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Bible Commentaries
Joel 2

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary

Verses 1-3

1. By the blowing of the horn the priests are to warn the people (Amos 3:6) of the near approach of the day of Jehovah and to gather them into the temple to pray. The latter thought is not expanded until Joel 2:15.

Trumpet Better, horn. See on cornet, Hosea 5:8. Evidently the priests are addressed, which would indicate that the signal was intended also to summon the people to worship. Before speaking of the latter the prophet describes the calamity that calls for penitence and prayer.

Zion One of the hills on which Jerusalem stood. First mentioned as a Jebusite fortress which David captured, and whose name he changed into City of David. Its exact location is still a matter of dispute. Christian tradition identifies it with the southwest spur, but it was more likely in the southeast. After the building of the temple the name was extended so as to include the temple hill; so here. The signal is to be given from the top of the temple mount, so as to be heard far and wide.

Holy mountain Called holy because it was separated as the dwelling place of the Holy One of Israel (Psalms 2:6; see on Hosea 11:9; Zechariah 14:20).

Tremble It is high time to awake from careless indifference, for this is not an ordinary calamity; it forebodes the near approach of the day of Jehovah (Joel 1:15).

In order to make more effective the appeal which is to follow, the prophet pictures in 2ff. the terror of the day as signalized by the present calamity. The first half of the verse is closely connected with Joel 2:1, it describes the day as a day of darkness… gloominess… clouds… thick darkness Four synonyms, for the sake of emphasis intense, impenetrable darkness (Zephaniah 1:15; Ezekiel 34:12). Three of the words are used in Deuteronomy 4:11, of the darkness in which Sinai was enveloped when Jehovah descended upon it in fire; the fourth is applied in Exodus 10:22, to the plague of darkness. Darkness is in the Old Testament a very common figure for calamity (Isaiah 5:30; Isaiah 8:22; Isaiah 9:2); here it is a very appropriate picture, for all writers agree in speaking of locusts as clouds darkening the sun. “These creatures do not come in legions, but in whole clouds.… All the air is full and darkened when they fly. Though the sun shine ever so bright, it is no brighter than when most clouded.” “Soon after my arrival at Barosh I saw a swarm of locusts extending a mile in length and half a mile in width. They appeared in the distance like a black cloud. When they came nearer from the east the black swarm darkened the rays of the sun and cast a dark shadow like an eclipse” (Forbes).

As the morning Better, R.V., “dawn.” This does not belong to the preceding; it opens the description of the present calamity, which is not the day itself, only the dawn.

As See on Joel 1:15. It is in every respect like the dawn, because (1) as the dawn introduces the day, so the present calamity marks the beginning of the day of Jehovah; (2) the reflection of the sunlight from the wings of the locusts produces a glimmer that may be likened to the light of dawn. “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 the light appeared no one had the slightest doubt that an enormous swarm of locusts was approaching” (Alvarez). (3) Whether there is the additional thought that the locusts came from the east, where the dawn becomes first visible, is doubtful.

Spread upon the mountains Not in apposition to “day” (A.V.), nor is parus, “spread out,” the predicate of an indefinite subject (Keil); it is rather the predicate of the subject “a great people and a strong”; so that the whole sentence should be read, “Like dawn lies spread out upon the mountain a great people and a strong” (Joel 2:5).

People The army of Joel 2:11 and of Joel 2:25, the swarms of locusts (Joel 1:4). The rest of Joel 2:2 points back to Joel 1:2. The present calamity has no analogy in the past, no matter how far back one goes; nor will it ever be equaled in the future; it stands out unique and without parallel (Exodus 10:14). It is because of the enormity of the plague that Joel regards it as the forerunner of the final judgment, and it is on this account that he uses the hyperbolical expressions.

The destructiveness of the great and powerful people is further described in Joel 2:3. All is lost; the beautiful country has become a wasted desert.

Fire… before… behind them a flame Literally, him, or it, the swarm of locusts. Like fire the locusts have swept over the country; whatever was in their way they have devoured, they have left behind nothing but destruction and ruin (compare comment on Joel 1:19). A most appropriate figure. “A few months afterward a much larger army alighted and gave the whole country the appearance of having been burned.” “Wherever they settled it looks as if fire had devoured and burned up everything” (Forbes). “It is better to have to do with the Tartars than with these destructive animals; you would think that fire follows their track” (Volney). “Bamboo groves have been stripped of their leaves and left standing like saplings after a rapid bush fire, and grass has been devoured so that the bare ground appeared as if burned” (G.A. Smith, The Book of the Twelve, 403; also Tristram, 316). The following expression emphasizes the destructiveness still more: before them the land was as the garden of Eden Fertile, rich in verdure, pleasant to look upon (Genesis 2:8 ff.). A similar comparison of the restored land with the garden of Eden is found in Ezekiel 36:35; our passage may be dependent on that in Ezekiel, though not necessarily.

Desolate wilderness Such as Egypt and Edom will become (Joel 3:19; compare Jeremiah 12:10).

Nothing shall escape Better, R.V., “none hath escaped.” The future tenses in Joel 2:3-11 should be rendered, as in R.V., as present or past tenses, describing a condition present to the prophet and his listeners.

Verses 1-17


Several expositors see in the locusts of Joel 2:1-11, a swarm different from that described in chapter 1. Credner thinks that the swarm of chapter 1 appeared in the fall, and on its departure left eggs which, in the following spring, were hatched out, and so formed an even more numerous host. It is more likely, however, that we have to do with only one swarm. The difference in the description is due to the fact that in chapter 1 the prophet is concerned primarily with the calamity already wrought; only briefly does he touch upon its deeper significance (Joel 2:15). In Joel 2:1-11, the same scourge of locusts is in his mind, but now he thinks of it chiefly as the immediate precursor of the terrible day of Jehovah. Joel 2:1-17, therefore, is an expansion of Joel 1:14-15. This apocalyptic significance of the locusts accounts for the highly poetic description of the swarms which, likened to a hostile army, are called the army of Jehovah coming to judgment (Joel 2:1-11). Although the command is already given there is still a possibility of mercy. If the people return to God with a contrite heart the calamity may yet be averted (Joel 2:12-14). The address closes with an earnest summons to the whole congregation to assemble for prayer and fasting in the house of God, and with instruction to the priests concerning the manner of their ministry (Joel 2:15-17).

Verse 4

4. As… horses The head of the locust bears a strong resemblance to the head of a horse, as Theodoret (c. 450 A.D.) remarked: “If you carefully consider the head of the locust you will find it exceedingly like that of a horse.” Tristram, referring to this passage, says, “To this day the same metaphor is familiar in every Arab camp. One of my Arabs gave me a long list of reasons why the locust is like the horse or horseman.” It is this similarity that explains one of the German words for locust, Heupferd ( hay-horse). Not only in appearance, but also in rapidity of motion, locusts resemble horses. For A.V. “horsemen” read margin of R.V., “war-horses.” In Joel 2:5 the noise accompanying the advance of the innumerable horses is compared to the rattling of chariots Low two-wheeled vehicles used for military and other purposes. Chariots were not adapted to the hills of Palestine, but the Canaanites used them in the valleys (Joshua 17:16; Judges 4:3). They were common also among other ancient nations. The Persians armed the axles and sometimes the tongue with scythes, and such chariots were known in Palestine during the Seleucidan period ( 2Ma 13:2 ). For an expansion of this picture compare Revelation 9:7 ff.

On the tops of mountains Not to be connected with “chariots,” for chariots cannot well be used on the mountains, but with they leap The locusts are seen to approach over the mountains, and “they come so near the top of the mountains that they seem to leap over them rather than to fly.” The noise meant is the indistinct sound heard in the distance; the next comparison brings them nearer. Travelers compare the noise made by the wings of the locusts to the blowing of a wind, the rush of a torrent, the roar of the sea. “The noise made by them in marching and foraging was like that of a heavy shower falling upon a distant forest” (Thomson).

Having pictured the locusts approaching from the distance, he now describes them as they are devouring herbs, plants, shrubs, and trees.

Flame The noise made while eating is like the noise of a flame that sweeps over a dry field.

Stubble Fires during the dry season are not uncommon in Palestine (Joel 1:19; Isaiah 5:24; Amos 7:4); sometimes the stubbles are set on fire for purposes of fertilization. Our passage refers to fire, whatever its origin.

Strong people in battle array The point of comparison is not the noise, but the orderly steady advance. “Their number was astounding; the whole face of the mountain was black with them; on they came like a disciplined army” (Thomson). “They seemed to march in regular battalions, crawling over everything that lay in their passage” (Morier). The impression made is the same as that made by a hostile army. Everybody is terror-struck.

The people R.V., “the peoples.” Neither is correct; the Hebrew has no article “peoples,” that is, whole nations.

Shall be much pained Or, with R.V., “are in anguish,” a very strong word, used especially of the anguish of women in travail (Deuteronomy 2:5; Isaiah 13:8; Micah 4:9). Hardly an exaggeration, for locusts do cause immense loss of property and are responsible for disastrous famines. “In Algiers after an invasion of locusts in 1866 two hundred thousand persons are said to have perished from famine” (Driver). “The Bedouins who occupy the Sinaitic peninsula are frequently driven to despair by the multitudes of locusts” (Burkhardt).

All faces… gather blackness So Targum, Peshitto, Vulgate, and a few later writers, but an impossible translation of the Hebrew; better, R.V., “all faces are waxed pale”; literally, all faces draw in redness, that is, beauty, healthy color. As a result of terror the blood leaves the face and returns to the inward parts of the body; only paleness remains (Jeremiah 30:6).

Verses 4-11

4-11. Having described in general terms the destructiveness of the people great and strong, the prophet pictures most vividly the appearance of the host and its terrible advance. The locusts he compares to horses (4), the noise accompanying the advance to the noise of advancing armies and of a consuming fire (5), producing terror wherever they go (6), their attack to the attack of a well-equipped, well-organized army (7-9); even the sky is darkened (10); surely the day of Jehovah is at hand (11). The prophet has been so successful in his description that the thing compared and the object to which it is compared have been confused, and the locusts have been regarded as mere symbols of a hostile army (compare above, pp 142ff).

Verses 7-10

7-10. The comparison with a well-equipped army is taken up again and carried further; the advance is irresistible; there is no confusion or disorder in their ranks; they climb the highest walls; they penetrate the inmost recesses of the houses.

They… run To the assault; advance, charge (Psalms 18:29; Job 15:26). There is no delay (Joel 2:4); if they have decided upon a point of attack they carry out their plan; nothing can impede their progress; walls they climb like men of war. They do not get into one another’s way, they advance straight ahead, without turning to the right or left. An admirable description of the advance of locusts (compare remark on Joel 2:4). Jerome says: “When the swarms of locusts come and fill the whole atmosphere between earth and sky, they fly, according to the appointment of the commanding God, in such order that they preserve an exact shape, just like the squares drawn upon a tessellated pavement, not diverging on either side by, so to speak, so much as a finger’s breadth.… 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 bedchambers.” So also Theodoret: “You may see the locusts like a hostile army ascending the walls, and advancing the roads, not suffering any difficulty to disperse them, but steadily moving forward as if according to some concerted plan.”

And when they fall upon the sword, they shall not be wounded Better, R.V., “and they burst through the weapons, and break not off their course.” No resistance is effective; they throw themselves upon the weapons and pass on without being disturbed or confused. Some may be wounded and drop, but the great mass continues in regular order. This is a better interpretation than that implied in the translation, “They did not cut themselves to pieces” (Keil), or “without being wounded” (Von Orelli). The verse would seem to imply that the people were accustomed to meet the locusts with weapons to fight them off; and that is actually done, according to the statements of some travelers. “Both in Asia and Europe they sometimes take the field against the locusts with all the implements of war” (Hasselquist). “The guard of the Red Town attempted to stop their irruption into Transylvania by firing at them; and indeed when the balls and shot went through the swarm they gave way and divided; but having filled up their ranks in a moment they proceeded on their journey” (quoted by Pusey). Thomson also speaks of the impossibility of stopping their progress: “We dug trenches and kindled fires, and beat and burned to death heaps upon heaps, but the effort was utterly hopeless.” Livy and Pliny seem to have known of similar methods of fighting the locusts.

Sword R.V., “weapons”; Hebrews shelah; not the ordinary word for weapon, but one used only in late writings; it seems to have been a weapon that was extended or held in front.

Held back by nothing, the host (9) forces its way into the city.

They shall run to and fro in the city Hebrews shaqaq; literally, drive, impel to run, then, run hither and thither; here not, “they run to and fro in the city” after mastering it (A.V., Driver, Hitzig), but “they throw themselves upon the city” (Isaiah 33:4; Nahum 2:4). Again they are successful; they run upon the wall, yea, they get into the houses themselves. On Joel 2:9 Theodoret makes this comment: “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 penetrate into dwellings by the light holes.” “During the great plague of locusts in 1865 many inhabitants of Nazareth were compelled to leave their homes” (Riehm).

Windows Glass was and still is exceedingly scarce in the Orient, therefore expensive and used but rarely for windows; the latter consist ordinarily of lattice work, and serve also as chimneys out of which smoke may escape; so it was quite easy for locusts to creep through.

Like a thief Would hardly be said of a hostile army, but is true of the locusts.

With Joel 2:10 a new start is made. The whole earth is terrified, for it becomes clear that the judgment is of unusual significance. The thought of the day of Jehovah becomes more prominent and influences the description to a large extent.

Before them The singular, as in Joel 2:6, while the verbs in the preceding verses referring to the locusts are in the plural; yet the pronoun refers undoubtedly to the swarm of locusts which are looked upon as a unit. The preposition is not the same as in Joel 2:6; in the latter causality is implied, here the phenomena spoken of may be regarded not as caused by the locusts, but simply accompanying them; it leaves it undecided whether the locusts of 2-9 or Jehovah (Joel 2:11) is the cause.

The earth shall quake… the heavens shall tremble “It is not that the strength of the locusts is so great that it can move the heavens and shake the earth, but that, to those who suffer from such calamities, through the greatness of their own terror the heavens appear to shake and the earth to reel” (Jerome).

Shall be dark Heb, kadhar, “coal black”; not a particle of light is to be seen. The day of Jehovah is inaugurated by extraordinary phenomena in the sphere of nature (Joel 2:30-31; Joel 3:15; Isaiah 13:10; Isaiah 13:13; Amos 8:9). The locusts do darken the sky, but here the reference seems to be to something more we are in the sphere of the apocalyptic to the approach of Jehovah himself, before whom all nature stands in awe and terror. The thought of an actual earthquake, eclipse, or severe thunderstorm may have been in the mind of the prophet; but this is not certain, though the coming of Jehovah is often pictured in the imagery of a storm (Psalms 18:7 ff.). The whole is a vivid picture of the terror that overcomes man and nature when it is discovered that Jehovah approaches for judgment. Jehovah is the leader of the hosts.

Utter his voice Of command; Hebrews nathan qol; a very common Old Testament expression to designate thunder. Only so can he make himself understood, because the camp is very great It stretches far into the distance, and the noise made by the locusts must be drowned; it is this vastness of the army also that makes it necessary to have a divine commander. The introduction of the next two clauses with “for” rather weakens the message of the prophet; they should be translated as exclamations (G.-K., 148d), emphasizing the vastness of Jehovah’s army: “Yea, strong is he that executeth his word” the army of locusts (2-9, 25), which carries out his command; “yea, the day of Jehovah.” Here again the day cannot be identified with the calamity already experienced; it is still in the future, though near at hand. Already the wonderful phenomena that announce the day are seen in the sky (Joel 2:31; Malachi 4:5).

Who can abide Or, endure. No one can stand its terrors. The forerunner has exhausted all resources, all strength. Complete annihilation threatens, unless somehow the final blow can be turned aside.

Verses 12-14

12-14. There is still hope. The door of mercy is open, and if the people turn to Jehovah in a spirit of penitence he may yet pardon. 12.

Therefore also now Better, R.V., “Yet even now.” At the eleventh hour, when destruction seems imminent.

Saith Jehovah Literally, whisper of Jehovah. A very solemn asservation, giving to the utterance special weight and demanding earnest attention. The expression is common in the prophetic books. “Whisper,” Hebrews na’um, is a passive participle from a root “to utter a low sound”; hence, the whispered or murmured utterance of revelation that falls upon the mental ear.

Turn ye… to me Leave your self-chosen paths of rebellion, come to your senses, recognize me as your God, and follow my instruction. This is the appeal of all the great prophets (compare Hosea 14:1; Isaiah 1:2; Amos 4:6, etc.). Turn emphasizes the idea of conversion in its practical aspect. The exhortation indicates clearly the purpose of all the prophets in delivering their dark messages of judgment. The judgments themselves were primarily disciplinary; and the interpretations of these judgments by the prophets had for their sole object repentance and a return to God on the part of the people. But it is not to be merely a formal, external return.

With all your heart In Hebrew thought the heart is the seat not only of the emotions, but of all the powers of personality, intellect, sensibility, and will (Delitzsch, System of Biblical Psychology, 292ff.). It includes the entire activity of the human spirit; all thoughts, all affections, all volitions. These are to be centered upon Jehovah. In Deuteronomy the same thought is expressed by the phrase “with all thy heart and with all thy soul” (Deuteronomy 4:29; Deuteronomy 6:5, etc.). The heart turning manifests itself in outward signs of grief for past sins:

Fasting (Joel 1:14),… weeping,… mourning The last literally, beating the breast (Joel 1:9; Joel 1:13-14). In the emphasis on externals Joel differs greatly from the earlier prophets. To them fasting and the entire external ceremonial was of very little or no importance; but the statement, “It comes in the end to this, that to repent is equivalent to to hold a day for fasting and prayer; and that is the real goal of Joel in Joel 2:1-17, and Joel 1:1-20; certainly along with it comes the exhortation: rend your heart, and not your garments; water alone cannot do it” (Wellhausen), does not recognize sufficiently the emphasis of the prophet upon heart repentance. He does not place exclusive emphasis upon externals. Lest the people should be satisfied with external, formal turning, the prophet repeats (Joel 2:13) his summons to repentance, with even greater emphasis on the inner change.

Rend your heart, and not your garments The rending of the garment was among many ancient nations an expression of deep grief or terror. It was practiced in bereavement, as soon as the report of the death was received; the custom was weakened afterward to a conventional tearing of the garment at the breast for a hand’s breadth (Joshua 7:6; 2 Samuel 3:31; compare Hastings’s Dictionary of the Bible, article “Mourning”). The mere tearing of the garments is not sufficient; for this reason the prophet insists most strongly on the spiritual conditions accompanying it. The rending of the heart signifies true contrition (Psalms 51:19; Ezekiel 36:26; Jeremiah 4:4).

They should be moved to such repentance by past experience, for Jehovah has shown himself to be gracious Literally, inclined, that is, to pardon the repentant sinner.

Merciful Possessing mercy in abundance; equivalent to full of compassion, indicating the benevolent attitude of Jehovah toward all mankind, worthy and unworthy; his sympathy with man’s miseries.

Slow to anger Literally, long as to the breathing of the nostrils, that is, in anger. He does not allow his anger to break forth immediately on the discovery of sin and shortcoming; he waits to see whether the sinner will repent and do better.

Of great kindness R.V., “abundant in loving-kindness.” Hebrews hesedh; used (1) of the love of God toward man, (2) of the love of man toward God, (3) of the love of man toward man (see on Hosea 2:19); here, in the first sense, might be reproduced by paternal affection. It indicates the chief characteristic of God’s dealings with men, especially with those who are needy and helpless, and thus it includes all the virtues spoken of before. Think, says the prophet, of the paternal affection manifested by Jehovah toward you in all your past history, and let that thought become so vivid that it will lead you to repentance. This description of the character of God is taken from Exodus 34:6.

Repenteth him Continuation of the description of the character of Jehovah. Better taken as a participle, translated by a relative clause, “and one who repents.” The usual meaning of the verb niham, “to repent,” is “to change one’s mind or purpose out of pity for those whom one’s actions have affected, or because the results of an action have not fulfilled expectations.” That God repents is often stated in the Old Testament; this does not mean, however, that God ever changes his absolute will because he has been mistaken, or that he ever substitutes a worthier idea for one unworthy of his dignity. His essential attitude does not change, but the expression of God’s character toward man depends upon man’s attitude toward God. Now, since the announcement of a future manifestation of God is always conditional, its fulfillment depending upon the future attitude of man, cases may occur in which the announcement results in a complete change of attitude on the part of those doomed to destruction (compare Jonah and Nineveh). In such a case God may revoke the punishment in perfect accord with the immutability of his character. Such change on the part of the people is presupposed here. An unphilosophical, primitive people, whose apprehension of the infinite God was limited, must use expressions whose contents could be understood, though they were not literally true of God (Jeremiah 18:5-12; Jonah 3:10).

The evil The evil that Jehovah has threatened to send as punishment of their guilt. In view of the merciful character of Jehovah the prophet hopes that even in this crisis there may be a withholding of further judgment, and the change of the present calamity into a blessing. 14.

Who knoweth Equivalent to perhaps. “He speaks after the manner of a terrified conscience that is lifted up again with difficulty after a season of affliction and begins to aspire after hope and the mercy of God.… The expression does not indicate doubt, but rather affirmation coupled with desire; as if we were to say, God will, if it please him, turn again” (Luther). A more confident expression might have made the people even more reckless.

Return Turn back from the judgment upon the execution of which he has already entered (Joel 2:11).

Repent See on Joel 2:13. That instead of devastation and ruin he will leave behind him a blessing can mean in this connection only removal of the locusts, cessation of the drought and the fire, and restoration of fertility. But the true significance of the new fertility lies not in supplying means for the sustenance of life, but in that it will make possible the resumption or continuation of the daily sacrifices and thus assure the continued presence of Jehovah (Joel 1:9). The restoration of the daily sacrifice seems to be the greatest blessing desired. Fertility, harvest, vintage, are always in the Old Testament regarded as direct gifts from God (Hosea 2:5 ff.).

Verses 15-17

Joel 2:15-17 are an emphatic re-iteration of the exhortation in Joel 1:14. Joel 2:15; Joel 2:15 takes us back to Joel 2:1, where the priests are exhorted to blow the trumpet. There it was intended to be chiefly a signal of danger, here a call to a religious gathering. 15b is a repetition of Joel 1:14 a. No one is to be excluded or excused from the proposed service; all are to take part. Even the smallest children are to join. Joel 2:16 is an expansion of Joel 1:14 b.

Gather the people In Joel 1:14, “all the inhabitants of the land.” The purpose of the gathering is indicated in the following expression: Sanctify the congregation [“assembly”] Call a holy meeting of the congregation and consecrate the thus gathered people so that they can approach God properly (Exodus 19:10; 1 Samuel 16:5). The act of consecration was external, but it signified an inner spiritual preparation (13). In order that none might consider themselves exempt, the people are precisely defined as old men, children, and sucklings. No one is free from sin, no one can escape the judgment, therefore no one can afford to stay away from the service of prayer.

Elders Better, R.V., “old men.” Persons of old age (Joel 1:2), not elder in an official sense (Joel 1:14).

Those that suck the breasts “Nothing could evidence the deep and universal guilt of the entire nation more than the fact that on the great day of penitence and prayer even the newborn babes were to be brought together in the arms of their parents” (Umbreit).

Bridegroom… bride Even the newly wedded, who are least inclined to mourning, and who might possibly claim exemption (Deuteronomy 24:5), are to come forth and participate in the solemn worship. Chamber (Hebrews hedher)… closet (Hebrews huppah) The two words are to be understood as synonyms; the bride and groom are thought to be together in the bridal chamber or nuptial pavilion (Psalms 19:5). A common Arabic phrase for the consummation of marriage is “he built a tent over his wife,” and even to-day a special tent or hut is built for the bride on the night of marriage (W.R. Smith, Kinship and Marriage in Early Arabia, 167ff.).

It is the duty of the priests, who are the mediators between the community and God, to convey the petition to the throne of Jehovah; in Joel 2:17 they are exhorted to discharge their duty in the religious gathering.

Weep In sorrow and repentance.

Between the porch and the altar As in Ezekiel 8:16. The porch is the fore court on the east side of the temple, twenty cubits long and ten cubits wide (1 Kings 6:3), which separates the inner court, or court of the priests (1 Kings 6:36; 2 Chronicles 4:9), from the great court (2 Chronicles 4:9) intended for the laity. In the court of the priests was the great altar of burnt offering, perhaps near the fore court and thus in sight of the people in the outer court (1 Kings 8:64; 2 Chronicles 8:12). Here, with their faces turned toward the temple, they are to entreat Jehovah with tears. The prayer is prescribed by the prophet.

Spare Have mercy, and withhold further judgment.

Thy people… thine heritage The fact that Israel is the people, the heritage, of Jehovah is made the basis of appeal (Deuteronomy 9:26; Deuteronomy 9:29); he should be intensely interested in their welfare.

Give not… to reproach To be an object of reproach and mockery. Again and again Jehovah is reminded that, should he forsake Israel and permit it to be destroyed, his own power would be called in question.

That the heathen [“nations”] should rule over them The greatest disgrace in the thoughts of the Jews was the fact of being governed by heathen nations, as is shown at a later period by their frequent revolts against the Roman power. The severity of the plague of locusts has exhausted their resources; in case of hostility the Jews would fall an easy prey to their enemies, and thus become an object of reproach. The above meaning is reproduced in the ancient versions and is adopted by some moderns; it is supported by Psalms 106:41; Deuteronomy 15:6; Lamentations 5:8, and is in perfect accord with the context. For its bearing upon the allegorical interpretation see above p. 145. Most commentators, however, favor the marginal reading, “use a byword against them.” Mashal be means ordinarily “to rule over,” but the other translation is possible, and the last clause of the verse rather favors it. (The claim of Merx, Nowack, and others, that the same construction is found in Ezekiel 12:23; Ezekiel 18:3, is not well founded; the preposition be is used there in a sense entirely different from that required here.) The country having been so severely afflicted, the surrounding nations might be tempted to mock the Jews, and declare that they were forsaken by their God, or that he had no power to help them (Exodus 32:12; Numbers 14:13-16).

Where is their God? A sneer at the covenant relation between Jehovah and his people to which Jehovah could not be indifferent. The ancients traced every extraordinary event directly to the deity. The prosperity of a people was evidence of the power of its God, and even surrounding nations would look up to such a deity with a feeling of respect. On the other hand, disaster was proof of the weakness of the deity, and he would be mocked (Isaiah 10:10-11; Isaiah 36:18; Isaiah 36:20). The only way to avoid such mockery is for Jehovah to avert the calamity (Exodus 32:12; Psalms 79:10).

With this appeal, presenting the strongest reason why God should avert the judgment, the first division of the book closes. The prayer was not in vain; Jehovah heard it, and turned in mercy and loving-kindness toward his penitent people.

Verse 18

Blessings to be enjoyed in the immediate future, vv.18-27.

Joel 2:18 marks the transition to the promises. The future tenses of A.V. have been rightly changed into past tenses in R.V.

Then The time is not definitely stated but is implied, when the people turned to Jehovah in penitence of heart.

Jealous… pity Jealousy is frequently ascribed to God in the Old Testament. The expression is probably adopted from the marriage relation, which is often used to describe the relation of Jehovah to the people of Israel (Isaiah 54:5; Isaiah 62:5; Hosea 2:19). Though at present the word is used commonly in a bad sense, it was not always so. The jealousy of Jehovah is aroused when his power is doubted, or when he is robbed of his proper dues, or when proper treatment is refused to one who is the object of his peculiar care and love. In the last case Jehovah interferes not merely to secure what belongs to him, but he interposes in behalf of his loved one. The calamity that had befallen the people had caused the surrounding nations to ask mockingly, “Where is their God?” Now Jehovah must vindicate himself; but he was moved also by pity for his people. “Love, having been made jealous by misrepresentation or ill treatment on the part of a third person, undergoes a strong reaction against the latter in favor of the former” (Exodus 20:5; Zechariah 1:14; Zechariah 8:2; Ezekiel 36:5-6).

Verses 18-32


Though not expressly stated, it is implied that the prophet’s exhortation was heeded; the solemn assembly was held, the people turned to Jehovah in penitence, and as a result Jehovah altered his purpose. Now he promises to remove the locusts and to restore prosperity, such as has not been known before, until all will know that Jehovah himself dwells in the midst of the people (Joel 2:18-27). The manifestation of his mercy will not stop there; to the temporal blessings he will add rich spiritual gifts (Joel 2:28-29). When the day of judgment finally comes, introduced by extraordinary phenomena (Joel 2:30-31), it will not strike the chosen people; they will be spared (Joel 2:32), and those who are still in exile will be brought back to Zion (Joel 3:1); but the enemies of the Jews will be annihilated in a terrible conflict in the valley of Jehoshaphat (Joel 2:2-16). Zion will continue in the enjoyment of highest felicity under the direct protection of Jehovah, while her enemies will be turned into desolation and ruin (Joel 2:17-21).

The promises, then, refer, on the one hand, to the immediate future (Joel 2:18-27); on the other, to times more remote (Joel 2:28 ff.).

Verses 19-20

19. The jealousy and pity bring about a change in the purpose of God, which change is indicated in the reply to the petitions. The things needed immediately will be restored at once.

I will send Heb, hinneh with the participle, “I am about to send” (G.-K., 116p.).

Corn [“grain”]… [“new”] wine… oil The very things that the locusts had destroyed (Joel 1:10); they were needed for the daily sacrifice (Joel 1:9), and for daily life (Joel 1:11-12). These products will be given not in a scant measure but in abundance, so that the people will be satisfied. The new prosperity will remove the reproach (Joel 2:17) that Israel is a poor people whose God is unable or unwilling to assist it; the surrounding nations will recognize once more the presence of Jehovah. The very fact that the removal of the reproach is connected with the new fertility makes it probable that the danger of becoming a reproach was due to the absence of fertility, not to the invasion of a foreign foe.

The contents of the promise do not seem to be enumerated in the chronological order in which they will actually be realized. The blessings of Joel 2:19 follow, they do not precede, the destruction of the locusts announced in Joel 2:20.

From you Literally, from upon you. Two prepositions in Hebrew; the locusts had been resting upon the land as a burden (Amos 5:23; Exodus 10:17).

The northern army Literally, the northern one (see above, p. 144). The context requires that we regard the expression as an epithet of the swarm of locusts. True, ordinarily they do not come from the north, but it cannot be proved that they never come from there. All that Jerome was willing to say is that “the swarms of locusts are more generally brought by the south wind than by the north.” Niebuhr tells of a tract of land, on the road from Nisibis to Mosul, completely covered with young locusts. Locusts are also found in the Syrian and Palmyrene desert, whence they might easily be carried by a northeast wind into Palestine toward Jerusalem; in such case the designation “the northern” would be perfectly appropriate. While this is a legitimate interpretation, it is more likely (see above, p. 145) that the term is used here not in a literal but in an apocalyptic sense, derived from passages such as Jeremiah 1:14; Ezekiel 38:6; Ezekiel 38:15. A similar change from an historical to an apocalyptic conception may be seen in the corresponding Arabic word (Wellhausen). The army which came from the north will be carried away by a north wind into a land barren and desolate Not only the desert shores of the Dead Sea (Credner), but the great Arabian Desert south and southeast of Palestine. There the main body will go. The following clause would better be rendered, with R.V., “its forepart into the eastern sea, and its hinder part into the western sea.”

Face R.V., “forepart”; that which is in front, the van.

East sea Literally, front sea. The Hebrews and other Oriental nations, in fixing the points of the compass, faced eastward; hence front east, behind west.

The “East Sea” is the Dead Sea, which is eastward from Jerusalem (Zechariah 14:8; Ezekiel 47:18).

Hinder part Literally, end, the rear; Hebrews soph, an Aramaic word (Daniel 4:8; Daniel 4:29) found only in late Hebrew writings.

Utmost sea Literally, hinder sea; R.V., “western sea,” the Mediterranean (Deuteronomy 11:24; Numbers 34:6-7; Zechariah 14:8). The expressions are not to be understood as signifying that three winds would blow at one and the same time, one from the north, one from the east or northeast, the third from the west or northwest; they present a rhetorical picture of rapid and total destruction “which is founded upon the idea that the wind rises in the northwest, then turns to the north, and finally to the northeast, so that the van of the swarm is driven into the Dead Sea, the great mass into the southern desert, and the rear into the Mediterranean.” The dead locusts will soon decay, their stench will rise (Isaiah 34:3; Amos 4:10).

Ill savor The Hebrew word is found only here, but its meaning is determined by the cognate languages and is correctly reproduced by the ancient versions. The Hebrew construction is peculiar. Hence, many commentators think that the two clauses, “and his stink shall come up, and his ill savor shall come up,” are an expansion of one clause. “And his ill savor shall come up” they regard as the original of the two, while they consider the other, “and his stink shall come up,” a later gloss intended to explain the rare word translated “ill savor.” “Even in our own times,” says Jerome, “we have seen the land of Judah covered by swarms of locusts, which as soon as the wind arose were precipitated into the first and the hindermost (Dead and Mediterranean) seas. 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 beast suffered from consequent pestilence.”

Because he hath done great things Literally, he hath shown greatness to do. Affirmed of Jehovah in Joel 2:21. When used of men or other creatures the idea of haughtiness is implied; they have gone beyond their proper bounds (Lamentations 1:9; Psalms 35:26); like the German “grossthun,” to brag, to glory in one’s strength and success. Here, not only “it has accomplished a great devastation,” but, “it has accomplished it and brags about it.” In a strictly literal sense the expression is inapplicable to irrational creatures, but this does by no means prove that the locusts symbolize hostile armies. The prophet is at liberty, in a poetic description, to endow even irrational creatures with rational and moral powers (Isaiah 44:23). It is interesting to note that Hebrew legislation holds even animals accountable for acts of violence (Genesis 9:5; Exodus 21:28-32).

Joel 2:19-20 are placed in the mouth of Jehovah; in 21 the prophet steps in once more as the speaker. In the presence of calamity, joy had vanished from the sons of men (Joel 1:12); the promises of 19, 20 mean a complete transformation. In view of the new prospects he calls upon the land (21), the beasts (22), and the children of Zion (23) to be glad and rejoice.

Verses 21-22

21. Land In Joel 1:10, it is represented as mourning; now the danger is past, therefore, it is time for rejoicing. The land rejoices when it greens and brings forth abundant harvest.

Jehovah will do great things R.V., “hath done.” The same phrase as that applied to the locusts in Joel 2:20

(Psalms 126:2-3). The great thing is the change of purpose and the destruction of the foe that “had done great things.” The tense is the so-called prophetic perfect; the deliverance is not yet accomplished, but to the prophet it is as good as accomplished, since Jehovah has decided upon Joel 2:22.

Beasts They had groaned on account of the destruction of all vegetation (Joel 1:18; Joel 1:20); all is changed now, food will no longer be wanting.

Pastures Devoured by the fire (Joel 1:19).

Do spring They bring forth new grass (Genesis 1:11-12; Psalms 23:2). The tenses as in Joel 2:21. The beasts are called upon to rejoice because the trees bear fruit once more.

The tree beareth her fruit The fruit bearing of the trees, especially of the vine and fig, has no direct bearing on the happiness of the beasts; but they are to enter into sympathy with the inhabitants and rejoice with them over the new fertility. There is, however, another reason for their rejoicing. In Joel 1:20, the water brooks are described as dried up, producing great suffering among the beasts. Without water there can be no vegetation. On the other hand, vegetation presupposes plenty of water, and new growth of the trees implies abundance of water to relieve the thirst of the beasts; therefore, they may well rejoice.

Yield their strength They produce fruit, not sparingly as in the past, but in accord with their full powers.

Verse 23

23. Children of Zion In the narrower sense this expression includes only the inhabitants of Jerusalem; here probably all who suffered from the locusts, the inhabitants of Judah. Especially in a religious community the capital might stand for the whole land, for in it the whole life was centered.

In Jehovah In their rejoicing they are to remember that it is the mercy of Jehovah that has caused the transformation.

The former rain moderately R.V., “the former rain in just measure”; margin, “a teacher of righteousness”; or, rendering the first word “former rain,” it translates the second “according to righteousness”; margin R.V., “in (or, for) righteousness.” It has been well said that “from time immemorial there has been a diversity of opinion as to the meaning of these words.” The teacher unto righteousness is a perfectly correct translation; it is the translation and interpretation of ancient Jewish commentators, and is adopted by a few moderns (Merx, Von Orelli, Keil, and others). The expression is explained by passages such as 1 Kings 8:36; 2 Chronicles 6:27, according to which “the answer to prayer for rain must be preceded by divine instruction respecting the good way” (Von Orelli). There is a difference of opinion, however, as to who is this teacher. Some suppose him to be the Messiah, some a future teacher, some the ideal teacher or the collective body of messengers from God, others the prophet Joel himself, and still others the entire procession of teachers culminating in the Messiah. While the possibility of this translation is readily admitted, the rendering embodied in the text is preferable, because (1) the “teacher unto righteousness” would be a spiritual gift, but we do not expect a reference to a spiritual gift here. The blessings announced in this section are purely physical the destruction of the locusts and the restoration of fertility. The announcement of the higher spiritual gifts marks a distinct advance, and these are not expected by the prophet until a more distant future. (2) The word moreh is used again in the last clause of the verse, where it refers undoubtedly to “early rain.” It is at least doubtful that the prophet, anxious to be understood, would use, without explanation, the two words in so close connection with different meanings. On the whole, the rendering “former rain” is more satisfactory.

Moderately Or, in just measure. It is exceedingly doubtful that the word sedhakah is ever used in the physical sense of correctness or correct measure, as is implied in the above rendering. It seems to be used exclusively in an ethical sense; therefore here better, “according to righteousness” (Hosea 10:12), that is, as Jehovah’s righteousness prompts him (Isaiah 42:6; Isaiah 45:13); which means, in abundant measure. This is more satisfactory than the translation of Ewald and others, “rain for justification” the rain which is a sign that they are adopted again into the righteous consideration of God.

Rain Hebrews geshem. General term for abundant rain, but especially the heavy rains beginning, as a rule, toward the close of October and continuing until February.

Former rain The rains at the opening of the rainy season, September-October.

Latter rain The showers of March and April. Since they come just before the dry season sets in, they are of the greatest importance in Palestine.

In the first month The first month would be Nisan, March-April, which is the time for the latter rain, but it could not be connected with the former rain as it seems to be connected in the text. If the Hebrew text is correct it is better translated, with the margin, “at the first,” in contrast with “afterward” (Joel 2:28) when the spiritual gifts are bestowed. Some of the ancient versions, followed by some modern scholars, read “as before,” that is, before the calamity. This gives excellent sense, and requires but a slight emendation of the text. Wellhausen suggests to omit the second “former rain,” since it appears to be a useless repetition. If this suggestion is accepted we have in this text the three principal rains of the season in their regular order; all three are essential for fertility, therefore Jehovah will restore them.

Verses 24-27

24-27. The heavens are open once more, the drought will come to an end, the locusts will disappear, the harvest and vintage will be plentiful, so that the presence of Jehovah will indeed be realized. 24. A repetition by the prophet of the thought expressed by Jehovah in Joel 2:19. The conditions described in Joel 1:10-12, are to be reversed; corn, wine, and oil will be plentiful.

Floors Threshing floors, where corn is threshed out and heaped up (Thomson, 2:314-316).

Fats Modern form, vats. Not the wine presses, but the receptacles into which the wine flows from the presses, usually excavated in the natural rock (Isaiah 5:2), a little lower than the presses (Van Lennep, 117ff.); applied here also to the receptacles for the oil. The vintage will be so plentiful that the vats will overflow (Proverbs 3:10).

Verse 25

25. By means of the bountiful harvest promised in Joel 2:24 Jehovah will restore to the people the loss they have suffered through the locusts.

Years The calamity was not limited to one year, and it is not easy to see how the effects of a calamity like that described in chapter i could have been confined to one year.

Locusts For the names see comment on Joel 1:4; here they occur in different order, an indication that the names cannot refer to locusts in successive stages of development.

My great army The locusts are identified with the “army” of Joel 2:11 (compare Joel 2:2); that takes us back also to Joel 1:4, proving that the prophet is concerned throughout with locusts as such, and not as symbols of hostile armies.

Verse 26

26. As a result of the bountiful restoration, the Jews will recognize Jehovah as their God and praise him for his divine interposition.

Name of Jehovah Equivalent to person of Jehovah (see on Amos 2:7; Micah 5:4, Hastings’s Dictionary of the Bible, article “Name,” 5).

Shall never be ashamed Having been brought to a true recognition of God, they may now enjoy his favor; he need not turn away from them again, or send calamities that would disgrace them in the eyes of their neighbors (Joel 2:17; compare Isaiah 49:23; Psalms 22:5). 27. The calamity was an evidence of the displeasure of Jehovah (Hosea 2:6-7; Hosea 2:9; Hosea 5:15; Ezekiel 10:18-19; Ezekiel 11:23), in the same manner prosperity will be a proof of his favor and presence.

In the midst of Israel As the source of blessing, as protector and refuge in all need (Isaiah 12:6; Hosea 11:9; Deuteronomy 7:21).

Israel Evidently the theocratic community made up of the reunited Israel and Judah (Isaiah 11:12-13). This verse is a reply to the taunt in Joel 2:17, “Where is their God?”

I am Jehovah your God Every religious leader from the time of Moses insisted that Jehovah was the God of Israel (Exodus 20:2; Deuteronomy 5:6), but the people too frequently forgot it and went “ whoring after other gods” (Hosea 2:5; Hosea 2:8). To bring them to their senses Jehovah must pour out judgment again and again; but the present blow will cure them, and they will recognize in him, and in him only, their God. The phrase is a very common one in the Old Testament, used always, in connections similar to this one, “to denote the conviction produced by some great act of judgment or deliverance upon those who witness it.”

None else “By their fruits ye shall know them.” The gods who in the past lured away the people are seen to be worthless; they have no power to protect or help (Hosea 2:7; Isaiah 1:29-31; Isaiah 45:5-6; Isaiah 45:18; Deuteronomy 4:35). The closing words are a repetition, from the preceding verse, rounding off in a rhetorical manner the promises of the immediate temporal blessings and of permanent protection.

Verse 28

28. Afterward After the realization of the temporal prosperity. Not the expression used by other prophets (Isaiah 2:2; Micah 4:1). Joel seems to point to a date nearer than that suggested by the other expression, but he also leaves the exact time indefinite.

I will pour out “Shaphakh does not mean merely to give in drops, but to pour out in great abundance” (Calvin).

My spirit The spirit is the life principle in man, the invisible power to which all external actions must be traced. In a similar way all the visible manifestations of Jehovah, whatever the sphere, are caused by the Spirit of Jehovah: creation (Genesis 1:2; Job 33:4); the endowment of Israel’s heroes with warlike energy and administrative power (Judges 3:10; Judges 11:29; compare Journal of Biblical Literature, xix, 1:140ff., and xxiii, Joel 1:13 ff.). It is, however, especially in the sphere of the ethical, the religious, and the spiritual that the Spirit is active. The Spirit produces the prophetic power in its lower and higher forms (1 Samuel 10:6; 1Sa 10:10 ; 1 Samuel 19:20; Isaiah 61:1, etc.); it inspires the high ethical and spiritual ideas and ideals of the prophets. Thus far the Spirit had been the possession of only a select few; in the afterward the limitation will be done away with. Moses had expressed the wish (Numbers 11:29), “Would that all Jehovah’s people were prophets, that Jehovah would put his Spirit upon them!” Of the realization of this wish in the future Joel is now convinced.

Upon all flesh A phrase used by the Hebrews sometimes in a wider sense, including all living creatures, both man and beast (Genesis 6:13; Genesis 7:15; Genesis 9:11; Genesis 9:15); at other times in a narrower sense, of mankind alone (Jeremiah 25:31; Psalms 65:2); here only mankind, since animals nowhere appear as recipients of the Divine Spirit and the following clause seems to exclude them. It is a further question, however, whether all mankind is included or whether the promise is to be limited to Israel. Keil argues for the former, yet it is more probable, judging from the context, that the prophet has in mind Israel only. The specifications of 28, 29 point in that direction, and the expectation of the destruction of all nations (chapter 3) decides the point in favor of Israel alone (compare Acts 10:45). But while the outpouring is to be confined to Israel, within the nation no one is to be excluded; all are to become active organs of the divine revelation.

Shall prophesy… shall dream dreams… shall see visions No distinction will be made of sex, age, or position, but the prophet distinguishes between different methods in which the revelation is to be received and the prophetic gift to be exercised. He does not mean, however, that each of the methods is peculiar to the age with which it is connected. That the Spirit manifests itself to the weakened mind of the old man in dreams of the night, to the lively fancy of the youth and maiden in sights during the day that is, true visions and to the soul of the child, less able to resist, merely as a divine influence cannot be proved from the Bible. Visions and dreams are two forms in which prophetic revelation is imparted (Numbers 12:6). All that the prophet means with the specification is that “their sons, daughters, old persons, and youth would receive the Spirit of Jehovah with all its various gifts.”

Prophesy They will be able to do the work which in the past was limited to the prophets, they are to become “organs of divine revelations,” to make known to those outside of Israel the will of God. (For an excellent discussion of the inspiration and activity of the Hebrew prophets see Hastings’s Dictionary of the Bible, article “Prophecy and Prophets.”)

Verses 28-32

Spiritual gifts to be bestowed in a more distant future, Joel 2:28-32 (Hebrew chap. 3).

This section takes us to a more distant future; how far is not stated. In addition to the temporal blessings promised for the immediate future (Joel 2:19-27), higher spiritual blessings are awaiting the people. The Spirit will be poured out upon them, so that the spiritual perception of all will be clarified and intensified (28, 29); and being in a new fellowship with Jehovah they have nothing more to fear. The day of Jehovah will come, inaugurated by extraordinary phenomena in nature (30, 31), but those who through the outpouring of the Spirit have become true children of God shall escape (32).

Verse 29

29. And also Better, and even. Introduces something very extraordinary. The position of slaves was very humble; ordinarily they would not be thought of in connection with these great spiritual gifts; but in the Messianic age, there will be no distinction between “bond and free,” so far as spiritual possessions are concerned; all alike will share in the outpouring of the Spirit. LXX. reads, “my servants and my handmaidens,” that is, of God and not of men; the change may be due to failure to understand the extension of the divine promises so as to include even slaves. Whether there is any thought of the non-Israelitish slaves, who as a result of their connection with families of the chosen race are to become par-takers of the Spirit, is not clear. For the fulfillment see above, p. 149.

In this new relation the people of Jehovah are forever safe; they will be protected when the day of Jehovah, temporarily postponed, comes; its terrors will fall only upon those who are outside of the covenant relation.

This day the prophet appears to expect soon after the outpouring of the Spirit.

Verses 30-31

30, 31. Wonderful indications of the approach of the judgment.

Show Literally, give.

Wonders Hebrews mophethim. “Any object of significance which surpasses expectation or the ordinary course of nature, and excites wonder in consequence”; here extraordinary phenomena on earth and in the sky.

Blood… fire… pillars of smoke If the phenomena mentioned in this verse are such as take place upon earth, these words point to the terrors of war, bloodshed, violence, and the columns of smoke rising from burned cities. Wars will be on an unprecedented scale, and thus may well be regarded as portents of the day of Jehovah (Isaiah 13:6; Zephaniah 1:7). Some commentators, however, prefer to connect this verse more closely with Joel 2:31, and to interpret the phenomena mentioned in 30 in the light of those in 31. They see in the fire, blood, and pillars of smoke “abnormal atmospherical phenomena”: blood the blood-red color of the moon; smoke the smoke clouds filling the air as a result of volcanic eruptions; fire lightning, since “thunderstorms often accompany earthquakes.” The former interpretation is to be preferred. In 31 the phenomena in the sky are mentioned. “The darkening and extinction of the lights of heaven are frequently mentioned as harbingers of approaching judgment, or as signs of the breaking of the day of judgment” (Joel 2:2; Joel 2:10; Joel 3:15; Isaiah 13:10; Isaiah 34:4; Jeremiah 4:23, etc.; compare, in the New Testament, Matthew 24:29; Mark 13:24; Luke 21:25; Revelation 6:12).

Sun… darkness,… moon… blood The figures may have been suggested by eclipses of the sun and moon (Amos 8:9), or by strange obscurations caused by other disturbances (Joel 2:2; Joel 2:10), or as described in the following account: “A dreadful whirlwind occurred here (in Allahabad) on June 2, 1838. The whole sky was blood-red, not with clouds, for there was not a cloud to be seen. Overhead moved immense masses of dust, but below there was not a breath of wind. Shortly after the wind arose, carrying with it sand and dust. It soon became extremely dark, although the sun was still up. The darkness was not only visible but tangible” (Driver, quoted from Asiatic Journal, Nov., 1838). These phenomena, according to the declaration of the prophet, will announce the approach of the great day, just as previously the locust plague pointed to its coming.

Verse 32

32. Though a day great and terrible, it will be such only to the nations (Joel 3:2); the true worshipers of Jehovah need have no fear.

Whosoever A very comprehensive word, but it is clear from the context, “for in Mount Zion and Jerusalem there shall be those that escape” (R.V.) that the prophet is concerned primarily with the Jews.

Call on the name of Jehovah Not merely with a cold ceremonial or heartless repetition of phrases, but with spiritual, heartfelt worship. To call is equivalent to to worship. The condition of escape is not membership in the Israel according to the flesh; even those within Israel need something more to assure their salvation on that day namely, a true, whole-hearted devotion to God.

For in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance Better, with R.V., “those that escape.” This limits salvation to the Jews, and, among the Jews, to only a part.

As Jehovah hath said This sounds as if Joel were referring to an earlier prophecy. The promise actually occurs in Obadiah 1:17; it is quite possible, therefore, that Joel is dependent on the latter.

The remnant Those that escape the judgment of the great day. The thought of the prophet seems to be that not only the Jews who are in Jerusalem on that day will escape, but that some true worshipers are found also among the Jews who are scattered among the nations. These Jehovah will call to his salvation. That the prophet has in mind believers among the heathen is made improbable by the threat of the utter destruction of the nations in chapter 3.

The apostle Peter quoted Joel 2:28-32 a, after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, as having been fulfilled by that event. However, the fulfillment cannot be limited to that one event; the outpouring of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost was simply the beginning of the fulfillment which is being continued even now, and will continue until all flesh shall be blessed with divine illumination. Therefore the promise should be regarded “not as a prediction of the event of Pentecost, but of the new order of things of which the day of Pentecost was the first great example” (A.B. Davidson, Expositor, 1888, p. 208).

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Joel 2". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/joel-2.html. 1874-1909.
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