We should mention that, just as the Books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel and Daniel are referred to as the “major prophets” because of their length – not as an indication of importance, the same is true of the so-called “minor prophets.” The Book of Joel, for example, is only three chapters. But do not be misled, Joel is a powerful and important book of prophecy.
There is no definitive evidence from the text as to when the book was written. Guess-timates vary greatly, and there is little agreement between scholars. Just as many can be found to date the book after the Babylonian captivity as before. This blogger believes it to have been written before the captivity. Many Hebrew scholars believe Joel prophesied under Manasseh, which would place him in most likely the late 7th century B.C. (Manasseh began his reign as co-regent with his father, Hezekiah, in about 696 B.C., and his reign ended with his death in about 642 B.C.). This was just over 20 years after the Assyrians conquered the Northern Kingdom and deported most of its population.
Verse one of chapter one tells us that Joel (whose name means “Yahweh is God”) was the son of Pethuel (whose name means “mouth of God”). We do not know much else about him. Certainly, Joel’s message is to the Southern Kingdom, and his references to Jerusalem and knowledge of the priests and the temple suggest that he may himself have been from Jerusalem. The obvious theme of the book is “the day of the Lord.” The phrase is repeated over and over throughout the book.
The setting of the book is a time of great spiritual indifference, but also of great devastation from a locust invasion that has laid the land to waste, and has affected every aspect of their lives. But Joel’s message is that the coming “day of the Lord” will make this look like nothing! The only way to avoid the coming judgment, he tells them, is to truly repent.
As we have noted is the case with this phrase in other passages in the scriptures, “the day of the Lord” simply refers to a time when God will take some sort of decisive action. It does not always, as many make the mistake of assuming, refer to the final day of judgment. In the case of this book, it appears to refer to the judgment of Judah to come (at the hands of the Babylonians), as well as to the judgment that will come to Israel in A.D. 70. Peter, on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2:16-21, refers to Joel 2:28-32, as he preaches about the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, the prophesying, and other signs of the new age of Christians. The first part of this in Joel begins:
“And it shall come to pass afterward,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
and your young men shall see visions.
Even on the male and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit.”
The second part of the passage, also referred to by Peter, is the same as some of the warning Jesus gave of the signs for Christians to look for when they should leave Jerusalem before its A.D. 70 destruction (Matthew 24:29-30). Indeed, we will no doubt deal more in depth with this subject in another blog, as we discuss some of the secular evidence of the signs Jesus gave in the preceding verses of Matthew 24, which resulted in many Christians becoming the “survivors” that Joel speaks of in the second part of the passage:
“And I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the Lord has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the Lord calls.”
image © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers
Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog. All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility. When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.