The book of Joel (Joel 1)

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Little is known of the author of this short book besides his name, and even that is somewhat in doubt. His given name, Joel, was common, but his father’s name may either have been Pethuel, as the Hebrew of Joel 1:1 has it, or Bethuel, as in the Greek Septuagint. This confusion serves to point out how little we really know of the man.

Joel did not date his book, so scholars are forced to look for textual hints as to the time of writing. Suggestions range from the ninth century B.C. to the late postexilic period. Although certainty is impossible, there are reasons for suggesting a seventh century B.C. date for this prophecy (see The date of the book of Joel, also under Joel 1). The book was written from Judah.

Joel warned the people of the southern kingdom of coming judgement and urged them to repent and turn to God.

Locust plagues, common in Old Testament days, still devastate parts of the world today and are remembered with horror by many Midwesterners in the United States from their experience in early to mid twentieth century.

This book was written in response to such a devastating blight (Joel 1). Its text, however, is more than a historical record or lamentation. Joel used the locust plague as a basis for developing a theology, employed by other minor prophets, of “the day of the Lord”, an event that would bring both judgement and salvation. The phrase as it appears in the book is versatile, applying alike to a locust plague (Joel 1), an invading army (Joel 2:1-10), the final judgement at the last judgement (Joel 3) and a salvation event – the outpouring of God’s Spirit (Joel 2:28).

Be aware as you engage with this prophet of the contrasts in his depictions of judgement and hope. Pay particular attention to the section titled “The Day of the Lord” (2:28-32).

Did you know that drunkenness is the only specific sin mentioned in the book of Joel (1:5)? Did you know that a call for national prayer and fasting signalled an extraordinary event (1:13-14)? Did you know that the “trumpet”, made from a ram’s horn, was used to signal of approaching danger (2:1)? Did you know that latticed windows with no glass would not have prevented the locusts from entering the house (2:9)?


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