The communication of the Spirit of God was the constant prerogative of the Covenant-people. Indeed, the very idea of such a people necessarily requires it. For the Spirit of God is the only inward bond betwixt Him and that which is created; a Covenant-people, therefore, without such an inward connection, is an impossibility. As a constant possession of the Covenant-people, the Spirit of God appears in Isaiah lxiii.11, where the people, in the condition of the deepest abandonment, say, in the remembrance of the divine mercies, "Where is He that put His Holy Spirit within him?" But it was peculiar to the nature of the Old Testament dispensation, that the effusion of the Spirit of God was less rich. His effects less powerful, and a participation in them less general. It was only after God's relation to the world had been changed by the death of Christ that the Spirit of Christ could be bestowed, -- a higher power of the Spirit of God, standing to Him in the same relation as the Angel of the Lord to the incarnate Word. The conditions of the bestowal of the Holy Spirit were, under the Old Testament, far more difficult to obtain. The view of Christ in His historical personality, in His life, suffering, and death, was wanting. God, although infinitely nearer to the Jews than to the Gentiles, yet ever remained a God relatively [Pg 332] distant. Since the procuring cause of the mercy of God -- the merit of Christ -- was not yet so clearly seen, it was far more difficult to lay hold of it, and the by-path of legalism was far nearer. It was thus only upon a few -- especially upon the prophets -- that the direct possession of the Spirit of God was concentrated; while the greater number, even among those of a better disposition, enjoyed a spiritual life derived only from a union with them, and hence it was less strong. It arose from the nature of the case that, at some future time, there must take place a richer and more powerful effusion of the Spirit of God; and it was just for this reason that it was the desire of Moses, that such might take place, and that the whole people might prophesy. Num. xi.29, besides expressing such a desire, is, at the same time, a prophecy. He wished nothing else than that the people of God might attain to such a degree as to realize the idea of a people of God; and this must come to pass at some future time, because the omnipotent and faithful God could not leave His work unfinished. But Moses himself immediately subjoins the prophecy to the wish, as a clear proof, that behind the wish the prophecy is concealed: "Would God that all the Lord's people were prophets! for the Lord will give His Spirit upon them," etc.; which is equivalent to: "At some future time, the whole people of the Lord shall be prophets, not against, but agreeably to, my wish; for," etc. It is this promise of Moses which is here resumed by Joel, with whom, subsequently. Is. in chap. xxxii.15, "Until the Spirit be poured upon us from on high;" chap. xi.9, liv.13; Jer. xxxi.33, 34; Ezek. xxxvi.26 ff., and Zech. xii.10, connect themselves. The ultimate reference of the promise is to the Messianic time; but the reference to the preparatory steps must not, for this reason, be by any means excluded. The announcement of the pouring out of the Spirit rests upon the insight into the nature of God's relation to His kingdom. God's judgments, in which He draws near to His people, in which the abstract God becomes a concrete God, excite in the people a longing for a union with Him. Teachers sent by God give a right direction to this longing, and then an outpouring of the Spirit takes place. This proceeding does, and must continually, repeat itself in the history of the Covenant-people. The perfect fulfilment at the time of Christ could [Pg 333] not at all have taken place, unless the imperfect fulfilment had already pervaded their whole earlier history; and that there is, in the prophecy under consideration, no reference at all to such imperfect fulfilments, could be maintained only, if there existed in the text any hint that the prophet intended to speak of only the last realization of the idea. But as the exclusion of all the preliminary stages is entirely arbitrary, it is just as arbitrary to separate, from the events which make up the main fulfilment in the Messianic time, one particular event, viz., that which took place on the first day of Pentecost. It is only to a certain extent that we can affirm that the prophecy found its final fulfilment in this event, viz., in as far as it formed the pledge of it, -- in as far as the whole succeeding development and progress were already contained in it, -- in as far as Joel's prophecy in words was then changed into an infinitely more powerful prophecy in deeds. It is from overlooking the relation of the prophecy to the thought which animates it, and from the error arising from this, viz., that the fulfilment must necessarily fall within a particular, limited period, that the various opposite interpretations had their rise (compare the copious enumeration and representation of these in Dresde, Comparatio Joelis de Effusione Spir. S. vatic. c. Petrina interpret. Wittemb. 1782, Spec. 2), all of which are partially true, and are false only by their one-sidedness and exclusiveness.1. Several interpreters think of an event at the time of Joel. Thus Rabbi Moses Hakkohen, according to Abenezra, Teller on Turrettine de interpret. p.59, Cramer on the Scythische Denkmaeler, p.221. -- 2. Others insist on an exclusive reference to the first Pentecost. Thus do almost all the Fathers of the Church -- among whom, however, Jerome (on Joel iii.1) felt the great difficulties in the way of this view, arising from the context -- and most of the later Christian interpreters. -- 3. Others would refer it at the same time to the events in Joel's time, and to those at the first Pentecost. Of this opinion are Ephraem Syr., Grotius, and Turrettine. -- 4. Others place the fulfilment altogether in the future. Thus did the Jews as early as in the time of Jerome, and afterwards Jarchi, Kimchi, and Abarbanel. -- 5. Others, finally, find in the first Pentecost the beginning only of the fulfilment, and regard it as pervading the whole Christian time. Thus, e.g., Calovius (Bibl. illustr. ad. h. l.) says: "Although [Pg 334] that prophecy began to be fulfilled in a remarkable manner on that feast of the Pentecost, yet its reference is not to that solemn event only, but to the whole state of these last, or New Testament times, just after the manner of other general promises." These last words show that Calovius was very near the truth. But if the promise be a general one, by what are we entitled to place the beginning of its fulfilment only at the times of the New Testament, and to exclude all of that same gift which God bestowed in Old Testament times? The insufficiency of the foundation for such a limitation in the text itself is proved by the following confession of Dresde (l. c. p.8), who even believes himself obliged to defend such a limitation from the authority of the Apostle Peter, and to whom it did not at all occur, that any other reference than to some particular event was even possible: "It appears, therefore," he says, "that the prophecy, considered in itself, is so expressed, that no one, except the first author of the prophecy, will be able convincingly to define the exact event to which it really refers." We shall afterwards see that the testimony of the New Testament to which Dresde here alludes, does not by any means demand such a limitation. We have seen that Joel points to a fourfold oppression of Israel by the world's power. The main fulfilment we must then expect at the time of the fourth; but this can scarcely be the first fulfilment; for we cannot imagine that the former calamities should have passed over the people altogether without effect; and the divine gift of the Spirit goes always hand in hand with the susceptibility of the people. By proving that fourfold oppression, we have also furnished the proof that the prophecy of the outpouring of the Spirit has a comprehensive character. -- From the already established reference of the [Hebrew: aHri-kN] to the [Hebrew: brawvN] in chap. ii.23, it is obvious that it is not so much a determination of the succession of time, as of a succession in point of importance, which is thereby given. Among the two effects of the mission of the Teacher of righteousness, first, the lower, and then, the higher, presents itself to the view of the prophet. The determination of time is not the essential point; that serves only to illustrate the internal relation of these two events, the gradation of these divine blessings; although we are able to demonstrate that, even as regards time, the prophecy was fulfilled in this order. For after the destruction by the [Pg 335] Chaldeans, the temporal blessings were restored to the people, before the main fulfilment of the promise of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit took place; compare Ps. cvii.33-42 with Joel ii.25-27. -- The words, "I shall pour out," refer to the rain in ver.23. The idea of copiousness, opposed to the former scantiness, is indeed implied in it. Yet it must not be exclusively considered; the qualities of the rain alluded to in ver.24 ff. -- viz., the quickening of what was previously dead, the fructifying power -- must not be overlooked. -- The words, "Upon all flesh," are, by most of the Jewish interpreters (e.g., Kimchi, Abenezra; compare Lightfoot and Schoettgen on Acts ii.16, 17), referred to the members of the Covenant-people only; but by the Christian interpreters, whom even Abarbanel joins, to all men. So, still, does Steudel in the Tuebinger Pfingst-Programm, 1820, p.11. But in this latter explanation, one thing has been overlooked -- as, among the older interpreters, has been well shown by Calvin, and among the more recent, by Tychsen (progr. ad h. l. p.5) -- viz., that the subsequent words, "Your sons, your daughters, your old men, your young men, the servants, the handmaids," contain a specification of the [Hebrew: bwr]; so that the all, by which it is qualified, does not do away with the limitation to a particular people, but only with the limits of sex, age, and rank, among the people themselves. The participation of the Gentiles in the outpouring of the Holy Ghost did not, in the first instance, come into consideration in this place, inasmuch as the threatening of punishment, with which the proclamation of salvation is connected, had respect to the Covenant-people only. Credner has been led into a strange error, by pressing the words [Hebrew: kl-bvwr] without any regard to the connection. He imputes to the prophet the monstrous idea, that the Spirit of God, the fountain of all which is good and great, well pleasing to God, and divine, is to be poured out upon all animals also, even upon the locusts. -- The foundation for the promise of the Holy Spirit is formed by Gen. ii.7, compared with i.26. It supposes that the spirit of man, as distinguished from all other living things [Pg 336] on earth, is a breath from God. -- There is here, moreover, the same contrast betwixt [Hebrew: bwr] and [Hebrew: rvH] as in Gen. vi.3 and Is. xxxi.3: "The Egyptians are men, and not God; their horses are flesh, and not spirit." (Compare other passages in Gesenius' Thesaurus, s. v. p.249.) Flesh, in this contrast, signifies human nature with respect to its weakness and helplessness; the spirit is the principle of life and strength. As "your sons," etc., is a specification of all flesh, so, the words, "They prophesy, they dream dreams, they see visions," are a specification of: "I pour out My Spirit." From this, it is evident that the particular gifts do not here come into consideration according to their individual nature, but according to that essential character which is common to them as effects of the Spirit of God. Hence it is obvious also, that we are not at liberty to ask why it is just to the sons and daughters that the prophesying is ascribed, etc. The prophet, whose object it is only to individualize and expand the fundamental thought, i.e., the universality of the effects of the Spirit, chooses for this purpose the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit, because these are more obvious than the ordinary ones; and from among the extraordinary ones, again, those which were common under the Old Testament; without thereby excluding the others, or, as regards the real import, adding anything to the declaration, "I will pour out My Spirit." This appears also from ver.2, where, in reference to the servants and handmaids, the expression returns to the former generality. In distributing the gifts of the Spirit among the particular classes, the prophet has been as little guided by any internal considerations, as, e.g., Zechariah, when in chap. ix.17 he uses the words, "Corn maketh the young men grow up, and must, the maids." The remark made by Credner and Hitzig, after the example of Tychsen, that visions are ascribed to vigorous youth, but dreams to feebler age, appears at once, from an examination of the historical [Pg 337] instances, and from the comparison of Num. xii.6, to be unfounded. "Your sons and your daughters prophesy," etc., is equivalent to: "Your sons and your daughters, your old men and your young men, prophesy, have divine dreams (a limitation to such is implied in their being the effects of the outpouring of the Spirit), and see visions;" and this again is equivalent to: "They will enjoy the Spirit of God, with all His gifts and blessings." In this, and in no other way, has the passage been constantly understood among the Jews. If it had been otherwise, how could Peter have so confidently declared the events on the feast of Pentecost, where there occurred neither dreams nor visions, to be a fulfilment of the prophecy of Joel? It is implied, however, in the nature of the case, that, in the principal fulfilments of the prophecy of Joel, the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit should be accompanied by the ordinary ones; for the former are the witnesses and means of the latter, although, at the same time, the basis also on which they rest; so that times like those which are described in 1 Sam. iii.1, where the Word of God is precious in the country, and there is no prophecy spread abroad, must necessarily be poor in the ordinary gifts of grace also. It is not in the essence, but only in the form of manifestation, that the extraordinary gifts differ from the ordinary ones, -- just as Christ's outward miracles differ from His inward ones.
Ver.2. "And upon the servants also, and upon the handmaids, I will pour out My Spirit in those days."
Credner refers this to the Hebrew prisoners of war, living as servants and handmaids among heathen nations, far away from the Holy Land. But if the prophet had this in view, he must necessarily have expressed himself with greater distinctness. Moreover, the relation to the preceding verse requires that, as the difference of sex and age was there done away with, so no allowance should here be made for the difference of rank. The [Hebrew: gM] shows that the extension of the gifts of the Spirit even to servants and handmaids, who, to the carnal eye, appeared to be unworthy of such distinction, is to be considered as something unexpected and extraordinary. That there is very little correctness in the assertion of Credner, that "there could have been scarcely any doubt as regards the participation of the Hebrew [Pg 338] slaves," is sufficiently shown by the fact, that Jewish interpreters have attempted, in various ways, to lessen the blessing here promised to the servants and handmaids. Even the translation of the LXX. by, [Greek: epi tous doulous mou kai epi tas doulas mou], may be considered as such an attempt. In the place of the servants of men, who appeared to them unworthy of such honour, they put the servants of God. Abarbanel asserts that the Spirit of God here means something inferior to the gift of prophecy, which is bestowed only upon the free people. Instead of regarding the Spirit of God as the root and fountain of the particular gifts mentioned in the preceding verse, he sees in Him only an isolated gift, -- that of an indefinite knowledge of God. But such a view is opposed even by the relation of the words, "I will pour out My Spirit," in ver.2, to the same words in ver.1; and also by Is. xi.2, where "Spirit of God" is likewise used in a general sense, and comprehends within itself all that follows. It is not without design that the fact is so prominently brought out in the New Testament, that the Gospel is preached to the poor, and that God chooses that which is mean and despised in the eye of the world. The natural man is always inclined to suppose that that which is esteemed by the world must be so by God also. This is sufficiently evident from the deep contempt of the Pharisees for the [Greek: ochloi]; compare, e.g., John vii.49.
Ver.3. "And I give wonders in the heavens, and on earth; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke."
The mercy bestowed upon the Congregation of God is accompanied by the judgment upon her enemies. Since the Congregation has again become the object of His favour, especially in consequence of the Holy Spirit being poured out upon her, it cannot be but that He will protect her against the persecution of the world, and avenge her upon it. In vers.3 and 4, the precursors of the judgment (before cometh, ver.4) are described, and in chap. iv. throughout, the judgment itself. There is here an allusion to an event of former times, and which is now to be repeated on a larger scale, viz., the plagues inflicted upon Egypt in consequence of the same law. The prophet had specially in view the passage, Deut. vi.22: "And the Lord gave signs and wonders, great and sore, upon Egypt, upon Pharaoh, and upon all his household before our eyes." -- The wonders are divided [Pg 339] into those which are in heaven, and those which are on earth; then those which are on earth are in this verse designated individually; and afterwards, in ver.4, those which are in heaven. With regard to the former, many interpreters (the last of whom is Credner) understand by the "blood," bloody defeats of the enemies of Israel; by "fire and smoke," their towns and habitations consumed by fire. But this interpretation cannot be entertained. The very designation by [Hebrew: mvptiM] indicates that we have here to think of extraordinary phenomena of nature, the symbolical language of which is interpreted by the evil conscience, which recognises in them the precursors of coming judgment. This is confirmed also by the more particular statement of the signs in heaven, in ver.4; for the signs on earth must certainly be of the same class as these. It is confirmed likewise by a comparison with the type of former times, which we have pointed out; for it is from this, that the blood is directly taken. The first plague is thus announced in Exod. vii.17: "Behold, I smite with the rod in mine hand upon the waters in the river, and they are turned into blood." Jalkut Simeoni (in Schoettgen, p.210) remarks: "The Lord brought blood upon the enemies in Egypt: thus also shall it be in future times; for it is written, I will give wonders, blood and fire." The same is the case as respects the fire. Exod. ix.24: "And there came hail, and fire mingled with the hail." It is more natural to suppose that the prophet borrowed these features, as, in the former description of the judgment upon Israel, the plague of the locusts lies at the foundation, and as the contents of the following verse have likewise their prototype in those events. Compare Exod. x.21: "And the Lord said unto Moses, Stretch out thine hand toward the heaven, and let there be darkness over the land of Egypt." That it is not real blood which is here meant, but that only which, by its blood-red colour, reminds of blood (comp. e.g., "Waters red as blood," 2 Kings iii.22), is shown by the fundamental passage, Exod. vii.17, where the water which had become red is called simply blood; compare my work on Egypt and the Books of Moses, p.106. Blood brings into view the shedding of blood; the fiery phenomena announce that the fire of the anger of God, and the fire of war, will be enkindled; compare remarks on i.19, 20. -- The word [Hebrew: timrvt] requires a renewed investigation. Interpreters [Pg 340] uniformly explain it by "pillars," -- a signification which is altogether destitute of any foundation; for the Chaldee [Hebrew: tmrh], to which they refer, is not found with the signification "pillar." Such a meaning is quite inappropriate in the single passage quoted by Buxtorf; the signification "smoke," or "cloud of smoke," is necessarily required in that place. As little are we at liberty to appeal to [Hebrew: tmr], "palm," with which [Hebrew: timrh] has nothing at all to do. The [Hebrew: i], which would be without any analogy if derived from [Hebrew: tmr] (compare Ewald on Song of Sol. iii.6), requires the derivation from [Hebrew: imr]. The word [Hebrew: timrh] is a noun formed from the 3d pers. fem. Fut. of this verb with [Hebrew: h] affixed (compare, on these nouns, the remarks on Hos. ii.14, and my work on Balaam, p.434), and, as to its form, it corresponds exactly with [Hebrew: tmvrh], derived from the 3d fem. Fut. of the verb [Hebrew: mvr]. There cannot now be any doubt regarding the signification of [Hebrew: imr]. Is. lxi.6, and Jer. ii.11, where [Hebrew: hmir] and [Hebrew: himir] occur in the same verse, show that it corresponds entirely with [Hebrew: mvr]. Hence Ewald (l. c.) is wrong in identifying it with [Hebrew: amr], the alleged meaning of which is "to be high." Now in Hebrew, [Hebrew: mvr] and [Hebrew: imr] occur only in the derived signification of "to transform," "to change," "to exchange;" but the primary signification is furnished by the Arabic, where it means: huc illuc latus, agitatus fuit, -- -fluctuavit. (Compare the thorough demonstration by Scheid, ad cant. Hisk. p.159 sqq.) [Hebrew: timrvt] can accordingly signify only "clouds" or "vortices." (In Arabic, [Hebrew: mvr] means "dust agitated by the wind.") The connection of this signification with that of "palpehrae," "eye-lids," in which it occurs in the Talmudic and Rabbinical languages, is very obvious. They were so called from their continual motion hither and thither. Such a connection, however, we must the more easily be able to prove, because that Talmudic and Rabbinical use of the word cannot be derived from any other root than an ancient Hebrew one. The [Greek: atmis] of the LXX. likewise leads to our interpretation, rather than to the prevailing one. The former is, in the only passage in which [Hebrew: timrvt] occurs, besides the one under consideration, and where it likewise occurs in the connection with [Hebrew: ewN], viz., in Song of Sol. iii.6, at least as suitable as the latter. We have to think here of such phenomena as those which are described in Exod. xix.18: "And Mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the Lord had descended upon [Pg 341] it in fire, and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace." Here, as well as there, the fire, and the accompanying smoke, represent, in a visible manner, the truth that God is [Greek: pur katanaliskon], Heb. xii.29. The clouds of smoke are the sad forerunners of the clouds of smoke of the divine judgments upon the enemies, and of the fire of war, in the form of which the former commonly appear. Compare Is. ix.18, 19: "And they mount up like the lifting up of smoke.... And the people became as the fuel of fire; no man spareth his brother." The belief -- which pervades all antiquity -- that the angry Deity announced the breaking in of judgments through the symbolical language of nature, is very remarkable. This belief cannot be a mere delusion, but must have a deep root in the heart. Nature is the echo and the reflection of the disposition of man. If there prevail within him a fearful expectation of things to come, because he feels his own sin, and that of his people, all things external harmonize with that expectation; and, most of all, that which is the natural image and symbol of divine punitive justice, which would not, however, be acknowledged as such, were it not for the interpreting voice within. Having regard to this relation of the mind to nature, God, previous to great catastrophes, often causes those precursors of them to appear more frequently and vividly, than in the ordinary course of nature. In a manner especially remarkable, this took place previous to the destruction of Jerusalem. Compare Josephus, d. Bell. Jud. iv.4, 5. "For during the night, a fearful storm arose, -- there arose boisterous winds with the most violent showers, continual lightnings and awful thunders, and tremendous noises, while the earth was shaken. It was, however, quite evident that the condition of the universe was put into such disorder for the destruction of men, and almost every one conjectured that these were the signs of impending calamity." A great number of other signs and precursors are mentioned by him in B. J. vi.5, Sec.3. These will never be altogether absent, as certainly as punishment never comes without sin, and sin never exists without the consciousness, without the expectation, of deserved judgment. But the chief point in this mode of viewing things, is not the sign itself, but the disposition of mind which interprets it, -- the consciousness of guilt, which fills the soul with the thought of an avenging God, -- the [Pg 342] condition of filings which brings into view the infliction of the judgment. It is by this that we can account for the circumstance that; in the Old Testament, the darkening of the sun and moon, and other things, frequently appear as direct images of sad and heavy times.
Ver.4. "The sun is turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before there cometh the great and terrible day of the Lord."
Among all interpreters, Calvin has given the most admirable interpretation of this verse: "When the prophet says that the sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, these are metaphorical expressions, by which he indicates that the Lord will show signs of His wrath to all the ends of the earth, as if a whole revolution of nature were to take place, in order that men may be stirred up by terror. For, as sun and moon are witnesses of God's fatherly kindness towards us, as long as, in their changes, they provide the earth with light, so will they, on the other hand, says the prophet, be the messengers of the angry and offended God. -- By the darkness of the sun, by the bloody appearance of the moon, by the black cloud of smoke, the prophet intended to express the idea, that wheresoever men should turn their eyes, upwards or downwards, many things would appear to fill them with terror. Hence the language of the prophet amounts to this: -- that never had the state of things in the world been so miserable, -- that never had there appeared so many and so terrible signs of the anger of God." -- We have already seen that the prophet has before his eye the Egyptian type. The darkness upon the whole land of Egypt, while there was light in the dwellings of the Israelites, represented, in a deeply impressive manner, the anger of God in contrast with His grace, of which the symbol is the shining of His heavenly lights. The extinction of these is, in Scripture, frequently the forerunner of coming divine judgments, or an image of those which have been already inflicted; compare the remarks on Zech. xiv.6. Thus it has already occurred in the Book of Joel itself, in the description of the former judgment; compare ii.2: "Day of darkness and gloominess, day of clouds and mist;" ii.10: "Before Him quaketh the earth, and trembleth the heaven; the sun and the moon mourn, and the stars withdraw their shining." Thus it returns in iv. [Pg 343] 14, 15: "The day of the Lord is near in the valley of judgment. The sun and the moon mourn, and the stars withdraw their shining." The passages in which, as in the one before us, the extinction has not a figurative, but a typical character, must not be limited to a single phenomenon. Everything by which the brightness of the heavenly luminaries is clouded or darkened, eclipses of the sun or moon, earthquakes, thunderstorms, etc., fill with fear those in whose hearts the sun of grace has set.
Ver.5. "And it comes to pass, every one who calls on the name of the Lord is saved; for in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be such as have escaped, as the Lord hath said, and amongst those who are spared is whomsoever the Lord calleth."
We must first determine the signification of [Hebrew: pliTh]. The greater number of interpreters explain it by "deliverance;" but it means rather "that which has escaped." This appears, 1. from the form. It is the fem. of the Adj. [Hebrew: pliT], the [Hebrew: -i] of which has arisen from [Hebrew: -- ] by means of lengthening; hence it is that [Hebrew: plTh] is thrice formed without [Hebrew: -i]. It is, then, an adjective of intransitive signification. Now it is true that, by means of the feminine termination, adjectives are changed into abstract nouns, but never into such as indicate an action; but always into such only for which, in Latin and Greek, the neuter of the adjective might be used. This, however, is here inadmissible.2. To this must be added the constant use; as in Is. xxxvii.31, 32: "And that which has escaped ([Hebrew: pliTt]) of the house of Judah, the remnant, taketh root downward, and beareth fruit upward. For out of Jerusalem shall go forth a remnant ([Hebrew: warit]), and that which has escaped out of Mount Zion," -- a passage exactly parallel to the one under consideration (compare also the following words in Is. xxxvii.32: "For the zeal of the Lord will do this," with "As the Lord hath said," here). Is. iv.2: "To that which has escaped," with which, "That which is left in Zion, and that which remaineth in Jerusalem," in the following verse, is identical; Is. x.20: "The remnant ([Hebrew: war]) of Israel, and that which has escaped of the house of Jacob;" Obad. ver.17: "And upon Mount Zion shall be that which has escaped," -- which forms an antithesis to ver.9: "And man shall be cut off from the Mount of Esau;" and finally -- Gen. xxxii.9 (8): "And the camp which has been left is for [Pg 344] the escaped." There does not thus remain a single passage in which the signification "deliverance" is even the probable one. The passages in Jeremiah, where [Hebrew: wrid vpliT] occur together (xlii.17, xliv.14; Lam. ii.2), show that [Hebrew: pliTh] here is not different from [Hebrew: wridiM] in the subsequent clause of the verse. -- The expression [Hebrew: qra bwM ihvh] never is used of a merely outward invocation, but always of such as is the external expression of the faith of the heart; compare the remarks on Zech. xiv.9. Even on account of this stated condition, it is not possible to think of the deliverance of the promiscuous multitude of Israel, in contrast with that of the Gentiles; for the condition is one which is purely internal, and it affords an important hint for the right understanding of what follows. The [Hebrew: ki] by which it is connected remains inexplicable, if Mount Zion and Jerusalem be considered as a place of safety and deliverance for all who are there externally. The same thing is evident from [Hebrew: pliTh]. The sense is not by any means that all the inhabitants of Zion and Jerusalem shall be delivered; but that there shall be some who have escaped -- viz., those who call on the name of the Lord; while those who do not, shall be consumed by the divine judgment. The second condition stated by the prophet -- that of being called by the Lord -- is in like manner internal. The words [Hebrew: awr ihvh qra] have so evident a reference to [Hebrew: awr-iqra bwM ihvh], that we cannot at all suppose, as Credner does, that they refer to other subjects. On the contrary, they who call on the Lord, are also they whom He calls from the general calamity into His protecting presence; and the prophet has endeavoured, by the choice of the words, to bring out into view the close connection of these two parties. They who call on the Lord, and they whom the Lord calls (Maurer's explanation: "And among those who have escaped is every one who calls on the Lord" [compare Ps. xiv.4], gives a very feeble tautology), are the very same upon whom, according to vers, 1 and 2, the fulness of the Spirit has been poured out. -- The words, "As the Lord has said," indicate, that the faithful ones may safely take comfort from this promise; inasmuch as it is not the word of men, but of God. We may see, from such parallel passages as Is. i.20, xiv.5, lviii.14, how little reason we have for thinking that the prophet here refers to some other prophecy. That the prophet, and not the Lord Himself, is speaking in this verse, [Pg 345] is evident from the words: "Who calls on the name of the Lord." It was, therefore, very suitable to show, that it was by Immediate, divine commission that the prophet had given utterance to the consolatory promise, that the people of God would escape in these great and heavy judgments which were to come upon the world. That it is very natural for believers to fear that the punishments which threaten the world should fall upon them also who are living in the world, is shown by Rev. vii., the aim of which is, throughout, to allay the anxious fear which might arise in believers when considering the judgments which threaten the world. The relation of the whole verse to what precedes and follows is this: -- In vers.3 and 4, the prophet had stated the signs and forerunners of the great and fearful day of the Lord. Now he points to the only, and the absolutely sure means of standing on that day. Then, in chap. iv., which is connected by [Hebrew: ki], he describes the judgment itself.
If, now, we endeavour to discover the historical reference of vers.3-5, we are met by a great variety of opinions. It is referred to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans, by Grotius, Cramer, Turrettine (de Scrip, s. interpret. p.331); among the Socinians, in the Raccovian Catechism, p.22, and by Oeder; and among the Arminians, by Episcopius in the Instit. Theol. p.198. Others (as Jerome) think of the resurrection of the Lord; others (as Luther) of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit; others (as Muenster, Capell, Lightfoot, Dresde, l.c. p.22) of the destruction by the Romans. It is referred to the judgment upon the enemies of the Covenant-people soon after the return from the Babylonish captivity, by Ephraem Syrus; to the impending overthrow of Gog, at the time of the Messiah, by the Jewish interpreters; to the general judgment, by Tertullian, Theodoret, and Crusius, In Theol. Prophet. i. p.621; and to the destruction of Jerusalem, and the general judgment at the same time, by Chrysostom and others.
The great variety of these references has arisen solely from the circumstance, that the prophecy has not been reduced to its fundamental idea. This fundamental idea is: -- The manifestation of God's punitive justice upon all which is hostile to His kingdom, which runs parallel with the manifestation of His grace towards the subjects of His kingdom. This idea appears here, in all its generality, without any temporal limitation [Pg 346] whatsoever. Not one of these interpretations, therefore, can be absolutely right. They differ only in this, that some of them are altogether false, inasmuch as they assume a reference to events which do not at all fall under the fundamental idea; while others are only limited and partial views of the truth.
To the first of these classes belong evidently the references to the resurrection, and to the outpouring of the Holy Ghost. It is only by detaching these verses from the following chapter that such a view could arise. These events stand in no relation whatsoever to the animating thought of the passage. There is a certain relation to that thought in the reference to the destruction by the Chaldeans, in so far as this was really a manifestation of divine punitive justice. But the reference to this event would be admissible here, only if the prophet were describing the manifestation of divine punitive justice in general. But such is not the case. The comparison of chap. i. and ii. shows that the subject of the prophecy is rather the manifestation of divine justice in reference to those who are enemies to the kingdom of God. The defenders of such a view have altogether misunderstood the structure of the prophecy of Joel; for, otherwise, they would have seen that that event belongs to the threatening of judgment in chap. i. and ii., where the judgment upon the house of God is described; while, here, there is a description of the judgment upon those who are without.
The same argument seems, at first sight, to apply also to the destruction by the Romans. But on a closer examination, there appears to be a difference betwixt these two events, and one which brings the latter far more within the scope of the prophecy. The destruction by the Romans was much more intimately connected with a total apostasy and rejection, than was that by the Chaldeans. Even before the former destruction, and immediately after the death of Christ, the former Covenant-people had sunk down to the rank of the Gentiles. They were no more apostate children, who were, by means of punishment, to be brought to reformation, but enemies, who were judged on account of their hostile disposition towards the kingdom of God. Malachi, in chap. iii.23 (iv.5), shows that such a time would come when that, which they imagined to be intended only for the heathen by descent, should be realized upon Israel after the flesh. The verbal repetition of the words, "Before there [Pg 347] cometh the great and dreadful day of the Lord," and their application to the judgment upon Israel, can be accounted for only by his intention to oppose the prevailing carnal interpretation of the prophecy under consideration.
It will now be seen also, what the relation is which the phenomena at the death of Christ, the darkening of the sun, the quaking of the earth, the rending of the rocks (compare Matt. xxvii.45, 51; Luke xxiii.44), occupy to the passage before us. They were like the [Hebrew: mvptiM] here, actual declarations of the divine wrath, and forerunners of the approaching judgment; and they were recognised as such by the guilty, to whom this symbolical language was interpreted by their consciences; compare Luke xxiii.48: [Greek: Kai pantes hoi sumparagenomenoi ochloi epi ten theorian tauten, theorountes ta genomena, tuptontes heauton ta stethe, hupestrephon.]
But we must not limit ourselves to the obduracy of the Covenant-people. This we are taught, not only by the relation of chap. i. and ii. to iv.2, but, with especial distinctness, by the renewal of this threatening in Rev. xiv.14-20, where the image of the vintage and winepress, in particular, is borrowed from Joel; see iv.12, 13. The objects of judgment are there the heathen nations on account of their hostility to the people of God, who, by Christ, and by the outpouring of the Spirit procured by Him, have fully attained to that dignity. Nor is the judgment there an isolated one. On the contrary, all which, in history, is realized in an entire series of judicial acts, to be at last consummated in the final judgment, is there comprehended in one great harvest -- in one great vintage.
We have still to make a few remarks upon the quotation in Acts ii.16 ff. Nothing but narrow-mindedness and prejudice could deny that Peter found, in the miracle of Pentecost, an actual fulfilment of the promise in vers.1 and 2. This becomes probable, not only from the circumstance, that the reference of this prophecy to the Messianic time was the prevailing one among the Jews (compare the passages in Schoettgen, S.413), but also from the translation of [Hebrew: aHri-kN] by [Greek: en tais eschatais hemerais], by which, in the New Testament, the Messianic time is always designated. To this must also be added the express declaration in ver.39, that the promise was unto the generation then present. How could Peter have uttered such a declaration, [Pg 348] if his view had been that the promise had found its fulfilment in a time long gone past? At the same time, it is equally certain, that Peter was so far from considering all the riches of the promise to be completely exhausted by that Pentecostal miracle, that he rather considered it to be only a beginning of the fulfilment, -- a beginning, indeed, which implies the consummation, as the germ contains the tree. This is quite obvious from ver.38: [Greek: metanoesate kai baaptistheto hekastos humon.... kai lepsesthe ten dorean tou hagiou pneumatos]. How could Peter, referring to the prophecy, promise the gift of the Holy Spirit, promised in the prophecy to those who should be converted, if the prophecy was already completely fulfilled? But it is still more apparent from ver.39: [Greek hUmin gar estin he epangelia kai tois teknois humon, kai pasi tois eis makran, hosousan proskalesetai Kurios ho Theos hemon.] The question is, who are to be understood by those [Greek: eis makran]? No one could have doubted that the Gentiles are thereby to be understood, unless two things altogether heterogeneous had been confounded, viz., the uncertainty of Peter concerning the fact of the reception of the Gentiles into the kingdom of God, and his uncertainty concerning the mode of their reception. Considering the condition of the Old Testament prophecy, the latter is easily accounted for; but the former cannot. To state only one from among the mass of arguments which prove that Peter could not be ignorant of the fact, we observe that the very manner in which, in Acts iii.25, he quotes the promise given to Abraham, that by his seed the nations should be blessed, proves that he regarded the Gentiles as partakers of the kingdom of Christ. This is rendered still more incontrovertible by the [Greek: proton] in ver.26. To understand, by [Greek: eis makran], foreign Jews, is inadmissible, for the single reason that these were present in great numbers, and hence, were included in the term [Greek: humin]. Now Peter, throughout, addresses all those who were present. How then could he have here confined himself, all at once, to a portion of these I There is, moreover, a plain allusion to the close of Joel iii.5, which the LXX. translate [Greek: ous Kurios proskekletai]. This allusion contains, at the same time, a proof of the concurrent reference to the Gentiles, which is not in express words contained in the prophecy, provided we do not put an arbitrary interpretation upon [Hebrew: bwr]. Attention is thereby directed [Pg 349] to the fact, that, In that passage, salvation, which requires, as its condition, a participation in the outpouring of the Spirit, does not depend upon any human cause, but solely upon the call of God -- upon His free grace. In a manner entirely similar, does St Paul, in Rom. x.12, 13, prove, from the beginning of Joel iii.5, the participation of the Gentiles in the Messianic kingdom: [Greek: Ou gar esti diastole Ioudaiou te kai hEllenos. ho gar autos Kurios panton, plouton eis pantas tous epikaloumenous auton. Pas gar hos an epikalesetai to onoma Kuriou, sothesetai.] If the calling on God were the condition of salvation, access to it was as free to the Gentiles as to the Jews. But if the prophecy has a distinct reference to the still unconverted Jews, their children and the Gentiles, it is then evident, that, according to the view of the Apostle, it did not terminate in that one instance of Its fulfilment, but that, on the contrary, it extends just as far as the thing promised -- as the outpouring itself of the Holy Spirit. This clearly appears, also, from the allusions to the passage under consideration. In the accounts of later outpourings of the Spirit; compare, e.g., Acts x.45, xi.15, xv.8. How, then, was it even possible that Peter should have limited to the few who had already, at that time, received the Spirit, a prophecy, in which the idea of generality is, intentionally, made so prominent? But, even if the universal character of the prophecy had been less distinct, Peter would certainly not have thought of confining it in such a manner. Such a gross and superficial view of the prophecies was far from Peter, as well as from the other Apostles.
Another question remains to be answered. For what purpose does the Apostle quote verses 3-5 also, inasmuch as, apparently, verses 1 and 2 alone properly served his purpose; and what sense did he put upon them? The answer Is given In ver.40: [Greek: hEterois te logois pleiosi diemartureto, kai parekalei, legon. Sothete apo tes geneas tes skolias tautes.] Even in the few words In which Luke communicates to us the brief summary of what Peter spoke In this respect, a reference to the passage under consideration has been preserved to us. Peter made use of the threatening which was, in the first Instance, to be fulfilled upon the dark refuse of the Covenant-people, In order to Induce them, by terror, to seek a participation in the promise which alone could deliver them [Pg 350] from the threatened judgment. That he succeeded in this, is shown by the words, [Greek: Egeneto de pase psuche phobos], in ver.43. Several interpreters have, by ver.22, been led into a total misconception of the sense in which Peter quotes vers.3-5. It is true, certainly, that the words [Greek: terasi kai semeiois] are not used without reference to the passage in Joel. Peter directs attention to the circumstance, that they who, from their hardness of heart, do not acknowledge the [Greek: terata] and [Greek: semeia] with which God accompanied the manifestation of His grace, shall be visited by [Greek: terata] and [Greek: semeia] of a totally different nature, from the fearful impression of which they shall not be able to escape.
But let us now in addition consider some of the particulars. In substance, the quotation by Peter agrees with the LXX.; but deviations occur on particular points. At the very beginning, the LXX., adhering more closely to the Hebrew text, have: [Greek: kai estai meta tauta]; whereas Peter says: [Greek: kai estai en tais eschatais hemerais.] The reason of this deviation is, that the Apostle intends to determine, by this deviation, the expression, which in itself is wider and more indefinite, in such a manner that the period to which the prophecy specially refers, and hence also its application to the case in question, should be rendered more obvious. In a case entirely similar, Jeremiah, in chap. xlix.6, employs the wider term [Hebrew: aHri-kN], while in xlviii.47 he makes use of the more definite [Hebrew: bahrit himiM]. By the latter term, Kimchi also explains the [Hebrew: aHri-kN] in the passage before us; while Jarchi (compare Schoettgen, S.210) explains it by the equivalent term [Hebrew: letid lba]. The words [Greek: legei ho Theos] are wanting in the LXX., as well as in the original Hebrew text. They have been taken from ver.5, and, contrasted with [Greek: to eiremenon dia tou prophetou Ioel], they direct attention to the divine source of prophecy, and hence to the necessity of its fulfilment. The two members, [Greek: kai hoi presbuteroi humonenupnia enupniasthesontai, kai hoi neaniskoi humon horaseis opsontai], Peter has reversed; probably in order to place the young men together with the sons and daughters, and to assign the place of honour to the old men. In the [Greek: doulous mou] and [Greek: doulas mou], Peter follows the LXX., and that in a sense which only expressly makes prominent a point really contained in the prophecy, whether such was intended by the translators, or not; for the circumstance that the servants of men were, at the same [Pg 351] time, servants of God, formed the ground of their participation in the promise. The same contrast is found, e.g., in 1 Cor. vii.22, 23: [Greek: hO gar en Kurio kletheis doulos apeleutheros Kuriou estin. homoios kai ho eleutheros kletheis, doulos esti Christou. Times egorasthete. me ginesthe douloi anthropon]; compare Gal. iii.28; Philem.10. Hence it is equivalent to: Upon servants and handmaids of men who are, at the same time, my servants and handmaids, and, therefore, in spiritual things of equal rank with those who are free. To give prominence to this perfect equality, is also the design of the additional clause: [Greek: kai propheteusousi], subjoined after [Greek: ekcheo apo tou pneumatos mou.] The circumstance that Peter thought it necessary to add this clause, which, as we have proved, quite harmonizes with the design of the prophet, seems to prove that, even at his time, interpretations were current, in which an attempt was made to diminish, or altogether to take away, in the case of servants and handmaids, their participation in those blessings; -- interpretations similar to those of Abarbanel, and even of Grotius, who thus paraphrases the verse: "Even to those who seem to be lowest, I will certainly impart, although not prophesying and dreaming dreams, yet certain extraordinary and heavenly motions." The antiquity of this false interpretation is attested by Jerome also, who probably was, in this respect, altogether dependent upon his Jewish teachers. He interprets, indeed, the servants and handmaids spiritually, and of such as have not the spirit of freedom he says: "They shall neither have prophecies, nor dreams nor visions, but, satisfied with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, they shall possess only the grace of faith and salvation." -- In ver.3, Peter adds [Greek: ano] to [Greek: en to ourano], and [Greek: kato] to [Greek: epi tes ges], in order to make the contrast more obvious and striking. All the deviations from the LXX., and the original text, are thus of the same kind, and intended to bring out more distinctly what is implied in the passage itself. Not one of them need to be accounted for by the circumstance, that the Apostle quoted from memory.
Footnote 1: He says: "The sense in which the universality must be understood is clearly indicated by what follows. For, it is first said, in general, 'All flesh,' and afterwards, a specification is added, by which the prophet intimates, that age or sex will not constitute any difference, but that God will bring them all, without any distinction, into the communion of His grace."
Footnote 2: The two parallel members prove, in opposition to Redslob and others, that the verb [Hebrew: nba] here, as everywhere else, has reference to an ecstatic condition, to the speaking in the Spirit, although this is by no means limited to a revelation of the future. The closeness of the connection between prophesying, dreaming dreams, and seeing visions, is evident from Num. xii.6, where visions and dreams appear as the two principal forms of revelation to the [Hebrew: nbia].