Joel 2:31
The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the LORD come.
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Joel 2:31. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, &c. — Particular judgments upon kings and nations are often described in such terms as properly belong to the general judgment and conflagration of the heavens and the earth, as has been observed on Joel 2:10 th of this chapter. The expressions here used, in their literal sense, import the failing of light in the sun and moon, whether by eclipses or any other cause, such as perhaps, at the time here referred to, by the prodigious quantity of smoke arising from the burning of cities, towns, and villages on every side, and also of Jerusalem itself, which undoubtedly was sufficient to obscure the heavenly luminaries for some time. Or, the expression in this verse may be interpreted figuratively of the dark and melancholy state of public affairs before and at the destruction of the Jewish nation by the Romans, and of the utter overthrow of their state and government: see note on Isaiah 13:9-10. The last destruction of Jerusalem, the desolation of Judea, and the prodigious slaughter made of the Jews, might with great propriety be called, as it is here, The great and terrible day of the Lord; since the divine justice was then executed with a severity which had never been used before toward the Jewish people. The calamities of those times were indeed dreadful, almost beyond description, and seem to have exceeded any thing that any other nation had ever suffered; which was agreeable to what Moses, in the very beginning of their state, had foretold should happen to them, if ever, by their disobedience to God’s commands, and their other crimes, they should fill up the measure of their iniquity: see notes on Deuteronomy 28.2:28-32 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.Before the great and terrible Day of the Lord come - o: "The days of our life are our days wherein we do what we please; that will be the "Day of the Lord," when He, our Judge, shall require the account of all our doings. It will be "great," because it is the horizon of time and eternity; the last day of time, the beginning of eternity. It will put an end to the world, guilt, deserts, good or evil. It will be "great," because in it great things will be done. Christ with all His Angels will come down and sit on His Throne; all who have ever lived or shall live, shall be placed before Him to be judged; all thoughts, words, and deeds shall be weighed most exactly; on all a sentence will be passed, absolute, irrevocable throughout eternity; the saints shall be assigned to heaven, the ungodly to hell; a great gulf shall be placed between, which shall sever them forever, so that the ungodly shall never see the godly nor heaven nor God; but shall be shut up in a prison forever, and shall burn as long as heaven shall be heaven, or God shall be God." : "That day shall be great to the faithful, terrible to the unbelieving; great to those who said, 'Truly this is the Son of God;' terrible to those who said, 'His blood be upon us and upon our children.'" : "When then thou art hurried to any sin, think on that terrible and unendurable judgment-seat of Christ, where the Judge sits on His lofty Throne, and all creation shall stand in awe at His glorious Appearing and we shall be brought, one by one, to give account of what we have done in life. Then by him who hath done much evil in life, there will stand terrible angels. "There" will be the deep gulf, the impassable darkness, the lightless fire, retaining in darkness the power to burn, but reft of its rays. There is the empoisoned and ravenous worm insatiably devouring and never satisfied, inflicting by its gnawing pangs unbearable. There that sharpest punishment of all, that shame and everlasting reproach. Fear these things; and, instructed by this fear, hold in thy soul as with a bridle from the lust of evil." 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. Having mentioned the prodigies which were to be wrought on earth, now the prophet specifieth what shall be done in heaven, where the great luminaries shall be wonderfully affected.

The sun shall be turned into darkness; shall be greatly obscured; shall seem to be turned from a body of light to mere darkness.

The moon into blood; either by eclipse, or by the intervention of vapours drawn up from the places where was great slaughter and effusion of blood; however as to manner, it is most certain as to the event; the moon shall seem to be blood.

Before the great and the terrible day of the Lord come; great to all, terrible to the rejecters and persecutors of Christ. This day was the day of Jerusalem’s’ destruction, and burning of the temple, and slaughter of the Jews, for their violence against and murder of the Messiah, for their sins against the gospel: this was fulfilled partly in the devastation of Jerusalem, but shall fully and finally be fulfilled in the day of judgment, and at the consummation of the world. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood,.... Not by eclipses, as Aben Ezra; but by the clouds of smoke arising from the burning of towns and cities, which would be so great as to obscure the sun, and through which the moon would look like blood: or all, this may be understood in a figurative sense of the change that should be made in the ecclesiastic and civil state of the Jewish nation, signified by the "heavens" and "earth"; and particularly that their king or kingdom should be in a low, mean, and distressed condition, designed by the sun; and the change of their priesthood is signified by the "moon": so Vitringa on Isaiah 24:23; interprets the "sun" here of King Agrippa, the last king of the Jews in obscurity; and the "moon" of Ananias junior, the high priest, slain by the zealots:

before the great and the terrible day of the Lord come; not the fall of Gog and Magog, as Kimchi; not the day of the last judgment, but of the destruction of Jerusalem; not by the Chaldeans, but by the Romans; their last destruction, which was very great and terrible indeed, and in which there was a manifest appearance of the hand and power of God; see Malachi 4:1. Maimonides (u) interprets it of the destruction of Sennacherib near Jerusalem; but if that sense is not acceptable, he proposes that of the destruction of Gog and Magog, in the times of the Messiah.

(u) Moreh Nevochim, par. 2. c. 19. p. 271.

The {t} sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the LORD come.

(t) The order of nature will seem to be changed because of the horrible afflictions that will be in the world; Isa 13:10 Eze 32:7 Joe 3:15 Mt 24:29.

31. Celestial portents. The imagery may be suggested partly by eclipses (cf. on Amos 8:9), partly by unusual obscurations of sun or moon through atmospheric disturbances,—for instance, sand-storms, cyclones, flights of locusts, &c. “A dreadful whirlwind occurred here [in Allahabad] on June 2, 1838. The whole sky was blood-red, not with clouds, for there was not a cloud to be seen. Overhead moved immense masses of dust; but below there was not a breath of wind. Shortly after, the wind rose, carrying with it sand and dust. It soon became extremely dark, although the sun was still up. The darkness was not only visible but tangible. The wind wrought immense damage” (Asiatic Journal, Nov. 1838, p. 155, referred to by Ewald).

into darkness] comp. Joel 2:10, with the passages there cited.

into blood] comp. Revelation 6:12 (the imagery of which is based upon this passage, as that of Joel 2:13-14 is upon Isaiah 34:4). Ovid (quoted by Credner), among the celestial portents which he describes as preceding the death of Caesar, includes sparsi lunares sanguine currus (Met. xv. 790).

before &c.] exactly the same words as in Malachi 4:5.Verse 31. - The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord come. These wonders in the heavens follow the wonders on earth, and these obscurations of the heavenly bodies - the darkening of the sun and the dull blood-like appearance of the moon - were portents of coming judgment. These miraculous phenomena, if literally employed, may refer to those portentous sights which, as the Jewish historian Josephus and the Roman historian Tacitus testify, were witnessed, both by besiegers and besieged, during the siege and before the destruction of Jerusalem. But taken symbolically, as is preferable, blood symbolizes bloodshed; fire, the firing of a town in time of war; and pillars of smoke, the clouds of smoke rolling up to heaven from the burning or smouldering ruins of a town or city set on fire by the enemy; while the darkening of the sun and the turning of the moon into a dull blood-red would portend approaching judgment, and a change, political and ecclesiastical, in the existing constitution of things. Here particularly, by reading Joel's prophecy in the light of the New Testament, we shall understand with tolerable clearness the meaning of the symbols of the sun and moon. The symbolic language of Joel's prediction found its fulfilment, at least in part, within less than half a century from the time when Peter spoke. Scarce forty years from that Pentecostal outpouring and the ruling powers, civil and ecclesiastical, of the Jewish nation came to an end. The Jewish Church and Hebrew commonwealth went out in darkness. The moon of the latter began to wane from the first day the Roman power was set up in Palestine, but at the destruction of the capital the light of that moon was extinguished for ever; the sun of the former was long getting obscured by clouds, but at last it underwent a total and final eclipse. But why, it may be asked, are sun and moon thus symbolic of rulers superior and inferior, or of rulers of greater and less importance, or of rulers in Church and state? By the original constitution of these luminaries, as specified in the record of Creation, they were actually appointed to this, and so naturally enough the physical here, as elsewhere, underlies the symbolic, as we read, "God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night." Thus what was commenced when Judaea became a Roman province was completed when Jerusalem was destroyed and the temple burnt by the Roman army under Titus. "The day of the Lord" is an expression very common with the prophets, and always expressive of some severe visitation or special judgment. Thus we read in this same Book of the Prophet Joel, "The day of the Lord is at hand, and as a destruction from the Almighty shall it come." Again in Amos 5:18, "The day of the Lord is darkness, and not light." But other days of judicial visitation were not to be compared with this. The day of Babylon's destruction is called by Isaiah simply "the day of the Lord;" so Jeremiah speaks of the day of the destruction of Pharaoh's army at the Euphrates as "the day of the Lord;" and Joel himself designates the day of Jerusalem's destruction of Nebuchadnezzar as "the day of the Lord." But the day mentioned in the text before us is "that great and notable day of the Lord," and so it was the day of the final destruction and desolation of Jerusalem.

Yet Jehovah has done still more for Israel. Hosea 7:15. "And I have instructed, have strengthened their arms, and they think evil against me. Hosea 7:16. They turn, but not upwards: they have become like a false bow. Their princes will fall by the sword, for the defiance of their tongue: this is their derision in the land of Egypt." יסּר here is not to chastise, but to instruct, so that זרועתם (their arms) is to be taken as the object to both verbs. Instructing the arms, according to the analogy of Psalm 18:35, is equivalent to showing where and how strength is to be acquired. And the Lord has not contented Himself with merely instructing. He has also strengthened their arms, and given them power to fight, and victory over their foes (cf. 2 Kings 14:25-26). And yet they think evil of Him; not by speaking lies (Hosea 7:13), but by falling away from Him, by their idolatrous calf-worship, by which they rob the Lord of the glory due to Him alone, practically denying His true divinity. This attitude towards the Lord is summed up in two allegorical sentences in Hosea 7:16, and the ruin of their princes is foretold. They turn, or turn round, but not upwards (על, an adverb, or a substantive signifying height, as in Hosea 11:7; 2 Samuel 23:1, not "the Most High," i.e., God, although turning upwards is actually turning to God). From the fact that with all their turning about they do not turn upwards, they have become like a treacherous bow, the string of which has lost its elasticity, so that the arrows do not hit the mark (cf. Psalm 78:57). And thus Israel also fails to reach its destination. Therefore its princes shall fall. The princes are mentioned as the originators of the enmity against God, and all the misery into which they have plunged the people and kingdom. זעם, fury, here defiance or rage. Defiance of tongue the princes showed in the lies which they uttered concerning Jehovah (Hosea 7:13), and with which they blasphemed in a daring manner the omnipotence and faithfulness of the Lord. זו stands, according to a dialectical difference in the mode of pronunciation, for זה, not for זאת (Ewald, 183, a). This, namely their falling by the sword, will be for a derision to them in the land of Egypt: not because they will fall in Egypt, or perish by the sword of the Egyptians; but because they put their trust in Egypt, the derision of Egypt will come upon them when they are overthrown (cf. Isaiah 30:3, Isaiah 30:5).
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