The tone of the book may indicate that Joel was a temple prophet.
(see 1.14–15 n.
). A terrible locust plague seems the end of the world, and the people need to muster all their religious resources to meet
and all elements of the population are summoned to lament and repent.
It is disputed whether the Heb. terms for locust, swarmer, hopper, and grub mean various kinds of locusts or successive stages of growth of one kind.
The description of the locusts' ravages is poetically powerful.
The gravity of the situation is indicated by the cessation of the regular sacrifices of the grain-offering and drink-offering.
The fall harvest was possibly the occasion for a religious festival expressing the people's joy.
The Pentateuch prescribes only one fast a year, the recurring Day of Atonement; see Lev. 23.27
. The day of the LORD
was the future day of final judgment on the nations, and the purification and restoration of Israel as described in ch. 3
. Some see the plague of locusts as part of that future judgment, which is conceived of as already beginning to arrive.
The trumpet (Heb. shophar) was blown on the most solemn occasions, especially at the new year.
The plague of locusts in its density darkens the sun and moon which are the traditional conditions accompanying the day of the LORD in apocalyptic literature. See 2.30–31; Isa. 13.10
The LORD suggests the proper response, a genuine repentance (of the heart) and not merely an outward one (garments). For he is gracious: a frequent liturgical formula (compare Pss. 86.15; 103.8; 145.8
). Repent: God frequently has a change of heart; see Gen. 6.6
. Blessing: usually a tangible evidence of divine favor.
The solemn ritual is proclaimed again. The altar stood in front of the temple. Byword: mockery (more generally, a sententious saying, like a proverb). If Israel is not spared, the Gentiles will infer that Israel's
God is ineffectual.
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