Joel 2:2
A day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness, as the morning spread on the mountains: a great people and a strong; there has not been ever the like, neither shall be any more after it, even to the years of many generations.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(2) The morning spread upon the mountains.—The Hebrew word here used for morning is derived from a verb, Shachar, which has for one meaning “to be or become black,” for the second “to break forth” as light. From this latter signification is derived the word for morning—dawn; from the former comes the word “blackness,” which gives the name Sihor to the Nile (Isaiah 23:3). It seems accordingly more in harmony with the present context to take the sense of the word in its reference to blackness, and to understand it as indicating a thick, dark, rolling cloud settled upon the mountain top. The description following comprehends equally the natural and political locusts.

Joel 2:2. A day of darkness and of gloominess — A day of great calamity and trouble, which is often expressed in the Scripture by darkness. Or, perhaps, the prophet’s words are to be taken here in the literal sense; for it is certain that, in the eastern countries, locusts will sometimes, on a sudden, cover the sky like a cloud, intercept the light of the sun, and diffuse a darkness on the tract of country over which they are flying. “Solem obumbrant,” They darken the sun, says Pliny, Nat. Hist. lib. 11:28. Thuanus, (lib. 34:7, p. 364, vol. 5.,) describing a calamity of this kind, says, Laborabat eo tempore, &c. “Syria was afflicted at that time with the want of every kind of forage and provisions, on account of such a multitude of locusts as was never seen before in the memory of man, which, like a thick cloud, darkening the light in mid-day, flying to and fro, devoured the fruits of the ground everywhere.” And Adanson, in his Voyage to Senegal, p. 127, says, “Suddenly there came over our heads a thick cloud, which darkened the air and deprived us of the rays of the sun. We soon found that it was owing to a cloud of locusts.” And in Chandler, on Joel 2:10, Hermanus is quoted, as saying that “locusts obscure the sun for the space of a mile;” and Aloysius, “for the space of twelve miles.” For a further account of them, see note on Exodus 10:5; Exodus 10:13. As the morning spread upon the mountains — This signifies, that the darkness occasioned by the locusts should be very diffusive or general; that they should spread themselves everywhere, as the rays of the morning do upon the mountains. A great people and strong — The locusts, being represented as a great army coming to destroy, are here termed a great and strong people: see note on chap. Joel 1:6. There hath not been ever the like, &c. — The locusts which plagued Egypt are described after the same manner, Exodus 10:14. The expression in both places seems to be proverbial, and intended to set forth the extraordinary greatness of the judgment; but is not to be understood too strictly, according to the grammatical sense of the words. Thus we read of Hezekiah, that after him there was none like him among all the kings of Judah, 2 Kings 18:5; and yet the same character is given of Josiah, 2 Kings 23:25.2:1-14 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.A day of darkness and of gloominess - o: "A day full of miseries; wherefore he accumulates so many names of terrors. There was inner darkness in the heart, and the darkness of tribulation without. They hid themselves in dark places. There was the cloud between God and them; so that they were not protected nor heard by Him, of which Jeremiah saith, "Thou hast covered Thyself with a cloud, that our prayers should not pass through" Lamentations 3:44. There was the whirlwind of tempest within and without, taking away all rest, tranquility and peace. Whence Jeremiah hath, "A whirlwind of the Lord is gone forth injury, it shall fall grievously upon the head of the wicked. The anger of the Lord shall not return, until He have executed it" Jeremiah 23:19. "The Day of the Lord too shall come as a thief in the night" 1 Thessalonians 5:2. "Clouds and darkness are round about Him" Psalm 97:2.

A day of clouds and of thick darkness - The locusts are but the faint shadow of the coming evils, yet as the first harbingers of God's successive judgments, the imagery, even in tills picture is probably taken from them. At least there is nothing in which writers, of every character, are so agreed, as in speaking of locusts as clouds darkening the sun. : "These creatures do not come in legions, but in whole clouds, 5 or 6 leagues in length and 2 or 3 in breadth. All the air is full and darkened when they fly. Though the sun shine ever so bright, it is no brighter than when most clouded." : "In Senegal we have seen a vast multitude of locusts shadowing the air, for they come almost every three years, and darken the sky." : "About 8 o'clock there arose above us a thick cloud, which darkened the air, depriving us of the rays of the sun. Every one was astonished at so sudden a change in the air, which is so seldom clouded at this season; but we soon saw that it was owing to a cloud of locusts. It was about 20 or 30 toises from the ground (120-180 feet) and covered several leagues of the country, when it discharged a shower of locusts, who fed there while they rested, and then resumed their flight. This cloud was brought by a pretty strong wind, it was all the morning passing the neighborhood, and the same wind, it was thought, precipitated it in the sea." : "They take off from the place the light of day, and a sort of eclipse is formed." : "In the middle of April their numbers were so vastly increased, that in the heat of the day they formed themselves into large bodies, appeared like a succession of clouds and darkened the sun." : "On looking up we perceived an immense cloud, here and there semi-transparent, in other parts quite black, that spread itself all over the sky, and at intervals shadowed the sun."

The most unimaginative writers have said the same ; "When they first appear, a thick dark cloud is seen very high in the air, which, as it passes, obscures the sun. Their swarms were so astonishing in all the steppes over which we passed in this part of our journey (the Crimea,) that the whole face of nature might have been described as concealed by a living veil." : "When these clouds of locusts take their flight to surmount some obstacle, or traverse more rapidly a desert soil, one may say, to the letter, that the heaven is darkened by them."

As the morning spread upon the mountains - Some have thought this too to allude to the appearance which the inhabitants of Abyssinia too well knew, as preceding the coming of the locusts (see the note at Joel 2:6). A sombre yellow light is cast on the ground, from the reflection, it was thought, of their yellow wings. But that appearance itself seems to be unique to that country, or perhaps to certain flights of locusts. The image naturally describes, the suddenness, universality of the darkness, when people looked for light. As the mountain-tops first catch the gladdening rays of the sun, ere yet it riseth on the plains, and the light spreads from height to height, until the whole earth is arrayed in light, so wide and universal shall the outspreading be, but it shall be of darkness, not of light; the light itself shall be turned into darkness.

A great people and a strong - The imagery throughout these verses is taken from the flight and inroad of locusts. The allegory is so complete, that the prophet compares them to those things which are, in part, intended under them, warriors, horses and instruments of war; and this, the more, because neither locusts, nor armies are exclusively intended. The object of the allegory is to describe the order and course of the divine judgments; how they are terrific, irresistible, universal, overwhelming, penetrating everywhere, overspreading all things, excluded by nothing. The locusts are the more striking symbol of this, through their minuteness and their number. They are little miniatures of a wellordered army, unhindered by what would be physical obstacles to larger creatures, moving in order inimitable even by man, and, from their number, desolating to the uttermost. "What more countless or mightier than the locusts," asks Jerome, who had seen their inroads, "which human industry cannot resist?" "It is a thing invincible," says Cyril, "their invasion is altogether irresistible, and suffices utterly to destroy all in the fields." Yet each of these creatures is small, so that they would be powerless and contemptible, except in the Hands of Him, who brings them in numbers which can be wielded only by the Creator. Wonderful image of the judgments of God, who marshals and combines in one, causes each unavailing in itself but working together the full completion of His inscrutable Will.

There hath not been ever the like - The courses of sin and of punishment are ever recommencing anew in some part of the world and of the Church. The whole order of each, sin and punishment, will culminate once only, in the Day of Judgment. Then only will these words have their complete fulfillment. The Day of Judgment alone is that Day of terror and of woe, such as never has been before, and shall never be again. For there will be no new day or time of terror. Eternal punishment will only be the continuation of the sentence adjudged then. But, in time and in the course of God's Providential government, the sins of each soul or people or Church draw down visitations, which are God's final judgments there. Such to the Jewish people, before the captivity, was the destruction of the temple, the taking of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, and that captivity itself. The Jewish polity was never again restored as before.

Such, to the new polity after the captivity, was the destruction by the Romans. Eighteen hundred years have seen nothing like it. The Vandals and then the Muslims swept over the Churches of North Africa, each destructive in its own way. twelve centuries have witnessed one unbroken desolation of the Church in Africa. In Constantinople, and Asia Minor, Palestine, Persia, Churches of the Redeemer became the mosques of the false prophet. Centuries have flowed by, "yet we see not our signs, neither is there any among us, that knoweth how long" Psalm 74:9. Wealthy, busy, restless, intellectual, degraded, London, sender forth of missionaries, but, save in China, the largest pagan city in the world; converter of the isles of the sea, but thyself unconverted; fullest of riches and of misery, of civilization and of savage life, of refinements and debasement; heart, whose pulses are felt in every continent, but thyself diseased and feeble, wilt thou, in this thy day, anticipate by thy conversion the Day of the Lord, or will It come upon thee, "as hath never been the like, nor shall be, for the years of many generations?" Shalt thou win thy lost ones to Christ, or be thyself the birthplace or abode of antichrist? "O Lord God, Thou knowest."

Yet the words have fulfillments short of the end. Even of successive chastisements upon the same people, each may have some aggravation unique to itself, so that of each, in turn, it may be said, in that respect, that no former visitation had been like it, none afterward should resemble it. Thus the Chaldaeans were chief in fierceness, Antiochus Epiphanes in his madness against God, the Romans in the completeness of the desolation. The fourth beast which Daniel saw "was dreadful and terrible and strong exceedingly, and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it" Daniel 7:7-19. The persecutions of the Roman Emperors were in extent and cruelty far beyond any before them. They shall be as nothing, in comparison to the deceivableness and oppression of antichrist. The prophet, however, does not say that there should be absolutely none like it, but only not "for the years of many genertions." The words "unto generation and generation" elsewhere mean "forever;" here the word "years" may limit them to length of time. God, after some signal visitation, leaves a soul or a people to the silent workings of His grace or of His Providence. The marked interpositions of His Providence, are like His extraordinary miracles, rare; else, like the ordinary miracles of His daily operations, they would cease to be interpositions.

2. darkness … gloominess … clouds … thick darkness—accumulation of synonyms, to intensify the picture of calamity (Isa 8:22). Appropriate here, as the swarms of locusts intercepting the sunlight suggested darkness as a fit image of the coming visitation.

as the morning spread upon the mountains: a great people—Substitute a comma for a colon after mountains: As the morning light spreads itself over the mountains, so a people numerous [Maurer] and strong shall spread themselves. The suddenness of the rising of the morning light, which gilds the mountain tops first, is less probably thought by others to be the point of comparison to the sudden inroad of the foe. Maurer refers it to the yellow splendor which arises from the reflection of the sunlight on the wings of the immense hosts of locusts as they approach. This is likely; understanding, however, that the locusts are only the symbols of human foes. The immense Assyrian host of invaders under Sennacherib (compare Isa 37:36) destroyed by God (Joe 2:18, 20, 21), may be the primary objects of the prophecy; but ultimately the last antichristian confederacy, destroyed by special divine interposition, is meant (see on [1131]Joe 3:2).

there hath not been ever the like—(Compare Joe 1:2; Ex 10:14).

A day of darkness and of gloominess; metaphorically taken for a time of exceeding great troubles and calamities, according to the style of the Scriptures, which express prosperity by the metaphor of light, and adversity by darkness. which certainly is intended here; and the synonymous terms are here multiplied, to intimate the extremity and length of these troubles. And this passage may well allude to the day of judgment, and the calamities which shall precede that day.

Thick darkness does undoubtedly imply, as the gradual approach, so the dismal effect of God’s judgments and the Jews’ miseries. See this word used 2 Samuel 22:10, with 12-16 Psa 18:9,11. It was such terror with which God gave the law, and in such he will punish the transgressors of his law.

As the morning spread upon the mountains; as the morning spreads itself suddenly over all the hemisphere, and as it first spreads itself upon the high mountains, so should the approaching calamities overtake this people.

A great people: this seems more directly to intend the Babylonians rather than locusts, yet both are numerous, as the word imports, Heb.: see Joel 1:6.

And a strong; bold to attempt, and mighty in strength to execute; both true of Assyrians or Babylonians, or the locusts.

There hath not been ever the like, neither shall be any more: locusts, emblem of the warlike nations, and the spoil done by both, are here described the greatest that ever yet were known; and of the Assyrian or Babylonian spoil made in Judea, the history doth ascertain this.

Even to the years of many generations; if ever the like be, it shall not be in many ages to come. A day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness,.... Alluding to the gloomy and thick darkness caused by the locusts, which sometimes come in prodigious numbers, like thick clouds, and darken the air; so the land of Egypt was darkened by them, Exodus 10:15; historians and travellers relate, as Bochart (f) has shown, that these creatures will fly like a cloud, and darken the heavens at noonday, cover the sun, and hinder the rays of it from touching the earth; though all these phrases may be expressive of great afflictions and calamities, which are often in Scripture signified by darkness, as prosperity is by light; see Isaiah 8:22;

as the morning spread upon the mountains; as the morning light, when it first appears, diffuses itself in a moment throughout the earth, and is first seen on the tops of the mountains (g); so these locusts, and this calamity threatened, should suddenly and at once come, and be spread over the whole land; and which could no more be resisted than the morning light. The Vulgate Latin version renders it, in connection with the next clause, "as the morning spread upon the mountains, a people much and mighty"; but the accents will not admit of it; though it may seem a little improper that the same thing should be as a dark day, and: the morning light; wherefore Cocceius understands the whole of the day of Christ, which was light to many nations, and darkness to the wicked Jews:

a great people and a strong; numerous and mighty, many in number, mighty in strength; so the locusts are represented as a nation and people for might and multitude, Joel 1:6; an emblem of the Chaldeans and Babylonians, who were a large and powerful people:

there hath not been ever the like, neither shall any more after it,

even to the years of many generations; that is, in the land of Judea; otherwise there might have been the like before in other places, as in Egypt, and since in other countries. Jarchi, Aben Ezra, and Kimchi, account for it thus; that it was never known, before or since, that four kinds of locusts came together; as for the plague of Egypt, there was but one sort of them, they say; but it is best to understand it of the like not having been in the same country: and such a numerous and powerful army as that of the Chaldeans had not been in Judea, and made such havoc and desolation as that did; nor would any hereafter, for many generations, even until the Romans came and took away their place and nation.

(f) Hierozoic. par. 2. l. 4. c. 5. p. 479. (g) "Postera vix summos spargebat lumine montes Orta dies----", Virgil. Aeneid. 12.

A {b} day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness, as the morning spread upon the mountains: a {c} great people and a strong; there hath not been ever the like, neither shall be any more after it, even to the years of many generations.

(b) Of affliction and trouble.

(c) Meaning, the Assyrians.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
2–11. The signs of the approaching Day.

A day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness] So Zephaniah 1:15. Four synonyms are combined, for the purpose of emphasizing the darkness, which the prophet has in view. Darkness is, in Hebrew poetry, a common figure for calamity (comp. on Amos 5:18); but here, no doubt, the image is suggested by the fact that a flight of locusts, as it approaches, presents the appearance of a black cloud, which, as it passes, obscures the sun, and even sometimes darkens the whole sky. Speaking of a ‘column of locusts,’ which appeared in India, a writer says, ‘it was so compact 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’ (ap. Kirby on Entomology, Letter VI.). “Our attention has often been attracted by the sudden darkening of the sun in a summer sky, accompanied by the peculiar noise which a swarm of locusts always makes moving through the air” (Van Lennep, Bible Lands, p. 315; comp. the illustration, p. 317). Many other observers speak similarly; cf. below, p. 87 ff.

As the dawn spread upon the mountains, a people great and strong!] The words as the dawn &c. are to be connected with what follows, not with what precedes (which belongs rather to Joel 2:1); and the allusion is probably to the glimmering brightness produced by the reflexion of the sun’s rays from the wings of the locusts, which the prophet compares poetically to the early dawn as it first appears upon the mountains. “The day before the locusts arrived, we were certain that they were, approaching from a yellow reflexion produced by their yellow wings in the heavens. As soon as this was observed, no one doubted that a vast swarm of locusts was at hand” (from a description quoted by Credner, p. 274). Of a flight of locusts in the Sinai peninsula, the Rev. F. W. Holland writes, “They soon increased in number, and as their glazed wings glanced in the sun, they had the appearance of a snow-storm. Many settled on the ground, which was soon in many places quite yellow with them, and every blade of green soon disappeared” (ap. Tristram, N.H.B[35] p. 316). “Their flight may be likened to an immense snow storm, extending from the ground to a height at which our visual organs perceive them only a minute, darting scintillations …, a vast cloud of animated specks, glittering against the sun. On the horizon they often appear as a dust tornado, riding upon the wind like an ominous hail-storm, eddying and whirling about and finally sweeping up to and past you, with a power that is irresistible” (C. V. Riley, The Rocky Mountain Locust, p. 85 f.).

[35] .H.B. … H. B. Tristram, Natural History of the Bible (1868).

a great people and a strong] terms applied elsewhere to a human nation (Exodus 1:9; Deuteronomy 7:1 : comp. on ch. Joel 1:6); and suitable to locusts, because they advance not only in vast numbers, but also (comp. on Joel 2:5; Joel 2:7-8) with the order and directness of an organized host, against which all measures of defence are practically unavailing.

there hath not been, &c.] cf. Exodus 10:14 b.Verse 2. - A day of darkness and of glooming, a day of clouds and of thick darkness. It was, indeed, a day of Divine judgment, a day of sore distress. Besides the common terms for "darkness" and "cloud," there are two other terms, אֲפֵלָה, thick and dense darkness, such as ensues after sunset; the root אָפַל, though not used in the Hebrew, is cognate with the Arabic afala, properly, to "set as the sun:" compare naphal, nabhal, abhal; while עְרָפֶל is blended from the triliterals עָרִיפ, a cloud, and אָפַל, to be dark (compare ὀρφνός and ὀρφνή), darkness of donas, thick clouds.

(1) Some understand this darkness literally, as in the description of the plague of locusts in Egypt it is written, "They covered the face of the whole earth, so that the land was darkened."

(2) Others understand it figuratively, as light denotes prosperity, and darkness adversity. Thus Kimchi says, "Affliction is likened to darkness, as joy is likened to light." At the same time, he mentions the literal exposition: "Or," he says, "through the multitude of the locusts the land is darkened;" and refers to Exodus 10:15, "For they covered the face of the whole earth, so that the land was darkened." As the morning spread upon the mountains.

(1) Some explain this of the locust-army stretching far like the morning light, as it breaks over the hills. Thus Pococke, "If shachar be rendered, as most generally, the morning, and the light thereof meant, then the meaning thereof seems to express the sudden coming and the widespreading of the thing spoken of, so as not to be hindered, in that resembling the morning light, which in a moment discovers itself on the tops of the mountains (on which it first appeareth), though at never so great a distance one from another." The wide and quick diffusion of this plague, like that of the morning light, is the thing meant. But

(2) Keil understands shachar of the yellow light which proceeds from swarms of locusts as they approach, and translates, "Like morning dawn spread over the mountains is it" (i.e. the glimmer on their wings). "The prophet's meaning," he adds, "is evident enough from what follows. He clearly refers to the bright glimmer, or splendour, which is seen in the sky as a swarm of locusts approaches, from the reflection of the sun's rays from their wings." Thus the subject is neither yom nor 'am, which the Vulgate, contrary to the accents, joins to it.

(3) Others. again, connect the expression closely with the "darkness" preceding, and translate, "Like the morning twilight spread upon the mountains," that is, before it descends into the valleys. Rather, as Wunsche, "Like the gray of the morning," etc. (comp. Exodus 10:15 and שחוד and שיחור). Exposition

(1) is confirmed by Rashi, who says, "The locusts and the palmer-worms are spread over the mountains, as the morning dawn is spread through (in) an the world." Similarly Aben Ezra, "Like the dawn which is diffused in an instant." Kimchi's comment is fuller, but to the same effect: "As the morning dawn which is spread over the mountains as in an instant, for there is called the beginning of the sun in his going forth, because of their height; so then the locusts are spread and extended over the land in an instant." With this exposition of the clause we may compare Virgil's -

"Postera vix summos spargebat lumine montes
Orta dies."


"The following daybreak had scarce begun
to sow the mountain-tops with light."
There hath not been ever the like, neither shall be any more after it, even to the years of many generations. This is a hyperbolic mode of speech, to denote the extraordinary and unusual severity of the disaster. The Hebrew commentators are at pains to reconcile what appears to them a discrepancy. They say, "It was never known before or since that four kinds of locusts came to-together;" as for the plague of Egypt;there was but one sort of them, they say. The correct explanation is that the like had not been in the same country, that is, the land of Judaea, though elsewhere there might have been the like, as in Egypt before, or in other countries since. "And I am like the moth to Ephraim, and like the worm to the house of Judah." The moth and worm are figures employed to represent destructive powers; the moth destroying clothes (Isaiah 50:9; Isaiah 51:8; Psalm 39:12), the worm injuring both wood and flesh. They are both connected again in Job 13:28, as things which destroy slowly but surely, to represent, as Calvin says, lenta Dei judicia. God becomes a destructive power to the sinner through the thorn of conscience, and the chastisements which are intended to effect his reformation, but which lead inevitably to his ruin when he hardens himself against them. The preaching of the law by the prophets sharpened the thorn in the conscience of Israel and Judah. The chastisement consisted in the infliction of the punishments threatened in the law, viz., in plagues and invasions of their foes.
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