Lectionary Calendar
Friday, June 21st, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Joel 1

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary


A.M. 3262. B.C. 742.

In this chapter is contained,

(1,) A description of an unparalleled devastation of the country by locusts, caterpillars, &c., Joel 1:1-7 .

(2,) A call to drunkards and persons of all ranks, afflicted by the calamity, to consider and bewail it, Joel 1:5 , Joel 1:8-13 .

(3,) An exhortation to the people to fast and pray, and humble themselves before God, on account of the famine and drought, which the very beasts of the field are represented as bewailing, Joel 1:14-20 .

Verses 1-3

Joel 1:1-3. Hear this, ye old men Ye that have seen and remember many things. Hath this been in your days, &c. Give attention; and when you have heard and considered, say whether any thing like the calamities which I am about to denounce hath ever happened in your days, or in the days of your fathers. In this way the prophet shows how great and unparalleled this dearth, which he fore-tels, would be. Tell ye your children Let these prophecies be handed down to distant generations, and also an account of the events; that, the events being compared with the prophecy, it may be seen how exactly they were foretold.

Verse 4

Joel 1:4. That which the palmer-worm hath left hath the locust eaten A succession of noxious creatures hath perfectly destroyed the fruits of the earth; which makes this judgment so strange and remarkable. It is usual with the prophets to speak of things which were certainly about to take place, as already come to pass; and it is likely that the prophet speaks thus here; and that the sense is, That which the palmer-worm shall leave the locust shall eat. Bochart hath assigned many probable reasons to show that the four Hebrew words here used signify four species of locusts.

Verse 5

Joel 1:5. Awake, ye drunkards From the long sleep occasioned by your intoxication. Kimchi comments thus on the place: “You, who accustom yourselves to get drunk with wine, awake out of your sleep, and weep night and day; for the wine shall fail you, because the locust shall devour the grape.” The exhortation implies, that the calamity should particularly affect those who were given to an excess of drinking, and that it should touch them in a tender part; the wine which they loved so well should be cut off from their mouths. Observe, reader, it is just with God to take away those comforts which are abused to luxury and excess.

Verse 6

Joel 1:6. For a nation is come up upon my land Insects are described as a nation or people marching in order under their leaders, both by sacred and profane writers, because of their power to do mischief, and their being irresistible by human strength or art. Whose teeth are the teeth of a lion They devour every thing that comes in their way, and there is no possibility of rescuing it from them. Pliny and other writers tell us, that they will not only destroy the leaves and fruits of the trees on which they fasten, but will even devour the very bark and stock thereof.

Verse 8

Joel 1:8. Lament, &c. The prophet here calls upon the inhabitants of Judea to deprecate this grievous judgment, by humiliation and unfeigned sorrow for their sins; like a virgin for the husband of her youth That is, bitterly, and from the very heart; for the grief of a woman is generally very poignant and sincere for the loss of her first husband, to whom she was married in her youth. The expression is still stronger, if we suppose it spoken of a virgin betrothed to a man she loves, and whom she loses before they come together as man and wife.

Verses 9-10

Joel 1:9-10. The meat-offering and the drink-offering These offerings always accompanied the daily sacrifice: see Numbers 28:4; Numbers 28:7. The word here and elsewhere translated meat-offering, properly signifies the bread- offering, which was made of flour. It is here foretold, that these daily sacrifices could not be offered as they were wont to be, on account of the scarcity of corn and wine. The field is wasted, &c. The fields and the whole land have a mournful appearance, being altogether bare, and destitute of fruit for the food of either man or beast. The oil languisheth

The olive-tree fadeth and produceth no fruit.

Verses 11-12

Joel 1:11-12. Be ye ashamed, O ye husbandmen Be struck with confusion to see all your hopes disappointed, and no fruit arising from your labour; to find nothing of that which you had made yourselves sure of. Howl, O ye vine-dressers This is to be referred to what is said in the next verse, and not to the words immediately following, which belong to the husbandmen, as the subject for their lamentation; as the vine, being dried up, was the cause of the sorrow of the vine-dressers. Because joy is withered away from the sons of men Through want of food and wine. Or, he refers to the joy they used to show at the gathering in of the fruits of the earth.

Verse 13

Joel 1:13. Gird yourselves Namely, with sackcloth; and lament, ye priests Because the meat-offerings and drink-offerings were cut off: see Joel 1:9. Lie all night in sackcloth Let those priests, whose turn it is to keep the night-watches in the temple, cover themselves with sackcloth, as is usual in times of the greatest calamity; and let them not put it off when they betake themselves to rest, but sleep in sackcloth instead of their ordinary garments.

Verse 14

Joel 1:14. Sanctify ye a fast, &c. In order to avert God’s wrath and deprecate his judgments. Gather the elders, &c., into the house of the Lord The house where God hath placed his name, and where he hath promised to hear the prayers which are addressed to him by his people, when they are afflicted with judgments of this kind: see 1 Kings 8:37.

Verses 15-17

Joel 1:15-17. Alas for the day! Wo to us! The time in which God will inflict on us the punishments we have long deserved is now near; and if they be not averted by our repentance, they will fall upon us in an irresistible manner, and will end in our utter destruction, as coming from a God who is infinite in power, and terrible in his judgments. Is not the meat cut off before our eyes Hebrew, before your eyes, namely, devoured by locusts or withered with drought. Yea, joy and gladness from the house of our God The dearth hath obliged us to discontinue our daily offerings for want of corn and wine; and has deprived us of those rejoicings, wherewith we used to keep our solemn feasts at Jerusalem, and partake of the sacrifices there offered. It must be remembered, that the prophet all along speaks of the calamity as present, although, most probably, as was said before, this is a prophecy of what was to come. The seed is rotten under the clods The corn which is sown dies away and rots in the ground, so that the barns and granaries become useless and desolate.

Verse 18

Joel 1:18. How do the beasts groan! “How grievous will be the distress of the beasts of the field! How sadly will they complain through the vehemency of thirst! How will the herds of cattle be troubled and perplexed! For their verdant pastures shall be all scorched up, and they will have none wherein to feed. The flocks also shall be desolate, and ready to perish.” Scarce any thing can be more strongly or more movingly descriptive of the effects of a dearth and drought than this is.

Verses 19-20

Joel 1:19-20 . O Lord, to thee will I cry The prophet carries on the beautiful hypotyposis, (or description of the calamity, painted in such strong and bright colours as rendered it, as it were, present before the eyes of the people,) by representing himself as a sharer in the calamity. And by crying to God himself, he endeavours to stir up the people to cry to him. For the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness The fiery drought hath burned up all the pasture-grounds. The wilderness is sometimes opposed to the hills and mountains, and then it signifies the plains and places for pasture. Or, if the expression be here understood of deserts, it must be observed, that there were spots in them where flocks and herds might feed. The beasts of the field also cry unto thee Even the cattle and wild beasts utter their complaints, and express their want of food by the mournful noise which they make, as it were beseeching thee to have pity on them and relieve their wants. Even they have a voice to cry, as well as an eye to look to God. The rivers of water are dried up The drought drying up the springs, the rivers have failed, and have little or no water in them. Thus, throughout the chapter, the prophet foretels a drought, as well as a plague of locusts; and these two calamities often go together, a great increase of locusts, according to Pliny and Bochart, being occasioned by heat.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Joel 1". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/joel-1.html. 1857.
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