Joel 1 - Outline of Joel
In our Bibles, the Minor Prophets are not arranged in chronological order of when they were written. For example, Joel and Jonah (the second and fifth in the order of inclusion in our Bibles) are thought to be the earliest written. However, these books are roughly grouped according to the time that their 'near term' messages were fulfilled:
The term "minor prophet" refers only to the size of the book,
not to the relative importance of the prophetic message.
The prophecy of Joel is the shortest of the Old Testament books. But it is infused with power, for it is God's Word.
I. The Day of the LORD, foreshadowed
1. The word of the LORD that came to Joel the son of Pethuel.
Joel the son of Pethuel is not mentioned elsewhere in scripture.
- The name Joel means "Jehovah is God." Some have tried to identify him as one of Samuel's sons (see 1Sam 8:1-3). However, the defiled character of Samuel's son rendered him ineligible to serve as a spokesman for God. 'Joel' was a very common name in Israel.
- The name of Joel's father, Pethuel, means "a vision of God" or perhaps "open to God" or "persuaded by God."
It is evident that Joel prophesied in Judah and Jerusalem (Joel 1:9; 3:20,17).
His message is directed to those dwelling in the place, where the things concerning the Day of the LORD will be fulfilled.
The time of writing has been subject to debate among scholars,
because there are few time references within the book, and because no other biblical writers mention Joel. Likewise, even the locust plague, at the beginning of his prophecy, provides no clue for dating, since it is not mentioned elsewhere in scripture.
Here are some reasons to believe that Joel was the first of the writing prophets.
  1. The fact that the Hebrew Bible places this book early in the collection of the minor prophets (between Hosea and Amos, as in most Christian Bibles), is an indication that Joel was an early prophet. Joel is grouped with prophets who wrote prior to the captivity of the northern kingdom of Israel.
  2. Unlike many of the other prophets, Joel does not mention any king. Therefore, it has been suggested that he wrote during the early part of the reign of King Joash (who was crowned at 7 years of age), during the period when the kingdom was administered by Jehoida the High Priest (who served as guardian and counsellor to Joash until he came of age). (See 2Kings ch. 11-12 and 2Chronicles ch. 23-24) [Some scholars note that there was also no king during the post-exilic period, following the partial return from the Babylonian captivity.]
  3. The enemies, which are mentioned in Joel's prophecy, are consistent with the situation during the reign of Joash (ie., the Philistines, Tyre and Sidon, and also Egypt and Edom, 3:4,19). [Some have questioned commerce with the Greeks, at such an early time (3:6), but this has now been confirmed from other sources.]
        Joel also foretells the approach of an unnamed army from the north. However, it seems likely that he would have mentioned the Syrians, Assyrians or Babylonians if he had written later (eg., if he had been contemporaneous with Isaiah or Jeremiah). [Having said that, Jerusalem was threatened by the Syrians near the end of the 40 year reign of Joash.]
  4. Unlike the later prophets, which point to Israel's idolatry as a primary reason for judgment upon the nation, Joel makes no mention of idolatry. This might be explained by the revival, led by Jehoida early in the reign of Joash, during which idolatry was put out of the kingdom, for a time. In the near view, Joel 2:18,19 may refer to this revival. [Some scholars note that the absence of idolatry would also apply to the post-exilic period.]
  5. Some argue that a post exilic date is required by the mention of "the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem" as a historic event (3:1,2). However, biblical prophecy, by its very nature, anticipates history.
         If Joel was a contemporary of the pre-exilic prophets, like Isaiah or Jeremiah, we would expect him to share their themes which foretold the imminent captivities, and the restoration(s) that would follow. On the other hand, if he wrote at the time of the post-exilic prophets (Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi) we would expect him to be occupied with their themes, such as: the encouragement and chastisement of the returned remnant, the rebuilding of the city and temple, and the necessity of staying true to the LORD to avoid future judgment. Yet, these themes are almost entirely absent.
         Like most of the other writing prophets, Joel does give a preview of a yet future restoration of Israel, when the Messiah comes to deliver His people and establish His kingdom. But his preview (both of the dispersion and of the restoration) is entirely prophetic (3:1). As a settled inhabitant of the land, he writes from the perspective of those who dwell in the land of Israel, at the time when the diaspora has ended and the outcasts have returned. This is the setting of the Day of the LORD.
The above factors are reasons to believe (but not dogmatic proof) that Joel was the first of the writing prophets. Using the same points [as noted in brackets, above], some scholars argue that Joel wrote contemporaneously to Isaiah or Jeremiah, or even as late as Ezra and Nehemiah. It may be that the LORD has left this book undated, in order to emphasize its primary prophetic message, which looks beyond all of the historic periods of Israel's struggles, to the final fulfillment of His promises to Israel and His purposes on this earth.
Joel's theme is "the Day of the LORD."
The meaning of this phrase is defined by the way it is used by Joel. If, as we will assume, Joel was the first of the writing prophets, he laid a foundation for the prophets who followed him.
     The phrase "the Day of the LORD" occurs five times in this brief book (Joel 1:15; 2:1-2,10-11,30-31; 3:14,18). The equivalent, but shorter phrase, "that Day," also occurs more than once. As we will see in this book, and as borne out by subsequent prophets, "the Day of the LORD" is a technical term which describes the period of time which marks the end of the Times of the Gentiles. It begins with the Time of Jacob's Trouble (The Tribulation) and continues through the millennial Kingdom of Christ. The period concludes with the entrance of the eternal Kingdom and the establishment of the new heaven and new earth.
Joel's message is to be heeded because it is "the word of the LORD."
The importance of the message was further emphasized by its presentation during a severe plague of locusts, which was destroying the land, even as the prophet spoke.
2 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?
3 Tell ye your children of it, and [let] your children [tell] their children,
and their children another generation.
hath this been in your days...? -
- The intensity of this plague of locusts was unprecedented. There was none to compare with it before or since. Compare the plague of locusts upon Egypt, at the time of the Exodus (Ex 10:13-15).
- The Day of the LORD will be an unprecedented time of trouble (Mat 24:21).
4 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.
There are various views about the four named creatures...
  1. They could refer to four different types of insects, or four types of locusts.
  2. They could refer to four stages of the locust life cycle. However, this would seem to require time for the development of successive stages. Daniel foresaw four beasts (nations) that would dominate the times of the Gentiles, which has extended from the Babylonian captivity across the succeeding centuries (Dan 2:31-45). But in Joel's prophecy, the crisis is fully developed and upon them. The land is being devoured, by these four invaders, as the people watch helplessly.
  3. They could refer to four aspects of the locusts' destruction, and also to multiple waves of locusts.
    • According to Prov 30:27, locusts go forth in bands, like successive waves of an attacking army. The forward scouts advance, followed by air and artillery bombardment, followed by armored vehicles, followed by invading foot soldiers, until the territory is eventually secured in the final mop up operation.
    • The four words may describe aspects of the destructive nature of locusts:
      • Palmerworm {HB=gazam, the root word means 'to devour' or 'gnaw off'}
      • Locust {HB='arbeh, the root is 'rabah' which refers to a great or increasing number}
      • Cankerworm {HB=yakeq, the root means 'to lick up'}
      • Caterpillar {HB=chaciyl, from root 'chacal' meaning 'to consume, to finish off'}
    • Similarly, the Day of the LORD will open with the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, each of which bring death and destruction, in successive waves (Rev 6:1-8).
5 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.
The drunkards have no wine, because the locusts have devoured the grapes, and the vines.
Drunkenness is the only sin mentioned by Joel. As mentioned earlier, the nation was judged due to turning from the true and living God, to idols. At the time that Joel wrote, the nation was not giving itself to idolatry, perhaps due to the revival led by Jehoida the High Priest and King Joash. Yet, strong drink was robbing the people and leaders of wisdom to follow the LORD. After Joash died, the nation would turn back to the false gods that some of the prior kings had served. Isa 28:7
6 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.
7 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.
for a nation is come up upon my land...-
Here is a glimpse of the message to come. The locusts foreshadow the invasion of a powerful human army. Joel 2:2
he hath laid my vine waste... my fig tree...-
The LORD's vine is Israel, which he planted in the land and in Jerusalem (Isa 5:1-7). The fig tree is also symbolic of Israel (Luk 13:6-9; Mark 11:12-17). The opening events of the Day of the LORD will devastate that land (v.2,6,7), just as the locusts were doing, as Joel wrote.
8. Lament like a virgin girded with sackcloth for the husband of her youth.
9 The meat offering and the drink offering is cut off from the house of the LORD;
the priests, the LORD'S ministers, mourn.
10 The field is wasted, the land mourneth; for the corn is wasted:
the new wine is dried up, the oil languisheth.
lament... for the husband of her youth...- The common people wail for their loss.
The pain of loss is like that of a virgin who has lost her bridegroom, as a soldier fallen in battle.
the priests... mourn...-
Grain, required for the meat offering {lit., meal offering}, and oil and wine, needed for the drink offering, are not available.
11 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.
12 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.
The farmers are 'ashamed' {ie., disconcerted, disappointed} at the terrible economic loss.
There will be no harvest, because the locusts have devoured every thing.
13 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.
Gird yourselves... ye priests...-
Although they were unable to do the work of offering sacrifice (due to the lack of required ingredients), they are called to give themselves to pray, to seek the LORD with urgency, and with all their hearts.
14. 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,
The priests were not to pray alone. The whole nation is called to earnestly seek the LORD.
sanctify a fast... a solemn assembly...-
The LORD gave seven feasts to Israel, but no fasts. His people were supposed to come before Him with joy (Psa 95:1-4; 100:1-4). But this unprecedented crisis which threatened their very existence, demanded a serious, intense, and unified appeal to the LORD, for He is merciful (Psa 100:5; Hab 3:2). The priests were to 'sanctify' {ie., set apart} a designated time for fasting and prayer.
'Sackcloth' (v.8 and v.13) is associated with mourning and also repentance.
15 Alas for the day! for the day of the LORD [is] at hand,
and as a destruction from the Almighty shall it come.
Alas {HB='ahabah}... -
In the OT, several different Hebrew words are translated 'alas,' to indicate 'astonishment' or 'woe.' The underlying meaning, of the word used here, is 'love' (eg., Deu 7:8).
As that day breaks into view, the prophet's heart breaks, for the people loved of the LORD.
...the day of the LORD is at hand {ie., near, approaching}... a destruction from the Almighty {HB= Shaddai} shall it come.-
How terrible this is! God Almighty {El Shaddai} is the bountiful provider of blessings and fruitfulness, for His people (eg., Gen 17:1,2; 35:10-12). But that Day of devastation comes forth from Him.
Scripture mentions other "days." (We ought not confuse them as we read.)
  1. Man's Day - In 1Cor 4:3, "man's judgment" is literally "man's day." This is the time in which we are currently living. It corresponds with "the Times of the Gentiles." Man is ruling this world without regard to his Creator. Men appeal to the Supreme Court, but not to God.
  2. The Day of the Lord Jesus Christ (1Cor 1:7,8; Php 1:6) is the day that He will come to take His church out of the world.
    Note: The 'Day of Christ' in 2The 2:2 (in the KJV) is literally 'the Day of the Lord.' Due to erroneous teaching while they were enduring a period of persecution, the Thessalonian believers were afraid that they had missed the Rapture of the church, and were entering into the Tribulation period (the Day of the Lord). Paul assured them that this was not the case, and reminded them of his previous teaching about the characteristics of 'that day' (2The 2:3-5), which would be preceded by Christ's coming for His own (1The 1:4-10; 4:13-18).
  3. The Day of the LORD - is defined by Joel. (All of the prophets follow his definition.)
    It begins with thick darkness and great trouble (Joel 2:1,2). Following devastating judgments upon the earth, the Day of the LORD will continue with Christ's return to the earth, to establish His Kingdom of righteousness, peace and joy. The Jews long for the Messiah's kingdom. Joel says He is coming, but His coming will be preceded by a time of terrible trouble. After man's prideful day is ended at the Day of the LORD (Isa 2:11,12), the Lord's Kingdom will be established in Jerusalem, to bless all nations (Isa 2:1-5).
16 Is not the meat cut off before our eyes,
[yea], joy and gladness from the house of our God?
17 The seed is rotten under their clods, the garners are laid desolate,
the barns are broken down; for the corn is withered.
18 How do the beasts groan!
the herds of cattle are perplexed, because they have no pasture;
yea, the flocks of sheep are made desolate.
19 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.
20 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.
As the chapter closes, the prophet turns back to view the effects of the locust plague...
There is no joy... there is nothing growing in the field (even the sprouting seed had been nipped off by the locusts)... the garners {ie., storehouses} are empty... the barns {granaries} are in disrepair since they are not needed... the animals are starving... the locusts have devoured everything as thoroughly as a brush fire.
O LORD, to thee will I cry...-
The heartbroken prophet turns to the LORD. Those who know and trust Him, hide themselves in the God who judges sin severely, for the good of His people. Heb 12:29

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