Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of the LORD cometh, for it is nigh at hand;
Joe 2:1-32. The Coming Judgment a Motive to Repentance. Promise of Blessings in the Last Days.
A more terrific judgment than that of the locusts is foretold, under imagery drawn from that of the calamity then engrossing the afflicted nation. He therefore exhorts to repentance, assuring the Jews of Jehovah's pity if they would repent. Promise of the Holy Spirit in the last days under Messiah, and the deliverance of all believers in Him.
1. Blow … trumpet—to sound an alarm of coming war (Nu 10:1-10; Ho 5:8; Am 3:6); the office of the priests. Joe 1:15 is an anticipation of the fuller prophecy in this chapter.
A day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness, as the morning spread upon the mountains: a great people and a strong; there hath not been ever the like, neither shall be any more after it, even to the years of many generations.
2. darkness … gloominess … clouds … thick darkness—accumulation of synonyms, to intensify the picture of calamity (Isa 8:22). Appropriate here, as the swarms of locusts intercepting the sunlight suggested darkness as a fit image of the coming visitation.
as the morning spread upon the mountains: a great people—Substitute a comma for a colon after mountains: As the morning light spreads itself over the mountains, so a people numerous [Maurer] and strong shall spread themselves. The suddenness of the rising of the morning light, which gilds the mountain tops first, is less probably thought by others to be the point of comparison to the sudden inroad of the foe. Maurer refers it to the yellow splendor which arises from the reflection of the sunlight on the wings of the immense hosts of locusts as they approach. This is likely; understanding, however, that the locusts are only the symbols of human foes. The immense Assyrian host of invaders under Sennacherib (compare Isa 37:36) destroyed by God (Joe 2:18, 20, 21), may be the primary objects of the prophecy; but ultimately the last antichristian confederacy, destroyed by special divine interposition, is meant (see on Joe 3:2).
there hath not been ever the like—(Compare Joe 1:2; Ex 10:14).
A fire devoureth before them; and behind them a flame burneth: the land is as the garden of Eden before them, and behind them a desolate wilderness; yea, and nothing shall escape them.
3. before … behind—that is, on every side (1Ch 19:10).
fire … flame—destruction … desolation (Isa 10:17).
as … Eden … wilderness—conversely (Isa 51:3; Eze 36:35).
The appearance of them is as the appearance of horses; and as horsemen, so shall they run.
4. appearance … of horses—(Re 9:7). Not literal, but figurative locusts. The fifth trumpet, or first woe, in the parallel passage (Re 9:1-11), cannot be literal: for in Re 9:11 it is said, "they had a king over them, the angel of the bottomless pit"—in the Hebrew, Abaddon ("destroyer"), but in the Greek, Apollyon—and (Re 9:7) "on their heads were as it were crowns like gold, and their faces were as the faces of men." Compare Joe 2:11, "the day of the Lord … great and very terrible"; implying their ultimate reference to be connected with Messiah's second coming in judgment. The locust's head is so like that of a horse that the Italians call it cavalette. Compare Job 39:20, "the horse … as the grasshopper," or locust.
run—The locust bounds, not unlike the horse's gallop, raising and letting down together the two front feet.
Like the noise of chariots on the tops of mountains shall they leap, like the noise of a flame of fire that devoureth the stubble, as a strong people set in battle array.
5. Like the noise of chariots—referring to the loud sound caused by their wings in motion, or else the movement of their hind legs.
on the tops of mountains—Maurer connects this with "they," that is, the locusts, which first occupy the higher places, and thence descend to the lower places. It may refer (as in English Version) to "chariots," which make most noise in crossing over rugged heights.
Before their face the people shall be much pained: all faces shall gather blackness.
6. much pained—namely, with terror. The Arab proverb is, "More terrible than the locusts."
faces shall gather blackness—(Isa 13:8; Jer 30:6; Na 2:10). Maurer translates, "withdraw their brightness," that is, wax pale, lose color (compare Joe 2:10; Joe 3:15).
They shall run like mighty men; they shall climb the wall like men of war; and they shall march every one on his ways, and they shall not break their ranks:
7-9. Depicting the regular military order of their advance, "One locust not turning a nail's breadth out of his own place in the march" [Jerome]. Compare Pr 30:27, "The locusts have no king, yet go they forth all of them by bands."
Neither shall one thrust another; they shall walk every one in his path: and when they fall upon the sword, they shall not be wounded.
8. Neither shall one thrust another—that is, press upon so as to thrust his next neighbor out of his place, as usually occurs in a large multitude.
when they fall upon the sword—that is, among missiles.
not be wounded—because they are protected by defensive armor [Grotius]. Maurer translates, "Their (the locusts') ranks are not broken when they rush among missiles" (compare Da 11:22).
They shall run to and fro in the city; they shall run upon the wall, they shall climb up upon the houses; they shall enter in at the windows like a thief.
9. run to and fro in the city—greedily seeking what they can devour.
the wall—surrounding each house in Eastern buildings.
enter in at the windows—though barred.
like a thief—(Joh 10:1; compare Jer 9:21).
The earth shall quake before them; the heavens shall tremble: the sun and the moon shall be dark, and the stars shall withdraw their shining:
10. earth … quake before them—that is, the inhabitants of the earth quake with fear of them.
heavens … tremble—that is, the powers of heaven (Mt 24:29); its illumining powers are disturbed by the locusts which intercept the sunlight with their dense flying swarms. These, however, are but the images of revolutions of states caused by such foes as were to invade Judea.
And the LORD shall utter his voice before his army: for his camp is very great: for he is strong that executeth his word: for the day of the LORD is great and very terrible; and who can abide it?
11. Lord … his army—So among Mohammedans, "Lord of the locusts" is a title of God.
his voice—His word of command to the locusts, and to the antitypical human foes of Judea, as "His army."
strong that executeth his word—(Re 18:8).
Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning:
12. With such judgments impending over the Jews, Jehovah Himself urges them to repentance.
also now—Even now, what none could have hoped or believed possible, God still invites you to the hope of salvation.
fasting … weeping … mourning—Their sin being most heinous needs extraordinary humiliation. The outward marks of repentance are to signify the depth of their sorrow for sin.
And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil.
13. Let there be the inward sorrow of heart, and not the mere outward manifestation of it by "rending the garment" (Jos 7:6).
the evil—the calamity which He had threatened against the impenitent.
Who knoweth if he will return and repent, and leave a blessing behind him; even a meat offering and a drink offering unto the LORD your God?
14. leave … a meat offering and a drink offering—that is, give plentiful harvests, out of the first-fruits of which we may offer the meat and drink offering, now "cut off" through the famine (Joe 1:9, 13, 16). "Leave behind Him": as God in visiting His people now has left behind Him a curse, so He will, on returning to visit them, leave behind Him a blessing.
Blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly:
15. Blow the trumpet—to convene the people (Nu 10:3). Compare Joe 1:14. The nation was guilty, and therefore there must be a national humiliation. Compare Hezekiah's proceedings before Sennacherib's invasion (2Ch 30:1-27).
Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children, and those that suck the breasts: let the bridegroom go forth of his chamber, and the bride out of her closet.
16. sanctify the congregation—namely, by expiatory rites and purification with water [Calvin], (Ex 19:10, 22). Maurer translates, "appoint a solemn assembly," which would be a tautological repetition of Joe 2:15.
elders … children—No age was to be excepted (2Ch 20:13).
bridegroom—ordinarily exempted from public duties (De 24:5; compare 1Co 7:5, 29).
closet—or, nuptial bed, from a Hebrew root "to cover," referring to the canopy over it.
Let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, Spare thy people, O LORD, and give not thine heritage to reproach, that the heathen should rule over them: wherefore should they say among the people, Where is their God?
17. between the porch and … altar—the porch of Solomon's temple on the east (1Ki 6:3); the altar of burnt offerings in the court of the priests, before the porch (2Ch 8:12; compare Eze 8:16; Mt 23:35). The suppliants thus were to stand with their backs to the altar on which they had nothing to offer, their faces towards the place of the Shekinah presence.
heathen should rule over them—This shows that not locusts, but human foes, are intended. The Margin translation, "use a byword against them," is not supported by the Hebrew.
wherefore should they say … Where is their God?—that is, do not for thine own honor's sake, let the heathen sneer at the God of Israel, as unable to save His people (Ps 79:10; 115:2).
Then will the LORD be jealous for his land, and pity his people.
18. Then—when God sees His people penitent.
be jealous for his land—as a husband jealous of any dishonor done to the wife whom he loves, as if done to himself. The Hebrew comes from an Arabic root, "to be flushed in face" through indignation.
Yea, the LORD will answer and say unto his people, Behold, I will send you corn, and wine, and oil, and ye shall be satisfied therewith: and I will no more make you a reproach among the heathen:
19. corn … wine … oil—rather, as Hebrew, "the corn … the wine … the oil," namely, which the locusts have destroyed [Henderson]. Maurer not so well explains, "the corn, &c., necessary for your sustenance." "The Lord will answer," namely, the prayers of His people, priests, and prophets. Compare in the case of Sennacherib, 2Ki 19:20, 21.
But I will remove far off from you the northern army, and will drive him into a land barren and desolate, with his face toward the east sea, and his hinder part toward the utmost sea, and his stink shall come up, and his ill savour shall come up, because he hath done great things.
20. the northern army—The Hebrew expresses that the north in relation to Palestine is not merely the quarter whence the invader comes, but is his native land, "the Northlander"; namely, the Assyrian or Babylonian (compare Jer 1:14, 15; Zep 2:13). The locust's native country is not the north, but the south, the deserts of Arabia, Egypt, and Libya. Assyria and Babylon are the type and forerunner of all Israel's foes (Rome, and the final Antichrist), from whom God will at last deliver His people, as He did from Sennacherib (2Ki 19:35).
face … hinder part—more applicable to a human army's van and rear, than to locusts. The northern invaders are to be dispersed in every other direction but that from which they had come: "a land barren and desolate," that is, Arabia-Deserta: "the eastern (or front) sea," that is, the Dead Sea: "the utmost (or hinder) sea," that is, the Mediterranean. In front and behind mean east and west; as, in marking the quarters of the world, they faced the east, which was therefore "in front"; the west was behind them; the south was on their right, and the north on their left.
stink—metaphor from locusts, which perish when blown by a storm into the sea or the desert, and emit from their putrefying bodies such a stench as often breeds a pestilence.
because he hath done great things—that is, because the invader hath haughtily magnified himself in his doings. Compare as to Sennacherib, 2Ki 19:11-13, 22, 28. This is quite inapplicable to the locusts, who merely seek food, not self-glorification, in invading a country.
Fear not, O land; be glad and rejoice: for the LORD will do great things.
21-23. In an ascending gradation, the land destroyed by the enemy, the beasts of the field, and the children of Zion, the land's inhabitants, are addressed, the former two by personification.
Lord will do great things—In contrast to the "great things" done by the haughty foe (Joe 2:20) to the hurt of Judah stand the "great things" to be done by Jehovah for her benefit (compare Ps 126:2, 3).
Be not afraid, ye beasts of the field: for the pastures of the wilderness do spring, for the tree beareth her fruit, the fig tree and the vine do yield their strength.
22. (Zec 8:12). As before (Joe 1:18, 20) he represented the beasts as groaning and crying for want of food in the "pastures," so now he reassures them by the promise of springing pastures.
Be glad then, ye children of Zion, and rejoice in the LORD your God: for he hath given you the former rain moderately, and he will cause to come down for you the rain, the former rain, and the latter rain in the first month.
23. rejoice in the Lord—not merely in the springing pastures, as the brute "beasts" which cannot raise their thoughts higher (Isa 61:10; Hab 3:18).
former rain … the rain … the former … the latter rain—The autumnal, or "former rain," from the middle of October to the middle of December, is put first, as Joel prophesies in summer when the locusts' invasion took place, and therefore looks to the time of early sowing in autumn, when the autumnal rain was indispensably required. Next, "the rain," generically, literally, "the showering" or "heavy rain." Next, the two species of the latter, "the former and the latter rain" (in March and April). The repetition of the "former rain" implies that He will give it not merely for the exigence of that particular season when Joel spake, but also for the future in the regular course of nature, the autumn and the spring rain; the former being put first, in the order of nature, as being required for the sowing in autumn, as the latter is required in spring for maturing the young crop. The Margin, "a teacher of righteousness," is wrong. For the same Hebrew word is translated "former rain" in the next sentence, and cannot therefore be differently translated here. Besides, Joel begins with the inferior and temporal blessings, and not till Joe 2:28 proceeds to the higher and spiritual ones, of which the former are the pledge.
moderately—rather, "in due measure," as much as the land requires; literally, "according to right"; neither too much nor too little, either of which extremes would hurt the crop (compare De 11:14; Pr 16:15; Jer 5:24; see on Ho 6:3). The phrase, "in due measure," in this clause is parallel to "in the first month," in the last clause (that is, "in the month when first it is needed," each rain in its proper season). Heretofore the just or right order of nature has been interrupted through your sin; now God will restore it. See my Introduction to Joel.
And the floors shall be full of wheat, and the fats shall overflow with wine and oil.
24. The effect of the seasonable rains shall be abundance of all articles of food.
And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpiller, and the palmerworm, my great army which I sent among you.
25. locust … cankerworm … caterpiller … palmer worm—the reverse order from Joe 1:4, where (see on Joe 1:4) God will restore not only what has been lost by the full-grown consuming locust, but also what has been lost by the less destructive licking locust, and swarming locust, and gnawing locust.
And ye shall eat in plenty, and be satisfied, and praise the name of the LORD your God, that hath dealt wondrously with you: and my people shall never be ashamed.
26. never be ashamed—shall no longer endure the "reproach of the heathen (Joe 2:17), [Maurer]; or rather, "shall not bear the shame of disappointed hopes," as the husbandmen had heretofore (Joe 1:11). So spiritually, waiting on God, His people shall not have the shame of disappointment in their expectations from Him (Ro 9:33).
And ye shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the LORD your God, and none else: and my people shall never be ashamed.
27. know that I am in the midst of Israel—As in the Old Testament dispensation God was present by the Shekinah, so in the New Testament first, for a brief time by the Word made flesh dwelling among us (Joh 1:14), and to the close of this dispensation by the Holy Spirit in the Church (Mt 28:20), and probably in a more perceptible manner with Israel when restored (Eze 37:26-28).
never be ashamed—not an unmeaning repetition from Joe 2:26. The twice-asserted truth enforces its unfailing certainty. As the "shame" in Joe 2:26 refers to temporal blessings, so in this verse it refers to the spiritual blessings flowing from the presence of God with His people (compare Jer 3:16, 17; Re 21:3).
And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions:
28. afterward—"in the last days" (Isa 2:2) under Messiah after the invasion and deliverance of Israel from the northern army. Having heretofore stated the outward blessings, he now raises their minds to the expectation of extraordinary spiritual blessings, which constitute the true restoration of God's people (Isa 44:3). Fulfilled in earnest (Ac 2:17) on Pentecost; among the Jews and the subsequent election of a people among the Gentiles; hereafter more fully at the restoration of Israel (Isa 54:13; Jer 31:9, 34; Eze 39:29; Zec 12:10) and the consequent conversion of the whole world (Isa 2:2; 11:9; 66:18-23; Mic 5:7; Ro 11:12, 15). As the Jews have been the seedmen of the elect Church gathered out of Jews and Gentiles, the first Gospel preachers being Jews from Jerusalem, so they shall be the harvest men of the coming world-wide Church, to be set up at Messiah's appearing. That the promise is not restricted to the first Pentecost appears from Peter's own words: "The promise is (not only) unto you and to your children, (but also) to all that are afar off (both in space and in time), even as many as the Lord our God shall call" (Ac 2:39). So here "upon all flesh."
I will pour out—under the new covenant: not merely, let fall drops, as under the Old Testament (Joh 7:39).
my spirit—the Spirit "proceeding from the Father and the Son," and at the same time one with the Father and the Son (compare Isa 11:2).
sons … daughters … old … young—not merely on a privileged few (Nu 11:29) as the prophets of the Old Testament, but men of all ages and ranks. See Ac 21:9; 1Co 11:5, as to "daughters," that is, women, prophesying.
dreams … visions—(Ac 9:10; 16:9). The "dreams" are attributed to the "old men," as more in accordance with their years; "visions" to the "young men," as adapted to their more lively minds. The three modes whereby God revealed His will under the Old Testament (Nu 12:6), "prophecy, dreams, and visions," are here made the symbol of the full manifestation of Himself to all His people, not only in miraculous gifts to some, but by His indwelling Spirit to all in the New Testament (Joh 14:21, 23; 15:15). In Ac 16:9; 18:9, the term used is "vision," though in the night, not a dream. No other dream is mentioned in the New Testament save those given to Joseph in the very beginning of the New Testament, before the full Gospel had come; and to the wife of Pilate, a Gentile (Mt 1:20; 2:13; 27:19). "Prophesying" in the New Testament is applied to all speaking under the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, and not merely to foretelling events. All true Christians are "priests" and "ministers" of our God (Isa 61:6), and have the Spirit (Eze 36:26, 27). Besides this, probably, a special gift of prophecy and miracle-working is to be given at or before Messiah's coming again.
And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.
29. And also—"And even." The very slaves by becoming the Lord's servants are His freemen (1Co 7:22; Ga 3:28; Col 3:11; Phm 16). Therefore, in Ac 2:18 it is quoted, "My servants" and "My handmaidens"; as it is only by becoming the Lord's servants they are spiritually free, and partake of the same spirit as the other members of the Church.
And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke.
30, 31. As Messiah's manifestation is full of joy to believers, so it has an aspect of wrath to unbelievers, which is represented here. Thus when the Jews received Him not in His coming of grace, He came in judgment on Jerusalem. Physical prodigies, massacres, and conflagrations preceded its destruction [Josephus, Wars of the Jews]. To these the language here may allude; but the figures chiefly symbolize political revolutions and changes in the ruling powers of the world, prognosticated by previous disasters (Am 8:9; Mt 24:29; Lu 21:25-27), and convulsions such as preceded the overthrow of the Jewish polity. Such shall probably occur in a more appalling degree before the final destruction of the ungodly world ("the great and terrible day of Jehovah," compare Mal 4:5), of which Jerusalem's overthrow is the type and earnest.
The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the LORD come.
And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the LORD hath said, and in the remnant whom the LORD shall call.
32. call on … name of … Lord—Hebrew, Jehovah. Applied to Jesus in Ro 10:13 (compare Ac 9:14; 1Co 1:2). Therefore, Jesus is Jehovah; and the phrase means, "Call on Messiah in His divine attributes."
shall be delivered—as the Christians were, just before Jerusalem's destruction, by retiring to Pella, warned by the Saviour (Mt 24:16); a type of the spiritual deliverance of all believers, and of the last deliverance of the elect "remnant" of Israel from the final assault of Antichrist. "In Zion and Jerusalem" the Saviour first appeared; and there again shall He appear as the Deliverer (Zec 14:1-5).
as the Lord hath said—Joel herein refers, not to the other prophets, but to his own words preceding.
call—metaphor from an invitation to a feast, which is an act of gratuitous kindness (Lu 14:16). So the remnant called and saved is according to the election of grace, not for man's merits, power, or efforts (Ro 11:5).