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An Argument of the Book of Joel

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MESSAGE STATEMENT:1

Ultimate deliverance from Yahweh at the time of his future judgment upon the nation will occur as they cry to him in repentance just as they did during the local devastation through the swarms of locus

I. Introduction: Joel, the prophet and son of Pethuel, urged the people to hear his message, in view of the locus plague, and to pass it on down through their generations 1:1-3

A. Superscription: The word of the Lord came to Joel, the son of Pethuel 1:1

B. Exhortation to Pass Down the Message: Joel urges the people in the land to hear what he has to say, in view of the locus plague, and to pass this information on from generation to generation 1:2-3

1. Exhortation for the People to Listen: Joel urges the elders and people to listen to him since nothing has happened like this locus plague before 1:2

2. Exhortation to Pass On: Joel urges the people to pass this exhortation on from generation to generation 1:3

II. An Historical Judgment of God and Deliverance: After Joel described the “local” Day of the Lord through terrible devastation caused by the locusts on the land and the people, he urged them to repent and the Lord had pity for the people and promised to remove the “northern army” away from them and to restore the land and the people 1:4--2:32

A. The Judgment in the Locust Plague/Invasion: Joel described the total devastation which was brought about by the locusts, who were like a nation in their organization, and urged the people to mourn their loss and cry to the Lord for deliverance from this terrible judgment from the Almighty 1:4-20

1. A Description of the Invasion: Joel describes the total devastation which was brought about by four kinds of locusts which, like an organized nation, stripped the land of all of its crops 1:4

2. A Call to Mourn: Joel urges the people to mourn over the devastating locus invasion 1:5-13

a. Drunkards Should Mourn: Drunkards should awake and mourn the devastation which the locusts “nation” has brought upon the vines in the land 1:5-7

b. The Land Should Mourn: The land mourns because of the devastation brought about upon the field, grain, vine and oils 1:8-10

c. Farmers Should Mourn: Farmers should mourn because all of the grain is gone and all of the trees are consumed 1:11-12

d. Priests Should Mourn: Priests should mourn because the grain offerings and libations are stopped from coming to the house of the Lord 1:13

3. A Call to Cry to the Lord for Deliverance: Joel urges all of the people to fast, come to the house of the Lord in a solemn assembly and cry unto the Lord for deliverance 1:14

4. The Significance of the Plague--A Local Day of the Lord: Joel proclaims that a day of judgment (the Day of the Lord) has come from the Almighty bringing total devastation so that he and the animals call to Him for deliverance 1:15-20

a. The Day of the Lord:2 The prophet proclaims that the Day of the Lord is near and has come from the Almighty 1:15

b. They Day of the Lord Described: The prophet describes this “day of the Lord” which has come bringing total devastation so that he and the animals call to the Lord for deliverance 1:16-20

1) Food Has Been Cut Off: 1:16a

2) Gladness and Joy Have Been Cut Off: 1:16b

3) Grain Has Been Cut Off Leaving Destruction in Its Wake: 1:17

4) The Animals Suffer: 1:18

5) The prophet cries to the Lord in the Wake of Destructive Fires in the Land: 1:19

6) The Animals Pant for the Lord in the Wake of Destructive Fires in the Land: 1:20

B. The Day of the Lord and God’s Deliverance:3 After Joel called the people together to describe the coming Day of the Lord and to urge the people to repent, the Lord had pity for the people and promised to remove the “northern army” away from them and to restore the land and the people 2:1-27

1. The Day of the Lord & A Call For Repentance: After Joel announces the coming day of the Lord and describes its terror, he and Yahweh urge the people to turn to Him so that the nations will not mock their God in their trouble 2:1-17

a. Call for An Assembly: After Joel announces the presence of the day of the Lord and describes its dark destruction, he and Yahweh urge the people to call an assembly and to cry in repentance unto the Lord so that He will relent and the nations will not mock them and their God 2:1-11

1) Exhortation to Sound the Alarm for the Day of the Lord is Near: 2:1

2) A Description of the Dark, Destructive Day of the Lord:4 2:2-11

a) A Time of Darkness 2:2a

b) Never Anything Like It: 2:2b

c) An Army of Judgment: 2:3

d) A Terrible and Powerful Army: 2:4-5

e) People of the Nation in Terror: 2:6

f) A Disciplined Army: 2:7-8

g) An Army Skilled in Warfare: 2:9

h) An Overpowering Army: 2:10

i) Yahweh’s Army: 2:11a

j) No One Can Stand: 2:11b

b. A Call for Repentance: Yahweh and Joel urge the people to come together and call upon their gracious Lord so that He will relent and the nations will not mock

1) Plea for Repentance: Yahweh and Joel call on the people to return to the Lord who is gracious, compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness, and relenting of evil 2:12-14

2) Call for Repentance and An Assembly: Joel urges the people to call a fast and gather together and pray for the Lord to relent so that the nations will not mock them and their God 2:15-17

2. God’s Response and Promise: The Lord responded by being zealous for His land and having pity on His people so that He promised to remove the “northern army” away from them and to restore the land and the people 2:18-27

a. God’s Response:5 The Lord was Zealous for his Land and had Pity on his people 2:18-19

b. God’s Promise:6 The Lord promised to remove the “northern army” away from them and to restore the land as well as the people of the land 2:20-27

1) Removal of the Northern Army: 2:20

2) Restoration of the Land Which Leads to Rejoicing: 2:21-27

III. An Eschatological Promise to Judge the Nations and Restore Judah: Joel proclaims that in the future Day of the Lord Yahweh will pour out His Spirit upon those who call upon Him, judge the nations with a swift talionic judgment because of their treatment of Judah, and restore Judah to a covenant relationship of blessing with His presence among them forever 2:28--3:21

A. Future Blessing of Spiritual Movement:7 Joel proclaims that as part of the coming restoration connected with the Day of Yahweh, the Lord will pour His spirit out on His people, miracles will occur in the sky, and those who call upon Him will be saved 2:28-32

1. The Outpouring of the Spirit: In the future when the Lord heals the land He will pour out His Spirit on His people, even common people, and miracles will occur in the sky as part of the coming Day of the Lord 2:28-31

2. The Outworking of Salvation:8 In the coming Day of the Lord He will deliver some of His people--those who call upon the name of the Lord 2:32

B. The Judgment is Announced and Described: Joel proclaims that Yahweh, as Judah’s stronghold, will judge the nations at Jehoshaphat with a swift, talionic judgment because of what they did to Judah 3:1-16

1. Announced: At the future time when the Lord restores Judah and Jerusalem, He will judge the nations because of what they did to Judah 3:1-8

a. Setting: When the Lord restores Judah and Jerusalem: 3:1

b. Place/Judgment--Jehoshaphat (Yahweh will judge”):9 3:2a

c. Reason--Treatment of Judah: 3:2b-3

d. Judgment--A Swift, Talionic Turn of Events: 4-8

2. Judgment is Described: 3:9-16

a. Preparations for Conflict with Yahweh and the Nations: 3:9-12

b. Yahweh’s Harvest Like Warfare: 3:13

c. Presence of Multitudes: 3:14

d. Yahweh from Jerusalem: 3:15-16a

e. Yahweh--Judah’s Stronghold: 3:16b

C. Israel’s Ultimate Restoration: Joel proclaims that in the future restoration Yahweh and Judah will once again be in covenant relationship, Judah will become fruitful, and Yahweh will dwell in her midst forever as her vindication 3:17-21

1. Renewed Covenant: Yahweh and the nation will once again be in covenant relationship 3:17

2. Fruitful: Judah will become fruitful while her enemies (Edom and Egypt) will become unfruitful 3:18-19

3. With Yahweh: Yahweh will inhabit Judah forever as their avenger (with the nations) 3:20-21


1 This outline is adapted through my own study from the analyses of Gleason L. Archer, Jr. A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, 310-11; Robert B. Chisholm, Jr., Joel, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures by Dallas Seminary Faculty: Old Testament, 1413; Robert B. Chisholm, Jr., Interpreting the Minor Prophets, 54; Homer Heater, Jr., Notes on the Book of Joel, unpublished class notes in seminar in the preexilic Old Testament prophets [Dallas Theological Seminary, Fall 1990], 150-53; Andrew E. Hill and John H. Walton, A Survey of the Old Testament, 367; John A Martin, An Outline of Joel, unpublished class notes in 304 preexlic and exilic prophets, (Dallas Theological Seminary, Fall 1983); Richard D. Patterson, Joel, The Expositor's Bible Commentary, VII:236.

The different interpretations are many for this short book. One of the more usual arguments (broadly speaking) is that chapter 1 is describing a historical plague of locusts, chapter 2:1-17 draws off of the imagery of chapter one but describes the coming Day of the Lord, and chapter 2:18--3:21 describes promises of future blessing and judgment on the nations (Robert B. Chisholm, Jr., Joel, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures by Dallas Seminary Faculty: Old Testament, 1413; Hans Walter Wolff, Joel and Amos, Hermeneia).

This argument will have a slightly different approach. Chapter 1 and 2 are describing an historical plague which reflects a local day of Yahweh when He brings judgment on His people. The promises of local deliverance are then telescoped to included future eschatological deliverance (beginning with 2:26b). Finally, chapters 2:28--3:21 describe future blessing for the Nation and judgment on the nations (cf. Homer Heater, Jr., Notes on the Book of Joel, unpublished class notes in seminar in the preexilic Old Testament prophets [Dallas Theological Seminary, Fall 1990], 167-68; Leslie C. Allen. The Books of Joel, Obadiah, Jonah, and Micah, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament).

2 Heater writes, This seems to indicate that the locust plague was identified with the day of the Lord and would support Weiss's argument ... that the day of the Lord was sometimes applied in a general way to judgment and was not always the day of the Lord yet to come. At the same time, the plague as a local 'day of the Lord' should warn Israel of the eschatological day of Yahweh (Homer Heater, Jr., Notes on the Book of Joel, unpublished class notes in seminar in the preexilic Old Testament prophets [Dallas Theological Seminary, Fall 1990], 164).

3 Heater identifies the problem with this passage when he writes, The most difficult issue in the book is the significance and relationship of the locusts in chapters one and two. This is tied into the issue of the meaning of the day of Yahweh. The problem is exacerbated by the tendency of the prophets to merge the past or present with the future (Homer Heater, Jr., Notes on the Book of Joel, unpublished class notes in seminar in the preexilic Old Testament prophets [Dallas Theological Seminary, Fall 1990], 163).

He addresses his solution is summary fashion when he writes, My approach to the book of Joel is to see both chapters one and two as the same event (one that happened sometime in the history of Judah) that is being treated as a type of what is yet to come when God judges the world. As such Joel can slide into the great eschatological outpouring of the Spirit (2:18-32) and the complete restoration of Israel (3:1-21) (Ibid.).

Heater develops this in a helpful way as he comments on the more traditional when he writes, Hans Wolff, in his insightful analysis of the book, argues that chapter 1 is a historical plague of locusts, but that chapter 2 takes that historical situation and draws from it a warning about the eschatological Day of Yahweh. He argues, quite rightly I believe, that the tenses of 2:18-19 are narrative tenses picking up the point made in 1:2-3. In other words, the task of telling later generations about the plague is continued as the prophet tells of God's forgiveness of His people, and so the content of 2:18-19 is historical, not prophetic. However, he believes that 2:1-11 refers to the eschatological Day of Yahweh as does 2:19ff. Consequently, his structure is a = locusts (1:1-20); a1 = eschatological Day of Yahweh (2:1-11); c = plea for repentance (historical) (2:12-17) to which the people responded and God was merciful; a2 = eschatological blessing (2:19b-32) and judgment on nations (3:1-21). Keil holds a similar position. Chisholm generally follows Wolff.

I find it awkward to have a historical situation (2:18-19) thrust into an eschatological section. It seems to me better to see a unitary structure in the first two chapters. There are four main imperatival units in these chapters: 1:2 'Here this, O elders, and listen, all inhabitants of the land'; 1:14 'Consecrate a fast, proclaim a solemn assembly, gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land'; 2:1 'Blow a trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm on my holy mountain!'; 2:15 'Blow a trumpet in Zion, consecrate a fast proclaim a solemn assembly.' In light of the calamity in chapter 1, they are to consecrate a fast (obviously for the purpose of intercession). This idea is pursued in 2:1 where the alarm is to be sounded because of the invasion of the 'army.' Both ideas are included in 2:15 where the injunction to fast and to sound a warning are given.

I would conclude then, that the historical scene of a terrible locust plague is in view in both chapters. The parallel similes and descriptions link them. Even the description of the earth and heavens should be understood as coming from the impact of the awful locust invasion. The locusts are called God's army in 2:11 and a nation in 1:6. The Day of Yahweh in chapters 1 and 2 should be understood as a 'local' day of Yahweh when he brings judgment on His people. God's earnest plea for repentance does not come until 2:12-17 where He proclaims His compassion toward His people. To this plea the people responded, and God graciously forgave them. In light of that forgiveness, He promised to restore all that the locusts had eaten (2:25) and to bring abundance of rain.

An objection might be raised about the statement in 2:19 translated in NASB 'And I will never again make you a reproach among the nations.' This phrase is clearly an answer to the 'paradigm prayer' God gave them in 2:17: 'Spare Thy people, O Lord, and do not make Thine inheritance a reproach, a byword among the nations.' The phrase 'never again' is dou ... aO. This syntactical combination occurs over 100 times. It is often translated 'never again' as here, because it occurs often in prophetic passages containing promises. However, it often simply means 'no longer' with no reference to whether the situation could be repeated (e.g., Judg. 2:14; Ezek. 33:22). The context refers to the historical reproach brought on Israel because of the locust plague. That reproach was removed when God destroyed the locusts and restored the vegetation to the people.

However, as God expands on His wonderful promises of restoration, He begins to telescope the distant future into the historical past. I believe this begins in 2:26b: 'Then My people will never be put to shame' ( <l*oul= yM!u@ Wvb)y@ aOw+ ). In the same way the Lord Jesus jumps into the eschaton from a historical situation in Matthew 10, so God moves from the beautiful statements of restoration of Israel in the future.

Joel is teaching the people of Israel (1) the Day of Yahweh will bring discipline to His people to bring them to Himself; (2) God's forgiveness is conditioned on repentance, but when that repentance is present, He forgives and restores (2:18-27); (3) The lessons taught in chapters 1--2 (God leads his army [locusts] against His people to force them to Himself, but upon genuine repentance, forgives and restores) are to be applied to the eschaton, and therefore, the day of the Lord will include a spiritual renewal of Israel ( /k^ yr^j&a@ hy*h*w+ ); these time references are general not specific) (2:28-32). The day of the Lord will also be a time of judgment on the nations who have mistreated Israel .... At that time Israel will be restored (3:1-21) (Ibid., 168-69).

4 While this writer understands this Day of the Lord to have a specific reference to the locusts in chapter one, the entire concept is typological. One judgment from the Lord foreshadows future judgments from the Lord. One local expression of the Day of the Lord mirrors a future expression of the Day of the Lord be it Babylon in 586; Rome in A.D. 70 or the eschatological tribulation.

5 The tenses in this unit should probably be translated as past tenses rather than as prophetic futures as with the NIV and the NASV and KJV. Heater writes, In the MT, these verbs are what used to be called waw consecutive imperfects but are now usually referred to as preterits. They are the typical syntactical form for narration in past time. They may be used for future time, but in such cases they are usually anchored to a perfect tense cast in the future with the waw consecutive [GKC, # 111w]. Joüron [Grammaire de l'Hébreu Biblique, #118s] says, Dans la sphere du futur, wayyiqtol (comme qatal #112 g-h) est rare. Abres un parfait prophetique (#112h): Is 9,5; Joel 2,23. Some have tried to repoint the forms as jussives, but Wolff cogently argues against the effort. The normally expected translation of these four verbs would be, 'Then the Lord was zealous for His land, and He had pity on His people. And the Lord answered and said to his people, Behold, I am going to send you grain ...' (Homer Heater, Jr., Notes on the Book of Joel, unpublished class notes in seminar in the preexilic Old Testament prophets [Dallas Theological Seminary, Fall 1990], 167).

6 Heater writes, This section had its fulfillment in historical days, but as God expands on His wonderful promises of restoration, He begins to telescope the distant future into the historical past. This begins at 2:26b: 'Then My people will never be put to shame'... (Homer Heater, Jr., Notes on the Book of Joel, unpublished class notes in seminar in the preexilic Old Testament prophets [Dallas Theological Seminary, Fall 1990], 165).

7 In the Hebrew a separate chapter is made out of this unit (3:1-5).

8 See Romans 10:13 and Acts 2. While Joel 2 had an initial fulfillment in Acts 2, it will not be consummated until the repentance occurs in the tribulation. Peter did not know all of this when he spoke in Acts 3:19-20.

9 This may be a name that describes the task more than a task. Perhaps this will be in the Kidron Valley where the nations will be judged in accordance with their treatment of Israel during the tribulation (cf. Matt 25; Homer Heater, Jr., Notes on the Book of Joel, unpublished class notes in seminar in the preexilic Old Testament prophets [Dallas Theological Seminary, Fall 1990], 166).

Related Topics: Introductions, Arguments, Outlines