JOEL CHAPTER 2.
An Admonition to Repentance. A Promise of Blessings.
THE PROPHET URGES REPENTANCE. ó V. 1. Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, this signal of the priests announcing the coming calamity, and sound an alarm in My holy mountain, from the Temple mountain, as the center of Jehovah's worship and the place of His presence in the midst of His people. Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, shaken up out of their care-free condition; for the day of the Lord cometh, for it is nigh at hand, the visitation is no longer in the dim and distant future, but is an event to be expected very soon, v. 2. a day of darkness and of gloominess, as when the light of the sun is shut out by immense swarms of locusts, a day of clouds and of thick darkness, of heavy, dense, and obscuring cloudiness, as the morning spread upon the mountains, a great people and a strong, the wings of the locusts reflecting the rays of the sun in a murky light before their immense numbers shut out the sun altogether. There hath not been ever the like, neither shall be any more after it, even to the years of many generations, cp. chap. 1, 2. V. 3. A fire, a most intense and parching heat, devoureth before them, in preparing for the desolation to follow, and behind them a flame burneth, the terrible, withering heat continuing even after the swarms of grasshoppers had passed. The land is as the Garden of Eden before them, like the beautiful park of paradise described in Gen. 2, and behind them a desolate wilderness; yea, and nothing shall escape them, the devastation would be so thorough. V. 4. The appearance of them, of the locusts, is as the appearance of horses, whom they resemble as to the shape of their heads; and as horsemen, so shall they run, with uncanny swiftness. V. 5. Like the noise of chariots on the tops of mountains, as they clatter along over rough mountain roads, shall they leap, such would be the noise of their crackling movements in a great mass, like the noise of a flame of fire that devoureth the stubble, as a strong people set in battle array, for there is a strong similarity to all these rushing, pounding sounds in the movements of vast swarms of locusts. V. 6. Before their face, as they proceed on their path of devastation, the people, all those so visited, shall be much pained, trembling and helpless with terror; all faces shall gather blackness, losing the glowing color of health, growing pale with conscious helplessness. V. 7. They shall run like mighty men, straightforward to the attack; they shall climb the wall like men of war, in an advance that cannot be stopped; and they shall march every one on his ways, and they shall not break their ranks, this peculiarity being noted by all observers. It was and is vain to resist them by the means ordinarily used to stop the progress of an invading army. V. 8. Neither shall one thrust another, not pressing ahead, upon those going before; they shall walk every one in his path, like a well-drilled army; and when they fall upon the sword, they shall not be wounded, for they are represented as an invincible army of the Lord. V. 9. They shall run to and fro in the city, being altogether unhindered in their advance; they shall run upon the wall, they shall climb up upon the houses; they shall enter in at the windows like a thief. Jerome writes concerning this phenomenon: "When the locusts come and fill the whole space between earth and sky, they fly in perfect order, as if obedient to a divine command, so that they look like the squares of a pavement. Each one holds its own place, not diverging from it even so much as by a finger's breadth. To these locusts nothing is impenetrable, fields, meadows, trees, cities, houses, even their most secret chambers." V. 10. The earth shall quake before them, terrified by their dreadful host, the heavens shall tremble, resounding with the rushing of their flight; the sun and the moon shall be dark, and the stars shall withdraw their shining, their light shut out by the immense hosts of locusts; v. 11. and the Lord shall utter His voice before His army, which the grasshoppers here represent; for His camp is very great, the host under His command exceedingly large; for He is strong that executeth His word, carrying out the will of the Lord; for the day of the Lord, His coming visitation, is great and very terrible; and who can abide it? It is evident that the entire description is incidentally symbolical of the great and mighty Judgment of the Lord, which, in its preliminary features, is seen in the Deluge, in the two destructions of Jerusalem, and in various other calamities and cataclysms, but which is destined to be immeasurably greater than man can conceive of when it actually comes to pass. Cp. Mal. 3, 2. This being true, the admonition of the prophet comes with particular force. V. 12. Therefore also now, saith the Lord, turn ye even to Me with all your heart, in a true repentance, and with fasting and with weeping and with mourning, as outward indications of the change of heart, v. 13. and rend your heart, in a true and unfeigned sorrow, and not your garments, for the latter may be done also by hypocrites, and turn unto the Lord, your God; for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth Him of the evil, that is, He is persuaded not to let stern justice alone rule. Cp. Ex. 34, 6. V. 14. Who knoweth if He will return, not carry out the threatened punishment, and repent, and leave a blessing behind Him, namely, when He, as men pictured Him, returns to His throne in heaven, even a meat-offering and a drink-offering unto the Lord, your God? for by an abundant harvest, which He may be persuaded to give, the people would again be enabled to bring their usual sacrifices in the Temple. In order to accomplish this, however, it was necessary that the people unite in a great service of prayer and supplication. V. 15. Blow the trumpet in Zion, the call once more going forth; sanctify a fast; call a solemn assembly, v. 16. gather the people, for a great meeting of worship and supplication; sanctify the congregation, so that no one would be Levitically unclean; assemble the elders, the aged people of the congregation; gather the children and those that suck the breast, for no one is to be omitted in this great appeal for mercy, since all of them, from the smallest to the greatest, were guilty; let the bridegroom go forth of his chamber and the bride out of her closet, where they were preparing for the coming wedding. The fact that even infants in arms and bride and groom were included in the appeal of the prophet shows that the guilt was universal and beyond excuse. V. 17. Let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, who occupied the position of mediators between God and His people, weep between the porch and the altar and let them say, in a solemn litany chanted at the very door of the Holy Place, Spare Thy people, O Lord, and give not Thine heritage, the people of His own possession, to reproach, cp. Ex. 32, 11. 12, that the heathen should rule over them, or, "make mockery of them." Wherefore should they say among the people, among the heathen nations everywhere, Where is their God? thus bringing disgrace upon the holy name of the Lord. This is one of the strongest arguments which believers may advance in presenting their supplication before the Lord, namely, that the glory of His own name requires His looking upon His children in mercy, so that they may not be abandoned to the wiles of the enemy.
GODíS PROMISE OF TEMPORAL AND SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS. ó V. 18. Then, when the Lord saw that His people were truly penitent, will the Lord be jealous for His land, be filled with the zeal of His love, rather, He was so filled and acted accordingly, and pity His people. V. 19. Yea, the Lord will answer and say unto His people, actuated with the zeal of His love for them, Behold, I will send you corn and wine and oil, the richest temporal blessings made possible by the renewed fertility of the land, and ye shall be satisfied therewith; and I will no more make you a reproach among the heathen, of which their prayer had complained, v. 20. but I will remove far off from you the northern army, the swarms of locusts which came from that direction, and will drive him into a land barren and desolate, into the desert of Arabia, with his face toward the East Sea, that is, the Dead Sea, and his hinder part, his rearguard, toward the utmost sea, that is, the Mediterranean; and his stink shall come up, the terrible stench of the decaying insects, and his ill savor shall come up, because he hath done great things, the entire description picturing the rapid and total destruction of the great plague. V. 21. Fear not, O land, the entire country being included in this new admonition, as before; be glad and rejoice, namely, over the hosts that laid waste the country; for the Lord will do great things, Jehovah is able to perform marvelous works in delivering His people. V. 22. Be not afraid, ye beasts of the field, which had been so sorely in need of food supplies; for the pastures of the wilderness, of the great prairies of the South, do spring, once more verdant with an abundance of grass; for the tree beareth her fruit, as before the terrible visitation, the fig-tree and the vine do yield their strength, so as to bring forth fruit as of old. V. 23. Be glad, then, ye children of Zion, the inhabitants of Judah, the children of the Lord, and rejoice in the Lord, your God, the God of the covenant, the Lord of mercy; for He hath given you the former rain moderately, literally, "a teacher for righteousness,'' or "rain in just measure," the meaning of the Hebrew word being in dispute to some extent; and He will cause to come down for you the rain, the former rain, and the latter rain in the first month, the former rain being due right after seeding-time, in the fall, and the latter rain coming just before harvest, in the spring. V. 24. And the floors, the threshing-floors, shall be full of wheat, the result of a new, rich harvest, and the fats shall overflow with wine and oil, the receptacles of the vineyards being unable to hold the rich measure of blessings. V. 25. And I will restore to you, make up, the years that the locust hath eaten, the canker-worm and the caterpillar and the palmer-worm, My great army which I sent among you, the insects of chap. 1, 4 being named in the reverse order. V. 26. And ye shall eat in plenty, having an abundance of the best food, and be satisfied and praise the name of the Lord, your God, that hath dealt wondrously with you, making His wonders known through the manner in which He dealt with them; and My people shall never be ashamed, never be justly heaped with mockery and disgrace, since it would be so evident that the Lord was on their side. This would, moreover, be substantiated more than ever by the fullness of spiritual blessings which He intended to pour out upon His children after their restoration to His sonship. V. 27. And ye shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, as His chosen people, and that I am the Lord, your God, the God of the covenant, and none else; and My people, the true spiritual Israel, shall never be ashamed. V. 28. And it shall come to pass afterward, in the Messianic period, toward which this prophecy converged, that I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh, upon men of every race and nation; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, openly proclaiming the great deeds of God, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions, the great possibilities of the Lord's work and the energy for carrying out the plans of the Lord coming to them and urging them forward with irresistible power, the barriers of both sex and age being removed, except as limited in other parts of the Scripture; v. 29. and also upon the servants and upon the handmaids, upon the lowliest of the land, in those days will I pour out My Spirit, all social distinction being abandoned in the New Testament era as far as the work of the Church is concerned. This prophecy was fulfilled, so far as its beginning is concerned, on the great Day of Pentecost, as Peter also states in the introduction to his powerful sermon held before the astonished inhabitants of the city of Jerusalem, Acts 2, 17-21. But this event by no means exhausted its wonderful promises; for the Spirit of the Lord is being poured out on the members of the Church of the New Testament today and will continue to be given to all true believers until the end of time. But this great and wonderful deed of the Lord is placed side by side with His judgment upon the nations. V. 30. And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth, strange and terrifying portents, blood and fire and pillars of smoke, miracles in the sky above and signs of His majesty on the earth beneath, blood and fire and smoky vapor. V. 31. The sun shall be turned into darkness, being changed into a dark and cold mass, and the moon into blood, as bloody wars and devastations would occur on the earth, before the great and the terrible Day of the Lord come, namely, the day of the final Judgment. Cp. 1 Thess. 5, 2; 1 Cor. 1, 8; 2 Cor. 1, 14; 2 Thess. 2, 8. V. 32. And it shall come to pass, throughout this great period of the Lord's preparation for the final Judgment, during the entire Messianic period, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord, confessing Jehovah and accepting Him as the one Savior of mankind, shall be delivered, saved from the wrath to come; for in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, the Gospel-message proclaimed in and by the Church of God bringing redemption and the assurance of eternal life to all believers, as the Lord hath said, and in the remnant whom the Lord shall call, namely, the remainder according to the election of grace, the people whom the Lord has chosen from all nations of the earth. This glorious promise is held out to this day to all who turn to the Lord in repentance and faith, confessing His name as the only Savior and fervently calling upon Him for deliverance from all evil, especially that of the body of sin.