Joel Chapter One

 

Introduction to Joel:

 

            Joel was the son of Pethuel as we are told in verse one of his prophecy and that is literally all we know about his personal history.  Likewise with his father Pethuel.  It is assumed that he was of the tribe of Judah since he prophesied to the Southern Kingdom.  There are several dates assigned to the time of Joel’s writing but those most accepted center around 770-775 BC.  He prophesied before Amos because the prophet Amos quotes him in two different places in the book of Amos and the time of the prophecy of Amos can be determined within a few years because he prophesied during the reign of Jeroboam II in Israel.

            Joel was the first of the prophets to prophecy to Judah after the division of the kingdoms.  It was a time of natural disasters in Western Asia and Joel prophecy concerns their source and their purpose.

 

Historical Setting:

 

            The messages of all of the prophets, while providing us with a great deal of information to verify that they spoke the word of God; that the promises of God would be fulfilled and that God would send a Savior to mankind, were delivered for the times in which they lived.  While many of these predictions looked forward to a later time, they had a vital bearing on the conduct or potential conduct of the people to whom they were delivered.  Some of these judgments would not occur for many years afterward, some would come almost immediately and all were given for the benefit of the people.  God in his longsuffering has always provided mankind with the opportunity to repent, to turn from their evil ways, to return their allegiance and again become faithful to Him.

            Following the reign of Jehoshaphat, Judah declined rapidly as the effects of his good works as king were overcome by evil.  Now Jehoshaphat was considered one of the good kings of Judah and this is from the testimony of God himself:

 

I Kings 22:43 “And he walked in all the ways of Asa his father; he turned not aside from it, doing that which was right in the eyes of the LORD:…”

 

But Jehoshaphat made a major mistake in his governing of Judah.  The high places where the groves were tended, and the pagan idols were worshipped were not destroyed and the people were allowed to continue to use them as places of worship.  That which he did was right but if fell far short of what he should have done because:

 

“…nevertheless the high places were not taken away; for the people offered and burnt incense yet in the high places

 

His son married Athaliah, the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel of Israel, and that influence among others led Judah into a great apostasy or rebellion against the ways of God.  This general condition continued until the reign of Hezekiah.  So the spiritual state of Judah during Joel’s prophecy is one of being hardened and calloused in sin, a group of people whose conscious have indeed become like those Paul warned Timothy about:

 

“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; 2Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron I Timothy 4:1-2

 

Read Joel 1:1-7 – Warning of God’s Judgment

 

v.1  “The word of the LORD that came to Joel the son of Pethuel

 

            The beginning of the book reminds us and all who read it that this is indeed the word of God.  This is fairly common among in the books of prophecy:

 

Jeremiah 1:2 “To whom the word of the LORD came in the days of Josiah the son of Amon king of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign

 

Ezekiel 1:3 “The word of the LORD came expressly unto Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the river Chebar; and the hand of the LORD was there upon him

 

v.2  “2Hear 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

 

“It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God Hebrews 10:31

 

            The Hebrew writer warns present day inhabitants of this world just how awesome and terrible the wrath and fury of God is.  Joel is telling the Judeans that the pestilence and punishment that is going to be brought against them is greater than anyone, even the old men, had ever endured, could remember or had been recorded in any part of “THE DAYS OF YOUR FATHERS”.

 

v.3 “Tell ye your children of it, and let your children tell their children, and their children another generation

 

            The warning of God’s punishment was to be taught to their children and then to each succeeding generation after them.  They were to be made to live in awe and fear of the wrath of God and the consequences of sin.  This instruction has always been a part of God’s law and the instruction of their children in the doings and laws of God was a specific commandment under the Mosaic Covenant.

 

Deuteronomy 6:6-7 “And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: 7And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up

 

The same instruction is given to us today.

 

Ephesians 6:4 “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord

 

v.4 “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 caterpillar eaten

 

            Now Judah is given a glimpse of the severity of the punishment God is going to bring upon them.  A palmerworm is a defined as a hairy caterpillar that sometimes arises in great numbers and devours the foliage of trees and orchards.  The locust is described as a short-horned grasshopper that can breed rapidly and when found in sufficient numbers can literally strip fields of all vegetation.  The cankerworm is simply the little inch worm that we all probably saw and played with when we were children.  But they eat the leaves of deciduous trees and especially like the tender leaves of early spring and will even destroy the buds before they open.  Caterpillars are simply the larval form of all butterflies and moths.  They also have veracious appetites for anything growing green leaves.  What Joel is describing is a famine brought about by the four creatures literally clearing the earth of any vegetation.  When that happens, neither man nor beast can survive for very long because there is no food.

 

v.5 “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

 

            The Judean people were like a man drunk on too much wine.  They have enjoyed the blessings of God and the fruits of God’s providence for so long that they expect it to continue always.  But God will cut them off, then they will indeed be in the same condition as an alcoholic who is cut off from his source and goes into withdrawal.

 

v.6 “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

 

            This pestilence will come upon their nation as a great army of a superior nation.  To try to defy them would be like trying to defend yourself against the teeth of a lion with your bare hands.  God’s army that would come against Judah would  have the same strength and would wreak the same havoc as the cheek teeth of a great lion who can literally tear flesh and break bones.

 

v.7 “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

 

            Does anyone know what it means to bark a tree?  It is simply what happens when certain creatures run out of anything else to eat.  They will literally eat the bark off of a tree.  The pestilence that God is going to bring to punish Judah is going to be so great and so thorough that their vineyards and fig groves will be made wasteland.  The trees will not only be stripped of their foliage but of their bark as well.  This will cause them to die and the branches will turn white in a stark and obvious picture of death.

 

Read Joel 1:8-13 – No One Will Be Spared

 

v.8 “Lament like a virgin girded with sackcloth for the husband of her youth

 

            The devastation visited upon Judah would cause them to weep as a new bride for her husband, or one who has lost the husband-to-be that she was about to marry.  The result of God bringing his wrath upon them would generate tremendous grief and suffering.  Amos describes a very similar picture, giving us a scene of someone mourning for an only son:

 

“And I will turn your feasts into mourning, and all your songs into lamentation; and I will bring up sackcloth upon all loins, and baldness upon every head; and I will make it as the mourning of an only son, and the end thereof as a bitter day Amos 8:10

 

v.9 “The meat offering and the drink offering is cut off from the house of the LORD; the priests, the LORD’S ministers, mourn

 

            No one will be spared.  Even the priests of God, “THE LORD’S MINISTERS” will be cut off and nothing will be available to even make an offering to the Lord as they were commanded.  Since the priests received their livelihood from these offerings made in the temple they would be in same position as everyone else.

 

v.10 “The field is wasted, the land mourneth; for the corn is wasted: the new wine is dried up, the oil languisheth

 

            The fields would be wasted until it was as though the land itself would mourn.  The grain would be wasted.  As we know, if the palmerworm, locust, cankerworm and caterpillar are given unrestrained access to the fields there would literally be nothing left.  New wine would dry up because there would be no grapes, the vines would be stripped and die.  The oil of the olive tree would languish, again because the trees would be destroyed and there would be nothing to harvest or to put through the oil press.  We find much the same language used by Isaiah:

 

“The earth mourneth and fadeth away, the world languisheth and fadeth away, the haughty people of the earth do languish Isaiah 24:4

v.11 “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

 

            Farmers and those who achieve their living from the land are accustomed to drought, pests, floods and other natural disasters but this will be far more severe.  In the days of Isaiah, the prophet warned:

 

“In the day shalt thou make thy plant to grow, and in the morning shalt thou make thy seed to flourish: but the harvest shall be a heap in the day of grief and of desperate sorrow Isaiah 17:11

 

Everyone will be affected as noted before.  The wheat used for bread eaten by the rich and well-to-do will perish, likewise the barley that provided the staple flour for the poor and working people.  It would be as though they did all the work to prepare, and plant; prune, trim and nourish the trees of the orchards and groves only to see them destroyed before any harvest could be gathered.

 

v.12 “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

 

            The spiritual devastation of sin is complete, the soul becomes as a dry well without any life in it at all.  Likewise God will visit physical devastation upon his people as a result of their disobedience.  Not only will be fields be dried up but all of the trees that bear fruit for food as well as the land dries up and becomes such as has no life left in it.  When that happens:

 

“And gladness is taken away, and joy out of the plentiful field; and in the vineyards there shall be no singing, neither shall there be shouting: the treaders shall tread out no wine in their presses; I have made their vintage shouting to cease Isaiah 16:10

 

The joy of participating in the harvest, even of working to garner God’s bountiful blessings will end.  Men will mourn; faces will be long and haggard, no one knowing where their next meal will found.  Those with children will suffer the most as they will have no means of sustaining their little ones.

 

v.13 “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

 

            Again no one will be spared.  The priests, the ministers to the people, those that were supposedly men of God and men of the Law would suffer along with the people that they were responsible for guiding. 

 

Ezekiel 7:17-18 “All hands shall be feeble, and all knees shall be weak as water. 18They shall also gird themselves with sackcloth, and horror shall cover them; and shame shall be upon all faces, and baldness upon all their heads

 

Read Joel 1:14-20 – The Remedy

 

v.14 “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,”

 

            Sanctify a fast, set aside a time appointed for this purpose, a time for the people to be gathered in solemn assembly before God, a time for all to call upon the name of the Lord that he might repent of his intentions of bringing evil against them.  This is what the heathen, the pagan people of Assyria did:

 

“And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water Jonah 3:7

 

Even the pagan Ninevites knew the nature of God, whether through his revelation as we do today or because of their observance of others.  They knew that just maybe, maybe if they repented and humbled themselves before the Almighty calamity might be prevented.

 

“Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not? Jonah 3:9

 

And it was.  But God’s chosen people had a tendency to be hard headed when it came time to humble themselves before Him.  I dare say that situation has not changed today.

 

v.15 “Alas for the day! for the day of the LORD is at hand, and as a destruction from the Almighty shall it come

 

            The day of the Lord is at hand, we have no promise of tomorrow, we have no guarantee that we will:

 

“…To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gainJames 4:13

 

The desolation to be brought to the people of Judah was at hand.  The devastation that will be created by the destruction of the earth is at hand.  We look about us at the world in its addiction to sin of all types, kinds, varieties and descriptions and wonder how long God will let it continue.  This is the warning of God to Judah through the prophet Joel, his patience is coming to an end, the punishment that they deserved by their rebellion and disobedience was “AT HAND.”

 

v.16-17 “Is not the meat cut off before our eyes, yea, joy and gladness from the house of our God? 17The seed is rotten under their clods, the garners are laid desolate, the barns are broken down; for the corn is withereD.”

 

            If they did not declare a solemn fast, a period of national repentance and mourning seeking forgiveness for their sins not only would their meat, their means of maintaining physical life be cut off.  They would also be cut off from God.  The Israelite nation and Judah still, to an extent worshiped God.  They knew his blessings that they accrued when they obeyed:

 

Deuteronomy 12:6-7 “6And thither ye shall bring your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices, and your tithes, and heave offerings of your hand, and your vows, and your freewill offerings, and the firstlings of your herds and of your flocks: 7And there ye shall eat before the LORD your God, and ye shall rejoice in all that ye put your hand unto, ye and your households, wherein the LORD thy God hath blessed thee

 

They knew the joy described by the Psalmist:

 

“THEN WILL I GO UNTO THE ALTAR OF GOD, UNTO GOD MY EXCEEDING JOY: YEA, UPON THE HARP WILL I PRAISE THEE, O GOD MY GOD.” Psalms 43:4

 

But these privileges would end as Isaiah would also prophecy:

 

“In that day shall he swear, saying, I will not be an healer; for in my house is neither bread nor clothing: make me not a ruler of the people. 8For Jerusalem is ruined, and Judah is fallen: because their tongue and their doings are against the LORD, to provoke the eyes of his glory Isaiah 3:7-8

 

v.18-19 “How do the beasts groan! the herds of cattle are perplexed, because they have no pasture; yea, the flocks of sheep are made desolate. 19O 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

 

            During the famine of Israel when the servant of Ahab met Elijah, he was trying to save his master’s animals:

 

I Kings 18:5 “And Ahab said unto Obadiah, Go into the land, unto all fountains of water, and unto all brooks: peradventure we may find grass to save the horses and mules alive, that we lose not all the beasts

 

Their animals would suffer greatly and not understand the necessity of their plight; they would know only that they were hungry and thirsty, thus the prophet calls them perplexed.  They would have no pasture; no feed.   The fields and pastures of the wilderness would be devoured as though they were burnt with fire.

 

v.20 “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

 

            These beasts would cry and moan in their misery, other translations say pant; as I’ve seen cattle do in extremely hot weather.  Even the water of the rivers would be dried up.  In my early childhood it was not unusual for us to haul water from the nearby river in late summer because our cistern was dry.  But it was a very rare occasion that we had to haul water for the animals, though I do remember doing it once.  Fortunately the river, though sometimes very low, had enough water in it that we could do that.

            All of these physical sufferings are brought upon themselves by the people of God because of their sin and rebellion against Him.