Joel 2
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Chap. Joel 2:1-17A fuller description of the signs of the approaching ‘Day of Jehovah,’ followed by a renewed and more emphatic exhortation to repentance.

This section of Joel’s prophecy is an expansion of the thought of Joel 1:14-15. The signs of the approaching “Day of Jehovah” are more fully described (Joel 2:2-11); and the people are invited, more directly and earnestly than before (Joel 1:14), to repent, if perchance Jehovah may be induced thereby to stay the threatened judgement (Joel 2:12-17). The imagery, under which the approach of the “day” is depicted, is borrowed from the recent visitation of locusts. Whereas, however, in ch. 1 the stress lay upon the desolation which had been already wrought by the locusts in the land, in Joel 2:2-11 the prophet looks more to the future, and describes the attack of fresh and more formidable swarms, which he imagines as the immediate precursors of Jehovah’s Day. The description, though founded upon correct observation of the habits of locusts, contains ideal traits; though it is not so idealized as that of the “apocalyptic” locusts of Revelation 9:3-11.

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;
1. Blow ye the horn in Zion] see, in justification of this rendering of shôphâr, on Amos 2:2. The horn is to be sounded, in order to give notice of impending danger, and arouse the people to meet it (cp. on Amos 3:6).

sound an alarm] The word, though it often has the sense of shouting, is used also to denote the long, continuous blast of the horn, which, in contradistinction to a succession of short, sharp notes, was the signal of danger (Numbers 10:9, though the reference there is not to the shôphâr, but to the ḥatzôtzerâh).

tremble] aroused viz., by the ‘alarm,’ from their security.

for the day of Jehovah cometh, for it is at hand (or near)] Repeated, with some variation, from Joel 1:15. at hand (or near), exactly as Joel 1:15, Joel 3:14.

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.
2–11. The signs of the approaching Day.

A day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness] So Zephaniah 1:15. Four synonyms are combined, for the purpose of emphasizing the darkness, which the prophet has in view. Darkness is, in Hebrew poetry, a common figure for calamity (comp. on Amos 5:18); but here, no doubt, the image is suggested by the fact that a flight of locusts, as it approaches, presents the appearance of a black cloud, which, as it passes, obscures the sun, and even sometimes darkens the whole sky. Speaking of a ‘column of locusts,’ which appeared in India, a writer says, ‘it was so compact that, like an eclipse, it completely hid the sun; so that no shadow was cast by any object, and some lofty tombs, not more than 200 yards distant, were rendered quite invisible’ (ap. Kirby on Entomology, Letter VI.). “Our attention has often been attracted by the sudden darkening of the sun in a summer sky, accompanied by the peculiar noise which a swarm of locusts always makes moving through the air” (Van Lennep, Bible Lands, p. 315; comp. the illustration, p. 317). Many other observers speak similarly; cf. below, p. 87 ff.

As the dawn spread upon the mountains, a people great and strong!] The words as the dawn &c. are to be connected with what follows, not with what precedes (which belongs rather to Joel 2:1); and the allusion is probably to the glimmering brightness produced by the reflexion of the sun’s rays from the wings of the locusts, which the prophet compares poetically to the early dawn as it first appears upon the mountains. “The day before the locusts arrived, we were certain that they were, approaching from a yellow reflexion produced by their yellow wings in the heavens. As soon as this was observed, no one doubted that a vast swarm of locusts was at hand” (from a description quoted by Credner, p. 274). Of a flight of locusts in the Sinai peninsula, the Rev. F. W. Holland writes, “They soon increased in number, and as their glazed wings glanced in the sun, they had the appearance of a snow-storm. Many settled on the ground, which was soon in many places quite yellow with them, and every blade of green soon disappeared” (ap. Tristram, N.H.B[35] p. 316). “Their flight may be likened to an immense snow storm, extending from the ground to a height at which our visual organs perceive them only a minute, darting scintillations …, a vast cloud of animated specks, glittering against the sun. On the horizon they often appear as a dust tornado, riding upon the wind like an ominous hail-storm, eddying and whirling about and finally sweeping up to and past you, with a power that is irresistible” (C. V. Riley, The Rocky Mountain Locust, p. 85 f.).

[35] .H.B. … H. B. Tristram, Natural History of the Bible (1868).

a great people and a strong] terms applied elsewhere to a human nation (Exodus 1:9; Deuteronomy 7:1 : comp. on ch. Joel 1:6); and suitable to locusts, because they advance not only in vast numbers, but also (comp. on Joel 2:5; Joel 2:7-8) with the order and directness of an organized host, against which all measures of defence are practically unavailing.

there hath not been, &c.] cf. Exodus 10:14 b.

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.
3. A fire devoureth before them, &c.] A hyperbolical description of the destructive march of a swarm of locusts: the country which they have passed over is left as bare as if it had been wasted by fire; and the prophet accordingly imagines poetically a fire as preceding and following them on their course. Many travellers have used the same comparison: one says, for instance, “Wherever they come, the ground seems burned, as it were with fire.” Another, “They covered a square mile so completely, that it appeared, at a little distance, to have been burned and strewed over with brown ashes.” And a third, “Wherever they settled, it looked as if fire had devoured and burnt up everything.” Palestine was invaded by locusts in 1865; from June 13 to 15 they poured into Nazareth: “the trees,” an eye-witness wrote, “are as barren as in England in winter, but it looks as if the country had been burnt by fire” (Eccles. Gazette, 1865, p. 55).

as the garden of Eden] like a park (LXX. here, as in Gen., παράδεισος), richly watered, and well stocked with majestic trees (Genesis 2:8-10): the comparison, as Ezekiel 36:35 (of the restored land of Israel) “this land that was desolate is become like the garden of Eden”: similarly the garden of Jehovah, Genesis 13:10, Isaiah 51:3 (in the parallel clause, Eden); cp. also the trees of Eden, Ezekiel 31:9; Ezekiel 31:16; Ezekiel 31:18.

and behind them a desolate wilderness] The destruction wrought by locusts is such as to be hardly imaginable by those who have not witnessed it: see the next note; and cf. Exodus 10:15.

shall escape them] escapeth them. Present tenses, in English, represent the scene, as pictured by Joel, most vividly; and are best throughout to Joel 2:11 (cf. R.V.). The fact noted by the prophet is literally true, as almost every observer testifies. “On whatever spot they fall, the whole vegetable produce disappears. Nothing escapes them, from the leaves on the forest to the herbs on the plain” (Clarke, Travels, I. 428 f.). “They had [for a space of 80–90 miles in length] devoured every green herb, and every herb of grass.” “Not a shrub nor blade of grass was visible” (Barrow, S. Africa, pp. 242, 257).

The appearance of them is as the appearance of horses; and as horsemen, so shall they run.
4. as the appearance of horses, &c.] partly on account of their speed and compact array, but chiefly on account of a resemblance which has been often observed between the head of a locust and the head of a horse (hence the Italian name cavalletta, and the German name Heupferd). Theodoret says, “If you observe attentively the head of a locust, you will find it exceedingly like the head of a horse.” And an Arabic poet, quoted by Bochart, Hieroz. Pt. II., L. iv., c. 4, writes, “They have the thigh of a camel, the legs of an ostrich, the wings of an eagle, the breast of a lion, a tail like a viper’s; and the appearance of a horse adorns them about the head and mouth.” C. Niebuhr heard a similar description in Bagdâd (Beschreibung von Arabien, 1772, p. 173). “To this day the same metaphor is familiar in every Arab camp” (Tristram, N.H.B[36] p. 314). See also Revelation 9:7.

[36] .H.B. … H. B. Tristram, Natural History of the Bible (1868).

as horsemen—or, possibly, as war-horses—so do they run] charging with the same directness, and also with the same swiftness and sure-footedness. For these virtues of an ancient warrior, cf. 2 Samuel 1:23; 2 Samuel 2:18; Psalm 18:33.

4–9. Further description of the march of the locusts. They move on like some mighty host: the noise of their approach is heard from afar; they spread terror before them; their advance is irresistible; the keenest weapons, the strongest walls, are alike powerless to arrest their progress.

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.
5. Like the noise of chariots, &c.] Cf. Revelation 9:9, “And the sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots, of many horses rushing to war.” The remarkable noise made by a flight of locusts is noticed by many travellers. “Within a hundred paces, I heard the rushing noise occasioned by the flight of so many millions of insects. When I was in the midst of them, it was as loud as the dashing of waters occasioned by the mill-wheel.” “While passing over our heads, their sound was as of a great cataract.” “In flying they make a rushing, rustling noise, as when a strong wind blows through trees.” Cf. below, p. 87 (No. 1), 89 (No. 4), 90 (No. 7).

like the noise of a flame of fire that devoureth the stubble] Here the reference is to the sound made by the insects while feeding. Cyril long ago compared the noise of locusts browsing to that of a wind φλόγα διαῤῥιπίζοντος (ap. Boch. Hieroz. 3:309); and C. V. Riley, the eminent American entomologist, speaks of it as resembling “the crackling of a prairie-fire” (Riverside Nat. Hist. 2., p. 197). “The sound of their feeding, when in swarms, is as the rushing of flames driven by the wind” (Newman, Hist. of Insects, Joel 2:1, cited in the Speaker’s Comm.).

as a strong people set in battle array] cf. Joel 2:2. They prepare for the attack like a mighty nation, seized to a man with martial ardour, and arrayed in order for the fray.

Before their face the people shall be much pained: all faces shall gather blackness.
6. The alarm to be caused by their approach, like that occasioned by the advance of some vast horde of invaders.

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

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

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

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:
7. They run like mighty men] i.e. like warriors, which is what the word (gibbôr) regularly denotes (2 Samuel 23:8; and comp. on Amos 2:14). To run means here to charge: cf. Psalm 18:29; Job 15:26.

they climb the wall] viz. of the city which they essay to enter.

they move along every one in his ways, and they entangle not their paths] i.e. they all march straight forward into the city (Joshua 6:5); none crosses the path of his neighbour, so as to impede his advance.

entangle] יעבטון can hardly be rendered otherwise than lend on pledge, figuratively for interchange, which however would be here a very forced metaphor. It is better to read either יעבתון, which occurs Micah 7:3, and which, though the root is not otherwise known, may perhaps mean twist together, intertwine (cf. עבות a rope,?something twisted), or, with Wellh., יְעַוְּתוּן (and in Mic. וַיְעַוְּתוּהָ), which certainly would mean make crooked or twist (Ecclesiastes 7:13).

The steadiness and regularity which mark the advance of a body of locusts, when moving along the ground, has been often noticed: see below, pp. 88–90. Comp. Proverbs 30:27 “The locusts have no king; yet go they forth all of them in bands” (lit. divided).

7–9. The attack, anticipated by the peoples with alarm (Joel 2:6) now follows: the onward movement of the locusts is compared to that of a well-appointed army: nothing impedes their advance; there is no disorder in their ranks; they climb the highest walls, and penetrate into the strongest cities.

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.
8. they move along every one in his highway] or raised way, specially prepared by throwing up earth, stones, &c., and then levelling the surface (Isaiah 40:3; Isaiah 57:14; Isaiah 62:10). Here figuratively for a definitely marked path.

and they fall about the weapons without breaking (their course)] i.e. weapons are powerless to arrest their progress: a few may fall wounded, when the sword is directed against them, but the mass moves on, with its ranks still unbroken. Similarly R.V. marg. The words are however difficult; and this explanation cannot be said to be certain. R.V. renders the first clause (with Hitzig, Keil, and Wellhausen) “and they burst through (i.e. in between) the weapons,” viz. without injuring themselves, or having their progress impeded; but this implies a rather doubtful paraphrase of fall. The rendering of A.V. is not tenable.

weapons] not the usual word, but one (שׁלח) which otherwise occurs only in late writings, viz. 2 Chronicles 23:10 (where the parallel passage 2 Kings 11:11 has the ordinary word כלים), 2 Chronicles 32:5 (no parallel in Kings); Nehemiah 4:11; Nehemiah 4:17 [A.V. 17, 23]; Job 33:18; Job 36:12. Silâḥ in Arabic has the same sense.

It is practically impossible[38] to arrest or divert the advance of a body of locusts. “The guard of the Red Tower attempted to stop their irruption into Pennsylvania by firing at them; and indeed when the balls and shot swept through the swarm, they gave way and divided; but having filled up their ranks in a moment, they proceeded on their journey.” When locusts on the march approach a village, the inhabitants endeavour often to stop their advance by kindling fires, or digging trenches and filling them with water, but to little effect (see pp. 88 ff.): a flight of locusts is however sometimes deterred from alighting by the noise of pots and pans, kettles, drums, &c.

[38] Except indeed by elaborate contrivances such as are in use now in Cyprus.

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.
9. They course about in the city; they run upon the wall] no sooner have they gained an entrance than they make the city their own, and take possession of the walls. The exact force of the word rendered course about is not certain: it is used of locusts in Isaiah 33:4 (“like the attack of locusts, shall they attack it”), of a bear in Proverbs 28:15 (“A growling lion, and a ranging bear”), and (in a reflexive form) of chariots charging the suburbs of a city in Nahum 2:4 (“they justle one another in the broad places”).

climb up into the houses] cf. Exodus 10:6. Modern travellers relate the same: e.g. Morier, below, p. 89. Eastern windows, being not glazed, but consisting merely of an opening with lattice-work, would naturally present no obstacle to the entrance of the locusts.

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:
10, 11. The locusts of Joel 2:2-9, as was remarked on Joel 2:1, are to a certain extent idealized, and pictured as more alarming and formidable than ordinary locusts; and in these two verses, other extraordinary, awe-inspiring concomitants of their approach are signalized. Earth and heaven tremble before them; sun, moon, and stars withdraw their light; Jehovah at their head utters His voice in thunder. For the preternatural cosmical phenomena accompanying Jehovah’s Day, comp. Joel 2:31, Joel 3:15; Isaiah 13:10; Isaiah 13:13 (of the day on which Babylon is to be captured by the Medes); also Amos 8:9; Ezekiel 32:7 f.

Before them the earth trembleth] Amos 8:8; Psalm 77:18; and figuratively 1 Samuel 14:15; Proverbs 30:21.

before them] לפניו, not, as in Joel 2:6, מפניו (implying causality): the phenomena here described are not caused by the locusts, but simply herald their approach.

the heavens quake] The heavens being conceived as a solid vault resting upon the earth (comp. on Amos 8:6). Cf. 2 Samuel 22:8 (“And the earth shook and quaked, the foundations of the heavens trembled”); Isaiah 13:13 (“Therefore will I make the heavens to tremble, and the earth shall quake out of its place”).

are dark] are black, clothed, as it were in mourning, of which the word (קדר) is often used. Cp. 1 Kings 18:45 (“and the heavens grew black with clouds and rain”); Isaiah 50:3 (“I clothe the heavens with blackness”); Ezekiel 32:7 (“I will make their stars black”).

and the stars withdraw their shining] Joel 3:15.

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?
11. And Jehovah uttereth his voice] viz. in thunder, as Psalm 18:13; Psalm 46:6, and regularly: see on Amos 1:2.

before his army] the locusts, as described in Joel 2:2-9. Cf. Joel 2:25.

for, &c.] Three co-ordinate clauses, each introduced by for, state the reason why Jehovah thunders before His host: on account, viz. of its vastness, its strength, and the exceptional character of the Day, the advent of which it is to herald.

great … strong] cf. Joel 1:6, Joel 2:2; Joel 2:5.

that executeth his word] The mission of the locusts is to fulfil a Divine purpose. Comp. the same expression (of other natural agents) in Psalm 148:8.

the day of Jehovah is great and very terrible] Cf. Joel 2:31; Malachi 4:5.

abide] Cf. Jeremiah 10:10; and esp. Malachi 3:2 (a different conjugation of the same verb). More lit. contain, or sustain.

Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning:
12. turn ye even to me] come back from your self-chosen course of sin, return to Me. On the idea of turning (or returning) to God in the Old Testament (from which the theological idea of “conversion” was ultimately developed), see on Amos 4:6.

with all your heart] with the entire force of your moral purpose. The Deuteronomic phrase is “with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deuteronomy 6:5, and elsewhere), i.e. with the intellect and the affections combined[39]; but the heart alone is often mentioned (e.g. 1 Samuel 12:20; 1 Samuel 12:24, Jeremiah 29:13; and, as here, with turn, 1 Samuel 7:3, Jeremiah 24:7). The heart is in Hebrew psychology not (as with us) the organ of the affections, but the organ of the intellect (see e.g. Hosea 7:11); here, the organ of moral purpose and resolve.

[39] See the writer’s Commentary on Deuteronomy, pp. 21 n., 73, 91.

with fasting, and with weeping, and with wailing] i.e. with grief for sin, of which these are to be the external signs. On fasting, as a mark of penitence, see on Joel 1:14 : on weeping, as its concomitant, Jdg 20:26, Psalm 69:10, Zechariah 7:3; cf. 2 Kings 22:19, Isaiah 22:12, Ezra 10:1.

12–14. Nevertheless, it is still not too late to avert the judgement by earnest penitence; for God is gracious and compassionate, and ready to pardon those who turn to Him with their whole heart. Cf. Jeremiah 4:14.

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.
13. And rent your heart, and not your garments] The rending of garments was an expression of exceptional emotion, whether of grief, or terror, or horror, upon occasion of some specially overwhelming misfortune (see e.g. Genesis 37:29; Genesis 37:34; Genesis 44:13; Numbers 14:6; Jdg 11:35; 2 Samuel 1:2; 2 Samuel 3:31; 1 Kings 21:27; 2 Kings 5:7-8; 2 Kings 11:14; 2 Kings 19:1; 2 Kings 22:11; Ezra 9:3; Esther 4:1): deep, however, as the grief was, which thus found expression, the prophet demands, for sin, a deeper grief still, one viz. which should, speaking figuratively, rend the hard and stony (Ezekiel 36:26; Zechariah 7:12) heart, and make it pervious to godlike thoughts and emotions. Comp. the ‘broken and crushed (contrite) heart’ of Psalm 51:17; and the figure of the circumcision of the heart, Deuteronomy 10:16, Jeremiah 4:4. Fasting, like other external ordinances (cf. on Amos 5:21 f.), was liable to degenerate into an unspiritual form (see Isaiah 58:3 b, 4, 5; Zechariah 7:5); and the prophet insists accordingly, with earnestness, on the spiritual conditions which must accompany it, if it is to be a reality. Comp. especially the eloquent development of the same theme in Isaiah 58:3-12, where the true fast, in which Jehovah delights, is said to consist in acts of mercy, philanthropy, and liberality. See also Matthew 6:16-18; and Sir 34:26.

gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger, and of great kindness] Almost verbatim from Exodus 34:6 (the great declaration of Jehovah’s character, made to Moses): similarly Psalm 86:15; Psalm 103:8; Psalm 145:8, Jonah 4:2 b, Nehemiah 9:17; comp. also the first two epithets in Numbers 14:18; Psalm 111:4; Nehemiah 9:31; 2 Chronicles 30:9.

and repenteth him of the evil] So also Jonah 4:2 b. The evil meant is that which He has threatened to bring upon an individual or a nation. The implicit condition of Jehovah’s repentance is, of course, the prior repentance of the individual or nation concerned, and their unreserved abandonment of their evil way: see Jeremiah 18:5-12; Jonah 3:10. (Other motives are, however, sometimes assigned for Jehovah’s repentance, as Exodus 32:12-14; Amos 7:2-3; Amos 7:5-6; cf. 2 Samuel 24:16.)

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?
14. Who knoweth if he will] lit. Who knoweth? he will …, i.e. Peradventure he will …, or (R.V.) Who knoweth whether he will not …? The same idiom in 2 Samuel 12:22, and (in the same phrase as here) Jonah 3:9.

turn back] viz. from the path of judgment upon which he has entered.

and leave a blessing behind him] as he turns back.

a blessing] viz. by permitting the earth again to mature its fruits and yield materials for the meal-and drink-offerings in the sanctuary (Joel 1:9). The fruits of the earth are a blessing bestowed by God upon man (Deuteronomy 7:13; Deuteronomy 16:10; Deuteronomy 16:15; Deuteronomy 16:17, &c.); and they are a double blessing, when, as here, being such as can be offered to Jehovah, they help to ensure His good-will.

Blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly:
15. Blow ye the horn in Zion] Repeated verbatim from Joel 2:1, though in a different sense, as a call, namely, to a religious gathering, not as a signal of the approach of judgment (cf. on Amos 2:2).

sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly] as Joel 1:14 a (first two clauses).

15–17. With the view of making the preceding exhortation (Joel 2:12 f.) more practically effective, the prophet here repeats more emphatically the command of Joel 1:14 : he bids all ranks and classes assemble in the Temple for a solemn religious service, and prescribes at the same time the words in which the priests may intercede on behalf of the nation.

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.
16. An expansion of the injunctions contained in the rest of Joel 1:14 a.

sanctify an assembly] i.e. hold a sacred religious meeting.

gather the elders] the old men (R.V. marg.). All are to take part in the great public act of national humiliation and supplication, neither old men nor children are to be excepted; even the newly married bride and bridegroom, who might deem themselves entitled to claim exemption from such duties (cf. Deuteronomy 24:5), are to come forth from their retirement for the purpose.

closet] rather, pavilion; the idea suggested by ‘closet’ is too modern. The reference is no doubt to the special nuptial tent (cf. 2 Samuel 16:22), still, in Arabia, erected for the consummation of a marriage. In Arabic a common phrase for ‘to marry a wife’ is ‘to build over her’ (sc. a tent, with reference to this custom). The later bridal bed, with its canopy, appears to be a survival of the more primitive ‘tent’[40]. Ḥuppâh is a rare word in Hebrew: in Psalm 19:5 it is spoken of also as the bridegroom’s. Here ḥéder (‘chamber’), in the parallel clause, appears to be merely a poetical synonym of it[41].

[40] See W. R. Smith, Marriage and Kinship in Early Arabia, pp. 167–170, 291; Wellhausen’s essay, Die Ehe bei den Arabern in the Göttingen Nachrichten, 1893, No. 11, p. 444 f.; and Levy’s Neuhebr. Wörterbuch, s. v. נִּנּוּן (1:348), and חוּפָּה (2:92).

[41] Cf. Jdg 14:18, where החדֵרה should probably be read for החרסה, “before he went into the bride-chamber”

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?
17. weep] in grief and contrition: cf. Jdg 2:4; and on Joel 2:12.

between the porch and the altar] between the porch on the E. end of the Temple (1 Kings 6:3), and the great altar of burnt-offering in front of it (1 Kings 8:64; 2 Chronicles 8:12) in the ‘inner court’ (1 Kings 6:36), also called ‘the court of the priests,’ in contradistinction to the ‘great court’ (ib.) outside, into which alone the laity were admitted. The same expression occurs in Ezekiel 8:16. The priests are pictured as engaged there in supplication, with their faces (unlike those of the idolaters in Ezekiel 8:16) turned towards the sanctuary.

give not thine inheritance to reproach] cf. Ezekiel 22:4; Ezekiel 36:30 (“the reproach of famine among the nations”); Psalm 44:13; Psalm 79:4; Psalm 89:41. The fact of Judah’s being Jehovah’s people and inheritance, is made the basis of the appeal, as Deuteronomy 9:26; Deuteronomy 9:29.

that the nations should rule over them] This translation is perfectly legitimate grammatically; but in the context there has been no mention of Judah being dominated by foreign nations, but only of the country having been devastated by locusts and drought; hence the rendering make proverbs of (i.e. use their name as a by-word) is more probable (cf. R.V. marg.); comp. Jeremiah 24:9 (“to be a reproach and a proverb … in all places whither I shall drive them”), Psalm 44:13 a, 14a. The country suffering as it did, the heathen would be tempted to mock Israel, to declare that they were abandoned by their God, and that He lacked either the power or the will to save them. Comp. Exodus 32:12; Numbers 14:13-16; Deuteronomy 9:28.

wherefore should they say among the peoples, Where is their God?] Such is the taunt which the peoples of the earth would address to them, when they saw their distress. Comp. Micah 7:10; Psalm 42:10; Psalm 79:10; Psalm 115:2,—in Psalm 79:10, as here, a motive for God’s intervention.

With the general picture of the nation, small and great alike, assembled as suppliants in the Temple, with the priests leading their devotions, comp. Jdt 4:9-15.

Then will the LORD be jealous for his land, and pity his people.
18, 19. Then was Jehovah jealous for his land, and had pity on his people. And Jehovah answered and said, &c.] The future tenses of the A.V. are grammatically indefensible[42]. Though it is not expressly so stated, it is understood that the prophet’s exhortations had the intended effect; the people shewed themselves to be truly penitent; the priests interceded on their behalf; and the words quoted describe Jehovah’s gracious change of purpose, and the promises which He in consequence vouchsafed to His people.

[42] See the grounds for this statement in the writer’s Hebrew Tenses, § 82 Obs.

jealous for his land] Zechariah 1:14; Zechariah 8:2. Jehovah is “jealous,” when His power is doubted, or the honour which is His due is given to another (see Exodus 20:5; Deuteronomy 4:24; Deuteronomy 32:21; Isaiah 42:8; Zephaniah 3:8, noticing in each case the context): this happens, however, when His people or His land suffer, and the heathen argue in consequence that He is unable to relieve them; accordingly the feeling of “jealousy” prompts Him then to interpose on their behalf (Ezekiel 36:5-6; cf. Isaiah 9:7; Isaiah 37:32 [where zeal is a very inadequate rendering]).

Part II. Chap. Joel 2:18 to Joel 3:21Jehovah’s answer to His people’s prayer of penitence. He will remove from them the plague of locusts, and bestow upon them an abundance of both material and spiritual gifts (Joel 2:18-32); His judgment will alight only upon the nations who are their foes; His own people will dwell for ever securely under the protection of His presence (ch. 3).

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:
19. Jehovah’s favourable answer: He will no longer suffer His people to be deprived by the locusts of the fruits of the earth, nor give occasion for the heathen to reproach them.

will send] am sending,—the ptcp., as often, of the immediate future. the corn, and the must, and the fresh oil] which they were in need of (Joel 1:10).

and ye shall be satisfied therewith] They should have it in abundance.

a reproach among the nations] Joel 2:17 b.

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.
20. from you] lit. from upon you, from being a burden on you; a delicate Hebrew idiom which cannot generally be represented without stiffness in English: comp. on Amos 5:23; and see Exodus 10:17 (‘remove from upon me,’—also of locusts).

the northern army] lit. the northern one. The reference, as seems evident both from the context and also from the words following (which exactly describe the fate of a swarm of locusts), can be only to the locusts: although it is true that locusts generally invade Palestine from the S. or S. E., there is not sufficient ground for supposing this rule to be a universal one: they are not indigenous in Palestine, but are brought thither by the wind from their breeding-ground; and instances are on record of their being seen in the Syrian desert—Niebuhr, for instance (Credner, p. 271), saw a large tract of country between Mosul and Nisibis covered with young locusts—whence a N.E. wind would readily bear them towards Judah, in which case the epithet Northern would very naturally be applied to them (the Chaldaeans, though Babylon is in reality almost due East of Palestine, are often spoken of as coming from the North, on account of that being the usual direction of their approach; Jeremiah 13:20; Jeremiah 47:2, &c.).

into a dry land, and a waste] i.e. into the desert, on the S.E. or S. of Judah.

his forepart (or van: lit. face) into the east sea] lit. the front sea, i.e. the Dead Sea (Ezekiel 47:18; Zechariah 14:8).

and his rear (lit. end) into the west sea] lit. the hinder sea, i.e. the Mediterranean Sea (Deuteronomy 11:24; Deuteronomy 34:2; Zechariah 14:8). The Hebrews, like other ancient nations, in fixing the points of the compass, faced Eastwards; hence in front or before is often used for the East, behind for the West, the right hand for the South (cf. the Arab. Yemen, i.e. the South part of Arabia). The description of the removal of the locusts is naturally not to be understood with prosaic literalness: it is intended rather as an imaginative representation of their rapid and complete destruction, though a wind rising first in the N.W., and afterwards gradually veering round to the N.E., would produce approximately the effects indicated.

Rear (סוף) is properly an Aramaic word (Daniel 4:8, &c.), occurring otherwise only in late Hebrew, 2 Chronicles 20:16; Ecclesiastes 3:11; Ecclesiastes 7:2; Ecclesiastes 12:13.

[and his stink shall come up,] that his foulness may come up] The tautology, and especially the tense and construction (וְתַעַל) of the second clause make it probable that the first clause (here bracketed) is a gloss, based upon Isaiah 34:3 (cf. Amos 4:10), designed for the purpose of explaining the rare word (found only here) rendered foulness[43]. The reference is to the decaying carcases of the locusts, which often (see below) have been known to produce putrid exhalations.

[43] The meaning is fixed by the Aramaic (see Payne Smith, Thes. Syr. col. 3393–4).

because he hath done great things] lit. hath shewn greatness in doing. Applied to God (see the next verse), the phrase is used in a good sense; applied to His creatures, it implies that they have in some way done more than they should have done, or have acted overweeningly (cf. Lamentations 1:9, of the Chaldaeans: lit. “the enemy hath shewn greatness”; Psalm 35:26 al.). There is of course a logical inexactness in the application of the expression to insects unconscious of moral distinctions; but the prophet invests them poetically with rational powers, just as other prophets for instance imagine trees or mountains as capable of rejoicing because Jehovah has redeemed His people (Isaiah 44:23, &c.).

It is a common fate of locust swarms to be driven away by the wind, and to perish in the sea (Exodus 10:19). Jerome says that in his own time when Judaea had been visited by locusts, he had known them to be driven by the wind into the same two seas which are mentioned by Joel, the shores of both being strewn afterwards by their carcases, cast up by the waters, producing pestilential odours. Augustine (de Civ. Dei, 3:31) quotes heathen writers as stating how in Africa immense swarms of locusts, cast by the wind into the sea, were afterwards thrown up by the waves, infecting the air, and giving rise to a serious pestilence. Locusts “not only produce a famine, but in districts near the sea where they had been drowned, they have occasioned a pestilence from the putrid effluvia of the immense numbers blown upon the coast or thrown up by the tides” (Forbes, Memoirs, 2:373). “The South and East winds drive the clouds of locusts with violence into the Mediterranean, and drown them in such quantities, that when their dead are cast on the shore they infect the air to a great distance” (Volney, 1:278).

Fear not, O land; be glad and rejoice: for the LORD will do great things.
21. O land] more exactly, O ground; i.e. the soil which until now has been “mourning” (Joel 1:10) under the sore visitation.

for Jehovah hath done great things] exactly the same phrase as in Joel 2:20, the past tense, however, being here the “prophetic past” (comp. on Amos 5:2), and describing in reality what Jehovah will do. For the application of the phrase to Jehovah, see Psalm 126:2-3.

21–27. The prophet here speaks himself; and developing in jubilant tones the promise of Joel 2:19-20, first of all (Joel 2:21-23) bids in turn the land, the beasts of the field, and the children of Zion, exult on account of the deliverance vouchsafed by Jehovah; and then (Joel 2:24-27) proceeds to dilate upon the felicity which His people will subsequently enjoy.

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.
22. The beasts of the field, whose sufferings were described in Joel 1:18; Joel 1:20 need now fear no longer: the “pastures of the wilderness,” which but recently were burnt up (Joel 1:19), will now soon begin to spring.

spring] lit. have young grass: the verb being cognate with the word for “young grass,” Genesis 1:11 (“let the earth grass forth young grass”), 12; Psalm 23:2 (lit. “pastures of young grass”).

the fig tree and the vine] which were described as ravaged in Joel 1:7; Joel 1:12. The tenses in this verse are in the Hebrew perfects, to be explained as the perfect in Joel 2:21.

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.
23. hath given] another instance of the prophetic perfect.

the former rain … and the latter rain] Heb. môreh, and malḳôsh: the rains which marked respectively the beginning and the close of the wet season, coming in Oct.–Nov. and March–April respectively. The “former rain” moistens the earth and fits it to receive the seeds which are sown shortly afterwards: the “latter rain” is important forgiving fulness and strength to the ripening crops: if either rain fails, the ensuing harvest is seriously damaged. Comp. Deuteronomy 11:14; Jeremiah 5:24. The refreshing and invigorating effects of the “latter rain” are alluded to in Hosea 6:3; Proverbs 16:15; Job 29:23 : in Jeremiah 3:3 it is spoken of as having been “withheld.”

moderately] according to righteousness (comp. Hosea 10:12 Heb.), i.e. as His righteousness prompts Him to give it (cf. Isaiah 42:6; Isaiah 45:13). R.V. in just measure does not adequately bring out the force of the expression.

The Heb. words rendered “the former rain moderately” would admit also of the rendering “the teacher unto righteousness” (teacher, as Isaiah 30:20, of the prophets). This is an old Jewish interpretation, found in the Targ., Symm., Vulg. (doctorem justitiae), Rashi, Abarbanel; adopted hence in A.V. marg., and by some moderns, as Keil, Pusey, Merx, the reference being supposed to be to the Messiah. But the context, which from Joel 2:22 to Joel 2:26 speaks solely of the gifts of the earth, is much opposed to this explanation; the spiritual gifts follow in Joel 2:28-29.

will cause, &c.] hath caused. The future tense, though correct as an interpretation, is utterly unjustifiable as a translation; the tense in the original is the historical one, which normally in Hebrew (Genesis 1:3-10, &c.) introduces the sequel to a preceding historical one. The prophet, however, maintains the standpoint which he has adopted before (hath done Joel 2:21; have sprung &c. Joel 2:22; hath given Joel 2:23), using “prophetic” pasts, and describing what is future as though it were already accomplished. There is an exactly similar case in Isaiah 9:6 (Hebrews 5): shall be (twice) ought there to be grammatically is, the prophet still maintaining the standpoint of Joel 2:1-4 (Heb. 8:23–9:3), and continuing to describe the future in terms of the past.

the rain] géshem, an abundant rain, or winter-rain (on Amos 4:7).

the former rain, and the latter rain in the first month] The first month (of the ecclesiastical year) was Nisan, which corresponded to part of our March–April, and so would agree with the time of the “latter rain”; but the addition destroys the balance of the two clauses, besides being otiose (since every one would know at what period of the year the “latter rain” might be expected). Others (placing the comma differently) render, “the former rain and the latter rain, at the first” (so R.V. marg.), or first of all,—in contrast namely to the spiritual gifts to be added afterwards (Joel 3:1); this yields a tolerable sense, but implies בראשונה (Zechariah 12:7; Deuteronomy 13:10 al.) for בראשון. As aforetime is perhaps the idea that would most naturally be expected: but this implies כבראשונה (Isaiah 1:26 al.)—or possibly (for it does not actually occur with that meaning) בראשונה—for בראשון.

The ‘former rain’ and the ‘latter rain’ are not naturally epexegetical of the preceding géshem, which would denote rather the copious rains of winter; the repetition of the ‘former rain’ in the verse is also tautologous. The verse is improved, if with Wellh. we suppose the second ‘former rain’ to have come in by error (on account of the natural combination “môreh and malḳôsh”): if it be omitted, the three principal rains of the year will be mentioned successively, the former rain, the winter-rain, and the latter rain (cf. Jeremiah 5:24 Heb.).

And the floors shall be full of wheat, and the fats shall overflow with wine and oil.
24. The reversal of Joel 1:10-12.

the floors] i.e. the threshing-floors—which, however, were not like our threshing-floors: see the description in the footnote on p. 227.

fats] i.e. (as we should say) vats, fat being an old form of vat, A.S. fœt, Germ. Fass: so constantly in A.V., as Joel 3:13; Haggai 2:16. Both the gath, in which the grapes were trodden (Nehemiah 13:15; Isaiah 63:2, where winefat is wrong), and the yeḳeb (lit. a place hollowed out), in which the expressed juice was received (cf. on Amos 9:13), were commonly excavated in the rock (cf. Isaiah 5:2, “and also hewed out in it a yeḳeb,” or winefat [R.V. marg.]): and remains of those dug in ancient times are still to be seen in Palestine. Robinson (B.R[44] 3:137) describes one: on the upper side of a ledge of rock, a shallow vat had been dug out, 8 feet square, and 15 inches deep; two feet below there was another smaller vat, 4 feet square and 3 feet deep; the grapes were trodden in the shallow upper vat, and the hole by which the juice was drawn off into the lower vat still remained. Cf. ib. p. 381 (a similar arrangement in use in 1852). Sometimes there were two such lower receptacles, communicating with each other, attached to the gath; and Schick (Z.D.P.V[45] 10:1887, p. 146 f.) describes one with three: the must, in such cases, would be transferred from one to the other in order gradually to clarify.

[44] .R. … Edw. Robinson, Biblical Researches in Palestine (ed. 2, 1856).

[45] .D.P.V.Zeitschrift des Deutschen Palästina-Vereins.

overflow] Joel 3:13. Comp. Proverbs 3:10, “and thy vats shall burst with must (or new wine).”

wine and oil] new wine (or must) and fresh oil (as Joel 1:10). Olives are now usually crushed by a large circular stone revolving in a kind of mortar; but formerly (see Micah 6:15; and cf. the name Gethsemane, “oil-press”) they were trodden by the feet of men, like grapes.

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.
25. Abundance in place of the deprivations of Joel 1:4.

And I] The discourse of the prophet passing imperceptibly, as often, into that of Jehovah: cf. e.g. Isaiah 3:4; Isaiah 13:11; Isaiah 56:7; Isaiah 60:7; Isaiah 60:21.

the years] The expression shews that the visitation of locusts, spoken of in ch. 1, was not confined to a single year.

the locust …, the cankerworm, the caterpillar, and the palmerworm] the swarmer …, the lapper, the finisher, and the shearer: see on Joel 1:4. Army, as Joel 2:11.

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.
26. and praise, &c.] In acknowledgment of His bounty: cf. (of the Canaanites) Jdg 9:27 (R.V. marg.).

shall never be ashamed] or disappointed (on Joel 1:11),—being worthy of, and accordingly receiving, the protection of their God (cf. Isa. 29:29, Isaiah 49:23, Isaiah 50:7, Psalm 22:5; Psalm 25:3).

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.
27. The restoration of the people’s prosperity will further give them the assurance that Jehovah is in their midst, and will continue their defender and deliverer for ever.

in the midst of Israel] as its present helper and saviour: comp. Exodus 17:7; Numbers 11:20; Numbers 14:14; Deuteronomy 7:21; Deuteronomy 31:17; Joshua 3:10; Hosea 11:9; Isaiah 12:6 al.

and that I am Jehovah your God] Cf. Joel 3:17, “And ye shall know that I am Jehovah your God.” The phrase is a stereotyped one, which occurs (with or without your God) often in certain parts of the O.T., usually to denote the conviction produced by some great act of judgment or deliverance upon those who witness it. In Ezekiel (who uses it—with ye, they, or thou, as the case may be—more than 50 times) it is a standing refrain, coming often at the end of a paragraph, or a prophecy, as Ezekiel 6:7; Ezekiel 6:10; Ezekiel 6:13-14, Ezekiel 7:4; Ezekiel 7:9; Ezekiel 7:27, Ezekiel 20:42, Ezekiel 25:5; Ezekiel 25:7; Ezekiel 25:11; Ezekiel 25:17, Ezekiel 36:38, Ezekiel 37:13; Ezekiel 37:28, Ezekiel 39:6-7; Ezekiel 39:22; Ezekiel 39:28 : it occurs also several times in the priestly sections of the Pent. (Exodus 6:7; Exodus 7:5; Exodus 14:4; Exodus 14:18; Exodus 16:12; Exodus 29:46), and occasionally besides (Exodus 10:2 [cf. Exodus 8:18 b]; 1 Kings 20:13; 1 Kings 20:28; Isaiah 49:23; Isaiah 49:26; Isaiah 60:16). Comp. the writer’s Introduction, p. 276 f.

and (that) there is none else] For who but Jehovah can cause the heavens to give forth rain (Jeremiah 14:22), or the earth to bear fruit abundantly? Comp. Isaiah 45:5-6; Isaiah 45:18; also Deuteronomy 4:35; Deuteronomy 4:39, 1 Kings 8:60.

28–32 (ch. 3 in the Hebrew). The hearts of His people having been directed towards Him (Joel 2:26-27) by the material benefits conferred in Joel 2:23-25, Jehovah promises next to superadd spiritual gifts; He pours forth His spirit upon them, with the result that all are endowed with clearer perceptions of Divine truth (Joel 2:28-29): His own people being thus provided for, the signs of an approaching judgement upon the nations will then manifest themselves (Joel 2:30 f.); amid which, however, those who, in virtue of the regenerating influence of the spirit (Joel 2:28), are become the true children of God, will be delivered (Joel 2:32).

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:
28. afterward] After the bestowal of the material prosperity promised in Joel 2:23-26.

pour out] i.e. send forth, not in scant measure, but abundantly: the measure of spiritual illumination, which was normally restricted to prophets or other favoured individuals, will be extended to all. The prophets regularly, in their visions of the future, look forward to an age when Israel will both enjoy the undisturbed possession of material benefits, and also be morally and spiritually regenerate: see e.g. Isaiah 29:18-24; Isaiah 30:23-25; Isaiah 32:1-8 (the change of character, which is to mark the ideal Israel of the future), Isaiah 32:15-18, Isaiah 33:5-6; Isaiah 33:24, Isa. 55:13, 14; Jeremiah 31:12-14; Jeremiah 31:33-34. For the gift of the spirit in particular, comp. Isaiah 32:15; Isaiah 44:3; Isaiah 59:21; Ezekiel 36:27; Ezekiel 39:29; Zechariah 12:10.

my spirit] The ‘spirit’ in man is the principle of life, upon which consciousness and intelligence depend, and which imparts activity to the inert ‘flesh’ (see e.g. Genesis 2:7; Isaiah 31:3; Isaiah 42:5; Ezekiel 37:5; Ezekiel 37:9-14; Psalm 146:4): and the ‘spirit’ of God is analogously (in the O.T.) the conscious vital force peculiar to God, which, as proceeding from Him, is the power which creates and sustains the life of created beings (Genesis 1:2; Job 33:4; Psalm 104:30), and to the operation of which are attributed extraordinary faculties and activities of man, as well as supernatural spiritual gifts (see e.g. Genesis 41:38; Exodus 31:3; Numbers 11:17; Jdg 11:29; 1 Samuel 11:6; 1 Samuel 16:13; Micah 3:8; Isaiah 11:2; Isaiah 63:11; Psalm 51:11; Haggai 2:5; Nehemiah 9:20; and compare the passages quoted at the end of the last note). The spirit of God is mentioned, as the source, in particular, of prophetic power (whether in its lower or higher forms) in Numbers 11:25-26; Numbers 11:29; 1 Samuel 10:6; 1 Samuel 10:10; 2 Samuel 23:2; Hosea 9:7; Isaiah 42:1; Isaiah 59:21; Isaiah 61:1; Zechariah 7:12; Nehemiah 9:30. Similarly here: Joel anticipates a time when the aspiration of Moses (Numbers 11:29) will be realized.

all flesh] The expression is used (a) sometimes in a wider sense to denote all living beings, including both mankind and animals, as Genesis 6:17; Genesis 6:19; (b) sometimes in a narrower sense, of mankind alone, as Isaiah 40:5; Isaiah 49:26. Here it is used in the second sense: but the prophet, as the context shews, has in reality only Israel in his mind; other nations are pictured by him as destroyed (Joel 3:2; Joel 3:9 ff.). Comp. the surprise expressed in Acts 10:45 at the Spirit being poured out upon the Gentiles.

and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, &c.] Joel poetically specializes the operation of the spirit, in such a manner that it manifests itself differently in different classes of the people. The distinction is not to be understood with prosaic literalness any more than it is to be inferred from Isaiah 11:12 (see the Heb.) that Isaiah expected only the men of Israel, and the women of Judah, to return from exile.

prophesy] i.e. will have insight into Divine truth, and will be moved to express it, in the manner which is at present confined to such as specially bear the name of prophets. The term is of course not to be misunderstood, as if it referred merely to predictions relating to the future: the reference is in general to inspired instruction in moral and religious truth. Two special modes of consciousness in which Divine truths frequently presented themselves to the prophet (Numbers 12:6) are then particularized, the dream and the vision: in illustration of the former, see Deuteronomy 13:2, Jeremiah 23:25; Jeremiah 23:32; Jeremiah 27:9; Jeremiah 29:8 (in these passages the dream is spoken of in terms of disparagement, on account of its liability to become a source of self-deception); for the latter, see on Amos 1:1; Amos 7:1.

young men] how, it may be asked, do the “young men” differ from the “sons,” just before? Probably as older and more independent; it is the term often employed to denote the young, able-bodied warriors of Israel (2 Kings 8:12; Jeremiah 11:22; Jeremiah 18:21).

And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.
29. Even those holding menial positions will share in the same spiritual illumination (comp. in the N.T. 1 Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:11).

And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke.
30–31. The signs of approaching judgement which will then appear.

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

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

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

pillars of smoke] Song of Solomon 3:6, of the smoke of incense, heralding a procession (the word rendered pillars occurs only in these two passages). Possibly of the columns of smoke rising up from burnt cities (Jdg 20:38; Jdg 20:40; cf. Isaiah 9:18); more probably (Thomson, The Land and the Book, Southern Pal., p. 142) with allusion to columns of sand and dust raised high in the air by local whirlwinds accompanying a sirocco, which sometimes “march with great rapidity over the open plain, and closely resemble ‘pillars of smoke’.”

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

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

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

before &c.] exactly the same words as in Malachi 4:5.

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.
32. Those however who have responded to the grace given to them (Joel 2:28 f.), and are the true servants of Jehovah, will be secure, even in the midst of such alarming manifestations (cf. Joel 3:16 b).

call on] this is the conventional rendering of the Hebrew phrase employed; but it means properly to call with, i.e. to make use of the name in calling; and it may denote (according to the context) either to proclaim (Exodus 33:19), or to announce publicly, celebrate (Isaiah 12:4; Psalm 105:1), or as here, to invoke (so Genesis 4:26; Genesis 12:8, and most frequently). The meaning is of course not an invocation rendered merely by the lips (the “Lord, Lord” of Matthew 7:21), but one which is also the expression of the genuine feelings of the heart. In the context, it is evident that the prophet is speaking only of the Jews; but the terms used by him are perfectly general (“whosoever”); the conditions of salvation are not membership in Israel, but trust in God: hence implicitly others besides Israel are included in the expression; and in this wider sense the words are quoted by S. Paul (Romans 10:13) to shew that the Greek not less than the Jew is entitled to share in the salvation of the Gospel.

shall be deliverance] there shall be those that escape (R.V.),—viz. from the impending judgment (comp. in the Hebr. Isaiah 4:2; Isaiah 37:32). The same words in Obadiah 1:17 “But in Mount Zion there shall be those that escape,” whence indeed the clause following, “as Jehovah hath said,” makes it probable that Joel quotes them.

and among the fugitives (shall be) those whom Jehovah calleth] i.e. among the fugitives who in various places escape the disaster there will be some whom Jehovah will also call to His salvation. The reference is probably to the Jews dispersed among the heathen: amongst these also there will be some worthy to participate in the deliverance more abundantly shared in by their brethren of Judah and Jerusalem.

The word rendered fugitives is the one which regularly denotes those who succeed in escaping after an engagement, the capture of a city, &c., as Joshua 10:20 (“the fugitives which took flight of them”), 28, 37, 39 (R.V. none remaining; but the root, as Arabic shews, means to run away in fright): comp. Joshua 8:22 “left them no fugitive, and none escaping”; similarly Jeremiah 42:17.

The words from Joel 2:28 to Joel 2:32 (delivered) are quoted in Acts 2:17-21[46] by St Peter, with reference to the outpouring of the Spirit upon the Apostles on the day of Pentecost. It would be incorrect, however, to regard a particular occasion as exhausting the fulfilment of the prophecy. Joel’s words—like Jeremiah 31:33 f., for instance,—look rather to that fuller illumination to be enjoyed in general by God’s people in the future, which is to be a characteristic of the Christian Church throughout the ages; they are “not a prediction of the event of Pentecost, but of the new order of things of which Pentecost was the first great example” (A. B. Davidson, Expositor, March, 1888, p. 208).

[46] In the main (though there are slight deviations) from the LXX. ‘Notable’ (ἐπιφανὴς) in Joel 2:20 as here in LXX. Joel 2:31 : ἐπιφανὴς is a rend. of נורא (as though = נִרְאֶה) elsewhere; see Joel 2:11; Jdg 13:6; Habakkuk 1:7; Malachi 1:14; Malachi 4:5. The phrasing of Acts 2:39, “For to you is the promise and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even to as many as the Lord our God may call,” is evidently based upon Joel 2:32 b.

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