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Friday, June 14th, 2024
the Week of Proper 5 / Ordinary 10
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Bible Commentaries
Joel 1

Gaebelein's Annotated BibleGaebelein's Annotated

Verses 1-20

Analysis and Annotations






1. The prophet’s appeal (Joel 1:1-4 )

2. The call to the drunkards (Joel 1:5-7 )

3. The call to the people and the priests (Joel 1:8-14 )

4. The day of the Lord and the suffering land (Joel 1:15-18 )

5. The prayer of the prophet (Joel 1:19-20 )

Joel 1:1-4 . The prophet announces that it is the Word of Jehovah he utters, which came to him. (Joel 1:2 and Joel 1:3 are an introduction to the description which follows the great calamity which had befallen the land. It is in the form of an appeal. What had happened to the land is of such a fearful character that it is unprecedented. The visitation of the land by the locust plague is to be related to future generations, because there is a great prophetic meaning as to the future attached to the locusts, which will be pointed out later. The fourth verse (Joel 1:4 ) we render in a way our own, leaving the words of the destroying insects untranslated.

What the Gazam left, the Arbeh hath devoured;

And what the Arbeh left, the Jelek hath devoured;

And what the Jelek left, the Chasel hath devoured.

We left the Hebrew words untranslated because they do not express insects of different species; they are one insect, the locust, in a fourfold stage. Gazam means “to gnaw off,” Arbeh is “to be many”; this is the common name of the locusts on account of their migratory habits. Jelek is “to lick off,” and Chasel means “to devour or consume.” The locust passes through a fourfold stage in its development to full growth. First, it is the gnawing locust, when first hatched; then it gets its wings and flies about; after that it starts in its destructive work by licking off whatever it finds, and, finally, it reaches its full growth and devours everything in its path. (Many foolish applications have been made of these locusts. one of the most ridiculous is the one made by a certain woman-healer in her book Lost and Restored.)

The locust plague which laid Israel’s land bare was a judgment from the Lord. It was one of the judgments the Lord sent upon Egypt, and Moses had prophetically announced that the Lord would use them to punish his people (see Deuteronomy 28:38 ; Deuteronomy 28:42 ) .

But these literal locusts, which fell literally upon the land and destroyed in a short time all vegetation, are symbolic of other agencies which were to be used later in Israel’s history to bring judgment upon the land and the people. They are typical of Gentile armies, as stated in the second chapter, where the Lord calls them “My great army.” Here is unquestionably a prophetic forecast as to the future of the land. From Daniel’s prophecy we learn twice that four world powers should subjugate Israel and prey upon the land: Babylonia, Medo-Persia, Graeco-Macedonia and Rome. Zechariah, also, in one of his night visions, beheld four horns, and these four horns scattered Judah and Jerusalem. We see, therefore, in the locusts, first, the literal locusts which destroyed everything in vegetation at the time Joel lived, and these locusts are symbolical of future judgments executed upon the land and the nations by the prophetically announced world powers. At the close of the “times of the Gentiles,” during which Jerusalem is trodden down, the final invasion of the land takes place; it is this which is described in the second chapter.

Joel 1:5-7 . The first swarm had probably appeared in the fall; only the vineyards had not yet been harvested. They attacked the vineyards and speedily the vines and the grapes disappeared under the onslaught. The drinkers of wine were therefore to suffer first. That there was much drunkenness among the people Israel, especially in the days of their prosperity, may be learned from Amos 6:1-6 ; Isaiah 5:11 ; Isaiah 24:7-23 ; Isaiah 28:7 , etc. In Joel 1:6 the locusts are described as a nation, mighty without number, with lion’s teeth. This confirms the typical application to Gentile nations of the future who would devastate the land. See, furthermore, Numbers 13:33 , Isaiah 40:22 and Jeremiah 51:14 , where the same comparison is made.

Joel 1:8-14 . On account of the great disaster the people are called to mourn and put on sackcloth. “Lament like a virgin, girded with sackcloth, for the husband of her youth.” This is a significant expression. Israel in her relationship to Jehovah is here indicated. We are reminded of Isaiah 3:26 concerning Jerusalem, “And her gates shall lament and mourn, and she, being desolate, shall sit on the ground; ” and Isaiah 54:6 , “For the Lord hath called thee as a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit, and a wife of youth, when thou wast refused, saith thy God.” So great was the havoc wrought that the meal and drink offering was cut off from the house of the Lord so that the priests mourned, the servants of Jehovah. This is their mournful chant:

Wasted is the field,

Mourning is the land,

For wasted is the corn,

The new vine is dried up,

The oil faileth.

This is followed by the call to lament for the husbandman and vinedressers. The whole harvest was gone, and besides the failure of the vine, the fig tree, the other trees are also mentioned, yea, “all the trees of the field are withered.” On account of the severity of this visitation joy had left the children of men.

Then comes the definite call to the priests to lament and cry unto Jehovah and to sanctify a fast (Joel 1:13-14 ). But there is no record of a response. At the close of this chapter the Prophet alone raises his voice to Jehovah. We shall learn in the second chapter of the time of the national repentance of Israel.

Joel 1:15-18 . For the first time we meet the day of the Lord (Yom Jehovah), that phrase used so frequently in all the prophetic books. The 15th verse (Joel 1:15 ) is an exclamation of the Prophet as before his vision that day appears. In the midst of the weird description of the calamity, present in Joel’s day, he beholds a greater judgment approaching. It is the same day he beholds which the other prophets mention; each time Joel uses this expression it means the coming day of the Lord, still approaching. It may be noticed that the five passages in Joel in which “the day of the Lord” is mentioned are progressive.

For a comparative study of this important phrase we quote the leading passage of the different prophets.

Isaiah. The phrase “in that day” is found many times in his book. We mention Isaiah 2:2-5 ; Isaiah 2:10-22 ; Isaiah 4:1-6 ; Isaiah 13:6-13 . The great glory predictions of Isaiah 54:1-17 ; Isaiah 60:1-22 ; Isaiah 61:1-11 ; Isaiah 62:1-12 are all related to this day.

Jeremiah. He also speaks of that day (Jeremiah 25:30-33 ; Jeremiah 30:18-24 ) .

Ezekiel. Chapters 7 and 8. From chapters 37-38 we have the record of great events both of judgment and blessing which will come to pass in connection with that day. While Daniel does not use in his book the phrase “day of the Lord” nearly all his great prophecies are connected with that day. It is the day in which the stone smites the great image, representing the times of the Gentiles, and demolishes it; the day on which “the Son of Man” comes in the clouds of heaven to receive the kingdom. Hosea points to that day in chapters 2 and 3, as well as in the closing chapter. Amos witnesses to it in Amos 1:2 ; Amos 6:3 ; Amos 9:2 ; Amos 9:15 . Obadiah, who lived about the same time as Joel, speaks of the day in Obadiah 1:15 of his brief prophecy. Micah in his prophecy refers to it in Micah 5:15 . In Nahum the day is described in which the Lord will deal in judgment with the wicked world cities (see Nahum 1:1-9 ). The third chapter of Habakkuk reveals that day. Zephaniah has a great deal more to say about that day than the preceding prophetic books (Zephaniah 1:14-18 ; Zephaniah 2:1-15 ; Zephaniah 3:1-20 ). Haggai bears witness to it in Haggai 2:6-7 . (Compare with Hebrews 12:26-29 .) Zechariah uses the phrase “in that day” many times, especially in the last three chapters. Malachi reveals the day in Malachi 3:1-3 ; and Malachi 4:1-3 ).

We learn from all this what a prominent place the day of the Lord occupies in the prophecies. It must be so, for it is the day of manifestation and consummation. Joel beheld here for the first time this day.

Then follows an additional description of the great calamity which had come upon the land in Joel’s day ((Joel 1:16-18 ).

Joel 1:19-20 . Joel was, like all the other prophets, a man of prayer. No other mention is made by the prophet concerning himself, but this brief word is sufficient to give us a glimpse of his inner life and his trust in the Lord. He cried to Jehovah in the great distress.

Bibliographical Information
Gaebelein, Arno Clemens. "Commentary on Joel 1". "Gaebelein's Annotated Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/gab/joel-1.html. 1913-1922.
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