Joel 1:1
The word of the LORD that came to Joel the son of Pethuel.
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(1) Joel.—Compounded of Jehovah—El, the composite title of the God of Revelation and of Nature, which is the subject of Psalms 19. It was a favourite name among the Jews, and was borne by an ancestor of Samuel, who gave it to his elder son. There is nothing known of the personal history of Joel the prophet, except the name of his father, Pethuel, or—LXX.—Bethuel.

Joel 1:1-3. Hear this, ye old men — Ye that have seen and remember many things. Hath this been in your days, &c. — Give attention; and when you have heard and considered, say whether any thing like the calamities which I am about to denounce hath ever happened in your days, or in the days of your fathers. In this way the prophet shows how great and unparalleled this dearth, which he fore-tels, would be. Tell ye your children — Let these prophecies be handed down to distant generations, and also an account of the events; that, the events being compared with the prophecy, it may be seen how exactly they were foretold.

1:1-7 The most aged could not remember such calamities as were about to take place. Armies of insects were coming upon the land to eat the fruits of it. It is expressed so as to apply also to the destruction of the country by a foreign enemy, and seems to refer to the devastations of the Chaldeans. God is Lord of hosts, has every creature at his command, and, when he pleases, can humble and mortify a proud, rebellious people, by the weakest and most contemptible creatures. It is just with God to take away the comforts which are abused to luxury and excess; and the more men place their happiness in the gratifications of sense, the more severe temporal afflictions are upon them. The more earthly delights we make needful to satisfy us, the more we expose ourselves to trouble.The word of the Lord that came to Joel - Joel, like Hosea, mentions the name of his father only, and then is silent about his extraction, his tribe, his family. He leaves even the time when he lived, to be guessed at. He would be known only, as the instrument of God. "The word of the Lord came to" him (see the note at Hosea 1:1), and he willed simply to be the voice which uttered it. He was "content to live under the eyes of God, and, as to people, to be known only in what concerned their salvation." But this he declares absolutely, that the Word of God came to him; in order that we may give faith to his prophecy, being well assured that what he predicted, would come to pass. So the Saviour Himself says, ""My words shall not pass away" Matthew 24:35. For truth admits of nothing false, and what God saith, will certainly be. For "He confirmeth the word of His servant, and performeth the counsel of His messengers" Isaiah 44:26. The prophet claimeth belief then, as speaking not out of his own heart, but out of the mouth of the Lord speaking in the Spirit." Joel signifies, "The Lord is God." It owns that God who had revealed Himself, is alone the God. The prophet's name itself, embodied the truth, which, after the miraculous answer to Elijah's prayer, all the people confessed, "The Lord He is the God, The Lord He is the God." Pethuel signifies, "persuaded of God." The addition of his father's name distinguished the prophet from others of that name, as the son of Samuel, of king Uzziah, and others. 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, Phœnicians, 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.Joel declareth the destruction of the fruits of the earth by noxious insects, Joe 1:1-7, and by a long drought, Joe 1:8-13. He recommendeth a solemn fasting with prayer to deprecate these judgments, Joe 1:14-20.

Since this preface is word for word the same with that of Hosea, Hos 1:1, see it there explained.

Joel; supposed to be of the posterity of Reuben, therefore could not be (as the Jews suppose) Samuel's son, nor will his time fit to 1Ch 5:4,8; but of what tribe soever, we know he came from God, and with his authority, and is so cited by the apostle, Act 2:16.

The son of Pethuel: more of this man I know not, and it is possible he might be, as the Jews suppose, very eminent, because he is named; however, it is an honour to be reported a prophet's father. The time of his prophesying, though not demonstrable, is with greatest probability laid about the latter end of Jeroboam the Second's reign over Israel, and in the days' of Uzziah over Judah.

The word of the Lord that came to Joel the son of Pethuel. Who this Pethuel was is not known; Jarchi takes him to be the same with Samuel the prophet, who had a son of this name, 1 Samuel 8:2; and gives this reason for his being called Pethuel, because in his prayer he persuaded God; but the long span of time will by no means admit of this, nor the character of Samuel's son agree with Joel; and therefore is rightly denied by Aben Ezra, who observes, however, that this man was an honourable man, and therefore his name is mentioned; and gives this as a rule, that whenever any prophet mentions the name of his father, he was honourable. Perhaps, it is here observed, to distinguish him from another of the same name; and there was one of this name, Joel, a high priest in the reigns of Uzziah and Jotham, according to Seder Olam Zuta (i) and Abarbinel (k); in whose time Joel is by some thought to prophesy.

(i) Fol. 104. (k) In Meyer. Anotat. in ib. p, 626.

The word of the LORD that came to Joel the son of Pethuel.

The Argument - The Prophet Joel first rebukes those of Judah, that being now punished with a great plague of famine, still remain obstinate. Secondly, he threatens greater plagues, because they grow daily to a more hardness of heart and rebellion against God in spite of his punishments. Thirdly, he exhorts them to repentance, showing that it must be earnest, and proceed from the heart, because they had grievously offended God. And in doing this, Joel promises that God will be merciful, and not forget his covenant that he made with their fathers, but will send his Christ, who will gather the scattered sheep, and restore them to life and liberty, even though they seem to be dead.

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.

Verse 1. - The word of the Lord that came to Joel the son of Pethuel. The name Joel signifies "Jehovah is God," or "whose God is Jehovah." We read in Scripture of several of the same name, but the prophet is distinguished as "the son of Pethuel," a name signifying "the sincerity of God," or "godly simplicity." We are not certain of the exact period at which Joel prophesied, but he is generally believed to have been the earliest prophetic writer of the southern kingdom, and one of the earliest of the twelve minor prophets, while Jonah is generally thought to have been the earliest prophetic writer whose book has found a place in the sacred canon. It is at least certain that Joel preceded Amos, who begins his prophecy with a passage from Joel (comp. Joel 3:16 with Amos 1:2). and borrows from Joel another towards the close (comp. Joel 3:18 with Amos 9:13). Besides, Joel speaks, in the second chapter, of the plague of locusts as yet future; while Amos, in the fourth chapter of his prophecy, refers to it as past. He likewise prophesied before Isaiah, who also borrows, in Isaiah 13:6, a sentence which occurs in Joel 1:15. Joel 1:1Joel 1:1 contains the heading to the book, and has already been noticed in the introduction. Joel 1:2. "Hear this, ye old men; and attend, all ye inhabitants of the land! Has such a thing indeed happened in your days, or in the days of your fathers? Joel 1:1. Ye shall tell your sons of it, and your sons their sons, and their sons the next generation. Joel 1:4. The leavings of the gnawer the multiplier ate, and the leavings of the multiplier the licker ate, and the leavings of the licker the devourer ate." Not only for the purpose of calling the attention of the hearers to his address, but still more to set forth the event of which he is about to speak as something unheard of - a thing that has never happened before, and therefore is a judgment inflicted by God - the prophet commences with the question addressed to the old men, whose memory went the furthest back, and to all the inhabitants of Judah, whether they had ever experienced anything of the kind, or heard of such a thing from their fathers; and with the command to relate it to their children, and grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

(Note: "As he is inquiring concerning the past according to the command of Moses in Deuteronomy 32:7, he asks the old men, who have been taught by long experience, and are accustomed, whenever they see anything unusual, to notice that this is not according to the ordinary course of nature, which they have observed for so many years. And since this existing calamity, caused by the insects named, has lasted longer and pressed more heavily than usual, he admonishes them to carry their memory back to the former days, and see whether anything of the kind ever happened naturally before; and if no example can be found, the prophet's advice is, that they should recognise this as the hand of God from heaven." - Tarnov.)

"The inhabitants of the land" are the inhabitants of Judah, as it was only with this kingdom that Joel was occupied (cf. Joel 1:14 and Joel 2:1). זאת is the occurrence related in Joel 1:4, which is represented by the question "Has this been in your days?" as a fact just experienced. Yether haggâzâm, the leavings of the gnawer, i.e., whatever the gnawer leaves unconsumed of either vegetables or plants. The four names given to the locusts, viz., gâzâm, 'arbeh, yeleq, and châsil, are not the names applied in natural history to four distinct species, or four different generations of locusts; nor does Joel describe the swarms of two successive years, so that "gâzâm is the migratory locust, which visits Palestine chiefly in the autumn, 'arbeh the young brood, yeleq the young locust in the last stage of its transformation, or before changing its skin for the fourth time, and châsı̄l the perfect locust after this last change, so that as the brood sprang from the gâzâm, châsı̄l would be equivalent to gâzâm" (Credner). This explanation is not only at variance with Joel 2:25, where gâzâm stands last, after châsı̄l, but is founded generally merely upon a false interpretation of Nahum 3:15-16 (see the passage) and Jeremiah 51:27, where the adjective sâmâr (horridus, horrible), appended to yeleq, from sâmâr, to shudder, by no means refers to the rough, horny, wing-sheath of the young locusts, and cannot be sustained from the usage of the language, It is impossible to point out any difference in usage between gâzâm and châsı̄l, or between these two words and 'arbeh. The word gâzâm, from gâzâm, to cut off (in Arabic, Ethiopic, and the Rabb.), occurs only in this passage, in Joel 2:25, and in Amos 4:9, where it is applied to a swarm of flying locusts, which leave the vine, fig-tree, and olive, perfectly bare, as it is well known that all locusts do, when, as in Amos, the vegetables and field fruits have been already destroyed. 'Arbeh, from râbhâh, to be many, is the common name of the locust, and indeed in all probability of the migratory locust, because this always appears in innumerable swarms. Châsı̄l, from châsal, to eat off, designates the locust (hâ'arbeh), according to Deuteronomy 28:38, by its habit of eating off the field crops and tree fruits, and is therefore used in 1 Kings 8:37; 2 Chronicles 6:28; Psalm 78:46, as synonymous with hâ'arbeh, and in Isaiah 33:4 in its stead. Yeleq, from yâlaq equals lâqaq, to lick, to lick off, occurs in Psalm 105:34 as equivalent to 'arbeh, and in Nahum as synonymous with it; and indeed it there refers expressly to the Egyptian plague of locusts, so that young locusts without wings cannot possibly be thought of. Haggâzâm the gnawer, hayyeleq the licker, hechâsı̄l the devourer, are therefore simply poetical epithets applied to the 'arbeh, which never occur in simple plain prose, but are confined to the loftier (rhetorical and poetical) style. Moreover, the assumption that Joel is speaking of swarms of locusts of two successive years, is neither required by Joel 2:25 (see the comm. on this verse), nor reconcilable with the contents of the verse itself. If the 'arbeh eats what the gâzâm has left, and the yeleq what is left by the 'arbeh, we cannot possibly think of the field and garden fruits of two successive years, because the fruits of the second year are not the leavings of the previous year, but have grown afresh in the year itself.

(Note: Bochart (Hieroz. iii. p. 290, ed. Ros.) has already expressed the same opinion. "If," he says, "the different species had been assigned to so many different years, the 'arbeh would not be said to have eaten the leavings of the gâzâm, or the yeleq the leavings of the 'arbeh, or the châsı̄l the leavings of the yeleq; for the productions of this year are not the leavings of last, nor can what will spring up in future be looked upon as the leavings of this. Therefore, whether this plague of locusts was confined to one year, or was repeated for several years, which seems to be the true inference from Joel 2:25, I do not think that the different species of locusts are to be assigned to different years respectively, but that they all entered Judaea in the same year; so that when one swarm departed from a field, another followed, to eat up the leavings of the previous swarm, if there were any; and that this was repeated as many times as was necessary to consume the whole, so that nothing at all should be left to feed either man or beast.")

The thought is rather this: one swarm of locusts after another has invaded the land, and completely devoured its fruit. The use of several different words, and the division of the locusts into four successive swarms, of which each devours what has been left by its precursor, belong to the rhetorical drapery and individualizing of the thought. The only thing that has any real significance is the number four, as the four kinds of punishment in Jeremiah 15:3, and the four destructive judgments in Ezekiel 14:21, clearly show. The number four, "the stamp of oecumenicity" (Kliefoth), indicates here the spread of the judgment over the whole of Judah in all directions.

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