Where the world comes to study the Bible

Joel 2

 

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB [follows MT]
The Terrible Visitation The Day of the Lord The Locust Plague
(1:1-2:27)
The Locusts as a Warning of the Day of the LORD The Plague of Locusts
(1:1-2:27)
        A Warning About the Day of Yahweh
2:1-17 2:1-11
(1-2)
2:1-11
(1-2)
2:1-11
(1-2)
2:1-2
(1)
        (2)
        The Invasion of Locusts
  (3-5) (3) (3-9) 2:3-9
(3-5)
    (4-5)    
  (6-9) (6-9)   (6-9)
  (10-11) (10-11) (10-11) A Vision of the Day of Yahweh
2:10-11
  A Call to Repentance   A Call to Repentance A Call to Repentance
  2:12-17
(12-14)
2:12-17
(12-14)
2:12-17
(12-13a)
2:12-17
(12-14)
      (13b-14)  
  (15-17) (15-16) (15-17) (15-17)
    (17)    
Deliverance Promised The Land Refreshed   God Restores Fertility to the Land Yahweh's Answer
2:18-20 2:18-27
(18-19)
2:18-27
(18-19)
2:18-27
(18-20)
2:18-32[3:5]
        The Plague Stops
        2:19-20
  (20) (20)   A Vision of Plenty
2:21-27 (21-24) (21-22) (21-22) 2:21-27
(21-22)
    (23-24) (23-27) (23-24)
  (25-27) (25)   (25)
    (26-27)   (26)
        (27)
        The New Age and the Day of Yahweh
[3:1-4:21]
The Promise of the Spirit God's Spirit Poured Out The Day of the LORD
(2:28-3:21)
The Day of the LORD The Outpouring of the Spirit
2:28-32 2:28-32
(28-29)
(28-29) 2:28-32
(28-29)
2:28-32 [3:1-5]
(28-29)
The Days of the Lord        
(30-32) (30-32) (30-32) (30-32) (2:30-32) [3:4-5]

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the four modern translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. There is disagreement among scholars on how to relate the locust plague of chapter 1 with the invading army of chapter 2. For me, they are parallel. Joel is using locusts as a military metaphor of YHWH's invading army (literal, as foreign invaders, or figurative, as locusts).

 

B. This chapter has powerful NT implication because of Peter's use of 2:28-32 in his Pentecost sermon of Acts 2.

 

C. There are several issues that cause difficulty for understanding this text:

1. how OT texts are used by NT writers

2. the nature of apocalyptic language

3. the Hebrew speakers' use of hyperbole and paradox

 

D. Several books have helped me in these areas. I highly recommend them to you:

1. in the area of proper hermeneutics:

a. Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth

b. D. Brent Sandy and Ronald L. Giese, Jr., Cracking Old Testament Codes

2. in the area of Hebrew imagery, G. B. Caird, The Language and Imagery of the Bible, esp. pp. 107-117

3. in the area of apocalyptic and prophetic language, D. Brent Sandy, Plowshares and Pruning Hooks: Rethinking the Language of Biblical Prophecy and Apocalyptic

4. in the area of utilizing contemporary literature:

a. R. K. Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament

b. John H. Walton, Ancient Israelite Literature In Its Cultural Context

5. in the area of apostolic usage of OT texts, Richard N. Longenecker, Biblical Exegesis in the Apostolic Period

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:2:1-17
 1Blow a trumpet in Zion,
 And sound an alarm on My holy mountain!
 Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble,
 For the day of the Lord is coming;
 Surely it is near,
 2A day of darkness and gloom,
 A day of clouds and thick darkness.
 As the dawn is spread over the mountains,
 So there is a great and mighty people;
 There has never been anything like it,
 Nor will there be again after it
 To the years of many generations.
 3A fire consumes before them
 And behind them a flame burns.
 The land is like the garden of Eden before them
 But a desolate wilderness behind them,
 And nothing at all escapes them.
 4Their appearance is like the appearance of horses;
 And like war horses, so they run.
 5With a noise as of chariots
 They leap on the tops of the mountains,
 Like the crackling of a flame of fire consuming the stubble,
 Like a mighty people arranged for battle.
 6Before them the people are in anguish;
 All faces turn pale.
  7They run like mighty men,
 They climb the wall like soldiers;
 And they each march in line,
 Nor do they deviate from their paths.
 8They do not crowd each other,
 They march everyone in his path;
 When they burst through the defenses,  
 They do not break ranks.
 9They rush on the city,
 They run on the wall;
 They climb into the houses,
 They enter through the windows like a thief.
 10Before them the earth quakes,
 The heavens tremble,
 The sun and the moon grow dark
 And the stars lose their brightness.
 11The Lord utters His voice before His army;
 Surely His camp is very great,
 For strong is he who carries out His word.
 The day of the Lord is indeed great and very awesome,
 And who can endure it?
 12"Yet even now," declares the Lord,
 "Return to Me with all your heart,
 And with fasting, weeping and mourning;
 13And rend your heart and not your garments."
 Now return to the Lord your God,
 For He is gracious and compassionate,
 Slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness
 And relenting of evil.
 14Who knows whether He will not turn and relent
 And leave a blessing behind Him,
 Even a grain offering and a drink offering
 For the Lord your God?
 15Blow a trumpet in Zion,
 Consecrate a fast, proclaim a solemn assembly,
 16Gather the people, sanctify the congregation,
 Assemble the elders,
 Gather the children and the nursing infants.
 Let the bridegroom come out of his room
 And the bride out of her bridal chamber.
 17Let the priests, the Lord's ministers,
 Weep between the porch and the altar,
 And let them say, "Spare Your people, O Lord,
 And do not make Your inheritance a reproach,
 A byword among the nations.
 Why should they among the peoples say,
 'Where is their God?'"

2:1 "Blow" The prophet is announcing YHWH's message that the day of the Lord is coming. This is done by the parallel imperatives.

1. "blow," BDB 1075, KB 1785, Qal imperative, meaning

a. "blow a trumpet" or

b. "clap your hands"

since the next word is "trumpet" (BDB 1051) option a. is meant. This trumpet blast (which probably comes from the Mt. Sinai experience, i.e., Exod. 19:16,19; 20:18) is the OT source for the NT understanding of a trumpet inaugurating the end-time events (cf. Matt. 24:31; I Cor. 15:52; I Thess. 4:16).

2. "sound an alarm," BDB 929, KB 1206, Hiphil imperative, which denotes a loud shout

a. for battle (i.e., Josh. 6:10,20; Jdgs. 7:21; I Sam. 17:52; Isa. 42:13)

b. for royalty (i.e., I Sam. 10:24; Zech. 9:9)

c. shout of YHWH (i.e., 2:11)

This, too, becomes a pattern for NT teaching about eschatological events (i.e., I Thess. 4:16).

Both a trumpet and a shout were probably (1) part of an annual coronation service in Jerusalem of YHWH as King (cf. Ps. 47:5; 98:6; Isa. 18:3) or (2) a stylized warning (cf. Isa. 58:1; Jer. 4:5; 6:1; 51:27; Ezek. 33:3-6; Amos 2:2).

Many of the allusions that Joel uses for the invading locusts (i.e., army) became standard apocalyptic symbols of the end-time:

a. blow the trumpet

b. day of darkness (cf. 2:30-31)

c. earthquakes/trembles

d. fire

e. thunder/YHWH's voice

f. day of the Lord is awesome/dreadful

 

▣ "the trumpet" This is the sophar (BDB 1051, cf. 2:1,15). See Special Topic below.

SPECIAL TOPIC: HORNS USED BY ISRAEL

▣ "My holy mountain" This could refer to the events on Mount Sinai at the inauguration of the covenant, but in context it seems to refer to Mount Moriah (cf. Genesis 22), on which Solomon's temple was later built. "Zion" (BDB 851) is parallel to "My holy mountain." Zion, although one of six hills in Jerusalem, became the general name for the whole city.

▣ "the day of the Lord" This seems to refer to God's coming in temporal judgment or blessing (cf. 1:15). The phrase is used repeatedly in chapter 2 and may reflect Amos 5:18-20. However, it is also used as historical foreshadowing of the ultimate judgment of the end-time (cf. Matt. 7:22; 10:15; 11:22,24; 12:36; Acts 17:31; I Thess 5:4; Heb. 10:25; II Pet. 2:9; 3:7; I John 4:17; Jude 6).

The concept of judgment has developed through progressive revelation. In the OT YHWH's judgment fell on

1. sinful non-covenant people ("the nations")

2. rebellious and sinful covenant people ("Israel")

However, in the NT this changes somewhat. Judgment comes to unbelievers (Jew and Gentile). Believers will not experience the wrath of God (or Christ, cf. Rom. 2:16), but they will experience the judgment seat of Christ (cf. II Cor. 5:10; Rom. 14:10,12; Eph. 6:8). Scripture does not tell us about this judgment. Believers are cleansed from all sin (cf. Heb. 9:14; I John 1:7), so this must be an evaluation for rewards!

In the OT YHWH's coming visitation to His people could be for

1. blessing (i.e., His presence, His abundance)

2. judgment

The NT has turned this day into a day of

1. resurrection and reunion for believers

2. eternal lostness for unbelievers

In the Sheep and Goat Judgment (Matthew 25) and the White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20) there is a marked distinction between the saved (believers) and lost (unbelievers). The sin of the believers has been dealt with by Christ's death and resurrection! This is not to imply that believers will not give an accounting of the stewardship of the gospel in their lives, but that the OT judgment on covenant people has been removed in Christ (cf. Galatians 3; Romans 5-8). Human non-performance has been trumped by divine performance (cf. Rom. 3:18-31; Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 36:22-38)!

However, at this point in the theological discussion the issue of apostasy must be dealt with. See Special Topic following.

SPECIAL TOPIC: DOES ANY BELIEVER EVER FALL AWAY (i.e. APOSTASY)?

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE NEED TO PERSEVERE

▣ "Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble" This verb (BDB 919, KB 1182) is a Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense. This word can denote anger or fear. In this context, it is fear (e.g., Exod. 15:14; Isa. 32:11; Hab. 3:7).

▣ "it is near" Here is another OT theme (cf. 1:15; 2:1; 3:14; cf. Deut. 32:35; Isa. 13:6,22; Ezek. 7:7-8; Obad. v. 15), which becomes part of NT eschatological language (cf. Matt. 24:33; Mark 13:28-29; Rev. 1:1,3; 2:16; 3:11; 22:7,10,12,20).

There is a purposeful ambiguity. OT prophecy challenged the people who heard/read the prophet to repent or else the predicted outcome would occur. It often took a current evert (here a locust plague) and used it as an end-time event! Prophecy was primarily meant to change the generation that heard the message, not predict future events (i.e., Jonah).

The "nearness" of YHWH's personal presence was meant to rally the people to righteous living. Judgment was the last option. Nearness may denote certainty as much as time! A helpful book on how to interpret biblical prophecy and apocalyptic language is D. Brent Sandy, Plowshares and Pruning Hooks.

2:2 "A day of darkness and gloom" From chapter 1 we learn that Joel is using a locust plague as a metaphor for God's judgment (cf. the darkness of Exod. 10:21-23; Deut. 28:29; Ps. 105:28). Several texts specifically speak of YHWH as controlling darkness for His purposes (cf. Gen. 1:2,4,5,18; Jer. 13:16; Amos 4:13; 5:8). This is an allusion to a swarm of locusts that covers the sun by day and the moon and stars by night!

▣ "As the dawn is spread over the mountains" Many who have experienced the locust plagues of Palestine relate that the redness of the underside of the of the insect's wings looks like the morning sun (cf. NIV).

▣ "a great and mighty people" This is an allusion to YHWH's army (cf. vv. 5,7-9,11,25). Locusts are metaphorical for an invading army (cf. 2:5).

▣ "There has never been anything like it" This is an allusion to 1:2a,b.

2:3 "A fire consumes before them" This refers to 1:19-20.

▣ "The land is like a garden of Eden before them" This emphasizes that the fertility of the land (metaphorically–Eden) will now be destroyed by these insects. The opposite use of this metaphor can be seen in Isa. 51:3 and Ezek. 36:35.

2:4 "Their appearance is like the appearance of horses" The head of the locust resembles the head of a horse (cf. Job 39:20, or lion). The basic metaphor of v. 4 is one of speed.

2:5 "With the noise as of chariots" As v. 4 speaks of speed, v. 5 describes the chewing sound of the locusts' mandibles (cf. Rev. 9:9), which sound like chariot wheels on the streets (as does the crackling of a fire in v. 5, line 3. See Special Topic at Obad. v. 8).

2:6

NASB"all faces turn pale"
NKJV"all faces drained of color"
NRSV"all faces grow pale"
TEB"every face turns pale"
NJB"every face grows pale"

This term (BDB 802, KB 909) occurs only twice in the OT (here and at Nahum 2:10). The key term can mean several different things:

1. beauty

2.  glory/radiance

3. redness

4. blackness (LXX, KJV)

5. boiling

When all is said and done in lexical research, context is the deciding factor. The first line of v. 6 denotes pain or anguish (also Nah. 2:10), so this term must in some way parallel this thought:

1. face grows red with emotion (fear or anticipation)

2. face grows pale (i.e., no color) with fear

 

2:7-9 Here the locusts are likened to an army. The advance of the locust horde is described in a series of imperfect verbs:

1. they run, v. 7, BDB 930, KB 1207, Qal imperfect

2. they climb, v. 7, BDB 748, KB 828, Qal imperfect

3. they march, v. 7, BDB 229, KB 246, Qal imperfect

4. they do not deviate, v. 7. The Hebrew word is uncertain in this context and stem

a. BDB 716, "take a pledge" (Piel), cf. Deut. 24:10

b. KB 778 II (Piel), "lose the way" (Arabic and Akkadian roots)

c. Septuagint, Peshitta, Vulgate, "deviate"

5. they do not crowd, v. 8, BDB 191, KB 219, Qal imperfect, cf. Jdgs. 2:18

6. they march, v. 8, BDB 229, KB 246, Qal imperfect

7. they burst through, v. 8, BDB 656, KB 709, Qal imperfect

8. they do not break ranks, v. 8, BDB 130, KB 147, Qal imperfect

All of these actions describe insects as if they were a disciplined army moving forward (vv. 7-8) over/through every obstacle (v. 9).

2:10 "Before them the earth quakes" With thousands insects covering the ground, the earth seemed to move.

▣ "The sun and the moon grow dark" This may refer to the swarms of insects that cover the sky night and day (cf. Isa. 13:10, 13; Ezek. 32:7, 8).

2:11 "For strong is He who carries out His word" This is the foundational truth that believers trust in the veracity of God's promises and warnings (cf. Job 23:11; Ps. 33:11; Isa. 14:24; 25:1; 40:8; 45:23; 46:10-11; 55:11; Matt. 5:18; 24:35; Mark 13:31; Luke 21:33; I Pet. 1:25). The hope of believers is in (1) the unchanging, merciful character of God; (2) the trustworthiness of His promises; (3) the finished work of the Messiah; and (4) the drawing/wooing of the Holy Spirit.

NASB"very awesome"
NKJV, NJB"very terrible"
NRSV"terrible indeed"
TEV"terrible"

This is a Niphal participle (BDB 431, KB 432), which is used in several senses in the OT:

1. to describe Israel's wilderness wandering experience, Deut. 1:19; 8:15

2. to describe YHWH's presence and help during this period, Deut. 10:21; II Sam. 7:23; I Chr. 17:21; Ps. 106:22; Isa. 64:3

3. to describe YHWH's redemptive acts in Israel's liturgy, Ps. 65:5; 66:3,5; 145:6

4. to describe YHWH's eschatological intervention into history (i.e., the day of the Lord), Joel 2:11,31; Mal. 4:5

5. to describe YHWH Himself, Exod. 15:11; Deut. 7:21; 10:17; Neh. 1:5; 9:32; Ps. 68:35; 89:7; Dan. 9:4 (describe His name, Deut. 28:58; Ps. 99:3; 111:9)

 

▣ "who can endure it" This verb (BDB 465, KB 463, Hiphil imperfect) basically means to "seize," or "lay hold of." Here it denotes the mental and physical fear that the coming of the Lord brings (cf. v. 10)! In this context it refers to YHWH and His end-time army of invasion. See Ezek. 22:14.

2:12 "Return to Me with all your heart" This verse emphasizes the purpose of God in temporal judgment (cf. Deut. 4:29-31). The term "turn" or "repent" (BDB 996, KB 1427, Qal imperative [twice in this verse]) in Hebrew primarily refers to a change of action.

The specific actions mentioned are

1. fasting, BDB 847. Fasting was not a common religious observance in the OT, except for Leviticus 16, the annual fast day (i.e., Day of Atonement). Communal fasting was done at crisis events (cf. I Sam. 7:6; II Chr. 20:3; Ezra 8:21; Neh. 9:1; Esther 4:16; Jer. 36:6,9; Jonah 3:5).

2. weeping, BDB 113, as a symbol of repentance, cf. Isa. 22:12; Jer. 3:21; 31:9

3. mourning, BDB 704, as a symbol of contrition, cf. Isa. 22:12; Zech. 12:11

These acts represent a whole-hearted trust in and love for God (i.e., Gen. 15:6; Deut. 4:29; 6:5; 10:12; 11:13; 13:3; 30:6), but to this internal aspect is an accompanying outward life of faith and obedience (i.e., Deut. 6:6-9; 10:13; 26:16; 30:2,10) because of YHWH's character (cf. Deut. 6:10-15; 10:12-22). He wants the world to know Him through His covenant people. Therefore, His people must repent (cf. Jer. 3:22-4:2, turn from and turn to) and turn from evil (i.e., Isa. 1:16-20; 55:6-8; Ezekiel 18; Amos 5:14-15). He can easily be found (i.e., Jer. 24:7; 29:13). God's people (OT and NT) are meant to be a kingdom of priests to bring the world to YHWH (cf. Exod. 19:5-6; I Pet. 2:5,9; Rev. 1:6; 5:10).

It is ironic that the God of judgment is also the only hope of restoration. He devastated the Promised Land in judgment (i.e. locusts, army), but will renew it in abundance if His people will repent and turn to Him. It must be remembered that physical creation is only the stage (i.e., opportunity) for God and mankind to interact! The physical is never the focus!! See Special Topic below.

SPECIAL TOPIC: REPENTANCE IN THE OLD TESTAMENT

2:13 "rend your heart and not your garments" The verb (BDB 902, KB 1146, Qal imperative) refers to an OT mourning rite of tearing one's garment at the neck. God wants our whole heart, not simply ritual or legalistic action (cf. Gen. 37:29,34; 44:13; Jdgs. 11:35; II Sam. 3:31; I Kgs. 21:27; II Kgs. 19:1). God always looks at the motive first!

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE HEART

▣ "He is gracious and compassionate" This is a description of God which is based on Exod. 34:6-7 and repeated in Ps. 103:8 and Neh. 9:17-21. Verse 13 encompasses five characteristics of the Creator, Redeemer, Covenant-making God:

1. gracious, BDB 337. This adjective is used only of YHWH, cf. Exod. 34:6; Ps. 86:15; 103:8; 111:4; 112:4; 116:5; 145:8; II Chr. 30:9; Neh. 9:17,31; Jonah 4:2

2. compassionate, BDB 933. This adjective is often used of YHWH, cf. Exod. 34:6; Deut. 4:31; II Chr. 30:9; Neh. 9:17,31; Ps. 86:15; 103:8; 111:4; 145:8; Jonah 4:2

3. slow to anger, construct (BDB 74 and 60 I). Anger is not characteristic of YHWH, cf. Exod. 34:6; Num. 14:18; Neh. 9:17; Ps. 86:15; 103:8; 145:8; Pro. 14:20; 15:18; 16:32; Jonah 4:2; Nah. 1:3; James 1:19

4. abounding in lovingkindness, construct (BDB 912 I and 338). Like the others, this is first used in Exod. 34:6, cf. Neh. 9:17; Ps. 86:5; 103:8; Jonah 4:2

5. relenting of evil, BDB 636, KB 688, Niphal participle and BDB 948. This means YHWH is willing to forgive and not bring the judgment He has foreseen, cf. Jer. 42:10; Amos 7:3,6.

See Special Topics below.

SPECIAL TOPIC: CHARACTERISTICS OF ISRAEL'S GOD

SPECIAL TOPIC: LOVINGKINDNESS (HESED)

2:14 YHWH's visitation is certain. It can bring blessing, judgment, or as here, possibly both. The judgments of God (except for the last one) are meant to bring repentance and recommitment to the covenant (cf. Deuteronomy 27-29; II Sam. 12:22).

▣ "Who knows whether" See II Kgs. 19:4 and Amos 5:15, which use "perhaps." Humans do not always understand God or His acts (cf. Isa. 55:8-11).

▣ "turn and relent" These two verbs (BDB 996, KB 1427, Qal imperfect and BDB 636, KB 688, Niphal perfect) are often used of humans repeating and changing their actions. Does God "repent"?

God is often spoken of in the Bible as being sorry or repenting (cf. Gen. 6:6-7; Exod. 32:14; I Sam. 15:11; II Sam. 24:10; Jer. 18:7,8; 26:13,19; Jonah 3:10). However, other passages assert that God never repents or changes His mind (cf. Num. 23:19; I Sam. 15:29; Jer. 4:28; Ps. 132:11). This is the tension that always occurs when we use human terms to describe God. God is not a man, but the only words we have to describe Him and His feelings are human terms. It must be asserted that God is not fickle! He is steadfast and longsuffering in His redemptive purpose for humanity, but mankind's response in repentance of sin often determines God's actions in a particular situation (cf. II Sam. 24:10,16; Ps. 106:45; Jonah).

Theologically it is God who changes, not mankind. God chooses to work with sinful humanity. His goal is the same—a righteous people who reflect His character. This will only be accomplished by a new heart, a new covenant (cf. Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 36:26-38). God chooses grace over judgment!

▣ "the Lord your God" This is covenant language. YHWH has reestablished His rightful place among His people.

2:15-17 As the different groups of society were called on to gather for a holy convocation in 1:13-14,19-20, so too, here in chapter 2, even the women (brides) and children (also infants) were to attend.

The commands of chapter 1 are repeated (there is an intentional parallel between chapters 1 and 2).

 

v. 15 1. blow a trumpet, BDB 1075, KB 1788, Qal imperative, cf. 2:1
  2. consecrate a fast, BDB 872, KB 1073, Piel imperative, cf. 1:14
  3. proclaim a solemn assembly, BDB 894, KB 1128, Qal imperative, cf. 1:14
v. 16 1. gather the people, BDB 62, KB 74, Qal imperative, cf. 1:14
  2. "sanctify the congregation," BDB 872, KB 1073, Piel imperative, cf. 1:14
  3. "assemble the elders," BDB 867, KB 1062, a synonym of #1
  4. gather - different group, but same verb as #1, cf. 1:14
  5. "let the bridegroom come out," BDB 422, KB 425, Qal imperfect, but used in a jussive sense
Verse 17 is similar to chapter 1 in its call to repentance and prayer:
v. 17 1. "weep," BDB 113, KB 129, Qal imperfect, used in a jussive sense, similar to 1:13
  2. "say," BDB 55, KB 65, Qal imperfect, used in a jussive sense, similar to the prayer of 1:19-20
  3. "spare Thy people," BDB 299, KB 298, Qal imperative, a new element, cf. Neh. 13:22
  4. "do not make thine inheritance a reproach," BDB 678, KB 733, Qal imperfect, but used in a jussive sense, cf. Isa. 37:20

2:15 "Blow a trumpet in Zion" This is the exact phrase used in v. 1 in the sense of preparing for battle, but here it is used in a religious sense for assembling for a holy convocation (i.e., time of prayer and repentance). The same trumpet can be used as a

1. warning for battle (i.e., Jer. 4:5; 6:1)

2. call to religious event (i.e., Lev. 23:24; 25:9; Num. 10:10; Ps. 81:3)

How we respond to God determines which one characterizes our culture!

▣ "Consecrate a fast" There is only one fast day in the Mosaic legislation, the Day of Atonement (cf. 1:14). It is described in Lev. 16. Later rabbinical Judaism developed special fast days either because of, or in memory of, crisis events.

2:17 In the ancient Near East national events (pro and con) reflected on the national deity. Judah's historical situation reflected on the power of Judah's God. However, God was willing for His own reputation to be impugned (cf. Exod. 32:12; Num. 14:13; Deut. 9:28; Josh. 7:9; Ps. 79:10; 115:2; Micah 7:10) so that His people might return to Him!

Theologically it must be emphasized again and again that YHWH chose Abraham (i.e., Israel) to be a light to the nations. Monotheism and humans made in God's image for fellowship both dictate a universal love and redemptive purpose! God chose one man, one family, one nation to choose a world (cf. Gen. 3:15; 12:3; Exod. 19:5-6; Isa. 42:6; 49:6; 51:4; 60:1,3; Acts 13:47).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:2:18-20
 18Then the Lord will be zealous for His land
 And will have pity on His people.
 19The Lord will answer and say to His people,
 "Behold, I am going to send you grain, new wine and oil,
 And you will be satisfied in full with them;
 And I will never again make you a reproach among the nations.
 20But I will remove the northern army far from you,
 And I will drive it into a parched and desolate land,
 And its vanguard into the eastern sea,
 And its rear guard into the western sea.
 And its stench will arise and its foul smell will come up,
 For it has done great things."

2:18-20 YHWH hears Israel's repentant prayer and promises to restore, protect, and never again allow His people to be a reproach among the nations!

As we look at the history of the Jewish people, past and present, this promise (and many like it) seem hollow and impotent! We must remember that the covenant is

1. conditional

2. reciprocal

3. continual

If His word is obeyed in faith, He will do all He has said, but if sin and rebellion return, then discipline is necessary and sure. The vast majority of God's promises are conditional! Biblical faith is a two-way, personal relationship. Repentance, faith, and obedience are all initial and ongoing! Perseverance through time is crucial. See Special Topic at 2:1. Biblical faith is not sacramental or liturgical, but relational!

2:18 Notice that as YHWH promised Abraham a land and a seed (cf. Gen. 12:1-3; 15:1-4; 17:1-8), so now v. 18 mentions both the restoration of His land and the spiritual renewal of His people! In a sense the covenant with Abraham and His seed, both individual (cf. II Samuel 7) and collective, continues!

▣ "the Lord will be zealous" This verb (BDB 888, KB 1109, Piel imperfect) denotes YHWH's activity toward His promises and people (cf. Exod. 20:56; 34:14; Deut. 4:24; 5:9; 6:15; Josh. 24:19; see NIDOTTE, vol. 3, p. 938). Zealous is a love word.

2:20 "that I will remove the northern army far from you" The north came to be a symbol of destruction and invasion to the Hebrews. This was because the only direction from which Palestine was accessible by land was the north or the south. The powers of the Fertile Crescent, Assyria, Babylon and Persia, repeatedly invaded Palestine from the north (e.g., Jer. 1:14; 4:6; 10:22; Ezek. 38:6,15; 39:2). It became proverbial for trouble (cf. Jer. 1:13-15; 4:6; Ezek. 38:6,15; 39:2).

▣ "its stench will arise" As with so many verses in Joel, one can interpret this in light of

1. a locust invasion where

a. all the dead insects began to rot and stink (BDB 93)

b. all the live insects are blown into the sea, drown and are washed up on the shores (i.e., Exod. 10:19)

2. an invading army is being slaughtered by YHWH (cf. Isa. 34:3; Amos 4:10). This becomes the source of many of the Armageddon texts (i.e., valley of Megiddo)

 

▣ "eastern sea" This refers to the Dead Sea.

"western sea" This refers to the Mediterranean. As these two are parallel, so also are "vanguard" (BDB 815, "front") and "rear guard" (BDB 693, "rear").

NASB"For it has done great things"
NKJV"Because he has done monstrous things"
NRSV"Surely he has done great things"
TEV"because of all they have done to you"
NJB"(for what he made bold to do)"

To whom or what does this refer? Grammatically it is a Hiphil perfect masculine singular (BDB 152, KB 178) plus a Qal infinitive construct (BDB 793 I, KB 889).

In context it could refer to

1. the army (cf. NKJV, TEV)

2. the leader of the northern army (cf. NJB)

3. the Lord (cf. v. 21 repeats the verb)

4. the locusts

It may seem that the invader is powerful and invincible (v. 20), but he/they are not; only YHWH is awesome and wonderful (v. 21). As terrible as the invasion will be, YHWH's restoration will be more wondrous!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:2:21-27
 21Do not fear, O land, rejoice and be glad,
 For the Lord has done great things.
 22Do not fear, beasts of the field,
 For the pastures of the wilderness have turned green,
 For the tree has borne its fruit,
 The fig tree and the vine have yielded in full.
 23So rejoice, O sons of Zion,
 And be glad in the Lord your God;
 For He has given you the early rain for your vindication.
 And He has poured down for you the rain,
 The early and latter rain as before.
 24The threshing floors will be full of grain,
 And the vats will overflow with the new wine and oil.
 25"Then I will make up to you for the years
 That the swarming locust has eaten,
 The creeping locust, the stripping locust and the gnawing locust,
 My great army which I sent among you.
 26You will have plenty to eat and be satisfied
 And praise the name of the Lord your God,
 Who has dealt wondrously with you;
 Then My people will never be put to shame.
 27Thus you will know that I am in the midst of Israel,
 And that I am the Lord your God,
 And there is no other;
 And My people will never be put to shame.

2:21-27 These verses describe YHWH's assurance of restoration and abundant fertility. The regular cycles of rain and harvest will return. YHWH's presence is His greatest gift (cf. v. 27). The covenant with Israel is restored!

Notice the commands:

1. "do not fear," v. 21, BDB 431, KB 432, Qal imperfect (negated) but used in a jussive sense, feminine singular (Israel)

2. "rejoice," v. 21, BDB 162, KB 189, Qal imperfect, feminine singular (Israel)

3. "be glad," v. 21, BDB 970, KB 1333, Qal imperative, feminine singular (Israel)

4. "do not fear," v. 22, same as v. 21, but here masculine plural (the beasts of the field)

5. "rejoice," v. 23, same as v. 21, masculine plural (sons of Zion)

6. "be glad," v. 32, same as v. 21, masculine plural (sons of Zion)

 

2:21 "O land" This verse is a personification (three imperatives) of the Promised Land. It had been devastated by YHWH's judgment on His people's sin, but now it is being restored and renewed (cf. Rom. 8:18-25).

2:22 "beasts of the field" As the land was personified in v. 21, now it is the beasts of the field. Fertility has been restored to

1. pastures

2. fruit trees

3. grapes

 

2:23 "O sons of Zion" This refers to the people of Jerusalem. The land and beasts are not to fear and the populace is to rejoice and be glad at YHWH's forgiveness and restoration.

▣ "the early rain" There are three rainy seasons in Palestine:

1. October - November, which begins the end of the dry season (i.e., June - September)

2. December - February, which are the regular heavy rains. This is the period when the largest amount of rain comes to Palestine.

3. March - May, which marks the end of the wet season. The warmer temperatures and the moisture cause abundant crops (cf. v. 24). When they stop, harvest begins.

These two rainy periods (#1, #3) are referred to several times in the Bible:

1. Deut. 11:14 (28:12)

2. Jer. 5:24 (3:3)

3. Hosea 6:3

4. Joel 2:23

5. James 5:7

It is their timing that is crucial!

NASB, NRSV"the early rain for your vindication"
NKJV"the former rain faithfully"
TEV"the right amount of autumn rain"
NJB"autumn rain as justice demands"
LXX"food fully"
Peshitta"food of righteousness"
REB"food in due measure"
NIV"the autumn rains in righteousness"
NAB"the teacher of justice"

The term "early rain" (BDB 435 I, cf. Ps. 84:6) has the same Hebrew letters as "teacher" (BDB 435 II, cf. Job 36:22; Pro. 5:13; Isa. 30:20[twice]). This phrase is the source of the Essene community's eschatological leader, the "teacher of righteousness."

The lexicon KB has three terms listed for this same root:

1. archers, 560 I, cf. I Sam. 31:3; II Sam. 11:24

2. rain, 560 II

3. teacher, 560 III

There is real confusion over how to translate this phrase:

1. the context seems to fit a literal understanding of the "early rain" because of the agricultural contextual setting from vv. 21-26, (also Kimchi and Calvin)

2. the Septuagint and Peshitta translate the word as "food"

3. the translation "teacher of righteousness" is supported by the Targums, the Zadokite fragment, the Vulgate and many early church fathers (cf. NAB)

4. because the term "vindication" or "righteousness" (BDB 842) is used in this phrase, some commentators have thought that it does not relate to literal rain, but to the promised rain of the Mosaic covenant (i.e., to "the rain of righteousness," blessings for covenant faithfulness, cf. Deuteronomy 28).

See Special Topic below.

SPECIAL TOPIC: RIGHTEOUSNESS

2:25 Are the locusts God's judgment, or are they a symbol of a future invading foreign army? The answer is yes! Prophecy regularly takes a current event and projects it into a future setting. YHWH uses natural means to cause His people to repent; if they do not, more severe judgments are certain!

2:26 "And praise the name of the Lord your God" The verb "praise" (BDB 237 II; KB 248, Piel perfect) is the source of the Hallel Psalms (cf. 113-118). It basically means "to shout for joy," usually denoting a time of corporate worship (i.e., Ps. 148:5).

The "name" is an idiomatic way of referring to the person. The Israelites are praising YHWH for His restored covenant blessings, which means the ancient covenant has been restored!

The phrase "the Lord your God" is a covenantal phrase. The Mosaic covenant, with its blessings and responsibilities, has been restored. He is their God and they are His people!

▣ "My people will never be put to shame" The shame (BDB 101, KB 116, Qal imperfect) refers to crop failure (i.e., Jer. 12:13). This shame can refer to

1. agriculture (here)

2. military (cf. Isa. 45:14-17)

In this specific context it seems to be agricultural, but in light of the larger context of chapters 1-2, it could be military.

This is one of the benefits of being in covenant with YHWH (cf. v. 27). It is meant to be an everlasting promise (cf. Isa. 45:17), but it is conditional on repentance, obedience, and perseverance (i.e., Jer. 6:15 [thrice]; ;8:12 [thrice]).

2:27 "I am in the midst of Israel" What a tremendous covenant promise (cf. 3:17,21)! In the wilderness God's presence was noted by the Shekinah Cloud of Glory, in the conquest by the Ark of the Covenant, and in the book of the Revelation by the throne of God. This is what the Messianic title Emmanuel means (God with us)!

▣ "there is no other" This expresses the biblical affirmation of monotheism. It is first introduced in Deuteronomy (cf. 4:35,39; 5:7; 6:4-5). It is fully developed in Isaiah (cf. 43:9-13; 44:6,8; 45:5-6,18,21-22; 48:16; Jer. 2:11; 5:7,10; Hos. 13:4; Joel 2:27). It is reaffirmed in the NT (cf. Rom. 3:30; I Cor. 8:4,6; I Tim. 2:5; James 2:19).

It is this truth that makes Israel's faith unique among all the religions of the ancient world.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:2:28-32
 28"It will come about after this
 That I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind;
 And your sons and daughters will prophesy,
 Your old men will dream dreams,
 Your young men will see visions.
 29Even on the male and female servants
 I will pour out My Spirit in those days.
 30I will display wonders in the sky and on the earth,
 Blood, fire and columns of smoke.
 31The sun will be turned into darkness
 And the moon into blood
 Before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes.
 32And it will come about that whoever calls on the name of the Lord
 Will be delivered;
 For on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem
 There will be those who escape,
 As the Lord has said,
 Even among the survivors whom the Lord calls."

2:28-32 The Masoretic Text begins chapter 3 at this point, but the English Bible, following the Septuagint and the Vulgate, continues chapter 2.

This stanza becomes the OT referent for Peter's Pentecostal sermon (the first gospel sermon of the church) recorded in Acts 2. Several powerful eschatological truths are noted:

1. YHWH pouring out His Spirit on all flesh (2:28-29, cf. Isa. 44:3-4; Ezek. 39:29)

2. apocalyptic signs in the heavens (positive, 2:3-31; negative, Amos 5:18,20)

3. salvation/deliverance through calling on YHWH's name (cf. Ps. 50:15; Isa. 55:6-7; Jer. 29:12; 33:3; Acts 2:21; Rom. 10:8-13)

4. the presence of a believing remnant

Notice that Peter does not mention any promises to national Israel! Israel is not the focus of the NT or the new age. The New Covenant (cf. Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 36:22-38) has a different focus. At this point I am going to insert the introductory material from my commentary on Revelation, which deals with these OT issues.

SPECIAL TOPIC: Why OT Covenant Promises seem Different from NT Covenant Promises

2:28 "And it will come about after this" The question is, "what is the time frame?":

1. post-exilic restoration

2. interbiblical (Maccabean)

3. eschatological

Peter's use of this material in Acts 2 shows that for NT believers #3 is the proper period in which to interpret this wonderful prophecy.

▣ "I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind" The coming of the Spirit (sent by YHWH) is the sign of the New Age, the New Covenant, the Messianic period (cf. Isa. 32:15; 44:3; Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 36:22-38; 39:29).

It is surely true that the full personality and deity of the Holy Spirit is not revealed in the OT, but through progressive revelation He is in the NT (see SPECIAL TOPIC: THE TRINITY below). Probably this is because of the culturally surprising and theologically unique monotheism of the OT. This is demonstrated by all causality being attributed to YHWH (cf. Deut. 32:39; Job 5:18; Isa. 45:7; Hosea 6:11; Amos 3:6).

What a tremendous universal element (cf. Isa. 40:5; 42:6; 45:22: 49:6; 51:4; 52:10; Luke 2:32). This same theme is repeated in v. 32, "that whoever calls on the Lord."

The Spirit in the OT is depicted in several ways:

1. Elohim's active force in creation, Gen. 1:2; Job 33:4; Ps. 104:29-30; 147:14-18

2. YHWH's personal influence, Gen. 6:3; Isa. 63:10

3. God's empowering influence

a. artistic, Exod. 28:3; 31:3; 35:31

b. leadership

(1) Moses, Num. 11:17; Isa. 63:11

(2) 70 elders, Num. 11:25

(3) Joshua, Num. 27:18; Deut. 34:9

(4) Saul, I Sam. 10:6,10; 11:6

(5) David, I Sam. 16:13,14; II Sam. 23:2

c. military deliverers, Jdgs. 3:10; 6:34; 11:29; 13:25; 14:6,19; 15:14,19

d. prophecy, Num. 24:2; I Sam. 19:20,23; I Kgs. 18:12; 22:24; II Kgs. 2:16; II Chr. 15:1; 18:23; 20:14; 24:20; Ps. 143:11; Isa. 48:16; Ezek. 11:5,24; Micah 3:8

4. uniquely in the Messiah, Isa. 11:2; 42:4; 59:21; 61:1

It is not until the NT that the personality and deity of the Spirit is developed.

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE TRINITY

2:28-29 "your sons and daughters. . .old men. . .young men. . .male and female servants" Notice the elements of equality mentioned: (1) no difference in sex; (2) no difference in age; and (3) no difference in social standing (cf. Rom. 3:22; I Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:28; Col. 3:11). God will pour out His Spirit on all mankind. This inclusion is a fulfillment of Moses' prayer in Num. 11:29 and a sign that the New covenant has come (cf. Jer. 31:34).

The inclusion may also reflect the fact that all ages and both sexes had been called to the special holy convocation for repentance (cf. 2:16). Now all of them would receive the Spirit!

It is surely true that in context this refers to the covenant people, but in the NT (Peter's use of this text in Acts 2) the covenant people is widened to include all people (cf. Rom. 2:28-29; 9:6; Gal. 3:7-9,29; 6:16; I Pet. 3:6; Rev. 5:9-10; 7:9; 14:6). See Special Topic at 2:32.

The mutuality of Gen. 1:26-27 is restored. All flesh comes to YHWH (cf. Isa. 66:23)! This has always been the goal!! This is demonstrated by prophecy through dreams and visions (2:28-29). See Special Topic below.

SPECIAL TOPIC: WOMEN IN THE BIBLE

2:30-32 This is apocalyptic language (see D. Brent Sandy and Ronald L. Giese, Jr., Cracking Old Testament Codes, pp. 177-196) attempting to describe God breaking into history either for judgment or blessing! See Special Topic below.

SPECIAL TOPIC: APOCALYPTIC LITERATURE

2:31 "will be turned" This verb (BDB 245, KB 253, Niphal imperfect) is often used of

1. YHWH overturning the wicked

2. YHWH transforming nature

a. mountains, cf. Job 9:5

b. floods, cf. Job 12:15; Ps. 66:6

c. natural cycles of light and dark, cf. 2:31; Amos 5:10

3. YHWH turning festival into mourning, cf. Amos 8:10

4. YHWH turning mourning into dancing, Ps. 30:11

5. YHWH turning mourning into joy, cf. Jer. 31:13

6. YHWH changing the wicked, cf. Zeph. 3:9

 

▣ "comes" This (BDB 97, KB 112, Qal infinitive construct) is used several times to denote the "coming" of the day of the Lord, especially in the post-exilic prophets (cf. Zech. 14:1; Mal. 4:5; and also Isa. 13:9). YHWH is coming to be with His people. For some that will mean judgment and for some restoration. The goal has always been God with His people (i.e., Emmanuel). The purpose of creation was an intimate personal relationship between the Creator and His special creation (cf. Gen. 1:26-27). The fellowship of Eden (Genesis 1-2) will be restored (Revelation 21-22). Everything from Genesis 3 through Revelation 20 is God cleaning up the mess of human rebellion.

F. F. Bruce, Questions and Answers, p. 75, makes a good point about this apocalyptic language having been partially fulfilled in the supernatural darkness that accompanied Jesus' death in Jerusalem. Peter's hearers on Pentecost would have recognized

1. the OT apocalyptic imagery

2. the recent literal fulfillment

 

2:32 "whoever calls on the name of the Lord" In an OT setting this denotes an act of personal, public, covenantal affirmation (i.e., Gen. 4:26; 12:8; Ps. 116:4). It was a liturgical way of asserting one's trust in the covenant God of Israel and His word, promises, and warnings.

This phrase is used several times in the NT: (1) Peter's sermon on the day of Pentecost, Acts 2:14-21; 37-30; (2) Peter's message to Cornelius, Acts 10:45; (3) Paul's emphasis in Rom. 10:13.

If this new day of salvation, this new age of the Spirit, this Messianic period, has begun, why is there still sin and suffering?

To answer this question, see the Special Topic following and also Gordon Fee and Doug Stuart's How To Read The Bible For All Its Worth, pp. 145-148.

TOPIC: THIS AGE AND THE AGE TO COME

▣ "Lord" In context this refers to the Covenant name for God, YHWH. See Special Topic: Names for Deity at Obadiah 1. However, in the NT (cf. Rom. 10:13) it refers to Jesus the Messiah. This is a tremendous invitation of salvation to all mankind who will trust in the trustworthiness of God, which is fully revealed in Jesus the Messiah.

▣ "Will be delivered" The verb (BDB 572, KB 589, Niphal imperfect) can mean

1. escape, Jdgs. 3:29; I Sam. 19:10,12,18; Jer. 46:6; 48:8,19; Joel 2:32; Amos 9:1; Mal. 3:15

2. be delivered/rescued, Jdgs. 6:23; II Sam. 19:9; Ps. 22:5; 107:19; Pro. 28:26

When this concept of physical deliverance by God's power is brought into the NT the spiritual aspect becomes predominant. The deliverance is still accomplished by God's Spirit, but it is not for a period of time, but for eternity!

▣ "As the Lord has said
 Even among the survivors whom the Lord calls"
It is uncertain to what OT text Joel is referring. It seems that this same statement is mentioned in Obad. v. 17. See Introduction, Date.

There are two theological issues in this statement:

1. "The remnant theology" -  God will maintain a faithful remnant through time and judgment. His desire to redeem all the nations depends on a continuing witness to the covenant God!

2. "Predestination"  - There is an eternal redemptive plan which involves national Israel and the nations.

 

SPECIAL TOPIC: YHWY's ETERNAL REDEMPTIVE PLAN

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Is "the day of the Lord" for judgment or blessing?

2. Why does Joel use a locust plague to describe God's judgment?

3. What is significant about the definition of God found in verse 13?

4. Why is verse 23 such a translation problem?

5. What does verse 28 have to say to our day concerning the question of women in the ministry?