Joe 1:1-20. The Desolate Aspect of the Country through the Plague of Locusts; the People Admonished to Offer Solemn Prayers in the Temple; for This Calamity Is the Earnest of a Still Heavier One.
1. Joel -- meaning, |Jehovah is God.|
son of Pethuel -- to distinguish Joel the prophet from others of the name. Persons of eminence also were noted by adding the father's name.
2, 3. A spirited introduction calling attention.
old men -- the best judges in question concerning the past (De 32:7; Job 32:7).
Hath this been, &c. -- that is, Hath any so grievous a calamity as this ever been before? No such plague of locusts had been since the ones in Egypt. Ex 10:14 is not at variance with this verse, which refers to Judea, in which Joel says there had been no such devastation before.
3. Tell ye your children -- in order that they may be admonished by the severity of the punishment to fear God (Ps 78:6-8; compare Ex 13:8; Jos 4:7).
4. This verse states the subject on which he afterwards expands. Four species or stages of locusts, rather than four different insects, are meant (compare Le 11:22). Literally, (1) the gnawing locust; (2) the swarming locust; (3) the licking locust; (4) the consuming locust; forming a climax to the most destructive kind. The last is often three inches long, and the two antennæ, each an inch long. The two hinder of its six feet are larger than the rest, adapting it for leaping. The first |kind| is that of the locust, having just emerged from the egg in spring, and without wings. The second is when at the end of spring, still in their first skin, the locusts put forth little ones without legs or wings. The third, when after their third casting of the old skin, they get small wings, which enable them to leap the better, but not to fly. Being unable to go away till their wings are matured, they devour all before them, grass, shrubs, and bark of trees: translated |rough caterpillars| (Jer 51:27). The fourth kind, the matured winged locusts (see on Na 3:16). In Joe 2:25 they are enumerated in the reverse order, where the restoration of the devastations caused by them is promised. The Hebrews make the first species refer to Assyria and Babylon; the second species, to Medo-Persia; the third, to Greco-Macedonia and Antiochus Epiphanes; the fourth, to the Romans. Though the primary reference be to literal locusts, the Holy Spirit doubtless had in view the successive empires which assailed Judea, each worse than its predecessor, Rome being the climax.
5. Awake -- out of your ordinary state of drunken stupor, to realize the cutting off from you of your favorite drink. Even the drunkards (from a Hebrew root, |any strong drink|) shall be forced to |howl,| though usually laughing in the midst of the greatest national calamities, so palpably and universally shall the calamity affect all.
wine ... new wine -- |New| or |fresh wine,| in Hebrew, is the unfermented, and therefore unintoxicating, sweet juice extracted by pressure from grapes or other fruit, as pomegranates (So 8:2). |Wine| is the produce of the grape alone, and is intoxicating (see on Joe 1:10).
6. nation -- applied to the locusts, rather than |people| (Pr 30:25, 26), to mark not only their numbers, but also their savage hostility; and also to prepare the mind of the hearer for the transition to the figurative locusts in the second chapter, namely, the |nation| or Gentile foe coming against Judea (compare Joe 2:2).
my land -- that is, Jehovah's; which never would have been so devastated were I not pleased to inflict punishment (Joe 2:18; Isa 14:25; Jer 16:18; Eze 36:5; 38:16).
strong -- as irresistibly sweeping away before its compact body the fruits of man's industry.
without number -- so Jud 6:5; 7:12, |like grasshoppers (or |locusts|) for multitude| (Jer 46:23; Na 3:15).
teeth ... lion -- that is, the locusts are as destructive as a lion; there is no vegetation that can resist their bite (compare Re 9:8). Pliny says |they gnaw even the doors of houses.|
7. barked -- Bochart, with the Septuagint and Syriac, translates, from an Arabic root, |hath broken,| namely, the topmost shoots, which locusts most feed on. Calvin supports English Version.
my vine ... my fig tree -- being in |My land,| that is, Jehovah's (Joe 1:6). As to the vine-abounding nature of ancient Palestine, see Nu 13:23, 24.
cast it away -- down to the ground.
branches ... white -- both from the bark being stripped off (Ge 30:37), and from the branches drying up through the trunk, both bark and wood being eaten up below by the locusts.
8. Lament -- O |my land| (Joe 1:6; Isa 24:4).
virgin ... for the husband -- A virgin betrothed was regarded as married (De 22:23; Mt 1:19). The Hebrew for |husband| is |lord| or |possessor,| the husband being considered the master of the wife in the East.
of her youth -- when the affections are strongest and when sorrow at bereavement is consequently keenest. Suggesting the thought of what Zion's grief ought to be for her separation from Jehovah, the betrothed husband of her early days (Jer 2:2; Eze 16:8; Ho 2:7; compare Pr 2:17; Jer 3:4).
9. The greatest sorrow to the mind of a religious Jew, and what ought to impress the whole nation with a sense of God's displeasure, is the cessation of the usual temple-worship.
meat offering -- Hebrew, mincha; |meat| not in the English sense |flesh,| but the unbloody offering made of flour, oil, and frankincense. As it and the drink offering or libation poured out accompanied every sacrificial flesh offering, the latter is included, though not specified, as being also |cut off,| owing to there being no food left for man or beast.
priests ... mourn -- not for their own loss of sacrificial perquisites (Nu 18:8-15), but because they can no longer offer the appointed offerings to Jehovah, to whom they minister.
10. field ... land -- differing in that |field| means the open, unenclosed country; |land,| the rich red soil (from a root |to be red|) fit for cultivation. Thus, |a man of the field,| in Hebrew, is a |hunter|; a |man of the ground| or |land,| an |agriculturist| (Ge 25:27). |Field| and |land| are here personified.
new wine -- from a Hebrew root implying that it takes possession of the brain, so that a man is not master of himself. So the Arabic term is from a root |to hold captive.| It is already fermented, and so intoxicating, unlike the sweet fresh wine, in Joe 1:5, called also |new wine,| though a different Hebrew word. It and |the oil| stand for the vine and the olive tree, from which the |wine| and |oil| are obtained (Joe 1:12).
dried up -- not |ashamed,| as Margin, as is proved by the parallelism to |languisheth,| that is, droopeth.
11. Be ... ashamed -- that is, Ye shall have the shame of disappointment on account of the failure of |the wheat| and |barley ... harvest.|
howl ... vine dressers -- The semicolon should follow, as it is the |husbandmen| who are to be |ashamed ... for the wheat.| The reason for the |vine dressers| being called to |howl| does not come till Joe 1:12, |The vine is dried up.|
12. pomegranate -- a tree straight in the stem growing twenty feet high; the fruit is of the size of an orange, with blood-red colored pulp.
palm tree -- The dates of Palestine were famous. The palm is the symbol of Judea on coins under the Roman emperor Vespasian. It often grows a hundred feet high.
apple tree -- The Hebrew is generic, including the orange, lemon, and pear tree.
joy is withered away -- such as is felt in the harvest and the vintage seasons (Ps 4:7; Isa 9:3).
13. Gird yourselves -- namely, with sackcloth; as in Isa 32:11, the ellipsis is supplied (compare Jer 4:8).
lament, ye priests -- as it is your duty to set the example to others; also as the guilt was greater, and a greater scandal was occasioned, by your sin to the cause of God.
come -- the Septuagint, |enter| the house of God (compare Joe 1:14).
lie all night in sackcloth -- so Ahab (1Ki 21:27).
ministers of my God -- (1Co 9:13). Joel claims authority for his doctrine; it is in God's name and by His mission I speak to you.
14. Sanctify ... a fast -- Appoint a solemn fast.
solemn assembly -- literally, a |day of restraint| or cessation from work, so that all might give themselves to supplication (Joe 2:15, 16; 1Sa 7:5, 6; 2Ch 20:3-13).
elders -- The contrast to |children| (Joe 2:16) requires age to be intended, though probably elders in office are included. Being the people's leaders in guilt, they ought to be their leaders also in repentance.
15. day of the Lord -- (Joe 2:1, 11); that is, the day of His anger (Isa 13:9; Ob 15; Zep 1:7, 15). It will be a foretaste of the coming day of the Lord as Judge of all men, whence it receives the same name. Here the transition begins from the plague of locusts to the worse calamities (Joe 2:1-11) from invading armies about to come on Judea, of which the locusts were the prelude.
16. Compare Joe 1:9, and latter part of Joe 1:12.
joy -- which prevailed at the annual feasts, as also in the ordinary sacrificial offerings, of which the offerers ate before the Lord with gladness and thanksgivings (De 12:6, 7, 12; 16:11, 14, 15).
17. is rotten -- |is dried up,| |vanishes away,| from an Arabic root [Maurer]. |Seed,| literally, |grains.| The drought causes the seeds to lose all their vitality and moisture.
garners -- granaries; generally underground, and divided into separate receptacles for the different kinds of grain.
18. cattle ... perplexed -- implying the restless gestures of the dumb beasts in their inability to find food. There is a tacit contrast between the sense of the brute creation and the insensibility of the people.
yea, the ... sheep -- Even the sheep, which are content with less rich pasturage, cannot find food.
are made desolate -- literally, |suffer punishment.| The innocent brute shares the |punishment| of guilty man (Ex 12:29; Jon 3:7; 4:11).
19. to thee will I cry -- Joel here interposes, As this people is insensible to shame or fear and will not hear, I will leave them and address myself directly to Thee (compare Isa 15:5; Jer 23:9).
fire -- that is, the parching heat.
pastures -- |grassy places|; from a Hebrew root |to be pleasant.| Such places would be selected for |habitations| (Margin). But the English Version rendering is better than Margin.
20. beasts ... cry ... unto thee -- that is, look up to heaven with heads lifted up, as if their only expectation was from God (Job 38:41; Ps 104:21; 145:15; 147:9; compare Ps 42:1). They tacitly reprove the deadness of the Jews for not even now invoking God.