Keil and Delitzsch OT Commentary
Person and Times of the Prophet Joel. - Joel (יואל, i.e., whose God is Jehovah, Ἰωήλ) is distinguished from other men of the same name, which occurs very frequently (e.g., 1 Samuel 8:2; 1 Chronicles 4:35; 1 Chronicles 5:4; 1 Chronicles 8:12; 1 Chronicles 6:21; 1 Chronicles 7:3; 2 Chronicles 29:12; Nehemiah 11:9), by the epithet "son of Pethuel" (פּתוּאל, the open-heartedness or sincerity of God). Nothing is known of the circumstances connected with his life, since the traditional legends as to his springing from Bethom (Βηθών, al. Θεβυράν in Ps. Epiph.), or Bethomeron in the tribe of Reuben (Ps. Doroth.), are quite unsupported. All that can be inferred with any certainty from his writings is, that he lived in Judah, and in all probability prophesied in Jerusalem. The date of his ministry is also a disputed point; though so much is certain, namely, that he did not live in the reign of Manasseh or Josiah, or even later, as some suppose, but was one of the earliest of the twelve minor prophets. For even Amos (Amos 1:2) commences his prophecy with a passage from Joel (Joel 3:16), and closes it with the same promises, adopting in Joel 9:13 the beautiful imagery of Joel, of the mountains dripping with new wine, and the hills overflowing (Joel 3:18). And Isaiah, again, in his description of the coming judgment in ch. 13, had Joel in his mind; and in v. 6 he actually borrows a sentence from his prophecy (Joel 1:15), which is so peculiar that the agreement cannot be an accidental one. Consequently, Joel prophesied before Amos, i.e., before the twenty-seven years of the contemporaneous reigns of Uzziah and Jeroboam II. How long before, can only be inferred with any degree of probability from the historical circumstances to which he refers in his prophecy. The only enemies that he mentions besides Egypt and Edom (Joel 3:19), as those whom the Lord would punish for the hostility they had shown towards the people of God, are Tyre and Zidon, and the coasts of Philistia (Joel 3:4); but not the Syrians, who planned an expedition against Jerusalem after the conquest of Gath, which cost Joash not only the treasures of the temple and palace, but his own life also (2 Kings 12:18.; 2 Chronicles 24:23.), on account of which Amos predicted the destruction of the kingdom of Syria, and the transportation of the people to Assyria (Amos 1:3-5). But inasmuch as this expedition of the Syrians was not "directed against the Philistines, so that only a single detachment made a passing raid into Judah on their return," as Hengstenberg supposes, but was a direct attack upon the kingdom of Judah, to which the city of Gath, that Rehoboam had fortified, may still have belonged (see at 2 Kings 12:18-19), and inflicted a very severe defeat upon Judah, Joel would surely have mentioned the Syrians along with the other enemies of Judah, if he had prophesied after that event. And even if the absence of any reference to the hostility of the Syrians towards Judah is not strictly conclusive when taken by itself, it acquires great importance from the fact that the whole character of Joel's prophecy points to the times before Amos and Hosea. We neither meet with any allusion to the sins which Hosea and Amos condemn on the part of Judah, and which brought about the Assyrian judgment; nor is idolatry, as it prevailed under Joram, Ahaziah, and Athaliah, ever mentioned at all; but, on the contrary, the Jehovah-worship, which Jehoiada the high priest restored when Joash ascended the throne (2 Kings 11:17.; 2 Chronicles 23:16.), is presupposed with all its well-regulated and priestly ceremonial. These circumstances speak very decidedly in favour of the conclusion that the first thirty years of the reign of Joash, during which the king had Jehoiada the high priest for his adviser, are to be regarded as the period of Joel's ministry. No well-founded objection can be brought against this on account of the position which his book occupies among the minor prophets, since there is no ground for the opinion that the writings of the twelve minor prophets are arranged with a strict regard to chronology.
2. The Book of Joel. - The writings of Joel contain a connected prophetic proclamation, which is divided into two equal halves by Joel 2:18 and Joel 2:19. In the first half the prophet depicts a terrible devastation of Judah by locusts and scorching heat; and describing this judgment as the harbinger, or rather as the dawn, of Jehovah's great day of judgment, summons the people of all ranks to a general day of penitence, fasting, and prayer, in the sanctuary upon Zion, that the Lord may have compassion upon His nation (Joel 1:2-2:17). In the second half there follows, as the divine answer to the call of the people to repentance, the promise that the Lord will destroy the army of locusts, and bestow a rich harvest blessing upon the land by sending early and latter rain (Joel 2:19-27), and then in the future pour out His Spirit upon all flesh (Joel 2:28-32), and sit in judgment upon all nations, who have scattered His people and divided His land among them, and reward them according to their deeds; but that He will shelter His people from Zion, and glorify His land by rivers of abundant blessing (ch. 3). These two halves are connected together by the statement that Jehovah manifests the jealousy of love for His land, and pity towards His people, and answers them (Joel 2:18-19). So far the commentators are all agreed as to the contents of the book. But there are differences of opinion, more especially as to the true interpretation of the first half, - namely, whether the description of the terrible devastation by locusts is to be understood literally or allegorically.
(Note: The allegorical exposition is found even in the Chaldee, where the four names of the locusts are rendered literally in Joel 1:4, whereas in Joel 2:25 we find hostile tribes and kingdoms instead; also in Ephraem Syrus, Cyril of Alex., Theodoret, and Jerome, although Theodoret regards the literal interpretation as also admissible, and in Abarb., Luther, and many other expositors. And lately it has been vigorously defended by Hengstenberg in his Christology (i. p. 302 translation), and by Hvernick (Introduction, ii. 2, p. 294ff.), who both of them agree with the fathers in regarding the four swarms of locusts as representing the imperial powers of Chaldea, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome. On the other hand, Rufinus, Jarchi, Ab. Ezra, Dav. Kimchi, support the literal view that Joel is describing a terrible devastation of the land by locusts; also Bochart, Pococke, J. H. Michaelis, and in the most recent times, Hofmann and Delitzsch.)
The decision of this question depends upon the reply that is given to the prior question, whether Joel 1:2-2:17 contains a description of a present or a future judgment. If we observe, first of all, that the statement in Joel 2:18 and Joel 2:19, by which the promise is introduced, is expressed in four successive imperfects with Vav. consec. (the standing form for historical narratives), there can be no doubt whatever that this remark contains a historical announcement of what has taken place on the part of the Lord in consequence of the penitential cry of the people. And if this be established, it follows still further that the first half of our book cannot contain the prediction of a strictly future judgment, but must describe a calamity which has at any rate in part already begun. This is confirmed by the fact that the prophet from the very outset (Joel 1:2-4) described the devastation of the land by locusts as a present calamity, on the ground of which he summons the people to repentance. As Joel begins with an appeal to the old men, to see whether such things have happened in their own days, or the days of their fathers, and to relate them to their children and children's children, and then describes the thing itself with simple perfects, יתר הגּזם אכל וגו, it is perfectly obvious that he is not speaking of something that is to take place in the future, but of a divine judgment that has been inflicted already.
(Note: "Some imagine," as Calvin well observes, "that a punishment is here threatened, which is to fall at some future time; but the context shows clearly enough that they are mistaken and mar the prophet's true meaning. He is rather reproving the hardness of the people, because they do not feel their plagues.")
It is true that the prophets frequently employ preterites in their description of future events, but there is no analogous example that can be found of such a use of them as we find here in Joel 1:2-4; and the remark made by Hengstenberg, to the effect that we find the preterites employed in exactly the same manner in ch. 3, is simply incorrect. But if Joel had an existing calamity before his eye, and depicts it in Joel 1:2., the question in dispute from time immemorial, whether the description is to be understood allegorically or literally, is settled in favour of the literal view. "An allegory must contain some significant marks of its being so. Where these are wanting, it is arbitrary to assume that it is an allegory at all." And we have no such marks here, as we shall show in our exposition in detail. "As it is a fact established by the unanimous testimony of the most credible witnesses, that wherever swarms of locusts descend, all the vegetation in the fields immediately vanishes, just as if a curtain had been rolled up; that they spare neither the juicy bark of woody plants, nor the roots below the ground; that their cloud-like swarms darken the air, and render the sun and even men at a little distance off invisible; that their innumerable and closely compact army advances in military array in a straight course, most obstinately maintained; that it cannot be turned back or dispersed, either by natural obstacles or human force; that on its approach a loud roaring noise is heard like the rushing of a torrent, a waterfall, or a strong wind; that they no sooner settle to eat, than you hear on all sides the grating sound of their mandibles, and, as Volney expresses it, might fancy that you heard the foraging of an invisible army; - if we compare these and other natural observations with the statements of Joel, we shall find everywhere the most faithful picture, and nowhere any hyperbole requiring for its justification and explanation that the army of locusts should be paraphrased into an army of men; more especially as the devastation of a country by an army of locusts is far more terrible than that of an ordinary army; and there is no allusion, either expressed or hinted at, to a massacre among the people. And if we consider, still further, that the migratory locusts (Acridium migratorium, in Oken, Allg. Naturgesch. v. 3, p. 1514ff.) find their grave sometimes in dry and barren steppes, and sometimes in lakes and seas, it is impossible to comprehend how the promise in Joel 2:20 - one part of the army now devastating Judah shall be hurled into the southern desert, the van into the Dead Sea, and the rear into the Mediterranean - can harmonize with the allegorical view" (Delitzsch).
(Note: Proofs of this have been collected in great numbers by Sam. Bochart (Hieroz.), and both Oedmann (Vermischte Sammlungen, ii. 76ff. and vi. 74ff.) and Credner (appendix to his Commentary on Joel) have contributed abundant gleanings gathered from the reports of travellers.)
The only thing that appears to favour the idea that the locusts are used figuratively to represent hostile armies, is the circumstance that Joel discerns in the devastation of the locusts as depicted by him, the drawing near or coming of the day of the Lord (Joel 1:15; Joel 2:1), connected with the fact that Isaiah speaks of the judgment upon Baal, which was accomplished by a hostile army, in the words of Joel (Joel 1:15; see Isaiah 13:6). But on closer examination, this appearance does not rise into reality. It is true that by the "day of Jehovah" we cannot understand a different judgment from the devastation of the locusts, since such a supposition would be irreconcilable with Joel 2:1. But the expression, "for the day of Jehovah is at hand, and as a destruction from the Almighty does it come," shows that the prophet did not so completely identify the day of the Lord with the plague of locusts, as that it was exhausted by it, but that he merely saw in this the approach of the great day of judgment, i.e., merely one element of the judgment, which falls in the course of ages upon the ungodly, and will be completed in the last judgment. One factor in the universal judgment is the judgment pronounced upon Babylon, and carried out by the Medes; so that it by no means follows from the occurrence of the words of Joel in the prophecy of Isaiah, that the latter put an allegorical interpretation upon Joel's description of the devastation by the locusts.
But even if there are no conclusive indications or hints, that can be adduced in support of the allegorical interpretation, it cannot be denied, on the other hand, that the description, as a whole, contains something more than a poetical painting of one particular instance of the devastation of Judah by a more terrible swarm of locusts than had ever been known before; that is to say, that it bears an ideal character surpassing the reality, - a fact which is overlooked by such commentators as can find nothing more in the account than the description of a very remarkable plague. The introduction, "Hear this, ye old men; and give ear, all ye inhabitants of the land: hath this been in your days, or in the days of your fathers? Tell ye your children of it, and let your children tell their children, and their children the following generation" (Joel 1:2-3); and the lamentation in v. 9, that the meat-offering and drink-offering have been destroyed from the house of Jehovah; and still more, the picture of the day of the Lord as a day of darkness and of gloominess like the morning red spread over the mountains; a great people and a strong, such as has not been from all eternity, and after which there will be none like to for ever and ever (Joel 2:2), - unquestionably show that Joel not only regarded the plague of locusts that came upon Judah in the light of divine revelation, and as a sign, but described it as the breaking of the Lord's great day of judgment, or that in the advance of the locusts he saw the army of God, at whose head Jehovah marched as captain, and caused His voice, the terrible voice of the Judge of the universe, to be heard in the thunder (Joel 2:11), and that he predicted this coming of the Lord, before which the earth trembles, the heavens shake, and sun, moon, and stars lose their brightness (Joel 2:10), as His coming to judge the world. This proclamation, however, was no production of mere poetical exaggeration, but had its source in the inspiration of the Spirit of God, which enlightened the prophet; so that in the terrible devastation that had fallen upon Judah he discerned one feature of the day of judgment of the Lord, and on the ground of the judgment of God that had been thus experienced, proclaimed that the coming of the Lord to judgment upon the whole world was near at hand. The medium through which this was conveyed to his mind was meditation upon the history of the olden time, more especially upon the judgments through which Jehovah had effected the redemption of His people out of Egypt, in connection with the punishment with which Moses threatened the transgressors of the law (Deuteronomy 28:38-39, Deuteronomy 28:42), - namely, that locusts should devour their seed, their plants, their fields, and their fruits. Hengstenberg has correctly observed, that the words of Joel in Joel 2:10, "There have not been ever the like," are borrowed from Exodus 10:14; but it is not in these words alone that the prophet points to the Egyptian plague of locusts. In the very introduction to his prophecy (Joel 1:2-3), viz., the question whether such a thing has occurred, and the charge, Tell it to your children, etc., there is an unmistakeable allusion to Exodus 10:2, where the Lord charges Moses to tell Pharaoh that He will do signs, in order that Pharaoh may relate it to his son and his son's son, and then announces the plague of locusts in these words: "that thy fathers and thy fathers' fathers have not seen such things since their existence upon the earth" (Exodus 10:6).
As the basis of this judgment of God which fell upon Egypt in the olden time, and by virtue of a higher illumination, Joel discerned in the similar judgment that had burst upon Judah in his own time, a type of the coming of Jehovah's great day of judgment, and made it the substratum of his prophecy of the judgment of the wrath of the Lord which would come upon Judah, to terrify the sinners out of their self-security, and impel them by earnest repentance, fasting, and prayer, to implore the divine mercy for deliverance from utter destruction. This description of the coming day of Jehovah, i.e., of the judgment of the world, for which the judgment inflicted upon Judah of the devastation by locusts prepared the way, after the foretype of these occurrences of both the olden and present time, is no allegory, however, in which the heathen nations, by whom the judgments upon the covenant nation that had gone further and further from its God would be executed in the time to come, are represented as swarms of locusts coming one after another and devastating the land of Judah; but it has just the same reality as the plague of locusts through which God once sought to humble the pride of the Egyptian Pharaoh. We are no more at liberty to turn the locusts in the prophecy before us into hostile armies, than to pronounce the locusts by which Egypt was devastated, allegorical figures representing enemies or troops of hostile cavalry. Such a metamorphosis as this is warranted neither by the vision in Amos 7:1-3, where Amos is said to have seen the divine judgment under the figure of a swarm of locusts; nor by that described in Revelation 9:3., where locusts which come out of the bottomless pit are commanded neither to hurt the grass nor any green thing, nor any tree, but only to torment men with their scorpion-stings: for even in these visions the locusts are not figurative, representing hostile nations; but on the basis of the Egyptian plague of locusts and of Joel's prophecy, they stand in Amos as a figurative representation of the devastation of the land, and in the Apocalypse as the symbol of a supernatural plague inflicted upon the ungodly. Lastly, another decisive objection to the allegorical interpretation is to be found in the circumstance, that neither in the first nor in the second half of his book does Joel predict the particular judgments which God will inflict in the course of time, partly upon His degenerate people, and partly upon the hostile powers of the world, but that he simply announces the judgment of God upon Judah and the nations of the world in its totality, as the great and terrible day of the Lord, without unfolding more minutely or even suggesting the particular facts in which it will be historically realized. In this respect, the ideality of his prophecy is maintained throughout; and the only speciality given to it is, that in the first half the judgment upon the covenant people is proclaimed, and in the second the judgment upon the heathen nations: the former as the groundwork of a call to repentance; the latter as the final separation between the church of the Lord and its opponents. And this separation between the covenant nation and the powers of the world is founded on fact. The judgment only falls upon the covenant nation when it is unfaithful to its divine calling, when it falls away from its God, and that not to destroy and annihilate it, but to lead it back by means of chastisement to the Lord its God. If it hearken to the voice of its God, who speaks to it in judgments, the Lord repents of the evil, and turns the calamity into salvation and blessing. It was Joel's mission to proclaim this truth in Judah, and turn the sinful nation to its God. To this end he proclaimed to the people, that the Lord was coming to judgment in the devastation that the locusts had spread over the land, and by depicting the great and terrible day of the Lord, called upon them to turn to their God with all their heart. This call to repentance was not without effect. The Lord was jealous for His land, and spared His people (Joel 2:18), and sent His prophets to proclaim the removal of the judgment and the bestowal of a bountiful earthly ad spiritual blessing: viz., for the time immediately ensuing the destruction of the army of locusts, the sending of the teacher for righteousness, and a plentiful fall of rain for the fruitful supply of the fruits of the ground (Joel 2:19, Joel 2:27); and in the more remote future, the pouring out of His Spirit upon the whole congregation, and on the day of the judgment upon all nations the deliverance and preservation of His faithful worshippers; and finally, after the judgment, the transformation and eternal glory of Zion (Joel 2:28-3:21). Here, again, the ideality of the prophetic announcement is maintained throughout, although a distinction is made between the inferior blessing in the immediate future, and the higher benediction of the church of God at a more distant period. The outpouring of the Spirit of God upon all flesh is followed, without any intervening link, by the announcement of the coming of the terrible day of the Lord, as a day of judgment upon all nations, including those who have shown themselves hostile to Judah, either in Joel's own time or a little while before. The nations are gathered together in the valley of Jehoshaphat, and there judged by Jehovah through His mighty heroes; but the sons of Israel are delivered and sheltered by their God. Here, again, all the separate judgments, which fall upon the nations of the world that are hostile to God, during the many centuries of the gradual development of the kingdom of God upon earth, are summed up in one grand judicial act on the day of Jehovah, through which the separation is completely effected between the church of the Lord and its foes, the ungodly power of the world annihilated, and the kingdom of God perfected; but without the slightest hint, that both the judgment upon the nations and the glorification of the kingdom of God will be fulfilled through a succession of separate judgments.
The book of Joel, therefore, contains two prophetic addresses, which are not only connected together as one work by the historical remark in Joel 2:18-19, but which stand in the closest relation to each other, so far as their contents are concerned, though the one was not delivered to the people directly after the other, but the first during the devastation by the locusts, to lead the people to observe the judgment of God and to assemble together in the temple for a service of penitence and prayer; and the second not till after the priests had appointed a day of fasting, penitence, and prayer, in the house of the Lord, in consequence of His solemn call to repentance, and in the name of the people had prayed to the Lord to pity and spare His inheritance. The committal of these addresses to writing did not take place, at any rate, till after the destruction of the army of the locusts, when the land began to recover from the devastation that it had suffered. But whether Joel committed these addresses to writings just as he delivered them to the congregation, and merely linked them together into one single work by introducing the historical remark that unites them, or whether he merely inserted in his written work the essential contents of several addresses delivered after this divine judgment, and worked them up into one connected prophecy, it is impossible to decide with certainty. But there is no doubt whatever as to the composition of the written work by the prophet himself. - For the different commentaries upon the book of Joel, see my Introduction to the Old Testament.
I. The Judgment of God, and the Prophet's Call to Repentance - Joel 1:2-2:17
An unparalleled devastation of the land of Judah by several successive swarms of locusts, which destroyed all the seedlings, all field and garden fruits, all plants and trees, and which was accompanied by scorching heat, induced the prophet to utter a loud lamentation at this unparalleled judgment of God, and an earnest call to all classes of the nation to offer prayer to the Lord in the temple, together with fasting, mourning, and weeping, that He might avert the judgment. In the first chapter, the lamentation has reference chiefly to the ruin of the land (Joel 1:2-20); in the second, the judgment is depicted as a foretype and harbinger of the approaching day of the Lord, which the congregation is to anticipate by a day of public fasting, repentance, and prayer (Joel 2:1-17); so that ch. 1 describes rather the magnitude of the judgment, and ch. 2:1-17 its significance in relation to the covenant nation.
Lamentation over the Devastation of Judah by Locusts and Drought - Joel 1
After an appeal to lay to heart the devastation by swarms of locusts, which has fallen upon the land (Joel 1:2-4), the prophet summons the following to utter lamentation over this calamity: first the drunkards, who are to awake (Joel 1:5-7); then the congregation generally, which is to mourn with penitence (Joel 1:8-12); and then the priests, who are to appoint a service of repentance (Joel 1:13-18). For each of these appeals he gives, as a reason, a further description of the horrible calamity, corresponding to the particular appeal; and finally, he sums up his lamentation in a prayer for the deliverance of the land from destruction (Joel 1:19, Joel 1:20).
The word of the LORD that came to Joel the son of Pethuel.Joel 1:1 contains the heading to the book, and has already been noticed in the introduction. Joel 1:2. "Hear this, ye old men; and attend, all ye inhabitants of the land! Has such a thing indeed happened in your days, or in the days of your fathers? Joel 1:1. Ye shall tell your sons of it, and your sons their sons, and their sons the next generation. Joel 1:4. The leavings of the gnawer the multiplier ate, and the leavings of the multiplier the licker ate, and the leavings of the licker the devourer ate." Not only for the purpose of calling the attention of the hearers to his address, but still more to set forth the event of which he is about to speak as something unheard of - a thing that has never happened before, and therefore is a judgment inflicted by God - the prophet commences with the question addressed to the old men, whose memory went the furthest back, and to all the inhabitants of Judah, whether they had ever experienced anything of the kind, or heard of such a thing from their fathers; and with the command to relate it to their children, and grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
(Note: "As he is inquiring concerning the past according to the command of Moses in Deuteronomy 32:7, he asks the old men, who have been taught by long experience, and are accustomed, whenever they see anything unusual, to notice that this is not according to the ordinary course of nature, which they have observed for so many years. And since this existing calamity, caused by the insects named, has lasted longer and pressed more heavily than usual, he admonishes them to carry their memory back to the former days, and see whether anything of the kind ever happened naturally before; and if no example can be found, the prophet's advice is, that they should recognise this as the hand of God from heaven." - Tarnov.)
"The inhabitants of the land" are the inhabitants of Judah, as it was only with this kingdom that Joel was occupied (cf. Joel 1:14 and Joel 2:1). זאת is the occurrence related in Joel 1:4, which is represented by the question "Has this been in your days?" as a fact just experienced. Yether haggâzâm, the leavings of the gnawer, i.e., whatever the gnawer leaves unconsumed of either vegetables or plants. The four names given to the locusts, viz., gâzâm, 'arbeh, yeleq, and châsil, are not the names applied in natural history to four distinct species, or four different generations of locusts; nor does Joel describe the swarms of two successive years, so that "gâzâm is the migratory locust, which visits Palestine chiefly in the autumn, 'arbeh the young brood, yeleq the young locust in the last stage of its transformation, or before changing its skin for the fourth time, and châsı̄l the perfect locust after this last change, so that as the brood sprang from the gâzâm, châsı̄l would be equivalent to gâzâm" (Credner). This explanation is not only at variance with Joel 2:25, where gâzâm stands last, after châsı̄l, but is founded generally merely upon a false interpretation of Nahum 3:15-16 (see the passage) and Jeremiah 51:27, where the adjective sâmâr (horridus, horrible), appended to yeleq, from sâmâr, to shudder, by no means refers to the rough, horny, wing-sheath of the young locusts, and cannot be sustained from the usage of the language, It is impossible to point out any difference in usage between gâzâm and châsı̄l, or between these two words and 'arbeh. The word gâzâm, from gâzâm, to cut off (in Arabic, Ethiopic, and the Rabb.), occurs only in this passage, in Joel 2:25, and in Amos 4:9, where it is applied to a swarm of flying locusts, which leave the vine, fig-tree, and olive, perfectly bare, as it is well known that all locusts do, when, as in Amos, the vegetables and field fruits have been already destroyed. 'Arbeh, from râbhâh, to be many, is the common name of the locust, and indeed in all probability of the migratory locust, because this always appears in innumerable swarms. Châsı̄l, from châsal, to eat off, designates the locust (hâ'arbeh), according to Deuteronomy 28:38, by its habit of eating off the field crops and tree fruits, and is therefore used in 1 Kings 8:37; 2 Chronicles 6:28; Psalm 78:46, as synonymous with hâ'arbeh, and in Isaiah 33:4 in its stead. Yeleq, from yâlaq equals lâqaq, to lick, to lick off, occurs in Psalm 105:34 as equivalent to 'arbeh, and in Nahum as synonymous with it; and indeed it there refers expressly to the Egyptian plague of locusts, so that young locusts without wings cannot possibly be thought of. Haggâzâm the gnawer, hayyeleq the licker, hechâsı̄l the devourer, are therefore simply poetical epithets applied to the 'arbeh, which never occur in simple plain prose, but are confined to the loftier (rhetorical and poetical) style. Moreover, the assumption that Joel is speaking of swarms of locusts of two successive years, is neither required by Joel 2:25 (see the comm. on this verse), nor reconcilable with the contents of the verse itself. If the 'arbeh eats what the gâzâm has left, and the yeleq what is left by the 'arbeh, we cannot possibly think of the field and garden fruits of two successive years, because the fruits of the second year are not the leavings of the previous year, but have grown afresh in the year itself.
(Note: Bochart (Hieroz. iii. p. 290, ed. Ros.) has already expressed the same opinion. "If," he says, "the different species had been assigned to so many different years, the 'arbeh would not be said to have eaten the leavings of the gâzâm, or the yeleq the leavings of the 'arbeh, or the châsı̄l the leavings of the yeleq; for the productions of this year are not the leavings of last, nor can what will spring up in future be looked upon as the leavings of this. Therefore, whether this plague of locusts was confined to one year, or was repeated for several years, which seems to be the true inference from Joel 2:25, I do not think that the different species of locusts are to be assigned to different years respectively, but that they all entered Judaea in the same year; so that when one swarm departed from a field, another followed, to eat up the leavings of the previous swarm, if there were any; and that this was repeated as many times as was necessary to consume the whole, so that nothing at all should be left to feed either man or beast.")
The thought is rather this: one swarm of locusts after another has invaded the land, and completely devoured its fruit. The use of several different words, and the division of the locusts into four successive swarms, of which each devours what has been left by its precursor, belong to the rhetorical drapery and individualizing of the thought. The only thing that has any real significance is the number four, as the four kinds of punishment in Jeremiah 15:3, and the four destructive judgments in Ezekiel 14:21, clearly show. The number four, "the stamp of oecumenicity" (Kliefoth), indicates here the spread of the judgment over the whole of Judah in all directions.
Hear this, ye old men, and give ear, all ye inhabitants of the land. Hath this been in your days, or even in the days of your fathers?
Tell ye your children of it, and let your children tell their children, and their children another generation.
That which the palmerworm hath left hath the locust eaten; and that which the locust hath left hath the cankerworm eaten; and that which the cankerworm hath left hath the caterpiller eaten.
Awake, ye drunkards, and weep; and howl, all ye drinkers of wine, because of the new wine; for it is cut off from your mouth.In order that Judah may discern in this unparalleled calamity a judgment of God, and the warning voice of God calling to repentance, the prophet first of all summons the wine-bibbers to sober themselves, and observe the visitation of God. Joel 1:5. "Awake, ye drunken ones, and weep! and howl, all ye drinkers of wine! at the new wine; for it is cut off from your mouth. Joel 1:6. For a people has come up over my land, a strong one, and innumerable: its teeth are lion's teeth, and it has the bite of a lioness. Joel 1:7. It has made my vine a wilderness, and my fig-tree into sticks. Peeling, it has peeled it off, and cast it away: its shoots have grown white." הקיץ to awake out of the reeling of intoxication, as in Proverbs 23:35. They are to howl for the new wine, the fresh sweet juice of the grape, because with the destruction of the vines it is taken away and destroyed from their mouth. Joel 1:6 and Joel 1:7 announce through whom. In the expression gōi ‛âlâh (a people has come up) the locusts are represented as a warlike people, because they devastate the land like a hostile army. Gōi furnishes no support to the allegorical view. In Proverbs 30:25-26, not only are the ants described as a people (‛âm), but the locusts also; although it is said of them that they have no king. And ‛âm is synonymous with gōi, which has indeed very frequently the idea of that which is hostile, and even here is used in this sense; though it by no means signifies a heathen nation, but occurs in Zephaniah 2:9 by the side of ‛âm, as an epithet applied to the people of Jehovah (i.e., Israel: see also Genesis 12:2). The weapons of this army consist in its teeth, its "bite," which grinds in pieces as effectually as the teeth of the lion or the bite of the lioness (מתלּעות; see at Job 29:17). The suffix attached to ארצי does not refer to Jehovah, but to the prophet, who speaks in the name of the people, so that it is the land of the people of God. And this also applies to the suffixes in גּפני and תּאנתי in Joel 1:7. In the description of the devastation caused by the army of locusts, the vine and fig-tree are mentioned as the noblest productions of the land, which the Lord has given to His people for their inheritance (see at Hosea 2:14). לקצפה, εἰς κλασμόν, literally, for crushing. The suffix in chăsâphâh refers, no doubt, simply to the vine as the principal object, the fig-tree being mentioned casually in connection with it. Châsaph, to strip, might be understood as referring simply to the leaves of the vine (cf. Psalm 29:9); but what follows shows that the gnawing or eating away of the bark is also included. Hishlı̄kh, to throw away not merely what is uneatable, "that which is not green and contains no sap" (Hitzig), but the vine itself, which the locusts have broken when eating off its leaves and bark. The branches of the vine have become white through the eating off of the bark (sârı̄gı̄m, Genesis 40:10).
(Note: H. Ludolf, in his Histor. Aethiop. i. c. 13, 16, speaking of the locusts, says: "Neither herbs, nor shrubs, nor trees remain unhurt. Whatever is either grassy or covered with leaves, is injured, as if it had been burnt with fire. Even the bark of trees is nibbled with their teeth, so that the injury is not confined to one year alone.")
For a nation is come up upon my land, strong, and without number, whose teeth are the teeth of a lion, and he hath the cheek teeth of a great lion.
He hath laid my vine waste, and barked my fig tree: he hath made it clean bare, and cast it away; the branches thereof are made white.
Lament like a virgin girded with sackcloth for the husband of her youth.The whole nation is to mourn over this devastation. Joel 1:8. "Lament like a virgin girded with sackcloth for the husband of her youth. Joel 1:9. The meat-offering and the drink-offering are destroyed from the house of Jehovah. The priests, the servant of Jehovah. mourn. Joel 1:10. The field is laid waste, the ground mourns: for the corn is laid waste: the new wine is spoiled, the oil decays. Joel 1:11. Turn pale, ye husbandmen; howl, ye vinedressers, over wheat and barley: for the harvest of the field is perished. Joel 1:12. The vine is spoiled, and the fig-tree faded; the pomegranate, also the palm and the apple tree: all the trees of the field are withered away; yea, joy has expired from the children of men." In Joel 1:8 Judah is addressed as the congregation of Jehovah. אלי is the imperative of the verb אלה, equivalent to the Syriac 'elā', to lament. The verb only occurs here. The lamentation of the virgin for the בּעל נעוּריה, i.e., the beloved of your youth, her bridegroom, whom she has lost by death (Isaiah 54:6), is the deepest and bitterest lamentation. With reference to חגרת־שׂק, see Delitzsch on Isaiah 3:24. The occasion of this deep lamentation, according to Joel 1:9, is the destruction of the meat-offering and drink-offering from the house of the Lord, over which the servants of Jehovah mourn. The meat and drink offerings must of necessity cease, because the corn, the new wine, and the oil are destroyed through the devastation of the field and soil. Hokhrath minchâh does not affirm that the offering of the daily morning and evening sacrifice (Exodus 29:38-42) - for it is to this that מנחה ונסך chiefly, if not exclusively, refers - has already ceased; but simply that any further offering is rendered impossible by the failure of meal, wine, and oil. Now Israel could not suffer any greater calamity than the suspension of the daily sacrifice; for this was a practical suspension of the covenant relation - a sign that God had rejected His people. Therefore, even in the last siege of Jerusalem by the Romans, the sacrificial worship was not suspended till it had been brought to the last extremity; and even then it was for the want of sacrificers, and not of the material of sacrifice (Josephus, de bell. Jud. vi. 2, 1). The reason for this anxiety was the devastation of the field and land (Joel 1:10); and this is still further explained by a reference to the devastation and destruction of the fruits of the ground, viz., the corn, i.e., the corn growing in the field, so that the next harvest would be lost, and the new wine and oil, i.e., the vines and olive-trees, so that they could bear no grapes for new wine, and no olives for oil. The verbs in Joel 1:11 are not perfects, but imperatives, as in the fifth verse. הבישׁ has the same meaning as bōsh, as in Jeremiah 2:26; Jeremiah 6:15, etc., to stand ashamed, to turn pale with shame at the disappointment of their hope, and is probably written defectively, without ו, to distinguish it from הובישׁ, the hiphil of יבשׁ, to be parched or dried up (Joel 1:10 and Joel 1:12). The hope of the husbandmen was disappointed through the destruction of the wheat and barley, the most important field crops. The vine-growers had to mourn over the destruction of the vine and the choice fruit-trees (Joel 1:12), such as the fig and pomegranate, and even the date-palm (gam-tâmâr), which has neither a fresh green rind nor tender juicy leaves, and therefore is not easily injured by the locusts so as to cause it to dry up; and tappūăch, the apple-tree, and all the trees of the field, i.e., all the rest of the trees, wither. "All trees, whether fruit-bearing or not, are consumed by the devastating locusts" (Jerome). In the concluding clause of Joel 1:12, the last and principal ground assigned for the lamentation is, that joy is taken away and withered from the children of men (hōbbı̄sh min, constr. praegn.). כּי introduces a reason here as elsewhere, though not for the clause immediately preceding, but for the הבישׁוּ and הילילוּ in Joel 1:11, the leading thought in both verses; and we may therefore express it by an emphatic yea.
The meat offering and the drink offering is cut off from the house of the LORD; the priests, the LORD'S ministers, mourn.
The field is wasted, the land mourneth; for the corn is wasted: the new wine is dried up, the oil languisheth.
Be ye ashamed, O ye husbandmen; howl, O ye vinedressers, for the wheat and for the barley; because the harvest of the field is perished.
The vine is dried up, and the fig tree languisheth; the pomegranate tree, the palm tree also, and the apple tree, even all the trees of the field, are withered: because joy is withered away from the sons of men.
Gird yourselves, and lament, ye priests: howl, ye ministers of the altar: come, lie all night in sackcloth, ye ministers of my God: for the meat offering and the drink offering is withholden from the house of your God.The affliction is not removed by mourning and lamentation, but only through repentance and supplication to the Lord, who can turn away all evil. The prophet therefore proceeds to call upon the priests to offer to the Lord penitential supplication day and night in the temple, and to call the elders and all the people to observe a day of fasting, penitence, and prayer; and then offers supplication himself to the Lord to have compassion upon them (Joel 1:19). From the motive assigned for this appeal, we may also see that a terrible drought had been associated with the devastation by the locusts, from which both man and beast had endured the most bitter suffering, and that Joel regarded this terrible calamity as a sign of the coming of the day of the Lord. Joel 1:13. "Gird yourselves, and lament, ye priests; howl, ye servants of the altar; come, pass the night in sackcloth, ye servants of my God: for the meat-offering and drink-offering are withdrawn from the house of your God. Joel 1:14. Sanctify a fast, call out an assembly, assemble the elders, all ye inhabitants of the land, at the house of Jehovah your God, and cry to Jehovah." From what follows we must supply bassaqqı̄m (with sackcloth) to chigrū (gird yourselves). Gird yourselves with mourning apparel, i.e., put it on (see Joel 1:8). In this they are to pass the night, to offer supplication day and night, or incessantly, standing between the altar and the porch (Joel 2:17). "Servants of my God," i.e., of the God whose prophet I am, and from whom I can promise you a hearing. The reason assigned for this appeal is the same as for the lamentation in Joel 1:9. But it is not the priests only who are to pray incessantly to the Lord; the elders and all the people are to do the same. קדּשׁ צום, to sanctify a fast, i.e., to appoint a holy fast, a divine service of prayer connected with fasting. To this end the priests are to call an ‛ătsârâh, i.e., a meeting of the congregation for religious worship. ‛Atsârâh, or ‛ătsereth, πανήγυρις, is synonymous with מקרא קודשׁ in Leviticus 23:36 (see the exposition of that passage). In what follows, כּל־ישׁבי ה is attached ἀσυνδέτως to זקנים; and the latter is not a vocative, but an accusative of the object. On the other hand, בּית יהוה is an accus. loci, and dependent upon אספוּ. זעק, to cry, used of loud and importunate prayer. It is only by this that destruction can still be averted.
Sanctify ye a fast, call a solemn assembly, gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land into the house of the LORD your God, and cry unto the LORD,
Alas for the day! for the day of the LORD is at hand, and as a destruction from the Almighty shall it come."Alas for the day! for the day of Jehovah is near, and it comes like violence from the Almighty." This verse does not contain words which the priests are to speak, so that we should have to supply לאמר, like the Syriac and others, but words of the prophet himself, with which he justifies the appeal in Joel 1:13 and Joel 1:14. ליּום is the time of the judgment, which has fallen upon the land and people through the devastation by the locusts. This "day" is the beginning of the approaching day of Jehovah, which will come like a devastation from the Almighty. Yōm Yehōvâh is the great day of judgment upon all ungodly powers, when God, as the almighty ruler of the world, brings down and destroys everything that has exalted itself against Him; thus making the history of the world, through His rule over all creatures in heaven and earth, into a continuous judgment, which will conclude at the end of this course of the world with a great and universal act of judgment, through which everything that has been brought to eternity by the stream of time unjudged and unadjusted, will be judged and adjusted once for all, to bring to an end the whole development of the world in accordance with its divine appointment, and perfect the kingdom of God by the annihilation of all its foes. (Compare the magnificent description of this day of the Lord in Isaiah 2:12-21.) And accordingly this particular judgment - through which Jehovah on the one hand chastises His people for their sins, and on the other hand destroys the enemies of His kingdom - forms one element of the day of Jehovah; and each of these separate judgment is a coming of that day, and a sign of His drawing near. This day Joel saw in the judgment that came upon Judah in his time, keshōd misshaddai, lit., like a devastation from the Almighty, - a play upon the words (since shōd and shaddai both come from shâdad), which Rckert renders, though somewhat too freely, by wie ein Graussen vom grossen Gott. כ is the so-called כ veritatis, expressing a comparison between the individual and its genus or its idea. On the relation between this verse and Isaiah 13:6, see the Introduction.
Is not the meat cut off before our eyes, yea, joy and gladness from the house of our God?"Is not the food destroyed before our eyes, joy and exulting from the house of our God? Joel 1:17. The grains have mouldered under their clods, the storehouses are desolate, the barns have fallen down; because the corn is destroyed. Joel 1:18. How the cattle groan! the herds of oxen are bewildered, for no pasture was left for them; even the flocks of sheep suffer." As a proof that the day of the Lord is coming like a devastation from the Almighty, the prophet points in Joel 1:16 to the fact that the food is taken away before their eyes, and therewith all joy and exulting from the house of God. "The food of the sinners perishes before their eyes, since the crops they looked for are snatched away from their hands, and the locust anticipates the reaper" (Jerome). אכל, food as the means of sustenance; according to Joel 1:19, corn, new wine, and oil. The joy is thereby taken from the house of Jehovah, inasmuch as, when the crops are destroyed, neither first-fruits nor thank-offerings can be brought to the sanctuary to be eaten there at joyful meals (Deuteronomy 12:6-7; Deuteronomy 16:10-11). And the calamity became all the more lamentable, from the fact that, in consequence of a terrible drought, the seed perished in the earth, and consequently the prospect of a crop the following year entirely disappeared. The prophet refers to this in Joel 1:17, which has been rendered in extremely different ways by the lxx, Chald., and Vulg., on account of the ̔απ. λεγ. עבשׁוּ, פּרדות, and מגרפות (compare Pococke, ad h. l.). עבשׁ signifies to moulder away, or, as the injury was caused by dryness and heat, to dry up; it is used here of grains of corn which lose their germinating power, from the Arabic ‛bs, to become dry or withered, and the Chaldee עפשׁ, to get mouldy. Perudōth, in Syriac, grains of corn sowed broadcast, probably from pârad, to scatter about. Megrâphōth, according to Ab. Esr., clods of earth (compare Arab. jurf, gleba terrai), from gâraph, to wash away (Judges 5:21) a detached piece of earth. If the seed-corn loses its germinating power beneath the clod, no corn-harvest can be looked for. The storehouses ('ōtsârōth; cf. 2 Chronicles 32:27) moulder away, and the barns (mammegurâh with dag. dirim. equals megūrâh in Haggai 2:19) fall, tumble to pieces, because being useless they are not kept in proper condition. The drought also deprives the cattle of their pasture, so that the herds of oxen and flocks of sheep groan and suffer with the rest from the calamity. בּוּך, niphal, to be bewildered with fear. 'Ashēm, to expiate, to suffer the consequences of men's sin.
The fact, that even irrational creatures suffer along with men, impels the prophet to pray for help to the Lord, who helps both man and beast (Psalm 36:7). Joel 1:19. "To Thee, O Jehovah, do I:cry: for fire has devoured the pastures of the wilderness, and flame has consumed all the trees of the field. Joel 1:20. Even the beasts of the field cry unto Thee; for the water-brooks are dried up, and fire has devoured the pastures of the wilderness." Fire and flame are the terms used by the prophet to denote the burning heat of the drought, which consumes the meadows, and even scorches up the trees. This is very obvious from the drying up of the water-brooks (in Joel 1:20). For Joel 1:20, compare Jeremiah 14:5-6. In Jeremiah 14:20 the address is rhetorically rounded off by the repetition of ואשׁ אכלה וגו from Jeremiah 14:19.
The seed is rotten under their clods, the garners are laid desolate, the barns are broken down; for the corn is withered.
How do the beasts groan! the herds of cattle are perplexed, because they have no pasture; yea, the flocks of sheep are made desolate.
O LORD, to thee will I cry: for the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness, and the flame hath burned all the trees of the field.
The beasts of the field cry also unto thee: for the rivers of waters are dried up, and the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness.