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Literature / Book of Joel

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One of the books of the Minor Prophets that make up the Old Testament. In this book, the prophet Joel makes an analogy likening a plague of locusts that have struck the kingdom of God to an invading army coming upon the land, calling on the land to repent. In Protestant versions of the Bible, this book is three chapters long, while in Jewish and certain Catholic editions it is four chapters long, with the last few verses of chapter 2 split apart into another chapter.

Structure of the book:

  • The locust plague (Joel chapter 1)
  • An invading northern army (Joel 2:1-11)
  • Repentance and renewal (Joel 2:12-19)
  • Northern army destroyed (Joel 2:20)
  • Physical restoration of the land (Joel 2:21-27)
  • Spiritual revival of the people (Joel 2:28-32)
  • Vengeance on the nations (Joel chapter 3)

This book provides examples of:

  • The Armies of Heaven: Implied in Joel 3:11:
    Come quickly, all you nations from every side, and assemble there. Bring down your warriors, O LORD! (NIV 1984 edition)
  • The Day of Reckoning: Joel 3:1-16 is this in a nutshell, with God promising judgment unto the nations for the sake of His people Israel.
  • Doomed Hometown: For those living in Edom and Egypt at the time God will restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, He promises in Joel 3:19 that those countries will be deserted desolations.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Joel 2:28-32 is interpreted by Christians as God's promise to pour out His Holy Spirit upon all flesh and to bring them to salvation through Jesus Christ. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit was fulfilled at the day of Pentecost in the Book of Acts, while Pentecostal and Charismatic believers believe there will be a second outpouring, the "latter rain", that will happen prior to the Lord's Second Coming.
    • Joel 3:1-16 foretells God's coming judgment to the nations, similar to how the nations were gathered at Armageddon in the Book of Revelation, complete with imagery of the winepress of God's wrath being trampled.
  • Good Is Not Soft: Given that the prophet calls the army of locusts "God's army", it is apparent is God is using the locusts against His own people to bring them to a place of humility and repentance.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Joel calls for this to the people of Israel in Joel 2:12-14:
    "Yet even now"—says the LORD—
    "Turn back to Me with all your hearts,
    and with fasting, weeping, and lamenting."
    Rend your hearts
    rather than your garments,
    and turn back to the LORD your God.
    Who knows but He may turn and relent,
    and leave a blessing behind
    for meal offering and drink offering
    to the LORD your God?
  • Hookers and Blow: Mentioned in God's judgment against the nations in Joel 3:1-3.
    At that time I, the Lord, will make Judah and Jerusalem prosperous again. Then in Judgment Valley I will bring together the nations that scattered my people Israel everywhere in the world, and I will bring charges against those nations. They divided up my land and gambled to see who would get my people; they sold boys and girls to pay for prostitutes and wine. (Contemporary English Version)
  • Meaningful Name: The Valley of Jehoshaphat in Joel 3:2, with Jehoshaphat meaning "Yawheh has judged". It's pretty telling that this is the valley God will bring the world into to judge them for their actions against His people.
  • Miles Gloriosus: Joel 3:10 has God telling the nations, "Let the weak say, 'I am strong'," as a boast to stir up the nations to come up against Him and His people to fight. Sadly, this gets misinterpreted by Christian worship song writers as an encouraging thing that Christians should say about themselves. (They most likely are mixing this up with what Paul the apostle says of himself with God giving him the strength to endure all things in 2nd Corinthians 12:10: "For when I am weak, then I am strong.")
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: For "Tyre, Sidon, and all the coasts of Philistia" that would sell God's people so as to take them far from their borders — to supposedly "render a recompense" unto God for Him kicking them out of the land that He gave to the Israelites — God promises that He will pay them back by having them be sold by the people of Judea to the Sabeans, "to a nation far off", as mentioned in Joel 3:4-8.
  • The Swarm: Chapters 1 and 2 have interestingly detailed descriptions of the swarm of locusts that are coming to invade Judah.
    What the fledging locust left,
    the adult locust has eaten;
    what the adult locust left,
    the larval locust has eaten;
    what the larval locust left,
    the hopper locust has eaten. (Joel 1:4, Modern English Version)
  • Total Eclipse of the Plot:
    • From Joel 2:10, regarding the locust invasion:
    Before them the earth shakes,
    the heavens tremble,
    the sun and moon are darkened,
    and the stars no longer shine. (NIV 2011 edition)
    • Joel also prophesies that "the sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes," speaking of a simultaneous solar and lunar eclipse happening.
  • Where Is Your X Now?: In Joel 2:17:
    Between the portico and the altar,
    let the priests, the LORD’s ministers, weep and say:
    “Oh, spare Your people, LORD!
    let not Your possession become a mockery,
    to be taunted by nations!
    Let not the peoples say,
    ‘Where is their God?’ ”