Welcome to our Bible Study Series on the Minor Prophets.
This is – Joel, The Day of the Lord
Click on the link above for the study session. Find the notes below.
Joel, The Day of the Lord:
- Last week we were in the Northern Kingdom, Israel. Our focus was on Hosea and how the Lord used his marriage relationship as a parallel of God and Israel’s relationship. Now Joel is from the South, Judah, and he uses a recent calamity in the nation of Judah to teach his hearers a prophetic lesson.
- The disaster struck the Southern Kingdom of Judah in the form of a cloud of locusts and in a matter of hours, the fields were stripped bare. The devastation was so bad that even grain offerings to God were impossible. So Joel seized this opportunity to proclaim God’s message.
1. Joel’s Setting:
- Joel was God’s spokesman during the reign of Joash (835-796 BC). Joash ruled the South from age 7. At this same time, Jehoiada the priest, functioned as the real ruler (2 Kings 11; 12). And what’s interesting, which ties into the setting, Joel makes no mention of idolatry which could mean that the issue of Baal worship might have be taken care of.
- Now as an early prophet in Judah, Joel would have been a contemporary of Elisha in Israel. Joel identifies himself as the son of Pethuel (1:1), (meaning “persuaded of God) and his frequent references to Zion and the house of the Lord suggest that he probably lived not far from Jerusalem.
- And because of his statements about the priesthood in 1:13, 14; and 2:17, some think Joel was a priest as well as a prophet. In any case, Joel was a clear, concise, and uncompromising preacher of repentance in the Southern Kingdom.
2. Joel’s Purpose:
- Earlier I mentioned the plague of locusts. That is seen as a foreshadowing of the coming day of the Lord. In light of this, the book warns of approaching judgment, calls the people to repentance, and gives God’s people hope of the coming day of salvation that will follow judgment.
- Joel used a locust plague on the land to warn the people of God that He would come to judge sins on the Day of the Lord because God is would not bring blessings until He has dealt with sins. Failure to confession of sins and repentance to God will bring God’s
- Therefore, Joel’s purpose is to warn the nation of the need for humility and repentance and the certainty of the coming judgement. At the same time he seeks to keep the heart of the people faithful to the promises of God by reminding them of the coming salvation and of the destruction of their and God’s enemies (Joel 2:18-32, 3: 18-21).
3. Joel’s Message:
- The book of Joel can be divided into two major sections: the day of the Lord in remembrance (Ch. 1); and the day of the Lord in view (chs. 2; 3). This brief book develops the crucial theme of the coming day of the Lord (1:15; 2:1, 2, 11, 31; 3:14, 18)—a time of judgment upon people and nations that have rebelled against God.
- But it is also a time of future blessing upon those who have trusted in Him. The theme of disaster runs throughout the book (locust plagues, famine, raging fires, invading armies, heavenly miracles), but promises of hope are spread with the pronouncements of coming judgment.
- So firstly, “The Day of the Lord” is the true message of Joel. This theme has developed into two directions: The one refers to the judgement of the Lord and the blessing for Israel and the other one was the judgement of the nations.
- The following questions now remain: When would it occur? How long must we wait? This was the traditional view of the Day of the Lord and it was well supported by Joel’s predecessors, Jeremiah, Obadiah, Ezekiel, Daniel and Zechariah.
- Joel, however, saw another potential dimension in the tradition. Israel’s Day of the Lord could strike again if he did not repent and humble himself before the Lord. This nation that was so miraculously raised from the grave, had been reminded by the frightful pestilence that her welfare was forever tied to her relationship with JHWH.
- If she violates this again it could lead to a renewal of judgement. Joel is a reminder of the power of repentance. His call to repentance was as effective as that of Haggai. The fact that Israel repented evoked divine pity as it always could and always would.
- Secondly, “The Day of Universal Prophecy” is another way of declaring that finally the covenant people would recognise their God. To Him they will submit and obey His commands – 2: 27, 3: 17. Peter announced that the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost had fulfilled Joel’s prophecy.
- The day had come when all men and women would join the prophetic ranks, when all would hear the voice of God and render respect to His name. This would flow from every transformed heart and fill the world with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.
4. The Book’s Application:
- The question we need to ask here is the following: Were the locusts of Joel a reality or not? Joel 1: 1-2:17 is the root of the hermeneutical question. It has been answered with three interpretive applications:
- The historical-literal
- The allegorical
- The apocalyptic
- The Historical-literal method insists that Joel described a locust plague that occurred during his lifetime. The fact that he called upon the elders and citizens whether they could recall something like this from their history and that he asked them to tell that to their future generations, substantiates the historical reality of the locust plague – Joel 1: 2-3.
- The second method, the Allegorical, exceeds the bounds of reality to say that the locusts were real locusts. It rather refers to an invading army. The proponents of this theory say 2: 20 points to the northern army as an allegorical term. Some of these proponents even used
the four stages of the locusts to point to the four great powers at whose hands Israel successively fell: Assyro-Babylonian, the Medo-Persian, the Greek, and the Roman.
- Yet the clues of a real allegorical language are missing. The fact that the locusts plague itself is compared to an army – 2: 2-11 shows that it is not allegorical teaching referred to here.
- The third method is the Apocalyptic. According to this method of interpretation the locust plague view Joel 1 and 2 as eschatological or apocalyptic description of future despairs. This is intended not for the people of Joel’s day but for those whose eyes would behold the dreadful Day of the Lord in the end times. This however cannot be accepted on the same grounds as the allegorical view. So it is preferred to hold to the historical-interpretation.
- So The Day of the Lord is any day on which God comes to settle accounts for sin. To those who believe in God and are “saved” blessings follow judgement in the Day of the Lord. One of the main reasons for the Lord’s judgement for sins is so that people will know He is God.
- This brings us to Christ in Joel. Jesus promised to send His Holy Spirit after His ascension to the Father – John 16: 7-15, Acts 1: 8. When this was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost, Peter said: “This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel” – Joel 2: 28-32, Acts 2: 16-21. Joel also portrays Christ as the One who will judge the nations in the valley of Jehoshaphat (“God judges” – 3: 2, 12).