Joel 2:6
Before their face the people shall be much pained: all faces shall gather blackness.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(6) All faces shall gather blackness.—There are different explanations of this Hebrew phrase, which expresses the result of terror. Some translate it “withdraw their ruddiness,” i.e., grow pale; others, “draw into themselves their colour;” others, “contract a livid character.” The alternative rendering in the margin, “pot,” which is that of the LXX., the Vulg., and of Luther’s translation, is obtained from the similarity of the Hebrew words for “ruddiness” and “pot.” The comparison is in this case between the faces growing black under the influence of fear, and of pots under the action of fire. The prophet Nahum uses the same expression (Joel 2:10).

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.Before their face the people shall be much pained - The locust being such a scourge of God, good reason have men to be terrified at their approach; and those are most terrified who have most felt the affliction. In Abyssinia, some province of which was desolated every year, one relates , "When the locusts travel, the people know of it a day before, not because they see them, but they see the sun yellow and the ground yellow, through the shadow which they cast on it (their wings being yellow) and immediately the people become as dead, saying, 'we are lost, for the Ambadas (so they call them) are coming.' I will say what I have seen three times; the first was at Barva. During three years that we were in this land, we often heard them say, 'such a realm, such a land, is destroyed by locusts:' and when it was so, we saw this sign, the sun was yellow, and the shadow on the earth the same, and the whole people became as dead." "The Captain of the place called Coiberia came to me with men, Clerks, and Brothers (Monks) to ask me, for the love God, to help them, that they were all lost through the locusts." : "There were men, women, children, sitting among these locusts, the young brood, as stupefied. I said to them 'why do you stay there, dying? Why do you not kill these animals, and avenge you of the evil which their parents have done you? and at least when dead, they will do you no more evil.' They answered, that they had no courage to resist a plague which God gave them for their sins. We found the roads full of men, women, and children, (some of these on foot, some in arms) their bundles of clothes on their heads, removing to some land where they might find provisions. It was pitiful to see them."

Burkhardt relates of South Arabia , "The Bedouins who occupy the peninsula of Sinai are frequently driven to despair by the multitudes of locusts, which constitute a land-plague. They remain there generally for forty or fifty days, and then disappear for the rest of the year." Pliny describes their approach , "they overshadow the sun, the nations looking up with anxiety, lest they should cover their lands. For their strength suffices, and as if it were too little to have passed seas, they traverse immense tracts, and overspread them with a cloud, fatal to the harvest."

All faces shall gather blackness - Others, of high-authority, have rendered, shall "withdraw (their) beauty" . But the word signifies to collect together, in order that what is so collected should be present, not absent ; and so is very different from another saying, the stars shall withdraw their shining Joel 2:10; Joel 3:15. The "their" had also needed to be expressed.) He expresses how the faces contract a livid color from anxiety and fear, as Jeremiah says of the Nazarites, "Their visage is darker than blackness" (Lamentations 4:8, see Margin). : "The faces are clothed with lurid hue of coming death; hence they not only grow pale, but are blackened." A slight fear drives the fresh hue from the cheek: the livid hue comes only with the deepest terror. So Isaiah says; "they look amazed one to the other; faces of flame are their faces" Isaiah 13:8.

6. much pained—namely, with terror. The Arab proverb is, "More terrible than the locusts."

faces shall gather blackness—(Isa 13:8; Jer 30:6; Na 2:10). Maurer translates, "withdraw their brightness," that is, wax pale, lose color (compare Joe 2:10; Joe 3:15).

Before their face, at the sight of these locusts, both literally and figuratively considered,

the people of the land shall be much pained; as a woman in travail is in pain, their fears shall be very great, lest these devouring creatures should seize and destroy whatever was for support of their life, and life of their families.

All faces shall gather blackness; such as is the colour of dead men, or as is the dark paleness of men frighted into fits and swoons.

Before their face the people shall be much pained,.... Or, "at their presence"; at the sight of them they shall be in pain, as a woman in travail; into such distress an army of locusts would throw them, since they might justly fear all the fruits of the earth would be devoured by them, and they should have nothing left to live upon; and a like consternation and pain the army of the Assyrians or Chaldeans upon sight filled them with, as they expected nothing but ruin and destruction from them:

all faces shall gather blackness; like that of a pot, as the word (m) signifies; or such as appears in persons dying, or in fits and swoons; and this here, through fear and hunger; see Nahum 2:10.

(m) "fuliginem", Montanus; "luridum ollae colorem", Tigurine version, Tarnovius; "ollam pro nigore ollae", Drusius.

Before their face the people shall be much pained: all faces {e} shall gather blackness.

(e) They will be pale and black because of fear, as in Na 2:10.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
6. The alarm to be caused by their approach, like that occasioned by the advance of some vast horde of invaders.

At their presence peoples are in anguish] not people, but peoples, i.e. whole nations. For the verb, comp. Deuteronomy 2:25, R.V.; Ezekiel 30:16, R.V.: it is a strong word, applied often, and specifically, to the anguish of a woman in travail (see e.g. Isaiah 13:8, where be in pain should rather be, as here, be in anguish). The ‘panic terror’ (Redtenbacher, p. 4) produced by an invasion of locusts on a large scale, can be readily imagined, if we remember not only the immense loss of property, of which they are the cause, but also the terrible destitution, which often follows in their train. In Algiers, after an invasion of locusts in 1866, 200,000 persons are said to have perished from famine. The destruction wrought frequently by the Rocky Mountain locust, over a large area of the United States, is almost incalculable (C. V. Riley, The Rocky Mountain Locust, chaps. Joel 2:5). Cf. Pliny’s words, below, p. 87.

all faces shall gather blackness] This rendering is not defensible[37]; but the meaning of the phrase (which recurs Nahum 2:10) cannot be said to be certain. Modern scholars, following Ibn Ezra and Abul-walid, generally render gather in beauty, i.e. withdraw colour and freshness (paraphrased in R.V. by are waxed pale); but it is some objection to this rendering that it gives to ḳibbçtz a sense which is otherwise only known to be associated with the synonym âsaph (see Joel 2:10).

[37] פארור for פרור would indeed not be impossible; but to suppose that “gather a boiling-pot” could be said for “gather blackness like that of a boiling-pot” is beyond the limits of credibility. Yet several of the ancient versions and mediaeval Rabbis express this sense.

Verse 6. - Before their face the people shall be much pained: all faces shall gather blackness. Peoples or nations writhe in pain or tremble at the sight of them, lest they should settle on their fields and gardens, destroying the "golden glories" of the one, and the "leafy honours" of the other. In the second member the word פָארוּר is

(1) generally connected with פָרוּר, a pot, rad. פדר, to break in pieces, and translated accordingly. Thus the Septuagint: "Every face is as the blackness of a pot;" the Syriac also: "Every face shall be black as the blackness of a pot;" in like manner the Chaldee: "All faces are covered with soot, so that they are black as a pot."

(2) But Aben Ezra connects the word with פֵאֵר, to beautify, glorify, adorn, and translates, "They withdraw (gather to themselves)their redness (ruddiness);" that is, they become pale. The 'Speaker's Commentary ' adopts this view of the expression, and illustrates it by Shakespeare's fancy of the blood being summoned from the face to help the heart in its death-struggle -

"Being all descended to the labouring heart;
Who, in the conflict that it holds with death,
Attracts the same for aidance 'gainst the enemy:
Which with the heart there cools and ne'er returneth
To blush and beautify the cheek again."
The parallel usually cited in favour of asaph being employed in the sense of withdrawing is, "And the stars shall withdraw their shining" (Joel 2:10; Joel 3:15). This proceeds on the supposition that asaph and qabhats have the same meaning of "gathering " - gathering up, gathering in, withdrawing. But D. Kimchi quotes his father (Joseph Kimchi) as objecting to this rendering, on the ground of the distinction which he asserts to prevail between them. Asaph, he says, "is used of gathering together, or in, that which is dispersed, or net present; but qabhats is not so used." Joel 2:6In Joel 2:4-6 we have a description of this mighty army of God, and of the alarm caused by its appearance among all nations. Joel 2:4. "Like the appearance of horses is its appearance; and like riding-horses, so do they run. Joel 2:5. Like rumbling of chariots on the tops of the mountains do they leap, like the crackling of flame which devours stubble, like a strong people equipped for conflict. Joel 2:6. Before it nations tremble; all faces withdraw their redness." The comparison drawn between the appearance of the locusts and that of horses refers chiefly to the head, which, when closely examined, bears a strong resemblance to the head of a horse, as Theodoret has already observed; a fact which gave rise to their being called Heupferde (hay-horses) in German. In Joel 2:4 the rapidity of their motion is compared to the running of riding-horses (pârâshı̄m); and in Joel 2:5 the noise caused by their springing motion to the rattling of chariots, the small two-wheeled war-chariots of the ancients, when driven rapidly over the rough mountain roads. The noise caused by their devouring the plants and shrubs is also compared to the burning of a flame over a stubble-field that has been set on fire, and their approach to the advance of a war force equipped for conflict. (Compare the adoption and further expansion of these similes in Revelation 9:7, Revelation 9:9). At the sight of this terrible army of God the nations tremble, so that their faces grow pale. ‛Ammı̄m means neither people (see at 1 Kings 22:28) nor the tribes of Israel, but nations generally. Joel is no doubt depicting something more here than the devastation caused by the locusts in his own day. There are differences of opinion as to the rendering of the second hemistich, which Nahum repeats in Joel 2:11. The combination of פּארוּר with פּרוּר, a pot (Chald., Syr., Jer., Luth., and others), is untenable, since פּרוּר comes from פּרר, to break in pieces, whereas פּארוּר ( equals פּארוּר) is from the root פאר, piel, to adorn, beautify, or glorify; so that the rendering, "they gather redness," i.e., glow with fear, which has an actual but not a grammatical support in Isaiah 13:8, is evidently worthless. We therefore understand פּארוּר, as Ab. Esr., Abul Wal., and others have done, in the sense of elegantia, nitor, pulchritudo, and as referring to the splendour or healthy ruddiness of the cheeks, and take קבּץ ekat dn as an intensive form of קבץ, in the sense of drawing into one's self, or withdrawing, inasmuch as fear and anguish cause the blood to fly from the face and extremities to the inward parts of the body. For the fact of the face turning pale with terror, see Jeremiah 30:6.
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