Joel 1
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
The word of the LORD that came to Joel the son of Pethuel.
1. The Title

1. The word of Jehovah that came unto] so Hosea 1:1; Micah 1:1; Zephaniah 1:1.

came unto] lit. was (ἐγένετο) unto, a very common expression in connexion with Jehovah’s ‘word’: 1 Samuel 15:10; 2 Samuel 7:4; 1 Kings 16:1; 1 Kings 16:7; Jeremiah 1:2; Jeremiah 1:4; Jeremiah 1:11, &c.

Hear this, ye old men, and give ear, all ye inhabitants of the land. Hath this been in your days, or even in the days of your fathers?
2–3. Introduction, characterizing the event which forms the occasion of Joel’s prophecy: it is an unexampled one, of a kind which even the oldest of the prophet’s contemporaries had neither witnessed themselves nor heard of from their fathers; its memory, therefore, deserves the more to be handed on to successive generations in the future.

Hear this] viz., the question following, implying the unprecedented character of the calamity.

ye old men, &c.] the whole people is addressed: not one among them, however long or varied his experience, has ever heard tell of such an occurrence.

of the land] i.e. of Judah, with which alone Joel deals: Song of Solomon 1:14; Song of Solomon 2:1.

this] i.e. the like of this.

or even] simply or.

Part I. Chap. Joel 1:2 to Joel 2:17Description of the present calamity (ch. 1.). The terrible “Day of Jehovah,” of which it is the harbinger (Joel 2:1-11), but which may yet be averted by the nation’s timely repentance (Joel 2:12-17).

Tell ye your children of it, and let your children tell their children, and their children another generation.
3. Recount concerning it to your children] recount,—a stronger word than tell, and implying some narrative of particulars.

to your children, &c.] comp. (also with recount) Exodus 10:2; Psalm 22:30 (R.V.), Psalm 48:13, Psalm 78:4; Psalm 78:6; and “our fathers have recounted to us,” Jdg 6:13; Psalm 44:1; Psalm 78:3. Usually, it is the memory of Jehovah’s deliverances, which is thus to be handed on from father to son (comp. also Exodus 12:26 f., Exodus 13:8; Exodus 13:14; Deuteronomy 4:9; Deuteronomy 6:20 f.; Joshua 4:6 f., 21 f.); here it is the memory of an unprecedented disaster.

That which the palmerworm hath left hath the locust eaten; and that which the locust hath left hath the cankerworm eaten; and that which the cankerworm hath left hath the caterpiller eaten.
4. The calamity to which the prophet has thus emphatically directed his hearers’ attention: a visitation of locusts, repeated for more years than one (Joel 2:25), and of unexampled severity; what had escaped the ravages of one swarm, had been speedily devoured by a succeeding one, till the crops were completely ruined, and every chance both of harvest and vintage had been utterly destroyed.

That which the shearer (gâzâm) hath left, the swarmer (arbeh) hath eaten;

And that which the swarmer (arbeh) hath left, the lapper (yéleḳ) hath eaten;

And that which the lapper (yéleḳ) hath left, the finisher (ḥâsîl) hath eaten.

The general intention of the verse is manifestly to describe a total destruction of the herbage of the land; but as we cannot identify with certainty the kinds of locust meant,—nor, if we could, should have suitable English names by which to distinguish them,—it is best to translate the terms used by words expressing the ideas which they probably suggested to the Hebrew ear. Successive swarms of locusts, appearing partly, it is probable, in the same year, partly in following years, are indicated rhetorically by four distinct names, which may partly be synonymous designations of the same species (though not of the same individual insects), partly denote different species, and partly denote the ordinary locust in different stages of its development (see p. 84 f.). The gâzâm is mentioned besides only Joel 2:25, Amos 4:9. Arbeh is the usual name of the locust in Hebrew, and may be presumed therefore to have been the name of the species which most commonly invades Palestine, the Acridium peregrinum. The yéleḳ may have denoted the ordinary locust in its wingless larva- or pupa-stage (in which state it is not less destructive than in its mature form): in this case the second line of the verse will describe how what the fully-grown parent insects left in April or May, when they laid their eggs, was destroyed by the young larvae hatched in June. The ḥâsîl is named beside the arbeh, as a plague to which Palestine was liable, in 1 Kings 8:37; this, therefore, was probably a distinct species, perhaps the Oedipoda migratoria or Pachytylus, also common in Palestine[30]. See further particulars in the Excursus at the end of the Book (p. 85 ff.).

[30] The four names cannot, as Credner and (somewhat differently) Gesenius thought, denote, as they stand, locusts in four successive stages of their development, for various reasons: (1) because not more than three stages are distinguishable by an ordinary observer [yet cf. p. 90]; (2) because, upon this view, arbeh, the most usual name of the locust, would denote only the immature insect; (3) because in Joel 2:25 the four names occur in a different order; (4) because, as swarms of locusts always move onwards, a swarm in one stage of its development could not be said to have devoured what it had left in a previous stage, since it would be upon entirely new ground. (Of course the last objection does not hold in the particular case of the larvae emerging from eggs, assumed above to represent the yéleḳ.)

In illustration of the allusions to locusts, contained in this and the following chapter, numerous passages from the descriptions of naturalists and travellers have been collected by Credner (ad locc. and pp. 261–313), and after him by Dr Pusey, a selection from which (with some additions from more recent authorities) is reprinted here. In the Excursus (p. 87 ff.) will be found also some continuous descriptions, by different observers, of the invasion of a country by locusts.

Awake, ye drunkards, and weep; and howl, all ye drinkers of wine, because of the new wine; for it is cut off from your mouth.
5–12. All classes are to unite in lamenting this calamity, which has not only (1) deprived them of some of their most valued luxuries, Joel 1:5-7, but also (2) interrupted the public worship of God, Joel 1:8-10, and (3) even left them destitute of the means of subsistence, Joel 1:11-12.

Awake, ye drunkards] viz. from the sleep of intoxication (Genesis 9:24; Proverbs 23:35), which the ruin of the vintage will soon render impossible.

howl] in wild and desperate grief: so Joel 1:11; Joel 1:13. Comp. on Amos 8:3.

because of the sweet wine] Heb. ‘âsîs: see on Amos 9:13.

from your mouth] where it is a source to you of gratification.

For a nation is come up upon my land, strong, and without number, whose teeth are the teeth of a lion, and he hath the cheek teeth of a great lion.
6–7. By what agency this devastation has been wrought: an army of depredators has invaded Judah, countless in numbers and well equipped for their work; and vine and fig-tree have been left by them bare.

a nation] cf. for the figure Proverbs 30:24-26 : also Homer’s expression ἔθνεα μελισσάων, μυιάων, &c. (Il. 2:87, 469, &c.).

is come up upon (or against)] the phrase used of an invading army (e.g. 2 Kings 18:13).

my land] the prophet speaks in the name of the people. So Joel 1:7; Joel 1:13; Joel 1:19 and frequently (cf. the writer’s Introduction, p. 366 f.).

strong] Cf. Joel 2:2; Joel 2:5; Joel 2:11. The term is used often of a powerful and numerous nation (e.g. Deuteronomy 26:5, Isaiah 60:22, Micah 4:7). The reference is partly to the strength of limb possessed by the locust, enabling it for instance to take long flights and to persevere incessantly in its work of destruction, partly to the irresistible numbers in which swarms of locusts are apt to invade a country.

without number] a characteristic of locust-swarms, often alluded to in the O.T.: Psalm 105:34 (“and the yéleḳ without number”); and in comparisons Jdg 6:5; Jdg 7:12, Jeremiah 46:23 (all of the arbeh), Jeremiah 51:14; Jeremiah 51:27 (of the yéleḳ). Modern travellers speak often of the literally incalculable numbers in which locusts come. Thus an observer in South Africa writes, “For the space of 10 miles on each side of the Sea-Cow river, and 80–90 miles in breadth, an area of 16–1800 square miles, the whole surface might literally be said to be covered with them: the water of the river was scarcely visible on account of the dead carcases which floated on the surface, drowned in the attempt to come at the weeds which grew in it.” Again, in Cyprus, “the locusts lay swarming above a foot deep in several parts of the high road, and thousands were destroyed by the wheels of the carriage driving over them.” A writer in Nature (1889, p. 153) states “that a flight of locusts that passed over the Red Sea in Nov. 1889, was 2000 square miles in extent,” and upon the assumption that it was 48 miles square, half a mile deep, and contained 144 locusts, each weighing 16 oz., to a cubic foot, he calculated that it contained 24,420 billions of insects, and weighed 42,850 millions of tons. “A second similar, perhaps even larger flight, was seen passing in the same direction the next day. In Cyprus in 1881, up to the end of October, 1,600,000,000 egg-cases bad that season been collected and destroyed, each case containing a considerable number of eggs. By the end of the season over 1300 tons of eggs had been collected; and yet not less than 5,076,000,000 egg-cases were, it is believed, deposited in the island two years afterwards” (Cambridge Nat. Hist. v. 292).

his teeth, &c.] the locust’s teeth are edged like a saw, and very powerful; hence, though infinitely smaller, they may for destructiveness be compared to those of a lion. Cp. Revelation 9:8.

the cheek-teeth] or jaw teeth (R.V.), i.e. the sharp and prominent eye-teeth of the animal. The word is the same which is found in Job 29:17 and Proverbs 30:14; and (with two letters transposed) in Psalm 58:6 (also of the lion: R.V. “great teeth”): it possibly signifies (from the Arabic) the projectors.

of a great lion] of a lioness. Hebrew has several distinct terms, all denoting generally the lion, but, unfortunately, seldom distinguishable in English except by the use of separate epithets. The ordinary word for lion is that used in the former clause of the present verse (aryçh, also ărî), that used here (lâbhî’) is the lioness, Numbers 23:24, Deuteronomy 33:20 al., but only in poetry; another (kĕphîr) is the young lion (Isaiah 31:4, and frequently); other poetical words are layish, only Isaiah 30:6, Job 4:11, Proverbs 30:30; and shaḥal, properly the roarer, Hosea 5:14; Hosea 13:7, Job 4:10; Job 10:16; Job 28:8, Proverbs 26:13, Psalm 91:13. Gûr (or gôr) is a lion’s whelp, Genesis 49:9 al. In poetry, the synonyms for lion appear often, as they do here, in the parallel clauses of a verse: see esp. Job 4:10-11.

He hath laid my vine waste, and barked my fig tree: he hath made it clean bare, and cast it away; the branches thereof are made white.
7. He hath made my vine into a waste, and my fig-tree into splinters] The vine and the fig-tree are mentioned as the two principal and most representative fruit-trees of Palestine, the vine holding the first place (cf. Hosea 2:12; 1 Kings 4:25; 2 Kings 18:31). For splinters (lit. something broken into pieces), comp. nearly the same word in Hosea 10:7 (R.V. marg.). The words indicate the severity of the visitation. Locusts first attack plants and vegetables; when these have been all consumed, they attack trees, consuming first the leaves, then the bark. Comp. the quotation from Shaw’s Travels, below, p. 88. The effects of such ravages are felt sometimes for many years: “the wine of Algiers, before the locusts in 1723 wasted the vineyards, was in flavour not inferior to the best Hermitage. Since that time the wine has much degenerated, and has not yet [1732] recovered its usual qualities” (Shaw, p. 227).

made it clean bare] viz. by stripping off the bark, cf. Psalm 29:9 (the same word).

cast it away] There is no pron. in the Hebrew; and the reference is, no doubt, partly to the fragments of bark and wood which have been bitten off by the locusts, but being uneatable by them have fallen to the ground, partly to the barked branches and trunks themselves, which (metaphorically) the insects have ‘cast away.’ “After they have passed, nothing remains but the large branches, and the roots, which, being under ground, have escaped their voracity.” “The bushes were eaten quite bare, though the animals could not have been long on the spot. They sat by hundreds on a bush gnawing the rind and the woody fibres” (Lichtenstein, Travels in S. Africa, p. 241, ap. Pusey).

its branches] Genesis 40:10; Genesis 40:12 only, also of the vine: properly, something intertwined.

shew whiteness] viz. through the bark being stripped off. “Ambedunt enim, ut Tacitus (Annal. xv. 5) loquitur, quicquid herbidum est et frondosum; ut nee culmus, nec granum ullum remaneat, et arbores frondibus et cortice tamquam vestibus nudatae instar truncorum alborum conspiciantur” (Ludolf, Hist. Aeth. p. 178 f., ap. Credner).

Lament like a virgin girded with sackcloth for the husband of her youth.
8. Lament] The verb is fem in the Hebrew, the community, personified as a woman, the “daughter of Judah,” or “daughter of my people,” being addressed. So often in the prophets: comp. on Amos 5:2. The word rendered lament (’âlâh) occurs only here in the O.T., though it is common in Aramaic.

like a virgin, &c.] “The interruption of the fellowship between the land and Jehovah through the failure of the sacrifices the prophet throws into the figure of a young wife bereaved and in mourning. The land is the virgin; the dreary bleak aspect of it is the mourning which she wears. The bereavement lies in this: that through the cutting off of the meal-offering and the drink-offering, the tokens of Jehovah’s presence and favour, manifested in His acceptance of the offerings, have been removed; communications between the land and its God have been removed, and the land is bereaved” (A. B. Davidson).

sackcloth] The regular sign of mourning in the East (Amos 8:10).

husband] lit. possessor, owner (Deuteronomy 24:4; 2 Samuel 11:26 al.).

8–10. Interruption of the public services of the Temple.

The meat offering and the drink offering is cut off from the house of the LORD; the priests, the LORD'S ministers, mourn.
9. The meal offering and the drink offering is cut off, &c.] the means of providing them having been destroyed by the locusts. The cessation of the daily sacrifices would be regarded as a national misfortune: even during the siege of Jerusalem by the Romans, they were maintained as long as possible, and when ultimately they had to be suspended, the people, we are told, “were terribly despondent” (Jos. B. J. VI. 2, 1).

On the nature of the meal-offering, see Leviticus 2; and comp. on Amos 5:22. The drink-offering was a libation of wine, which usually accompanied a burnt-offering. Here the reference is, no doubt, to the meal- and drink-offering, which, according to the Priestly Code (Exodus 29:38-42; Numbers 28:3-8), were to accompany the daily morning and evening burnt-offering. A special meal-offering was also offered daily by the high-priest (Leviticus 6:19-20).

the ministers of Jehovah] Joel 1:13, Joel 2:17; cf. Isaiah 61:6; Jeremiah 33:21. The corresponding verb, to minister, is used often of the sacred services of the priests, as Deuteronomy 10:8; Deuteronomy 18:5; Deuteronomy 18:7; Exodus 28:35; Exodus 28:43, &c.

The field is wasted, the land mourneth; for the corn is wasted: the new wine is dried up, the oil languisheth.
10. the ground mourneth] the country being personified, as Isaiah 33:9; Jeremiah 12:4; Jeremiah 12:11; Jeremiah 23:10; cf. on Amos 1:2. Conversely, at harvest time, when the fruits of the earth are abundant, “the vales shout for joy, and sing” (Psalm 65:13).

the corn … the new wine (or must) … the fresh oil] The three principal products of the soil of Palestine, often mentioned together as a triad of blessings (Deuteronomy 7:13; Deuteronomy 11:14; Deuteronomy 28:51; Hosea 2:8), bestowed by Jehovah upon His people, or, it may be, withheld, in the event of their unfaithfulness. The words, though they may be used with reference to the corn in the ears, and the juice in the grapes and the olives, denote more particularly these products after they have been adapted partially for the food, or use, of man. Corn (dâgân) is thus the grain of wheat after it has been threshed and freed from the husk (“from the threshing-floor,” Numbers 18:27); new wine, or must (tîrôsh), is the freshly-expressed juice of the grape, sometimes, at any rate, if not always, slightly fermented (Hosea 4:11), and described as a sustaining (Genesis 27:37), invigorating (Zechariah 9:17), and exhilarating (Jdg 9:13) beverage; fresh oil (yitzhâr) is similarly the freshly-expressed juice of the olive. On tîrôsh, see more fully the Additional Note at the end of the Book (p. 79). The oil which, when pressed, the fruit of the olive yields, is almost a necessary of life in Palestine: it is used in cooking and for food, where we should employ butter; it is burnt in lamps; it is in habitual use for anointing the person (see on Amos 6:6); it has medicinal virtues (Isaiah 1:6; Luke 10:34); it was used in ancient times in sacrifice (Leviticus 2:1; Leviticus 2:6, &c.), and it was prized as a gift (1 Kings 5:11; Hosea 12:1; Isaiah 57:9). Being a valuable commodity, it was subject to tithe (Deuteronomy 14:23; Nehemiah 13:5). See further Tristram, N. H. B. p. 373 ff.; Van Lennep, Bible Lands, p. 124 ff.; Whitehouse, Primer of Heb. Antiquities, pp. 104–110.

is dried up] Better, sheweth shame (cf. R.V. marg.), the ‘new wine’ being personified (cf. Isaiah 24:7, where it is said to ‘mourn’), just as the ‘ground’ is in the first part of the verse. Comp. of Lebanon (though the Heb. word used is a different one), Isaiah 33:9.

languisheth] The same word, said of trees of which the foliage has been stripped off, or is withering, Joel 1:12; Isaiah 16:8; Isaiah 24:7; Nahum 1:4.

Additional Note on Chap. Joel 1:10 (tîrôsh)

Tîrôsh occurs thirty-eight times in the O.T. It is mentioned generally as a valued product of the soil, by the side of corn in Genesis 27:28; Genesis 27:37; Deuteronomy 33:28; 2 Kings 18:32 (= Isaiah 36:17); Isaiah 62:8; Hosea 2:9; Hosea 7:14; Hosea 9:2 (implicitly); Zechariah 9:17; Psalm 4:7; Proverbs 3:10 (implicitly); and by the side of corn and “fresh oil” (yitzhâr) together in Deuteronomy 7:13; Deuteronomy 11:14; Deuteronomy 28:51; Jeremiah 31:12; Hosea 2:8; Hosea 2:22; Joel 1:10; Joel 2:19; Joel 2:24; Haggai 1:11; 2 Chronicles 32:28; Nehemiah 5:11; cf. Micah 6:15; and as the highly prized product of the vine, “gladdening God (or gods) and men” (i.e. offered to the former in libations and welcome to the latter at feasts) in Jdg 9:13, and bringing a blessing in Isaiah 65:8; cf. Isaiah 24:7. It is mentioned further, also with corn and “fresh oil,” as subject to tithe (Deuteronomy 12:17; Deuteronomy 14:23; Nehemiah 13:5; Nehemiah 13:12), and the payment of firstfruits (Deuteronomy 18:4; Numbers 18:12; 2 Chronicles 31:5; Nehemiah 10:37; cf. Nehemiah 10:39). Lastly, it is mentioned in Hosea 4:11, in company with “whoredom and wine,” as “taking away the heart” (i.e. the understanding). From these passages it appears that tîrôsh was a beverage (Isaiah 62:8), prepared from the fruit of the vine (Isaiah 65:8; Micah 6:15), and possessed of sustaining (Genesis 27:37) and invigorating (Zechariah 9:17) properties. Hosea 4:11 shews further that it was, at least in some cases, fermented; and “gladdening,” in Jdg 9:13, which would naturally, in this connexion, have the force of “exhilarating” (cf. the same word of yayin “wine,” in Psalm 104:15), suggests the same inference. Whether, however, tîrôsh denoted always a fermented liquid, is more than we can say. Isaiah 65:8, “as the tîrôsh is found in the cluster,” might indeed be a poetical expression, not intended to be interpreted literally; but in Joel 2:24, Proverbs 3:10 it appears to be described as filling the “wine-vat” (see on Joel 2:24) so that (unless it were the custom to leave the grape-juice in this vat for the purpose of fermentation), it would seem to have denoted the unfermented juice of the grape as well. In our ignorance of the precise methods employed by the ancient Hebrews in the manufacture of wine, it is impossible to speak with entire definiteness: but with our present knowledge, it is most just, probably, to the various passages in which tîrôsh occurs, to suppose that it was a comprehensive term, applied both to the freshly-expressed, unfermented juice of the grape (or “must”)[53], and also to a light kind of wine such as we know, from the classical writers, that the ancients were in the habit of making by checking the fermentation of the grape juice before it had run its full course[54].

[53] Mêrîth, which corresponds etymologically in Syriac, is defined by the native lexicographers as “new wine, or must, as it comes forth from the wine-press” (Payne Smith, Thes. Syr. col. 1635).

[54] See the Dict. of Classical Antiquities, s.v. Vinum. Must was sometimes used at once, being drunk fresh after it had been clarified by vinegar. When it was desired to preserve a quantity in a sweet state, it was placed carefully in an air-tight amphora, and deposited in a cool place: it would then keep for a year or more, and was called ἀεὶ γλεῦκος or semper mustum. It was also preserved by being boiled down to two-thirds or less of its original volume, in which case it became a kind of jelly. Must intended for wine was allowed to ferment, by being exposed to the open air, in large earthenware vessels (dolia), for nine days; but fight wines were manufactured by the dolia being closed and fermentation checked after five or seven days.—In warm countries fermentation begins in the grape-juice a few hours after it has been expressed (Anderlind, Z.D.P.V. xi. 1888, p. 168). On modern Syrian wines, see ib. p. 170 ff.

It has sometimes been supposed[55] that tîrôsh denoted the produce of the vine in general, and it has been rendered for example vine-fruit. But this view is certainly untenable. (1) It is spoken of distinctly as something that is ‘drunk’ (Isaiah 62:8); and surely the analogy of drinking a ‘cup’ (for the contents of a cup) could not be applied to a mass of ‘vine-fruit.’ (2) It is spoken of as filling the yeḳeb, or ‘wine-vat’ (Joel 2:24; Proverbs 3:10): the yeḳeb, however (see the note on Joel 2:24), was the receiver into which the juice trodden out in the gath ran down: it would contain consequently, not a crushed mass of grapes, or ‘vine-fruit,’ but the expressed juice. (3) Tithe was levied on tîrôsh (Deuteronomy 12:17; Deuteronomy 14:23); but tithe, as follows from Numbers 18:27 (cf. Numbers 18:30), was levied not on the raw produce, but on what came “from the yeḳeb,” or wine-vat, which it is evident can have been only the expressed juice. Tîrôsh was in fact the juice, especially the expressed juice, of the grape, just as dâgân and yitzhâr, with which it is so often conjoined, though they may be used, respectively, with reference to the corn in the ears, and the juice in the olives, denoted more particularly the threshed corn (Numbers 18:27, “from the threshing-floor”), and oil freshly expressed from the olive-berry.

[55] Especially in the Temperance Bible Commentary.

The clear evidence of these passages cannot be neutralized by the two, which, though they seem at first sight to imply that tîrôsh was a solid, can be readily explained in conformity with the others. The first is Deuteronomy 12:17, “Thou mayest not eat within thy gates the tithe of thy corn, or of thy tîrôsh, or of thy fresh oil.” The word eat may, however, be used, as a general term, of a liquid (Deuteronomy 12:16; Deuteronomy 12:23; Deuteronomy 14:26, of ‘wine’ and ‘strong drink’); and this usage is the easier in Deuteronomy 12:17, as the object joined immediately to eat is corn, and tîrôsh is only attached to it in the second place. The other passage is Micah 6:15, where tîrôsh is the object of dârakh, “to tread,” and might consequently be supposed to be a solid. In Isaiah 16:10, however, dârakh has for its object yáyin (“wine”), which no one can pretend to be a solid, the reference being to the expressed juice flowing out from under the treader’s feet; and Micah 6:15 may be understood quite naturally in the same sense[56].

[56] The fullest and most instructive discussion of tîrôsh will be found in A. M. Wilson, The Wines of the Bible (1877), pp. 301–339.

The all but uniform rendering of tîrôsh in the ancient Versions is wine[57]; and either must or new wine is the rendering adopted by all the principal Hebraists of modern times (Gesenius, Ewald, Hitzig, Delitzsch, Keil, Dillmann, &c.), without exception.

[57] In Hosea 4:11, LXX, Pesh., Targ., Symm., Vulg. all have “drunkenness.” Otherwise wine is the uniform rendering of LXX, except Isaiah 65:8 (ῥώξ, “grape-stone”), of Pesh. (except 5 times), of Targ. (except 4 times, two being paraphrases). Aq., in accordance with his peculiar principles of translation, rendered ὀπωρισμός (see Field’s Hexapla, on Hosea 2:22; also οἰνία, see ib.), whence Jerome has vindemia, Deuteronomy 7:13, Isaiah 24:7, Nehemiah 10:37; elsewhere always vinum, except Isaiah 65:8 (granum).

Be ye ashamed, O ye husbandmen; howl, O ye vinedressers, for the wheat and for the barley; because the harvest of the field is perished.
11. Be ashamed] more exactly shew shame, i.e. manifest, by overt signs, your disappointment. To shew shame (or to be ashamed) is said in Hebrew idiomatically where we should say be disappointed: it expresses, however, a little more than our English phrase, for it signifies rather to be disconcerted, or to shew, in countenance or demeanour, overt signs of disappointment. People are thus often said to be “ashamed,” when the help, or support, on which they rely fails them: see e.g. Isaiah 1:29 (the Israelites to be ‘ashamed’ of the oaks which they have desired, i.e. disappointed of the rewards which they hoped that the rites observed under them would bring them), Isaiah 20:5 (those who rely upon Egypt to be “ashamed,” i.e. disappointed; similarly Isaiah 30:5); Job 6:20 (caravans in the wilderness, travelling to a wady in which they expect to find water, are “ashamed” when they arrive there and find none). With the usage here, cf. Jeremiah 14:3 b, 4b.

vine-dressers] more exactly, vineyard-keepers. These are in this verse subordinate: the reason why they are to lament appearing only in Joel 1:12.

The vine is dried up, and the fig tree languisheth; the pomegranate tree, the palm tree also, and the apple tree, even all the trees of the field, are withered: because joy is withered away from the sons of men.
12. is dried up] Better, sheweth shame, as Joel 1:10.

the pomegranate] Numbers 13:23; Numbers 20:5; Deuteronomy 8:8; 1 Samuel 14:2; Haggai 2:19; Song of Solomon 4:3; Song of Solomon 4:13; Song of Solomon 6:7; Song of Solomon 6:11; Song of Solomon 7:12; Song of Solomon 8:2. A tree abundant in Palestine, and highly prized on account of its fruit. The fruit when ripe is of a bright red colour, as large as an orange and crowned with the calyx. The name pomegranate is derived from the Latin, “grained apple,” from the bright red pips contained in the fruit. The expressed juice of the fruit makes a cooling drink, and it is also sometimes fermented into a light wine (Song of Solomon 8:2).

the palm tree] once, no doubt, with its tall, branchless stems and huge spreading leaves, the glory of most of the warmer parts of Palestine, the maritime plains, and the Jordan valley, but now comparatively rare. See Jdg 4:5; Song of Solomon 7:7-8; Psalm 92:13. Pliny (H. N. xiii. 4) says, Judaea inclyta est palmis; and Tacitus (Hist. Joel 1:6), Palmetis (Judaeis) proceritas et decor. Jericho is called the “City of palm-trees,” Deuteronomy 34:3; Jdg 1:16; Jdg 3:13; 2 Chronicles 28:15. Jericho was celebrated in antiquity for its palm-groves, the semi-tropical warmth of the Arábah—here 600 feet below the level of the sea—favouring their growth. A beautiful spring, called the ‘Ain es-Sultan, or Elisha’s Spring, gushes forth in the plain, at about a mile from the foot of the hills which lead up into the high land of Judah: this must have been near the site of the ancient city, and Josephus (B. J. iv. 8, 3) speaks with admiration of the beautiful park of palms and other rare trees, which the stream watered. Comp. Herodis palmeta pinguia, Hor. Ep. ii. 2. 184. See an interesting collection of notices respecting the palm-groves of Jericho in Schürer, Hist. of N. T. Times, § 15. Palms also flourished at Engedi, on the W. shore of the Dead Sea (Sir 24:14).

the apple tree] Song of Solomon 2:3; Song of Solomon 8:5; cf. apples Song of Solomon 2:5; Song of Solomon 7:8; Proverbs 25:11. It has been doubted whether tappûaḥ is really the apple; and Tristram (N. H. B. p. 334 f.; D. B.2 s.v.) adduces grounds tending to shew that is was more probably the apricot. But the corresponding Arabic word (tuffâḥ) certainly means the apple; and though it is true that the Syrian apple is much inferior in flavour to the European apple, it has nevertheless been long esteemed in the East as a grateful and refreshing fruit, and valued in sickness on account of its restorative properties (W. R. Smith, in the Journ. of Phil. XV. 1885, p. 65 f., with quotations from Arabic authorities; and G. E. Post, in Clark’s Bible Dictionary).

even all the trees of the field] The trees most prized for their fruits are mentioned first; but in the end all alike are included as suffering in the visitation.

are dried up] The reference might be to the hard and dried appearance of the trees produced by the ravages of the locusts; but from Joel 1:17-20 it appears that the country was at the same time suffering from a protracted drought.

yea, joy is dried up] better, with a pregnant construction, “sheweth shame (and is vanished) from the sons of men.” The joy meant is that of which, directly or indirectly, the fruits of the earth, especially the harvest and the vintage, are the occasion: cf. Psalm 4:7; Psalm 104:15; Isaiah 9:3; Isaiah 16:10.—The word rendered shew shame in Joel 1:10 and Joel 1:12 (twice) is exactly the same as that so rendered in Joel 1:11; and this is the more natural and obvious rendering of the word: it might, however, also just mean shew dryness (though elsewhere, where the same form is derived from the root to be dry, it has a causative force to make dry, and in Joel 1:12 this idea is expressed by the usual form for be dried up), and there may at least be a play upon this possible sense of the word.

Gird yourselves, and lament, ye priests: howl, ye ministers of the altar: come, lie all night in sackcloth, ye ministers of my God: for the meat offering and the drink offering is withholden from the house of your God.
13–15. The cessation of the daily sacrifices again occupies the prophet’s thought; and he turns to the priests, bidding them not mourn only (Joel 1:9), but clothe themselves in sackcloth, and proclaim a day of public fast and humiliation. The occasion, namely, is not one for grief only: it is one which calls also for penitence and prayer; such a calamity is a judgement, not merely betokening God’s present anger with His people, but awakening the apprehension of sorer judgements in the future, which it behoves the nation, by timely penitence, if possible to avert.

Gird yourselves] viz. with sackcloth (Joel 1:8), as the R.V. supplies. So Isaiah 32:11.

lament] wail (see on Amos 5:16). A different word from the unusual one so rendered in Joel 1:8.

ministers of the altar] cf. ministers of the sanctuary, Ezekiel 45:4.

lie all night in sackcloth] as Ahab did, when he humbled himself before Elijah (1 Kings 21:27). The sackcloth would be a token not only of grief, but also of penitence (1 Ki. l.c.; Nehemiah 9:1; Jonah 3:5-6); and the mention of it leads on accordingly to the thought of Joel 1:14.

Sanctify ye a fast, call a solemn assembly, gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land into the house of the LORD your God, and cry unto the LORD,
14. Sanctify a fast] Fasting is a common observance in the East, especially among Semitic peoples; and it is frequently mentioned in the Old Testament. The essence of a fast consists in the voluntary abstention, for a season, even from ordinary and innocent bodily enjoyment; it is thus an expression of sympathy with human affliction,—for instance during mourning, 1 Samuel 31:13; 2 Samuel 1:12. More often, however, it is mentioned as a distinctly religious observance, expressive of self-abasement and sorrow for sin, and resorted to, especially at the time of some grave disaster, whether on the part of individuals or the nation, in conjunction with prayer or sacrifice, for the purpose, if possible, of propitiating God’s favour; see e.g. Jdg 20:26; 1 Samuel 7:6; 2 Samuel 12:16; 1 Kings 21:27; Psalm 69:10-11; Ezra 10:6; Nehemiah 9:1; Jonah 3:5-9; Daniel 9:3; Jdt 4:9; Jdt 4:13. Extraordinary general fasts are spoken of as “proclaimed” by royal authority, 1 Kings 21:9; 1 Kings 21:12; Jeremiah 36:9 (cf. Ezra 8:21). During the exile, four annual fast-days were established in commemoration of events connected with the fall of Jerusalem (Zechariah 7:3; Zechariah 7:5; Zechariah 8:19). The annual Day of Atonement was also observed as a fast (Leviticus 16:29). See further on Joel 2:12-13.

a solemn assembly] a public religious gathering, in which all may join. On the term used (‘atzârâh), see on Amos 5:21.

elders] lit. old men; but here probably (unlike Joel 1:2, Joel 2:16) the term is used in its official sense (as Isaiah 3:14, Ezekiel 8:1, and frequently).

and cry unto Jehovah] expressing, on the nation’s behalf, penitence, and entreating Him to stay the threatened destruction.

Alas for the day! for the day of the LORD is at hand, and as a destruction from the Almighty shall it come.
15. The prophet states more distinctly the ground for the exhortations of Joel 1:13-14. The present calamity is viewed by him as the harbinger of a far sorer calamity to come, even of the great “Day of Jehovah” itself; and he gives expression to the alarm which the prospect of its approach naturally creates.

Alas for the day] cf. Ezekiel 30:2 (where the Heb. is all but the same,—הָהּ for אֲהָהּ).

For the day of Jehovah is at hand (or near)] The same words as Joel 3:14; Zephaniah 1:7; Obadiah 1:15; Isaiah 13:6 : comp. ch. Joel 2:1; Zephaniah 1:14; Ezekiel 30:3. On the ‘Day of Jehovah’ comp. A. B. Davidson on Zephaniah 1:7; and below, on Amos 5:18. It is the Day, when Jehovah is conceived as manifesting Himself in His fulness, striking down wrongdoing and illusion, and giving the final victory to righteousness and truth. The origin of the conception as applied by the prophets, is to be found in Amos’ transformation of a popular idea (see on Amos 5:18). The presentiment of the approach of Jehovah’s Day was often awakened in the minds of the prophets by the prospect of some great political movement among the nations of the earth. In the case of Joel the presentiment is awakened by an extraordinary visitation of Providence. In Joel also the Day of Jehovah is invested, more distinctly than is the case in the earlier prophets, with an eschatological significance: see esp. Joel 2:31, Joel 3:1-2; Joel 3:9-17; and comp. above, p. 33.

as devastation from the Almighty (Heb. Shaddai) shall it come] The phrase is borrowed verbatim from Isaiah 13:6 (in the announcement of the doom approaching upon Babylon in b.c. 538) “Howl ye: for the day of Jehovah is at hand; as devastation from the Almighty shall it come.” In the original there is an effective assonance between devastation (shôd), and Almighty (Shaddai), which might perhaps be preserved, though not with the force and compactness of the Hebrew, by the rendering, as an overpowering from the Over-powerer shall it come[31]. See further, on the divine title Shaddai, the Additional Note, p. 81. For ‘devastation,’ as sent by Jehovah, comp. also Jeremiah 25:36; Jeremiah 47:4; Jeremiah 51:53; Jeremiah 51:55 (A.V. spoil), Amos 5:9. The ‘as’ (כ) is here an example of what is termed by some grammarians the “Caph veritatis”: the coming visitation will be what a devastation proceeding from the Almighty might be expected to be, it will realize what the term implies, it will be a veritable “overpowering from the Over-powerer.”

[31] Ewald, wie Gewalt vom Allgewaltigen: Wellhausen, wie Vergewaltigung vom Allgewaltigen.

Additional Note on Chap. Joel 1:15 (Shaddai)

Shaddai is a Divine title, occurring (a) as an adj. attached to God (El) in the name El Shaddai (“God Almighty”), Genesis 17:1; Genesis 28:3; Genesis 35:11; Genesis 48:3; Exodus 6:3 (all belonging to the document called the ‘Priests’ Code’); Genesis 48:3; Ezekiel 10:5; and probably Genesis 49:25 (Jacob’s Blessing: read God Almighty for by the Almighty [אל for את]); (b) alone, as a poetical name of God, Numbers 24:4; Numbers 24:16; Ezekiel 1:24; Isaiah 13:6; Joel 1:15; Psalm 68:14; Psalm 91:1; Psalms 31 times in the dialogue of Job (Job 5:17, Job 6:4, &c.); and in the two rhythmically-constructed sentences, Ruth 1:20-21[58]. The origin and real meaning of the name are both doubtful, neither tradition nor philology throwing any certain light upon it. According to the theory of P (Exodus 6:3), Shaddai was the patriarchal name of God; and the same view was perhaps shared by the author of the Book of Job, who lays his scene in the patriarchal age, and represents his characters as saying Shaddai, not Jehovah (except once, Job 12:9). The name is not known in the cognate languages. The LXX. render in Gen. Ex. by my (thy, their) God, elsewhere by general terms, as θεός, Κύριος (Job 9-10 times), παντοκράτωρ (Job 15-16 times). Aq. Symm. and (usually) Theod. render by ἱκανός; this, however, very probably, merely gives expression to an improbable Rabbinical etymology ש-די, ‘he that is sufficient,’ which may also underlie the Massoretic pronunciation Shaddai (already in Ezekiel 10:5 LXX. Σαδδαι). The Heb. verb shâdad, from which Shaddai might naturally be derived, means to overpower, treat with violence, devastate (Jdg 5:27 R.V. marg.; Isaiah 15:1; Isaiah 23:1; Isaiah 23:14; Joel 1:10; often in A.V., R.V. spoil, as Isaiah 33:1; Micah 2:4; Psalm 17:9; comp. shôd, Joel 1:15, Amos 5:9, and frequently, devastation, desolation); hence it has been supposed that it meant properly the Over-powerer, i.e. either the God who coerces nature to His will, and moulds the course of the world agreeably with His purposes of grace (Delitzsch; Oehler, Theol. of the O.T. § 37; Dillm. A. T. Theol. p. 214 f.), or in a more historical sense (Bäthgen, Beiträge zur Sem. Rel.-gesch. 1888, p. 295 f., cf. pp. 192–7), the God who in the patriarchal age was conceived principally as ruling by might (“der naturgewaltige”), but who afterwards through Moses and the prophets revealed more distinctly His ethical and spiritual nature. It is some objection to this view that in actual usage shâdad always involves the idea of violence; but it is possible that in the age when Shaddai was formed from it, it had not yet acquired this nuance, and meant simply to overpower. Or, perhaps (Wellhausen, Gesch. 1878, p. 359), Shaddai denoted originally the Waster, with reference (see e.g. Job 12:14-25) to the destructive aspects of God’s providence. Other explanations have been suggested; but none that can be said to be more satisfactory[59]. Whatever, however, be the etymology of the title, it is true that the choice of it seems to be sometimes prompted by the thought of the power of God, whether in the way of blessing and defence (Genesis 17:1, &c.; Job 29:5; Psalm 91:1), or in the way of authority, punishment, or trial (Job 5:17; Job 6:4; Job 8:3; Job 21:20; Job 27:2). Comp. further Dillmann on Genesis 17:1; Bäthgen, l. c. (whose view that the form is Aramaic is called in question by Nöldeke, l. c.); König, Lehrgeb. der Hebr. Spr. ii. 118 (= violenta potentia praeditus).

[58] It occurs also in the proper names Zurishaddai, “Shaddai is my Rock” (cf. Zuriel), Numbers 1:6; Numbers 2:12; Numbers 7:36; Numbers 7:41; Numbers 10:19; Ammishaddai, “Shaddai is my kinsman,” Numbers 1:12; Numbers 2:25; Numbers 7:66; Numbers 7:71; Numbers 10:25 (cf. Ammiel); and perhaps in Shedêûr, if this should be pointed Shaddaiur, “Shaddai is a flame,” (cf. Uriel), Numbers 1:5; Numbers 2:10; Numbers 7:30; Numbers 7:35; Numbers 10:18. Cf. G. B. Gray, Studies in Hebrew Proper Names (1896), pp. 169, 196–199.

[59] There may be some connexion with shêd, which in Heb. (Deuteronomy 32:17; Psalm 106:37), as in Aramaic, has sunk to denote a demi-god or demon, but which, as Arabic makes probable, meant originally lord (Arab. sayyid, whence Span. cid). Nöldeke (Z.D.M.G. 1888, p. 481) would pronounce Shedi (or Shedai,—pl. of majesty, like Adonai) “my lord”: though usage shews no trace of a consciousness of the pron. “my” (see on the contrary Genesis 17:1), it is still not impossible that if it were a very ancient formation, its etymology might have been forgotten and it might have come to be treated as a mere Divine title.

So far as regards the cognate languages, Arab. sadda is to close or stop up (a way); Eth. sadada, to drive out, expel; Arab. shadda is to be strong, powerful, robust; shadîd is the corresponding adj., but Heb. sh corresponds normally to Arab. s (though instances occur of Heb. sh = Arab. sh).

In Assyrian, shadû is the common word for ‘mountain’; and Sargon (K. B. ii. 79, 83; Annals, l. 436) and Asshurbanipal (K. B. ii. 217) speak of Bel and Asshur as shadû rabû, ‘the great mountain’: there occur also such proper names as Belshadûa, ‘Bel is my mountain,’ Marduk-shadûa, Sin-shadûni, ‘Sin is our mountain,’ as well as Ammi-satana (c. 2200 b.c.), and Beli-satu, Satu-na (b.c. 3800), which are thought (Hommel, Expos. Times, Feb. 1808, p. 235) to contain the same element (with t for d); and it has been conjectured (Friedr. Delitzsch, Heb. Language, 1883, p. 48; Hommel, Anc. Heb. Trad. p. 110 f.) that this is the origin of the Heb. Shaddai, and that it means properly either ‘my mountain’ (cf. ‘my rock,’ Psalm 18:2 al.) or ‘the mountain-dweller.’ The explanation is possible; but more cannot be said: there is no stringent proof of it: and even if it is correct, usage shews that all consciousness of this being the original meaning of the name had been lost by the Hebrews.

Is not the meat cut off before our eyes, yea, joy and gladness from the house of our God?
16. the meat] food, the reference being in particular to the products of the soil mentioned in Joel 1:10. Meat in the A.V., and sometimes (as here) in the R.V. as well, is not restricted, as in modern English, to the flesh of animals (comp. on Amos 5:22).

before our eyes] The position of these words shews that they are the emphatic words in the sentence. The fact which they emphasize is the helplessness of those who witness the process going on, and their inability to stay it. This is the regular force of this, or similar expressions, in Hebrew: comp. Isaiah 1:7 (“your land, strangers are devouring it in your presence”); Deuteronomy 28:31 (“Thine ox shall be slain before thine eyes, and thou shalt not eat thereof”); Psalm 23:5 (“Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies,”—who experience the mortification of being unable to overthrow it).

joy and gladness from the house of our God] There would be no first-fruits, for instance, to be presented in the Temple with gladness (Deuteronomy 26:1-2; Deuteronomy 26:10-11). The feasts of Weeks and of Ingathering, which marked respectively the completion of wheat-harvest, and of vintage, could no longer be observed with the rejoicings which naturally accompanied them (Deuteronomy 16:10 f., 13–15); and the number of persons offering peace-offerings, with the sacred meals which formed their distinctive concomitant (cf. Deuteronomy 12:6-7), would naturally be much fewer than usual.

16–20. In justification of the alarm just expressed, the prophet points again to the terrible condition to which the country has been reduced: anything which the locusts may have spared has been parched by the drought: the water brooks are dried up; cattle and human beings alike are perishing from thirst.

The seed is rotten under their clods, the garners are laid desolate, the barns are broken down; for the corn is withered.
17. The grains shrivel (R.V. marg.) under their shovels (or hoes)] unable to withstand the scorching heat. This is the only rendering which the existing text will permit[32]; but the last word especially is not satisfactory. Merx (p. 100 f.) examines the passage at some length; but his restoration is not convincing.

[32] Grains, lit. things parted (cf. Syr. perdâ). A.V. is rotten follows Ibn Ezra and Kimchi in explaining the Heb. ‘âbhçsh from the Aram, ‘aphash, to rot; but the meaning is unsuitable (for rotting is not an effect of drought), and the Arab. ‘abisa, to be dried up (esp. of dirt) both agrees better phonetically and yields a preferable sense. מנרפות is derived obviously from נרף to sweep away (Jdg 5:21, of a torrent; so also in Arab. and Syr.): in Arab. the corresponding word means a broom for sweeping away mud &c., also (now) a shovel, and in Palestine (PEFQSt., 1891, p. III), a hoe, and in Aram. a shovel for removing ashes (Numbers 4:14, &c.). The Arab. gurf does not mean gleba terrae (Keil), but (Lane, Arab. Lex. p. 411) the water-worn bank of a stream. Clod (Heb. רִגד, Job 21:33; Job 38:38) would not be a probable generalization even of a word signifying properly masses of earth swept away by a stream.

garners] lit. treasuries, store-houses,—a word, in itself, of wider meaning than “garner”: cf. 1 Chronicles 27:27-28 (for wine and oil); 2 Chronicles 32:27 (for money and other valuables); Nehemiah 13:12, &c.

are laid desolate … broken down] being empty, and falling into disrepair through disuse.

barns] not the usual word (Deuteronomy 28:8, &c.), but another, not found elsewhere, though nearly resembling the word found in Haggai 2:19.

is withered] sheweth shame, fig. for fails, as Joel 1:10; Joel 1:12.

How do the beasts groan! the herds of cattle are perplexed, because they have no pasture; yea, the flocks of sheep are made desolate.
18. The distress of the cattle through lack of pasture (cf. Jeremiah 14:5-6).

are perplexed] wandering hither and thither in quest of food[33].

[33] LXX. for מה נאנחה בהמה express מַה־נַּנִּחָה בָהֵמָּה, “what shall we lay up (Deuteronomy 14:28) in them?” connecting the words with Joel 1:17. But such a clause would be a very weak addition to כי הוביש דגן.

yea (or even) the flocks of sheep, &c.] even the sheep, which do not require such moist or rich pasture as kine, suffer with them.

are made desolate] are held guilty, or (R.V. marg.) suffer punishment. âsham, to be guilty, is sometimes used in the sense of to be held guilty, to bear the consequences of guilt, i.e. to suffer punishment (comp. Hosea 13:16; Isaiah 24:6); and here the term is applied improperly, by a poetical figure, to cattle. The rendering are made desolate is due to the fact that the Jews understood אשׁם in the sense of שׁמם. Merx and Wellh., however, perhaps rightly, read נָשַׁמּוּ, ‘are made desolate’ (Lamentations 4:5), or ‘stand aghast’ (Jeremiah 4:9).

O LORD, to thee will I cry: for the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness, and the flame hath burned all the trees of the field.
19. Unto thee, O Jehovah, do I cry] the prophet, speaking (as Joel 1:6-7; Joel 1:13) in the nation’s name, turns for help to Jehovah, who “saveth men and cattle” (Psalm 36:6).

fire] either fig. of the intense heat of the sun, or (comp. on Amos 7:4) of the conflagrations kindled among the parched herbage during a drought. The words might, however, be simply a poetical description of the ravages of the locusts themselves (cf. Joel 2:3 a).

the pastures of the wilderness] Joel 1:20, Joel 2:22; Jeremiah 9:10; Jeremiah 23:10; Psalm 65:12. “Wilderness” does not mean the desert: midbâr (properly, a place for driving cattle) denotes land which is unenclosed, and uncultivated, especially a broad prairie or steppe, but not land which is destitute of pasturage.

The beasts of the field cry also unto thee: for the rivers of waters are dried up, and the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness.
20. Yea, the beasts of the field pant (R.V.) unto thee] lit. ascend, mount up (viz. with longing and desire). The verb occurs in Heb. only here and Psalm 42:1 (twice). In Ethiopic it is the regular word for to go up, and it has the same meaning also in Arabic: in Heb. it is used only metaphorically in the sense explained above[34]. Cry of A.V. is based upon the interpretation of the Rabbis, who, in their ignorance of the real etymological affinities of the word, conjectured a meaning that would agree fairly with the context.

[34] The derivative ‘arûgâh occurs in the sense of a raised flower-bed, Ezekiel 17:7; Ezekiel 17:10; Song of Solomon 5:13; Song of Solomon 6:2.

rivers] channels (Isaiah 8:7; Psalm 18:15), not a very common word, used most frequently by Ezekiel (Ezekiel 6:3, Ezekiel 31:12 al.).

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