Study Notes

Joel 1:1-14


We have finished our study of the book of Nehemiah, and are attempting to continue in the chronology that we have followed. This is why we have come to the book of Joel. The date of this book is not known, although most educated guessers seem to place him after the events of the book of Nehemiah. This is based on certain facts evident in the book, the most convincing of which include:

- The temple is in existence at the time of his writing, and there are priests working, so it is either before the Babylonian Captivity, or after the rebuilding detailed in Ezra.

- Although many groups are addressed in the book, there is no king of Israel spoken of at all. This would indicate that it would be after the return from Babylon.

- The condition of the people's hearts being far from God, yet idolatry is not mentioned as an issue. Idolatry was terribly predominant among the Israelites during most years before Babylon.

- The prophecy is spoken to the sons of Judah and Jerusalem, with no reference to a separate kingdom of Israel. This would seem to date the book after the Assyrian Captivity, when the northern kingdom of Israel was carried off.

And so, I am making the somewhat confident assumption that Joel is the next logical place to study in our chronological approach, before we return to the desert to begin our study of Deuteronomy.

1:1 Joel

Regarding Joel himself, we know very little. He is "Yo-ALE bane Peth-oo-ALE," which means "Yahweh is God, who is the son of a vision of God."

Although we have his father's name, we don't know anything else about his ancestry. One ancient writer named Pseudo-Epiphanius, claims in his book 'Lives of the Prophets,' that Joel was from the tribe of Reuben, but he gives no historical reference as to the source of that information.

We do know from Simon Peter that he is a prophet. Peter quoted Joel in Acts 2, saying,

Acts 2:16 ...this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel

Just what exactly Peter said was spoken of through the prophet Joel will have to wait until we approach the end of chapter two.

The Word Of The Lord That Came To Joel

The Bible tells us frequently that word of the Lord came to people. The word came to them in the day, in the night, while they were walking, and while they were eating. It came to those who were in jail, and to others when they were free. It came to some when they were young, and to others when they were old. It came with words of warning, of comfort, of the future, and of judgment.

However, it is quite rare that the Bible tells us how that word actually came. In Genesis 15, we see that...

Gen. 15:1 ...the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision...

But almost every other time, the Scripture makes no mention of the method God used to bring the word. It merely says, "The word of the Lord came to this person, saying..."

One thing that we do know for sure - regardless of the technique that the Lord used, they all had one thing in common:

2Pet. 1:21 moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

Joel was being moved by the Holy Spirit to speak and write these things. And what we are about to read has come from the very mouth of God.

1:2-3 Hear This

A terrible thing had happened to the land of Judah. Locusts had devoured their crops, down to the last piece of vegetation on the land. The entire nation was arid, environmentally affected, and desolate.

God was calling out to the inhabitants of the land, asking them if they'd ever seen anything like this. It was a devastating loss of epic proportions. Something that they would tell their children and grandchildren about for generations.

1:4 Four Kinds Of Locusts

In this verse, four kinds of locusts seem to be described: the gnawing locust, the swarming locust, the creeping locust, and the stripping locust. It seems simple enough, until you begin reading other Bible versions and commentaries. It is then that you discover there are many interpretations and translations as to what these four descriptions mean.

In reality, I think that the safest interpretations revolve around the fact that they are that they are literal locusts. Joel will get into picturesque speech soon enough, but we have no indication that these are metaphors as yet. Thus, my opinion of interpretation would be that that these are either a) the four stages of locusts' development, b) four different locust species, c) four descriptions of the locusts' actions, or d) four waves of the locust invasion that afflicted the nation.

1:5 Awake, Drunkards

The Lord had called to the elders and inhabitants. But one group slept through the message:the drunkards and wine drinkers in Israel. Now the Lord is addressing them, but He has to wake them up first.

You know, there is never anything good said in the Bible about people who drink themselves drunk. Proverbs 23 is a classic example:

Prov. 23:29-35 Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who has complaining? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who linger long over wine, Those who go to taste mixed wine. Do not look on the wine when it is red, When it sparkles in the cup, When it goes down smoothly; At the last it bites like a serpent, And stings like a viper. Your eyes will see strange things, And your mind will utter perverse things. And you will be like one who lies down in the middle of the sea, or like one who lies down on the top of a mast. "They struck me, {but} I did not become ill; They beat me, {but} I did not know {it.} When shall I awake? I will seek another drink."

The drunkards' instinct is to wake up and start all over again. But here in Joel, the Lord is telling them that they will have to wake up and wail, because there will not be another opportunity to be drunk. The swarm has devoured the grape vines and fig trees - they've destroyed the crops from which wine was going to be made.

1:6-7 Teeth And Fangs

Now the Lord begins to use some picturesque language to describe the swarm. He compares the locusts to an army, they are described as an invading nation, mighty and without number. This was an enemy against which they could not defend themselves.

They are also described as having teeth like lions. The description is warranted. Lions open their mouths to tear (Psalm 22:13), seize (Isa. 5:29) and then devour their prey (Num. 23:24), and their appetites seem to never be satisfied (Job 38:39). Such is true of a swarm of locusts attacking the land.

1:8-9 Priests And Ministers Mourn

The priests were lamenting the fact that because of the locust devastation, there were no grain offerings being brought to the Lord, and no drink offerings being poured out. They were mourning, but they were being called upon to wail like a woman whose fiance has died prematurely.

1:10-12 Farmers Ashamed

The Lord addressed first the elders and inhabitants to hear, then the drunkards to awake, and the priests to wail. Now, the farmers are spoken to. They are told to be "ashamed," or literally, "to be dried up and withered." It is the same word used in verse 10 saying, "the new wine dries up," and verse 12 three more times.

1:13 Lament, O Priests

The situation has been described. Having established that, Joel now commands the priests to do something about it. They are told to gird themselves, lament, wail, and spend the night in sackcloth. Why were they told to do these things?

Joel 1:13 ...for the grain offering and the libation are withheld from the house of your God.

This is something that I've discovered. When things are bad, when disaster strikes, when the economy takes a nosedive, all the inhabitants of the land talk about what's going on, drunkards weep because they don't have any alcohol, and farmers mourn because of their lost income. But it is the true ministers of the Lord that weep over the fact that His house is affected and afflicted.

Each of us who are Christians have been called to be...

Rev. 5:10 "...priests to our God..."

But there are many who are so consumed with their own lives, that they don't pay any mind to the house of God. "My job, my house, my hobby, my life..."

1:14 Cry Out To The Lord

The Lord did not call the people to the farmer's field. He did not call them to the drinker's bar. He called all the inhabitants of the land to the house of God. They were told to cry out to Him. "Consecrate a fast, proclaim a solemn assembly, gather everyone together, and cry out to God."

Go to next study

Go to previous study