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Summons to Penitential Prayer for the Removal of the Judgment - Joel 2:1-17
This section does not contain a fresh or second address of the prophet, but simply forms the second part of his sermon of repentance, in which he repeats with still greater emphasis the command already hinted at in Joel 1:14-15, that there should be a meeting of the congregation for humiliation and prayer, and assigns the reason in a comprehensive picture of the approach of Jehovah's great and terrible judgment-day (Joel 2:1-11), coupled with the cheering assurance that the Lord will still take compassion upon His people, according to His great grace, if they will return to Him with all their heart (Joel 2:12-14); and then closes with another summons to the whole congregation to assemble for this purpose in the house of the Lord, and with instructions how the priests are to pray to the Lord (Joel 2:15-17).
By blowing the far-sounding horn, the priests are to make known to the people the coming of the judgment, and to gather them together in the temple to pray. Joel 2:1. “Blow ye the trumpet upon Zion, and cause it to sound upon my holy mountain! All the inhabitants of the land shall tremble; for the day of Jehovah cometh, for it is near.” That this summons is addressed to the priests, is evident from Joel 2:15, compared with Joel 2:14. On tiq‛ū shōphâr and hârı̄‛ū , see at Hosea 5:8. “Upon Zion,” i.e., from the top of the temple mountain. Zion is called the holy mountain, as in Psalms 2:6, because the Lord was there enthroned in His sanctuary, on the summit of Moriah, which He claimed as His own. Râgaz , to tremble, i.e., to start up from their careless state (Hitzig). On the expression, “for the day of Jehovah cometh,” see Joel 1:15. By the position of בּוא at the head of the sentence, and that in the perfect בּא instead of the imperfect, as in Joel 1:15, the coming of the day of Jehovah is represented as indisputably certain. The addition of kı̄ qârōbh (for it is near) cannot be accounted for, however, from the fact that in the spiritual intuition of the prophet this day had already come, whereas in reality it was only drawing near (Hengstenberg); for such a separation as this between one element of prophesying and another is inconceivable. The explanation is simply, that the day of the Lord runs throughout the history of the kingdom of God, so that it occurs in each particular judgment: not, however, as fully manifested, but simply as being near or approaching, so far as its complete fulfilment is concerned. Joel now proclaims the coming of the day in its full completion, on the basis of the judgment already experienced, as the approach of a terrible army of locusts that darkens the land, at the head of which Jehovah is riding in all the majesty of the Judge of the world. The description is divided into three strophes thus: he first of all depicts the sight of this army of God, as seen afar off, and its terrible appearance in general ( Joel 2:2 and Joel 2:3); then the appearance and advance of this mighty army (Joel 2:4-6); and lastly, its irresistible power (Joel 2:7-11); and closes the first strophe with a figurative description of the devastation caused by this terrible army, whilst in the second and third he gives prominence to the terror which they cause among all nations, and over all the earth.
“A day of darkness and obscurity, a day of clouds and cloudy night: like morning dawn spread over the mountains, a people great and strong: there has not been the like from all eternity, nor will there be after it even to the years of generation and generation. Joel 2:3. Before it burneth fire, and behind it flameth flame: the land before it as the garden of Eden, and behind it like a desolate wilderness; and even that which escaped did not remain to it.” With four words, expressing the idea of darkness and obscurity, the day of Jehovah is described as a day of the manifestation of judgment. The words חשׁך ענן וערפל are applied in Deuteronomy 4:11 to the cloudy darkness in which Mount Sinai was enveloped, when Jehovah came down upon it in the fire; and in Exodus 10:22, the darkness which fell upon Egypt as the ninth plague is called אפלה כּשׁחר וגו does not belong to what precedes, nor does it mean blackness or twilight (as Ewald and some Rabbins suppose), but “the morning dawn.” The subject to pârus (spread) is neither yōm (day), which precedes it, nor ‛am (people), which follows; for neither of these yields a suitable thought at all. The subject is left indefinite: “like morning dawn is it spread over the mountains.” The prophet's meaning is evident enough from what follows. He clearly refers to the bright glimmer or splendour which is seen in the sky as a swarm of locusts approaches, from the reflection of the sun's rays from their wings.
(Note: The following is the account given by the Portuguese monk Francis Alvarez, in his Journey through Abyssinia (Oedmann, Vermischte Sammlungen, vi. p. 75): “The day before the arrival of the locusts we could infer that they were coming, from a yellow reflection in the sky, proceeding from their yellow wings. As soon as this light appeared, no one had the slightest doubt that an enormous swarm of locusts was approaching.” He also says, that during his stay in the town of Barua he himself saw this phenomenon, and that so vividly, that even the earth had a yellow colour from the reflection. The next day a swarm of locusts came.)
With עם רב ועצוּם (a people great and strong) we must consider the verb בּא (cometh) in Exodus 10:1 as still retaining its force. Yōm (day) and ‛âm (people) have the same predicate, because the army of locusts carries away the day, and makes it into a day of cloudy darkness. The darkening of the earth is mentioned in connection with the Egyptian plague of locusts in Exodus 10:15, and is confirmed by many witnesses (see the comm. on Ex. l.c.). The fire and the flame which go both before and behind the great and strong people, viz., the locusts, cannot be understood as referring to the brilliant light kindled as it were by the morning dawn, which proceeds from the fiery armies of the vengeance of God, i.e., the locusts (Umbreit), nor merely to the burning heat of the drought by which everything is consumed (Joel 1:19); but this burning heat is heightened here into devouring flames of fire, which accompany the appearing of God as He comes to judgment at the head of His army, after the analogy of the fiery phenomena connected with the previous manifestations of God, both in Egypt, where a terrible hail fell upon the land before the plague of locusts, accompanied by thunder and balls of fire (Exodus 9:23-24), and also at Sinai, upon which the Lord came down amidst thunder and lightning, and spoke to the people out of the fire (Exodus 19:16-18; Deuteronomy 4:11-12). The land, which had previously resembled the garden of paradise (Genesis 2:8), was changed in consequence into a desolate wilderness. פּליטה does not mean escape or deliverance, either here or in Obadiah 1:17, but simply that which has run away or escaped. Here it signifies that part of the land which has escaped the devastation; for it is quite contrary to the usage of the language to refer לו , as most commentators do, to the swarm of locusts, from which there is no escape, no deliverance (cf. 2 Samuel 15:14; Judges 21:17; Ezra 9:13, in all of which ל refers to the subject, to which the thing that escaped was assigned). Consequently לו can only refer to הארץ . The perfect היתה stands related to אחריו , according to which the swarm of locusts had already completed the devastation.
In Joel 2:4-6 we have a description of this mighty army of God, and of the alarm caused by its appearance among all nations. Joel 2:4. “Like the appearance of horses is its appearance; and like riding-horses, so do they run. Joel 2:5. Like rumbling of chariots on the tops of the mountains do they leap, like the crackling of flame which devours stubble, like a strong people equipped for conflict. Joel 2:6. Before it nations tremble; all faces withdraw their redness.” The comparison drawn between the appearance of the locusts and that of horses refers chiefly to the head, which, when closely examined, bears a strong resemblance to the head of a horse, as Theodoret has already observed; a fact which gave rise to their being called Heupferde (hay-horses) in German. In Joel 2:4 the rapidity of their motion is compared to the running of riding-horses ( pârâshı̄m ); and in Joel 2:5 the noise caused by their springing motion to the rattling of chariots, the small two-wheeled war-chariots of the ancients, when driven rapidly over the rough mountain roads. The noise caused by their devouring the plants and shrubs is also compared to the burning of a flame over a stubble-field that has been set on fire, and their approach to the advance of a war force equipped for conflict. (Compare the adoption and further expansion of these similes in Revelation 9:7, Revelation 9:9). At the sight of this terrible army of God the nations tremble, so that their faces grow pale. ‛Ammı̄m means neither people (see at 1 Kings 22:28) nor the tribes of Israel, but nations generally. Joel is no doubt depicting something more here than the devastation caused by the locusts in his own day. There are differences of opinion as to the rendering of the second hemistich, which Nahum repeats in Joel 2:11. The combination of פּארוּר with פּרוּר , a pot (Chald., Syr., Jer., Luth., and others), is untenable, since פּרוּר comes from פּרר , to break in pieces, whereas פּארוּר (= פּארוּר ) is from the root פאר , piel, to adorn, beautify, or glorify; so that the rendering, “they gather redness,” i.e., glow with fear, which has an actual but not a grammatical support in Isaiah 13:8, is evidently worthless. We therefore understand פּארוּר , as Ab. Esr., Abul Wal., and others have done, in the sense of elegantia, nitor, pulchritudo, and as referring to the splendour or healthy ruddiness of the cheeks, and take קבּץ ekat dn as an intensive form of קבץ , in the sense of drawing into one's self, or withdrawing, inasmuch as fear and anguish cause the blood to fly from the face and extremities to the inward parts of the body. For the fact of the face turning pale with terror, see Jeremiah 30:6.
In Joel 2:7-10 the comparison of the army of locusts to a well-equipped army is carried out still further; and, in the first place, by a description of the irresistible force of its advance. Joel 2:7. “They run like heroes, like warriors they climb the wall; every one goes on its way, and they do not change their paths. Joel 2:8. And they do not press one another, they go every one in his path; and they fall headlong through weapons, and do not cut themselves in pieces. Joel 2:9. They run about in the city, they run upon the wall, they climb into the houses, they come through the windows like a thief.” This description applies for the most part word for word to the advance of the locusts, as Jerome (in loc.) and Theodoret (on Joel 2:8) attest from their own observation.
(Note: Jerome says: “We saw ( al. heard) this lately in the province (Palestine). For when the swarms of locusts come and fill the whole atmosphere between the earth and sky, they fly in such order, according to the appointment of the commanding God, that they preserve an exact shape, just like the squares drawn upon a tesselated pavement, not diverging on either side by, so to speak, so much as a finger's breadth. 'And,' as he (the prophet) interprets the metaphor, 'through the windows they will fall, and not be destroyed.' For there is no road impassable to locusts; they penetrate into fields, and crops, and trees, and cities, and houses, and even the recesses of the bed-chambers.” And Theodoret observes on Joel 2:8: “For you may see the grasshopper like a hostile army ascending the walls, and advancing along the roads, and not suffering any difficulty to disperse them, but steadily moving forward, as if according to some concerted plan.” And again, on Joel 2:9: “And this we have frequently seen done, not merely by hostile armies, but also by locusts, which not only when flying, but by creeping along the walls, pass through the windows into the houses themselves.”)
They run like heroes - namely, to the assault: רוּץ referring to an attack, as in Job 15:26 and Psalms 18:30, “as their nimbleness has already been noticed in Joel 2:4” (Hitzig). Their climbing the walls also points to an assault. Their irresistible march to the object of their attack is the next point described. No one comes in another's way; they do not twist ( עבט ) their path, i.e., do not diverge either to the right hand or to the left, so as to hinder one another. Even the force of arms cannot stop their advance. שׁלח is not a missile, telum , missile (Ges. and others), but a weapon extended or held in front (Hitzig); and the word is not only applied to a sword (2 Chronicles 23:10; Nehemiah 4:11), but to weapons of defence (2 Chronicles 32:5). בּצע , not “to wound themselves” (= פּצע ), but “to cut in pieces,” used here intransitively, to cut themselves in pieces. This does no doubt transcend the nature even of the locust; but it may be explained on the ground that they are represented as an invincible army of God.
(Note: The notion that these words refer to attempts to drive away the locusts by force of arms, in support of which Hitzig appeals to Liv. hist. xlii. 10, Plinii hist. n. xi. 29, and Hasselquist, Reise nach Pal. p. 225, is altogether inappropriate. All that Livy does is to speak of ingenti agmine hominum ad colligendas eas (locustas) coacto ; and Pliny merely says, Necare et in Syria militari imperio coguntur. And although Hasselquist says, Both in Asia and Europe they sometimes take the field against the locusts with all the equipments of war,” this statement is decidedly false so far as Europe is concerned. In Bessarabia (according to the accounts of eye-witnesses) they are merely in the habit of scaring away the swarms of locusts that come in clouds, by making a great noise with drums, kettles, hay-forks, and other noisy instruments, for the purpose of preventing them from settling on the ground, and so driving them further. Hass's account of a pasha of Tripoli having sent 4000 soldiers against the insects only a few years ago, is far too indefinite to prove that they were driven away by the force of arms.)
On the other hand, the words of Joel 2:9 apply, so far as the first half is concerned, both to the locusts and to an army (cf. Isaiah 33:4; Nahum 2:5); whereas the second half applies only to the former, of which Theodoret relates in the passage quoted just now, that he has frequently seen this occur (compare also Exodus 10:6).
The whole universe trembles at this judgment of God. Joel 2:10. “Before it the earth quakes, the heavens tremble: sun and moon have turned black, and the stars have withdrawn their shining. Joel 2:11. And Jehovah thunders before His army, for His camp is very great, for the executor of His word is strong; for the day of Jehovah is great and very terrible, and who can endure it?” The remark of Jerome on Joel 2:10, viz., that “it is not that the strength of the locusts is so great that they can move the heavens and shake the earth, but that to those who suffer from such calamities, from the amount of their own terror, the heavens appear to shake and the earth to reel,” is correct enough so far as the first part is concerned, but it by no means exhausts the force of the words. For, as Hitzig properly observes, the earth could only quake because of the locusts when they had settled, and the heavens could only tremble and be darkened when they were flying, so that the words would in any case be very much exaggerated. But it by no means follows from this, that לפניו is not to be taken as referring to the locusts, like מפּניו in Joel 2:6, but to the coming of Jehovah in a storm, and that it is to be understood in this sense: “the earth quakes, the air roars at the voice of Jehovah, i.e., at the thunder, and storm-clouds darken the day.” For although nâthan qōlō (shall utter His voice) in Joel 2:11 is to be understood as referring to the thunder, Joel is not merely describing a storm, which came when the trouble had reached its height and put an end to the plague of locusts (Credner, Hitzig, and others). לפניו cannot be taken in any other sense than that in which it occurs in Joel 2:3; that is to say, it can only refer to “the great people and strong,” viz., the army of locusts, like מפּניו . Heaven and earth tremble at the army of locusts, because Jehovah comes with them to judge the world (cf. Isaiah 13:13; Nahum 1:5-6; Jeremiah 10:10). The sun and moon become black, i.e., dark, and the stars withdraw their brightness ( 'âsaph , withdraw, as in 1 Samuel 14:19), i.e., they let their light shine no more. That these words affirm something infinitely greater than the darkening of the lights of heaven by storm-clouds, is evident partly from the predictions of the judgment of the wrath of the Lord that is coming upon the whole earth and upon the imperial power (Isaiah 13:10; Ezekiel 32:7), at which the whole fabric of the universe trembles and nature clothes itself in mourning, and partly from the adoption of this particular feature by Christ in His description of the last judgment (Matthew 24:29; Mark 13:24-25). Compare, on the other hand, the poetical description of a storm in Psalms 18:8., where this feature is wanting. (For further remarks, see at Joel 3:4.) At the head of the army which is to execute His will, the Lord causes His voice of thunder to sound ( nâthan qōl , to thunder; cf. Psalms 18:14, etc.). The reason for this is given in three sentences that are introduced by kı̄ . Jehovah does this because His army is very great; because this powerful army executes His word, i.e., His command; and because the day of judgment is so great and terrible, that no one can endure it, i.e., no one can stand before the fury of the wrath of the Judge (cf. Jeremiah 10:10; Malachi 3:1).
But there is still time to avert the completion of the judgment by sincere repentance and mourning; for God is merciful, and ready to forgive the penitent. Joel 2:12. “Yet even now, is the saying of Jehovah, turn ye to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning. Joel 2:13. And rend your heart and not your garments, and turn back to Jehovah your God; for He is gracious and merciful, long-suffering, and great in kindness, and suffers Himself to repent of the evil. Joel 2:14. Who knoweth He turns and repents, and leaves behind Him blessing, meat-offering and drink-offering for Jehovah your God?” As the plague of locusts was intended to bring the people to reflect upon their conduct towards the Lord, so was the announcement of the great day of judgment and all its terrors made with no other object than to produce repentance and conversion, and thereby promote the good of the people of God. Joel therefore appends to the threatening of judgment a summons to sincere conversion to the Lord; and this he does by first of all addressing the summons to the people as a saying of Jehovah (v. 12), and then explaining this word of God in the most emphatic manner (vv. 13, 14). The Lord God requires conversion to Himself with all the heart (cf. 1 Samuel 7:3, and Deuteronomy 6:5; and for שׂוּב עד , Hosea 14:2), associated with deep-rooted penitence on account of sin, which is to be outwardly manifested in fasting and mourning. But lest the people should content themselves with the outward signs of mourning, he proceeds in Joel 2:13 with the warning admonition, “Rend your heart, and not your garments.” Rending the heart signifies contrition of heart (cf. Psalms 51:19; Ezekiel 36:26). He then assigns the motive for this demand, by pointing to the mercy and grace of God, in the words of Exodus 34:6, with which the Lord made known to Moses His inmost nature, except that in the place of ואמת , which we find in this passage, he adds, on the ground of the facts recorded in Ezekiel 32:14 and 2 Samuel 24:16, ונחם על הרעה . On the strength of these facts he hopes, even in the present instance, for forgiveness on the part of God, and the removal of the judgment. “Who knoweth?” equivalent to “perhaps;” not because “too confident a hope would have had in it something offensive to Jehovah” (Hitzig), but “lest perchance they might either despair on account of the magnitude of their crimes, or the greatness of the divine clemency might make them careless” (Jerome).
(Note: “He speaks after the manner of a terrified conscience, which is lifted up again with difficulty after a season of affliction, and begins to aspire after hope and the mercy of God. Moreover, the expression 'who knoweth' is a Hebrew phrase, which does not indicate doubt, but rather affirmation, coupled with desire, as if we were to say, 'And yet surely God will turn again.'” - Luther, Enarrat. in Joelem, Opp., Jena 1703, p. iii.)
ישׁוּב , to turn, sc. from coming to judgment. נהם as in Joel 2:13. השׁאיר אחריו , to leave behind Him, sc. when He returns to His throne in heaven (Hosea 5:15). B e râkhâh , a blessing, viz., harvest-produce for a meat-offering and drink-offering, which had been destroyed by the locusts (Joel 1:9, Joel 1:13).
To make this admonition still more emphatic, the prophet concludes by repeating the appeal for the appointment of a meeting in the temple for prayer, and even gives the litany in which the priests are to offer their supplication. Joel 2:15. “Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast, proclaim a meeting. Joel 2:16. Gather the people together, sanctify an assembly, bring together the old men, gather together the children and sucklings at the breasts. Let the bridegroom go out of his chamber, and the bride out of her room. Joel 2:17. Between the porch and the altar are the priests, the servants of Jehovah, to weep and say, Spare, O Jehovah, Thy people, and give not up Thine inheritance to shame, so that the heathen scoff at them. Wherefore should men say among the nations, Where is their God?” Joel 2:15 is a literal repetition from Joel 2:1 and Joel 1:14; Joel 1:16 a more detailed expansion of Joel 1:14, in which, first of all, the people generally ( עם ) are mentioned, and then the objection of the summons explained in the words קדּשׁוּ קהל , “Call a holy meeting of the congregation.” But in order that none may think themselves exempt, the people are more precisely defined as old men, children, and sucklings. Even the bride and bridegroom are to give up the delight of their hearts, and take part in the penitential and mournful worship. No age, no rank, is to stay away, because no one, not even the suckling, is free from sin; but all, without exception, are exposed to the judgment. “A stronger proof of the deep and universal guilt of the whole nation could not be found, than that on the great day of penitence and prayer, even new-born infants were to be carried in their arms” (Umbreit). The penitential supplication of the whole nation is to be brought before the Lord by the priests as the mediators of the nation. יבכּוּ in Joel 1:17 is jussive, like יצא in Joel 1:16, though Hitzig disputes this, but on insufficient grounds. The allusion to the priests in the former could only be unsuitable, if they were merely commanded to go to the temple like the rest of the people. But it is not to this that Joel 1:17 refers, but to the performance of their official duty, when the people had assembled for the penitential festival. They were to stand between the porch of the temple and the altar of burnt-offering, i.e., immediately in front of the door of the holy place, and there with tears entreat the Lord, who was enthroned in the sanctuary, not to give up the people of His possession ( nachălâh as in 1 Kings 8:51; cf. Deuteronomy 4:20; Deuteronomy 32:9) to the reproach of being scoffed at by the heathen. למשׁל־בּם גּוים is rendered by Luther and others, “that heathen rule over them,” after the ancient versions; and Psalms 106:41; Deuteronomy 15:6, and Lamentations 5:8, might be appealed to in support of this rendering. But although grammatically allowable, it is not required by the parallelism, as Hengstenberg maintains. For even if the reproach of Israel could consist in the fact that they, the inheritance of the Lord, were subjected to the government of heathen, this thought is very remote from the idea of the passage before us, where there is no reference at all in the threatening of punishment to subjection to the heathen, but simply to the devastation of the land. משׁל with ב also signifies to utter a proverb (= to scoff) at any one, for which Ezekiel indeed makes use of משׁל משׁל (Ezekiel 17:2; Ezekiel 18:2, and in Ezekiel 12:23 and Ezekiel 18:3 construed with ב ); but it is evident that mâshal was sometimes used alone in this sense, from the occurrence of mōsh e lı̄m in Numbers 21:27 as a term applied to the inventors of proverbs, and also of m e shōl as a proverb or byword in Job 17:6, whether we take the word as an infinitive or a substantive. This meaning, as Marck observes, is rendered probable both by the connection with חרפּה , and also by the parallel clause which follows, viz., “Wherefore should men among the heathen say,” etc., more especially if we reflect that Joel had in his mind not Deuteronomy 15:6, which has nothing in common with the passage before us except the verb mâshal , but rather Deuteronomy 28:37, where Moses not only threatens the people with transportation to another land for their apostasy from the Lord, and that they shall become “an astonishment, a proverb ( mâshâl ), and a byword” among all nations, but (Deuteronomy 28:38, Deuteronomy 28:40-42) also threatens them with the devastation of their seed-crops, their vineyards, and their olive-grounds by locusts. Compare also 1 Kings 9:7-8, where not only the casting out of Israel among the heathen, but even the destruction of the temple, is mentioned as the object of ridicule on the part of the heathen; also the combination of לחרפּה and למשׁל in Jeremiah 24:9. But Joel 2:19 is decisive in favour of this view of למשׁל בם ג . The Lord there promises that He will send His people corn, new wine, and oil, to their complete satisfaction, and no longer make them a reproach among the nations; so that, according to this, it was not subjugation or transportation by heathen foes that gave occasion to the scoffing of the nations at Israel, but the destruction of the harvest by the locusts. The saying among the nations, “Where is their God?” is unquestionably a sneer at the covenant relation of Jehovah to Israel; and to this Jehovah could offer no inducement, since the reproach would fall back upon Himself. Compare for the fact itself, Exodus 32:12; Micah 7:10, and Psalms 115:2. Thus the prayer closes with the strongest reason why God should avert the judgment, and one that could not die away without effect.
Joel 2:18 and Joel 2:19 contain the historical statement, that in consequence of the penitential prayer of the priests, the Lord displayed His mercy to His people, and gave them a promise, the first part of which follows in Joel 2:19-27. Joel 2:18, Joel 2:19. “Then Jehovah was jealous for His land, and had compassion upon His people. And Jehovah answered, and said.” The grammar requires that we should take the imperfects with Vav consec. in these clauses, as statements of what actually occurred. The passages in which imperfects with Vav cons. are either really or apparently used in a prophetic announcement of the future, are of a different kind; e.g., in Joel 2:23, where we find one in a subordinate clause preceded by perfects. As the verb ויּען describes the promise which follows, as an answer given by Jehovah to His people, we must assume that the priests had really offered the penitential and supplicatory prayer to which the prophet had summoned them in Joel 2:17. The circumstance that this is not expressly mentioned, neither warrants us in rendering the verbs in Joel 2:17 in the present, and taking them as statements of what the priest really did (Hitzig), nor in changing the historical tenses in Joel 2:18, Joel 2:19 into futures. We have rather simply to supply the execution of the prophet's command between Joel 2:17 and Joel 2:18. קנּא with ל , to be jealous for a person, i.e., to show the jealousy of love towards him, as in Exodus 39:25; Zechariah 1:14 (see at Exodus 20:5). חמל as in Exodus 2:6; 1 Samuel 23:21. In the answer from Jehovah which follows, the three features in the promise are not given according to their chronological order; but in order to add force to the description, we have first of all, in Joel 2:19, a promise of the relief of the distress at which both man and beast had sighed, and then, in Joel 2:20, a promise of the destruction of the devastator; and it is not till Joel 2:21-23 that the third feature is mentioned in the further development of the promise, viz., the teacher for righteousness. Then finally, in Joel 2:23-27, the fertilizing fall of rain, and the plentiful supply of the fruits of the ground that had been destroyed by the locusts, are more elaborately described, as the first blessing bestowed upon the people.
The promise runs as follows. Joel 2:19. “ Behold, I send you the corn, and the new wine, and the oil, that ye may become satisfied therewith; and will no more make you a reproach among the nations. Joel 2:20. And I will remove the northern one far away from you, and drive him into the land of drought and desert; its van into the front sea, and its rear into the hinder sea: and its stink will ascend, and its corruption ascend, for it has done great things.” The Lord promises, first of all, a compensation for the injury done by the devastation, and then the destruction of the devastation itself, so that it may do no further damage. Joel 2:19 stands related to Joel 1:11. Shâlach , to send: the corn is said to be sent instead of given (Hosea 2:10), because God sends the rain which causes the corn to grow. Israel shall no longer be a reproach among the nations, “as a poor people, whose God is unable to assist it, or has evidently forsaken it” (Ros.). Marck and Schmieder have already observed that this promise is related to the prayer, that He would not give up His inheritance to the reproach of the scoffings of the heathen (Joel 1:17: see the comm. on this verse). הצּפוני , the northern one, as an epithet applied to the swarm of locusts, furnishes no decisive argument in favour of the allegorical interpretation of the plague of locusts. For even if locusts generally come to Palestine from the south, out of the Arabian desert, the remark out of the Arabian desert, the remark made by Jerome, to the effect that “the swarms of locusts are more generally brought by the south wind than by the north,” shows that the rule is not without its exceptions. “Locusts come and go with all winds” (Oedmann, ii. p. 97). In Arabia, Niebuhr ( Beschreib. p. 169) saw swarms of locusts come from south, west, north, and east. Their home is not confined to the desert of Arabia, but they are found in all the sandy deserts, which form the southern boundaries of the lands that were, and to some extent still are, the seat of cultivation, viz., in the Sahara, the Libyan desert, Arabia, and Irak (Credner, p. 285); and Niebuhr ( l.c.) saw a large tract of land, on the road from Mosul to Nisibis, completely covered with young locusts. They are also met with in the Syrian desert, from which swarms could easily be driven to Palestine by a north-east wind, without having to fly across the mountains of Lebanon. Such a swarm as this might be called the ts e phōnı̄ , i.e., the northern one, or northerner, even if the north was not its true home. For it cannot be philologically proved that ts e phōnı̄ can only denote one whose home is in the north. Such explanations as the Typhonian, the barbarian, and others, which we meet with in Hitzig, Ewald, and Meier, and which are obtained by alterations of the text or far-fetched etymologies, must be rejected as arbitrary. That which came from the north shall also be driven away by the north wind, viz., the great mass into the dry and desert land, i.e., the desert of Arabia, the van into the front (or eastern) sea, i.e., the Dead Sea (Ezekiel 47:18; Zechariah 14:8), the rear into the hinder (or western) sea, i.e., the Mediterranean (cf. Deuteronomy 11:24). This is, of course, not to be understood as signifying that the dispersion was to take place in all these three directions at one and the same moment, in which case three different winds would blow at the same time; but it is a rhetorical picture of rapid and total destruction, which is founded upon the idea that the wind rises in the north-west, then turns to the north, and finally to the north-east, so that the van of the swarm is driven into the eastern sea, the great mass into the southern desert, and the rear into the western sea. The explanation given by Hitzig and others - namely, that pânı̄m signifies the eastern border, and sōph the western border of the swarm, which covered the entire breadth of the land, and was driven from north to south - cannot be sustained. Joel mentions both the van and the rear after the main body, simply because they both meet with the same fate, both falling into the sea and perishing there; whereupon the dead bodies are thrown up by the waves upon the shore, where their putrefaction fills the air with stench. The perishing of locusts in seas and lakes is attested by many authorities.
(Note: Even Pliny says (h. n. xi. 29), Gregatim sublato vento in maria aut stagna decidunt; and Jerome has the following remarks on this verse: “Even in our own times we have seen the land of Judaea covered by swarms of locusts, which, as soon as the wind rose, were precipitated into the first and latest seas, i.e., the Dead Sea and the Mediterranean. And when the shores of both seas were filled with heaps of dead locusts, which the waters had thrown up, their corruption and stench became so noxious, that even the atmosphere was corrupted, and both man and beasts suffered from the consequent pestilence.”)
For עלה באשׁו , compare Isaiah 34:3 and Amos 4:10. צחנה is ἁπ. λεγ. ; but the meaning corruption is sustained partly by the parallelism, and partly by the Syriac verb, which means to be dirty. The army of locusts had deserved this destruction, because it had done great things. הגדּיל לעשׂות , to do great things, is affirmed of men or other creatures, with the subordinate idea of haughtiness; so that it not only means he has done a mighty thing, accomplished a mighty devastation, but is used in the same sense as the German grosstun , via. to brag or be proud of one strength. It does not follow from this, however, that the locusts are simply figurative, and represent hostile nations. For however true it may be that sin and punishment presuppose accountability (Hengst., Hävernick), and conclusion drawn from this - namely, that they cannot be imputed to irrational creatures - is incorrect. The very opposite is taught by the Mosaic law, according to which God will punish every act of violence done by beasts upon man (Genesis 9:5), whilst the ox which killed a man was commanded to be stoned (Exodus 21:28-32).
This promise is carried out still further in what follows; and Joel summons the earth (Joel 2:21), the beasts of the field (Joel 2:22), and the sons of Zion (Joel 2:23) to joy and exultation at this mighty act of the Lord, by which they have been delivered from the threatening destruction. Joel 2:21. “Fear not, O earth! exult and rejoice: for Jehovah doeth great things! Joel 2:22. Fear ye not, O beasts of the field! for the pastures of the desert become green, for the tree bears its fruit; fig-tree and vine yield their strength. Joel 2:23. And ye sons of Zion, exult and rejoice in the Lord your God; for He giveth you the teacher for righteousness, and causes to come down to you a rain-fall, early rain and latter rain, first of all.” The soil had suffered from the drought connected with the swarms of locusts (Joel 1:9); the beasts of the field had groaned on account of the destruction of all the plants and vegetation of every kind (Joel 1:18); the men had sighed over the unparalleled calamity that had befallen both land and people. The prophet here calls to all of them not to fear, but to exult and rejoice, and gives in every case an appropriate reason for the call. In that of the earth, he introduces the thought that Jehovah had done great things - had destroyed the foe that did great things; in that of the beasts, he points to the fresh verdure of the pastures, and the growth of the fruit upon the trees; in that of men, he lays stress upon a double fact, viz., the gift of a teacher for righteousness, and the pouring out of a plentiful rain. In this description we have to notice the rhetorical individualizing, which forms its peculiar characteristic, and serves to explain not only the distinction between the earth, the beasts of the field, and the sons of Zion, but the distribution of the divine blessings among the different members of the creation that are mentioned here. For, so far as the fact itself is concerned, the threefold blessing from God benefits all three classes of the earthly creation: the rain does good not only to the sons of Zion, or to men, but also to animals and to the soil; and so again do the green of the pastures and the fruits of the trees; and lastly, even the הגדּיל יי לעשׂות not only blesses the earth, but also the beasts and men upon it. It is only through overlooking this rhetorico-poetical distribution, that any one could infer from Joel 2:22, that because the fruits are mentioned here as the ordinary food of animals, in direct contrast to Genesis 1:28-29, where the fruit of the trees is assigned to men for food, the beasts of the field signify the heathen. The perfects in the explanatory clauses of these three verses are all to be taken alike, and not to be rendered in the preterite in Joel 2:21, and in the present in Joel 2:22 and Joel 2:23. The perfect is not only applied to actions, which the speaker looks upon from his own standpoint as actually completed, as having taken place, or as things belonging to the past, but to actions which the will or the lively fancy of the speaker regards as being as good as completed, in other words, assumes as altogether unconditional and certain, and to which in modern languages we should apply the present (Ewald, §135, a, etc.). The latter is the sense in which it is used here, since the prophet sets forth the divine promise as a fact, which is unquestionably certain and complete, even though its historical realization has only just begun, and extends into the nearer or more remote future. The divine act over which the prophet calls upon them to rejoice, is not to be restricted to the destruction of those swarms of locusts that had at that time invaded Judah, and the revivification of drying nature, but is an act of God that is being constantly repeated whenever the same circumstances occur, or whose influence continues as long as this earth lasts; since it is a tangible pledge, that to all eternity, as is stated in Joel 2:26, Joel 2:27, the people of the Lord will not be put to shame. The “sons of Zion” are not merely the inhabitants of Zion itself, but the dwellers in the capital are simply mentioned as the representatives of the kingdom of Judah. As the plague of locusts fell not upon Jerusalem only, but upon the whole land, the call to rejoicing must refer to all the inhabitants of the land (Joel 1:2, Joel 1:14). They are to rejoice in Jehovah, who has proved Himself to be their God by the removal of the judgment and the bestowal of a fresh blessing.
This blessing is twofold in its nature. He gives them את־המּורה לצדקה . From time immemorial there has been a diversity of opinion as to the meaning of these words. Most of the Rabbins and earlier commentators have followed the Chaldee and Vulgate, and taken mōreh in the sense of “teacher;” but others, in no small number, have taken it in the sense of “early rain,” e.g., Ab. Ezra, Kimchi, Tanch., Calvin, and most of the Calvinistic and modern commentators. But although mōreh is unquestionably used in the last clause of this verse in the sense of early rain; in every other instance this is called yōreh (Deuteronomy 11:14; Jeremiah 5:24); for Psalms 84:7 cannot be brought into the account since the meaning is disputed. Consequently the conjecture is a very natural one, that in the last clause of the verse Joel selected the form mōreh , instead of yōreh , to signify early rain, simply on account of the previous occurrence of hammōreh in the sense of “teacher,” and for the sake of the unison. This rendering of hammōreh is not only favoured by thee article placed before it, since neither mōreh = yōreh (early rain), nor the corresponding and tolerably frequent malqōsh (latter rain), ever has the article, and no reason can be discovered why mōreh should be defined by the article here if it signified early rain; but it is decisively confirmed by the following word לצדקה , which is quite inapplicable to early rain, since it cannot mean either “in just measure,” or “at the proper time,” or “in becoming manner,” as ts e dâqâh is only used in the ethical sense of righteousness, and is never met with sensu physico , neither in 2 Samuel 19:29; Nehemiah 2:20, nor in Psalms 23:3 and Leviticus 19:36, where moreover צדק occurs. For מעגּלי צדק (in the Psalm) are not straight or right ways, but ways of righteousness (spiritual ways); and although מאזני צדק אבני צדק , are no doubt really correct scales and weight-stones, this is simply because they correspond to what is ethically right, so that we cannot deduce from this the idea of correct measure in the case of the rain. Ewald and Umbreit, who both of them recognise the impossibility of proving that ts e dâqâh is used in the physical sense of correctness or correct measure, have therefore adopted the rendering “rain for justification,” or “for righteousness;” Ewald regarding the rain as a sign that they are adopted again into the righteousness of God, whilst Umbreit takes it as a manifestation of eternal righteousness in the flowing stream of fertilizing grace. But apart from the question, whether these thoughts are in accordance with the doctrine of Scripture, they are by no means applicable here, where the people have neither doubted the revelation of the righteousness of God, nor prayed to God for justification, but have rather appealed to the compassion and grace of God in the consciousness of their sin and guilt, and prayed to be spared and rescued from destruction (Joel 2:13, Joel 2:17). By the “teacher for righteousness,” we are to understand neither the prophet Joel only (v. Hofmann), nor the Messiah directly (Abarbanel), nor the idea teacher or collective body of messengers from God (Hengstenberg), although there is some truth at the foundation of all these suppositions. The direct or exclusive reference to the Messiah is at variance wit the context, since all the explanatory clauses in vv. 21-23 treat of blessings or gifts of God, which were bestowed at any rate partially at that particular time. Moreover, in v. 23, the sending of the rain-fall is represented by ויּורד (imperf. c. Vav cons.), if not as the consequence of the sending of the teacher for righteousness, at any rate as a contemporaneous event. These circumstances apparently favour the application of the expression to the prophet Joel. Nevertheless, it is by no means probable that Joel describes himself directly as the teacher for righteousness, or speaks of his being sent to the people as the object of exultation. No doubt he had induced the people to turn to the Lord, and to offer penitential supplication for His mercy through his call to repentance, and thereby effected the consequent return of rain and fruitful seasons; but his address and summons would not have had this result, if the people had not been already instructed by Moses, by the priests, and by other prophets before himself, concerning the ways of the Lord. All of these were teachers for righteousness, and are included under hammōreh . Still we must not stop at them. As the blessings of grace, at the reception of which the people were to rejoice, did not merely consist, as we have just observed, in the blessings which came to it at that time, or in Joel's days, but also embraced those which were continually bestowed upon it by the Lord; we must not exclude the reference to the Messiah, to whom Moses had already pointed as the prophet whom the Lord would raise up unto them, and to whom they were to hearken (Deuteronomy 18:18-19), but must rather regard the sending of the Messiah as the final fulfilment of this promise. This view answers to the context, if we simply notice that Joel mentions here both the spiritual and material blessings which the Lord is conveying to His people, and then in what follows expounds the material blessings still further in Joel 2:23-27, and the spiritual blessings in Joel 2:28-32 and ch. 3. They are both of them consequences of the gift of the teacher for righteousness.
Hence the expansion of the earthly saving gifts is attached by ויּורד with Vav cons. Joel mentions first of all geshem , a rain-fall, or plentiful rain for the fertilizing of the soil and then defines it more exactly as early rain, which fell in the autumn at the sowing time and promoted the germination and growth of the seed, and latter rain, which occurred in the spring shortly before the time of harvest and brought the crops to maturity (see at Leviticus 26:3). בּראשׁון , in the beginning, i.e., first (= ראשׂנה in Genesis 33:2, just as כּראשׁון is used in Leviticus 9:15 for בּראשׂנה in Numbers 10:13), not in the first month (Chald., etc.), or in the place of כּבראשׂנה , as before (lxx, Vulg., and others). For בּראשׁון corresponds to אחרי־כן in Joel 2:28 (Hebrews 3:1), as Ewald, Meier, and Hengstenberg admit. First of all the pouring out of a plentiful rain (an individualizing expression for all kinds of earthly blessings, chosen here with reference to the opposite of blessing occasioned by the drought); and after that, the pouring out of the spiritual blessing (Joel 2:28-3:21).
Effects of the rain. Joel 2:24. “And the barns become full of corn, and the vats flow over with new wine and oil. Joel 2:25. And I repay to you the years which the locust has eaten, the licker, and the devourer, and the gnawer, my great army which I sent among you. Joel 2:26. And ye will eat, eat and be satisfied, and praise the name of Jehovah your God, who hath done wondrously with you; and my people shall not be put to shame to all eternity. Joel 2:27. And ye will know that I am in the midst of Israel, and I (am) Jehovah your God, and none else, and my people shall not be put to shame to all eternity.” Joel 2:24 is practically the same as Joel 2:19, and the counterpart to Joel 1:10-12. השׁיק from שׁוּק , to run, hiphil only here and Joel 3:13, to run over, to overflow; pilel , Psalms 65:10, shōqēq , to cause to overflow. יקבים , the vats of the wine-presses, into which the wine flows when trodden out; here it also applies to the vats of the oil-presses, into which the oil ran as it was pressed out. Through these bountiful harvests God would repay to the people the years, i.e., the produce of the years, which the locusts ate. The plural, shânı̄m , furnishes no certain proof that Joel referred in ch. 1 to swarms of locusts of several successive years; but is used either with indefinite generality, as in Genesis 21:7, or with a distinct significance, viz., as a poetical expression denoting the greatness and violence of the devastation. On the different names of the locusts, see at Joel 1:4. It is to be observed here that the copula stands before the last two names, but not before yeleq , so that the last three names belong to one another as co-ordinates (Hitzig), i.e., they are merely different epithets used for 'arbeh , the locusts.
On the reception of these benefits the people will praise the Lord, who has shown it such wondrous grace, lit., has acted towards it even to the doing of wonders.
They will learn thereby that Jehovah is present among His people, and the only true God, who does not suffer His people to be put to shame. The repetition of ולא יבשׁוּ וגו , by which the promised grace is guaranteed to the people for all ages, serves as a rhetorical rounding off of the section (see at Joel 2:20).
(Heb. ch. 3). Outpouring of the Spirit of God, and Announcement of Judgment.
(Note: Among other special expositions of these verses, see Hengstenberg's Christology, vol. i. p. 326ff. translation.)
Joel 2:28. “And it will come to pass afterwards, I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, and your young men see visions. Joel 2:29. And also upon the men-servants and maid-servants I will put out my Spirit in those days.” As 'achărē - khēn points back to bâri'shōn in Joel 2:23, the formula v e hâyâh achărē - khēn describes the outpouring of the Spirit as a second and later consequence of the gift of the teacher for righteousness. שׁפך , to pour out, signifies communication in rich abundance, like a rain-fall or water-fall. For the communication of the Spirit of God was not entirely wanting to the covenant nation from the very first. In fact, the Spirit of God was the only inward bond between the Lord and His people; but it was confined to the few whom God endowed as prophets with the gift of His Spirit. This limitation was to cease in the future.
(Note: “There is no doubt that the prophet promises something greater here than the fathers had experienced under the law. We know that the grace of the Holy Spirit flourished even among the ancient people; but the prophet promises here not what the faithful had formerly experienced, but something greater. And this may be gathered from the verb 'to pour' which he employs. For שׁפך does not mean merely to give in drops, but to pour out in great abundance. But God did not pour out the Holy Spirit so abundantly or copiously under the law, as He has since the manifestation of Christ.” - Calvin.)
What Moses expressed as a wish - namely, that the people were all prophets, and the Lord would put His Spirit upon them (Numbers 11:29) - was to be fulfilled in the future. Rūăch Y e hōvâh is not the first principle of the physico-creaturely life (i.e., not equivalent to rūăch Elōhı̄m in Genesis 1:2), but that of the spiritual or ethical and religious life of man, which filled the prophets under the Old Testament as a spirit of prophecy; consequently Joel describes its operations under this form. “All flesh” signifies all men. The idea that it embraces the irrational animals, even the locusts (Credner), is rejected with perfect justice by Hitzig as an inconceivable thought, and one unheard-of in the Bible; but he is wrong in adding that the Old Testament does not teach a communication of the Spirit of God to all men, but limits it to the people of Israel. A decided protest is entered against this by Genesis 6:3, where Jehovah threatens that He will no longer let His Spirit rule bâ'âdâm , i.e., in the human race, because it has become bâsâr (flesh). Bâsâr , as contrasted with rūăch Y e hōvâh , always denotes human nature regarded as incapacitated for spiritual and divine life. Even in this verse we must not restrict the expression “all flesh” to the members of the covenant nation, as most of the commentators have done; for whatever truth there may be in the remark made by Calovius and others (compare Hengstenberg, Christol. i. p. 328 transl.), that the following clause, “your sons, your daughters, your old men, your young men, and men-servants and maid-servants,” contains a specification of כּל־בּשׂר , it by no means follows with certainty from this, that the word all does not do away with the limitation to one particular nation, but merely that in this one nation even the limits of sex, age, and rank are abolished; since it cannot be proved that the specification in Joel 2:2 and Joel 2:3 is intended to exhaust the idea of “all flesh.” Moreover, as the prophecy of Joel had respect primarily to Judah, Joel may primarily have brought into prominence, and specially singled out of the general idea of kol - bâsâr in Joel 2:28 and Joel 2:29, only those points that were of importance to his contemporaries, viz., that all the members of the covenant nation would participate in this outpouring of the Spirit, without regard to sex, age, or rank; and in so doing, he may have looked away from the idea of the entire human race, including all nations, which is involved in the expression “all flesh.” We shall see from Joel 2:32 that this last thought was not a strange one to the prophet. In the specification of the communication of the Spirit, the different forms which it assumes are rhetorically distributed as follows: to the sons and daughters, prophesying is attributed; to the old, dreams; to the young, sights or visions. But it by no means follows from this, that each of these was peculiar to the age mentioned. For the assertion, that the Spirit of God only manifests itself in the weakened mind of the old man by dreams and visions of the night; that the vigorous and lively fancy of the youth or man has sights by day, or true visions; and lastly, that in the soul of the child the Spirit merely works as furor sacer Tychs., Credner, Hitzig, and others), cannot be historically sustained. According to Numbers 12:6, visions and dreams are the two forms of the prophetic revelation of God; and נבּא is the most general manifestation of the prophetic gift, which must not be restricted to the ecstatic state associated with the prophesying. The meaning of this rhetorical individualizing, is simply that their sons, daughters, old persons, and youths, would receive the Spirit of God with all its gifts. The outpouring of the Spirit upon slaves (men-servants and maidens) is connected by v e gam , as being something very extraordinary, and under existing circumstances not to be expected. Not a single case occurs in the whole of the Old Testament of a salve receiving the gift of prophecy. Amos, indeed, was a poor shepherd servant, but not an actual slave. And the communication of this gift to slaves was irreconcilable with the position of slaves under the Old Testament. Consequently even the Jewish expositors could not reconcile themselves to this announcement. The lxx, by rendering it ἐπὶ τοὺς δούλους μου καὶ ἐπὶ τὰς δούλας μου , have put servants of God in the place of the slaves of men; and the Pharisees refused to the ὄχλος even a knowledge of the law (John 7:49). The gospel has therefore also broken the fetters of slavery.
Judgment upon all nations goes side by side with the outpouring of the Spirit of God. Joel 2:30. “And I give wonders in the heavens and on earth, blood, fire, and pillars of smoke. Joel 2:31. The sun will turn into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the day of Jehovah, the great and terrible (day), comes. Joel 2:32. And it comes to pass, every one who shall call upon the name of Jehovah will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem will be fugitives, as Jehovah hath said, and among those that are left will be those whom Jehovah calls.” With the word ונתתּי , Joel 2:3 is attached to Joel 2:2 as a simple continuation (Hitzig). The wonders which God will give in the heavens and upon earth are the forerunners of judgment. Mōph e thı̄m (see at Exodus 4:21) are extraordinary and marvellous natural phenomena. The wonders on earth are mentioned first, in Joel 2:30; then in Joel 2:31 those in the heavens. Blood and fire recal to mind the plagues which fell upon Egypt as signs of the judgment: the blood, the changing of the water of the Nile into blood (Exodus 7:17); the fire, the balls of fire which fell to the earth along with the hail (Exodus 9:24). Blood and fire point to bloodshed and war. Timrōth ‛âshân signifies cloud-pillars (here and in Song of Solomon 3:6), whether we regard the form timrōth as original, and trace it to timrâh and the root tâmar , or prefer the reading תּימרות , which we meet with in many codices and editions, and take the word as a derivative of yâmar = mūr , as Hengstenberg does ( Christol. i. p. 334 transl.). This sign has its type in the descent of Jehovah upon Sinai, at which the whole mountain smoked, and its smoke ascended like the smoke of a smelting-furnace (Exodus 19:18). We have not to think, therefore, of columns of cloud ascending from basons of fire, carried in front of caravans or armies on the march to show the way (see at Song of Solomon 3:6), but of pillars of cloud, which roll up from burning towns in time of war (Isaiah 9:17). Joel 2:31. In the heavens the sun is darkened, and the moon assumes a dull, blood-red appearance. These signs also have their type in the Egyptian plague of darkness (Exodus 10:21.). The darkening and extinction of the lights of heaven are frequently mentioned, either as harbingers of approaching judgment, or as signs of the breaking of the day of judgment (it was so in Joel 2:2, Joel 2:10, and is so again in Joel 3:14: see also Isaiah 13:10; Isaiah 34:4; Jeremiah 4:23; Ezekiel 32:1-8; Amos 8:9; Matthew 24:29; Mark 13:24; Luke 21:25). What we have to think of here, is not so much periodically returning phenomena of nature, or eclipses of the sun and moon, as extraordinary (not ecliptic) obscurations of the sun and moon, such as frequently occur as accompaniments to great catastrophes in human history.
(Note: Compare O. Zoeckler, Theologia Natural. i. p. 420, where reference is made to Humboldt ( Kosmos, iii. 413-17), who cites no fewer than seventeen extraordinary cases of obscuration of the sun from the historical tradition of past ages, which were occasioned, not by the moon, but by totally different circumstances, such as diminished intensity in the photosphere, unusually large spots in the sun, extraneous admixtures in our own atmosphere, such as trade-wind dust, inky rain, and sand rain, etc.; and many of which took place in most eventful years, such as 45 b.c., a.d. 29 (the year of the Redeemer's death), 358, 360, etc.)
And these earthly and celestial phenomena are forerunners and signs of the approaching or bursting judgment; not only so far as subjective faith is concerned, from the impression which is made upon the human mind by rare and terrible phenomena of nature, exciting a feeling of anxious expectation as to the things that are about to happen,
(Note: Calvin has taken too one-sided and subjective a view of the matter, when he gives the following explanation of Joel 2:31: “What is said here of the sun and moon - namely, that the sun will be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood - is metaphorical, and signifies that the Lord will fill the whole universe with signs of His wrath, which will paralyze men with fear, as if all nature were changed into a thing of horror. For just as the sun and moon are witnesses of the paternal favour of God towards us, while they give light in their turns to the earth, so, on the other hand, the prophet affirms that they will be the heralds of an angry and offended God.... By the darkness of the sun, the turning of the moon into blood, and the black vapour of smoke, the prophet meant to express the thought, that wherever men turned their eyes, everywhere, both above and below, many things would meet the eye that would fill them with terror. So that it is just as if he had said, that there had never been such a state of misery in the world, nor so many fierce signs of the wrath of God.” For example, the assertion that they “are metaphorical expressions” cannot possibly be sustained, but is at variance with the scriptural view of the deep inward connection between heaven and earth, and more particularly with the scriptural teaching, that with the last judgment the present heavens and present earth will perish, and the creation of a new heaven and a new earth will ensue. Moreover, the circumstance that a belief in the significance of these natural phenomena is met with in all nations, favours their real (not merely imaginary) connection with the destinies of humanity.)
but also in their real connection with the onward progress of humanity towards its divinely appointed goal, which may be explained from the calling of man to be the lord of the earth, though it has not yet received from science its due recognition and weight; in accordance with which connection, they show “that the eternal motion of the heavenly worlds is also appointed by the world-governing righteousness of God; so that the continued secret operation of this peculiar quality manifests itself through a strong cosmico-uranian symbolism, in facts of singular historical significance” (Zoeckler, l. c.).
For Joel 2:31, see at Joel 2:1, Joel 2:11. But it is only by the world and its children that the terrible day of the Lord is to be feared; to the children of God it brings redemption (Luke 21:28). Whoever calls upon the name of Jehovah, i.e., the believing worshippers of the Lord, will be exempted from the judgment. “Calling upon the name of Jehovah” signifies not only the public worship of God, but inward worship also, in which the confession of the mouth is also an expression of the heart. Upon Mount Zion will be p e lētâh , i.e., not deliverance, but that which has escaped, or, in a collective sense, those who have escaped the judgment, as the synonym s e rı̄dı̄m , which follows, clearly shows. Mount Zion and Jerusalem are not mentioned here as the capital of the kingdom of Judah, but, according to their spiritual significance, as the place where the Lord was enthroned in the sanctuary in the midst of His people; that is to say, as the central spot of the kingdom of God. Consequently it is not “to the whole nation of Judah as such that deliverance is promised, on the assumption that in those times of distress the population of the land would have streamed to Jerusalem” (Hitzig), but only to those who call upon the name of the Lord, i.e., to the true worshippers of God, upon whom the Spirit of God is poured out. The words כּאשׁר אמר יי are not synonymous with נאם יי or כּי יי דּבּר (Joel 3:8; Isaiah 1:20; Isaiah 40:5, etc.), but point to a prophetic word already known, viz., to Obadiah 1:17, where the saying of the Lord, that in the midst of the judgment there would be rescued ones upon Mount Zion, occurs word for word. וּבשּׂרידים also depends תּהיה ... כּי : “and among those that remain will be those whom Jehovah calls.” Sârı̄d is one who is left after a judgment or a battle; hence in Jeremiah 42:17 and Joshua 8:22 it is connected with pâlı̄t (one who has escaped from destruction), so that here s e rı̄dı̄m and p e lētâh are actually alike, the s e rı̄dı̄m being just the escaped ones upon Mount Zion. Through this clause there is appended to what precedes the fresh definition, that among the saved will be found those whom the Lord calls. These may either be the believing portion of Judah, or believers from among the heathen. If we adopted the first view, the sentence would simply contain a more precise definition of the thought, that none are saved but those who call upon the name of the Lord, and therefore would preclude the possibility of including all the inhabitants of Judah among those who call upon the Lord. If we took the second view, the sentence would add this new feature to the thought contained in the first hemistich, that not only citizens of Jerusalem and Judah would be saved in the time of judgment, but all who called upon the Lord out of every nation. The latter view deserves the preference, because the expression קרא בשׁם יי did not need a more precise definition. The salvation of believers from the heathen world is implied in the first half of the verse, since it is simply connected with calling upon the name of the Lord. The Apostle Paul has quoted it in this sense in Romans 10:13, as a proof of the participation of the heathen in the Messianic salvation.
If we proceed now to seek for the fulfilment of this prophecy, the Apostle Peter quoted the whole of these verses (28-32), with the exception of Joel 2:32, after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples, on the first Whitsuntide feast of the apostolical church, as having been fulfilled by that Whitsuntide miracle (Acts 2:17-21); and in his subsequent reference to this fulfilment in Joel 2:39, “For the promise is unto you and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call,” he even adds the closing words of Joel ( Joel 2:32).
(Note: In quoting this passage Peter follows the lxx on the whole, even in their deviations from the original text, viz., in ἀπὸ τοῦ πνεύματός μου instead of רוּחי (Joel 2:28, Joel 2:29), in the addition of μου to ἐπὶ τοὺς δούλους and δούλας ( Joel 2:29), in ἐπιφανῆ for נורא (Joel 2:4), because these differences were of no consequence, so far as his object was concerned. On the other hand, he has interpreted καὶ ἔσται μετὰ ταῦτα ( והיה אחרי כן ) by καὶ ἔσται ἐν ταῖς ἐσχάταις ἡμέπαις , and added for the same purpose, λέγει ὁ Θεός . He has also transposed the two clauses καὶ οἱ πρεσβύτεροι ... and καὶ οἱ νεανίσκοι , probably simply for the purpose of letting the youths follow the sons and daughters, and placing the old men in the third row; and lastly, he has added ἄνω to ἐν τῶ οὐρανῶ ..., and κάτω to ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς , to give greater prominence to the antithesis.)
Consequently the Christian church from time immemorial has recognised in the miracle of Pentecost the outpouring of the Spirit of God predicted in Joel 2:1, Joel 2:2:
(Note: See Hengstenberg, Christol. i. pp. 345, 346, translation.)
so that the only point upon which there has been a division of opinion has been, whether the fulfilment is to be confined to the feast of Pentecost (as nearly all the fathers and earlier Lutheran commentators suppose); or is to be sought for in certain events of Joel's own time, as well as the first feast of Pentecost (Ephr. Syr., Grot., and others); or, lastly, whether the occurrence at the first feast of Pentecost is to be regarded as simply the beginning of the fulfilment which has continued throughout the whole of the Christian era (Calov., Hengstenberg, and many others). Even the Rabbins, with the exception of R. Mose Hakkohen in Aben Ezra, who sees only a reference to some event in Joel's own time, expect the fulfilment to take place in the future on the advent of the Messiah (Yarchi, Kimchi, Abarb.). Of the three views expressed by Christian commentators, the third is the only one that answers to the nature of the prophecy as correctly interpreted. The outpouring of the Spirit of God, or the communication of it in all its fulness to the covenant nation, without any limitation whatever, is a standing mark with the prophets of the Messianic times (compare Isaiah 32:15 with Isaiah 11:9 and Isaiah 54:13) or new covenant (Jeremiah 31:33-34; Ezekiel 36:26.; Zechariah 12:10). And even if the way was opened and prepared for this by the prophetic endowment of particular members of the old covenant, these sporadic communications of the Spirit of God in the Old Testament times cannot be regarded as the first steps in the fulfilment of our prophecy, since they were not outpourings of the Spirit of God. This first took place when Christ Jesus the Son of God had completed the work of redemption, i.e., on the first feast of Pentecost after the resurrection and ascension of Christ. Previous to this the words of John 7:39 applied: οὔπω ἦν πνεῦμα ἅγιον , ὅτι ὁ Ἰησοῦς οὐδέπω ἐδοξάστη . The reference in this prophecy to the founding of the new covenant, or Christian church, is also evident from the words, “And it shall come to pass afterwards,” for which Peter substituted, “And it shall come to pass in the last days,” interpreting אחרי כן , the use of which was occasioned by the retrospective reference to בּראשׁון in Joel 2:23, with perfect correctness so far as the fact was concerned, by the formula answering to באחרית הימים , viz., ἐν ταῖς ἐσχάταις ἡμέραις , which always denotes the Messianic future, or times of the completion of the kingdom of God. And just as achărē khēn precludes any reference to an event in Joel's own time, so does ἐν ταῖς ἐσχάταις ἡμέραις preclude any fulfilment whatever in the times before Christ. But however certain it may be that the fulfilment first took place at the first Christian feast of Pentecost, we must not stop at this one pentecostal miracle. The address of the Apostle Peter by no means requires this limitation, but rather contains distinct indications that Peter himself saw nothing more therein than the commencement of the fulfilment, “but a commencement, indeed, which embraced the ultimate fulfilment, as the germ enfolds the tree.” We see this in Acts 2:38, where he exhorts his hearers to repent and be baptized, and adds the promise, “and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost;” and again in Acts 2:39, where he observes, “The promise belongs to you and to your children, and to all that are afar off ( τοῖς εἰς μακράν ), as many as the Lord our God will call.” For if not only the children of the apostle's contemporaries, but also those that were afar off - i.e., not foreign Jews, but the far-off heathen - were to participate in the gift of the Holy Spirit, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit which commenced at Pentecost must continue as long as the Lord shall receive into His kingdom those who re still standing afar off, i.e., until the fulness of the Gentiles shall have entered the kingdom of God. See Hengstenberg, Christology, i. pp. 326ff. transl., where further reasons are adduced for taking this to be the allusion in the prophecy.
There is far greater diversity in the opinions entertained as to the fulfilment of Joel 2:30-32: some thinking of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans (Grotius, Turretius, and the Socinians); and others of judgments upon the enemies of the covenant nation shortly after the return from the Babylonian exile (Ephr. Syr. and others); others, again, of the last judgment (Tertull., Theod., Crus.), or the destruction of Jerusalem and the last judgment (Chrys.). Of all these views, those which refer to events occurring before the Christian era are irreconcilable with the context, according to which the day of the Lord will come after the outpouring of the Spirit of God. Even the wonders connected with the death of Christ and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles, of which some have thought, cannot properly be taken into account, although the marvellous phenomena occurring at the death of Christ - the darkening of the sun, the shaking of the earth, and the rending of the rocks - were harbingers of the approaching judgment, and were recognised by the ὄχλοις as warnings to repent, and so escape from the judgment (Matthew 27:45, Matthew 27:51; Luke 23:44, Luke 23:48). For the signs in heaven and earth that are mentioned in Joel 2:30 and Joel 2:31 were to take place before the coming of the terrible day of the Lord, which would dawn after the outpouring of the Spirit of God upon all flesh, and which came, as history teaches, upon the Jewish nation that had rejected its Saviour on the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, and upon the Gentile world-power in the destruction of the Roman empire, and from that time forward breaks in constant succession upon one Gentile nation after another, until all the ungodly powers of this world shall be overthrown (cf. Joel 3:2). On account of this internal connection between the day of Jehovah and the outpouring of the Spirit upon the church of the Lord, Peter also quoted vv. 30-32 of this prophecy, for the purpose of impressing upon the hearts of all the hearers of his address the admonition, “Save yourselves from this perverse generation” (Acts 2:40), and also of pointing out the way of deliverance from the threatening judgment to all who were willing to be saved.
The Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary is a derivative of a public domain electronic edition.
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Joel 2". Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany