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The Oxford Bible Commentary Line-by-line commentary for the New Revised Standard Version Bible.

Joel - Introduction

We may divide the book into twelve literary units. Units are identified by two criteria: subject-matter and the identity of the speaker. The style of prophetic oracles is quite particular in so far as sometimes God himself is the speaker of a message, the prophet being nothing but his mouthpiece, whereas on other occasions it is the prophet who explains the plans and actions of his Master. In the first case, the ‘I’ of the text refers to God, and in the second, the ‘I’ is the prophet, who refers to God in the third person. With the aid of these principles we obtain the following units:

  • The Prophet Announces Destruction by Locusts ( 1:2–4 )

  • The Prophet Describes the Invasion of a Strange ‘Nation’ and Exhorts People to ‘cry to YHWH’ ( 1:5–14 )

  • The Prophet Describes the Drought Caused by the Day of the Lord ( 1:15–18 )

  • The Prophet's Prayer ( 1:19–20 )

  • The Prophet Praises the Day of the Lord: the Lord is Coming at the Head of his Army ( 2:1–11 )

  • The Prophet Explains a word of YHWH ( 2:12–14 )

  • The Prophet Summons the People to Fast ( 2:15–17 )

  • God and the Prophet Announce Mercy and Prosperity ( 2:18–27 )

  • God Announces the Effusion of his Divine Energy Amidst Disruptions of Cosmic Order; the Prophet Adds an Exhortation ( 2:28–32 )

  • God Announces the Restoration of Judah and Jerusalem, and Judgement over the Nations ( 3:1–8 )

  • God and the Prophet Describe the Final Battle Against the Nations ( 3:9–17 )

  • The Prophet Announces a Glorious Future for Judah and Jerusalem ( 3:18–21 )

The first eight units, mostly words of the prophet, concern Jerusalem and Judah, whereas the last four, mostly words of God, treat the relationship between God and all the nations. They are divided up differently in the HB: 3:1–5; 4:1–8; 4:9–17; 4:18–21 . The book is made up of two parts: is it a unity or the work of at least two authors? But the idea of the day of the Lord is central to both parts and establishes a strong link between them; moreover, there are some expressions and ideas (‘Judah and Jerusalem’, ‘to sanctify’; the question of fertility) which occur in both sections. So we may consider the whole as one in thought and speech. There is no reason either to doubt that it is a single author's work.

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