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Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature

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Jo´el (worshipper of Jehovah), one of the twelve Minor Prophets, the son of Pethuel. Of his birth-place nothing is known with certainty. From the local allusions in his prophecy, we may infer that he discharged his office in the kingdom of Judah. But the references to the temple, its priests and sacrifices, are rather slender grounds for conjecturing that he belonged to the sacerdotal order. Various opinions have been held respecting the period in which he lived. It appears most probable that he was contemporary with Amos and Isaiah, and delivered his predictions in the reign of Uzziah, between 800 and 780 B.C.

This prophet opens his commission by announcing an extraordinary plague of locusts, accompanied with extreme drought, which he depicts in a strain of animated and sublime poetry under the image of an invading army. The fidelity of his highly-wrought description is corroborated and illustrated by the testimonies of Shaw, Volney, Forbes, and other eminent travelers, who have been eye-witnesses of the ravages committed by this most terrible of the insect tribe. In the second chapter, the formidable aspect of the locusts—their rapid progress—their sweeping devastation—the awful murmur of their countless throngs—their instinctive marshalling—the irresistible perseverance with which they make their way over every obstacle and through every aperture—are delineated with the utmost graphic force. There is considerable diversity of sentiment as to the point whether these descriptions are to be understood literally or figuratively. The figurative interpretation has, it must be allowed, the support of antiquity. It was adopted by the Chaldee paraphrast, Ephrem the Syrian (A.D. 350), and the Jews in the time of Jerome (A.D. 400). Ephrem supposes that by the four different denominations of the locusts were intended Tiglath-pileser, Shalmaneser, Sennacherib, and Nebuchadnezzar. The Jews, in the time of Jerome, understood by the first term the Assyrians and Chaldeans; by the second, the Medes and Persians; by the third, Alexander the Great and his successors; and by the fourth, the Romans. Grotius applies the description to the invasions by Pul and Shalmaneser. Holzhausen attempts to unite both modes of interpretation, and applies the language literally to the locusts, and metaphorically to the Assyrians. It is singular, however, that, if a hostile invasion be intended, not the least hint is given of personal injury sustained by the inhabitants; the immediate effects are confined entirely to the vegetable productions and the cattle.

The prophet, after describing the approaching judgments, calls on his countrymen to repent, assuring them of the divine placability and readiness to forgive (). He foretells the restoration of the land to its former fertility, and declares that Jehovah would still be their God (; ). He then announces the spiritual blessings which would be poured forth in the Messianic age (, Hebrew text; , Auth. Vers.). This remarkable prediction is applied by the Apostle Peter to the events that transpired on the day of Pentecost (). In the last chapter the divine vengeance is denounced against the enemies and oppressors of the chosen people, of whom the Phoenicians, Egyptians, and Edomites are especially named.

The style of Joel, it has been remarked, unites the strength of Micah with the tenderness of Jeremiah. In vividness of description he rivals Nahum, and in sublimity and majesty is scarcely inferior to Isaiah and Habakkuk.

The canonicity of this book has never been called in question.





Bibliography Information
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Joel'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature". https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​kbe/​j/joel.html.
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