Joel 2:12
Therefore also now, said the LORD, turn you even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning:
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(12) Saith the Lord.—The word saith is here no common word in the Hebrew. It implies an authoritative and most weighty utterance, as in Psalm 110:1, “The Lord said unto my Lord.” “The word is used in almost every instance of the immediate utterance of God Himself; more rarely of that of the prophet or inspired organ of the Divine revelations” (Perowne, Commentary on the Psalms, vol. ii., p. 300).

Turn ye even to me.—The question, “Who can abide it?” is left unanswered. But the only possible reply is inferred in the touching appeal which the prophet is inspired by Jehovah to make, that His righteous anger may be averted.

Joel 2:12-14. Therefore, also now, &c. — Or, Nevertheless, also now, saith the Lord, &c. — Here a method is pointed out, whereby they might still have hopes of avoiding the calamity denounced against them, namely, by turning to God sincerely, and publicly testifying their inward repentance and grief for their sins, by outward expressions of sorrow and humiliation. And rend your heart — Rending of the garments was customary in times of great sorrow and affliction, not only among the Jews and Israelites, but among almost all the ancient nations. The prophet here does not absolutely forbid their using this outward sign of sorrow, but exhorts them to attend more to inward contrition and humiliation, without which the outward signs of them were of no signification before God. The Hebrew writers often signify the preference that is due to one thing above another in terms which express the rejecting of that which is less worthy. Thus we read, Hosea 6:6, I will have mercy and not sacrifice; that is, I require mercy rather than sacrifice. In the same sense we are to understand the text before us. God prefers a broken and a contrite heart far before all outward expressions of humiliation and grief. For he is gracious and merciful, &c. — These words allude to God’s own declaration of himself, Exodus 34:6, on which they might with good reason ground hopes of forgiveness on their repenting unfeignedly of their sins, and bringing forth fruit worthy of repentance. And repenteth him of the evil — That is, of the evil which he had threatened to inflict in case those, against whom his threatenings were denounced, did not turn to him in true repentance. God is in Scripture said to repent when the humiliation of sinners and the reformation of their conduct make it unfit that he should inflict the punishment threatened by him. Who knoweth if he will return, and repent — God’s own nature, and the former instances we have found of his merciful disposition, encourage us to hope, that our sincere repentance may avail to avert his wrath, and engage him to restore his blessings upon us and our land. The prophet expresses himself between hope and fear of what might be the event, lest he should fill them with too much security on one hand, or drive them on the other, by a despair of pardon, to have no thoughts of repentance or amendment, but to go on still in their sins. Even a meat-offering and a drink-offering unto the Lord your God — At least sufficient provision to supply the necessary parts of God’s public worship, which since the dearth had been necessarily omitted.2:1-14 The priests were to alarm the people with the near approach of the Divine judgments. It is the work of ministers to warn of the fatal consequences of sin, and to reveal the wrath from heaven against the ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. The striking description which follows, shows what would attend the devastations of locusts, but may also describe the effects from the ravaging of the land by the Chaldeans. If the alarm of temporal judgments is given to offending nations, how much more should sinners be warned to seek deliverance from the wrath to come! Our business therefore on earth must especially be, to secure an interest in our Lord Jesus Christ; and we should seek to be weaned from objects which will soon be torn from all who now make idols of them. There must be outward expressions of sorrow and shame, fasting, weeping, and mourning; tears for trouble must be turned into tears for the sin that caused it. But rending the garments would be vain, except their hearts were rent by abasement and self-abhorrence; by sorrow for their sins, and separation from them. There is no question but that if we truly repent of our sins, God will forgive them; but whether he will remove affliction is not promised, yet the probability of it should encourage us to repent.Therefore - (And) now also All this being so, one way of escape there is, true repentance. As if God said , "All this I have therefore spoken, in order to terrify you by My threats. Wherefore "turn unto Me with all your hearts," and show the penitence of your minds "by fasting and weeping and mourning," that, fasting now, ye may "be filled" hereafter "weeping now," ye may laugh hereafter; mourning now, ye may hereafter "be comforted" Luke 6:21; Matthew 5:4. And since it is your custom "to rend your garments" in sorrow, I command you to rend, not them but your hearts which are full of sin, which, like bladders, unless they be opened, will burst of themselves. And when ye have done this, return unto the Lord your God, whom your former sins aleinated from you; and despair not of pardon for the greatness of your guilt, for mighty mercy will blot out mighty sins."

: "The strict Judge cannot be overcome, for He is Omnipotent; cannot be deceived, for He is Wisdom; cannot be corrupted, for He is justice; cannot be sustained, for He is Eternal; cannot be avoided, for He is everywhere. Yet He can be entreated, because He is mercy; He can be appeased, because He is Goodness; He can cleanse, because He is the Fountain of grace; He can satisfy, because He is the Bread of life; He can soothe, because He is the Unction from above; He can beautify, because He is Fullness; He can beatify because He is Bliss. Turned from Him, then, and fearing His justice, turn ye to Him, and flee to His mercy. Flee from Himself to Himself, from the rigor of justice to the Bosom of mercy. The Lord who is to be feared saith it. He who is Truth enjoins what is just, profitable, good, "turn ye to Me," etc."

Turn ye - even "to Me," i. e., so as to return "quite to" (see the note at Hosea 14:2) God, not halting, not turning half way, not in some things only, but from all the lusts and pleasures to which they had turned from God. : "Turn quite to Me," He saith, "with all your heart," with your whole mind, whole soul, whole spirit, whole affections. For I am the Creator and Lord of the heart and mind, and therefore will, that that whole should be given, yea, given back, to Me, and endure not that any part of it be secretly stolen from Me to be given to idols, lusts or appetites." "It often happens with some people," says Gregory , "that they stoutly gird themselves up to encounter mine vices, but neglect to overcome others, and while they never rouse themselves up against these, they are re-establishing against themselves, even those which they had subdued."

Others, "in resolve, aim at right courses, but are ever doubling back to their wonted evil ones, and being, as it were, drawn out without themselves, they return back to themselves in a round, desiring good ways, but never forsaking evil ways." In contrast to these half conversions, he bids us turn to God with our whole inmost soul, so that all our affections should be fixed on God, and all within us, by a strong union, cleave to Him, for "in whatever degree our affections are scattered among created things, so far is the conversion of the heart to God impaired." "Look diligently," says Bernard , "what thou lovest, what thou fearest, wherein thou rejoicest or art saddened, and under the rags of conversion thou wilt find a heart pervered. The whole heart is in these four affections; and of these I think we must understand that saying, "turn to" the Lord "with all thy heart."

Let then thy love be converted to Him, so that thou love nothing whatever save Himself, or at least for Him. Let thy fear also be converted unto Him, for all fear is perverted, whereby thou fearest anything besides Him or not for Him. So too let thy joy and sorrow equally be converted unto Him. This will be, if thou only grieve or joy according to Him." : "There is a conversion with the whole heart, and another with a part. The conversion with the whole heart God seeketh, for it suffices to salvation. That which is partial he rejecteth, for it is feigned and far from salvation. In the heart, there are three powers, reason, will, memory; reason, of things future; will, of things present; memory, of things past. For reason seeks things to come; the will loves things present; memory retains things past. Reason illumines; will loves; memory retains. When then the reason seeks that Highest Good and finds, the will receives and loves, the memory anxiously keeps and closely embraces, then the soul turns with the whole heart to God. But when the reason slumbers and neglects to seek heavenly things, or the will is tepid and cares not to love them, or the memory is torpid and is careless to retain them, then the soul acts false, falling first into the vice of ignorance, secondly into the guilt of negligence, thirdly into the sin of malice.

In each, the soul acts false; else ignorance would be expelled by the light of reason, and negligence be excluded by zeal of will, and malice be quenched by diligence of memory (of divine things). Reason then seeking begetteth knowledge; will embracing produceth love; memory holding fast, edification. The first produceth the light of knowledge, the second, the love of righteousness; the third preserveth the treasure of grace. This is that conversion of heart, which God requireth; this is that, which sufficeth to salvation."

And with fasting - o: "In their returning to Him, it is required in the first place, that it be with the heart in the inward man, yet so that the outward man is not left unconcerned, but hath his part also, in performance of such things whereby he may express, how the inward man is really affected; and so by the concurrence of both is true conversion made up. "With fasting," which shall make for the humbling of the heart, which pampering of the flesh is apt to puff up and make insensible of its own condition, and forgetful of God and His service, as Jeshurun who, being "waxed fat, kicked, and forsook the God which made him and lightly esteemed the God of his salvation Deuteronomy 32:15. To waiting then on God's service and prayer, it is usually joined in Scripture, as almost a necessary accompaniment, called for by God, and by holy men practiced."

And with weeping and with mourning - that is, by "beating" on the breast, (as the word originally denoted,) "as the publican smote upon his breast" Luke 18:13, and "all the people that came together to that sight" (of Jesus on the Cross), "beholding the things which were done, smote their breasts" Luke 23:48. : "These also, in themselves signs of grief, stir up in the heart more grief, and so have their effects on the person himself, for the increase of his repentance, as well as for shewing it." It also stirs up in others like passions, and provokes them also to repentance." : "These things, done purely and holily, are not conversion itself, but are excellent signs of conversion." : "We ought "to turn in fasting," whereby vices are repressed, and the mind is raised. We ought to "turn in weeping," out of longing for our home, out of displeasure at our faults, out of love to the sufferings of Christ, and for the manifold transgressions and errors of the world." "What avails it," says Gregory , "to confess iniquities, if the affliction of penitence follow not the confession of the lips? For three things are to be considered in every true penitent, conversion of the mind, confession of the mouth, and revenge for the sin. This third sort is as a necessary medicine, that so the imposthume of guilt, pricked by confession, be purified by conversion, and healed by the medicine of affliction. The sign of true conversion is not in the confession of the mouth, but in the affliction of penitence. For then do we see that a sinner is well converted, when by a worthy austerity of affliction he strives to efface what in speech he confesses. Wherefore John Baptist, rebuking the ill-converted Jews who flock to him says, "O generation of vipers - bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance."

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.

Therefore, since so great displeasure is conceived against you for your sins, and so terrible execution is shortly to be made upon you, and there is no way of resistance or escape left,

turn ye even to me; repent of your sins whereby you have departed from me; all this preparation made against you is made not to destroy you utterly, but to awaken you to repentance; whilst you may find mercy upon repentance, be advised to it, and prevent your final desolation.

With all your heart; not hypocritically, with divided heart, but sincerely and with full purpose of amendment: let your heart, your whole heart, first be turned to me your God and Sovereign.

With fasting; public fasting as well as private, such fasting as is required, Joel 1:14,

With weeping; make it appear that you are sensible of, and deeply affected with, your former sins in the jollity of your sensual life, now weep for it.

And with mourning; tears do well become a fast, but they must not be tears only, but a mournful frame of heart within, a fountain of these tears, is expected, and indeed required. Therefore also now, saith the Lord,.... Before this terrible and intolerable day, which is near at hand, comes; before these judgments and calamities threatened take place, though just at hand; serious repentance is never too late, now is the accepted time; see Luke 19:42;

turn ye even to me with all your heart; against whom they had sinned, and who had prepared his army against them, and was at the head of it, just ready to give the orders, and play his artillery upon them; and yet suggests, that even now, that if they turned to the Lord by true repentance, not, feignedly and hypocritically, but cordially and sincerely, with true hearts, and with their whole hearts, he was ready to receive and forgive them. The Targum is,

"turn ye to my worship with all your heart:''

and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning; external signs of inward grief and sorrow, testifying their hearty return to the Lord; which, though, without the heart, signify nothing, yet should be shown where hearty repentance is, for the honour and glory of God.

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. turn ye even to me] come back from your self-chosen course of sin, return to Me. On the idea of turning (or returning) to God in the Old Testament (from which the theological idea of “conversion” was ultimately developed), see on Amos 4:6.

with all your heart] with the entire force of your moral purpose. The Deuteronomic phrase is “with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deuteronomy 6:5, and elsewhere), i.e. with the intellect and the affections combined[39]; but the heart alone is often mentioned (e.g. 1 Samuel 12:20; 1 Samuel 12:24, Jeremiah 29:13; and, as here, with turn, 1 Samuel 7:3, Jeremiah 24:7). The heart is in Hebrew psychology not (as with us) the organ of the affections, but the organ of the intellect (see e.g. Hosea 7:11); here, the organ of moral purpose and resolve.

[39] See the writer’s Commentary on Deuteronomy, pp. 21 n., 73, 91.

with fasting, and with weeping, and with wailing] i.e. with grief for sin, of which these are to be the external signs. On fasting, as a mark of penitence, see on Joel 1:14 : on weeping, as its concomitant, Jdg 20:26, Psalm 69:10, Zechariah 7:3; cf. 2 Kings 22:19, Isaiah 22:12, Ezra 10:1.

12–14. Nevertheless, it is still not too late to avert the judgement by earnest penitence; for God is gracious and compassionate, and ready to pardon those who turn to Him with their whole heart. Cf. Jeremiah 4:14.Verses 12-14. - The judgment of the locusts was typical of the great day of judgment. The tartars of that day were designed to bring the people to repentance. Thus judgment was mingled with mercy. Verse 12. - Turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with great fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning. At this period of sore judgment God, by the prophet, calls upon the people to return and repent, to fast and to weep, to grieve inwardly and mourn outwardly for sin. He also instructs them how to engage in the duty of humiliation aright and acceptably. The humiliation was to be that of the heart - sorrow of heart for the sins by which they had offended God, inward shame on account of those iniquities by which they had wronged their own souls and marred their own best interests. But while there behoved to be this inward contrition, outward expressions of it were also required. Genuine sorrow and shame for sin were to be accompanied by fasting, tears of penitence, and other indications of mourning. With all your heart. Kimchi comments thus: "That your repentance be not with a heart and a heart." The reason why God was obliged to punish in this manner is given in the following verses. Hosea 6:6. "For I take pleasure in love, and not in sacrifices; and in the knowledge of God more than in burnt-offerings. Hosea 6:7. But they have transgressed the covenant like Adam: there have they acted treacherously towards me." Chesed is love to one's neighbour, manifesting itself in righteousness, love which has its roots in the knowledge of God, and therefore is connected with "the knowledge of God" here as in Hosea 4:1. For the thought itself, compare the remarks on the similar declaration made by the prophet Samuel in 1 Samuel 15:22; and for parallels as to the fact, see Isaiah 1:11-17; Micah 6:8; Psalm 40:7-9, and Psalm 50:8., in all which passages it is not sacrifices in themselves, but simply the heartless sacrifices with which the wicked fancied they could cover their sins, that are here rejected as displeasing to God, and as abominations in His eyes. This is apparent also from the antithesis in Hosea 6:7, viz., the reproof of their transgression of the covenant. המּה (they) are Israel and Judah, not the priests, whose sins are first referred to in Hosea 6:9. כּאדם, not "after the manner of men," or "like ordinary men," - for this explanation would only be admissible if המּה referred to the priests or prophets, or if a contrast were drawn between the rulers and others, as in Psalm 82:7 - but "like Adam," who transgressed the commandment of God, that he should not eat of the tree of knowledge. This command was actually a covenant, which God made with him, since the object of its was the preservation of Adam in vital fellowship with the Lord, as was the case with the covenant that God made with Israel (see Job 31:33, and Delitzsch's Commentary). The local expression "there," points to the place where the faithless apostasy had occurred, as in Psalm 14:5. This is not more precisely defined, but refers no doubt to Bethel as the scene of the idolatrous worship. There is no foundation for the temporal rendering "then."
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