Introduction to Joel
Joel (meaning “Jehovah is God”) was a prophet in Judah, probably one of the earliest of her writing prophets. However, the date of his prophecy is uncertain, since there are no contemporary kings or other chronological data given.
Nothing is known about Joel personally except that he probably lived in Jerusalem and that his father’s name was Pethuel (Joel 1:1). Indications that his prophecy was one of the earliest are that there is little condemnation of the sins of the people and no warning of impending invasion by either Assyria or Babylonia. Nor is there any mention of the northern kingdom of Israel.
On the other hand, Joel speaks much of the coming “day of the LORD” (Joel 1:15) and God’s judgment on the nations, looking far ahead to the end times. A recent devastating plague of locusts was taken by Joel as a type of the day of the Lord.
One significant confirmation of Joel’s authorship of the book is the fact that the Apostle Peter used a portion of it in his famous sermon on the day of Pentecost, attributing it to Joel (Acts 2:16-21, citing Joel 2:28-32), and noting that a portion of this significant prophecy had been fulfilled in the pouring out of the Holy Spirit upon the early church.
1:1 Joel. Joel (a name combining Jehovah, or Yahweh, and Elohim, thus carrying the meaning “Jehovah is God”) is the name of about fourteen men listed in the Old Testament. The prophet Joel lived in Judah, probably during the reign of Joash, and his warnings of coming judgment were aimed primarily at those in the southern kingdom.
1:4 palmerworm. It is probable that the four invaders mentioned here are all different species, or possibly different life stages, of the locust.
1:4 the locust. Much of Joel’s prophecy draws on the imagery suggested by a recent plague of locusts and other insects that had devastated the land of Judah. He uses these as a type of the ultimate “day of the LORD”—a phrase occurring five times in Joel’s prophecy.
1:14 cry unto the LORD. The terrible locust plague had been sent by God as a warning of a much more severe judgment yet to come, and was used by Joel as an incentive to repent, both then and now.
1:15 day of the LORD. “The day of the LORD,” in contrast to “man’s day,” refers to a coming time of judgment. The Lord will take strong control of the world and its inhabitants in severe judgment, after a long time of patient forbearance. This will be followed by cleansing and blessing. Such prophecies often refer to a current situation, such as the plague of locusts, then leap over the centuries to the future end-time judgments, the former being a type of the latter. Sometimes it refers to the entire period of judgment, sometimes to the specific day on which that period will begin. In the prophets, it occurs first in Isaiah 2:12, last in Malachi 4:5. There are other phrases that are used synonymously—“the day of wrath,” “the day of God,” “that day,” etc.
1:20 dried up. Eventually in this time of great judgment, all the rivers “are dried up,” even “the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up” (Revelation 16:12). Undoubtedly lakes will also dry up and even sea level will drop, under great solar heat (Revelation 16:8).