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Bible Commentaries

Gaebelein's Annotated BibleGaebelein's Annotated

- Joel

by Arno Clemens Gaebelein



Joel means “Jehovah is God.” This name occurs frequently in the Old Testament 1 Samuel 8:22 ; 1 Chronicles 4:35 ; 1Ch 5:4 ; 1 Chronicles 5:8 ; 1 Chronicles 5:12 , etc.). The prophet Joel was the son of Pethuel. Numerous guesses have been made about his personality. A tradition states that he was from Bethom in the tribe of Reuben. In 1 Chronicles 24:16 a man by name of Pethahiah is mentioned. Some have connected him with the father of Joel, Pethuel, claiming upon this that Joel belonged to a priestly family; but this, as well as other claims cannot be confirmed. Jewish expositors make the statement that Pethuel was Samuel, because Samuel had a son by name of Joel; but, inasmuch as the sons of Samuel were evildoers this is incorrect. The book itself does not give even a single hint as to his personal history.

When and Where Joel Lived

As to the time and place, when and where he exercised his prophetic office, we are not left in doubt. He prophesied not like Hosea among the ten tribes, but he was a prophet of Judah. The entire prophecy bears witness to it; this fact has never been disputed. It is different with the date of Joel. Destructive criticism has assigned to Joel a post-exilic date, with some very puerile arguments. For instance the claim that the mention of the walls of Jerusalem (Joel 2:7 ; Joel 2:9 ), point to a date after Ezra and Nehemiah. Such an argument is not an argument of a scholar but of school-boy. Critics also object to an early date because the Greeks are mentioned in Joel 3:6 . But the Greeks are also mentioned in an inscription of Sargon (about 710 B.C.), and long before that in the Armana letters a Greek is also mentioned, as stated in “Higher Criticism and the Monuments” by Professor Sayce.

The best Jewish and Christian scholarship has maintained a very early date of Joel. When the editor published his larger work on Joel, in which he puts the date between 860 and 850 B.C., Professor H.A. Sayce of Oxford, one of the greatest scholars of our times, wrote in a personal letter to the writer: “Let me thank you heartily for your very interesting exposition of Joel. I am glad to see a work of the kind on conservative lines; the attempts to find a late date for the prophet rests on arguments which to the inductive scientist are no arguments at all.” This strong statement and endorsement of a very early date for Joel certainly outweighs the arguments of certain critics who possess nothing like the scholarship of the Oxford professor.

There is nothing mentioned in Joel of the Assyrian period 800-650, nor is there anything said of the Babylonian period 650-538, hence Joel must have prophesied before the Assyrian period, that is in the ninth century B.C., or he must have lived after the exile. The latter is excluded, therefore Joel exercised his office as prophet in Judah during the middle of the ninth century, as stated above, about 860-850 B.C. This view is abundantly verified by different facts found in the book itself.

Now, the date of Amos is generally accepted as being in the middle of the 8th century before Christ. In the first chapter of the book of Amos there is an undoubted quotation from the book of Joel. (See Joel 3:16 and Amos 1:2 ). Dr. Pusey makes the following argument out of this fact:

“Amos quoting Joel attests two things. (1) That Joel’s prophecy must, at the time when Amos wrote, have become a part of Holy Scriptures, and its authority must have been acknowledged; (2) That its authority must have been acknowledged by, and it must have been in circulation among, those to whom Amos prophesied; other-wise he would not have prefixed to his book those words of Joel. For the whole force of the words, as employed by Amos, depends on being recognized by his hearers, as a renewal of the prophecy of Joel. Certainly bad men jeered at Amos, as though this threatening would not be fulfilled.”

The seven strongest reasons for the early date of Joel are the following:

1. Joel charges the Philistines with having invaded Judah, captured the inhabitants, and sold them as slaves. Now, according to 2 Chronicles 21:16 , this happened under Joram, B.C. 889-883. And they suffered the punishment predicted for their crime, under Uzziah, 2 Chronicles 26:6 . Hence Joel could not have written this book before B.C. 889, nor later than 732.

2. The Phoenicians, i.e., those of Tyre and Sidon, who in the days of David and Solomon were the allies, had in later times become the enemies of Judah. They too had been guilty of selling Jewish prisoners to the Grecians. Joel predicts that they also shall be punished for this crime--a prediction fulfilled in the time of Uzziah, B.C. 811-759. This proves that Joel must have prophesied before the days of Uzziah.

3. The Edomites (Joel 3:19 ), are ranked among the enemies of Judah. They came from the same stock as the Jews, and on account of their sin against their brethren, their country was to become a perpetual desolation. From 2 Kings 8:20 , comp. with 2 Chronicles 21:8 , we learn that they became independent of Judah in the time of Joram, B.C. 889-883. They were again subdued, and their capital city Petra captured, B.C. 838-811, though the southern and eastern parts of their territory were not conquered until the reign of Uzziah, about B.C. 830. The prophet must have exercised his ministry, therefore, prior to the latter date.

4. The fact that no mention is made of the invasion by the Syrians of Damascus proves that Joel was one of the early prophets. This occurred in the latter part of the reign of Josiah, B.C. 850-840.

5. The high antiquity of Joel is proved by the fact that he makes no reference to the Assyrian invasion of the two Jewish kingdoms in B.C. 790. On the other hand, Amos clearly alludes to it (Amos 6:14 ).

6. Another proof is derived from the relation between Joel and Amos. The latter was certainly well acquainted with the writings of the former.

7. The mention of the Valley of Jehoshaphat is a circumstance leading to the same conclusion. It took this name from the memorable victory there gained over Moab and Ammon. The way in which Joel refers to it shows that this event must have been a comparatively recent one, and that the memory of it was still fresh.

On these grounds we conclude that in fixing the time of this prophet, we cannot take for our terminus a quo an earlier date than B.C. 890, nor for our terminus ad quem a later one than 840. It most probably falls between B.C. 860-850. Joel therefore is probably the oldest of the Minor Prophets.

The Prophecy of Joel

The prophecy of Joel is one which extends from his own time to the time of Israel’s restoration and blessing in the day of the Lord. The style of the brief prophecy is sublime. To show its beauty we give a corrected metric version. It must be read through several times to grasp its vivid descriptions, the terse and solemn utterances, the full, smooth phrases, and above all the revelation it contains. His utterances are distinguished by the soaring flight of imagination, the originality, beauty and variety of the similes. The conceptions are simple enough, but they are at the same time bold and grand. The perfect order in which they are arranged, the even flow, the well compacted structure of the prophecy are all remarkable.

He may well be called “The Prophet of the Lord’s Day.” Five times he mentions this day. Joel 1:15 ; Joel 2:1-2 ; Joel 2:10-11 ; Joel 2:30-31 ; and Joel 3:14-16 . The great theme then is “The Day of the Lord,” that coming day, when the Lord is manifested, when the enemies of Israel are judged, when the Lord restores and redeems Israel.

The occasion of the book and prophecy of Joel was a dreadful scourge which swept over the land of Israel. Locusts swarms had fallen upon the land and stripped it of everything green. There was also a great drought. All was a chastisement from the Lord. Hence we see in the first chapter the penitential lamentations of old and young, priests and people. Then the vision widens in the second chapter. The locusts appear no longer as a scourge of literal insects; they become typical of an invading army. This hostile army invades the land from the North and makes the land a wilderness. The alarm is sounded in Zion; the repentance of the people follows. Then comes the great change in this picture of desolation and despair. The day of the Lord is announced. He acts in behalf of His people. He delivers them from the northern Army; He restores what the locusts had devoured; the land is restored and the latter rain is given. At the close of the second chapter stands the prophecy which predicts spiritual blessings through the outpouring of the Spirit of God upon all flesh, a prophecy which has not yet been completely fulfilled, which is not now in process of fulfillment, but which will be accomplished in the day of the Lord. The last chapter is the great finale of this symphony of prophecy. Here the judgment of the nations is vividly portrayed; what the day of the Lord will bring, and what will follow in blessing is the final theme.

But few Christians have ever given much heed to this prophetic book. There are many important truths in this book. A great deal of confusion might have been avoided if more attention had been given to the setting in which the prediction of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon all flesh is found. The Pentecostal delusion is built up mostly upon the wrong interpretations of this prophecy.

The Division of Joel

The divisions of the prophecy of Joel, as found in our English version, cannot be improved upon. We follow it in our analysis and annotations.


A Metric Version


1. The Word of Jehovah which came to Joel, the Son of Pethuel.

2. Hear this, ye aged men

And open the ear ye inhabitants of the land!

Hath this happened in your days,

Or even in the days of your fathers?

3. Relate it to your children

And your children to their children,

And their children to another generation.

4. What the Gazam*1 left, the Arbeh hath devoured

And what the Arbeh left, the Jelek hath devoured

And what the Jelek left, the Chasel hath devoured

5. Awake, ye drunkards and weep!

And howl all ye drinkers of wine

Because of the sweet wine,

For it is taken away from your mouth.

6. For a nation has come up upon my land

Mighty and without number-- His teeth--lion’s teeth--

The jaw teeth, that of a lioness.

7. He hath made my vine for a desolation

And my fig tree broken off;

Peeled off completely and cast it away;

Its branches are made white.

8. Lament like a virgin!

Girded with sackcloth for the husband of her youth.

9. Cut off is the meat and drink offering from the house of Jehovah.

10. “Wasted is the field

Mourning is the land--For wasted is the corn

The new wine is dried up The oil faileth.”

11. Be ashamed, husbandman!

Howl--vine dressers!

For the wheat and the barley.

Because the harvest of the field is lost.

12. The vine is dried up

And the fig tree faileth

The pomegranate, also the palm and the apple tree.

All the trees of the field are withered.

Gone is joy from the children of men.

13. Gird yourselves and lament, O ye priests,

Howl, ministers of the altar;

Come lie down in sackcloth all night

Ye ministers of my God.

For withholden from the house of your God

Are the meat offering and the drink offering.

14. Sanctify a fast.

Call a solemn gathering.

Bring together the Elders

All the inhabitants of the land

In the house of Jehovah your God

And cry unto Jehovah

15. Woe! For the Day!

Because near is the day of Jehovah

Even like destruction from Shaddai*2 it comes.

16. Is not the food cut off before our eyes?

From the house of our God joy and gladness.

17. The seeds have perished under their clods.

The garners become desolate

The storehouses are broken down

For withered is the corn.

18. Hear the cattle groan!

The herds of cattle are bewildered,

For there is no feeding place for them.

Also the flocks of sheep are made to suffer*3

19. To Thee, Jehovah, I cry,

For the fire has consumed the goodly places of the desert

And a flame hath burned all the trees of the field.

20. Also the cattle of the field look Up*4 unto Thee

For the streams of water are dried up,

And a fire hath consumed the goodly places of the desert.

(*1 We leave these four words untranslated for reasons which will be given in the exposition.)

(*2 The only time Shaddai (Almighty) is used in Joel. In the Hebrew there is a resemblance of sound between “destruction” and “Shaddai.”)

(*3 The Hebrew word, which we translate “made to suffer” means in its root “to be guilty.”)

(*4 Another word different from the 19th verse is used, though nearly all translators use “cry.” it is more a groaning, desirous looking up.)


1. Blow the trumpet in Zion,

Sound an alarm in the mount of my holiness.

Let all the dwellers of the land tremble,

For the day of Jehovah cometh,

For it is near at hand.

2. A day of darkness and gloom

A day of clouds and thick darkness,

Like the dawn spread upon the mountains; --

A people numerous and strong!

Never hath there been the like before,

Neither shall the like come again,

in the years of many generations.

3. A fire devoureth before them,

And behind them a flame burneth;

Before them the land is as the garden of Eden,

And behind them a desolate wilderness,

Yea, and nothing can escape them.

4. Their appearance is like the appearance of horses,

And like the horsemen shall they run.

5. Like the noise of chariots,

On the mountain tops, they shall leap,

Like the crackling of a flame of fire devouring the stubble,

Like a strong people set in battle array

6. Before them the peoples are in distress

All faces turn to paleness.

7. They run like mighty men

They climb the wall like men of war;

And they march each one in his ways,

And they turn not aside from their ranks.

8. Nor cloth one press upon another

A mighty one*5 marches in the high road.

They fall upon the dart, but are not wounded.

9. They spread themselves in the city.

They run along upon the wall,

They climb up into the houses,

They enter in by the windows like a thief

10. The earth trembleth before them,

The heavens shake,

The sun and the moon are darkened,

And the stars withdraw their shining.

11. And Jehovah uttereth His voice before his army

For very great is His host,

For He that executeth His Word is mighty;

For great is the day of Jehovah and very terrible,

And who can stand it?

12. Yet even now, saith Jehovah,

Return unto Me with all your heart,

With fasting and with weeping and with mourning.

13. And rend your heart and not your garments,

And return unto Jehovah your God,

For He is gracious and merciful,

Slow to anger and of great loving kindness

And repenteth Him of the evil.

14. Who knoweth He may return and repent

And leave a blessing behind,

An oblation and a drink offering

For Jehovah your God.

15. Blow the trumpet in Zion, Sanctify a fast.

16. Call out a solemn assembly,

Gather the people.

Sanctify a congregation.

Assemble the old men.

Gather the children,

And those that suck the breasts;

Let the bridegroom leave his chamber

And the bride her closet;

17. Let the priests, the ministers of Jehovah,

Weep between the porch and the altar,

And let them say:--

“Spare Thy people, O Jehovah,

And give not Thine heritage to reproach

That the nations should rule over them.*6

Wherefore should they say among the peoples

“Where is their God?”

18. Then Jehovah will be jealous for His people:

And will have pity on His people.

19. And Jehovah will answer and say to His people:

Behold I am sending to you the corn,

The new wine and the oil;

And ye shall be satisfied therewith.

And I will no longer make you

For a reproach among the nations

20. And I will remove afar from you the one from the North

And will drive him into a dry and desolate land,

His face toward the Eastern sea

His rear toward the Western sea

And his stench shall arise

And his ill odor shall ascend,

For he hath lifted himself up to do great things.

21. Fear not, O Land

Be glad and rejoice,

For Jehovah doeth great things.

22. Fear not, ye beasts of the field!

For the pastures of the desert spring forth,

The tree beareth her fruit

The fig tree and the vine give their strength.

23. Ye children of Zion, be glad and rejoice

In Jehovah your God;

For He giveth you the early rain in righteousness,

He causeth to descend for you the showers,

The early and the latter rain as before.

24. And the floors shall be full of corn,

And the vats shall overflow with new wine and oil.

25. And I will restore to you the years,

Which the Arbeh hath eaten.

The Jelek, the Chasel and the Gazam,

My great army, which I sent among you.

26. Then ye shall be in abundance, and be satisfied

And praise the name of Jehovah your God,

Who has dealt wondrously with you,

You My people shall never be ashamed.

27. And ye shall know that I am in the midst of Israel,

And that I Jehovah am your God, and none else.

And My people shall never be ashamed,

28. And it shall come to pass afterwards,

I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh,

And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy;

Your old men shall dream dreams,

Your young men shall see visions.

29. Yea, even upon the men servants and the maid servants,

In those days will I pour out My Spirit.

30. And I will give wonders in the heaven and on earth,

Blood, and fire and pillars of smoke.

31. The sun shall be turned to darkness,

And the moon into blood,

Before the great and terrible day of Jehovah come.

32. And it shall come to pass

Whosoever shall call on the name of Jehovah shall be saved.

For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance,

As Jehovah hath said,

Even for the remnant whom Jehovah shall call.

(*5 This is the literal meaning.)

(*6 Or, “they that should be a byword of the nations.”)


1. For behold in those days and in that time,

When I shall bring back the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem;

2. I will also bring together all nations,

And will bring down into the valley of Jehoshaphat;

And there will I judge them on account of My people,

And My heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations,

And they divided My land.

3. And they cast lots for My people,

They gave a boy for a harlot,

And sold a girl for wine, and drank it.

4. Yea also, what have ye to do with Me, O Tyre and Sidon,

And all the borders of Philistia?

Would you requite Me with retaliation?

If you retaliate

Swiftly and speedily will I bring your recompense

Upon your own head.

5. Because ye have taken My silver and gold,

And have brought into your temples My very best things

6. And the children of Judah and of Jerusalem,

Ye sold to the children of the Greeks,

That ye might remove them far from their border.

7. Behold I will raise them up out of the place whither ye sold them,

And I will return the retaliation upon your own head.

8. And I will sell your sons and your daughters

Into the hands of the sons of Judah.

And they shall sell them to the Sabeans to a far off nation.

For Jehovah hath spoken it.

9. Proclaim this among the nations:

Declare a war!

Arouse the mighty ones!

Let all the men of war draw near, let them come up!

10. Beat your ploughshares into swords,

And your pruning hooks into spears.

Let the weak say, I am strong.

11. Come together,

All ye nations round about

Gather yourselves together.

Thither cause thy mighty ones to come down,

O, Jehovah!

12. Let the nations arise and come up

To the valley of Jehoshaphat,

For there will I sit to judge all the nations round about.

13. Put in the sickle,

For the harvest is ripe;


For the wine-press is full,

The vats overflow;

For their wickedness is great.

14. Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision!

For the day of Jehovah is at hand in the valley of decision.

15. The sun and the moon are darkened

And the stars withdraw their shining.

16. And Jehovah shall roar from Zion,

And send forth His voice from Jerusalem;

And the heavens and the earth shall shake;

But Jehovah will be a refuge for His people

And a fortress for the sons of Israel.

17. And ye shall know that I, Jehovah, your God,

Dwell in Zion, My holy mountain;

And Jerusalem shall be holy,

And strangers shall no more pass through her.

18. And it shall come to pass in that day

That the mountains shall drop down new wine,

And the hills shall flow with milk,

And all the river beds of Judah shall be full with waters,

And a fountain shall come forth from the house of Jehovah,

And shall water the valley of Shittim.

19. Egypt shall be a desolation

And Edom shall be a desolate wilderness.

For their violence against the children of Judah,

Because they shed innocent blood in their land.

20. But Judah shall abide forever.

And Jerusalem from generation to generation.

21. And I will purge them from the blood

From which I had not purged them

And Jehovah will dwell in Zion.

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