Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of the LORD cometh, for it is nigh at hand;
Verses 1-11. - These verses contain a further description of the calamity occasioned by the locusts and the appearance presented by them; the calling of a congregational meeting for penitence and prayer; the reason assigned in the coming of the day of the Lord. Verse 1. - Blow ye the trumpet (margin, cornet) in Zion, and sound an alarm (or, cause it to sound) in my holy mountain. The shophar, or far-sounding horn, and probably the chatsoterah, the hazar or silver trumpet, were called into requisition. The priests are urged with great vehemence, as tiqu shophar and hariu imply, to apprise the people that the day of Jehovah's terrible judgment was near at hand, and to prepare for it. This alarm was to be sounded from Zion, the dry or sunny hill, the holy moun-rain. The noun qadosh like tsadiq, is applied to persons, therefore the noun qodshe is used. It rose to an elevation of 2539 feet above the level of the Mediterranean Sea. It was the place of the ark in David's day, and so of the visible symbol of the Divine presence, and therefore the holy mountain, though subsequently Moriah was chosen as the temple-hill. Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of the Lord cometh, for it is nigh at hand. The effect here precedes the cause, as if what is upper. most in the heart comes first to the lips; while the abruptness may, perhaps, express the excitement and intensity of feeling. But how could the Lord's day be said to have come (ba is perfect), and yet to be near at hand? Hengstenberg replies that, in the intuition of the prophet, it had already come, though in reality it was only drawing near. Keil's solution of the difficulty is more satisfactory: every particular judgment that takes place in the history of God's kingdom is the day of the Lord, and yet only approaching as far as the complete fulfilment was concerned.
A day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness, as the morning spread upon the mountains: a 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.
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
"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.
A fire devoureth before them; and behind them a flame burneth: the land is as the garden of Eden before them, and behind them a desolate wilderness; yea, and nothing shall escape them.
Verse 3. - A fire devoureth before them; and behind them a flame burneth.
(1) The fire was the extreme drought preceding them; and the flame refers to the devastation of the locusts, for the places laid waste by them presented the appearance of being burnt with fire, the locusts consuming not only the grain and grass, but the very roots.
(2) Or it may refer to the locusts themselves; their destructive power being as though fire spread along before them. and flame swept the ground behind them.
(3) Or the fire may have been literally such, the people, in self-de fence, kindling it to stop, or turn aside, or drive away the advance of the locust-army.
(4) Keil explains this burning heat, heightened into devouring flames of fire, as accompaniments of the Divine Being "as he comes to judgment at the head of his army," like the balls of fire which attended his manifestation in Egypt, and the thunder and lightning amid which he descended at Sinai. The land is as the garden of Eden before them, and behind them a desolate wilderness. This reference by the first of the prophets to the first book of the Bible is noteworthy. The country before them, with its fertile fields and valuable vineyards, its fruit trees, and pleasant plants, and various cereals resembled a paradise. As they proceeded the corn was consumed, fruit trees and forest trees alike stripped of leaves and left barked and bare, the grass and verdure withered; so that after them nothing was to be seen but a desolate wilderness. Yea, and nothing shall escape them.
(1) That is, either nothing shall escape the locusts; or
(2) Keil contends that the meaning is that "even that which escaped did not remain to it," and refers lo to the land.
The appearance of them is as the appearance of horses; and as horsemen, so shall they run.
Verses 4-6. - These verses describe the appearance of the locusts and the alarm which their presence causes. Verse 4. - The appearance of them is as the appearance of horses. They arc said to resemble horses in the shape of the head; hence the Germans call them Heupferde, or hay-horses, and the Italians cavalette. This resemblance had been noticed long ago by Theodoret, who says, "If any one should examine accurately the head of the locust, he will find it exceedingly like that of a horse." And as horsemen, so shall they run. In rapidity of motion they resembled running horses (parashim). Like the noise of chariots on the tops of mountains shall they leap. This is the next circumstance noticed about them, viz. the noise of their motion. Their motion was peculiar; it was springing or leaping, and, when they sprang or leaped, the noise they made resembled the rattling of a jerky two-wheeled war-chariot over a rough mountain-road.
Like the noise of chariots on the tops of mountains shall they leap, like the noise of a flame of fire that devoureth the stubble, as a strong people set in battle array.
Verse 5. - The first clause may be understood
(1) according to the Authorized Version, whereby the leaping is attributed to the locusts, or
(2) asper may be understood after chariots, and then the leaping is predicated of the chariots. The last clause of the same verse is capable of three constructions, namely
(1) "They shall leap (yeraqqedim being supplied) as a strong people set in battle array;" or
(2) "The noise (qol understood) shall be as the noise of a strong people set in battle array;" or
(3) "They are as a strong people set in battle array." Kimchi interprets according to (2), "As a strong people that is set in array to fight with the people who is opposed to them, who make a great noise and shouting in order to strike terror into their enemies." Like the noise of a flame of fire that devoureth the stubble. This was the noise made by them, not when they were properly in motion, but when alighting on a district they devoured every green thing in plant, or shrub, or tree - the noise, in fact, which they made when feeding. It resembled the crackling of flame ever a field of grain or stubble set on fire. Such was the noise they made when marching, and such the noise they made when foraging - the one was like the rattling of a chariot, the other the crackling of fire. Cyril notices this peculiarity as follows: "They say that their alighting in the fields is effected not without noise; but that a certain shrill noise is produced by their teeth, while they chew into pieces the prostrate grain, as of wind scattering flame." Thus Thomson also says, "The noise made in marching and foraging was like that of a heavy shower on a distant forest." As a strong people set in battle array. Their progress is thus described: "Their steady though swift advance and regular order resembled an army well equipped and in battle array on its line of march." Cyril says of them, "By reason of their innumerable multitude, not easy to be encountered, but rather very dangerous to be met with." Again he says, "They are an irresistible thing, and altogether invincible by men." Here again the prophet's description is confirmed by the observation of intelligent eye-witnesses. Referring to Solomon's statement, "The locusts have no king, yet go they forth all of them by bands," Dr. Thomson says, "Nothing in their habits is more striking than the pertinacity with which they all pursue the same line of march, like a disciplined army. As they have no king, they must be influenced by some common instinct."
Before their face the people shall be much pained: all faces shall gather blackness.
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."
They shall run like mighty men; they shall climb the wall like men of war; and they shall march every one on his ways, and they shall not break their ranks:
Verses 7-9. - The prophet, having mentioned the consternation and terror occasioned by the approach of locusts, proceeds to compare them to an army well equipped and overcoming all impediments. Verse 7. - They shall run like mighty men. This either refers to their extreme nimbleness or rapidity of motion (compare the Homeric πόδας ὠκὺς Ἀχιλλεύς ποδάρκης, and the like), or describes their running to an assault with intrepid valour and unwearied vigour. They shall climb the wall like men of war. This marks the success of their assault; they scale the walls and make good their attack. And they shall march every one on his ways, and they shall not break their ranks. Their march is as irresistible as it is orderly. In their onward march each pursues his way, allowing no obstacle to arrest or retard his course; while in a collective body they proceed and maintain their serried ranks unbroken. The verb עבט is probably cognate with עבת, to twist, and thus to turn aside. Thus the LXX.: "They shall not turn aside their tracks;" so also the Syriac and Jerome translate it; but the Chaldee compares it with עבוט, a pledge, and, as the deposit is detained till the pledge is redeemed, takes in the meaning of delay. Rosenmuller explains it in the sense of change or exchange, from the Qal, signifying "to receive on loan," and the Hiph., "to give on loan." Otherwise it is to "interweave" (equivalent to עבת), "change." The sense of the whole is their not diverging to either side, nor straggling out of rank.
Neither shall one thrust another; they shall walk every one in his path: and when they fall upon the sword, they shall not be wounded.
Verse 8. - Neither shall one thrust another; they shall walk every one in his path. "And not one shall stand aloof from his brother." This is either the sequence of their not breaking rank, or perhaps it is a co-ordinate particular in the detail. They neither straggle away from each other, and so fall out of rank, nor do they crowd and crush and press each other while keeping rank. The order of their march is perfect, every one keeping his proper place and in the proper path. And when they fall upon the sword (margin, dart), they shall not be wounded. The meaning is either
(1) that the weapons shall not wound them, or intransitively, as in the text, they shall not be wounded, כּצע, to cut, or break in pieces, being here synonymous with פצע, to wound; or
(2) that they do not cut off, break off, or interrupt their course. No force of arms can stay their progress or step their advance. On this clause Kimchi remarks, "This army is not like other enemies, which you may hinder by the sword from coming upon you; but these light upon the swords, and are not wounded by reason of their lightness? He also remarks on גֶּבֶר, "Because he compares them with men and heroes, he uses גּבר, although this word does not apply except to the sons of men."
They shall run to and fro in the city; they shall run upon the wall, they shall climb up upon the houses; they shall enter in at the windows like a thief.
Verse 9. - They shall run to and fro in the city (or rush to the assault of the city. Wunsche, and so LXX., "They shall seize upon the city"); they shall run upon the wall, they shall climb up upon the houses; they shall enter in at the windows like a thief. In the first clause the comparison with an army still continues. The attack has succeeded, the city has been taken by assault, the victorious troops are running to and fro in the city; so far the locusts are fitly represented by an army vigorous in its advance, steady in its march, resistless in its assault, victorious in its attack, and masters of the captured city. The remainder of the ninth verse is not equally applicable to the figure and the fact in common, but belongs exclusively to the locusts themselves; they creep up the wall, climb up upon the houses, and find ingress even at the windows. "There is no road," says Jerome, "impassable to locusts. They penetrate into fields, and crops, and trees, and cities, and even the recesses of the bedchambers;" while Theodoret remarks of locusts that" not only when flying, but by creeping along the walls, they pass through the windows into the houses themselves." Thus there was no spot to which they could not find access, and no place secure from their assault. Yashoqqu. Aben Ezra and Kimchi both connect this word with shoq, a leg. The latter says, "It has the signification of shoq, a leg, and he mentions this word in respect to the locust, because its legs are long; and further, because it is continually going and seldom resting; and thus he (Isaiah) says, 'As the running to and fro of locusts shall he run upon them,' as if he said, 'a continual going up and down.'"
The earth shall quake before them; the heavens shall tremble: the sun and the moon shall be dark, and the stars shall withdraw their shining:
Verses 10, 11. - These verses picture the dreadful consequences of the then present and temporary visitation of the locusts, and of the future and final judgment of which it was a type. The earth shall quake before them;
(1) the locusts. The heavens tremble. The alighting of the locusts on the earth would make it quake, and their flight through the heavens would make it tremulous. As applied to the visitation o! locusts, the language would be hyperbolical, unless we accept Jerome's explanation as follows: "It is not that the strength of the locusts is so great that they can move the heavens and shake the earth, but that to those who suffer from such calamities, from the amount of their own terror the heavens appear to shake and the earth to reel."
(2) Before him; i.e. Jehovah himself amid the storm; and all in accordance with fact. But a greater judgment than that of the locusts is typified by the language of the prophet. Kimchi observes on this (tenth)verse that "all the expressions are parabolical, or figurative, to set forth the greatness of a calamity; for this is the usage of Scripture, as, 'The sun shall be darkened in his going forth,' and the like." So also Abarbauel on this verse: "Which all is a parabolical expression of the calamities of the Jews." Aben Ezra understands it differently: "Men of the earthquake." Rashi: "The heavens quake and tremble because of the punishment that comes upon Israel." The second part of the verse, as also the verse following, appear to us to indicate this. The sun and the moon shall be dark, and the stars shall withdraw their shining: and the Lord shall utter his voice before his army. That a storm succeeded and put an end to the plague of locusts, and that the darkening of the sun and moon and stars signified the obscuration of the heavenly luminaries by the storm-clouds that overspread the heavens and darkened the face of day, would fall short of expressions of such solemn grandeur as are here employed by the prophet, Besides, our Lord applies language of the same import to the last judgment in the Gospels: "The sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: and then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven." Thunder, no doubt, is the voice of the Lord, which he utters while marching at the head of his army to execute judgment and manifest his wrath against his enemies. For his camp is very great: for he is strong that executeth his word: for the day of the Lord is great and very terrible; and who can abide it? Three reasons are here assigned for the preceding sublime description of Jehovah coming to judgment at the head of his hosts. These are the following: the greatness of his army in number and might; the power with which his army executes his word of command; and the terrible character of the day of judgment when the vials of Divine wrath shall be poured forth.
And the LORD shall utter his voice before his army: for his camp is very great: for he is strong that executeth his word: for the day of the LORD is great and very terrible; and who can abide it?
Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning:
Verses 12-14. - The judgment of the locusts was typical of the great day of judgment. The tartars of that day were designed to bring the people to repentance. Thus judgment was mingled with mercy. Verse 12. - Turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with great fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning. At this period of sore judgment God, by the prophet, calls upon the people to return and repent, to fast and to weep, to grieve inwardly and mourn outwardly for sin. He also instructs them how to engage in the duty of humiliation aright and acceptably. The humiliation was to be that of the heart - sorrow of heart for the sins by which they had offended God, inward shame on account of those iniquities by which they had wronged their own souls and marred their own best interests. But while there behoved to be this inward contrition, outward expressions of it were also required. Genuine sorrow and shame for sin were to be accompanied by fasting, tears of penitence, and other indications of mourning. With all your heart. Kimchi comments thus: "That your repentance be not with a heart and a heart."
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.
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.
Who knoweth if he will return and repent, and leave a blessing behind him; even a meat offering and a drink offering unto the LORD your God?
Verse 14. - Who knoweth if he will return and repent; that is, return from and repent of his purpose of executing judgment. And leave a blessing behind him; that is, leave behind him when returning from the exercise of judgment to resume his seat on the heavenly throne, the blessing being a replacement of the harvest fruits which the locusts had consumed, even a meat offering and a drink offering, for the service of the sanctuary as well as sustenance to supply the people's own bodily wants. Jerome explains the question of ver. 14 with much judgment as follows: "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." Besides
(1) the interrogative rendering, there is
(2) that of the Chaldee, followed by Rashi and Kimchi.
The latter says, "He that knows the way of repentance, let him repent, and God will repent of this evil." Also in addition to
(1) that is, Authorized Version, he (i.e. God) "shall leave a blessing," there is
(2) that of Rashi and Aben Ezra, who explain as follows: "Perhaps God will repent, and that army shall leave a blessing, out of which they may make a meat offering and a drink offering."
Blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly:
Verses 15-17. - "The harsh blast of the consecrated ram's horn called an assembly for an extraordinary fast. Not a soul was to be absent. Like the fiery cross, it convened old and young, men and women, mothers with infants at their breasts, the bridegroom and the bride on their bridal day. All were there stretched in front of the altar. The altar itself presented the dreariest of all sights - a hearth without its sacred fire, a table spread without its sacred feast. The priestly caste, instead of gathering as usual upon its steps and its platform, were driven, as it were, to the further space; they turned their backs to the dead altar, and lay prostrate, gazing towards the Invisible Presence within the sanctuary. Instead of the hymns and music which, since the time of David, had entered into their prayers, there was nothing heard but the passionate sobs and the loud dissonant howls such as only an Eastern hierarchy could utter. Instead of the mass of white mantles which they usually presented, they were wrapt in black goat's-hair sackcloth, twisted round them, not with the brilliant sashes of the priestly attire, but with a rough girdle of the same texture, which they never unbound night or day. What they wore of their common dress was rent asunder or cast off. With bare breasts they waved their black drapery towards the temple, and shrieked aloud, 'Spare thy people, O Lord!'" Such is Dean Stanley's vivid picture of the circumstances and scene described by the prophet in the above verses. A scene exceedingly similar occurs in the commencement of the 'OEdipus Tyrannus' of Sophocles -
"Why sit ye here, my children, younger brood
Of Cadmus famed of old, in solemn state,
Your bands thus wreathed with the suppliants' boughs?
And all the city reeks with incense,
And all re-echoes with your hymns and groans;
And I, my children, counting it unmeet
To hear report from others, I have come
Myself, whom all name OEdipus the Great."
Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children, and those that suck the breasts: let the bridegroom go forth of his chamber, and the bride out of her closet.
Let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, Spare thy people, O LORD, and give not thine heritage to reproach, that the heathen should rule over them: wherefore should they say among the people, Where is their God?
Then will the LORD be jealous for his land, and pity his people.
Verses 18-27 form the sequel of this chapter in the Hebrew, but five additional verses make up the chapter in the Authorized Version. These are divisible into two parts. In the first division the prophet assures his countrymen of the bestowal of temporal mercies, and in the second of the promise of spiritual blessings. Verse 18. - The futures of this verse with vav consec, are properly taken as perfects; nor is there any inconsistency, provided we understand, as following ver. 17 and preceding ver. 18, the fact that the priests had engaged in the penitence enjoined, and offered the supplication to which they had been summoned; neither is the omission of any express mention of the circumstance thus supposed to intervene between these verses any valid objection, especially as the grammar favours the view in question. Then follows a manifestation of God's mercy in answer to the assumed penitence and prayer of his servants. God's jealousy and pity are both engaged - his jealousy for his land, and his compassion for his people. His jealousy is figurative, and the allusion is probably to that of a husband who is jealous on account of any dishonour done to his wife, and who resents it more keenly than a dishonour offered to himself. The pity is such as God ever manifests to his people when penitent; for "Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him."
Yea, the LORD will answer and say unto his people, Behold, I will send you corn, and wine, and oil, and ye shall be satisfied therewith: and I will no more make you a reproach among the heathen:
Verse 19. - Yea, the Lord will answer and say unto his people, Behold, I will send you corn, and wine, and oil, and ye shall be satisfied therewith. The Lord's answer comes in the shape of a promise of relief of which man and beast were so sorely in need. The promise, with deliverance from distress, couples ample abundance. The corn and the wine and the oil - the three great temporal blessings, equivalent to food, refreshment, and ornament - which the locusts had destroyed, as we read in ver. 10, God here promises to restore, and to restore not merely to the extent that was barely necessary, but in full and abundant measure, so that they would be satisfied therewith.
(1) The verbs of fulness or want, clothing and unclothing, going or coming and dwelling, govern an accusative; hence שׂבע has the accusative here; sometimes it is constructed with ב or מ.
(2) There are two constructions of a participle with a pronoun as subject - that in which the pronoun is written in its separate form in immediate connection with the participle, and that in which it is appended as a suffix.
(3) The words dagan from dagah, to multiply; yitshar from tsahar, to shine; and tirosh from yarash, to take possession of the brain, have each the article prefixed, to emphasize the products restored by the Divine mercy. The article, no doubt, is prefixed to the names of classes of objects generally known. And I will no more make you a reproach among the heathen. No more would they be a reproach or byword among the heathen, sneered at, as though God had abandoned them in his sore displeasure, or through sheer impotence had been unable to help them. All this God promised to do in answer to the prayers of his people. Such was the result of penitence, and such the power of prayer. Cherpath is a second accusative, or, more correctly, an appositional accusative to ethkem. The construction with le frequently takes the place of the second accusative, as in the seventeenth verse of the same chapter.
But I will remove far off from you the northern army, and will drive him into a land barren and desolate, with his face toward the east sea, and his hinder part toward the utmost sea, and his stink shall come up, and his ill savour shall come up, because he hath done great things.
Verse 20. - But I will remove far off from you the northern army, and will drive him into a land barren and desolate, with his face toward the east sea, and his hinder part toward the utmost sea. This verse promises the destruction of the devastator. The prophet here specifies the means by which the Eternal was going to restore the blessings of harvest. The order of sequence is inverted - the effect preceding the cause; thus, re. storation of prosperity and plenty goes before, and the cause thereof, being relief from invasion and loss, follows after. Nor is there anything singular in this, as men are more alive to recovery from a distressful state of any kind than to the remedy which effects it. The "army" of this verse we still hold to be the tribes of locusts, which, like an invading army, with its numerous regimental divisions, had overrun the land, scattering dismay and distress wherever it advanced; yet from this very verse, and the expression "northern" in particular, it has been argued that it cannot refer to locusts, but to human invaders symbolized by locusts and the havoc wrought by them.
(1) The north is not the native land of locusts; it is rather the south - the Arabian, Lybian, or Egyptian desert. But
(2) "northern" may denote the quarter from which the locusts appeared to the prophet in vision to enter the land; or, driven upward by a south wind which regularly blows, as we are informed, in those regions during spring, and then to the north of Palestine by an east wind which blows with similar regularity in summer, and again into and ultimately out of Palestine by the north wind blowing in the autumn. "In this case," says a writer in the 'Speaker's Commentary,' "the northern plague would have been a natural expression for an inhabitant of Jerusalem to use in speaking of the locusts; as natural as it would be for a Londoner to speak of a pestilence that had commenced its ravages in Great Britain at Edinburgh, as coming to him from the north, though it were originally imported from France or Spain." The word
(3) may symbolically denote "calamitous," according to the explanation of some, since calamity is so frequently represented as coming from the north, so that the north is more or less identified with diasaster; thus we read in Jeremiah 4:6, "I will bring evil from the north, and a great destruction." It may, however, be safely admitted that, by the locust, the northern or Assyrian enemies of Judah, who advanced from the north as the most accessible quarter for attack, are in a subsidiary sense represented. The expulsion of these enemies brings relief; they are driven into a parched, and so desert and desolate, land; "and there," as Kimchi observes, "they shall die because they shall find nothing to eat." That land may be either the Idumaean desert south of Judah or Arabia Deserta. Thus the main body of the great locust-army perishes in the southern desert; while the van of the army is driven into the Dead Sea, and the rear of it into the Mediterranean Sea. Or, more literally, the face of this locust-host was towards the east, or front sea, that is, as already intimated, the Dead Sea eastward; his hinder part toward the west, or hinder sea, that is, the Mediterranean westward. Thus they were driven in every other direction than that by which they came, namely, south, east, and west. In marking the quarters of the world, the Jews faced the east, so that the west was behind them, the south on their right hand, and the north on their left. We have thus a most vivid picture of the speedy and total destruction of the locusts. After expulsion, no danger was to be apprehended from them, for, blown into the sea or desert, they perished at once and for ever. The terms employed are very graphic; thus, me'alekem is much more than mikkem would be, and imply that a heavy burden was lifted from upon, or up off the face of a desolated land, and the heart of a distressed people. And his stink shall come up, and his ill savour shall come up, because he hath done great things; margin, magnified to do. The stench emitted from the putrefying bodies of those locusts would be sickening and stifling - sufficient to occasion a pestilence. Many testimonies from travellers and others prove the reality of both circumstances - the ill savour and its pestiferous nature. Several expressions in this verse are applicable enough to an army, as in the last clause, where he is said to do great things, or literally, "magnified to do," that is, magnified himself in his doings; it may, however, apply equally well to the great destruction by the locust-army. There is no doubt the superadded notion of haughtiness along with that of great doings. It really means that, as an instrument of God, they had effected a fearfully violent desolation, and this is assigned as a reason for the total destruction of those locusts.
Fear not, O land; be glad and rejoice: for the LORD will do great things.
Verses 21-23. - In these verses the land and beasts and men are addressed respectively. Thus the promise is fully developed. In ver. 21 the prophet summons the earth; in ver. 22 the beasts of the field; and in ver. 23 the sons of Zion; all are called to joy and gladness on account of the great deliverance from destruction which the Lord had wrought for them. They are all called on to rejoice in the great deliverance; the land, personified, is summoned to exult and rejoice for the great things God now promises to do or is doing to it. If the locusts had done great things in destruction, God will do great things in deliverance. The beasts are also personified, and forbidden to be afraid; for whereas they had groaned and cried for want of herbage when the pastures were burnt up, those pastures are now beginning to spring, and the fruit trees yield their strength. The children of Zion are invited to rejoice, not only in the delivered land, or springing pastures, or fruitful figs, or blooming vines, or other trees however useful or ornamental; but, as became them with their superior intelligence, in the Lord their God, as the Father of mercies and the Giver of every good and perfect gift, whether temporal or spiritual. At the same time, their temporal wants would be attended to, and their land fertilized by the suitable and sustaining shower. The prophet individualizes the earth, the beasts of the field, and the sons of Zion. Verse 21. - Fear not, O land; be glad and rejoice: for the Lord will do great things. The land had suffered severely from the drought connected with the locusts; but is now summoned to joy and gladness. The prophet assigns for this an appropriate reason: the locusts had done great things in damaging it; Jehovah now does great things in their destruction. When the earth clothes itself with verdure, and brings forth its fruits and flowers and various products, it is said, by a bold but beautiful personification, to rejoice and even exult. Thus the Latins said in like manner, Rident arva, ridet ager. Things are now reversed. Instead of mourning, is exultation; instead of mourning and its visible emblem in girding with sadness, there is joy and gladness; instead of the day of the Lord: very great and terrible or fearful, is "Fear not." Se-machi is fem. imper. Qal in pause for the ordinary simchi.
Be not afraid, ye beasts of the field: for the pastures of the wilderness do spring, for the tree beareth her fruit, the fig tree and the vine do yield their strength.
Verse 22. - Be not afraid, ye beasts of the field. The dumb animals had groaned in distress for food, but now they too have cause to rejoice, and are here called on to do so; and the suitable cause in their case is also specified. It is as follows: For the pastures of the wilderness do spring, for the tree beareth her fruit, the fig tree and the vine do yield their strength. He thus specifies the ground of gladness in their case also, pointing to the fresh green of the pastures and the fruit hanging in rich abundance and variety on the trees. The fruits of vines and fig trees are net, it is true, the food of the beasts of the fields; but the revival of vegetation in trees, the higher and larger growths, the chief factor in which is moisture, comprehends the revival of the smaller growths of herbs, grasses, and plants, the proper sustenance of cattle. Kimchi's explanation is that "as the tree bears its fruit in the inhabited part of the world, so in the wilderness the places of pasture grow green." Aben Ezra, who never loses an opportunity of directing attention to contrasts wherever they exist, contrasts "Be not afraid, ye beasts of the field," in this verse with "the beasts of the field cry also unto thee" at the close of the preceding chapter; also "the pastures of the wilderness do spring" with "the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness;" likewise "the tree beareth her fruit" with "all the trees of the field are withered." It has been observed that all plants, even shrubs and trees, spring up at the first as the fresh young juicy green of plants, דֶּשֶׁא; then they develop into ירֶקֶ or חָצִיר, grass: into herb, עֵשֶׂב; and into tree, שָׂרַי עֵצ is not the plural for שָׂדִים, but singular, after the analogy of שָׁמַי (Psalm 96:12). Nasaperi, equivalent to "lift up, bear," is more poetical than asah peri, equivalent to "make fruit;" so in Latin, surgunt fruges. The expression, "yield their strength," puts the cause for the effect; the strength of the tree produces the fruit and centres in it.
Be glad then, ye children of Zion, and rejoice in the LORD your God: for he hath given you the former rain moderately, and he will cause to come down for you the rain, the former rain, and the latter rain in the first month.
Verse 23. - Be glad then, ye children of Zion, and rejoice in the Lord your God. They had keenly felt and deeply bewailed the unparalleled catastrophe which had befallen laud and cattle and inhabitants, and also themselves among the number. The sons of Zion are the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the capital, in which was the national sanctuary for the worship of Jehovah. Not only are the inhabitants of Jerusalem included, but, as the capital often stood for the whole country, all the inhabitants of Judah are comprehended under the "children of Zion." The ground of their gladness and joy in God is: For he hath given you the former rain moderately (margin, a teacher of righteousness, or for righteousness), and he will cause to come down for you the rain, the former rain, and the latter rain in the first month. Omitting for the present the disputed word hammoreh, we have the great blessing which was so much needed. The blessing bestowed was twofold - negative in the destruction of the locusts and deliverance from their ravages; and positive in the plentiful rainfall, geshem, the great and beneficent fertilizer of the dried-up and desolated land. But this abundant rain is more closely particularized as the early or October rain, moreh, which, falling at the seed-time in autumn, promoted the germination and growth of the seed just sown; and as the latter, or March rain, malqosh, which, bestowed in the spring season a short time before harvest, matured the crops. The geshem, or shower, may be regarded here as the generic name, and of these the two species are the moreh and malqosh, from laqash, to be ripe or late, just explained. The word hammoreh in the early part of the verse is translated
(1) "teacher" in the Chaldee and Vulgate, by Jerome, by Abar-banel among the Hebrew commentators, who refers it to Messiah; among modern commentators by Hofman, referring it to Joel himself, by Hengstenberg, who understands it of the ideal teacher or collective body of messengers from God. Keil also renders, "the teacher for righteousness," and applies the expression to the instructions of Moses, the priests, and the prophets, not excluding Messiah himself. He also understands the prophet to speak of both spiritual and material blessings, giving a fuller exposition of the latter in vers. 23-27, and of the former in vers. 28-32 and in the last chapter. The two considerations that seem to have most weight with Keil in inclining him to this exposition arc the presence of the article with moreh, and the non-physical sense of litsdaqah; hence Ewald's "rain for righteousness," i.e. a sign from God of their being adopted again into righteousness. But weight-stones and scales have tsedeq attached in the physical sense of correctness, while ethical rightness is only an inference or subordinate notion (see Leviticus 19:36; Psalm 23:3). The translation
(2) of "rain" is, we think, justly entitled to the preference from the context. Among promises of repairing the damage done by the locusts, it would be obviously out of place to introduce the notion of "a teacher." Of the Hebrew expositors, Aben Ezra and Kimchi both understand the word in the sense of rain; the former says, "In my opinion it is the same as yoreh;" and the latter, "Hammoreh is the same as yoreh." So also Calvin, Rosenmuller, Hitzig, and Wunsche. The etymology also is favourable to this view, for both yoreh and moreh are from the verb yorah, to throw (Hiph., cause to throw), throw down as drops, wet, besprinkle, equivalent to זרק, and as the Qal and Hiph. sometimes coincide in meaning, we may safely conclude moreh synonymous with yoreh, the meaning of which is unquestionably "rain," specially ὑετὸς πρώιμος. (a) Rain in right measure, then, we take to be the true meaning; not (b) rain according to righteousness, as though God, in accordance with his righteousness, repented of the evil he thought to do unto them, and, in consequence of their forsaking their sins, sent the fertilizing rains. Again, barishon is rendered by some (a) as if keba-rishon were equivalent to "as in the former time;" thus the LXX., καθὼς ἔμπροσθεν; Vulgate, Sicuti in principio. But we prefer (b) the rendering, "in the first month;" so the Chaldee, "In the month Nisan, or March." The Hebrew commentators explain it in like manner; thus Rashi, "In the first month - in Nisan;" Aben Ezra, "And the meaning of 'in the first' is in the first month;" Kimchi, "The explanation of the rain that is called moreb, he sends it down to you in its season, which is Marchesvan (or October), and he causes to descend to you in like manner the malqosh (the latter rain) in its season in the first month, which is Nisan." The blessing of the rain was thus greatly enhanced by being sent in the right measure and at the suitable season.
And the floors shall be full of wheat, and the fats shall overflow with wine and oil.
Verses 24-27. - In these verses the prophet pictures the blessed effects of the abundant rain on the parched and barren land. Ver. 2i presents a contrast to vers. 10-12 of ch. 1; while the promise of corn and wine and oil in ver. 19, with which the present is closely connected, is performed. The perfects exhibit the Divine promise as actually accomplished.
(1) The word בּר, from בּרר, to separate, denotes the pure grain separated from the husk or chaff and straw.
(2) שׁוּק is" to run," and in Hiph.," to cause to run" as of fluids, then overflow; and Pilel in Psalm 65:10, shoqeq, "to cause to overflow."
(3) יקב, equivalent to נקב, is a vessel bored or hewn out, then the vat into which the wine trodden out in the wine-press, or the oil trodden out in the oil-press, flows; while גח is the press in which wine or oil, especially the former, is trodden out. I will restore to you the years. This denotes either
(1) the greatness and violence of the destruction made by the locusts, or
(2) it implies that, only for the timely interposition of Jehovah in destroying the locusts, the people would have had to sustain the loss of the harvest, not of one year only, but of several - in other words, the disastrous effects of their ravages would have been felt for a number of years; but
(3) not that the locusts invaded the land several successive yours. The absence of the copula before yeleq, and its presence before the last two names, viz. ehasil aud gazam, prove that these three names, being thus co-ordinated, are either epithets or species of 'arbeh: thus, the losses of the years which the locust, or multitudinous one, hath eaten - the licker and the devourer and the biter (or gnawer) - were compensated. Abarbauel maintains these names of the locusts to refer to the four world-powers that one after another desolated Palestine: "For they," he says, "were the army of Jehovah and the messengers of his providence to punish Israel by their means." The effect of the plentiful supply of their wants and of the full satisfaction enjoyed thereby becomes the occasion of devout acknowledgment of God as their Protector and Patron, and of the warmest expressions of gratitude for his goodness, so they praise the Name of the Lord their God, that had dealt wondrously with them; literally, had acted towards them even to the doing of wonders. Then follows the practical conclusion, very poetically expressed, and comprising the assurance of the presence of God among his people, his sole Divinity and sure protection of them, a guarantee of his grace to them at all times, freedom from reproach and shame evermore. Thus closes the promise of temporal or material bless-tugs. "Ye shall recognize," says Kimchi, #that I am in your midst, hearing your cries."
And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpiller, and the palmerworm, my great army which I sent among you.
And ye shall eat in plenty, and be satisfied, and praise the name of the LORD your God, that hath dealt wondrously with you: and my people shall never be ashamed.
And ye shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the LORD your God, and none else: and my people shall never be ashamed.
And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions:
Verses 28-32. - These verses form a chapter (the third) by themselves in the Hebrew text, but in the LXX. and the Authorized Version they conclude ch. 2. In them the prophet passes on to spiritual blessings. Verses 28, 29. - And it shall come to pass afterward ('acharekhen). This intimates the time when the promised blessing is to be bestowed, and must be read in the light of New Testament exposition; for Peter, in quoting the words (Acts 2:17, etc.), varies the prophet's note of time by substituting an explanatory phrase, viz. ἐν ταῖς ἐσχάταις ἡμέραις, "in the last days" - an expression which, as is acknowledged, refers to the days of the Messiah or the last days of the old dispensation. The apostle thus defines more closely the somewhat indefinite expression of the Hebrew. After this specification of the time, he proceeds to state the blessing to be bestowed. I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh. The word shaphak, employed by the prophet to express the outpouring of the Spirit, implies the bestowal of the gift in great abundance, as Calvin clearly pointed out: "For shaphak," he says, "does not mean merely to give in drops, but to pour out in great abundance. But God did net pour out the Holy Spirit so abundantly or copiously under the Law, as he has since the manifestation of Christ." The Spirit was indeed communicated in Old Testament times, but that communication was restricted in two ways in quantity, and in the number of recipients; the former was comparatively scanty and the latter few, whereas the word here applied to its communication implies a rich supply, like a copious rainfall. After the specification of the time, and the mention of the blessing, with its implied plentifulness, comes its wide diffusion, or general distribution - "all flesh," or "all mankind," as the Hebrew expression denotes; and that without regard to age, or sex, or state. And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: and also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my Spirit. Sons and daughters without distinction of sex; old men and young men without reference to age; servants and handmaids without regard to social position. Thus it is with the Spirit of God as with the Son of God, of whom the apostle says, "There is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uucircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all." The blessing of salvation through the Son of God and by the Spirit of God is wide as the world in its offer, and free to all who accept it - without national distinction, for there is neither Jew nor Greek; without social distinction, for there is neither bond nor free; without sexual distinction, for there is neither male nor female; without ceremonial distinction, for there is neither circumcision nor uncircumcision; without intellectual or educational distinction, for the barbarian and even the Scythian, the lowest type of barbarian, are free to share the blessing. The regain before the "servants" and "handmaids," rendered in the citation by Peter, not as in the LXX. by a simple καὶ, but by καὶ γε, and in the Authorized Version "and also," is an emphatic addition to the previous enumeration, equivalent to "nay more" and implying something extraordinary and unexpected, that not only the weaker sex, but the meanest of both sexes, were to participate in the blessing. "Not a single case," says Keil, "occurs in the whole of the Old Testament of a slave receiving the gift of prophecy." The mode in which spiritual commmunication is
(1) according to some is that of visions to the young, whose fancy is more vigorous; that of dreams to the old, in the decadence of their mental powers; while to the sons and daughters the gift is prophesying. Others more correctly
(2) understand prophecy as the general term for speaking under the Spirit's influence or instructing by Divine inspiration; while the two forms of prophetic revelation are dreams when the mental "faculties are suspended by natural causes," and visions or trances when "suspended by supernatural causes," the communication in either case being supernatural. This prediction began to be fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost.
And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.
And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and 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."
The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the LORD come.
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.
And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the LORD hath said, and in the remnant whom the LORD shall call.