JOEL CHAPTER 1.
Lament over the Desolation of Judah.
A DESCRIPTION OF THE CALAMITY. — V. 1. The word of the Lord that came to Joel, the son of Pethuel, the superscription assuring us that we are not getting Joel's own ideas, but the inspired words of Jehovah. V. 2. Hear this, ye old men, whose memory reached back through generations of men, and give ear, in yielding a most willing and careful attention, all ye inhabitants of 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. Hath this been in your days or even in the days of your fathers? A visitation of this kind, and grievous to this extent, had never yet been seen in Palestine. V. 3. Tell ye your children of it and let your children tell their children and their children another generation, passing 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. V. 4. That which the palmer-worm, literally, "the gnawer-off," hath left hath the locust eaten, the swarming or multiplying locust of the Orient; and that which the locust hath left hath the canker-worm, the devouring grasshopper, eaten; and that which the canker-worm hath left hath the caterpillar eaten, that is, the consuming locust. 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. V. 5. Awake, ye drunkards, and weep; and howl, all ye drinkers of wine, because of the new wine, since the supply of grapes and therefore of the liquor made from them was not available; for it is cut off from your mouth. This appeal is introduced to describe, with poetical power, the complete devastation of the country. V. 6. For a nation is come up upon My land, a great and mighty army of fierce warriors, strong and without number, in swarms of countless myriads, whose teeth are the teeth of a lion, and he hath the cheek-teeth of a great lion, the jaw-teeth of a lioness protecting or avenging her young, grinding to pieces everything that came in their path. V. 7. He hath laid My vine waste, by consuming its foliage, and barked My fig-tree, gnawing off the bark and laying bare stem and branches, so that they were ruined; he hath made it clean bare and cast it away; the branches thereof are made white, by the complete removal of the bark. This being the condition in which the land was left after the visit of the locusts, the prophet now urges his countrymen to mourn. V. 8. Lament like a virgin, girded with sackcloth, the dress of mourning, for the husband of her youth, whom, after their betrothal, death took away. The grief of a bereaved virgin and bride is represented also in other passages as deep and overwhelming. Cp. Is. 54, 6. V. 9. The meat-offering and the drink-offering, the sacrifices in the worship of Jehovah, is cut off from the house of the Lord, because it was impossible to procure the necessary materials, since everything was destroyed; the priests, the Lord's ministers, mourn, on account of the decay resulting from the devastation, which was followed also by a dearth of the animals used for sacrificial purposes. V. 10. The field is wasted, made desolate; the land mourneth, both the uncultivated and the cultivated sections of the land suffering in the same measure; for the corn is wasted, the grain completely consumed; the new wine is dried up, the grapes being spoiled for want of foliage on the vines; the oil languisheth, because the olive-trees produced no fruit. V. 11. Be ye ashamed, O ye husbandmen, bearing the shame of disappointed hopes after working hard for a crop; howl, O ye vine-dressers, these two representing the agricultural classes of the land, for the wheat and for the barley, because the harvest of the field is perished, this being the cause of the farmers' lament. V. 12. The vine is dried up, and the fig-tree languisheth, so that gardener and horticulturist likewise had reasons for mourning; the pomegranate-tree, the palm-tree also, the date-palm, which ordinarily escaped the onslaughts of the locust, and the apple-tree, or the quince, even all the trees of the field, are withered; because joy is withered away from the sons of men, so that there could be no rejoicing over a bountiful harvest, as usual. Cp. Ps. 4, 7; Is. 9, 3. The description of the swarming grasshoppers and the desolation following in their wake is one of the most powerful in all literature, and the picture is rightly regarded as one which ought to call all men to repentance.
PRESCRIBING FASTING AND PENITENCE. — V. 13. Gird yourselves, namely, with garments of mourning, and lament, ye priests; howl, ye ministers of the altar, whose chief duties were concerned with the sacrifices brought on the two altars of the Temple. Come, lie all night in sackcloth, ye ministers of my God, extending their exercises of mourning even through the night season; for the meat-offering and the drink-offering is withholden from the house of your God, cp. v. 9, so that all the usual sacrifices had to be discontinued. V. 14. Sanctify ye a fast, appointing a day or a number of days for a special religious service, during which the depth of the people's grief should be indicated by their abstaining from food; call a solemn assembly, such as were held in connection with the great festivals; gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land into the house of the Lord, your God, and cry unto the Lord, with impetuous and importunate praying. V. 15. Alas for the day! so the prophet himself laments, for the day of the Lord, the time of His stern visitation, is at hand, and as a destruction from the Almighty shall it come, bringing its desolating scourge upon the land. V. 16. Is not the meat cut off before our eyes? as their food supply was destroyed by the invading hordes of locusts, yea, joy and gladness from the house of our God? since the various sacrifices and meals of thanksgiving were no longer possible. V. 17. The seed is rotten under their clods, withering in the soil on account of the terrible drought; the garners are laid desolate, the granaries being empty because there could be no harvest; the barns, which otherwise harbored such rich crops, are broken down, falling to pieces for want of money to repair them; for the corn is withered. V. 18. How do the beasts groan! since the meadows also were dried up. The herds of cattle are perplexed, the word being chosen to denote the restless hunting of hungry cattle, because they have no pasture; yea, the flocks of sheep are made desolate, bearing their sufferings as a consequence of the transgressions of the people of the land. All this causes the prophet to lift up his voice to the Lord in a cry for help. V. 19. O Lord, to Thee will I cry; for the fire, the parching heat, hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness, of the great Judean steppes, and the flame, the fierce heat of the drought, hath burned all the trees of the field. V. 20. The beasts of the field, both domestic and wild animals, cry also unto Thee, their dumb misery being a powerful appeal for help; for the rivers of waters are dried up, and the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness. Cp. Job 38, 41; Ps. 104, 21; 145, 15; 147, 9; Jer. 14, 5. 6. All creation groans and travails in pain together until now on account of the burden of man's guilt. Rom. 8, 19-22.