Study Notes

Joel 1:15-2:11


We saw in our first study of the prophet Joel that a terrible locust invasion had devastated the land of Israel. All of the vegetation was destroyed by countless numbers of these consuming insects.

Now Joel is going to use this opportunity to prophesy to the people about a time when an even more devastating destruction was going to come upon the earth.

1:15 Alas

It just occurred to me yesterday that although the word "alas" appears dozens of times in the Scripture, I've never taken the time to define it.

There are several Hebrew and Greek words translated "alas" in the Bible: "Haw," "A-HAW," "Ho," "O-ee," "HOH-ee," and "Oo-AH-ee." They are all interjections, with various meanings like, "Oh!" "Woe!" and "Alas." It is a cry of alarm whose source is always pain, grief, or crying. Today's English equivalent of these interjections might be, "Aaugh!"

Joel 1:15 Alas for the day!...

When Joel says this, he literally says, "A-HAW yome! Yome YAH-weh!" "Oh day! Day of the Lord!"

The Day Of The Lord Is Near

"The day of the Lord is near." Since the locust devastation had already occurred, Joel was talking about a future event, when God would bring real destruction.

Now it seems like common sense that telling people who are already reeling from one terrible thing that a worse thing is coming is just plain wrong. But the Bible makes it clear that it is neither wrong nor manipulative to use someone's current conditions as a springboard to get them thinking about future judgment. There is in fact rarely a better time.

Jesus Himself did the same thing as Joel is doing here. You recall that during the days of His ministry, the governor Pontius Pilate had sent out a company of soldiers to execute some Galileans who had broken Roman law.

When the soldiers arrived, the Galileans were worshipping and offering sacrifices - and the soldiers killed them where they stood. Some guys came to Jesus and...

Luke 13:1-5 ...reported to Him about the Galileans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And He answered and said to them, "Do you suppose that these Galileans were {greater} sinners than all {other} Galileans, because they suffered this {fate?} I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, were {worse} culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish."

While the feelings were fresh in their minds, Jesus got them thinking about eternity and judgment. This is the same thing that Joel is doing with his prophecy. Often, I hear excuses about why people don't feel like they can witness. "Well, his father just passed away. It's hardly an appropriate time." "She just lost her job, it's not a good time." On the contrary, God excels at reaching people quite well in the midst of their distress. And many of them won't listen when their lives are smooth sailing.

Destruction From The Almighty

For you Bible students, I should point out that there is an interesting little phrase at the end of this verse, "Destruction from the Almighty." The word almighty there is "Shad-DAH-ee." No doubt many of you have heard the song, "El Shaddai." That means "God almighty." But the Hebrew here contains a twist of words, because "Destruction" is "Shode," from the same root that "Shad-DAH-ee" comes from. So Joel, like Isaiah (13:6) uses the phrase, "The Day of the Lord is near - it will come like 'Shode' from the 'Shad-DAH-ee.'"

1:16-20 Current Conditions

After saying, "Everybody, the day of destruction is still coming," he recounts what they have already seen: famine, drought, devastation, and wildfires. But this is nothing compared to the judgment that will come from God.

2:1-2a The Trumpet As An Alarm

The Lord speaks through Joel, saying "Blow a trumpet alarm on Jerusalem's Temple Mount. Let everybody tremble."

The people of Israel always associated the sound of the trumpet with the voice of God. The first time the sound of the trumpet was heard in Scripture was when they had assembled at the foot of Mount Sinai:

Exod. 19:16 ...there were thunder and lightning flashes and a thick cloud upon the mountain and a very loud trumpet sound, so that all the people who {were} in the camp trembled.

Exod. 19:19 When the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and God answered him with thunder.

On into the Scriptures, this continues:

Ps. 47:5 God has ascended with a shout, the LORD, with the sound of a trumpet.

1Ths. 4:16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of {the} archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first.

Rev. 1:10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like {the sound} of a trumpet

The trumpet was to be blown as an alarm for war (Num 10:9; Jer. 4:19, etc.). In this case, it was to announce the day of the Lord.

The Day Of The Lord

The term, "The day of the Lord," because it has been widely interpreted and at times greatly misunderstood. But for good reason: it's so simple that it's difficult to understand. You see, the day of the Lord is a term that generically relates to any time that God brings judgment. So, it's not limited to one specific event, nor is it even necessarily limited to one specific day. The Bible uses it to refer to many times - both past and future - when the Lord brings judgment.

For example, at the end of the Millennial Kingdom, another event called the day of the Lord will take place:

2Pet. 3:10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.

2Pet. 3:12 ...the coming of the day of God, on account of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat!

At the end of Christ's thousand-year reign on earth, satan will lead the nations against the Lord, but He will consume them with fire from heaven, after which, heaven and earth will pass away, and a new heavens and a new earth will be created. That will be called "the day of the Lord," and yet is not the only time called that.

This "day of the Lord" that Joel is speaking of is an event that happens more than a thousand years before, during the Great Tribulation.

Darkness And Gloom

This day of the Lord is described as...

Joel 2:2 A day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness...

Even with that description, it is difficult to pinpoint the day of which Joel speaks, because during the Great Tribulation, there are at several incidents of the sun being darkened.

Of course, at the end of the Tribulation, Jesus said,

Matt. 24:29-30 "But immediately after the tribulation of those days THE SUN WILL BE DARKENED, AND THE MOON WILL NOT GIVE ITS LIGHT, AND THE STARS WILL FALL from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken, and then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the SON OF MAN COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF THE SKY with power and great glory."

But during that seven-year period, we see in Revelation 6 that at the breaking of the sixth seal judgment, there is a massive earthquake and...

Rev. 6:12-13 ...the sun became black as sackcloth {made} of hair, and the whole moon became like blood; and the stars of the sky fell to the earth...

Then, during the fourth trumpet judgment,

Rev. 8:12 ...a third of the sun and a third of the moon and a third of the stars were smitten, so that a third of them might be darkened and the day might not shine for a third of it, and the night in the same way.

Then, in the fifth trumpet judgment, the bottomless pit is opened up and smoke like from a furnace comes out...

Rev. 9:2 ...and the sun and the air were darkened by the smoke of the pit.

There is another affect upon the sun in Revelation 16, but I think our time frame can be most accurately identified with the darknesses found in Revelation 8 and 9. Let's read why:

2:2b-11 The Army

The "mighty and great people" is a consuming army, the likes of which has never been seen before in the history of the world. Many commentators try to attribute them to one group or another - the Assyrians, Gog and Magog, the worldwide armies of the antichrist, etc.

And while I could very well be wrong, I do believe that the context of the book of Joel, combined with the eighth and ninth chapters of Revelation reveal something else.

#1: Remember that Joel said to sound the trumpet as an alarm, because this army was coming,

Joel 2:3 A 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...

In Revelation 8, the first trumpet judgment brings

Rev. 8:7 And the first sounded, and there came hail and fire, mixed with blood, and they were thrown to the earth; and a third of the earth was burned up, and a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up.

#2: Joel said:

Joel 2:4 Their appearance is like the appearance of horses; And like war horses, so they run.

Listen to what Revelation 9 says:

Rev. 9:1-11 And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star from heaven which had fallen to the earth; and the key of the bottomless pit was given to him. And he opened the bottomless pit; and smoke went up out of the pit, like the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by the smoke of the pit. And out of the smoke came forth locusts upon the earth; and power was given them, as the scorpions of the earth have power. And they were told that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, nor any green thing, nor any tree, but only the men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. And they were not permitted to kill anyone, but to torment for five months; and their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it stings a man. And in those days men will seek death and will not find it; and they will long to die and death flees from them. And the appearance of the locusts was like horses prepared for battle; and on their heads, as it were, crowns like gold, and their faces were like the faces of men. And they had hair like the hair of women, and their teeth were like {the teeth} of lions. And they had breastplates like breastplates of iron; and the sound of their wings was like the sound of chariots, of many horses rushing to battle. And they have tails like scorpions, and stings; and in their tails is their power to hurt men for five months. They have as king over them, the angel of the abyss; his name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in the Greek he has the name Apollyon.

Out of the smoke comes "locusts." But these locusts aren't going after the vegetation - they're going after people! And we are also given two pieces of information which reveal that these are not actual locusts. First of all, they came from the bottomless pit. Secondly, verse 11 says,

Rev. 9:11 They have as king over them, the angel of the abyss...

But Proverbs 30 says,

Prov. 30:27 The locusts have no king, yet all of them go out in ranks

Real locusts have no king, but these ones do. Their king is Abaddon, or Apollyon, names which mean "Destroyer." The same destroyer that Jesus called a thief who...

John 10:10 ..."comes only to steal, and kill, and destroy..."

It is the devil.

This of course brings confusion. Because verse 11 says that it is the Lord's army. In reality, it is the Lord's army, although satan is their king. This is a concept that many people are troubled by, but the Bible is clear:

Col. 1:16 For by Him all things were created, {both} in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities —all things have been created by Him and for Him.

God is so all-knowing, all-powerful, and sovereign that even the most horrible things are used by Him to accomplish his purpose.

Although Judas was indwelt by satan to betray Jesus, God used it to accomplish His purposes.

After Joseph was beaten by his brothers, sold into slavery, and left to rot in prison, he said to them,

Gen. 50:20 "And as for you, you meant evil against me, {but} God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive."

The Scripture is true:

Rom. 8:28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to {His} purpose.

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