Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible

Joel 2

Verses 1-11

Joel 2:1-11. Let the Alarm be Sounded, for the Locusts are Precursors of the Day of Yahweh.—Speaking in Yahweh's name the prophet bids the priests sound the alarm from Mt. Zion, that all the community may realise that the dreaded Day of Yahweh is approaching. All the mountains, which dawn covers with light, are covered with blackness by the unprecedented hordes of locusts (Exodus 10:1-20*). The land they have traversed is left bare as though fire had scorched it, a dreary waste; and so fast do they eat into the fertile country before them that it seems as though they were a flame licking up what comes in its way. Like horses in appearance (Revelation 9:7)—the resemblance about the head and mouth has often been remarked—they are like them too in the speed of their onrush. The rustling of their wings as they fly over the mountains—unavailing barriers—is like the rattling of chariot-wheels or the crackling of flames in the stubble. As the dreaded army draws nearer men are fear-stricken. Like warriors charging they storm the walls of the towns, keeping ordered ranks. With perfect discipline they advance, opening as they come to obstacles, and closing up when they have passed them. Through the open or latticed windows they penetrate. The locust plague is accompanied—here the poetic passes into the preternatural—by earthquake, darkness of eclipse, and storm, whereby the Day of Yahweh should be inaugurated. The locusts are Yahweh's host, mighty to do His bidding, before whom He thunders, because they usher in the dreaded Day that none may endure.

Joel 2:2. as the dawn: a new sentence begins here—"Like dawn, spread upon the mountains is a great people." [The shimmering of the sun's rays on their wings resembles the dawn.—A. S. P.]

Joel 2:3. none: render "nothing."

Joel 2:5. [The first metaphor describes the noise made as they fly, the second the noise they make while they feed—A. S. P.]—on the tops of the mountains: to be taken with what follows and not with chariots.

Joel 2:6. the peoples: read, "hearts."—are waxed pale: rather "grow crimson," a rarer result of fear.

Joel 2:7. break not their ranks: Heb. is dubious [??] read "bend not their paths."

Joel 2:8. weapons: literally "missiles," but probably here covers all obstacles to the onward march of the invaders.

Joel 2:11. camp: render "host."

Verses 12-17

Joel 2:12-17. Even Yet Humiliation and Repentance may Avert the Worst.—But even now, though the calamity is so serious that it seems to be the precursor of the Day of Dread, Yahweh bids the people turn to Him with sincere repentance, for which a ritual of humiliation is the symbol, not the substitute. So gracious and full of forgiveness is He, reluctant to inflict even the evil which is but deserved chastisement, that He may at this late hour change His purpose ("relent" rather than "repent"), and remove the locusts, so that once more the land may yield corn and wine for the sacrifices of the Temple, its greatest felicity. Once again then Joel rings out the command that the solemn horns should sound the summons, and the whole community join in the service of intercession. None is so old or so young as to be excused from participating. Even the bridegroom—whom the law of Deuteronomy 24:5 exempted from liability to military service—and his new-made bride must appear. The priests as spokesmen for the people must plead passionately with Yahweh for the recall of the marauding locusts, lest the nations round about should taunt Israel with the powerlessness of her God to help her.

Joel 2:16. chamber, closet: i.e. nuptial chamber, bridal pavilion.

Joel 2:17. between the porch and the altar: the porch at the east end of the Temple (cf. 1 Kings 6:3) and the great altar of burnt offering.—that the nations should rule over them: mg. is to be preferred; a slight emendation would yield "for a by-word among the nations."

Verses 18-25

Joel 2:18Joel 3:21. Yahweh's Gracious Response to the Prayer of Intercession.

Joel 2:18-27. The Locusts shall be Destroyed and the Inhabitants of the Land Rejoice in Renewed Prosperity.

Joel 2:21-24, which seems to interrupt the speech of Yahweh, may be misplaced. Certainly Joel 2:25 would follow well on Joel 2:20, and the change to the third person for Yahweh is striking. But in prophecy the interchange between the words of Yahweh and the words of the prophet—regarded as one and the same—takes place so constantly that the existing order may be correct. The appeal of the people brings about a revulsion of feeling in Yahweh; His own land must not be brought to ruin, and He relents. Its fertility shall return in such abundance as to satisfy His people and shut the mouths of those who mock at their distress. The horde of locusts shall be dispersed into the deserts; a wind shall drive its advanced ranks into the Dead Sea, and, veering round, its rear into the Mediterranean. Taking the standpoint of the new prosperity the prophet bids the land rejoice in Yahweh's wondrous working. The beasts, who had mourned in the time of desolation, are to take heart, and the inhabitants to rejoice in the food which Yahweh has granted in token of the restoring of right relations between Him and them. He gives also the spring and autumn rains as aforetime (so reading with VSS at the end of Joel 2:23 for "in the first month"). Field, vineyard, olive garden, shall yield beyond the capacities of storehouse and press, and all the damage done by the horde of locusts Yahweh had sent shall be repaired. These blessings shall be a sacramental symbol to the people, assuring them of Yahweh's continued care; never more shall they be humiliated before the nations.

Joel 2:20. northern army: Heb, simply "northerner." Usually locusts did not enter the country from the north; so it would seem that the word, having become an apocalyptic term (cf. Jeremiah 1:14, Ezekiel 38:6; Ezekiel 38:15; Ezekiel 39:2) is used without strict etymological significance, and means no more than "precursor of the Day of Yahweh."—and his stink shall come up: a gloss on the following clause, which contains a rare word.—because he hath done great things: out of place here, and probably an accidental repetition from Joel 2:21.

Joel 2:22. strength: i.e. fruit.

Joel 2:23. the former rain in just measure: accepting the LXX text, render "food as a sign of righteousness," where "righteousness" has a sense that it sometimes bears, "the existence of correct relations between the people and Yahweh."

Joel 2:25. years: we should hardly gather from the rest of the book that the locust plague had lasted more than one year; but the damage done, since seed would be destroyed, might extend into following years. A slight emendation would give "rich fruits." For the locust names, cf. Joel 1:4*.

Verses 28-32

Joel 2:28-32. The Portents of the Day of Yahweh.—The deliverance from the locusts is but a harbinger of the time coming when Yahweh will impart His spirit to all Jews—for to such the context evidently restricts "all flesh"—so that without distinction of age, sex, or social position, they shall have the ecstatic vision and utterance which mark the prophet—"all Yahweh's people shall be prophets." The earth shall be filled with the bloodshed of war, and from burning cities shall columns of smoke ascend; the very luminaries shall be dark and lurid at the approach of the dread Day of Yahweh. But from its terrors all the worshippers of Yahweh shall escape.

Joel 2:28. spirit: the divine life-energy. For the conception cf. Numbers 11:29.

Joel 2:32. shall call on the name of the Lord: rather, "does call." The expression, meaning "to invoke Yahweh," is the technical one for describing the worshippers of Yahweh. It is these, whom Yahweh calls—not such as in terror call to Yahweh for help—who shall be saved.

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Bibliographical Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Joel 2". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pfc/joel-2.html. 1919.