Joel 2:16
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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
2:15-27 The priests and rulers are to appoint a solemn fast. The sinner's supplication is, Spare us, good Lord. God is ready to succour his people; and he waits to be gracious. They prayed that God would spare them, and he answered them. His promises are real answers to the prayers of faith; with him saying and doing are not two things. Some understand these promises figuratively, as pointing to gospel grace, and as fulfilled in the abundant comforts treasured up for believers in the covenant of grace.Sanctify the congregation - o: "Do what in you lies, by monishing, exhorting, threatening, giving the example of a holy life, that the whole people present itself holy before its God" , "lest your prayers be hindered, and a little leaven corrupt the whole lump."

Assemble the elders - o: "The judgment concerned all; all then were to join in seeking mercy from God. None were on any pretence to be exempted; not the oldest, whose strength was decayed, or the youngest, who might seem not yet of strength." The old also are commonly freer from sin and more given to prayer.

Gather the children - o: "He Who feedeth the young ravens when they cry, will not neglect the cry of poor children. He assigns as a reason, why it were fitting to spare Nineveh, the "six-score thousand persons that could not discern between their right hand and their left" Jonah 4:11. The sight of them who were involved in their parents' punishment could not but move the parents to greater earnestness. So when Moab and Ammon 2 Chronicles 20:1-4, 2 Chronicles 20:13, a great multitude, came against Jehoshaphat, he proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah, and Judah gathered themselves together to ask help of the Lord; even out of all the cities of Judah, they came to seek the Lord. And all Judah was standing before the Lord, their little ones also, their wives, and their children." So it is described in the book of Judith, how "with great vehemency did they humble their souls, both they and their wives and their children - and every man and woman and the little children - fell before the temple, and cast ashes upon their heads and spread out their sackcloth before the Face of the Lord" (Judith 4:9-11).

Let the bridegroom go forth - He says not even, the married, or the newly married, he who had taken a new wife, but he uses the special terms of the marriage-day, "bridegroom" and "bride." The new-married man was, during a year, exempted from going out to war, or from any duties which might "press upon him" Deuteronomy 24:5. But nothing was to free from this common affliction of sorrow. Even the just newly married, although it were the very day of the bridal, were to leave the marriage-chamber and join in the common austerity of repentance. It was mockery of God to spend in delights time consecrated by Him to sorrow. He says, "In that day did the Lord God of hosts call to weeping, and to mourning, and to baldness, and to girding with sackcloth. And behold joy and gladness - surely this iniquity shall not be purged from you until ye die, saith the Lord God of Hosts" Isaiah 22:12-14. Whence, in times of fasting or prayer, the Apostle suggests the giving up of pure pleasures, "that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer" 1 Corinthians 7:5.

: "He then who, by chastisement in food and by fasting and alms, says that he is doing acts of repentance, in vain doth he promise this in words, unless he "go forth out of his chamber" and fulfill a holy and pure fast by a chaste penitence."

16. sanctify the congregation—namely, by expiatory rites and purification with water [Calvin], (Ex 19:10, 22). Maurer translates, "appoint a solemn assembly," which would be a tautological repetition of Joe 2:15.

elders … children—No age was to be excepted (2Ch 20:13).

bridegroom—ordinarily exempted from public duties (De 24:5; compare 1Co 7:5, 29).

closet—or, nuptial bed, from a Hebrew root "to cover," referring to the canopy over it.

Gather the people, assemble the elders: see Joel 1:14.

Gather the children; though they understand little what is done, yet their cries under the affliction of a fast ascend, God hears, and with pity looks on their tears.

And those that suck the breasts; let your fast be most universal, spare not sucking children, bring them with you; their tears and cries may perhaps move the congregation to greater mourning and earnest supplication to God for mercy, or will be a fit object to present unto the God of mercy to move him to show mercy. So the Ninevites, Jonah 3:7,8.

Let the bridegroom go forth of his chamber; let the new-married man leave the mirth of the nuptials, and lay aside his bravery awhile, and afflict himself with the rest.

And the bride out of her closet, or chamber, in which with the virgins she adorned herself or caressed them. That these may more earnestly seek the Lord, let them at this season forbear lawful delights. Gather the people,.... The common people, all the inhabitants of the land, Joel 1:14; summon them to meet together in the temple, in order to humble themselves before God for their sins, and implore his mercy, and seek his face to remove his judgments, or avert them:

sanctify the congregation; see that they are sanctified and prepared for a fast, as the law directs in such cases; that they may be clean and free from all ceremonial impurities; that their bodies and clothes be washed, and that they abstain from their wives, and from all lawful pleasures, as well as sinful ones:

assemble the elders; both in age and authority; that they, by their presence and example, might influence others to attend such a service:

gather the children and those that suck the breast; who were involved in the common calamity and distress, were obliged to fasting and whose cries might affect parents, and engage them the more to humiliation and repentance for their sins, which brought such, miseries, not only upon themselves, but upon their tender infants; and they might think their cries would move the pity and compassion of God; all which is suggested in the note of Kimchi:

let the bridegroom go forth of his chamber, and the bride out of her closet; where they are adorning themselves and preparing for an interview with each other; or where they are enjoying each other's embraces and the pleasures of the matrimonial state. The sense is, let them put off their nuptial robes, and deny themselves their lawful pleasures, and betake themselves to fasting mourning, and prayer; see 1 Corinthians 7:5. This refers to a custom among the Jews at the time of espousals when the bridegroom and bride were introduced into the nuptial chamber, where the marriage was completed; and, according to the Jewish writes it was not finished before: the blessing of the bridegroom and bride did not complete the marriage but the bringing of them into the chamber did; and then they were said to he married, though as yet they had not cohabited and then, and not before a man might enjoy his wife (x): and the marriage chamber was nothing else but a linen cloth or garment spread upon four poles over the head of the bridegroom and bride; this they called (y); the word is here rendered a "closet" and the same with the "chamber"; and their leaving and coming out of this signifies their abstaining from the lawful enjoyment of each other, which now they had a right unto.

(x) Maimon. Hilchot Ishot, c. 10. sect. 2, 4. Schulchan Aruch, par. 2. Eben Hezer, c. 55. sect. 2, 3.((y) R. Elias Levita, Tishbi in p. 119.

Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the {l} children, and those that suck the breasts: let the bridegroom go forth of his chamber, and the bride out of her closet.

(l) That as all have sinned, so all may show forth signs of their repentance, so that men seeing the children who are not free from God's wrath, might be the more deeply touched with the consideration of their own sins.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
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”In conclusion, Judah is mentioned again, that it may not regard itself as better or less culpable. Hosea 6:11. "Also, O Judah, a harvest is appointed for thee, when I turn the imprisonment of my people." Judah stands at the head as an absolute noun, and is then defined by the following לך. The subject to shâth cannot be either Israel or Jehovah. The first, which Hitzig adopts, "Israel has prepared a harvest for thee," does not supply a thought at all in harmony with the connection; and the second is precluded by the fact that Jehovah Himself is the speaker. Shâth is used here in a passive sense, as in Job 38:11 (cf. Ges. 137, 3*). קציר, harvest, is a figurative term for the judgment, as in Joel 3:13, Jeremiah 51:33. As Judah has sinned as well as Israel, it cannot escape the punishment (cf. Hosea 5:5, Hosea 5:14). שׁוּב שׁבוּת never means to bring back the captives; but in every passage in which it occurs it simply means to turn the captivity, and that in the figurative sense of restitutio in integrum (see at Deuteronomy 30:3). ‛Ammı̄, my people, i.e., the people of Jehovah, is not Israel of the ten tribes, but the covenant nation as a whole. Consequently shebhūth ‛ammı̄ is the misery into which Israel (of the twelve tribes) had been brought, through its falling away from God, not the Assyrian or Babylonian exile, but the misery brought about by the sins of the people. God could only avert this by means of judgments, through which the ungodly were destroyed and the penitent converted. Consequently the following is the thought which we obtain from the verse: "When God shall come to punish, that He may root out ungodliness, and bring back His people to their true destination, Judah will also be visited with the judgment." We must not only reject the explanation adopted by Rosenmller, Maurer, and Umbreit, "when Israel shall have received its chastisement, and be once more received and restored by the gracious God, the richly merited punishment shall come upon Judah also," but that of Schmieder as well, who understands by the "harvest" a harvest of joy. They are both founded upon the false interpretation of shūbh shebhūth, as signifying the bringing back of the captives; and in the first there is the arbitrary limitation of ‛ammı̄ to the ten tribes. Our verse says nothing as to the question when and how God will turn the captivity of the people and punish Judah; this must be determined from other passages, which announce the driving into exile of both Israel and Judah, and the eventual restoration of those who are converted to the Lord their God. The complete turning of the captivity of the covenant nation will not take place till Israel as a nation shall be converted to Christ its Saviour.
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