Joel 1:18
How do the beasts groan! the herds of cattle are perplexed, because they have no pasture; yes, the flocks of sheep are made desolate.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(18) How do the beasts groan.—All creation is represented as sharing in the dread perplexity; the beasts are involved in it, as also in Nineveh the animals were united in the proclamation of the general fast by the king’s decree, when he had heard of the preaching of Jonah.

Joel 1:18. How do the beasts groan! — “How grievous will be the distress of the beasts of the field! How sadly will they complain through the vehemency of thirst! How will the herds of cattle be troubled and perplexed! For their verdant pastures shall be all scorched up, and they will have none wherein to feed. The flocks also shall be desolate, and ready to perish.” Scarce any thing can be more strongly or more movingly descriptive of the effects of a dearth and drought than this is. 1:14-20 The sorrow of the people is turned into repentance and humiliation before God. With all the marks of sorrow and shame, sin must be confessed and bewailed. A day is to be appointed for this purpose; a day in which people must be kept from their common employments, that they may more closely attend God's services; and there is to be abstaining from meat and drink. Every one had added to the national guilt, all shared in the national calamity, therefore every one must join in repentance. When joy and gladness are cut off from God's house, when serious godliness decays, and love waxes cold, then it is time to cry unto the Lord. The prophet describes how grievous the calamity. See even the inferior creatures suffering for our transgression. And what better are they than beasts, who never cry to God but for corn and wine, and complain of the want of the delights of sense? Yet their crying to God in those cases, shames the stupidity of those who cry not to God in any case. Whatever may become of the nations and churches that persist in ungodliness, believers will find the comfort of acceptance with God, when the wicked shall be burned up with his indignation.How do the beasts groan! - There is something very pitiable in the cry of the brute creation, even because they are innocent, yet bear man's guilt. Their groaning seems to the prophet to be beyond expression. How vehemently do they "groan! The herds of cattle are perplexed," as though, like man, they were endued with reason, to debate where to find their food. Yea, not these only, but the flocks of sheep, which might find pasture where the herds could not, these too shall bear the punishment of guilt. They suffered by the guilt of man; and yet so stupid was man, that he was not so sensible of his own win for which they suffered, as they of its effect. The beasts cried to God, but even their cries did not awaken His own people. The prophet cries for them; 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).

How do the beasts groan? so great was the penury and want of sustenance, that the beasts in the field, pinched with hunger, groaned, made dismal noise for fodder and water; the word beasts is general, and contains all sorts.

The herds of cattle; the greater cattle, which go wandering about, and range over all places, yet can find no pasturage.

The flocks of sheep; which, led by shepherds, might likely be supposed better secured; yet their shepherds find no pasture, and the sheep pine away and starve. These things are mentioned, either as convincing men of their stupidity, who were less sensible of present miseries than brute beasts were, or to provoke them to lay to heart the pressing calamities, or as arguments that lie would pity and relieve innocent brutes, though he punished sinful brutes. How do the beasts groan?.... For want of fodder, all green grass and herbs being eaten up by the locusts; or devoured, or trampled upon, and destroyed, by the Chaldeans; and also for want of water to quench their thirst:

the herds of cattle are perplexed, because they have no pasture; the larger cattle, as oxen; these were in the utmost perplexity, not knowing where to go for food or drink:

yea, the flocks of sheep are made desolate; which have shepherds to lead and direct them to pastures, and can feed on commons, where the grass is short, which other cattle cannot; yet even these were in great distress, and wasted away, and were consumed for want of nourishment.

How do the beasts groan! the herds of cattle are perplexed, because they have no pasture; yea, the flocks of sheep are made desolate.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
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).The prophet sees in spirit the judgment already falling upon the rebellious nation, and therefore addresses the following appeal to the people. Hosea 5:8. "Blow ye the horn at Gibeah, the trumpet at Ramah! Raise the cry at Bethaven, Behind thee, Benjamin!" The blowing of the shōphâr, a far-sounding horn, or of the trumpet

(Note: "The sophar was a shepherd's horn, and was made of a carved horn; the tuba (chătsōtserâh) was made of brass or silver, and sounded either in the time of war or at festivals." - Jerome.)

(chătsōtserâh), was a signal by which the invasion of foes (Hosea 8:1; Jeremiah 4:5; Jeremiah 6:1) and other calamities (Joel 2:1, cf. Amos 3:6) were announced, to give the inhabitants warning of the danger that threatened them. The words therefore imply that foes had invaded the land. Gibeah (of Saul; see at Joshua 18:28) and Ramah (of Samuel; see at Joshua 18:25) were two elevated places on the northern boundary of the tribe of Benjamin, which were well adapted for signals, on account of their lofty situation. The introduction of these particular towns, which did not belong to the tribe of Israel, but to that of Judah, is intended to intimate that the enemy has already conquered the kingdom of the ten tribes, and has advanced to the border of that of Judah. הריע, to make a noise, is to be understood here as relating to the alarm given by the war-signals already mentioned, as in Joel 2:1, cf. Numbers 10:9. Bethaven is Bethel (Beitin), as in Hosea 4:15, the seat of the idolatrous worship of the calves; and בּית is to be taken in the sense of בּבית (according to Ges. 118, 1). The difficult words, "behind thee, Benjamin," cannot indicate the situation or attitude of Benjamin, in relation to Bethel or the kingdom of Israel, or show that "the invasion is to be expected to start from Benjamin," as Simson supposes. For the latter is no more appropriate in this train of thought than a merely geographical or historical notice. The words are taken from the ancient war-song of Deborah (Judges 5:14), but in a different sense from that in which they are used there. There they mean that Benjamin marched behind Ephraim, or joined it in attacking the foe; here, on the contrary, they mean that the foe is coming behind Benjamin - that the judgment announced has already broken out in the rear of Benjamin. There is no necessity to supply "the enemy rises" behind thee, O Benjamin, as Jerome proposes, or "the sword rages," as Hitzig suggests; but what comes behind Benjamin is implied in the words, "Blow ye the horn," etc. What these signals announce is coming after Benjamin; there is no necessity, therefore, to supply anything more than "it is," or "it comes." The prophet, for example, not only announces in Hosea 5:8 that enemies will invade Israel, but that the hosts by which God will punish His rebellious people have already overflowed the kingdom of Israel, and are now standing upon the border of Judah, to punish this kingdom also for its sins. This is evident from Hosea 5:9, Hosea 5:10, which contain the practical explanation of Hosea 5:8.

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