Chapter 1 The word of the LORD that came to Joel son of Pethuel.
1:1The word of the Lord… came to Joel. Joel’s claim of prophetic authority is similar to that of several other prophets (see Jer 1:2; Eze 1:3; Hos 1:1; Jnh 1:1, 3; 3:1; Mic 1:1; Zep 1:1; Hag1:1; Zec 1:1; Mal 1:1). (CSB)
Joel. Means “The Lord is God”; cf. Elijah’s name, which means “(My)
God is the Lord.” (CSB)
An Invasion of Locusts 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 forefathers? 3 Tell it to your children, and let your children tell it to their children, and their children to the next generation. 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. 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. 6 A nation has invaded my land, powerful and without number; it has the teeth of a lion, the fangs of a lioness. 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. 8 Mourn like a virgin in sackcloth grieving for the husband of her youth. 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. those who minister before the LORD. 10 The fields are ruined, the ground is dried up; the grain is destroyed, the new wine is dried up, the oil fails. 11 Despair, you farmers, wail, you vine growers; grieve for the wheat and the barley, because the harvest of the field is destroyed. 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 joy of mankind is withered away. 1:2elders. Either the older men of the community or the recognized officials (see v. 14; 2:16, 28; see also note on Ex 3:16). (CSB)
Joel begins by directing a rhetorical question to the “old timers,” since they were best able to affirm the unprecedented nature of the agricultural disaster Joel predicted. (TLSB)
IN THE LAND – It is a spirited challenge to all the people of Judah to mark the lesson of the great calamity which has befallen them. (Kretzmann)
DAYS OF YOUR FOREFATHERS – He begins very abruptly; and before he proposes his subject, excites attention and alarm by intimating that he is about to announce disastrous events, such as the oldest man among them has never seen, nor any of them learnt from the histories of ancient times. (ACC)
A visitation of this kind, and grievous to this extent, had never yet been seen in Palestine. (Kretzmann)
1:3 NEXT GENERATION – They were to pass it on from father to son, all of them accepting this tradition with awe, fear, and trembling, as being an unparalleled manifestation of God's anger against men on account of their sins. (Kretzmann)
To heighten the effect, he still conceals the subject, and informs them that it is such as should be handed down from father to son through all generations. (ACC)
1:4 See 2:25. (CSB)
An important feature of the book of Joel is a plague of locusts, insects which still periodically threaten the crops in large areas of Asia and Africa. The female desert locust lays eggs under the sand in “pods” of about 100. There may be as many as 100 of such egg pods per square foot. When the insects hatch, usually after rains, “they cover the face of the ground so that it cannot be seen” (Exodus 10:5). Hatching may continue for several days, with young hoppers numbering up to 1000 per square foot at any one time. The young insects, each about one-half inch long, immediately get on the move, looking for green plants to eat. (PBC)
All four names describe the devastation wrought by the great Oriental locust, which apparently came into the land in successive swarms at that time, gnawing off first the tender shoots of the orchards and vineyards, then the vegetables and field fruits, and finally the foliage of the trees and every spear of green that was in sight. The desolation wrought by the plague of the locusts is described in the most graphic manner, one feature after another being depicted in a way to arouse the people to a realization of the seriousness of the situation. (Kretzmann)
1:5drunkards. Although Joel calls for repentance, drunkenness is the only specific sin mentioned in the book. It suggests a self-indulgent life-style (cf. Isa 28:7–8; Am 4:1) pursued by those who value material things more than spiritual. (CSB)
weep. Various segments of the community (drunkards, here; general population, v. 8; farmers, v. 11; priests, v. 13) are called to mourn. The destruction of the vines by the locusts leaves the drunkards without a source of wine. (CSB)
The general destruction of vegetation by these devouring creatures has totally prevented both harvest and vintage; so that there shall not be wine even for necessary uses, much less for the purposes of debauchery. It is well known that the ruin among the vines by locusts prevents the vintage for several years after. (ACC)
NEW WINE – ESV has “sweet.” New wine that has not yet gone into storage. Once the sweet wine was exhausted, there would be no more stores of wine in Judah. (TLSB)
1:6 The locusts are compared here to a nation; cf. the ants and coneys in Pr 30:25–26, where the Hebrew word for “creatures” means lit. “(a) people.” Elsewhere they are called the Lord’s “army” (2:11, 25). The reverse comparison—that of armies to locusts in regard to numbers—is as old as Ugaritic literature (15th century b.c.) and is common in the OT (see Jdg 6:5; 7:12; Jer 46:23; 51:14, 27; Na 3:15). (CSB)
That real locusts are intended there can be little doubt; but it is thought that this may be a double prophecy, and that the destruction by the Chaldeans may also be intended, and that the four kinds of locusts mentioned above may mean the four several attacks made on Judea by them. The first in the last year of Nabonassar, (father of Nebuchadnezzar), which was the third of Jehoiakim; the second when Jehoiakim was taken prisoner in the eleventh year of his reign; the third in the ninth year of Zedekiah and the fourth three years after, when Jerusalem was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar. Others say that they mean four powers which have been enemies of the Jews:
1. The palmerworm, the Assyrians and Chaldeans.
2. The locust, the Persians and Medes.
3. The cankerworm, the Greeks, and particularly Antiochus Epiphanes.
4. The caterpillar, the Romans.
Others make them four kings; Tiglath-pileser, Shalmaneser, Sennacherib, and Nebuchadnezzar. But of such similitudes there is no end; and the best of them is arbitrary and precarious. (ACC)