Joel 2


The prophet sounds the alarm of a dreadful calamity, the

description of which is most terribly worked up, 1-11.

Exhortation to repentance, fasting, and prayer, that the Divine

judgments may be averted, 12-17.

God will in due time take vengeance on all the enemies of pure

and undefiled religion, 18-20.

Great prosperity of the Jews subsequent to their return from

the Babylonish captivity, 21-27.

Joel then makes an elegant transition to the outpouring of the

Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost, 28-30;

for so these verses are explained by one of the twelve apostles

of the Lamb. See Ac 2:16-21.

Prophecy concerning the destruction of Jerusalem, which was

shortly to follow the opening of the Gospel dispensation, 31.

Promises of safety to the faithful and penitent; promises

afterwards remarkably fulfilled to the Christians in their

escape to Pella from the desolating sword of the Roman army,



Verse 1. Blow ye the trumpet in Zion] This verse also shows that

the temple was still standing. All assemblies of the people were

collected by the sound of the trumpet.

The day of the Lord cometh] This phrase generally means a day of

judgment or punishment.

Verse 2. A day of darkness, &c.] The depredations of the locusts

are described from the second to the eleventh verse, and their

destruction in the twentieth. Dr. Shaw, who saw locusts in Barbary

in 1724 and 1725, thus describes them:-

"I never observed the mantes, bald locusts, to be gregarious.

But the locusts, properly so called, which are so frequently

mentioned by sacred as well as profane writers, are sometimes so

beyond expression. Those which I saw in 1724 and 1725 were much

bigger than our common grasshopper; and had brown spotted wings,

with legs and bodies of a bright yellow. Their first appearance

was toward the latter end of March, the wind having been for some

time south. In the middle of April their numbers were so vastly

increased that, in the heat of the day, they formed themselves

into large and numerous swarms; flew in the air like a succession

of clouds; and, as the prophet Joel expresses it, (Joe 2:10) they

darkened the sun. When the wind blew briskly, so that these swarms

were crowded by others, or thrown one upon another, we had a

lively idea of that comparison of the psalmist, (Ps 109:23,) of

being 'tossed up and down as the locust.' In the month of May,

when the ovaries of those insects were ripe and turgid, each of

these swarms began gradually to disappear; and retired into the

Mettijiah, and other adjacent plains, where they deposited their

eggs. These were no sooner hatched in June, than each of these

broods collected itself into a compact body of a furlong or more

in square; and, marching immediately forward in the direction of

the sea, they let nothing escape them; eating up every thing that

was green and juicy, not only the lesser kinds of vegetables, but

the vine likewise; the fig tree, the pomegranate, the palm,

and the apple tree, even all the trees of the field, Joe 1:12; in

doing which they kept their ranks like men of war; climbing over,

as they advanced, every tree or wall that was in their way. Nay,

they entered into our very houses and bedchambers, like so many

thieves. The inhabitants, to stop their progress, made a variety

of pits and trenches all over their fields and gardens, which they

fined with water; or else they heaped up in them heath, stubble,

and such like combustible matter, which were severally set on fire

upon the approach of the locusts. But this was all to no purpose,

for the trenches were quickly filled up, and the fires

extinguished, by infinite swarms succeeding one another; while the

front was regardless of danger, and the rear pressed on so close,

that a retreat was altogether impossible. A day or two after one

of these broods was in motion, others were already hatched to

march and glean after them; gnawing off the very bark, and the

young branches, of such trees as had before escaped with the loss

only of their fruit and foliage. So justly have they been compared

by the prophet Joel (Joe 2:3) to

a great army; who further observes, that 'the land is as the

garden of Eden before them and behind them a desolate wilderness.'

"Having lived near a month in this manner (like a μυριοστομον

ξιφος, or sword with ten thousand edges, to which they have been

compared,) upon the ruin and destruction of every vegetable

substance which came in their way, they arrived at their full

growth, and threw old their nympha state by casting their outward

skin. To prepare themselves for this change, they clung by their

hinder feet to some bush, twig, or corner of a stone; and

immediately, by using an undulating motion, their heads would

first break out, and then the rest of their bodies. The whole

transformation was performed in seven or eight minutes, after

which they lay for a short time in a torpid and seemingly

languishing condition; but as soon ad the sun and air had hardened

their wings, by drying up the moisture which remained upon them,

after casting their sloughs, they reassumed their former voracity,

with an addition both of strength and agility. Yet they did not

continue long in this state before they were entirely dispersed,

as their parents were before, after they had laid their eggs; and

as the direction of the marches and flights of them both was

always to the northward, and not having strength, as they have

sometimes had, to reach the opposite shores of Italy, France, or

Spain, it is probable they perished in the sea, a grave which,

according to these people, they have in common with other winged

creatures."-Travels, 4to. edition pp. 187, 188.

A day of darkness] They sometimes obscure the sun. And Thuanus

observes of an immense crowd, that "they darkened the sun at


As the morning spread upon the mountains] They appeared

suddenly: as the sun, in rising behind the mountains, shoots his

rays over them. Adanson, in his voyage to Senegal, says:

"Suddenly there came over our heads a thick cloud which darkened

the air, and deprived us or the rays of the sun. We soon found

that it was owing to a cloud of locusts." Some clouds of them are

said to have darkened the sun for a mile, and others for the space

of twelve miles! See on Joe 2:10.

Verse 3. A fire devoureth before them] They consume like a

general conflagration. "They destroy the ground, not only for the

time, but burn trees for two years after." Sir Hans Sloane, Nat.

Hist. of Jamaica, vol. i., p. 29.

Behind them a flame burneth] "Wherever they feed," says Ludolf,

in his History of Ethiopia, "their leavings seem as if parched

with fire."

Nothing shall escape them.] "After devouring the herbage," says

Adanson, "with the fruits and leaves of trees, they attacked

even the buds and the very bark; they did not so much as spare the

reeds with which the huts were thatched."

Verse 4. The appearance of horses] The head of the locust is

remarkably like that of the horse; and so Ray on Insects describes

them: Caput oblongum, equi instar, prona spectans-"They have an

oblong head, like to that of a horse, bending downward." On this

account the Italians call them cavaletta, cavalry. Bochart

remarks, from an Arabic writer, that the locusts resemble ten

different kinds of animals: 1. The HORSE in its head. 2. The

ELEPHANT in its eyes. 3. The BULL in its neck. 4. The STAG in its

horns. 5. The LION in its breast. 6. The SCORPION in its belly.

7. The EAGLE in its wings. 8. The CAMEL in its thighs. 9. The

OSTRICH in its feet. And 10. The SERPENT in its tail. Vid.

Hieroz., vol. ii., p. 475, edit. 1692. But its most prominent

resemblance is to the horse, which the prophet mentions; and which

the Arabic writer puts in the first place, as being the chief.

Verse 5. Like the noise of chariots] Bochart also remarks:-"The

locusts fly with a great noise, so as to be heard six miles off,

and while they are eating the fruits of the earth, the sound of

them is like that of a flame driven by the wind."-Ibid., p. 478.

Verse 6. All faces shall gather blackness.] Universal mourning

shall take place, because they know that such a plague is


Verse 7. Like mighty men-like men of war (and as horsemen,

Joe 2:4)] The prophet does not say

they are such, but they resemble. They are locusts; but in their

operations they are LIKE the above.

They shall not break their ranks] See the account on Joe 2:2,

from Dr. Shaw.

Verse 8. They shall not be wounded.] They have hard scales like

a coat of mail; but the expression refers to the utter uselessness

of all means to prevent their depredations. See Shaw's account


Verse 10. The earth shall quake-the heavens shall tremble]

Poetical expressions, to point out universal consternation and

distress. The earth quaked to see itself deprived of its

verdure; the heavens trembled to find themselves deprived of

their light.

The sun and the moon shall be dark] Bochart relates that "their

multitude is sometimes so immense as to obscure the heavens for

the space of twelve miles!"-Ibid. p. 479.

Verse 11. The Lord shall utter his voice] Such a mighty force

seems as if summoned by the Almighty, and the noise they make in

coming announces their approach, while yet afar off.

Verse 12. Turn ye even to me] Three means of turning are

recommended: Fasting, weeping, mourning, i.e., continued sorrow.

Verse 13. Rend your heart] Let it not be merely a rending of

your garments, but let your hearts be truly contrite. Merely

external worship and hypocritical pretensions will only increase

the evil, and cause God to meet you with heavier judgments.

For he is gracious] Good and benevolent in his own nature.

Merciful] Pitying and forgiving, as the effect of goodness and


Slow to anger] He is not easily provoked to punish, because he

is gracious and merciful.

Of great kindness] Exuberant goodness to all them that return to


And repenteth him of the evil.] Is ever ready to change his

purpose to destroy, when he finds the culprit willing to be

saved. See Clarke on Ex 34:6; "Ex 34:7".

Verse 14. Who knoweth if he will return] He may yet interpose

and turn aside the calamity threatened, and so far preserve the

land from these ravagers, that there will be food for men and

cattle, and a sufficiency of offerings for the temple service.


Verse 15. Blow the trumpet] Let no time be lost, let the alarm

be sounded.

Verse 16. Gather the children] Let all share in the humiliation,

for all must feel the judgment, should it come. Let no state nor

condition among the people be exempted. The elders, the young

persons, the infants, the bridegroom, and the bride; let all

leave their houses, and go to the temple of God.

Verse 17. Let the priests-weep between the porch and the altar]

The altar of burnt-offerings stood before the porch of the temple,

2Ch 8:12, and between them there was an open space of

fifteen or twenty cubits. It was there that the priests

prostrated themselves on such occasions. It was into this place

that the priests brought the sacrifice or victim of atonement; and

where the high priest laid his hands on the head of the victim

confessing his sins.

Let them say] The following was the form to be used on this

occasion, "Spare thy people," &c. And if this be done with a rent

heart, &c., "then will the Lord be jealous for his land, and pity

his people," Joe 2:18. He will surely save, if ye seriously

return to and penitently seek him.

Verse 19. Yea, the Lord will answer] It is not a peradventure;

it will surely be done; if ye seek God as commanded, ye will find

him as promised.

I will send you corn and wine] He will either prevent the total

ravaging of the land, or so bless it with extraordinary vegetable

strength, that ye shall have plentiful crops.

Verse 20. I will remove far off from you the northern army]

"That is, the locusts; which might enter Judea by the north, as

Circassia and Mingrelia abound with them. Or the locusts may be

thus called, because they spread terror like the Assyrian armies,

which entered Judea by the north. See Zep 2:13."

-Newcome. Syria, which was northward of Judea, was infested with

them; and it must have been a northern wind that brought them into

Judea, in the time of Joel; as God promises to change this wind,

and carry them into a barren and desolate land, Arabia Deserta.

"And his face toward the east sea," i.e., the Dead Sea, which lay

eastward of Jerusalem. "His hinder part toward the utmost sea,"

the western sea, i.e., the Mediterranean.

And his stink shall come up] After having been drowned by

millions in the Mediterranean, the reflux of the tide has often

brought them back, and thrown there in heaps upon the shore, where

they putrefied in such a manner as to infect the air and produce

pestilence, by which both men and cattle have died in great

multitudes. See Bochart, Hieroz., vol. ii., p. 481.

Livy, and St. Augustine after him, relate that there was such an

immense crowd of locusts in Africa that, having eaten up every

green thing, a wind arose that carried them into the sea, where

they perished; but being cast upon the shore, they putrefied, and

bred such a pestilence, that eighty thousand men died of it in the

kingdom of Massinissa, and thirty thousand in the garrison of

Utica, in which only ten remained alive. See Calmet and Livy,

lib. xc., and August. De Civitate Dei, lib. iv., c. 31. We have

many testimonies of a similar kind.

Because he hath done great things] Or, ki, although he have

done great things, or, after he has done them, i.e., in almost

destroying the whole country.

Verse 21. Fear not-for the Lord will do great things.] The words

are repeated from the preceding verse; Jehovah will do great

things in driving them away, and supernaturally restoring the land

to fertility.

Verse 23. The former rain moderately] hammoreh

litsedakah, "the former rain in righteousness," that is, in due

time and in just proportion. This rain fell after autumn, the

other in spring. See Ho 6:3.

In the first month.] barishon, "as aforetime." So Bp.

Newcome. In the month Nisan.-Syriac.

Verse 25. I will restore-the years] It has already been remarked

that the locusts not only destroyed the produce of that year, but

so completely ate up all buds, and barked the trees, that they did

not recover for some years. Here God promises that he would either

prevent or remedy that evil; for he would restore the years that

the locusts, cankerworm, caterpillar, and palmerworm had eaten.

Verse 26. Praise the name of the Lord your God, that hath dealt

wondrously with you] In so destroying this formidable enemy; and

so miraculously restoring the land to fertility, after so great a


Verse 28. Shall come to pass afterward] acharey ken,

"after this;" the same, says Kimchi, as in the latter days, which

always refers to the days of the Messiah; and thus this prophecy

is to be interpreted: and we have the testimony of St. Peter,

Ac 2:17, that this prophecy relates to

that mighty effusion of the Holy Spirit which took place after

the day of pentecost. Nor is there any evidence that such an

effusion took place, nor such effects were produced, from the

days of this prophet till the day of pentecost. And the Spirit was

poured out then upon all flesh, that is, on people of different

countries, speaking the languages of almost all the people of the

earth; which intimated that these were the first-fruits of the

conversion of all the nations of the world. For there was scarcely

a tongue in the universe that was not to be found among the

Parthians, Medes, Elamites, Mesopotamians, Jews, Cappadocians,

people of Pontus, of Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, Libya,

Cyrene, Rome, Crete, and Arabia, who were residents at Jerusalem

at that time; and on whom this mighty gift was poured out, each

hearing and apprehending the truths of the Gospel, in his own

language wherein he was born. Thus we have Divine authority for

saying, that was the fulfilment of this prophecy by Joel. And

the mighty and rapid spread of the Gospel of Christ in the present

day, by means of the translation of the Scriptures into almost all

the regular languages of the world, and the sending missionaries

to all nations, who preach the Gospel in those tongues, are

farther proofs that the great promise is in the fullest progress

to be speedily fulfilled, even in the utmost sense of the words.

Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy] Shall

preach-exhort, pray, and instruct, so as to benefit the


Your old men shall dream dreams] Have my will represented to

them in this way, as the others by direct inspiration.

Your young men shall see visions] Have true representations of

Divine things made upon their imaginations by the power of God;

that they shall have as full an evidence of them as they could

have of any thing that came to the mind through the medium of the


Verse 29. And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids] The

gifts of teaching and instructing men shall not be restricted to

any one class or order of people. He shall call and qualify the

men of his own choice; and shall take such out of all ranks,

orders, degrees, and offices in society. And he will pour out his

Spirit upon them; and they shall be endowed with all the gifts and

graces necessary to convert sinners, and build up the Church of

Christ on its most holy faith.

And this God has done, and is still doing. He left the line of

Aaron, and took his apostles indiscriminately from any tribe. He

passed by the regular order of the priesthood, and the public

schools of the most celebrated doctors, and took his evangelists

from among fishermen, tent-makers, and even the Roman

tax-gatherers. And he, lastly, passed by the Jewish tribes, and

took the Gentile converts, and made them preachers of

righteousness to the inhabitants of the whole earth. The same

practice he continues to the present day; yet he did not then pass

by a man brought up at the feet of Gamaliel, no more than he would

now a man brought up in a celebrated seminary of learning. He is

ever free to use his own gifts, in his own way; and when learning

is sanctified, by being devoted to the service of God, and the

possessor is humble and pious, and has those natural gifts

necessary for a public teacher, perhaps we might safely say, God

would in many cases prefer such: but he will have others, as

intimated in the prophecy, that we may see the conversion of men

is not by human might, nor power, but by the Spirit of the Lord of

hosts. The learned man can do nothing without his Spirit; the

unlearned must have his gifts and graces, without which both

their labours would be unprofitable; and thus the excellency of

the power is of God, and no flesh can glory in his presence. See

my sermon on this passage.

Verse 30. Wonders in the heavens and in the earth] This refers

to those dreadful sights, dreadful portents, and destructive

commotion, by which the Jewish polity was finally overthrown, and

the Christian religion established in the Roman empire. See how

our Lord applies this prophecy, Mt 24:29, and the parallel texts.

Verse 31. The sun shall be turned into darkness] The Jewish

polity, civil and ecclesiastical, shall be entirely destroyed.

Before the great and the terrible day of the Lord come.] In the

taking and sacking of Jerusalem, and burning of the temple, by the

Romans, under Titus, the son of Vespasian. This was, perhaps, the

greatest and most terrible day of God's vengeance ever shown to

the world, or that ever will be shown, till the great day of the

general judgment. For a full view of this subject, I wish to refer

the reader to the notes on Mt 24:1-51.

Verse 32. Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord]

col asher yikra beshem Yehovah, "All who

shall invoke in the name of Jehovah." That CHRIST is the Jehovah

here mentioned appears plain from Ro 10:13-15, where the reader

had better consult the notes. "This refers," says Bp. Newcome, "to

the safety of the Christians during the Jewish and the Roman war."

It may: but it has a much more extensive meaning, as the use of it

by St. Paul, as above, evidently shows. Every man who invokes

Jehovah for mercy and salvation by or in the name, JESUS-that

very name given under heaven among men for this purpose-shall be

saved. Nor is there salvation in any other; and those who reject

him had better lay these things to heart before it be too late.

For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem] Our blessed Lord first began

to preach the Gospel in Mount Zion, in the temple, and throughout

Jerusalem. There he formed his Church, and thence he sent his

apostles and evangelists to every part of the globe: "Go ye into

all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature." Of the

Jews there was but a remnant, a very small number, that received

the doctrine of the Gospel, here termed the remnant that the Lord

should call; kore, whom he calleth. Many were called who would

not obey: but those who obeyed the call were saved; and still he

delivers those who call upon him; and he is still calling on men

to come to him that they may be saved.

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