Joel 1:2
Hear this, you old men, and give ear, all you inhabitants of the land. Has this been in your days, or even in the days of your fathers?
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(2, 3) Hath this been in your days.—The introduction points to the startling nature of the portent: it was unexampled; it was a cause of consternation to all who beheld it; it would be recollected as a subject of wondering comment among succeeding generations. The hand of God was evident, recalling the marvellous things he did in the land of Egypt, in the field of Zoan.

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.Hear this, ye old men - By reason of their age they had known and heard much; they had heard from their fathers, and their father's fathers, much which they had not known themselves. Among the people of the east, memories of past times were handed down from generation to generation, for periods, which to us would seem incredible. Israel was commanded, so to transmit the vivid memories of the miracles of God. The prophet appeals "to the old men, to hear," and, (lest, anything should seem to have escaped them) to the whole people of the land, to give their whole attention to this thing, which he was about to tell them, and then, reviewing all the evils which each had ever heard to have been inflicted by God upon their forefathers, to say whether this thing had happened in their days or in the days of their 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.

Hear this: he is about to report a very wonderful occurrence, and desires all to consider it, mark it well, and tell me what you know.

Ye old men; the oldest among you, who can remember things done in your days when you were young, some scores of years past.

Give ear, all ye inhabitants of the land: it is an appeal to all that may possibly know more than others, and remember better than others can.

Hath this been in your days? did you personally ever know the like?

Or even in the days of your fathers? did your fathers ever tell you of such a thing happening in their days? was there ever such a thing known among them? have you ever heard them speak of it? Hear this, ye old men,.... What the prophet was about to relate, concerning the consumption of the fruits of the earth, by various sorts of creatures, and by a drought; and these are called upon to declare if ever the like had been known or heard of by them; who by reason of age had the greatest opportunities of knowledge of this sort, and could remember what they had heard or seen, and would faithfully relate it: this maybe understood of elders in office, as well as in age;

and give ear, all ye inhabitants of the land; or "earth", not of the whole earth; but of the land of Judea; who were more particularly concerned in this affair, and therefore are required to listen attentively to it:

hath this been in your days, or even in the days of your fathers? that is, not the selfsame thing, but anything equal to it; a judgment of the same kind and nature, and of the same degree. By this question it seems the like had never been in the memory of any man living; nor in former times, in the days of their ancestors, as could be averted upon report; or attested on the credit of annals, chronicles, or other methods of conveying the history of ages past. As for the plague of locusts in Egypt, though they were such as; never find been, nor would be there any more; yet such or greater, and more in number than those, might be in Judea; besides, they continued but a few, lays at most, these four years successively, as Kimchi observes; and who thinks that in Egypt there was but one sort of locusts, here four; but the passage he quotes in Psalm 78:46; contradicts him; to which may be added Psalm 105:34.

Hear this, ye {a} old men, and give ear, all ye inhabitants of the land. Hath {b} this been in your days, or even in the days of your fathers?

(a) Signifying the princes, the priests, and the governors.

(b) He calls the Jews to the consideration of God's judgments, who had now plagued the fruits of the ground for the space of four years, which was because of their sins, and to call them to repentance.

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).Verses 2-7, - These verses describe the invasion of the locusts, with an exhortation to reflect on and lament for the calamity. Verse 2. - 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? The allusion to whoredom leads to the description of the idolatrous conduct of the people in the third strophe, Hosea 4:11-14, which is introduced with a general sentence. Hosea 4:11. "Whoring and wine and new wine take away the heart (the understanding"). Zenūth is licentiousness in the literal sense of the word, which is always connected with debauchery. What is true of this, namely, that it weakens the mental power, shows itself in the folly of idolatry into which the nation has fallen. Hosea 4:12. "My nation asks its wood, and its stick prophesies to it: for a spirit of whoredom has seduced, and they go away whoring from under their God." שׁאל בּעצו is formed after בּיהוה, to ask for a divine revelation of the idols made of wood (Jeremiah 10:3; Habakkuk 2:19), namely, the teraphim (cf. Hosea 3:4, and Ezekiel 21:26). This reproof is strengthened by the antithesis my nation, i.e., the nation of Jehovah, the living God, and its wood, the wood made into idols by the people. The next clause, "and its stick is showing it," sc. future events (higgı̄d as in Isaiah 41:22-23, etc.), is supposed by Cyril of Alexandria to refer to the practice of rhabdomancy, which he calls an invention of the Chaldaeans, and describes as consisting in this, that two rods were held upright, and then allowed to fall while forms of incantation were being uttered; and the oracle was inferred from the way in which they fell, whether forwards or backwards, to the right or to the left. The course pursued was probably similar to that connected with the use of the wishing rods.

(Note: According to Herod. iv. 67, this kind of soothsaying was very common among the Scythians (see at Ezekiel 21:26). Another description of rhabdomancy is described by Abarbanel, according to Maimonides and Moses Mikkoz: cf. Marck and Rosenmller on this passage.)

The people do this because a spirit of whoredom has besotted them.

By rūăch zenūnı̄m the whoredom is represented as a demoniacal power, which has seized upon the nation. Zenūnı̄m probably includes both carnal and spiritual whoredom, since idolatry, especially the Asherah-worship, was connected with gross licentiousness. The missing object to התעה may easily be supplied from the context. זנה מתּחת אל, which differs from זנה מאחרי (Hosea 1:2), signifies "to whore away from under God," i.e., so as to withdraw from subjection to God.

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