Joel 2:13
And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil.
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(13) Repenteth him of the evil—i.e., in the sense that of His own will He would not the death of a sinner. The judgments of God, like His mercies, are conditional. As the “Lord repented (i.e., grieved) that He had made Saul king over Israel,” and revoked the appointment, so now He repenteth Him of the evil which will fall on His people if impenitent. If they will repent, it may be He will do it not.

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.And rend your hearts and not your garments - that is, "not your garments only" (see the note at Hosea 6:6). The rending of the clothes was an expression of extraordinary uncontrollable emotion, chiefly of grief, of terror, or of horror. At least, in Holy Scripture it is not mentioned as a part of ordinary mourning, but only upon some sudden overpowering grief, whether public or private . It was not used on occasion of death, unless there were something very grievous about its circumstances. At times it was used as an outward expression, one of deep grief, as when the leper was commanded to keep his clothes rent Leviticus 13:45, or when David, to express his abhorrence at the murder of Abner, commanded "all the people with him, rend your clothes;" Ahab used it, with fasting and haircloth, on God's sentence by Elijah and obtained a mitigation of the temporal punishment of his sin; Jeremiah marvels that neither "the king," Jehoiakim, "nor any of his servants, rent their garments" Jeremiah 36:24, on reading the roll containing the woes which God had by him pronounced against Judah. The holy garments of the priests were on no occasion to be rent Leviticus 10:6; Leviticus 21:10; (probably because the wholeness was a symbol of perfection, from where care was to be taken that the ephod should not accidentally be torn Exodus 28:32; Exodus 39:23) so that the act of Caiaphas was the greater hypocrisy Matthew 26:65; Mark 14:63.

He used it probably to impress his own blasphemous accusation on the people, as for a good end, the Apostles Paul and Barnabas rent their Acts 14:14 clothes, when they heard that, after the cure of the impotent man, the priest of Jupiter with the people would have done sacrifice unto them. Since then apostles used this act, Joel plainly doth not forbid the use of such outward behavior, by which their repentance might be expressed, but only requires that it be done not in outward show only, but accompanied with the inward affections. : "The Jews are bidden then to rend their hearts rather than their garments, and to set the truth of repentance in what is inward, rather than in what is outward." But since the rending of the garments was the outward sign of very vehement grief, it was no commonplace superficial sorrow, which the prophet enjoined, but one which should pierce and rend the inmost soul, and empty it of its sins and its love for sin. : Any very grieving thing is said to cut one's heart, to "cut him to the heart."

A truly penitent heart is called a "broken and a contrite heart." Such a penitent rends and "rips up by a narrow search the recesses of the heart, to discover the abominations thereof," and pours out before God "the diseased and perilous stuff" pent up and festering there, "expels the evil thoughts lodged in it, and opens it in all things to the reception of divine grace. This rending is no other than the spiritual circumcision to which Moses exhorts. Whence of the Jews, not thus rent in heart, it is written in Jeremiah, 'All the nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in heart' Jeremiah 9:26. This rending then is the casting out of the sins and passions."

And turn unto the Lord your God - God owns Himself as still their God, although they had turned and were gone from Him in sin and were alienated from Him. To Him, the true, Unchangeable God, if they returned, they would find Him still "their God." "Return, ye backsliding children, I will heal your backsliding," God saith by Jeremiah; "Behold, Israel answers, we come unto Thee, for Thou art the Lord our God" Jeremiah 3:22.

For He is very gracious and very merciful - Both these words are intensive. All the words, "very gracious, very merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness," are the same and in the same order as in that revelation to Moses, when, on the renewal of the two tables of the law, "the Lord descended in the cloud and proclaimed the name of the Lord" Exodus 34:5-6). The words are frequently repeated, showing how deeply that revelation sunk in the pious minds of Israel. They are, in part, pleaded to God by Moses himself Numbers 14:18; David, at one time, pleaded them all to God Psalm 85:1-13 :15; elsewhere he repeats them of God, as in this place Psalm 103:8; Psalm 145:8. Nehemiah, in praising God for His forgiving mercies, prefixes the title, "God of pardons" Nehemiah 9:17, and adds, "and Thou forsakedst them not;" as Joel, for the special object here, adds, "and repenteth Him of the evil." A Psalmist, and Hezekiah in his message to Isaiah, and Nehemiah in the course of that same prayer, repeat the two words of intense mercy, "very gracious and very merciful" Psalm 111:4; 2 Chronicles 30:9; Nehemiah 9:31, which are used of God only, except once by that same Psalmist Psalm 112:4, with the express object of showing how the good man conformeth himself to God. The word "very gracious" expresses God's free love, whereby He sheweth Himself good to us; "very merciful" expresses the tender yearning of His love over our miseries (see the note at Hosea 2:19); "great kindness," expresses God's tender love, as love.

He first says, that God is "slow to anger" or "long-suffering," enduring long the wickedness and rebellion of man, and waiting patiently for the conversion and repentance of sinners. Then he adds, that God is "abundant in kindness," having manifold resources and expedients of His tender love, whereby to win them to repentance. Lastly He is "repentant of the evil." The evil which lie foretells, and at last inflicts, is (so to speak) against His Will, "Who willeth not that any should perish," and, therefore, on the first tokens of repentance "He repenteth Him of the evil," and doeth it not.

The words rendered, "of great kindness," are better rendered elsewhere, "abundant, plenteous in goodness, mercy" Exodus 34:6; Psalm 86:15; Psalm 103:8. Although the mercy of God is in itself one and simple, yet it is called abundant on account of its divers effects. For God knoweth how in a thousand ways to succor His own. Whence the Psalmist prays, "According to the multitude of Thy mercies, turn Thou unto me" Psalm 25:7, Psalm 25:16. "According to the multitude of Thy tender mercies, do away mine offences" Psalm 51:1.

13. Let there be the inward sorrow of heart, and not the mere outward manifestation of it by "rending the garment" (Jos 7:6).

the evil—the calamity which He had threatened against the impenitent.

Rend your heart; lay them open, as chirurgeons lay open putrefying sores that they may be thoroughly cleansed; remove iniquity from your heart, as the Chaldee paraphrast.

And not your garments; as hypocrites do, who in sudden or great troubles easily stoop to tear a loose garment, but hardly are brought to rend their hearts: what God expecteth most they cannot be persuaded to, but what he careth least for they are ready to do. Be not such hypocrites before God, who cannot be mocked, nor spare them who dare do it: let your garments escape if you please; but your hearts, break them, circumcise them, Deu 10:16.

Turn unto the Lord your God; in repenting keep hope alive, look to God as your God, who by covenant hath promised to stow you mercy on your repenting and turning to him, Deu 13:17 30:8,9 Isa 55:7 Jeremiah 31:19,20 32:38-10.

He is gracious; gentle, easy to be entreated, and ready to forgive the guilty.

Merciful; compassionate, and ready to show pity and relieve the indigent: you are both guilty and afflicted; return to your God, who is gracious to pardon your guilt, and merciful to relieve your miseries.

Slow to anger; who hath spared, doth still spare, and waits purposely that you might have time to repent, and turn and live.

Of great kindness: your provocations are many and great, yet return, for his mercy is great, his kindnesses are many.

And repenteth him of the evil; not as man, but as becometh his own holy, just, and immutable nature, he turneth from executing the fierceness of his wrath, Jeremiah 18:7-10. Be wise and obedient, and follow my counsel, repent and make your peace with God.

And rend your heart, and not your garments,.... Which latter used to be done in times of distress, either private or public, and as a token of grief and sorrow, Genesis 37:34; nor was it criminal or unlawful, the apostles themselves used it, Acts 14:14; nor is it absolutely forbidden here, only comparatively, that they should rend their hearts rather than their garments; or not their garments only, but their hearts also; in like sense as the words in Hosea 6:6; are to be taken as rending garments was only an external token of sorrow and might be done hypocritically. Where no true repentance was, the Lord calls for that, rather than the other; and that they would show contrition of heart and brokenness of spirit under a sense of sin, and in the view of pardoning grace and mercy; which is here held forth, to influence godly sorrow and evangelical repentance; the acts of which, flowing from faith in Christ are much more acceptable to the Lord than any outward expressions of grief; see Psalm 51:17. The Targum is,

"remove the wickedness of your heart but not with the rending of your meats;''

the rending of the garment goes to the heart some say to the navel (w):

and turn unto the Lord your God; consider him not as an absolute God, and as an angry one, wrathful and inexorable; but as your covenant God and Father as your God in Christ, ready to receive backsliding sinners and prodigal sons; yea all sinners sensible of sin that flee to him for mercy through Christ:

for be is gracious and merciful; he is the God of all grace, and has laid up a fulness of it in Christ; and he gives it freely to them that ask it of him without upbraiding them with their sins; he is rich and plenteous in mercy, and ready to forgive; be delights in showing mercy, and in them that hope in it; and this is no small encouragement to turn to the Lord, and seek mercy of him: and, besides, he is

slow to anger; he is not hasty to stir it up, and show it; he bears with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath; and his longsuffering to his own people issues in their salvation: he waits to be gracious to them; and, though he may seem to be angry, he does not stir up all his wrath their sins deserve nor does he retain anger for ever:

and of great kindness; both in a providential way, and in a way of special grace through Christ; whom he has provided as a Saviour, and sent him into the world as such, and saves sinners by obedience sufferings, and death: these characters of God are taken out of Exodus 34:6; and are admirably adapted to engage and encourage sensible souls to turn to the Lord by acts of faith in him, and repentance towards him; see Isaiah 55:7; and it is added,

and repenteth him of the evil; which the sins of men deserve; and he has threatened on account of them; not that he ever changes the counsels of his will, but alters the course of his providence, and the manner of his conduct towards men, according to his unalterable repentance otherwise does not properly belong to God, Numbers 23:19; but is ascribed to him after the manner of men; and is used to express his compassion men; how ready he is to receive and forgive returning sinners and not execute the threatened and deserved evil and to bestow all needful good; see Jonah 3:10. The Targum is,

"and he recalls his word from bringing on the evil.''

(w) T. Bab. Moed Katon, fol. 26. 2.

And {i} rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil.

(i) Mortify your affections and serve God with pureness of heart, and not with ceremonies.

13. And rent your heart, and not your garments] The rending of garments was an expression of exceptional emotion, whether of grief, or terror, or horror, upon occasion of some specially overwhelming misfortune (see e.g. Genesis 37:29; Genesis 37:34; Genesis 44:13; Numbers 14:6; Jdg 11:35; 2 Samuel 1:2; 2 Samuel 3:31; 1 Kings 21:27; 2 Kings 5:7-8; 2 Kings 11:14; 2 Kings 19:1; 2 Kings 22:11; Ezra 9:3; Esther 4:1): deep, however, as the grief was, which thus found expression, the prophet demands, for sin, a deeper grief still, one viz. which should, speaking figuratively, rend the hard and stony (Ezekiel 36:26; Zechariah 7:12) heart, and make it pervious to godlike thoughts and emotions. Comp. the ‘broken and crushed (contrite) heart’ of Psalm 51:17; and the figure of the circumcision of the heart, Deuteronomy 10:16, Jeremiah 4:4. Fasting, like other external ordinances (cf. on Amos 5:21 f.), was liable to degenerate into an unspiritual form (see Isaiah 58:3 b, 4, 5; Zechariah 7:5); and the prophet insists accordingly, with earnestness, on the spiritual conditions which must accompany it, if it is to be a reality. Comp. especially the eloquent development of the same theme in Isaiah 58:3-12, where the true fast, in which Jehovah delights, is said to consist in acts of mercy, philanthropy, and liberality. See also Matthew 6:16-18; and Sir 34:26.

gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger, and of great kindness] Almost verbatim from Exodus 34:6 (the great declaration of Jehovah’s character, made to Moses): similarly Psalm 86:15; Psalm 103:8; Psalm 145:8, Jonah 4:2 b, Nehemiah 9:17; comp. also the first two epithets in Numbers 14:18; Psalm 111:4; Nehemiah 9:31; 2 Chronicles 30:9.

and repenteth him of the evil] So also Jonah 4:2 b. The evil meant is that which He has threatened to bring upon an individual or a nation. The implicit condition of Jehovah’s repentance is, of course, the prior repentance of the individual or nation concerned, and their unreserved abandonment of their evil way: see Jeremiah 18:5-12; Jonah 3:10. (Other motives are, however, sometimes assigned for Jehovah’s repentance, as Exodus 32:12-14; Amos 7:2-3; Amos 7:5-6; cf. 2 Samuel 24:16.)

Verse 13. - And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God. Where there is real contrition of spirit because of sin, outward manifestations are both suitable and proper, though not by way of display or for sake of ostentation. But they were reminded, on the other hand, that mere outward manifestations avail nothing unless there also exist the deep inward feelings which are in harmony with and naturally underlie those manifestations. Out of such inward feelings those outward expressions properly originate; hence, after the exhortation to fasting and weeping and mourning, it is added, "Rend your heart, and not your garments." To rend the garments, among the Jews, was a token of great grief, and imported that the individual who did so was overwhelmed with excessive sorrow, or had encountered some terrible calamity. Thus we read of Jacob, on receiving his son Joseph's coat of many colours, rending his clothes, putting sackcloth on his loins, and mourning for his son many days (comp. also 2 Chronicles 34:27). In these instances the sorrow was deep and genuine and bitter. It was possible, however, to exhibit the external signs of grief without any such corresponding inward feeling of sorrow; just as it is still possible for men to draw near to God with their lips while the heart is far from him. To prevent such hypocritical pretence they are commanded to rend their hearts, and not their garments only. There was no impropriety in rending their garments in token of great grief for sin and of great indignation against themselves for their folly, but the command imports that they were not to rest in the outward sign without the reality of the thing signified. For he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil. To the exhortation he subjoins the encouraging manifestation of the Divine character with which God, ages before, had favoured Moses, substituting for "truth" the trait of character best suited to the present emergency. He is not an absolute God or an inexorable God, but their covenant God and Father who invites them even to himself, against whom they had so heinously sinned and whom they had so grievously offended. Joel 2:13But there is still time to avert the completion of the judgment by sincere repentance and mourning; for God is merciful, and ready to forgive the penitent. Joel 2:12. "Yet even now, is the saying of Jehovah, turn ye to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning. Joel 2:13. And rend your heart and not your garments, and turn back to Jehovah your God; for He is gracious and merciful, long-suffering, and great in kindness, and suffers Himself to repent of the evil. Joel 2:14. Who knoweth He turns and repents, and leaves behind Him blessing, meat-offering and drink-offering for Jehovah your God?" As the plague of locusts was intended to bring the people to reflect upon their conduct towards the Lord, so was the announcement of the great day of judgment and all its terrors made with no other object than to produce repentance and conversion, and thereby promote the good of the people of God. Joel therefore appends to the threatening of judgment a summons to sincere conversion to the Lord; and this he does by first of all addressing the summons to the people as a saying of Jehovah (v. 12), and then explaining this word of God in the most emphatic manner (vv. 13, 14). The Lord God requires conversion to Himself with all the heart (cf. 1 Samuel 7:3, and Deuteronomy 6:5; and for שׂוּב עד, Hosea 14:2), associated with deep-rooted penitence on account of sin, which is to be outwardly manifested in fasting and mourning. But lest the people should content themselves with the outward signs of mourning, he proceeds in Joel 2:13 with the warning admonition, "Rend your heart, and not your garments." Rending the heart signifies contrition of heart (cf. Psalm 51:19; Ezekiel 36:26). He then assigns the motive for this demand, by pointing to the mercy and grace of God, in the words of Exodus 34:6, with which the Lord made known to Moses His inmost nature, except that in the place of ואמת, which we find in this passage, he adds, on the ground of the facts recorded in Ezekiel 32:14 and 2 Samuel 24:16, ונחם על הרעה. On the strength of these facts he hopes, even in the present instance, for forgiveness on the part of God, and the removal of the judgment. "Who knoweth?" equivalent to "perhaps;" not because "too confident a hope would have had in it something offensive to Jehovah" (Hitzig), but "lest perchance they might either despair on account of the magnitude of their crimes, or the greatness of the divine clemency might make them careless" (Jerome).

(Note: "He speaks after the manner of a terrified conscience, which is lifted up again with difficulty after a season of affliction, and begins to aspire after hope and the mercy of God. Moreover, the expression 'who knoweth' is a Hebrew phrase, which does not indicate doubt, but rather affirmation, coupled with desire, as if we were to say, 'And yet surely God will turn again.'" - Luther, Enarrat. in Joelem, Opp., Jena 1703, p. iii.)

ישׁוּב, to turn, sc. from coming to judgment. נהם as in Joel 2:13. השׁאיר אחריו, to leave behind Him, sc. when He returns to His throne in heaven (Hosea 5:15). Berâkhâh, a blessing, viz., harvest-produce for a meat-offering and drink-offering, which had been destroyed by the locusts (Joel 1:9, Joel 1:13).

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