Joel 1:1-3:21

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Summary[edit]

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Relationship to Old Testament. Joel is one of the "Minor Prophets" of the Old Testament. The relationship of Joel to the Old Testament as a whole, and to the other minor prophets in particular, is discussed at Old Testament: Organization.

Story. Joel relates two prophecies of woe followed by two prophecies of restoration.

Message. Themes, symbols, and doctrinal points emphasized in Joel include:

  • The basic message is simple. Israel will suffer great tribulation (1:2-2:11) until it turns to the Lord (2:12-17), at which point it will be delivered (2:18-3:21). Joel does not identify specific sins, he simply tells Israel to turn to the Lord. He does go into more detail about the Lord’s deliverance of Israel in the last days at Armageddon and the blessings that he will pour out at that time (2:28-3:21).

Historical setting[edit]

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  • There is no scholarly consensus regarding when Joel lived. Some place him among the earliest of the minor prophets, which would make him the first to use the phrase “Day of the Lord.” Others place him among the last of the prophets.[1] The issue may not be important since Joel’s message as we read it today does not depend on a specific historical setting.

Discussion[edit]

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Joel[edit]

  • Outline. The book of Joel can be outlined in four chapter-length sections as follows:
A1. Israel Deprived of Fruit by Invasion and Famine (Chapter 1a)
a. tell your children: locust invasion so fruit carried off (1:2-7)
a. lament like widow in sackcloth: famine so fruit not grow (1:8-13)
• Israel unable to muster the national offerings (1:13)
A2. In Day of the Lord Two Calamities Will Come on Israel (Chapter 1b-2a)
a. sanctify, fast, gather and cry to Lord at the temple (1:14)
b. Israel will cry for rain when the Day of the Lord arrives (1:15-20)
c. blow trumpet, Day of the Lord is invasion, darkness (2:1-11)
b. turn to the merciful Lord (2:12-14)
a. blow trumpet, sanctify fast, gather bridegroom, cry to Lord (2:15-17)
• spare Israel so heathen not say: Where is their God? (2:17)
B1. Then Israel Will Be Restored (Chapter 2b)
a. Lord will have compassion, end reproach, satisfied with fruit (2:18-19)
b. invaders driven off and recompensed for mistreating Israel (2:20)
c. rain returns, land fruitful, Israel rejoice (2:21-24)
b. Israel recompensed for years of locust invasion (2:25)
a. satisfied with fruit, not ashamed, praise Lord who is in midst (2:26-27)
• Israel not ashamed and will know Lord is in the midst (2:27)
B2. Afterward Day of Lord in Judgment on the Nations (Chapter 3)
a. Lord’s spirit poured out, darkness, remnant gather to Zion (2:28-32)
b. recompense nations at Armageddon for treatment of Israel (3:1-8)
b. nations called to Day of Lord at Armageddon, darkness (3:9-17)
• Israel will know their Lord is in Mount Zion (3:17)
a. temple fountain will water Judah, enemies will be desolate (3:18-21)
• the Lord will dwell in Zion with cleansed Judah (3:20-21)

Joel 1:1-13[edit]

  • Joel 1:1-13. In this opening Chapter 1a (1:2-13) Joel states that Israel will be devoid of fruit. This can refer literally to figs, grapes, etc., or figuratively to the souls of people in the Lord’s harvest. This first section could reflect conditions in Joel’s own day, or it could be a prophecy about a future time.
  • Joel 1:2-7. The first half of this chapter (1:2-7) is addressed to old men and drunkards. Joel announces that Israel’s fruit is taken away by pests, or by a series of invasions, each devouring what little is left by the one before. The precise meaning of the Hebrew words are uncertain, but they do refer to insect pests, possibly to four stages in the life cycle of the locust, an insect often used in prophecy to represent invading armies that devour all before them. Israel’s people are devoured (killed or carried away) by a succession of invasions until there is no fruit left in the Lord’s vineyard (1:2-4). Some see the four invading armies as a reference to Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome (see Daniel 2, 7-8).[2] Joel says in 2:25 that the four locust-like invading armies are the Lord’s own great army. The fig and vine that are taken away are among the most valuable and stable crops in Israel. Barking a tree, or stripping the bark, will kill it (1:5-7).[3]
  • * Joel 1:8-13. The second half of this chapter (1:8-13) is addressed to young women and vinedressers (rather than old men and drunkards). It begins and ends with a call to mourning in sackcloth. The famine is so complete that Israel is unable even to supply the national offerings at the temple (1:8-9, 13). Not only are the fig and vine taken away, but all other fruit as well (1:10, 12). Where before Israel’s fruit was eaten by others (1:5 consumers), now at the center of this chiasmus it does not even grow (1:11 producers). Israel is left barren of fruit, whether it be the fruit that the Israelites harvest and eat, or the fruit harvested by the Lord in the form of righteous people.
  • In Joel there is no accusation of sin and no call for repentance in this first Chapter 1a (1:1-13). It is a simple statement of impending calamity.

Joel 1:14-2:17[edit]

  • Joel 1:14-2:7. This chapter addresses a time when the Day of the Lord draws near. (1:15; 2:1, 11). The term “Day of the Lord” generally refers to the last days leading up to and including the Second Coming (NEED CITE). But for a particular individual or nation, that day of judgment and recompense can come at any time.
The unity of this chapter is reflected in the call to sanctify a fast and to call a solemn assembly in the opening verse (1:14), to blow a trumpet in the middle third (2:1), and to blow the trumpet as well as sanctify a fast and call a solemn assembly in the closing verses (2:15-17).
The middle third of this chapter (2:1-11) opens and closes with references to the terrible Day of the Lord (2:1, 11). First it is the people who tremble and suffer through clouds of darkness (2:1-2). By the end even the earth trembles before the Lord, and there is no light even to be blocked by clouds as the sun, moon, and stars all go dark (2:10). Details about the invading army are not important; Joel describes an army that advances in good order, invincible and free to do as it chooses (2:3-5, 7-9). In the central verse, the faces of the people being invaded gather blackness just like the sky (2:6).
The pivot point of Joel from woe to blessing occurs in the last third of this chapter (2:12-17). The people are exhorted to turn to the Lord and are promised blessing if they will do so. “Then will the Lord be jealous for his land and pity his people” (2:18). The remainder of the book promises Israel only blessing, and foretells judgment only upon Israel’s enemies.
The Lord exhorts his people to turn to him in sorrow, rending their hearts rather than their garments (2:12-14). The Lord quotes his charitable qualities from Exodus 34:6-7 without any mention of his justice upon the wicked (2:13). Perhaps a meat offering and a drink offering will be left in Israel after all (2:14). That would be in contrast to the food cut off and the grain dried up at the beginning of this chapter (1:16-17), which is what ultimately prompts the people to cry to the Lord (2:14, 19).
In the last third of this chapter the people are again called to gather at the temple (2:15-17), as they were in the first third of this section (1:14). But this time, in addition to merely sanctifying a fast, the people are also to be sanctified themselves. The promise is that the bridegroom, the Lord, and the bride, Israel, will both come out, presumably together to the wedding feast (2:16). This stands in sharp contrast to the “virgin girded with sackcloth for the husband of her youth” in the first section (1:8).
Joel’s pivotal “call to repentance” (2:12-17) is clearly parallel to his earlier call to mourning at the temple (1:14-20). So some people see this as a repeated exhortation, or a literary signal that the second prophecy of woe is closing. This outline follows that view and thus places the call to repentance at the end of this Chapter 1b-2a (1:14-2:17), also at the end of the first half (or woe half) of Joel. But others see the hopeful note of mercy in this call as a major shift that signals the beginning of the second half (or blessing half) of Joel, and thus place the call to repentance with the beginning of the next Chapter 2b (2:18-27). It is less important that one have an opinion about which outline is correct. It is more important to recognize how this call to repentance at the middle of the book moves the train of thought from woe to blessing.

Joel 2:18-27[edit]

  • Joel 2:18-27. Agriculture in Israel depends on two periods of significant rainfall: the former rain in the fall to soften the ground for planting, and the latter rain in the spring just before harvest. NEED CITE. By promising at the center of this chapter that these rains will occur timely, the Lord is promising fruit, blessing, and prosperity (2:23).
That prosperity will be sufficient to recompense Israel for both of the woes in the two opening chaptrers. It will restore, from the woe in the opening chapter, the fig and vine (2:22, compare 1:5, 7, 12) and the corn, wine and oil (2:19, 24, compare 1:10), specifically restoring what was eaten during the years of locust invasion (2:25, compare 1:4). It will also restore, from the woe in the second chapter, the pasturage of the wilderness (2:22, compare 1:18-19), rain to fill the rivers (2:23, compare 1:20) and to fill the bare threshing floors (2:24, compare 1:17). As with the earlier famine, this fruitfulness can refer both to what the Israelites physically harvest and eat, and to the Lord’s harvest of righteous souls.
The second chapter of woe ended with Israel’s plea that the Lord free them from heathen invaders in order to avoid the reproach: “Where is their God?” (2:17). This chapter of blessing begins with the promise that upon Israel’s repentance the Lord will take pity and be jealous for Israel so it will no longer be a reproach (2:18-19), and ends with the promise that Israel will be lifted out of shame and will know that the Lord is in their midst (2:26-27).

Joel 2:28-3:21[edit]

  • Joel 2:28-3:21. Like the previous Chapter 2b (2:18-27), the time frame for this prophecy of blessing is also the last days. Here the Lord blesses Israel in terms that are clearly spiritual and political. The Day of the Lord is no longer a day of judgment against Israel, but for Israel (3:14-16, compare 2:10-11).
The first quarter of this final chapter (2:28-32) promises signs in the heavens and an outpouring of the spirit. Peter characterized the spiritual outpouring on the Day of Pentecost as a fulfillment of these verses (Acts 2:14-21). On the occasion of his first visit to Joseph Smith in 1823, Moroni quoted these verses, stating that “this was not yet fulfilled, but was soon to be” (JSH 1:41). Joel’s prophecy at the center of this passage the the sun and moon will be turned to darkness and that the heavens and earth will shake (3:15-16) suggests that complete fulfillment will occur only at the Second Coming.
The parallel final quarter of the chapter (3:18-21) features a fountain that comes out from the temple to water the valley, symbolically the waters of life. It ends with the Lord cleansing Israel and dwelling in Zion. Israel’s enemies shall be recompensed for their misdeeds with desolation at the center of this passage, but Israel shall be blessed in Millennial fashion.
The two middle quarters of this chapter describe the final great battle at the Second Coming.
In the second quarter of the chapter (3:1-8), or the first of these two middle quarters, this final battle will take place when the Lord “brings again the captivity,” or gathers scattered Israel back home (3:1). The Lord will call all nations to the Valley of Jehosaphat (3:2, 12), or to the Valley of Decision (3:14). Since the Hebrew meaning of Jehosaphat is “the Lord judges,” the battle will occur in the aptly named Valley of the Lord’s Judgment or Decision.[4] This is the same battle of Armageddon described in Zech 12:11 and Rev 16:16, and is also the battle involving Gog and Magog in Ezek 38-39.[5] The remainder of this quarter recites the ways in which the nations have mistreated Israel, or have justly qualified for similar treatment at the Lord’s hand (3:3-8).
The battle itself is described in the third quarter of the chapter (3:9-17). In contrast to Isa 2:4, here the nations are told to “beat their plowshares into swords, and their pruninghooks into spears” (3:10). The nations may think they have joined together to fight against Israel, but in fact the Lord has brought them to be judged. For, at the center of this passage, “the harvest is ripe ... their wickedness is great” (3:13). Therefore the Lord will sit to judge the nations in the Valley of Decision (3:12, 14). The mighty heathen will have prepared for war (3:9-11). But the Lord will roar out of Zion, the earth and heavens shall shake, foreign invaders shall not again come near, and “so shall ye know that I am the Lord your God” (3:15-17).

Complete outline and page map[edit]

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A1. Israel Deprived of Fruit by Invasion and Famine (Chapter 1a)

a. tell your children: locust invasion so fruit carried off (1:2-7)
a. lament like widow in sackcloth: famine so fruit not grow (1:8-13)
• Israel unable to muster the national offerings (1:13)

A2. In Day of the Lord Two Calamities Will Come on Israel (Chapter 1b-2a)

a. sanctify, fast, gather and cry to Lord at the temple (1:14)
b. Israel will cry for rain when the Day of the Lord arrives (1:15-20)
c. blow trumpet, Day of the Lord is invasion, darkness (2:1-11)
b. turn to the merciful Lord (2:12-14)
a. blow trumpet, sanctify fast, gather bridegroom, cry to Lord (2:15-17)
• spare Israel so heathen not say: Where is their God? (2:17)

B1. Then Israel Will Be Restored (Chapter 2b)

a. Lord will have compassion, end reproach, satisfied with fruit (2:18-19)
b. invaders driven off and recompensed for mistreating Israel (2:20)
c. rain returns, land fruitful, Israel rejoice (2:21-24)
b. Israel recompensed for years of locust invasion (2:25)
a. satisfied with fruit, not ashamed, praise Lord who is in midst (2:26-27)
• Israel not ashamed and will know Lord is in the midst (2:27)

B2. Afterward Day of Lord in Judgment on the Nations (Chapter 3)

a. Lord’s spirit poured out, darkness, remnant gather to Zion (2:28-32)
b. recompense nations at Armageddon for treatment of Israel (3:1-8)
b. nations called to Day of Lord at Armageddon, darkness (3:9-17)
• Israel will know their Lord is in Mount Zion (3:17)
a. temple fountain will water Judah, enemies will be desolate (3:18-21)
• the Lord will dwell in Zion with cleansed Judah (3:20-21)

Points to ponder[edit]

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I have a question[edit]

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Resources[edit]

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Translations[edit]

  • Amplified • The Amplified Bible, 1987 update
  • NASB • New American Standard Bible, 1995 update
  • NIV • New International Version
  • RSV • Revised Standard Version

Parallel passages[edit]

Joseph Smith Translation[edit]

The Joseph Smith Translation made changes to only three verses in Joel:[6]

  • Joel 1:16
  • Joel 2:13-14

Cited references[edit]

  • Dillard, Raymond Bryan. "Joel." In Thomas Edward McComiskey, ed. The Minor Prophets, An Exegetical and Expository Commentary, Vol. 1: Hosea, Joel, Amos. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 1992. (ISBN 0801062853). BS1560 .M47 1992.
  • Wayment, Thomas A., ed. The Complete Joseph Smith Translation of the Old Testament, p. 215. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 2009. (ISBN 1606411314) BX8630.A2 2009

Other resources[edit]

  • Gordon B. Hinckley, "Living in the Fulness of Times," Ensign, Nov 2001, 4. President Hinckley considers the technological advances of the era and the growth of the church as a fulfillment of prophecy. "[The Lord] has brought to pass the wondrous time in which we now live."

Notes[edit]

Footnotes are not required but are encouraged for factual assertions that average readers cannot easily evaluate for themselves, such as the date of King Solomon’s death or the nuanced definition of a Greek word. In contrast, insights rarely benefit from footnoting, and the focus of this page should always remain on the scriptures themselves rather than what someone has said about them. Links are actively encouraged on all sections of this page, and links to authoritative sources are preferable to footnotes.

  1. Dillard, Joel, 240-43, briefly surveying wide range of dates proposed by various scholars.
  2. LDS Old Testament Institute Manual: Joel (PDF version), sec. 7-4, p. 83.
  3. LDS Old Testament Institute Manual: Joel (PDF version), sec. 7-5, p. 83-84.
  4. LDS Old Testament Institute Manual: Joel (PDF version), sec. 7-12, p. 86.
  5. LDS Old Testament Institute Manual: Ezekiel 25-48 (PDF version), sec. 27-24, p. 284.
  6. Wayment, The Complete Joseph Smith Translation of the Old Testament, p. 215.


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