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FRAMEWORKS: Joel 1: A Devastated Land


[Preliminary Comments: At an unclear point of history, an otherwise unknown prophet speaks to the leaders of the nation [elders – 1:2,14, 2:16, priests – 1:9,13, 2:17] as well as specific people affected by what has happened, e.g. farmers & vine-growers [v.11]. Clearly, if we take it literally, four sets of locusts have poured out over the land [v.4], devastating the land and the various harvests of Israel - grain, grapes, figs, olives, etc., apparently accompanied by a drought [v.10,12,17,20]. He calls the priests to call for a day of prayer and fasting for the crisis – the state of the land [v.13,14] and an apparently hopeless future without seed or plants for next year. He himself prays and calls on the Lord [v.19,20] They are in a desperate plight.]



v.1-3 Joel calls the elders of Israel to consider their plight


v.1  The word of the LORD that came to Joel son of Pethuel

v.2  Hear this, you elders; listen, all who live in the land. Has anything like this ever happened in your days or in the days of your ancestors? 

v.3  Tell it to your children, and let your children tell it to their children, and their children to the next generation. 


v.4-7 A fourfold locust invasion [four the sign of divine authority behind it?] has come


v.4  What the locust swarm has left the great locusts have eaten; what the great locusts have left the young locusts have eaten; what the young locusts have left other locusts have eaten. 

v.5  Wake up, you drunkards, and weep! Wail, all you drinkers of wine; wail because of the new wine, for it has been snatched from your lips. 

v.6  A nation has invaded my land, a mighty army without number; it has the teeth of a lion, the fangs of a lioness. 

v.7  It has laid waste my vines and ruined my fig trees. It has stripped off their bark and thrown it away, leaving their branches white. 


v.8-12 This ‘army' has devastated this agricultural-based land


v.8  Mourn like a virgin in sackcloth grieving for the betrothed of her youth. 

v.9  Grain offerings and drink offerings are cut off from the house of the LORD. The priests are in mourning, those who minister before the LORD. 

v.10  The fields are ruined, the ground is dried up; the grain is destroyed, the new wine is dried up, the olive oil fails. 

v.11  Despair, you farmers, wail, you vine growers; grieve for the wheat and the barley, because the harvest of the field is destroyed. 

v.12  The vine is dried up and the fig tree is withered; the pomegranate, the palm and the apple tree— all the trees of the field —are dried up. Surely the people's joy is withered away. 


v.13,14 This warrants the priest calling the nation to prayer & fasting


v.13  Put on sackcloth, you priests, and mourn; wail, you who minister before the altar. Come, spend the night in sackcloth, you who minister before my God; for the grain offerings and drink offerings are withheld from the house of your God. 

v.14   Declare a holy fast; call a sacred assembly . Summon the elders and all who live in the land to the house of the LORD your God, and cry out to the LORD. 


v.15-18 This must foreshadow a coming of an even bigger day of judgment


v.15  Alas for that day! For the day of the LORD is near; it will come like destruction from the Almighty. 

v.16  Has not the food been cut off before our very eyes— joy and gladness from the house of our God? 

v.17  The seeds are shriveled beneath the clods. The storehouses are in ruins, the granaries have been broken down, for the grain has dried up. 

v.18  How the cattle moan! The herds mill about because they have no pasture; even the flocks of sheep are suffering. 


v.19,20 In the face of this devastation Joel calls on the Lord.


v.19  To you, LORD, I call, for fire has devoured the pastures in the wilderness and flames have burned up all the trees of the field. 

v.20  Even the wild animals pant for you; the streams of water have dried up and fire has devoured the pastures in the wilderness.


[Additional Comments: Although Joel makes no reference to it, such devastations in the history of Israel and in the Law of Moses, are obvious signs of divine judgment. [confirmed in 2:25]. In that case the obvious person to appeal to is the Lord. Although their plight should be obvious to the nation, Joel puts it in perspective and suggests it is almost symbolic of the devastation that will come on the earth in the great final day of the Lord [v.15]. This present crisis may be bad but it is nothing like that which will occur then.]







FRAMEWORKS: Joel 2: A Cause to Fear & Repent, and the Blessing to follow


[Preliminary Comments: We suggest three Parts to this chapter which, because of its complexity, requires extensive notes:

PART 1: v.1-14: Blowing the [silver] trumpets [NOT the shofar, the ram's horn, as some suggest, unless it later replaced the silver trumpets] was usually a call to gather [Num 10:1,2] and rejoice in worship [Num 10:10] but here [v.1,15] it is an alarm [v.1] and a call to fast [v.15].

Imminence: When Joel says the day of the Lord “is close at hand” [v.1c] that must either mean a day of His discipline is just about to come, or he, Joel, has such a prophetic sense of the reality of the eventual day of the Lord, that it seems so real and thus so close. In the light of the nature of what follows, the latter is more likely.

The Invading Army: Some suggest that v.4-13 are locusts but we would suggest that their descriptions are more like that found of armies in The Lord of the Rings, or possibly some of the descriptions found in the book of Revelation. However, it does not sound like the Lord's return in Rev 19 because that suggests that his army coming with Him is the army of the redeemed [Rev 19:14], or possibly angels. However v.20 suggests it is an army from the north. Whoever make up the present army, the picture given is obviously intended to strike fear into the listeners in order to provoke awe and repentance.

PART 2: v.15-17: This is a much shorter section that simply calls for a response of repentance, prayer and fasting by way of preparing for whatever may follow.

PART 3: v.18-33: The final Part must be meant to balance the first half of the chapter with the promise of restoration & blessing following & balancing out the warnings of impending judgment found there. In it no reason is given but restoration is spelled out. Presumably a response of repentance in Part Two opens the door for the Lord's blessing to come. In it [v.18-20] the Lord promises provision [of abundant crops] and protection [the invading northern army being driven off]. He then gives a two exhortations not to be afraid but instead to rejoice over what He is doing [v.21-27]. Then comes a passage that is picked up on the New Testament [Acts 2:15-21] as the Lord shares three signs that He will bring, first at the birth of the church [v.28,29 + Acts 2], then preceding His second coming [v.30,31 + Mt 24:29,30, Acts 2:19] and finally through the era of the church [v.32 + Acts 2:21, Rom 10:13].

It is a chapter full of high drama, both bad and good.]


PART ONE: v.1-14: First Alarm of an Impending Terrible Invasion


v.1-3 Warn the people, the Day of the Lord is coming – a destructive conquering army


v.1  Blow the trumpet in Zion [1]; sound the alarm on my holy hill. Let all who live in the land tremble, for the day of the LORD is coming. It is close at hand— 

v.2  a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness. Like dawn spreading across the mountains a large and mighty army comes, such as never was in ancient times nor ever will be in ages to come. 

v.3  Before them fire devours, behind them a flame blazes. Before them the land is like the garden of Eden, behind them, a desert waste— nothing escapes them. 


v.4-13 The descriptions of the army are worse than mere locusts


v.4  They have the appearance of horses; they gallop along like cavalry. 

v.5  With a noise like that of chariots they leap over the mountaintops, like a crackling fire consuming stubble, like a mighty army drawn up for battle. 

v.6  At the sight of them, nations are in anguish; every face turns pale. 

v.7  They charge like warriors; they scale walls like soldiers. They all march in line, not swerving from their course. 

v.8  They do not jostle each other; each marches straight ahead. They plunge through defenses without breaking ranks. 

v.9  They rush upon the city; they run along the wall. They climb into the houses; like thieves they enter through the windows. 

v.10  Before them the earth shakes, the heavens tremble, the sun and moon are darkened, and the stars no longer shine. 


v.11-14 The Lord leads this army so He calls for repentance NOW

v.11  The LORD thunders at the head of his army; his forces are beyond number, and mighty is the army that obeys his command. The day of the LORD is great; it is dreadful. Who can endure it? 

v.12  “Even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” 

v.13  Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. 

v.14  Who knows? He may turn and relent and leave behind a blessing— grain offerings and drink offerings for the LORD your God. 



PART TWO: v.15-17: Second Alarm to call a fast


v.15-17 A Second Call to warn the People to hold a day of prayer & fasting


v.15  Blow the trumpet in Zion [2], declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly. 

v.16  Gather the people, consecrate the assembly; bring together the elders, gather the children, those nursing at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room and the bride her chamber. 

v.17  Let the priests, who minister before the LORD, weep between the portico and the altar. Let them say, “Spare your people, LORD. Do not make your inheritance an object of scorn, a byword among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?'” 



PART THREE: v.18-33: Subsequent Restoration & Blessing


v.18,19 A Turning Point: a Twofold Promise of Restoration


v.18  Then the LORD was jealous for his land and took pity on his people. 

v.19  The LORD replied to them: [i] “I am sending you grain, new wine and olive oil, enough to satisfy you fully; never again will I make you an object of scorn to the nations. 

v.20 [ii] “I will drive the northern horde far from you, pushing it into a parched and barren land; its eastern ranks will drown in the Dead Sea and its western ranks in the Mediterranean Sea. And its stench will go up; its smell will rise.” Surely he has done great things! 


v.21-23a A Twofold Reassurance not to fear but to be glad and rejoice


v.21  Do not be afraid, land of Judah; be glad and rejoice . Surely the LORD has done great things! 

v.22  Do not be afraid, you wild animals, for the pastures in the wilderness are becoming green. The trees are bearing their fruit; the fig tree and the vine yield their riches. 

v.23  Be glad, people of Zion, rejoice in the LORD your God,


v.23b-27 The cause of rejoicing – abundant blessing


for he has given you the autumn rains because he is faithful.

He sends you abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains, as before. 

v.24  The threshing floors will be filled with grain; the vats will overflow with new wine and oil. 

v.25  “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten— the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm — my great army that I sent among you. 

v.26  You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the LORD your God, who has worked wonders for you; never again will my people be shamed. 

v.27  Then you will know that I am in Israel, that I am the LORD your God, and that there is no other; never again will my people be shamed. 


v.28-32 The threefold signs of His presence that will follow


v.28  “And afterward, [i] I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. 

v.29  Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days. 

v.30  [ii] I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke. 

v.31  The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. 

v.32 [iii] And everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance, as the LORD has said, even among the survivors whom the LORD calls.


[Additional Comments: To summarise this complex chapter:

PART 1: v.1-14:

- v.1,15 A call to sound the alarm [v.1] and a call to fast [v.15].

- v.4-13 an army from the north, intended to strike fear into the listeners in order to provoke awe and repentance.

PART 2: v.15-17: A call for a response of repentance, prayer and fasting by way of preparing for whatever may follow.

PART 3: v.18-33:

- v.18-20 the Lord promises provision and protection.

- v.21-27 two exhortations not to be afraid but instead to rejoice over what He is doing

- v.28- the Lord shares three signs that He will bring of restoration & blessing in the outworking of history.]






FRAMEWORKS: Joel 3: Judgment on the Nations against Israel


[Preliminary Comments: The prophecy here is bad news for the peoples that have over the years pillaged Israel – Tyre, Sidon, Philistines [v.4] & Egypt & Edom [v.19] – and good news for Israel who the Lord promises to restore [v.2].

i) The Bad News: all the nations that opposed Israel will be held to account [v.2], peoples who sold them into slavery [v.3,6], peoples who stole from the temple in Jerusalem [v.5], peoples who will find God reverses their roles so they will become slaves [v.7,8]. This will not come easily for they will surely resist the will of God, so He counsels them, get ready for a great battle [v.9-12] where they WILL be judged, and death will follow [v.13-15]. Those who oppressed Israel will be left desolate [v.19].

ii) The Good News: Israel will be restored [v.1], they will be brought back from slavery [v.7] and they will triumph over their enemies [v.8]. They will have a new sense of the Lord's protection [v.16,17,20] and prosperity [v.18], knowing that the Lord has acted to avenge them for the things done against them [v.21]. An amazing chapter of encouragement for Israel.]



v.1-3 A Day of Judgment will come for the world that oppressed Israel


v.1  “In those days and at that time, when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, 

v.2  I will gather all nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. There I will put them on trial for what they did to my inheritance, my people Israel, because they scattered my people among the nations and divided up my land. 

v.3  They cast lots for my people and traded boys for prostitutes; they sold girls for wine to drink. 


v.4-6 Specific neighbouring peoples who pillaged Israel


v.4  “Now what have you against me, Tyre and Sidon and all you regions of Philistia? Are you repaying me for something I have done? If you are paying me back, I will swiftly and speedily return on your own heads what you have done.

v.5  For you took my silver and my gold and carried off my finest treasures to your temples. 

v.6  You sold the people of Judah and Jerusalem to the Greeks, that you might send them far from their homeland. 


v.7,8 God will bring back Israel deal with these peoples with reversed roles


v.7  “See, I am going to rouse them out of the places to which you sold them, and I will return on your own heads what you have done. 

v.8  I will sell your sons and daughters to the people of Judah, and they will sell them to the Sabeans, a nation far away.” The LORD has spoken. 


v.9-12 A Call to the nations, get ready for judgment


v.9  Proclaim this among the nations: Prepare for war! Rouse the warriors! Let all the fighting men draw near and attack. 

v.10  Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears. Let the weakling say, “I am strong!” 

v.11  Come quickly, all you nations from every side, and assemble there. Bring down your warriors, LORD! 

v.12  “Let the nations be roused; let them advance into the Valley of Jehoshaphat, for there I will sit to judge all the nations on every side. 


v.13-16 It's a time of great judgment on them, protecting His people Israel


v.13  Swing the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come, trample the grapes, for the winepress is full and the vats overflow— so great is their wickedness!” 

v.14  Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision. 

v.15  The sun and moon will be darkened, and the stars no longer shine. 

v.16  The LORD will roar from Zion and thunder from Jerusalem; the earth and the heavens will tremble. But the LORD will be a refuge for his people, a stronghold for the people of Israel. 


v.17-21 Outworkings: Security & blessing for Jerusalem, judgment on others


v.17  “Then you will know that I, the LORD your God, dwell in Zion, my holy hill. Jerusalem will be holy; never again will foreigners invade her. 

v.18  “In that day the mountains will drip new wine, and the hills will flow with milk; all the ravines of Judah will run with water. A fountain will flow out of the LORD's house and will water the valley of acacias.

v.19  But Egypt will be desolate, Edom a desert waste, because of violence done to the people of Judah, in whose land they shed innocent blood. 

v.20  Judah will be inhabited forever and Jerusalem through all generations. 

v.21  Shall I leave their innocent blood unavenged? No, I will not.” The LORD dwells in Zion!


[Additional Comments: As we commented at the beginning of the chapter, a prophecy of bad news for those peoples or nations that had oppressed God's chosen people, Israel, but good news for Israel who will eventually be restored and brought to a place of complete security with God in their midst.


Now a difficulty with prophecy is invariably that it is difficult to ascertain exactly when it has been fulfilled. Sometimes fulfilment is immediate, sometimes in the far distant future – and sometimes both, i.e. it may have more than one fulfilment. Sometimes, as seems to be the case in these chapters, fulfilment seems stretched out in stages. Jesus, in his exposition of the end times in Matt 24, seems to suggest the same thing.

So in these chapters we have references to what seems to be an end time judgment day that brings blessing to Israel, but then in the midst of it we find one of the blessings is the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, which the apostle Peter, under the anointing of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, said had happened on that very day.

It would often seem that the fulfilment of prophecy only becomes clear AFTER it has actually happened. How the restoration of Israel to their land in 1947 fits all of this has been the subject of much debate, and how their future will yet work out is not guaranteed.


Yet what we can say through these chapters is that:

a) God WILL judge the nations who have oppressed His people, and

b) Israel (the physical nation or the wider ‘people of God', the Church) WILL eventually be brought into a place of closeness to God where their security IS guaranteed.


In the meantime, Joel brings to his people, in the midst of a terrible catastrophe, the revelation that THIS is not the end, but God still has plans and purposes for good for them well into the distant future. Similar words of encouragement came both before the Exile (when the impending horror put a question mark over their future) AND after their return to the Land, when the Lord knew He would be silent for over four hundred years before the coming of His Son. Jesus' words of Matt 24 would give any believer (Jew or Gentile) encouragement after the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple by the Romans in AD70. Catastrophes may come and go, but the plans of God will not be thwarted.]


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