Joel 1:6
For a nation is come up on my land, strong, and without number, whose teeth are the teeth of a lion, and he has the cheek teeth of a great lion.
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(6) A nation.—It was not uncommon with Hebrew writers to apply the name people or folk to animals, as, “The ants are a people not strong;” “The conies are but a feeble folk” (Proverbs 30:25-26); but the word used by Joel is different from that in the Proverbs. He selected a word indicative of foreign nations, suggestive of attack, including both the irrational invader and the foreign conqueror. The surpassing strength of the nation is indicated by the extraordinary power of the locust’s teeth, compared to that of the lion’s jaws. The same comparison is made by St. John (Revelation 9:8): “Their teeth (the locusts) were as the teeth of lions.”

Joel 1:6. For a nation is come up upon my land — Insects are described as a nation or people marching in order under their leaders, both by sacred and profane writers, because of their power to do mischief, and their being irresistible by human strength or art. Whose teeth are the teeth of a lion — They devour every thing that comes in their way, and there is no possibility of rescuing it from them. Pliny and other writers tell us, that they will not only destroy the leaves and fruits of the trees on which they fasten, but will even devour the very bark and stock thereof.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.For a nation is come up upon my land - He calls this scourge of God a "nation," giving them the title most used in Holy Scripture, of pagan nations. The like term, "people, folk," is used of the "ants" and the "conies" Proverbs 30:25-26, for the wisdom with which God teaches them to act. Here it is used, in order to include at once, the irrational invader, guided by a Reason above its own, and the pagan conqueror. This enemy, he says, is "come up" (for the land as being God's land, was exalted in dignity, above other lands,) "upon My land," i. e. "the Lord's land" Hosea 9:3, hitherto owned protected as God's land, a land which, Moses said to them, "the Lord thy God careth for; the eyes of the Lord thy God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year even unto the end of the year" Deuteronomy 11:12. Now it was to be bared of God's protection, and to be trampled upon by a pagan foe.

Strong and without number - The figure is still from the locust, whose numbers are wholly countless by man. Travelers sometimes use likenesses to express their number, as clouds darkening the sun (see the note at Joel 2:10) or discharging flakes of snow ; some grave writers give it up, as hopeless. : "Their multitude is incredible, whereby they cover the earth and fill the air; they take away the brightness of the sun. I say again, the thing is incredible to one who has not seen them." "It would not be a thing to be believed, if one had not seen it." "On another day, it was beyond belief: they occupied a space of eight leagues (about 24 English miles). I do not mention the multitude of those without wings, because it is incredible." : "When we were in the Seignory of Abrigima, in a place called Aquate, there came such a multitude of locusts, as cannot be said. They began to arrive one day about terce (nine) and until night they cease not to arrive; and when they arrived, they bestowed themselves. On the next day at the hour of prime they began to depart, and at mid-day there was not one, and there remained not a leaf on the trees. At this instant others began to come, and staved like the others to the next day at the same hour; and these left not a stick with its bark, nor a green herb, and thus did they five days one after another; and the people said that they were the sons, who went to seek their fathers, and they took the road toward the others which had no wings. After they were gone, we knew the breadth which they had occupied, and saw the destruction which they had made, it exceeded three leagues (nine miles) wherein there remained no bark on the trees."

Another writes of South Africa ; "Of the innumerable multitudes of the incomplete insect or larva of the locusts, which at this time infested this part of Africa, no adequate idea could be conceived without having witnessed them. For the space of ten miles on each side of the Sea-Cow river, and eighty or ninety miles in length, an area of 16, or 1800 square miles, the whole surface might literally be said to be covered with them. The water of the river was scarcely visible on account of the dead carcasses which floated on the surface, drowned in the attempt to come at the weeds which grew in it." : "The present year is the third of their continuance, and their increase has far exceeded that of a geometrical progression whose whole ratio is a million." A writer of reputation says of a "column of locusts" in India ; "It extended, we were informed, 500 miles, and so compact was it when on the wing, that, like an eclipse, it completely hid the sun; so that no shadow was cast by any object, and some lofty tombs, not more than 200 yards distant, were rendered quite invisible."

In one single neighborhood, even in Germany, it was once calculated that near 17,000,000 of their eggs were collected and destroyed . Even Volney writes of those in Syria , "the quantity of these insects is a thing incredible to anyone who has not seen it himself; the ground is covered with them for several leagues." "The steppes," says Clarke , an incredulous traveler, "were entirely covered by their bodies, and their numbers falling resembled flakes of snow, carried obliquely by the wind, and spreading thick mists over the sun. Myriads fell over the carriage, the horses, the drivers. The Tartars told us, that persons had been suffocated by a fall of locusts on the "steppes." It was now the season, they added, in which they began to diminish." : "It was incredible, that their breadth was eight leagues."

Strong - The locust is remarkable for its long flights. "Its strength of limbs is amazing; when pressed down by the hand on the table, it has almost power to move the fingers" .

Whose teeth are the teeth of a lion - The teeth of the locust are said to be "harder than stone." : "They appear to be created for a scourge; since to strength incredible for so small a creature, they add saw-like teeth admirably calculated to "eat up all the herbs in the land."" Some near the Senegal, are described as "quite brown, of the thickness and length of a finger, and armed with two jaws, toothed like a saw, and very powerful." The prophet ascribes to them the sharp or prominent eye-teeth of the lion and lioness, combining strength with number. The ideal of this scourge of God is completed by blending numbers, in which creatures so small only could exist together, with the strength of the fiercest. : "Weak and short-lived is man, yet when God is angered against a sinful people, what mighty power does He allow to man against it!" "And what more cruel than those who endeavor to slay souls, turning them from the Infinite and Eternal Good, and so dragging them to the everlasting torments of Hell?"

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."

This verse countenanceth their conjecture who take the locusts and vermin to be emblematical in part as well as literal; for it seems not very suitable to call their teeth teeth of a lion.

For a nation; an innumerable multitude of locusts and caterpillars, called a nation here, as Solomon calls the conies and the ants, Proverbs 30:25,26. A prognostic of a very numerous and mighty nation, that ere long will invade Judah.

Is come up, or suddenly will come, upon my land; upon Canaan, which God calls his land; or more particularly the two tribes, Judea strictly taken.

Strong; mighty in power and undaunted in courage, if you refer it to the Assyrians or Babylonians; if to those vermin, they are, though each weak by itself, yet in those multitudes which come, strong enough, and irresistible, and shall do God’s work, that is, waste the land, and devour all before them.

Without number; not simply numberless, but in such multitudes none of you shall be able to recount them.

Whose teeth are the teeth of a lion; a strong lion of the middle age, that hath whelps, and hunts the prey for them.

And he hath the cheek teeth of a great lion; which is old, and the more fierce and terrible in his looks, no way lessened in his strength, and that preys for his young ones: now what waste such lions make, such these locusts will make, such the Assyrians will make. For a nation is come up upon my land,.... A nation of locusts, so called from their great numbers, and coming from foreign parts; just as the ants are called a "people", and the conies a "folk", Proverbs 30:25; and which were an emblem of the nation of the Chaldeans, which came up from Babylon, and invaded the land of Judea; called by the Lord "my land", because he had chosen it for the habitation of his people; here he himself had long dwelt, and had been served and worshipped in it: though Kimchi thinks these are the words of the inhabitants of the land, or of the prophet; but if it can be thought they are any other than the words of God, they rather seem to be expressed by the drunkards in particular, howling for want of wine, and observing the reason of it:

strong, and without number; this description seems better to agree with the Assyrians or Chaldeans, who were a mighty and powerful people, as well as numerous; though locusts, notwithstanding they are weak, singly taken, yet, coming in large bodies, carry all before them, and there is no stopping them:

whose teeth are the teeth of a lion, and he hath the cheek teeth of a great lion; or "the grinders" (m) of such an one; being hard, strong, and sharp, to bite off the tops, boughs, and branches of trees: Pliny (n) says, locusts will gnaw with their teeth the doors of houses; so the teeth of locusts are described in Revelation 9:8; this may denote the strength, cruelty, and voraciousness of the Chaldean army.

(m) "molares", Pagninus, Mercerus, Burkius. (n) Nat. Hist. l. 11. c. 29.

For {d} 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.

(d) This was another plague with which God had punished them when he stirred up the Assyrians against them.

6–7. By what agency this devastation has been wrought: an army of depredators has invaded Judah, countless in numbers and well equipped for their work; and vine and fig-tree have been left by them bare.

a nation] cf. for the figure Proverbs 30:24-26 : also Homer’s expression ἔθνεα μελισσάων, μυιάων, &c. (Il. 2:87, 469, &c.).

is come up upon (or against)] the phrase used of an invading army (e.g. 2 Kings 18:13).

my land] the prophet speaks in the name of the people. So Joel 1:7; Joel 1:13; Joel 1:19 and frequently (cf. the writer’s Introduction, p. 366 f.).

strong] Cf. Joel 2:2; Joel 2:5; Joel 2:11. The term is used often of a powerful and numerous nation (e.g. Deuteronomy 26:5, Isaiah 60:22, Micah 4:7). The reference is partly to the strength of limb possessed by the locust, enabling it for instance to take long flights and to persevere incessantly in its work of destruction, partly to the irresistible numbers in which swarms of locusts are apt to invade a country.

without number] a characteristic of locust-swarms, often alluded to in the O.T.: Psalm 105:34 (“and the yéleḳ without number”); and in comparisons Jdg 6:5; Jdg 7:12, Jeremiah 46:23 (all of the arbeh), Jeremiah 51:14; Jeremiah 51:27 (of the yéleḳ). Modern travellers speak often of the literally incalculable numbers in which locusts come. Thus an observer in South Africa writes, “For the space of 10 miles on each side of the Sea-Cow river, and 80–90 miles in breadth, an area of 16–1800 square miles, the whole surface might literally be said to be covered with them: the water of the river was scarcely visible on account of the dead carcases which floated on the surface, drowned in the attempt to come at the weeds which grew in it.” Again, in Cyprus, “the locusts lay swarming above a foot deep in several parts of the high road, and thousands were destroyed by the wheels of the carriage driving over them.” A writer in Nature (1889, p. 153) states “that a flight of locusts that passed over the Red Sea in Nov. 1889, was 2000 square miles in extent,” and upon the assumption that it was 48 miles square, half a mile deep, and contained 144 locusts, each weighing 16 oz., to a cubic foot, he calculated that it contained 24,420 billions of insects, and weighed 42,850 millions of tons. “A second similar, perhaps even larger flight, was seen passing in the same direction the next day. In Cyprus in 1881, up to the end of October, 1,600,000,000 egg-cases bad that season been collected and destroyed, each case containing a considerable number of eggs. By the end of the season over 1300 tons of eggs had been collected; and yet not less than 5,076,000,000 egg-cases were, it is believed, deposited in the island two years afterwards” (Cambridge Nat. Hist. v. 292).

his teeth, &c.] the locust’s teeth are edged like a saw, and very powerful; hence, though infinitely smaller, they may for destructiveness be compared to those of a lion. Cp. Revelation 9:8.

the cheek-teeth] or jaw teeth (R.V.), i.e. the sharp and prominent eye-teeth of the animal. The word is the same which is found in Job 29:17 and Proverbs 30:14; and (with two letters transposed) in Psalm 58:6 (also of the lion: R.V. “great teeth”): it possibly signifies (from the Arabic) the projectors.

of a great lion] of a lioness. Hebrew has several distinct terms, all denoting generally the lion, but, unfortunately, seldom distinguishable in English except by the use of separate epithets. The ordinary word for lion is that used in the former clause of the present verse (aryçh, also ărî), that used here (lâbhî’) is the lioness, Numbers 23:24, Deuteronomy 33:20 al., but only in poetry; another (kĕphîr) is the young lion (Isaiah 31:4, and frequently); other poetical words are layish, only Isaiah 30:6, Job 4:11, Proverbs 30:30; and shaḥal, properly the roarer, Hosea 5:14; Hosea 13:7, Job 4:10; Job 10:16; Job 28:8, Proverbs 26:13, Psalm 91:13. Gûr (or gôr) is a lion’s whelp, Genesis 49:9 al. In poetry, the synonyms for lion appear often, as they do here, in the parallel clauses of a verse: see esp. Job 4:10-11.Verse 6. - For a nation is come up upon my land, strong and without number. The loss of the wine and of the sweet juice of the grape would be a source of genuine sorrow to the drinkers of wine; that loss would be occasioned by the destruction of the vines. In this and the following verse the prophet explains the instrumentality by which that destruction would be brought about. The prophet, fully identifying himself with his countrymen, speaking in their name and as their representative, says "my land." Kimchi understands the suffix to "land," like "my vine" and "my fig tree" in the next verse, as referring either to the prophet himself or to the people of the land; while some refer it to Jehovah, the great Proprietor, who had given the land to his people for their inheritance while they observed his covenant and obeyed his commandments. The locusts ore called a nation, just as the "ants are a people not strong," and the "conies are" said to be "but a feeble folk." Kimchi lays that "every collection of living things is called a nation (qoy); accordingly the prophet applies 'nation' to the locust." Nor deem the weed "nation" thus applied support the allegorical sense any more than the Homeric -

"Even as go the swarms [literally nations]
of closely thronging bees." This army of locusts is characterized by the two qualities of strength and number. The preterite עָלָה, though past, really refers to the future, to express the certain occurrence of what is predicted; so with שָׂם in the following verse, of which Kimchi says, "The past is in place of the future;" and Aben Ezra more fully, "A thing that is decreed to take place is spoken of in the past." This army has peculiar weapons, yet nothing the less powerful. Whose teeth are the teeth of a lion, and he hath the cheek-teeth of a great lion; or, lioness. Different descriptive terms are applied to lions - the lion's whelp is גּוּר; the young lion, which, though young, is no longer a whelp, is כְּפִיר; also the lion, from its hoarseness at a certain age, is called שַׁחַלֹ; the lion, from its cry, is called by onomatopoeia, לָבִיּא; the lion, from its strength, is called לַיִשׁ; while the common name of a lion, derived probably from אָרָה, to pluck or tear, is אַרְיֵה. Having compared the invading locusts to an army powerful and countless, the prophet proceeds to speak of the weapons wielded by these warlike and hostile invaders. They are their teeth. While the common name for locust respects their multitude, the other names are of the nature of epithets, and all, as we have seen, derived from the vigour and voracity with which they use their teeth. Those teeth, so destructive, are compared to those of a lion and the molars or grinders of a great, stout, old lion or lioness, for the word has been translated in each of these ways. A different turn is now given to the prophecy, viz., that if Israel would not desist from idolatry, Judah ought to beware of participating in the guilt of Israel; and with this the fourth strophe (Hosea 4:15-19) is introduced, containing the announcement of the inevitable destruction of the kingdom of the ten tribes. Hosea 4:15. "If thou commit whoredom, O Israel, let not Judah offend! Come ye not to Gilgal, go not up to Bethaven, and swear ye not by the life of Jehovah." אשׁם, to render one's self guilty by participating in the whoredom, i.e., the idolatry, of Israel. This was done by making pilgrimages to the places of idolatrous worship in that kingdom, viz., to Gilgal, i.e., not the Gilgal in the valley of the Jordan, but the northern Gilgal upon the mountains, which has been preserved in the village of Jiljilia to the south-west of Silo (Seilun; see at Deuteronomy 11:30 and Joshua 8:35). In the time of Elijah and Elisha it was the seat of a school of the prophets (2 Kings 2:1; 2 Kings 4:38); but it was afterwards chosen as the seat of one form of idolatrous worship, the origin and nature of which are unknown (compare Hosea 9:15; Hosea 12:12; Amos 4:4; Amos 5:5). Bethaven is not the place of that name mentioned in Joshua 7:2, which was situated to the south-east of Bethel; but, as Amos 4:4 and Amos 5:5 clearly show, a name which Hosea adopted from Amos 5:5 for Bethel (the present Beitin), to show that Bethel, the house of God, had become Bethaven, a house of idols, through the setting up of the golden calf there (1 Kings 12:29). Swearing by the name of Jehovah was commanded in the law (Deuteronomy 6:13; Deuteronomy 10:20; compare Jeremiah 4:2); but this oath was to have its roots in the fear of Jehovah, to be simply an emanation of His worship. The worshippers of idols, therefore, were not to take it into their mouths. The command not to swear by the life of Jehovah is connected with the previous warnings. Going to Gilgal to worship idols, and swearing by Jehovah, cannot go together. The confession of Jehovah in the mouth of an idolater is hypocrisy, pretended piety, which is more dangerous than open ungodliness, because it lulls the conscience to sleep.
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