Joel 2:30
And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke.
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(30, 31) The sun . . . and the moon.—These words, recalling some of the portents in the ancient history of the Jews (especially as instanced in some of the plagues of Egypt) are taken up by our Lord Himself, as ushering in the great day of judgment; and they are echoed again by St. John in the vision of the opening of the sixth seal: “For the great day of His wrath is come, and who shall be able to stand?” (Comp. Joel 2:11 of this chapter.) The sun and moon, &c., may include the luminaries in heaven and the potentates on earth.

Joel 2:30. And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth, &c. — Whoever will be at the pains to compare this prediction with the prophecy of Christ, Matthew 24., and Luke 21., will have no doubt concerning the application of it. It principally and evidently refers to the destruction of the city and temple of Jerusalem, and the desolation of Judea by the Romans; a judgment justly inflicted upon the Jewish nation for their rejecting and crucifying their Messiah, resisting the Holy Spirit, contemning the gospel and the means of grace connected therewith, and persecuting the apostles and God’s other messengers. Thus Malachi, after he had foretold the coming of the Messiah, preceded by that of his forerunner John the Baptist, (chap. Joel 3:1,) immediately adds, that his coming should be attended with terrible judgments upon the disobedient, Joel 3:2-5, and chap. 4:1. The prophet in the next clause predicts also the extraordinary signs which were to be forerunners of that destruction, by blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke, meaning probably the great slaughter which should be made of men, and the burning of the towns and cities of Judea, events which preceded that last and finishing stroke of the divine vengeance, the destruction of Jerusalem. He may also refer, perhaps, in the last expression, to the comet which hung over their city, and the fearful sights seen in the air some time before, which are mentioned by Josephus, and were foretold by Christ, Luke 21:11; and of which the reader may see an account in the note on Isaiah 66:6.2:28-32 The promise began to be fulfilled on the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was poured out, and it was continued in the converting grace and miraculous gifts conferred on both Jews and Gentiles. The judgments of God upon a sinful world, only go before the judgment of the world in the last day. Calling on God supposes knowledge of him, faith in him, desire toward him, dependence on him, and, as evidence of the sincerity of all this, conscientious obedience to him. Those only shall be delivered in the great day, who are now effectually called from sin to God, from self to Christ, from things below to things above.And I will shew wonders - Each revelation of God prepares the way for another, until that last revelation of His love and of His wrath in the Great Day. In delivering His people from Egypt, "the Lord shewed signs and wonders, great and sore, upon Egypt Deuteronomy 6:22. Here, in allusion to it, He says, in the same words, of the new revelation, "I will shew," or "give, wonders, or wondrous signs," (as the word includes both) wonders beyond the course and order of nature, and portending other dispensations of God, of joy to His faithful, terror to His enemies. As when Israel came out of Egypt, "the pillar of the cloud was a cloud and darkness to the camp of the Egyptians," but "gave light by night" to the "camp of Israel" Exodus 14:19-20, so all God's workings are light and darkness at once, according as people are, who see them or to whom they come. These wonders in heaven and earth "began in" the First Coming and "Passion of Christ, grew in the destruction of Jerusalem, but shall be perfectly fulfilled toward the end of the world, before the final Judgment, and the destruction of the Universe." At the birth of Christ, there was "the star" which appeared unto the wise men, "and the multitude of the heavenly host," whom the shepherds saw. At His Atoning Death, "the sun was darkened," there was the three hours' darkness over the whole land; and on earth "the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom, and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent, and the graves were opened" Luke 23:44-45; Matthew 27:45, Matthew 27:51-52 : and the Blood and water issued from the Saviour's side. After His Resurrection, there was the vision of Angels, terrible to the soldiers who watched the sepulchre, comforting to the women who sought to honor Jesus. His Resurrection was a sign on earth, His Ascension in earth and heaven. But our Lord speaks of signs both in earth and heaven, as well before the destruction of Jerusalem, as before His second Coming.

With regard to the details, it seems probable that this is an instance of what we may call an inverted parallelism, that having mentioned generally that God would give "signs in (1) heaven and (2) earth," the prophet first instances the "signs in earth," and then those "in heaven." A very intellectual Jewish expositor has suggested this, and certainly it is frequent enough to be, in conciser forms, one of the idioms of the sacred language. In such case, "the blood and fire and pillars of smoke, will be signs in earth; the turning of the sun into darkness and the moon into blood will be signs in heaven." When fortelling the destruction of Jerusalem, the Day of vengeance, which fell with such accumulated horror on the devoted city, and has for these 1800 years dispersed the people of Israel to the four winds, our Lord mentions first the signs on earth, then those in heaven. "Nation shall arise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and great earthquakes shall be in divers places, and famines, and pestilences; and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven. Luke 21:10-11. Before the Day of Judgment our Lord also speaks of both Luke 21:25-26;

(1) "there shall be signs in the sun and in the moon and in the stars;

(2) and upon the earth distress of nations with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; people's hearts failing them for fear and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of heaven shall be shaken."

The Jewish historian relates signs both in heaven and in earth, before the destruction of Jerusalem. : "A star stood like a sword over Jerusalem;" "a light which, when the people were assembled at the Passover at 9 at night, shone so brightly around the altar and the temple, that it seemed like bright day, and this for half an hour; the eastern door of the temple, which 20 men scarcely shut at eventide, stayed with iron-bound bars and very deep bolts let down into the threshhold of one solid stone, was seen at 6 o'clock at night to open of its own accord; chariots and armed troops were seen along the whole country, coursing through the clouds, encircling the cities; at the feast of Pentecost, the priests entering the temple by night, as their wont was for worship, first perceived a great movement and sound, and then a multitudinous voice, 'Let us depart hence.'" These signs were authenticated by the multitude or character of those who witnessed them.

30, 31. As Messiah's manifestation is full of joy to believers, so it has an aspect of wrath to unbelievers, which is represented here. Thus when the Jews received Him not in His coming of grace, He came in judgment on Jerusalem. Physical prodigies, massacres, and conflagrations preceded its destruction [Josephus, Wars of the Jews]. To these the language here may allude; but the figures chiefly symbolize political revolutions and changes in the ruling powers of the world, prognosticated by previous disasters (Am 8:9; Mt 24:29; Lu 21:25-27), and convulsions such as preceded the overthrow of the Jewish polity. Such shall probably occur in a more appalling degree before the final destruction of the ungodly world ("the great and terrible day of Jehovah," compare Mal 4:5), of which Jerusalem's overthrow is the type and earnest. And I will show wonders; as he promiseth such grace to believers, so he warneth them that they should not be surprised with those alarming prodigies which in those days God would show, which would usher in the hard times that should be chastisement to the best, and destruction to the worst: whoso will read and observe what historians and naturalists report of those times will see this fulfilled in the very letter, and Matthew 24:7,29 Mr 13:24 Luke 21:11,25.

In the heavens and in the earth; above men, and under their feet; all which signs are particularly named, and first the signs on the earth.

Blood; possibly eruption of blood, as some fountains have been reported to have run with blood, and these prefiguring the great effusion of blood by the sword and wars following, or by antichristian persecutions.

Fire; either breaking out of the earth, or else unusual lightnings, and unparalleled flashes of lightnings in the lower region of the air, setting many things on fire.

Pillars of smoke; from those burning things fired by lightnings, or by extraordinary flashes, a smoke shall go up like a pillar. Particular instances of these may not here be gathered together, but Hottinger, that learned and painful historian, hath gathered many together of the first age, and so of the following ages of the church, in his Ecclesiastical History, which who desireth may consult. And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth,.... This, and what follow, refer to the prodigies seen in the air, and done in the earth, a little before the destruction of Jerusalem (r); when in the air were seen comets and blazing stars, particularly one in the form of a sword, hanging over Jerusalem, and appearances of armies engaged in battle; and, on the earth, a flame was seen in the temple, and a voice heard in it, saying, let us go hence; the doors of it opened of themselves; an idiot went about, crying woe to the people, woe to the city, &c.

blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke; "blood" may design the great slaughter of then by the Roman army in the land of Judea, and by murders committed among themselves in the city of Jerusalem, which were very horrible, and of great numbers; "fire", the burning of towns and cities; though Kimchi interprets it of lightnings in the heavens; and "pillars of smoke", rising up in straightness and height like palm trees, as the word (s) signifies, vast quantities of it arising from cities and towns burnt. Gussetius (t) interprets this of the burning of the martyrs in the first ages of Christianity, and of their spiritual affections, which ascended upwards to God, and were grateful to him; see Sol 3:6.

(r) Vid. Joseph. De Bello Jud. l. 6. c. 5. sect. 3.((s) "palmas fumi", Piscator, Cocceius. (t) Ebr. Comment. p. 947.

And I will shew {s} wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke.

(s) He warns the faithful what terrible things would come, with the intent that they should not look for continual quietness in this world: and yet in all these troubles he would preserve them.

30–31. The signs of approaching judgement which will then appear.

shew] lit. give, as Exodus 7:9; Deuteronomy 6:22.

wonders] better (for the word used has no connexion with those commonly rendered wonderful, wondrous) portents, extraordinary phenomena—natural, or supernatural, as the case might be—arresting attention: see e.g. Exodus 4:21; Exodus 7:9; Isaiah 8:18; Ezekiel 12:11.

blood and fire] i.e. either, as some suppose, wars on an unprecedented scale (‘portents in the earth’), or more probably (as wars are not suggested by the context), abnormal atmospherical phenomena (cf. Joel 2:31).

pillars of smoke] Song of Solomon 3:6, of the smoke of incense, heralding a procession (the word rendered pillars occurs only in these two passages). Possibly of the columns of smoke rising up from burnt cities (Jdg 20:38; Jdg 20:40; cf. Isaiah 9:18); more probably (Thomson, The Land and the Book, Southern Pal., p. 142) with allusion to columns of sand and dust raised high in the air by local whirlwinds accompanying a sirocco, which sometimes “march with great rapidity over the open plain, and closely resemble ‘pillars of smoke’.”Verse 30. - And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. Along with the wonderful distribution of gifts and graces at the Day of Pentecost, attention is directed to portents of destructive visitation; after a dispensation of mercy follows a dispensation of wrath; mercy and judgment thus succeed each other in the providence of God. The visitation of mercy may, by way of contrast, suggest that of judgment; or the connection of this and the following verses with the preceding may be the plague of the locusts, the mind passing on from that visitation to the visitation at the destruction of Jerusalem, as also to that which shall take place at the judgment of the last day. Our Lord, in the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew, seems to mingle the portents which were to precede the destruction of Jerusalem with those that shall usher in the judgment-day. There may Be some doubt whether the expressions before us are to Be understood literally or figuratively. In either case coming events were casting their shadows before; and the appearances enumerated, whether taken in a literal or figurative sense, were symbolical of great revolutionary changes. The expressions themselves reflect the miracles of Egypt. Of the wonders on earth which the prophet first mentions, the blood brings to mind the changing of the Nile-water into blood; the fire reminds us of the fire that ran along upon the ground, mingled with the hail; while the smoke carries back our thoughts to the wonderful events of the wilderness and of the encampment at Sinai, when, as Jehovah descended upon the mount, "Mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace." "Woe to them! for they have flown from me; devastation to them! for they have fallen away from me. I would redeem them, but they speak lies concerning me. Hosea 7:14. They did not cry to me in their heart, but howl upon their beds; they crowd together for corn and new wine, and depart against me." The Lord, thinking of the chastisement, exclaims, Woe to them, because they have fled from Him! Nâdad, which is applied to the flying of birds, points back to the figures employed in Hosea 7:11, Hosea 7:12. Shōd, used as an exclamation, gives the literal explanation of 'ōi (woe). The imperfect 'ephdēm cannot be taken as referring to the redemption out of Egypt, because it does not stand for the preterite. It is rather voluntative or optative. "I would (should like to) redeem them (still); but they say I cannot and will not do it." These are the lies which they utter concerning Jehovah, partly with their mouths and partly by their actions, namely, in the fact that they do not seek help from Him, as is explained in Hosea 7:14. They cry to the Lord; yet it does not come from the heart, but (כּי after לא) they howl (יילילוּ, cf. Ges. 70, 2, note) upon their beds, in unbelieving despair at the distress that has come upon them. What follows points to this. Hithgōrēr, to assemble, to crowd together (Psalm 56:7; Psalm 59:4; Isaiah 54:15); here to gather in troops or crowd together for corn and new wine, because their only desire is to fill their belly. Thus they depart from God. The construction of סוּר with ב, instead of with מן or מאחרי, is a pregnant one: to depart and turn against God.
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