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

The Message of Joel.

1.

The pivot of the prophet's message is the announcement of the day of YHWH. Many scholars think that this latter notion is rooted in the ideology of YHWH's holy wars; according to this view, the ‘day’ is the great day when YHWH vanquishes his enemies. This hypothesis being admitted, we must insist that the Day is above all a theophany, a glorious and intruding manifestation of God and his uncanny army ( 2:1–11 ) which creates feelings of awe and fear. Joel has splendid and awful visions of this manifestation which strikes the people of God and all the nations. Moreover, the theophany has cosmic dimensions: it is ‘thick darkness’ and brings about the disappearance of the sun, the moon, and the stars ( 2:10; 3:3–4; cf. 3:16 ). On earth, it causes drought, famine, and sheer anguish. Similar descriptions of the ‘day’ are found in Am 5:18–20; Zeph 1:7–18; Isa 13:6–16; Ob 15–16; Mal 4:5 ).

2.

The effusion of divine energy (of the spirit of YHWH) ‘on all flesh’ is one of the phenomena which concur with the divine manifestation, and causes profound changes to the minds and behaviour of humans (see JOEL 3:1–2 ).

3.

But with Joel, the destructive power of the manifestation is merely the unavoidable background for renewed blessings. The theophany is an invitation to ‘return to God’, to pray and to implore God's mercy ( 1:13–14; 2:12–14 ). And God responds faithfully to faithful prayer. Thus Joel confirms the central structure of OT thought: the experiential movement which leads people from darkness to light, from suffering to joy, from death to life.

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