Joel (Yoel) is the son of Pethuel and is the author of this book, and his name means “Yehovah is God.” Not much is known about him, but he may have been a resident of Jerusalem. A locust infestation has devastated Judah and Joel contemplates this calamity. It was at this time the word of Yehovah came to him and he becomes a great prophet explaining the implications of this distress. This plague is described as a human army moving on, leaving behind a devastated land. Joel knows that Yehovah is at work in this, and it is called his army. The day of this invasion is called the “Day of the Lord” with judgment coming upon sinful people. Joel urges the people to repent, with the hope God will withdraw this judgment.
This book has eschatological implications as well. The locusts may symbolize a human army that will invade Judah like Assyria or Babylon. Assyria is a picture of Russia who will invade Israel at the beginning of the fourth year of the birth-pains, between Tishri 1 Rosh Ha Shanah and Tishri 10 Yom Kippur. The date of its composition is unclear but many scholars believe it was written around 835 BC during the reign of King Joash, but he was very young. The priest Yehoida was ruling in his place until Joash came of age. Prophetically, Joel was an eighth-century prophet so he will be alluding to events during the first three and a half years of the birth pains.
This book discusses judgment of God’s people, the nations, and the restoration of God’s people through times of distress. The visions of the future in Joel will be similar to what we read in the book of Revelation.
v 1…The word of the Lord (Yehovah) that came to Joel, the son of Pethuel (be persuaded of God),
v 2…Hear this, O elders (who had seen much), and listen, all inhabitants of the land (Judah). Has anything like this happened in your father’s days (apparently, this plague of locusts was the worst ever)?
v 3…Tell your sons about it (all the particulars about what happened), and let your sons tell their sons, and their sons the next generation (let it be handed down from generation to generation as a caution).
v 4…What the gnawing locust has left, the swarming locust has eaten; and what the swarming locust has left, the creeping locust has left, the stripping locust has eaten (one swarm after another came in).
v 5…Awake, drunkards, and weep; and wail, all you wine drinkers, on account of the sweet wine that is cut off from your mouth (since the supply of grapes was not available to make wine).
v 6…For a nation (the locusts, but this also alludes to Assyria or Babylon in the future, so keep that in mind as we read) has invaded my land, mighty and without number; its teeth are the teeth of a lion, and it has the fangs of a lioness (denotes the strength of the Assyrians or Babylonians).
v 7…It has made my vine (Israel-Isa 5.1-2) a waste and my fig tree (Israel-Hos 9.10) splinters. It has stripped them bare and cast them away (Assyria and Babylon stripped the nation of wealth and treasure); their branches have become white (being gnawed off).
v 8…Wail like a virgin girded with sackcloth (he addresses the believing nation) for the bridegroom (Jer 2.2) of her youth (they were concerned over true worship; called to lament what was happening).
v 9…The grain offering and the libation are cut off (grain and wine were wanting so they could not be brought to the Temple) from the bouse of the Lord. The priests mourn, the ministers of the Lord (because their livelihood depended on these offerings, so did their families).
v 10…The field is ruined (by the locust “army”), the land mourns, for the grain is ruined, the new wine dries up, fresh oil fails (these are basics to sustain life, and the loss of them is a cause for lamentation).
v 11…Be ashamed, O farmers, wail, O vinedressers, for the wheat and the barley; because the harvest of the field is destroyed (their labor was in vain and lost-just as the locusts did it, so will the Assyrian or Babylonian army do in the future. All of that alludes to the coming Russian invasion during the birth-pains).
v 12…The vine dries up, and the fig tree fails (sickens); the pomegranate, the palm also, and the apple tree; all the trees of the field dry up. Indeed, rejoicing dries up from the sons of men (because there will be no bountiful harvest).
v 13…Gird yourselves with sackcloth, and lament, O priests; wail O ministers of the altar! Come, spend the night in sackcloth, O ministers of my God, for the grain offering and the libation are withheld from the house of your God (all the usual korbanot and worship of Yehovah had to be stopped).
v 14…Consecrate a fast (one of the jobs of the priests; set apart a time for special religious service), proclaim a solemn assembly (held in connection with certain festivals like Rosh Ha Shanah and Yom Kippur); gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land to the house of the Lord your God (for earnest prayer), and cry out to the Lord (for Yehovah to remove his judgments-1 Kings 8.37-40).
v 15…Alas, for the day (alludes to the day of the Lord eschatologically, as the locust plague is a picture of greater calamities by the Assyrians, Babylonians, Romans, and ultimately the False Messiah)! For the day of the Lord is near (Hebrew “karav” meaning here or has confronted you), and it will come as destruction from the almighty (his visitation is bringing a scourge upon Judah).
v 16…Has not food been cut off (by the locust plague, but also by the Assyrians and Babylonians-this will happen in the birth-pains as well) before your eyes, gladness, and joy from the house of our God (since the korbanot cannot be offered)?
v 17..The seeds shrivel (is rotten) under their clods (due to drought), the storehouses are desolate (empty because of no harvest), the barns are torn down (falling to pieces in disrepair, no money to fix them), for the grain is dried up.
v 18…How the beasts groan (for want of food)! The herds of cattle wander aimlessly because there is no pasture for them; even the flocks of sheep suffer (they could find pasture anywhere, but larger animals could not, but even the sheep couldn’t find anything. Their cries should have awakened the people, but it didn’t).
v 19…To thee, O Lord, I cry (he cries for all the animals who are suffering because of the guilt of man); for fire has devoured the pasture of the wilderness, and the flame has burned up all the trees of the field.
v 20…Even the beasts of the field cry unto thee (maybe man should learn a lesson from them and cry to the Lord to remove these calamities); for the water brooks are dried up, and fire has devoured the pastures of the wilderness (all creation groans because of man’s sinfulness-Rom 8.19-22).