Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
The word of the LORD that came to Joel the son of Pethuel.
THE BOOK OF JOEL Commentary by A. R. Faussett
Joel (meaning "one to whom Jehovah is God," that is, worshipper of Jehovah) seems to have belonged to Judah, as no reference occurs to Israel; whereas he speaks of Jerusalem, the temple, the priests, and the ceremonies, as if he were intimately familiar with them (compare Joe 1:14; 2:1, 15, 32; 3:1, 2, 6, 16, 17, 20, 21). His predictions were probably delivered in the early days of Joash 870-865 B.C.; for no reference is made in them to the Babylonian, Assyrian, or even the Syrian invasion; and the only enemies mentioned are the Philistines, Ph�nicians, Edomites, and Egyptians (Joe 3:4, 19). Had he lived after Joash, he would doubtless have mentioned the Syrians among the enemies whom he enumerates since they took Jerusalem and carried off immense spoil to Damascus (2Ch 24:23, 24). No idolatry is mentioned; and the temple services, the priesthood, and other institutions of the theocracy, are represented as flourishing. This all answers to the state of things under the high priesthood of Jehoiada, through whom Joash had been placed on the throne and who lived in the early years of Joash (2Ki 11:17, 18; 12:2-16; 2Ch 24:4-14). He was the son of Pethuel.
The first chapter describes the desolation caused by an inroad of locusts—one of the instruments of divine judgment mentioned by Moses (De 28:38, 39) and by Solomon (1Ki 8:37). The second chapter (Joe 2:1-11): the appearance of them, under images of a hostile army suggesting that the locusts were symbols and forerunners of a more terrible scourge, namely, foreign enemies who would consume all before them. (The absence of mention of personal injury to the inhabitants is not a just objection to the figurative interpretation; for the figure is consistent throughout in attributing to the locusts only injury to vegetation, thereby injuring indirectly man and beast). Joe 2:12-17: exhortation to repentance, the result of which will be: God will deliver His people, the former and latter rains shall return to fertilize their desolated lands, and these shall be the pledge of the spiritual outpouring of grace beginning with Judah, and thence extending to "all flesh." Joe 2:18-3:21: God's judgments on Judah's enemies, whereas Judah shall be established for ever.
Joel's style is pre-eminently pure. It is characterized by smoothness and fluency in the rhythms, roundness in the sentences, and regularity in the parallelisms. With the strength of Micah it combines the tenderness of Jeremiah, the vividness of Nahum, and the sublimity of Isaiah. As a specimen of his style take the second chapter wherein the terrible aspect of the locusts, their rapidity, irresistible progress, noisy din, and instinct-taught power of marshalling their forces for their career of devastation, are painted with graphic reality.
Joe 1:1-20. The Desolate Aspect of the Country through the Plague of Locusts; the People Admonished to Offer Solemn Prayers in the Temple; for This Calamity Is the Earnest of a Still Heavier One.
1. Joel—meaning, "Jehovah is God."
son of Pethuel—to distinguish Joel the prophet from others of the name. Persons of eminence also were noted by adding the father's name.
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. A spirited introduction calling attention.
old men—the best judges in question concerning the past (De 32:7; Job 32:7).
Hath this been, &c.—that is, Hath any so grievous a calamity as this ever been before? No such plague of locusts had been since the ones in Egypt. Ex 10:14 is not at variance with this verse, which refers to Judea, in which Joel says there had been no such devastation before.
Tell ye your children of it, and let your children tell their children, and their children another generation.
3. Tell ye your children—in order that they may be admonished by the severity of the punishment to fear God (Ps 78:6-8; compare Ex 13:8; Jos 4:7).
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. This verse states the subject on which he afterwards expands. Four species or stages of locusts, rather than four different insects, are meant (compare Le 11:22). Literally, (1) the gnawing locust; (2) the swarming locust; (3) the licking locust; (4) the consuming locust; forming a climax to the most destructive kind. The last is often three inches long, and the two antennæ, each an inch long. The two hinder of its six feet are larger than the rest, adapting it for leaping. The first "kind" is that of the locust, having just emerged from the egg in spring, and without wings. The second is when at the end of spring, still in their first skin, the locusts put forth little ones without legs or wings. The third, when after their third casting of the old skin, they get small wings, which enable them to leap the better, but not to fly. Being unable to go away till their wings are matured, they devour all before them, grass, shrubs, and bark of trees: translated "rough caterpillars" (Jer 51:27). The fourth kind, the matured winged locusts (see on Na 3:16). In Joe 2:25 they are enumerated in the reverse order, where the restoration of the devastations caused by them is promised. The Hebrews make the first species refer to Assyria and Babylon; the second species, to Medo-Persia; the third, to Greco-Macedonia and Antiochus Epiphanes; the fourth, to the Romans. Though the primary reference be to literal locusts, the Holy Spirit doubtless had in view the successive empires which assailed Judea, each worse than its predecessor, Rome being the climax.
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. Awake—out of your ordinary state of drunken stupor, to realize the cutting off from you of your favorite drink. Even the drunkards (from a Hebrew root, "any strong drink") shall be forced to "howl," though usually laughing in the midst of the greatest national calamities, so palpably and universally shall the calamity affect all.
wine … new wine—"New" or "fresh wine," in Hebrew, is the unfermented, and therefore unintoxicating, sweet juice extracted by pressure from grapes or other fruit, as pomegranates (So 8:2). "Wine" is the produce of the grape alone, and is intoxicating (see on Joe 1:10).
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. nation—applied to the locusts, rather than "people" (Pr 30:25, 26), to mark not only their numbers, but also their savage hostility; and also to prepare the mind of the hearer for the transition to the figurative locusts in the second chapter, namely, the "nation" or Gentile foe coming against Judea (compare Joe 2:2).
my land—that is, Jehovah's; which never would have been so devastated were I not pleased to inflict punishment (Joe 2:18; Isa 14:25; Jer 16:18; Eze 36:5; 38:16).
strong—as irresistibly sweeping away before its compact body the fruits of man's industry.
without number—so Jud 6:5; 7:12, "like grasshoppers (or "locusts") for multitude" (Jer 46:23; Na 3:15).
teeth … lion—that is, the locusts are as destructive as a lion; there is no vegetation that can resist their bite (compare Re 9:8). Pliny says "they gnaw even the doors of houses."
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. barked—Bochart, with the Septuagint and Syriac, translates, from an Arabic root, "hath broken," namely, the topmost shoots, which locusts most feed on. Calvin supports English Version.
my vine … my fig tree—being in "My land," that is, Jehovah's (Joe 1:6). As to the vine-abounding nature of ancient Palestine, see Nu 13:23, 24.
cast it away—down to the ground.
branches … white—both from the bark being stripped off (Ge 30:37), and from the branches drying up through the trunk, both bark and wood being eaten up below by the locusts.
Lament like a virgin girded with sackcloth for the husband of her youth.
8. Lament—O "my land" (Joe 1:6; Isa 24:4).
virgin … for the husband—A virgin betrothed was regarded as married (De 22:23; Mt 1:19). The Hebrew for "husband" is "lord" or "possessor," the husband being considered the master of the wife in the East.
of her youth—when the affections are strongest and when sorrow at bereavement is consequently keenest. Suggesting the thought of what Zion's grief ought to be for her separation from Jehovah, the betrothed husband of her early days (Jer 2:2; Eze 16:8; Ho 2:7; compare Pr 2:17; Jer 3:4).
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 greatest sorrow to the mind of a religious Jew, and what ought to impress the whole nation with a sense of God's displeasure, is the cessation of the usual temple-worship.
meat offering—Hebrew, mincha; "meat" not in the English sense "flesh," but the unbloody offering made of flour, oil, and frankincense. As it and the drink offering or libation poured out accompanied every sacrificial flesh offering, the latter is included, though not specified, as being also "cut off," owing to there being no food left for man or beast.
priests … mourn—not for their own loss of sacrificial perquisites (Nu 18:8-15), but because they can no longer offer the appointed offerings to Jehovah, to whom they minister.
The field is wasted, the land mourneth; for the corn is wasted: the new wine is dried up, the oil languisheth.
10. field … land—differing in that "field" means the open, unenclosed country; "land," the rich red soil (from a root "to be red") fit for cultivation. Thus, "a man of the field," in Hebrew, is a "hunter"; a "man of the ground" or "land," an "agriculturist" (Ge 25:27). "Field" and "land" are here personified.
new wine—from a Hebrew root implying that it takes possession of the brain, so that a man is not master of himself. So the Arabic term is from a root "to hold captive." It is already fermented, and so intoxicating, unlike the sweet fresh wine, in Joe 1:5, called also "new wine," though a different Hebrew word. It and "the oil" stand for the vine and the olive tree, from which the "wine" and "oil" are obtained (Joe 1:12).
dried up—not "ashamed," as Margin, as is proved by the parallelism to "languisheth," that is, droopeth.
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—that is, Ye shall have the shame of disappointment on account of the failure of "the wheat" and "barley … harvest."
howl … vine dressers—The semicolon should follow, as it is the "husbandmen" who are to be "ashamed … for the wheat." The reason for the "vine dressers" being called to "howl" does not come till Joe 1:12, "The vine is dried up."
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. pomegranate—a tree straight in the stem growing twenty feet high; the fruit is of the size of an orange, with blood-red colored pulp.
palm tree—The dates of Palestine were famous. The palm is the symbol of Judea on coins under the Roman emperor Vespasian. It often grows a hundred feet high.
apple tree—The Hebrew is generic, including the orange, lemon, and pear tree.
joy is withered away—such as is felt in the harvest and the vintage seasons (Ps 4:7; Isa 9:3).
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. Gird yourselves—namely, with sackcloth; as in Isa 32:11, the ellipsis is supplied (compare Jer 4:8).
lament, ye priests—as it is your duty to set the example to others; also as the guilt was greater, and a greater scandal was occasioned, by your sin to the cause of God.
come—the Septuagint, "enter" the house of God (compare Joe 1:14).
lie all night in sackcloth—so Ahab (1Ki 21:27).
ministers of my God—(1Co 9:13). Joel claims authority for his doctrine; it is in God's name and by His mission I speak to you.
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—Appoint a solemn fast.
solemn assembly—literally, a "day of restraint" or cessation from work, so that all might give themselves to supplication (Joe 2:15, 16; 1Sa 7:5, 6; 2Ch 20:3-13).
elders—The contrast to "children" (Joe 2:16) requires age to be intended, though probably elders in office are included. Being the people's leaders in guilt, they ought to be their leaders also in repentance.
Alas for the day! for the day of the LORD is at hand, and as a destruction from the Almighty shall it come.
15. day of the Lord—(Joe 2:1, 11); that is, the day of His anger (Isa 13:9; Ob 15; Zep 1:7, 15). It will be a foretaste of the coming day of the Lord as Judge of all men, whence it receives the same name. Here the transition begins from the plague of locusts to the worse calamities (Joe 2:1-11) from invading armies about to come on Judea, of which the locusts were the prelude.
Is not the meat cut off before our eyes, yea, joy and gladness from the house of our God?
16. Compare Joe 1:9, and latter part of Joe 1:12.
joy—which prevailed at the annual feasts, as also in the ordinary sacrificial offerings, of which the offerers ate before the Lord with gladness and thanksgivings (De 12:6, 7, 12; 16:11, 14, 15).
The seed is rotten under their clods, the garners are laid desolate, the barns are broken down; for the corn is withered.
17. is rotten—"is dried up," "vanishes away," from an Arabic root [Maurer]. "Seed," literally, "grains." The drought causes the seeds to lose all their vitality and moisture.
garners—granaries; generally underground, and divided into separate receptacles for the different kinds of grain.
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. cattle … perplexed—implying the restless gestures of the dumb beasts in their inability to find food. There is a tacit contrast between the sense of the brute creation and the insensibility of the people.
yea, the … sheep—Even the sheep, which are content with less rich pasturage, cannot find food.
are made desolate—literally, "suffer punishment." The innocent brute shares the "punishment" of guilty man (Ex 12:29; Jon 3:7; 4:11).
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. to thee will I cry—Joel here interposes, As this people is insensible to shame or fear and will not hear, I will leave them and address myself directly to Thee (compare Isa 15:5; Jer 23:9).
fire—that is, the parching heat.
pastures—"grassy places"; from a Hebrew root "to be pleasant." Such places would be selected for "habitations" (Margin). But the English Version rendering is better than Margin.
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. beasts … cry … unto thee—that is, look up to heaven with heads lifted up, as if their only expectation was from God (Job 38:41; Ps 104:21; 145:15; 147:9; compare Ps 42:1). They tacitly reprove the deadness of the Jews for not even now invoking God.