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Joel Chapter 1

The name Joel or Yoel probably means "Yahweh is God." The book concerns Judah and Jerusalem with no mention of Israel. It doesn't state under which king Joel lived and wrote which helps to date the writings of many of the other Minor Prophets. However, it was quite likely during the seventh century (699-600) BC.

"The word of the LORD that came to Joel the son of Pethuel. Hear this, ye old men, and give ear, all ye inhabitants of the land. Hath this been in your days, or even in the days of your fathers? Tell ye your children of it, and let your children tell their children, and their children another generation." (Joel 1:1-3)

Joel is telling of some unusual disaster, the like of which had not been seen previously. It seems it is meant to teach something that needs to be remembered for generations:

  1. tell ye your children
  2. let your children tell their children
  3. their children another generation
"That which the palmerworm hath left hath the locust eaten; and that which the locust hath left hath the cankerworm eaten; and that which the cankerworm hath left hath the caterpiller eaten." (Joel 1:4)

This locust invasion could be speaking of literal locusts, giving a symbolic description of invading armies or prophesying of God's "army" of evangelists in the last days (or both).

In chapter 2, we have the same four pests mentioned and, in context, it sounds like real locusts as the damage to be restored is a reference to crops.

"And the floors shall be full of wheat, and the fats shall overflow with wine and oil. And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpiller, and the palmerworm, my great army which I sent among you." (Joel 2:24-25)

Although people saved at the end are also connected to crops:

  1. "... will gather the wheat into his garner ..." (Luke 3:17)
  2. "... the harvest is the end of the world ..." (Matt 13:39)
"Awake, ye drunkards, and weep; and howl, all ye drinkers of wine, because of the new wine; for it is cut off from your mouth." (Joel 1:5)

Drunkards are being called upon to mourn their fate. Alcohol consumption is well-known to cause many physical and societal problems. Wine is also used in scripture as a symbol of doctrine:

"Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved." (Matt 9:17)

We need to be "new bottles" in the sense of our openness to spiritual truth, setting aside preconceived ideas.

"With whom (the great whore; verse 1) the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication." (Rev 17:2)

"Weep and howl ... because of the new wine." Could salvation according to the true gospel be new compared to the wine (old beliefs) of the great whore identified in Rev 17:5 as Babylon?

"For a nation is come up upon my land, strong, and without number, whose teeth are the teeth of a lion, and he hath the cheek teeth of a great lion." (Joel 1:6)

That this nation could be referring to the invasion of locusts is not unreasonable as Proverbs speaks of animals as people; almost as nations:

"The ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their meat in the summer; The conies (rock badgers, marmots) are but a feeble folk, yet make they their houses in the rocks; The locusts have no king, yet go they forth all of them by bands;" (Pro 30:25-27)

Babylon is associated with a lion in the prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Daniel.

"He hath laid my vine waste, and barked my fig tree: he hath made it clean bare, and cast it away; the branches thereof are made white." (Joel 1:7)

After everything green is eaten, locusts will attack the bark. "Vines and fig trees, in the Bible, symbolize peaceful living with abundance of God's blessings in the Promised Land:

"And Judah and Israel dwelt safely, every man under his vine and under his fig tree, from Dan even to Beersheba, all the days of Solomon." (1 Kings 4:25)
"But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the LORD of hosts hath spoken it." (Micah 4:4)
"Lament like a virgin girded with sackcloth for the husband of her youth." (Joel 1:8)

Under Mosaic Law, a betrothal was pretty much as binding as a marriage.

"If a damsel that is a virgin be betrothed unto an husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her; Then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die ..." (Deut 22:23-24)
"The meat offering and the drink offering is cut off from the house of the LORD; the priests, the LORD'S ministers, mourn." (Joel 1:9)

"Meat" should be "meal." The meat offerings in the Levitical system never included flesh (of course, other types of offerings did).

"And when any will offer a meat offering unto the LORD, his offering shall be of fine flour; and he shall pour oil upon it, and put frankincense thereon:" (Lev 2:1)

The original word "minchah" indicated an offering made to another person usually a superior. Cain and Abel both were described as bringing a "minchah" (Gen 4:3-4).

"The field is wasted, the land mourneth; for the corn is wasted: the new wine is dried up, the oil languisheth. Be ye ashamed, O ye husbandmen; howl, O ye vinedressers, for the wheat and for the barley; because the harvest of the field is perished. The vine is dried up, and the fig tree languisheth; the pomegranate tree, the palm tree also, and the apple tree, even all the trees of the field, are withered: because joy is withered away from the sons of men." (Joel 1:10-12)

The unproductivity of the land is described in a series of laments:

  1. the field is wasted
  2. the land mourneth
  3. the corn is wasted
  4. the new wine is dried up
  5. the oil languisheth
  6. the harvest of the field (wheat and barley) is perished
  7. the vine is dried up
  8. the fig tree languisheth
  9. all the trees of the field are withered

What is the reason given for the trees being withered? - "because joy is withered away from the sons of men" not because of the locusts. This suggests a connection between trees and men, one being a symbol of the other. Could this relate to the whole world in a time yet to come? Think of this verse:

"The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one;" (Matt 13:38)

Perhaps this is related to the following:

"Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD:" (Amos 8:11)

Trees can be a symbol of leaders - see these verses in the Revelation 8 study. In fact, the next verse mentions leaders - priests and ministers.

"Gird yourselves, and lament, ye priests: howl, ye ministers of the altar: come, lie all night in sackcloth, ye ministers of my God: for the meat offering and the drink offering is withholden from the house of your God." (Joel 1:13)

The leaders are the priests, the ministers. Notice that the ministers are offering to "your God" - the (false) god of the priests and ministers.

"Sanctify ye a fast, call a solemn assembly, gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land into the house of the LORD your God, and cry unto the LORD," (Joel 1:14)

This is Day of Atonement language as a fast was called for on that day. Judgment is implied.

"Alas for the day! for the day of the LORD is at hand, and as a destruction from the Almighty shall it come." (Joel 1:15)

This may have a local application to the nation of Judah in reference to coming judgments. This day is associated with destruction which relates to what Revelation says of the condition of the earth just before and during the millennium. The new earth comes later.

"Is not the meat cut off before our eyes, yea, joy and gladness from the house of our God?" (Joel 1:16)

"From the house of our God" - the people have nothing to present as offerings in the house of God.

"The seed is rotten under their clods, the garners are laid desolate, the barns are broken down; for the corn is withered." (Joel 1:17)

The original words for "seed," "rotten" and "clods" all appear only once each in the Old Testament and their meaning is obscure. "Corn" means grain which is sounding, in this chapter, like it is very scarce.

"How do the beasts groan! the herds of cattle are perplexed, because they have no pasture; yea, the flocks of sheep are made desolate. O LORD, to thee will I cry: for the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness, and the flame hath burned all the trees of the field. The beasts of the field cry also unto thee: for the rivers of waters are dried up, and the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness." (Joel 1:18-20)

This sounds somewhat like the description in Revelation of the sounding of the first of the trumpets.

"The first angel sounded, and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth: and the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up." (Rev 8:7)
Joel's book next introduces a very interesting group of people in chapter 2  
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The Greek has multiple words for forgiveness? God forgives (charizomai) whether we ask or not. Receiving forgiveness (apheimi) is by our choice.
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