “A fire devoureth, or consumeth before” this people, to consume in us “hay, wood, stubble.” Whence it is said of God, “thy God is a consuming fire” Deuteronomy 4:24. And “after” him “a flame burneth,” so as to leave nothing unpunished. whomsoever this people toucheth not, nor findeth in him what is to be burned, shall be likened to the garden of God, and the paradise of pleasure, i. e., of Eden. If it burn any, it will reduce this (as it were) wilderness to dust and ashes, nor can any escape its fury.

For they shall run to and fro to torture those over whom they shall receive power, like horsemen flying hither and thither. Their sound shall be terrible, as “chariots” hurrying along level places, and upon the tops of the mountains they shall leap,” longing to torment all who are lofty and set on high in the Church. And since “before them there is a devouring fire,” they will destroy everything, “as the fire devoureth the stubble.” They shall come to punish, “as a strong people in battle array.” Such will be the fear, of all, such the conscience of sinners, that none shall shine or have any brightness of joy, but his face shall be turned into darkness. They shall not turn aside, in fulfilling the office enjoined them, but each shall carry on the punishments on sinners entrusted to him. At the presence of that people, “the earth shall quake and the heavens tremble. For heaven and earth shall pass away, but the word of the Lord shall endure forever.” The sun and moon also shall not endure to see the punishments of the miserable, and shall remove and, for bright light, shall be shrouded in terrible darkness. “The stars also shall withdraw their shining,” in that the holy also shall not without fear behold the presence of the Lord. Amid all this, “The Lord shall utter His voice” before His army. For as the Babylonians, in punishing Jerusalem, are called the army of God, so the evil angels (of whom it is written, “He cast upon them the fierceness of His anger, wrath, and indignation, and trouble, by sending evil angels among them” Psalms 78:49) are called the army of God and His camp, in that they do the Will of God.”

The Day of the Lord, is great and terrible - Of which it is written, elsewhere, “to what end do ye desire the Day of the Lord? it is darkness and not light and very terrible” (from Amos 5:18), and few or none can abide it, but will furnish some ground of severity against himself.

Verse 12

Therefore - (And) now also All this being so, one way of escape there is, true repentance. As if God said , “All this I have therefore spoken, in order to terrify you by My threats. Wherefore “turn unto Me with all your hearts,” and show the penitence of your minds “by fasting and weeping and mourning,” that, fasting now, ye may “be filled” hereafter “weeping now,” ye may laugh hereafter; mourning now, ye may hereafter “be comforted” Luke 6:21; Matthew 5:4. And since it is your custom “to rend your garments” in sorrow, I command you to rend, not them but your hearts which are full of sin, which, like bladders, unless they be opened, will burst of themselves. And when ye have done this, return unto the Lord your God, whom your former sins aleinated from you; and despair not of pardon for the greatness of your guilt, for mighty mercy will blot out mighty sins.”

: “The strict Judge cannot be overcome, for He is Omnipotent; cannot be deceived, for He is Wisdom; cannot be corrupted, for He is justice; cannot be sustained, for He is Eternal; cannot be avoided, for He is everywhere. Yet He can be entreated, because He is mercy; He can be appeased, because He is Goodness; He can cleanse, because He is the Fountain of grace; He can satisfy, because He is the Bread of life; He can soothe, because He is the Unction from above; He can beautify, because He is Fullness; He can beatify because He is Bliss. Turned from Him, then, and fearing His justice, turn ye to Him, and flee to His mercy. Flee from Himself to Himself, from the rigor of justice to the Bosom of mercy. The Lord who is to be feared saith it. He who is Truth enjoins what is just, profitable, good, “turn ye to Me,” etc.”

Turn ye - even “to Me,” i. e., so as to return “quite to” (see the note at Hosea 14:2) God, not halting, not turning half way, not in some things only, but from all the lusts and pleasures to which they had turned from God. : “Turn quite to Me,” He saith, “with all your heart,” with your whole mind, whole soul, whole spirit, whole affections. For I am the Creator and Lord of the heart and mind, and therefore will, that that whole should be given, yea, given back, to Me, and endure not that any part of it be secretly stolen from Me to be given to idols, lusts or appetites.” “It often happens with some people,” says Gregory , “that they stoutly gird themselves up to encounter mine vices, but neglect to overcome others, and while they never rouse themselves up against these, they are re-establishing against themselves, even those which they had subdued.”

Others, “in resolve, aim at right courses, but are ever doubling back to their wonted evil ones, and being, as it were, drawn out without themselves, they return back to themselves in a round, desiring good ways, but never forsaking evil ways.” In contrast to these half conversions, he bids us turn to God with our whole inmost soul, so that all our affections should be fixed on God, and all within us, by a strong union, cleave to Him, for “in whatever degree our affections are scattered among created things, so far is the conversion of the heart to God impaired.” “Look diligently,” says Bernard , “what thou lovest, what thou fearest, wherein thou rejoicest or art saddened, and under the rags of conversion thou wilt find a heart pervered. The whole heart is in these four affections; and of these I think we must understand that saying, “turn to” the Lord “with all thy heart.”

Let then thy love be converted to Him, so that thou love nothing whatever save Himself, or at least for Him. Let thy fear also be converted unto Him, for all fear is perverted, whereby thou fearest anything besides Him or not for Him. So too let thy joy and sorrow equally be converted unto Him. This will be, if thou only grieve or joy according to Him.” : “There is a conversion with the whole heart, and another with a part. The conversion with the whole heart God seeketh, for it suffices to salvation. That which is partial he rejecteth, for it is feigned and far from salvation. In the heart, there are three powers, reason, will, memory; reason, of things future; will, of things present; memory, of things past. For reason seeks things to come; the will loves things present; memory retains things past. Reason illumines; will loves; memory retains. When then the reason seeks that Highest Good and finds, the will receives and loves, the memory anxiously keeps and closely embraces, then the soul turns with the whole heart to God. But when the reason slumbers and neglects to seek heavenly things, or the will is tepid and cares not to love them, or the memory is torpid and is careless to retain them, then the soul acts false, falling first into the vice of ignorance, secondly into the guilt of negligence, thirdly into the sin of malice.

In each, the soul acts false; else ignorance would be expelled by the light of reason, and negligence be excluded by zeal of will, and malice be quenched by diligence of memory (of divine things). Reason then seeking begetteth knowledge; will embracing produceth love; memory holding fast, edification. The first produceth the light of knowledge, the second, the love of righteousness; the third preserveth the treasure of grace. This is that conversion of heart, which God requireth; this is that, which sufficeth to salvation.”

And with fasting - o: “In their returning to Him, it is required in the first place, that it be with the heart in the inward man, yet so that the outward man is not left unconcerned, but hath his part also, in performance of such things whereby he may express, how the inward man is really affected; and so by the concurrence of both is true conversion made up. “With fasting,” which shall make for the humbling of the heart, which pampering of the flesh is apt to puff up and make insensible of its own condition, and forgetful of God and His service, as Jeshurun who, being “waxed fat, kicked, and forsook the God which made him and lightly esteemed the God of his salvation Deuteronomy 32:15. To waiting then on God’s service and prayer, it is usually joined in Scripture, as almost a necessary accompaniment, called for by God, and by holy men practiced.”

And with weeping and with mourning - that is, by “beating” on the breast, (as the word originally denoted,) “as the publican smote upon his breast” Luke 18:13, and “all the people that came together to that sight” (of Jesus on the Cross), “beholding the things which were done, smote their breasts” Luke 23:48. : “These also, in themselves signs of grief, stir up in the heart more grief, and so have their effects on the person himself, for the increase of his repentance, as well as for shewing it.” It also stirs up in others like passions, and provokes them also to repentance.” : “These things, done purely and holily, are not conversion itself, but are excellent signs of conversion.” : “We ought “to turn in fasting,” whereby vices are repressed, and the mind is raised. We ought to “turn in weeping,” out of longing for our home, out of displeasure at our faults, out of love to the sufferings of Christ, and for the manifold transgressions and errors of the world.” “What avails it,” says Gregory , “to confess iniquities, if the affliction of penitence follow not the confession of the lips? For three things are to be considered in every true penitent, conversion of the mind, confession of the mouth, and revenge for the sin. This third sort is as a necessary medicine, that so the imposthume of guilt, pricked by confession, be purified by conversion, and healed by the medicine of affliction. The sign of true conversion is not in the confession of the mouth, but in the affliction of penitence. For then do we see that a sinner is well converted, when by a worthy austerity of affliction he strives to efface what in speech he confesses. Wherefore John Baptist, rebuking the ill-converted Jews who flock to him says, “O generation of vipers - bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance.”

Verse 13

And rend your hearts and not your garments - that is, “not your garments only” (see the note at Hosea 6:6). The rending of the clothes was an expression of extraordinary uncontrollable emotion, chiefly of grief, of terror, or of horror. At least, in Holy Scripture it is not mentioned as a part of ordinary mourning, but only upon some sudden overpowering grief, whether public or private . It was not used on occasion of death, unless there were something very grievous about its circumstances. At times it was used as an outward expression, one of deep grief, as when the leper was commanded to keep his clothes rent Leviticus 13:45, or when David, to express his abhorrence at the murder of Abner, commanded “all the people with him, rend your clothes;” Ahab used it, with fasting and haircloth, on God’s sentence by Elijah and obtained a mitigation of the temporal punishment of his sin; Jeremiah marvels that neither “the king,” Jehoiakim, “nor any of his servants, rent their garments” Jeremiah 36:24, on reading the roll containing the woes which God had by him pronounced against Judah. The holy garments of the priests were on no occasion to be rent Leviticus 10:6; Leviticus 21:10; (probably because the wholeness was a symbol of perfection, from where care was to be taken that the ephod should not accidentally be torn Exodus 28:32; Exodus 39:23) so that the act of Caiaphas was the greater hypocrisy Matthew 26:65; Mark 14:63.

He used it probably to impress his own blasphemous accusation on the people, as for a good end, the Apostles Paul and Barnabas rent their Acts 14:14 clothes, when they heard that, after the cure of the impotent man, the priest of Jupiter with the people would have done sacrifice unto them. Since then apostles used this act, Joel plainly doth not forbid the use of such outward behavior, by which their repentance might be expressed, but only requires that it be done not in outward show only, but accompanied with the inward affections. : “The Jews are bidden then to rend their hearts rather than their garments, and to set the truth of repentance in what is inward, rather than in what is outward.” But since the rending of the garments was the outward sign of very vehement grief, it was no commonplace superficial sorrow, which the prophet enjoined, but one which should pierce and rend the inmost soul, and empty it of its sins and its love for sin. : Any very grieving thing is said to cut one’s heart, to “cut him to the heart.”

A truly penitent heart is called a “broken and a contrite heart.” Such a penitent rends and “rips up by a narrow search the recesses of the heart, to discover the abominations thereof,” and pours out before God “the diseased and perilous stuff” pent up and festering there, “expels the evil thoughts lodged in it, and opens it in all things to the reception of divine grace. This rending is no other than the spiritual circumcision to which Moses exhorts. Whence of the Jews, not thus rent in heart, it is written in Jeremiah, ‘All the nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in heart’ Jeremiah 9:26. This rending then is the casting out of the sins and passions.”

And turn unto the Lord your God - God owns Himself as still their God, although they had turned and were gone from Him in sin and were alienated from Him. To Him, the true, Unchangeable God, if they returned, they would find Him still “their God.” “Return, ye backsliding children, I will heal your backsliding,” God saith by Jeremiah; “Behold, Israel answers, we come unto Thee, for Thou art the Lord our God” Jeremiah 3:22.

For He is very gracious and very merciful - Both these words are intensive. All the words, “very gracious, very merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness,” are the same and in the same order as in that revelation to Moses, when, on the renewal of the two tables of the law, “the Lord descended in the cloud and proclaimed the name of the Lord” Exodus 34:5-6). The words are frequently repeated, showing how deeply that revelation sunk in the pious minds of Israel. They are, in part, pleaded to God by Moses himself Numbers 14:18; David, at one time, pleaded them all to God Psa 85:1-13 :15; elsewhere he repeats them of God, as in this place Psalms 103:8; Psalms 145:8. Nehemiah, in praising God for His forgiving mercies, prefixes the title, “God of pardons” Nehemiah 9:17, and adds, “and Thou forsakedst them not;” as Joel, for the special object here, adds, “and repenteth Him of the evil.” A Psalmist, and Hezekiah in his message to Isaiah, and Nehemiah in the course of that same prayer, repeat the two words of intense mercy, “very gracious and very merciful” Psalms 111:4; 2 Chronicles 30:9; Nehemiah 9:31, which are used of God only, except once by that same Psalmist Psalms 112:4, with the express object of showing how the good man conformeth himself to God. The word “very gracious” expresses God’s free love, whereby He sheweth Himself good to us; “very merciful” expresses the tender yearning of His love over our miseries (see the note at Hosea 2:19); “great kindness,” expresses God’s tender love, as love.

He first says, that God is “slow to anger” or “long-suffering,” enduring long the wickedness and rebellion of man, and waiting patiently for the conversion and repentance of sinners. Then he adds, that God is “abundant in kindness,” having manifold resources and expedients of His tender love, whereby to win them to repentance. Lastly He is “repentant of the evil.” The evil which lie foretells, and at last inflicts, is (so to speak) against His Will, “Who willeth not that any should perish,” and, therefore, on the first tokens of repentance “He repenteth Him of the evil,” and doeth it not.

The words rendered, “of great kindness,” are better rendered elsewhere, “abundant, plenteous in goodness, mercy” Exodus 34:6; Psalms 86:15; Psalms 103:8. Although the mercy of God is in itself one and simple, yet it is called abundant on account of its divers effects. For God knoweth how in a thousand ways to succor His own. Whence the Psalmist prays, “According to the multitude of Thy mercies, turn Thou unto me” Psalms 25:7, Psalms 25:16. “According to the multitude of Thy tender mercies, do away mine offences” Psalms 51:1.

Verse 14

Who knoweth if He will return - God has promised forgiveness of sins and of eternal punishment to those who turn to Him with their whole heart. Of this, then, there could be no doubt. But He has not promised either to individuals or to Churches, that He will remit the temporal punishment which He had threatened. He forgave David the sin. Nathan says, “The Lord also hath put away thy sin.” But he said at the same time, “the sword shall never depart from thy house 2 Samuel 12:13, 2 Samuel 12:10; and the temporal punishment of his sin pursued him, even on the bed of death. David thought that the temporal punishment of his sin, in the death of the child, might be remitted to him. He used the same form of words as Joel, “I said, who can tell whether God will be gracious unto me, that the child may live?” 2 Samuel 12:22. But the child died. The king of Nineveh used the like words, “Who can tell if God will return and repent and turn away from His fierce anger, that we perish not?” Jonah 3:9.

And he was heard. God retained or remitted the temporal punishment, as He saw good for each. This of the prophet Joel is of a mixed character. The “blessing” which they crave, he explains to be “the meat offering and the drink offering,” which had been “cut off or withholden” from the house of their God. For “if He gave them wherewith to serve Him,” after withdrawing it, it was clear that “He would accept of them and be pleased with their service.” Yet this does not imply that He would restore all to them. A Jewish writer notes that after the captivity, “the service of sacrifices alone returned to them,” but that “prophecy, (soon after), the ark, the Urim and Thummim, and the other things (the fire from heaven) were missing there.” As a pattern, however, to all times, God teaches them to ask first what belongs to His kingdom and His righteousness, and to leave the rest to Him. So long as the means of serving Him were left, there was hope of all. Where the sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ (whereof “the meat offering and the drink offering” were symbols) remains, there are “the pledges of His love,” the earnest of all other blessing.

He says, “leave a blessing behind Him,” speaking of God as one estranged, who had been long absent and who returns, giving tokens of His forgiveness and renewed good-pleasure. God often visits the penitent soul and, by some sweetness with which the soul is bathed, leaves a token of His renewed presence. God is said to repent, not as though He varied in Himself, but because He deals variously with us, as we receive His inspirations and follow His drawings, or no.

Verse 15

Before, he had, in these same words Joel 2:1; Joel 1:14, called to repentance, because the Day of the Lord was coming, was near, “a day of darkness,” etc. Now , because God is “gracious and merciful, slow to anger and plenteous in goodness,” he agains exhorts, “Blow ye the trumpet;” only the call is more detailed, that every sex and age should form one band of suppliants to the mercy of God. : “Most full abolition of sins is then obtained, when one prayer and one confession issueth from the whole Church. For since the Lord promiseth to the pious agreement of two or three, that He will grant whatever is so asked, what shall be denied to a people of many thousands, fulfilling together one observance, and supplicating in harmony through One Spirit?” “We come together,” says Tertullian of Christian worship, “in a meeting and congregation as before God, as though we would in one body sue Him by our prayers. This violence is pleasing to God.”

Verse 16

Sanctify the congregation - o: “Do what in you lies, by monishing, exhorting, threatening, giving the example of a holy life, that the whole people present itself holy before its God” , “lest your prayers be hindered, and a little leaven corrupt the whole lump.”

Assemble the elders - o: “The judgment concerned all; all then were to join in seeking mercy from God. None were on any pretence to be exempted; not the oldest, whose strength was decayed, or the youngest, who might seem not yet of strength.” The old also are commonly freer from sin and more given to prayer.

Gather the children - o: “He Who feedeth the young ravens when they cry, will not neglect the cry of poor children. He assigns as a reason, why it were fitting to spare Nineveh, the “six-score thousand persons that could not discern between their right hand and their left” Jonah 4:11. The sight of them who were involved in their parents’ punishment could not but move the parents to greater earnestness. So when Moab and Ammon 2 Chronicles 20:1-4, 2 Chronicles 20:13, a great multitude, came against Jehoshaphat, he proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah, and Judah gathered themselves together to ask help of the Lord; even out of all the cities of Judah, they came to seek the Lord. And all Judah was standing before the Lord, their little ones also, their wives, and their children.” So it is described in the book of Judith, how “with great vehemency did they humble their souls, both they and their wives and their children - and every man and woman and the little children - fell before the temple, and cast ashes upon their heads and spread out their sackcloth before the Face of the Lord” (Judith 4:9-11).

Let the bridegroom go forth - He says not even, the married, or the newly married, he who had taken a new wife, but he uses the special terms of the marriage-day, “bridegroom” and “bride.” The new-married man was, during a year, exempted from going out to war, or from any duties which might “press upon him” Deuteronomy 24:5. But nothing was to free from this common affliction of sorrow. Even the just newly married, although it were the very day of the bridal, were to leave the marriage-chamber and join in the common austerity of repentance. It was mockery of God to spend in delights time consecrated by Him to sorrow. He says, “In that day did the Lord God of hosts call to weeping, and to mourning, and to baldness, and to girding with sackcloth. And behold joy and gladness - surely this iniquity shall not be purged from you until ye die, saith the Lord God of Hosts” Isaiah 22:12-14. Whence, in times of fasting or prayer, the Apostle suggests the giving up of pure pleasures, “that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer” 1 Corinthians 7:5.

: “He then who, by chastisement in food and by fasting and alms, says that he is doing acts of repentance, in vain doth he promise this in words, unless he “go forth out of his chamber” and fulfill a holy and pure fast by a chaste penitence.”

Verse 17

Let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep between the porch and the altar - The porch in this, Solomon’s temple, was in fact a tower, in front of the holy of holies, of the same breadth with the temple, namely, 20 cubits, and its depth half its breadth, namely, 10 cubits 1 Kings 6:3, and its height 120 cubits, the whole “overlaid within with pure gold” 2 Chronicles 3:4. The brass altar for burnt-offerings stood in front of it 2 Chronicles 8:12. The altar was of brass, twenty cubits square; and so, equal in breadth to the temple itself, and ten cubits high 2 Chronicles 4:1. The space then between the porch and the altar was enclosed on those two sides 2 Chronicles 7:7; it became an inner part of the court of the priests. Through it the priests or the high priest passed, whenever they went to sprinkle the blood, typifying the atonement, before the veil of the tabernacle, or for any other office of the tabernacle. It seems to have been a place of prayer for the priests. It is spoken of as an aggravation of the sins of those 25 idolatrous priests, that here, where they ought to worship God, they turned their backs toward the Temple of the Lord, to worship the sun Ezekiel 8:16. Here, in the exercise of his office, Zechariah was standing 2 Chronicles 24:20-21; Matthew 23:35, when the Spirit of God came upon him and he rebuked the people and they stoned him. Here the priests, with their faces toward the holy of holies and the temple which He had filled with His Glory, were to weep. Tears are a gift of God. In holier times, so did the priests weep at the holy eucharist in thought of the Passion and Precious Death of our Lord Jesus, which we then plead to God, that they bore with them, as part of their dress, linen wherewith to dry their tears .

And let them say - A form of prayer is provided for them. From this the words, “spare us good Lord, spare thy people,” enter into the litanies of the Christian Church.

And give not thine heritage to reproach - The enmity of the pagan against the Jews was an enmity against God. God had avouched them as His people and His property. Their land was an heritage from God. God, in that He had separated them from the pagan, and revealed Himself to them, had made them His special heritage. Moses Exodus 32:12; Numbers 14:13-16; Deuteronomy 9:28, Deuteronomy 9:9, then Joshua Joshua 7:9, the Psalmists Psalms 74:0; Psalms 79:1-13; Psalms 115:0, plead with God, that His own power or will to save His people would be called in question, if he should destroy them, or give them up. God, on the other hand, tells them, that not for any deserts of theirs, but for His own Name’s sake, He delivered them, lest the Pagan should be the more confirmed in their errors as to Himself Ezekiel 20:5; Ezekiel 36:21-23. It is part of true penitence to plead to God to pardon us, not for anything in ourselves, (for we have nothing of our own but our sins) but because we are the work of His hands, created in His image, the prince of the Blood of Jesus, called by His Name.

That the pagan should rule over them - This, and not the rendering in the margin, use a byword against them, is the uniform meaning of the Hebrew phrase. It is not to be supposed that the prophet Joel would use it in a sense contrary to the uniform usage of all the writers before him. Nor is there any instance of any other usage of the idiom in any later writer . “The enigma which was closed,” says Jerome, “is now opened. For who that people is, manifold and strong, described above under the name of the “palmerworm, the locust, the canker-worm” and “the catterpillar,” is now explained more clearly, “lest the pagan rule over them.” For the heritage of the Lord is given to reproach, when they serve their enemies, and the nations say, “Where is their God,” whom they boasted to be their Sovereign and their Protector?” Such is the reproach ever made against God’s people, when He does not visibly protect them, which the Psalmist says was as a sword in his bones (Psalms 42:3, Psalms 42:10; add Psalms 79:10; Psalms 115:2 : Micah 7:16); his tears were his meat day and night while they said it. The Chief priests and scribes and elders fulfilled a prophecy by venturing so to blaspheme our Lord, “He trusted in God; let Him, deliver Him now, if He will have Him” (Matthew 27:43, from Psalms 22:8).

Verse 18

Then will the Lord be jealous for His land - Upon repentance, all is changed. Before, God seemed set upon their destruction. It was His great army which was ready to destroy them; He was at its head, giving the word. Now He is full of tender love for them, which resents injury done to them, as done to Himself. The word might more strictly perhaps be rendered, “And the Lord is jealous” . He would show how instantaneous the mercy and love of God for His people is, restrained while they are impenitent, flowing forth upon the first tokens of repentance. The word, “jealous for,” when used of God, jealous for My holy Name Ezekiel 39:25, jealous for Jerusalem, Zechariah 1:14; Zechariah 8:2, is used, when God resents evil which had been actually inflicted.

Verse 19

I will send you corn ... - This is the beginning of the reversal of the threatened judgments. It is clear from this, and still more from what follows, that the chastisements actually came, so that the repentance described, was the consequence, not of the exhortations to repentance, but of the chastisement. What was removed was the chastisement which had burst upon them, not when it was ready to burst. What was given, was what before had been taken away. So it ever was with the Jews; so it is mostly with the portions of the Christian Church or with individuals now. Seldom do they take warning of coming woe; when it has begun to burst, or has burst, then they repent and God gives them back upon repentance what He had withdrawn or a portion of it. So the prophet seems here to exhibit to us a law and a course of God’s judgments and mercies upon man’s sin. He takes away both temporal and spiritual blessings symbolized here by the grain and wine and oil; upon repentance He restores them. : “Over and against the wasting of the land, he sets its richness; against hunger, fullness; against reproach, unperiled glory; against the cruelty and incursion of enemies, their destruction and putrefaction; against barrenness of fruits and aridity of trees, their fresh shoots and richness; against the hunger of the word and thirst for doctrine, he brings in the fountain of life, and the Teacher of righteousness; against sadness, joy; against confusion, solace; against reproaches, glory; against death, life; against ashes, a crown.”

O fruitful and manly penitence! O noble maiden, most faithful intercessor for sins! A plank after shipwreck! Refuge of the poor, help of the miserable, hope of exiles, cherisher of the weak, light of the blind, solace of the fatherless, scourge of the petulant, axe of vices, garner of virtues. Thou who alone bindest the Judge, pleadest with the Creator, conquerest the Almighty. While overcome, thou overcomest; while tortured, thou torturest; while wounding, thou healest; while healthfully succumbing, thou triumphest gloriously. Thou alone, while others keep silence, mountest boldly the throne of grace. David thou leadest by the hand and reconcilest; Peter thou restorest; Paul thou enlightenest; the Publican, taken from the receipt of custom, thou boldly insertest in the choir of the Apostles; Mary, from a harlot, thou bearest aloft and joinest to Christ; the robber nailed to the cross, yet fresh from blood, thou introducest into Paradise. What more? At thy disposal is the court of heaven.”

And I will no more make you a reproach - All the promises of God are conditional. They presuppose man’s faithfulness. God’s pardon is complete. He will not, He says, for these offences, or for any like offences, give them over to the pagan. So after the captivity He no more made them a reproach unto the pagan, until they finally apostatized, and leaving their Redeemer, owned no king but Caesar. They first gave themselves up; they chose Caesar rather than Christ, and to be servants of Caesar, rather than that He should not be crucified; and so God left them in his hands, whom they had chosen.

Verse 20

And I will remove far off from you the northern army - God speaks of the human agent under the figure of the locusts, which perish in the sea; yet so as to show at once, that He did not intend the locust itself, nor to describe the mode in which He should overthrow the human oppressor. He is not speaking of the locust itself, for the Northern is no name for the locust which infested Palestine, since it came from the south; nor would the destruction of the locust be in two opposite seas, since they are uniformly driven by the wind into the sea, upon whose waves they alight and perish, but the wind would not carry them into two opposite seas; nor would the locust perish in a “barren and desolate” land, but would fly further; nor would it be said of the locust that he was destroyed, Because he had done great things . But He represents to us, how this enemy should be driven quite out of the bounds of His people, so that he should not vex them more, but perish.

The imagery is from the holy land. The “East sea” is the Dead Sea, once the fertile “vale of Siddim” Genesis 14:3, , “in which sea were formerly Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboim, until God overthrew them.” This, in the Pentateuch, is called “the salt sea” Genesis 14:3; Numbers 34:3, Numbers 34:12, or “the sea of the plain,” or “desert” (Deuteronomy 3:17; Deuteronomy 4:49; Joshua 3:16; Joshua 12:3; Joshua 15:25; Joshua 18:19; also in 2 Kings 14:25), explained in Deuteronomy and Joshua to be “the salt sea” Deuteronomy 3:0; Joshua 3:0; Joshua 12:0; Ezekiel calls it “the East sea” Ezekiel 47:18, and in Numbers it is said of it, “your south border shall be the salt sea eastward” Numbers 34:3. The utmost, or rather, the “hinder sea” Deuteronomy 11:24; Deuteronomy 34:2 (i. e., that which is behind one who is looking toward the east whose Hebrew name is from “fronting” you) is the Mediterranean, “on whose shores are Gaza and Ascalon, Azotus and Joppa and Caesarea.” The “land barren and desolate,” lying between, is the desert of Arabia, the southern boundary of the holy land.

The picture then seems to be, that the “Northern” foes filled the whole of Judaea, in numbers like the locust, and that God drove them violently forth, all along the bounds of the holy land, into the desert, the Dead Sea, the Mediterranean. Jerome relates a mercy of God in his own time which illustrates the image; but he writes so much in the language of Holy Scripture, that perhaps he only means that the locusts were driven into the sea, not into both seas. “In our times too we have seen hosts of locusts cover Judaea, which afterward, by the mercy of the Lord, when the priests and people, ‘between the porch and the altar,’ i. e., between the place of the Cross and the Resurrection prayed the Lord and said, ‘spare Thy people,’ a wind arising, were carried headlong ‘into the Eastern sea, and the utmost sea.’” Alvarez relates how, priests and people joining in litanies to God, He delivered them from an exceeding plague of locusts, which covered 24 English miles, as He delivered Egypt of old at the prayer of Moses . “When we knew of this plague being so near, most of the clerks of the place came to me, that I should tell them some remedy against it. I answered them, that I knew of no remedy except to commend themselves to God and to pray Him to drive the plague out of the land. I went to the Embassador and told him that to me it seemed good that we should make a procession with the people of the land and that it might please our Lord God to hear us; it seemed good to the Embassador; and, in the morning of the next day, we collected the people of the place and all the Clergy; and we took our altar-stone, and those of the place theirs, and our Cross and theirs, singing our litany, we went forth from the Church, all the Portuguese and the greater part of the people of the place. I said to them that they should not keep silence, but should, as we, cry aloud saying in their tongue Zio marinos, i. e., in our’s, Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on us.

And with this cry and litany, we went through an open wheat-country for the space of one third of a league. It pleased our Lord to hear the sinners, and while we were turning to the place, because their (the locusts’) road was toward the sea whence they had come, there were so many after us, that it seemed no otherwise than that they sought to break our ribs and heads with blows of stones, such were the blows they dealt us. At this time a great thunderstorm arose from toward the sea, which came in their face with rain and hail, which lasted three good hours; the river and brooks filled greatly; and when they had ceased to drive, it was matter of amazement, that the dead locusts on the bank of the great river measured two cubits high; and so for the rivulets, there was a great multitude of dead on their banks. On the next day in the morning there was not in the whole land even one live locust.”

And his stink shall come up - The image is still from the locust. It, being such a fearful scourge of God, every individual full of activity and life repeated countlessly in the innumerable host, is, at God’s will and in His time, cast by His word into the sea, and when thrown up by the waves on the shore, becomes in a few hours one undistinguishable, putrefying, heaving mass. Such does human malice and ambition and pride become, as soon as God casts aside the sinful instrument of His chastisement. Just now, a world to conquer could not satisfy it; superior to man, independent, it deems, of God. He takes away its breath, it is a putrid carcass. Such was Sennacherib’s army; in the evening inspiring terror; “before the morning, he is not” Isaiah 17:14. “They were all dead corpses.” Isaiah 37:36.

The likeness stops here. For the punishment is at an end. The wicked and the persecutors of God’s people are cut off; the severance has taken place. On the one side, there is the putrefying mass; on the other, the jubilee of thanksgiving. The gulf is fixed between them. The offensive smell of the corruption ascends; as Isaiah closes his prophecy, “the carcases” of the wicked, the perpetual prey of the “worm and the fire, shall be an abhorring to all flesh.” The righteous behold it, but it reaches them not, to hurt them. In actual life, the putrid exhalations at times have, among those on the sea-shore, produced a pestilence, a second visitation of God, more destructive than the first. This, however, has been but seldom. Yet what must have been the mass of decay of creatures so slight, which could produce a wide-wasting pestilence! What an image of the numbers of those who perish, and of the fetidness of sin! Augustine, in answer to the pagan who imputed all the calamities of the later Roman Empire to the displeasure of the gods, because the world had become Christian, says , “They themselves have recorded that the multitude of locusts was, even in Africa, a sort of prodigy, while it was a Roman province. They say that, after the locusts had consumed the fruits and leaves of trees, they were cast into the sea, in a vast incalculable cloud, which having died and being cast back on the shores, and the air being infected thereby, such a pestilence arose, that in the realm of Masinissa alone 800,000 men perished, and manymore in the lands on the coasts. Then at Utica, out of 30,000 men in the prime of life who were there, they assert that 10 only remained.”

Jerome says of the locusts of Palestine ; “when the shores of both seas were filled with heaps of dead locusts which the waters had cast up, their stench and putrefaction was so noxious as to corrupt the air, so that a pestilence was produced among both beasts and men.” Modern writers say , “The locusts not only produce a famine, but in districts near the sea where they had been drowned, they have occasioned a pestilence from the putrid effluvia of the immense numbers blown upon the coast or thrown up by the tides.” : “We observed, in May and June, a number of these insects coming from the south directing their course to the northern shore; they darken the sky like a thick cloud, but scarcely have they quitted the shore before they who, a moment before, ravaged and ruined the country, cover the surface of the sea with their dead bodies, to the great distress of the Franks near the harbor, on account of the stench from such a number of dead insects, driven by the winds close to the very houses.” : “All the full-grown insects were driven into the sea by a tempestuous northwest wind, and were afterward cast upon the beach, where, it is said, they formed a bank of 3 or 4 feet high, extending - a distance of near 50 English miles. It is asserted that when this mass became putrid and the wind was southeast the stench was sensibly felt in several parts of Sneuwberg. The column passed the houses of two of our party, who asserted that it continued without any interruption for more than a month.” : “The south and east winds drive the clouds of locusts with violence into the Mediterranean, and drown them in such quantities that when their dead are cast on the shore, they infect the air to a great distance.” Wonderful image of the instantaneous, ease, completeness, of the destruction of God’s enemies; a mass of active life exchanged, in a moment, into a mass of death.

Because he hath done great things - Literally, (as in the English margin) ““because he hath magnified to do,” i. e., as used of man, “hath done proudly.” To do greatly Joel 2:21; Psalms 126:2-3; 1 Samuel 12:24, or to magnify Himself, Ezekiel 38:23, when used of God, is to display His essential greatness, in goodness to His people, or in vengeance on their enemies. Man’s great deeds are mostly deeds of great ambition, great violence, great pride, great iniquity; and so of him, the words “he magnified himself, Isaiah 10:15; Daniel 11:36-37, he did greatly” Lamentations 1:9; Zephaniah 2:8; Daniel 8:4, Daniel 8:8, Daniel 8:11, Daniel 8:25, mean, he did ambitiously, proudly, and so offended God. In like way “great doings,” when used of God, are His great works of good ; of man, his great works of evil . : “Man has great deserts, but evil.” “To speak great things” Psalms 12:3; Daniel 7:8, Daniel 7:11, Daniel 7:20, is to speak proud things: “greatness of heart” Isaiah 9:9; Isaiah 10:12 is pride of heart. He is speaking then of man who was God’s instrument in chastening His people; since of irrational, irresponsible creatures, a term which involves moral fault, would not have been used, nor would a moral fault have been set down as the ground why God destroyed them. The destruction of Sennacherib or Holofernes have been assigned as the fulfillment of this prophecy. They were part of its fulfillment, and of the great law of God which it declares, that instruments, which He employs, and who exceed or accomplish for their own ends, the office which He assigns them, He casts away and destroys.

Verse 21

Fear not, O land - Before, they were bidden to tremble Joel 2:1, now they are bidden, “fear not;” before, “to turn in weeping, fasting and mourning;” now, “to bound for joy and rejoice;” before, “the land mourned;” now, “the land is bidden to rejoice.” The enemy had “done great things;” now the cause of joy is that God had “done great things;” the Almightiness of God overwhelming and sweeping over the might put forth to destroy. It is better rendered, “the Lord hath done great things.” If Joel includes herein God’s great doings yet to come, he speaks of them as, in the purpose of God, already in being; or he may, in this verse, presuppose that this new order of God’s mercies has begun, in the destruction of the Pagan foe.

Verse 22

The reversal of the whole former sentence is continued up to man. The beasts of the field “groaned, were perplexed, cried” unto God; now they are bidden, “be not afraid;” before, “the pastures of the wilderness were devoured by fire;” now, they “spring” with fresh tender life; before, “the fig tree” was “withered, the vine languished;” now, they should “yield their strength, put out their full” vigor. For God was reconciled to His people; and all things served them, serving Him.

Verse 23

Be glad then and rejoice in the Lord your God - All things had been restored for their sakes; they were to rejoice, not chiefly in these things, but in God; nor only in God, but in the Lord their God. “For He hath given you the former rain moderately.” The word rendered “moderately” should be rendered “unto righteosness;” the word often as it occurs never having any sense but that of “righteousness;” whether of God or man. The other word מורה môwreh, rendered “the former rain,” confessedly has that meaning in the latter part of the verse, although “yoreh” יורה yôwreh is the distinctive term for “latter rain” Deuteronomy 11:14; Jeremiah 5:24. “Moreh” mostly signifies “a teacher” (2 Kings 17:28; Job 36:22; Proverbs 5:13; Isaiah 9:15; Isaiah 30:20, (twice); Habakkuk 2:18), which is connected with the other ordinary meanings of the root, “torah, law, etc.” The older translators then agreed in rendering, “of righteousness,” or, “unto righteousness” , in which case the question as to “moreh,” is only, whether it is to be taken literally of “a teacher,” or figuratively of spiritual blessings, as we say, “the dew of His grace.” Even a Jew paraphrases , “But ye, O children of Zion, above all other nations, be glad and rejoice in the Lord your God. For in Him ye shall have perfect joy, in the time of your captivity. “For He will give you an instructor to righteosness;” and He is the king Messias, which shall teach them the way in which they shall walk, and the doings which they shall do.” The grounds for so rendering the word are:

(1) Such is almost its uniform meaning.

(2) The righteousness spoken of is most naturally understood of righteousness in man; it is a condition which is the result and object of God’s gifts, not the Righteousness of God. But “He hath given you the early rain unto righteousness,” i. e., that ye may be righteous, is an unaccustomed expression.

(3) There is a great emphasis on the word , which is not used in the later part of the verse, where rain, (whether actual, or symbolic of spiritual blessings) is spoken of.

(4) The following words, “and He maketh the rain to descend for you,” according to the established Hebrew idiom relates to a separate action, later, in order of time or of thought, than the former. But if the former word “moreh” signified “early rain,” both would mean one and the same thing. We should not say, “He giveth you the former rain to righteousness, and then He maketh the rain, the former rain and the latter rain to descend;” nor doth the Hebrew.

It seems then most probable, that the prophet prefixes to all the other promises, that first all-containing promise of the Coming of Christ. Such is the custom of the prophets, to go on from past judgments and deliverances, to Him who is the center of all this cycle of God’s dispensations, the Son manifest in the Flesh. He had been promised as a Teacher when that intermediate dispensation of Israel began, the prophet like unto Moses. His Coming old Jacob looked to, “I have longed for Thy salvation, O Lord.” Him, well known and longed for by the righteous of old, Joel speaks of as the subject of rejoicing, as Zechariah did afterward, “Rejoice greatly, daughter of Zion; behold thy King cometh unto thee.” So Joel here, “Exult and joy in the Lord thy God, for He giveth,” or “will give thee, the Teacher unto righteousness,” i. e., the result and object of whose Coming is righteousness; or, as Daniel says, “to bring in everlasting righteousness;” and Isaiah, “By His knowledge,” i. e., by the knowledge of Him, “shall My righteous Servant justify many,” i. e., make many righteous. How His coming should issue in righteousness, is not here said. It is presupposed. But Joel speaks of His Coming, as a gift, “He shall give you;” as Isaiah says, “unto us a Son is given;” and that, as the Teacher, as Isaiah says, “I have given Him a witness to the peoples, a Prince and a Commander unto the people” Isaiah 55:4; and that, “for righteousness.”

“It is the custom of the holy prophets,” says Cyril, “on occasion of good things promised to a part or a few, to introduce what is more general or universal. And these are the things of Christ. To this then the discourse again proceeds. For when was ground given to the earth to rejoice? When did the Lord do mighty things, but when the Word, being God, became Man, that, flooding all below with the goods from above, He might be found to those who believe in Him, as a river of peace, a torrent of pleasure, as the former and latter rain, and the giver of all spiritual fruitfulness?”

The early rain and the latter rain - o: “He multiplies words, expresssive of the richness of the fruits of the earth, that so we may understand how wondrous is the plenteousness of spiritual goods.” Being about to speak of the large gift of God the Holy Spirit as an “out-pouring,” he says here that “the largeness of the spiritual gifts thereafter should be as abundant as the riches temporal blessings” hitherto, when God disposed all things to bring about the fruitfulness which He had promised. “The early and latter rain,” coming respectively at the seed-time and the harvest, represent the beginning and the completion; and so, by the analogy of earthly and spiritual sowing, growth and ripeness, they represent preventing and perfecting grace; the inspiration of good purposes and the gift of final perseverance, which brings the just to glory consummated; “the principles of the doctrine of Christ” and “the going on unto perfection Hebrews 6:1.

In the first month - This would belong only to the latter rain, which falls about the first month, Nisan, or our April, “the former rain” falling about 6 months earlier, at their seed time . Or, since this meaning is uncertain , it may be, “at the first” , i. e., as soon as ever it is needed, or in contrast to the more extensive gifts afterward; or, “as at first” i. e., all shall, upon their penitence, be restored as at first. These lesser variations leave the sense of the whole the same, and all are supported by good authorities. It is still a reversal of the former sentence, that, whereas afore the rivers of water were dried up, now the rains should come, each in its season. “In the first month,” and “at the beginning,” express the same thought, the one with, the other without a figure.

For no one then needed to be told that the latter rain, if it fell, should fall “in the first month,” which was its appointed season for falling. If then the words had this meaning, there must have been this emphasis in it, that God would give them good gifts punctually, instantly, at man’s first and earliest needs, at the first moment when it would be good for him to have them. ‘As at the beginning,’ would express the same which he goes on to say, that God would bestow the same largeness of gifts as He did, before they forfeited His blessings by forsaking Him. So He says, “I will restore thy judges as at the first, and thy counselors as at the beginning” ; and, “She shall sing there as in the days of her youth, and as in the day when she come up out of the land of Egypt” Hosea 2:15; and, “then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the Lord, as in the days of old and as in the former years” Malachi 3:4.

Likeness does not necessarily imply equality as in the words, “The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a prophet like unto me” Deuteronomy 18:15; and, “that they may be one, even as We are One” John 17:22. The good things of the Old Testament had a likeness to those of the New, else “the law” would not have been even the shadow of good things to come Hebrews 10:1; they had not equality, else they would have been the very things themselves. : “Christ is the whole delight of the soul, from When and through whom there cometh to those who love Him, all fullness of good and supply of heavenly gifts, represented in “the early and latter rain,” and “the full floor of wheat,” and “the fats overflowing with wine and oil.” It is true also as to the fullness of the mysteries. For the living water of Holy Baptism is given us as in rain; and as in grain, the Bread of Life, and as in wine the Blood.” Before, “the barns were broken down,” since there was nothing to store therein.

As other parts of the natural and spiritual husbandry correspond, and our Lord Himself compares His gracious trials of those who bear fruit, with the pruning of the vine John 15:2; it may be that the “vat” wherein the grape or the olive, through pressure, yield their rich juice, is a symbol of the “tribulations,” through which we “must enter the kingdom of God” Acts 14:22. : “The holy mind, placed as if in a winefat, is pressed, refined, drawn out pure. It is pressed by calamity; refined from iniquity, purified from vanity. Hence are elicited the groans of pure confession; hence, stream the tears of anxious compunction; hence flow the sighs of pleasurable devotion; hence melt the longings of sweetest love; hence are drawn the drops of purest contemplation. Wheat is the perfecting of righteousness; wine, the clearness of spiritual understanding; oil, the sweetness of a most pure conscience.”

Verse 25

And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten - The order in which these destroyers are named not being the same as before, it is plain that the stress is not on the order, but on the successiveness of the inroads, scourge after scourge. It is plain too that they did not come in the same year, or two years, but year after year, for he says, not “year,” but in the plural, “years.” The locusts, although not the whole plague, intended, are not excluded. : “As the power of God was shewn in the plagues of Egypt by small animals, such as the cyniphes, gnats so small as scarce to be seen, so also now,” in creatures so small “is shown the power of God and weakness of man. If a creature so small is stronger than man, “why are earth and ashes proud?” The locusts, small as they are, are in God’s hands “a great army,” (and from this place probably, Muhammed taught his followers so to call them) and mighty empires are but “the forces of God and messengers of His Providence for the punishing of” His people “by them,” “the rod of His Anger;” and when they have done their commission and are cast away by Him, they are as the vilest worms.

: “Since then after repentance God promises such richness, what will Novatus say, who denies repentance or that sinners can be reformed into their former state, if they but do works meet for repentance? For God in such wise receives penitents, as to call them His people, and to say, that they “shall never be confounded,” and to promise, that He will dwell in the midst of them, and that they shall have no other God, but shall, with their whole mind, trust in Him who abides in them forever.”

Through repentance all which had been lost by sin, is restored. In itself deadly sin is an irreparable evil. It deprives the soul of grace, of its hope of glory; it forfeits heaven, it merits hell. God, through Christ, restores the sinner, blots out sin, and does away with its eternal consequences. He replaces the sinner where he was before he fell. So God says by Ezekiel; “If the wicked will turn from all the sins which he hath committed and keep all My statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die; all his transgressions that he hath committed shall not be mentioned unto him” Ezekiel 18:21-22; and, “as for the wickedness of the wicked, he shall not fall thereby in the day that he turneth from his wickedness” Ezekiel 33:12. God forgives that wickedness, as though it had never been. If it had never been, man would have all the grace, which he had before his fall.

So then also, after he has been forgiven, none of his former grace, no store of future glory, will be taken from him. The time which the sinner lost, in which he might have gained increase of grace and glory, is lost forever. But all which he had gained before, returns. All his lost love returns through penitence; all his past attainments, which were before accepted by God, are accepted still for the same glory. “Former works which were deadened by sins following, revive through repentance” . The penitent begins anew God’s service, but he is not at the beginning of that service, nor of his preparation for life eternal. If the grace which he had before, and the glory corresponding to that grace, and to his former attainments through that grace, were lost to him, then, although eternally blessed, he would be punished eternally for forgiven sin, which, God has promised, should “not be remembered.”

God has also promised to reward all which is “done in the body 2 Corinthians 5:10. What is evil, is effaced by the Blood of Jesus. What, through His Grace, was good, and done for love of Himself, He rewards, whether it was before anyone fell, or after his restoration. Else He would not, as He says He will, reward all. And who would not believe, that, after David’s great fall and great repentance, God still rewarded all that great early simple faith and patience, which He gave him? Whence writers of old say , “It is pious to believe that the recovered grace of God which destroys a man’s former evils, also reintegrates his good, and that God, when He hath destroyed in a man what is not His, loves the good which He implanted even in the sinner.” : “God is pleased alike with the virtue of the just, and the meet repentance of sinners, which restored to their former estate David and Peter.” “Penitence is an excellent thing which recalleth to perfection every defect.” : “God letteth His sun arise on sinners, nor doth He less than before, give them, most large gifts of life and salvation.”

Whence, since the cankerworm, etc. are images of spiritual enemies, this place has been paraphrased ; “I will not allow the richness of spiritual things to perish which ye lost through the passions of the mind.” Nay, since none can recover without the grace of God and using that grace, the penitent, who really rises again by the grace of God, rises with larger grace than before, since he has both the former grace, and; in addition, this new grace, whereby he rises.

Verse 26

And ye shall eat in plenty and be satisfied - It is of the punishment of God, when people eat and are not satisfied (see Hosea 4:10); it is man’s sin, that they are satisfied, and do not to praise God, but the more forget Him Hosea 13:6. And so God’s blessings become a curse to him. God promises to restore His gifts, and to give grace withal, that they should own and thank Him.

Who hath dealt wondrously with you - “First, wonderfully He afflicted and chastened them, and then gave them wonderful abundance of all things, and very great and miraculous consolation after vehement tribulution, so that they might truly say, This is the change of the Right Hand of the Most High.”

And My people shall never be ashamed - o: “So that they persevere in His service. Although he incur temporal confusion, yet this shall not last for ever, but the people of the predestinate, penitent, and patient in adversity, will be saved forever.”

Verse 27

And ye shall know that I am in the midst of Israel - God had foretold their rebellion His forsaking them, “the troubles” which should “find” them, and that they should say, “Are not these evils come upon us, because our God is not among us?” Deuteronomy 31:17. It had been the mockery of the Pagan in their distress, “Where is their God?” Joel 2:17. “Now, by the fulfillment of His promises and by all God’s benefits, they should know that He was among them by special grace as His own peculiar people.” Still more was this to be fulfilled to Christians, in whose heart He dwells by love and grace, and of whom He says, “Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there will I be in the midst of them.” In the highest sense, “God was in the midst of them,” in that “God the Son, equal to God the Father as touching His Godhead, did, in the truth of human nature, take our flesh. This to see and know, is glory and bliss ineffable. Therefore He repeats, and by repeating, confirms, what he had said, “And My people shall never be ashamed.” Yea, glorious, magnified, honored, shall be the people, to whom such a Son was promised, and of whom He was born. Glorious to them is that which the Apostle saith, that “He took not on Him the nature of Angels, but He took the seed of Abraham,” and this glory shall be eternal.”

Verse 28

And it shall come to pass afterward - After the punishment of the Jews through the Pagan, and their deliverance; after the Coming of the Teacher of righteousness, was to follow the outpouring of the Spirit of God.

I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh - o: “This which He says, “on all flesh,” admits of no exception of nations or persons. For before Jesus was glorified, He had poured His Spirit only on the sons of Zion, and out of that nation only were there prophets and wise men. But after He was glorified by His Resurrection and Ascension, He made no difference of Jews and Gentiles, but willed that remission of sins should be preached to all alike.”

All flesh - is the name of all mankind. So in the time of the flood, it is said “all flesh had corrupted his way: the end of all flesh is come before Me.” Moses asks, “who of all flesh hath heard the voice of the Lord God, as we have, and lived?” So in Job; “in whose Hand is the breath of all flesh of man.” If He set His heart upon man, if He gather to Himself his spirit and his breath, all flesh shall perish together. And David; “Thou that hearest prayer, to Thee shall all flesh come; let all flesh bless His Holy Name forever and ever” Genesis 6:12-13; Deuteronomy 5:26; Job 12:10; Job 34:14-15; Psalms 65:2; Psalms 145:21. In like way speak Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Zechariah Isaiah 40:5-6; Isaiah 49:26; Isaiah 66:16, Isaiah 66:23-24; Jeremiah 25:31; Jeremiah 32:27; Jeremiah 45:5; Ezekiel 20:48; Ezekiel 21:4-5; Zechariah 2:13. The words “all flesh” are in the Pentateuch, and in one place in Daniel, used, in a yet wider sense, of everything which has life (Genesis 6:17, Genesis 6:19; Genesis 7:15-16, Genesis 7:21; Genesis 8:17; Genesis 9:11, Genesis 9:15-17; Leviticus 17:14; Numbers 18:15; Daniel 4:12; probably Psalms 136:25); but, in no one case, in any narrower sense.

It does not include every individual in the race, but it includes the whole race, and individuals throughout it, in every nation, sex, condition, “Jew or Gentile, Greek or Barbarian,” i. e., educated or uneducated, rich or poor, bond or free, male or female. As “all” were to be “one in Christ Jesus” Galatians 3:28, so on all was to be poured the Holy Spirit, the Bond who was to bind all in one. He names our nature from that which is the lowest in it, “the flesh,” with the same condescension with which it is said, “The Word was made flesh” , from where we speak of the “Incarnation” of our Blessed Lord, i. e., “His taking on Him our Flesh.” He humbled Himself to take our flesh; He came, as our Physician, to heal our flesh, the seat of our concupisceuce. So also God the Holy Spirit vouchsafes to dwell in our flesh, to sanctify it and to heal it. He, whom God saith He will pour out on all flesh, is the Spirit of God, and God. He does not say that He will pour out graces, or gifts, ordinary or extraordinary, influences, communications, or the like.

He says, “I will pour out My Spirit;” as Paul says, “know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” 1 Corinthians 3:16. “Ye are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His” Romans 8:9-10. It is said indeed, “on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Spirit,” but the gift of the Holy Spirit was the Holy Spirit Himself, as it had been just said, “the Holy Spirit fell on all them that heard the word” Acts 10:44-45. It is said, “the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, which is given us” Romans 5:5; but the “Holy Spirit” is first “given,” and He poureth out into the soul “the love of God.” As God the Word, when He took human nature, came into it personally, so that “the fullness of the Godhead dwelt bodily in it” Colossians 2:9; so, really, although not personally, “doth the Holy Spirit, and so the whole Trinity, enter into our mind by sanctification, and dwelleth in it as in His throne.”

No created being, no Angel, nor Archangel could dwell in the soul. : “God Alone can be poured out into the soul, so as to possess it, enlighten it, teach, kindle, bend, move it as He wills,” sanctify, satiate, fill it. And “as God is really present with the blessed, when He sheweth to them His Essence by the beatific vision and light of glory, and communicates it to them, to enjoy and possess; so He, the Same, is also in the holy soul, and thus diffuseth it in His grace, love, and other divine gifts.” At the moment of justification, “the Holy Spirit and so the whole Holy Trinity entereth the soul at His temple, sanctifying and as it were dedicating and consecrating it to Himself, and at the same moment of time, although in the order of nature subsequently, He communicates to it His love and grace. Such is the meaning of, “We will come unto him, and make Our abode with him.” This is the highest union of God with the holy soul; and greater than this can none be given to any creature, for by it we become “partakers of the divine Nature,” as Peter saith 2 Peter 1:4. See here, O Christian, the dignity of the holiness whereunto thou art called and with all zeal follow after, preserve, enlarge it.

This His Spirit, God says, “I will pour,” i. e., give largely, as though He would empty out Him who is Infinite, so that there should be no measure of His giving, save our capacity of receiving. So He says of converted Israel, “I have poured out My Spirit upon the house of Israel” Ezekiel 39:29, and, “I will pour out upon the house of David and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication” Zechariah 12:10.

And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy - This cannot limit what he has said, that God would pour out His Spirit upon all flesh. He gives instances of that out-pouring, in those miraculous gifts, which were at the first to be the tokens and evidence of His inward presence. These gifts were at the first bestowed on the Jews only. The highest were reserved altogether for them. Jews only were employed as Apostles and Evangelists; Jews only wrote, by inspiration of God, the “oracles of God,” as the source of the faith of the whole world. : “The Apostles were sons of Israel; the Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the other women who abode at the same time and prayed with the Apostles, were daughters. Luke mentions, “All these were persevering with one accord in prayer with the women and Mary the Mother of Jesus, and His brethren.” These sons and daughters of the Sons of Zion, having received the Spirit, prophesied, i. e., in divers tongues they spoke of the heavenly mysteries.”

In the narrower sense of “foretelling the future, the Apostles, the Blessed Virgin Luke 1:48, Zacharias (Luke 1:67 ff), and Anna Luke 2:36, Luke 2:38, Elizabeth Luke 1:42-45, the virgin daughters of Philip Acts 21:9, Agabus Acts 11:28; Acts 21:10-11, John in the Apocalypse,” Simeon Luke 2:27-35, and Paul also oftentimes Acts 20:29-30; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-12; 2 Timothy 3:1, 2 Timothy 3:4; 1 Timothy 4:1 prophesied. At Antioch, there were certain “prophets” Acts 13:1; and “the Holy Spirit in every city witnessed, saying, that bonds and afflictions awaited him in Jerusalem” Acts 20:23. “But it is superfluous,” adds Theodoret after giving some instances, “to set myself to prove the truth of the prophecy. For down to our times also hath this gift been preserved, and there are among the saints, people who have the eye of the mind clear, who foreknow and foretell many of the things which are about to be.” So the death of Julian the Apostate, who fell, as it seemed, by a chance wound in war with the Persians was foreseen and foretold ; and Cyprian foretold the day of his own martyrdom and the close of Decian persecution, which ended through the death of the Emperor in a rash advance over a morass, when victory was gained . The stream of prophecy has been traced down through more than four centuries from the Birth of the Redeemer. One of the Bishops of the Council of Nice was gifted with a prophetic spirit .

Your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions - “God often attempers Himself and His oracles to the condition of people, and appears to each, as suits his state” Acts 11:28; Acts 21:10-11. It may then be, that to old men while sleeping by reason of age, He appeared most commonly in dreams; to young men, while watching, in visions. But it is so common in Hebrew, that each part of the verse should be filled up from the other, that perhaps the prophet only means, that their old and young should have dreams and see visions, and both from God. Nor are these the highest of God’s revelations; as He says, that to the prophet He would “make” Himself known in a vision and would “speak in a dream,” but to Moses “mouth to mouth; even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the Lord shall he behold Numbers 12:6, Numbers 12:8.

The Apostles also saw waking visions, as Peter at Joppa (Acts 10:10 ff; Acts 11:5 ff); (and that so frequently, that when the Angel delivered him, he thought that it was one of his accustomed visions Acts 12:9,) and Paul after his conversion, and calling him to Macedonia; and the Lord appeared unto him in vision at Corinth, revealing to him the conversions which should be worked there, and at Jerusalem foretelling to him the witness he should bear to Him at Rome. In the ship, the Angel of the Lord foretold to him his own safety, and that God had given him all who sailed with him Acts 9:12; Acts 16:6-7, Acts 16:9; Acts 18:9; Acts 19:21; Acts 23:11; Acts 27:24. Ananias Acts 9:10 and Cornelius Acts 10:3 also received revelations through visions. But all these were only revelations of single truths or facts. Of a higher sort seems to be that revelation, whereby our Lord revealed to Paul Himself and His Gospel which Paul was to preach, and “the wisdom of God,” and the glories of the world to come, and the conversion of the Gentiles; and when he was “caught up to the third heaven, and abundance of revelations were vouchsafed to him” Galatians 1:12, Galatians 1:16; 1 Corinthians 2:7; Ephesians 3:3; 2 Corinthians 12:1-7.

Verse 29

And also upon the servants - God tells beforehand that he would be no respecter of persons. He had said, that He would endow every age and sex. He adds here, and every condition, even that of slaves, both male and female. He does not add here, that they shall prophesy. Under the law, God had provided for slaves, that, even if aliens, they should by circumcision be enrolled in His family and people; that they should have the rest and the devotion of the sabbath; and share the joy of their great festivals, going up with their masters and mistresses to the place which God appointed. They were included in one common ordinance of joy; “Ye shall rejoice before the Lord your God, ye and your sons and your daughters, and (literally) your men slaves and your women slaves, and the Levite which is within your gates” Genesis 17:23, Genesis 17:27; Exodus 20:10; Deuteronomy 12:12, Deuteronomy 12:18; Deuteronomy 16:11, Deuteronomy 16:14. In the times before the Gospel, they doubtless fell under the contempt in which the Pharisees held all the less educated class; “These people who knoweth not the law” (i. e., according to the explanation of their schools) “is cursed.”

Whence it was a saying of theirs , “Prophecy doth not reside except on one wise and mighty and rich.” As then elsewhere it was given as a mark of the Gospel, “the poor have the Gospel preached unto them,” so here. It was not what the Jews of his day expected, for he says, “And on the servants too.” But he tells beforehand, what was against the pride both of his own times and of the time of its fulfillment, that “God chose the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world and things which are despised hath God chosen, and things which are not, to bring to naught things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence” 1 Corinthians 1:27-30. The prophetic word circles round to that wherewith it began, the all-containing promise of the large out-pouring of the Spirit of God; and that, upon those whom the carnal Jews at all times would least expect to receive it. It began with including the pagan; “I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh;” it instances individual gifts; and then it ends by resting on the slaves; “and on these too in those days will I pour out My Spirit.” The order of the words is significant. He begins, “I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh,” and then, in order to leave the mind resting on these same great words, he inverts the order, and ends, “and upon the servants and upon the handmaidens I will pour out My Spirit.” It leaves the thoughts resting on the great words, “I will pour out My Spirit.”

The Church at Rome, whose “faith was spoken of throughout the whole world” Romans 1:8, was, as far as it consisted of converted Jews, made up of slaves, who had been set free by their masters. For such were most of the Roman Jews , “who occupied that large section of Rome beyond the Tiber.” Most of these, Philo says, “having been made freemen, were Roman citizens. For having been brought as captives to Italy, set free by their purchasers, without being compelled to change any of their country’s rites, they had their synagogues and assembled in them, especially on the sabbath.”

Peter, in declaring that these words began to be fulfilled in the Day of Pentecost, quotes them with two lesser differences. “I will pour out of My Spirit, and upon My servants and My handmaidens.” The words declare something in addition, but do not alter the meaning, and so Peter quotes them as they lay in the Greek, which probably was the language known by most of the mixed multitude, to whom he spake on the day of Pentecost. The words, “I will pour out My Spirit,” express the largeness and the fullness of the gift of Him , “Who is Very God, Unchangeable and Infinite, who is given or poured out, not by change of place but by the largeness of His presence.” The words, “I will pour out of My Spirit,” express in part, that He who is Infinite cannot be contained by us who are finite; in part, they indicate, that there should be a distribution of gifts, although “worked by One and the Same Spirit,” as the prophet also implies in what follows.

Again, the words, “the servants and the handmaidens,” mark the outward condition; the words “My servants and My handmaidens,” declare that there should be no difference between “bond and free.” The servants and handmaidens should have that highest title of honor, that they should be the servants of God. For what more can the creature desire? The Psalmist says to God, “Lo I am Thy servant and the son of Thine handmaid” Psalms 116:16; and God gives it as a title of honor to Abraham and Moses and Job and David and Isaiah (Genesis 26:24; Numbers 12:7; Joshua 1:2; 2 Kings 21:8; Job 1:8; Job 2:3; Job 42:7-8; 2 Samuel 7:5, etc.; Isaiah 20:3), and Abraham and David call themselves the servants of God, Genesis 19:19; Psalms 86:2, Psalms 86:4, and Paul, Peter, and Jude, “servants of Jesus Christ” Romans 1:1; Galatians 1:10; 2 Peter 1:1; Jude 1:1, and James, “the servant of God” (James 1:1; also Titus 1:1); and the blessed Virgin, “the handmaid of the Lord Luke 1:38, Luke 1:48; yea, and our Lord Himself, in His Human Nature is spoken of in prophecy as (Isaiah 42:1; Isaiah 49:6; Isaiah 52:13; Zechariah 12:8; Ezekiel 34:23-24; Ezekiel 37:24-25) “the Servant of the Lord.”

Verse 30

And I will shew wonders - Each revelation of God prepares the way for another, until that last revelation of His love and of His wrath in the Great Day. In delivering His people from Egypt, “the Lord shewed signs and wonders, great and sore, upon Egypt Deuteronomy 6:22. Here, in allusion to it, He says, in the same words, of the new revelation, “I will shew,” or “give, wonders, or wondrous signs,” (as the word includes both) wonders beyond the course and order of nature, and portending other dispensations of God, of joy to His faithful, terror to His enemies. As when Israel came out of Egypt, “the pillar of the cloud was a cloud and darkness to the camp of the Egyptians,” but “gave light by night” to the “camp of Israel” Exodus 14:19-20, so all God’s workings are light and darkness at once, according as people are, who see them or to whom they come. These wonders in heaven and earth “began in” the First Coming and “Passion of Christ, grew in the destruction of Jerusalem, but shall be perfectly fulfilled toward the end of the world, before the final Judgment, and the destruction of the Universe.” At the birth of Christ, there was “the star” which appeared unto the wise men, “and the multitude of the heavenly host,” whom the shepherds saw. At His Atoning Death, “the sun was darkened,” there was the three hours’ darkness over the whole land; and on earth “the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom, and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent, and the graves were opened” Luke 23:44-45; Matthew 27:45, Matthew 27:51-52 : and the Blood and water issued from the Saviour’s side. After His Resurrection, there was the vision of Angels, terrible to the soldiers who watched the sepulchre, comforting to the women who sought to honor Jesus. His Resurrection was a sign on earth, His Ascension in earth and heaven. But our Lord speaks of signs both in earth and heaven, as well before the destruction of Jerusalem, as before His second Coming.

With regard to the details, it seems probable that this is an instance of what we may call an inverted parallelism, that having mentioned generally that God would give “signs in (1) heaven and (2) earth,” the prophet first instances the “signs in earth,” and then those “in heaven.” A very intellectual Jewish expositor has suggested this, and certainly it is frequent enough to be, in conciser forms, one of the idioms of the sacred language. In such case, “the blood and fire and pillars of smoke, will be signs in earth; the turning of the sun into darkness and the moon into blood will be signs in heaven.” When fortelling the destruction of Jerusalem, the Day of vengeance, which fell with such accumulated horror on the devoted city, and has for these 1800 years dispersed the people of Israel to the four winds, our Lord mentions first the signs on earth, then those in heaven. “Nation shall arise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and great earthquakes shall be in divers places, and famines, and pestilences; and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven. Luke 21:10-11. Before the Day of Judgment our Lord also speaks of both Luke 21:25-26;

(1) “there shall be signs in the sun and in the moon and in the stars;

(2) and upon the earth distress of nations with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; people’s hearts failing them for fear and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.”

The Jewish historian relates signs both in heaven and in earth, before the destruction of Jerusalem. : “A star stood like a sword over Jerusalem;” “a light which, when the people were assembled at the Passover at 9 at night, shone so brightly around the altar and the temple, that it seemed like bright day, and this for half an hour; the eastern door of the temple, which 20 men scarcely shut at eventide, stayed with iron-bound bars and very deep bolts let down into the threshhold of one solid stone, was seen at 6 o’clock at night to open of its own accord; chariots and armed troops were seen along the whole country, coursing through the clouds, encircling the cities; at the feast of Pentecost, the priests entering the temple by night, as their wont was for worship, first perceived a great movement and sound, and then a multitudinous voice, ‘Let us depart hence.’” These signs were authenticated by the multitude or character of those who witnessed them.

Verse 31

Before the great and terrible Day of the Lord come - o: “The days of our life are our days wherein we do what we please; that will be the “Day of the Lord,” when He, our Judge, shall require the account of all our doings. It will be “great,” because it is the horizon of time and eternity; the last day of time, the beginning of eternity. It will put an end to the world, guilt, deserts, good or evil. It will be “great,” because in it great things will be done. Christ with all His Angels will come down and sit on His Throne; all who have ever lived or shall live, shall be placed before Him to be judged; all thoughts, words, and deeds shall be weighed most exactly; on all a sentence will be passed, absolute, irrevocable throughout eternity; the saints shall be assigned to heaven, the ungodly to hell; a great gulf shall be placed between, which shall sever them forever, so that the ungodly shall never see the godly nor heaven nor God; but shall be shut up in a prison forever, and shall burn as long as heaven shall be heaven, or God shall be God.” : “That day shall be great to the faithful, terrible to the unbelieving; great to those who said, ‘Truly this is the Son of God;’ terrible to those who said, ‘His blood be upon us and upon our children.’” : “When then thou art hurried to any sin, think on that terrible and unendurable judgment-seat of Christ, where the Judge sits on His lofty Throne, and all creation shall stand in awe at His glorious Appearing and we shall be brought, one by one, to give account of what we have done in life. Then by him who hath done much evil in life, there will stand terrible angels. “There” will be the deep gulf, the impassable darkness, the lightless fire, retaining in darkness the power to burn, but reft of its rays. There is the empoisoned and ravenous worm insatiably devouring and never satisfied, inflicting by its gnawing pangs unbearable. There that sharpest punishment of all, that shame and everlasting reproach. Fear these things; and, instructed by this fear, hold in thy soul as with a bridle from the lust of evil.”

Verse 32

Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord - To call upon the name of the Lord, is to worship Him, as He is, depending “upon” Him. “The name of the Lord,” expresses His True Being, That which He is. Hence, so often in Holy Scripture, people are said to “call on the Name of the Lord,” to bless the Name of the Lord, to praise the Name of the Lord, to sing praises to His Name, to make mention of His Name, to tell of His Name, to know His Name” but it is very rarely said “I will praise the Name of God” (Psalms 69:31; Hebrew), for the Name rendered “the Lord,” expresses that He is, and that He Alone is, the Self-Same, the Unchangeable; the name rendered “God” is not the special Name of God. Hence, as soon as people were multiplied and the corrupt race of Cain increased, people “began,” after the birth of Enos, the son of Seth, “to call upon the Name of the Lord” Genesis 4:26, i. e., in public worship. Abraham’s worship, in the presence of the idolatries of Canaan, is spoken of, under the same words, “he called upon the Name of the Lord” Genesis 12:8; Genesis 13:4; Genesis 21:33; Genesis 26:25. Elijah says to the prophets of Baal, “call ye on the name of your gods, and I will call on the Name of the Lord” 1 Kings 18:24. Naaman the Pagan says of Elisha, “I thought that he would come out to me, and stand and call on the Name of the Lord his God” 2 Kings 5:11. Asaph and Jeremiah pray God; “Pour out Thy wrath upon the pagan that have not known Thee, and upon the kingdom (families Jerome) which have not called upon Thy Name” Psalms 79:6; Jeremiah 10:25; and Zephaniah fortells the conversion of the Pagan, “that they may all call upon the Name of the Lord, to serve Him with one consent” Zephaniah 3:9.

To “call” then “upon the Name of the Lord” implies right faith to call upon Him as He is; right trust in Him, leaning upon Him; right devotion, calling upon Him as He has appointed; right life, ourselves who call upon Him being, or becoming by His Grace, what lie wills. They “call” not “upon the Lord,” but upon some idol of their own imagining, who call upon Him, as other than He has revealed Himself, or remaining themselves other than those whom He has declared that He will hear. For such deny the very primary attribute of God, His truth. “Their” God is not a God of truth. But whosoever shall in true faith and hope and charity have in this life worshiped God, “shall be delivered,” i. e., out of the midst of all the horrors of that Day, and the horrible damnation of the ungodly. The “deliverance” is by way of “escape” (for such is the meaning of the word , “he shall be made to escape, slip through” (as it were) perils as imminent as they shall be terrible. Our Lord uses the like word of the same Day, “Watch ye therefore and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man” Luke 21:36. Those who so call upon Him in truth shall be heard in that day, as He says, “Ask and it shall be given you; Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in My Name, He will give it you” Matthew 7:7; John 16:23.

: “That calling on God whereon salvation depends, is not in words only, but in heart and in deed. For what the heart believeth, the mouth confesseth, the hand in deed fulfilleth, The Apostle saith, “No man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Spirit” 1 Corinthians 12:3; yet this very “saying” must be weighed not by words, but by the afflictions. Whence, we read of Samuel, “And Samuel among those who call upon His Name,” and of Moses and Aaron, “These called upon the Lord, and He heard them” Psalms 99:6.

For in Mount Zion ... shall be deliverance - Repentance and remission of sins” were to “be preached in the Name” of Jesus, “in all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” Luke 24:47. “There” was, under the Old Testament, the center of the worship of God; there was the Church founded; thence it spread over the whole world. “The place,” “whither the tribes went up, the tribes of the Lord, unto the testimony of Israel, to give thanks unto the Name of the Lord” Psalms 122:4, where God had set His Name, where alone sacrifice could lawfully be offered, stands, as elsewhere, for the whole Church. Of that Church, we are in Baptism all made members, when we are made members of Christ, children of God, and heirs of heaven. Of that Church all remain members, who do not, by viciousness of life, or rejecting the truth of God, cast themselves out of it. They then are members of the soul of the Church, who, not being members of the visible communion and society, know not, that in not becoming members of it, they are rejecting the command of Christ, to whom by faith and love and in obedience they cleave. And they, being members of the “body” or visible commumion of the Church, are not members of the “soul” of the Church, who, amid outward profession of the faith, do, in heart or deeds, deny Him whom in words they confess. The deliverance promised in that Day, is to those who, being in the body of the Church, shall by true faith in Christ and fervent love to Him belong to the soul of the Church also, or who, although not in the body of the Church shall not, through their own fault, have ceased to be in the body, and shall belong to its soul, in that through faith and love they cleave to Christ its Head.

As the Lord hath said - By the prophet Joel himself. This which he had said, is not man’s word, but God’s; and what God had said, shall certainly be. They then who have teared and loved God in this their day, shall not need to fear him in that Day, for He is the Unchangeable God; as our Blessed Saviour says; “heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away” Mark 13:31. God had said of both Jews and Gentiles, united in one; “Rejoice, O ye nations, with His people, for He will avenge the blood of His servants, and will render vengeance to His adversaries, and will be merciful to His land and unto His people” Deuteronomy 32:43.

And in the remnant - While foretelling His mercies in Christ, God foretells also, that “few they be that find them” Matthew 7:14. It is evermore “a remnant, a residue, a body which escapes;” and so here, the mercies should be fulfilled, literally, “in the fugitives,” in those who flee from the wrath to come. All prophecy echoes the words of Joel; all history exemplifies them. Isaiah, Micah, Zephaniah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Zechariah, all foretell with one voice, that a remnant, and a “remnant” only, shall be left. In those earlier dispensations of God, in the flood, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah; in His dealings with Israel himself at the entrance into the promised land, the return from the captivity, the first preaching of the Gospel, the destruction of Jerusalem, “a remnant” only was saved. It is said in tones of compassion and mercy, that “a remnant should be saved. The remnant should return, the remnant of Jacob, to the Mighty God” (Isaiah 10:20; add Isaiah 10:21-22; Isaiah 6:9-13, etc.). “The Lord of hosts shall be for a crown of glory to the residue of His people” Isaiah 28:5. “The Lord shall set His Hand to recover the remnant of His people which shall be left” (Isaiah 11:11, add 16). “I will gather the remnant of My flock out of all countries whither I have driven them” Jeremiah 23:3. “Publish ye, praise ye, and say, O Lord, save Thy people, the remnant of Israel” Jeremiah 31:7. “Yet I will leave a remnant, that ye may have some that escape the sword among the nations” Ezekiel 6:8. “Therein shall be left a remnant which shall be brought forth” Ezekiel 14:22. “I will surely gather the remnant of Israel” (Micah 2:12; add Micah 4:7 : Micah 5:3, Micah 5:7-8). “Who is a God like Thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of His heritage?” Micah 7:18. “The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity” (Zephaniah 3:13; add Zephaniah 2:9). “The residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city” Zechariah 14:2. It is then a summary of the declarations of the prophets, when Paul says, “Even so, at this present time also, there is a remnant according to the election of grace. Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded” Romans 11:5, Romans 11:7. And so the prophet says here;

Whom the Lord shall call - He had said before, “whosoever shall call upon the Name of the Lord shall be delivered.” Here he says, that they who should “so call on God,” shall themselves have been first “called by God.” So Paul, “to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord” 1 Corinthians 1:2. It is all of grace. God must first call by His grace; then we obey His call, and call upon Him; and He has said, “call upon Me in the day of trouble, and I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify Me” Psalms 50:15. God accounts our salvation His own glory.

Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Joel 2". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bnb/joel-2.html. 1870.
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