Summary of Joel
Much of the book of Joel concerns a terrible locust plague that causes starvation for animals and humans. Joel takes this as a sign that people should lament and repentRepentance is a central biblical teaching. All people are sinful and God desires that all people repent of their sins. The Hebrew word for repent means to “turn away” from sin. The Greek word for repentance means to “change on’e mind,” more specifically, it means… More. God responds positively beginning in 2:18. After 2:29, the book moves from historical events to conjecture about the end-time (the Day of the LordThe Day of the Lord, in prophetic writing, is the day of judgment when God will intervene directly in world affairs. As described in Zephaniah, for instance, God will sweep everything away. In Matthew’s gospel God is described as gathering the elect on the day… More) when the world will be changed and when strange and frightening signs will appear (2:30-32). In the new age, all people will prophesy (2:28-29). This section of Joel is quoted in the account of the PentecostPentecost was originally a Jewish harvest or pilgrimage festival that fell on the fiftieth day after Passover. It was during this festival that the Holy Spirit visited Jesus’ followers in tongues of fire and caused them to speak in many languages, as reported in Acts… More experience in Acts 2:17-21.
If not for the use of Joel 2:28-29 by Acts, we probably would not pay much attention to Joel. But, as is true of other prophets, Joel does remind us of a number of important points. God is at work in the world, there are consequences to human behavior, lament and repentance are appropriate responses to disaster, and hope is always the last word. Joel also is important for giving us a glimpse of early end-time speculation that will be expanded further in other biblical books.
WHERE DO I FIND IT?
Joel is the twenty-ninth book of the Bible; it is the second of the twelve books of “minor prophets” (shorter prophets) that close the Old Testament. Joel lies between HoseaProphet to the northern kingdom who married a prostitute to show God’s relationship to a faithless Israel More and AmosProphet to the northern kingdom who condemned Israel’s oppression of the poor, calling for justice to “roll down like waters.” More, a placement that shows clearly that the order of the twelve prophets is not chronological.
WHO WROTE IT?
The only information that is known about Joel is that his father was named Pethuel (Joel 1:1), but we do not know who Pethuel is either. There are a dozen persons named Joel in the Old Testament, and none seems to be the one who is responsible for this book. His hometown is not identified, nor his occupation, nor who was ruling the country during his ministry. The first verse of the book does make clear that he is a prophet to whom the word of the Lord came.
WHEN WAS IT WRITTEN?
Joel probably lived during the Persian period of Old Testament history (539-331 B.C.E.) During that time, the Persians allowed some of the Jews to return to Jerusalem and the templeThe Jerusalem temple, unlike the tabernacle, was a permanent structure, although (like the tabernacle) it was a place of worship and religious activity. On one occasion Jesus felt such activity was unacceptable and, as reported in all four Gospels, drove from the temple those engaged… More was eventually rebuilt. Joel was familiar with the temple, so he must be dated after its restoration. He knows earlier prophets. No kings of JudahJudah was the name of Jacob’s fourth son and one of the 12 tribes. More are mentioned (there were none after the defeat by Babylon in 586 B.C.E.). All this points to a period between 400 and 350 B.C.E.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Joel calls the people to recognize a locust plague as a sign from God that they should repent, and then goes on to envision a final judgment when God will punish evil nations and vindicate Israel.
HOW DO I READ IT?
Since Joel is a short book, one should simply read it straight through, paying special attention to the transitions in 2:18 and 2:28. God responds favorably in 2:18 after laments and rituals of repentance. The move from historical events to end-time speculation begins in 2:28.