Joel 1

New International Version

1:1 The word of the LORD that came [cf. Jer. 15:16; Ezek. 3:1-3] to Joel [name signifies “Yahweh is God”] son of Pethuel [names means “vision of God” or “youth of God”].

1:2 Hear this, you elders [the leaders of the nation]; listen, all who live in the land. Has anything like this [the devastating plague; possibly one of the curses of the covenant (Deut. 28:38-42)] ever happened in your days or in the days of your ancestors?

1:3 Tell it [the entire prophecy of the book; the message of God’s acts within the history of the nation, in this case the locust plague; the present generation had a responsibility to consider why God had sent such judgment and then pass the lessons on to the succeeding generations] to your children, and let your children tell it to their children, and their children to the next generation [the purpose of telling is so that what is told serves as a deterrent to sin].

1:4 [God is sovereign over nature itself and can use it for His divine purposes; here Joel described one swarm after another] What the locust swarm [represent God’s judgment upon the people for their sin; see Deut. 28:15-68 re: covenant curses and Deut. 28:38-42 re: locust plague (one of the curses that would come if the people abandoned God); not every natural disaster should be seen as a judgment by God (cf. Lk. 13:1-5)] has left the great locusts have eaten; what the great locusts have left the young locusts have eaten; what the young locusts have left other locusts have eaten.

1:5 [Joel saw the locust plague as a “wake-up call” to an apostate people] Wake up, you drunkards [these will be the first to notice the lack of wine because the locusts devoured the grape vines], and weep! Wail, all you drinkers of wine; wail because of the new wine, for it has been snatched from your lips.

1:6 A nation [a locust horde] has invaded my land, a mighty army without number; it has the teeth of a lion, the fangs of a lioness.

1:7 It has laid waste my [God is the owner, Israel is the steward] vines and ruined my fig trees. It has stripped off their bark and thrown it away, leaving their branches white.

1:8 Mourn like a virgin [Jerusalem personified as a betrothed virgin] in sackcloth grieving for the betrothed of her youth.

1:9 Grain offerings [an offering from the harvest of the land] and drink offerings are cut off [unavailable because of the plague of locusts had eaten crops and vineyards] from the house of the LORD. The priests are in mourning [because there is nothing to offer the Lord], those who minister before the LORD.

1:10 The fields are ruined [because of the locusts], the ground is dried up [because of a drought]; the grain is destroyed [nothing to eat; no seed for replanting], the new wine is dried up, the olive oil fails.

1:11 Despair [the people could not experience the joy that usually accompanied the harvest; see Deut. 12:12,18; 14:26; 26:11; 28:47], you farmers, wail, you vine growers; grieve for the wheat and the barley, because the harvest of the field is destroyed.

1:12 The vine is dried up and the fig tree is withered; the pomegranate [grown in the Jordan Valley], the palm and the apple tree— all the trees of the field—are dried up. Surely the people’s joy is withered away [because there is nothing left to harvest or to eat].

1:13 Put on sackcloth [a sign of mourning and penitence (cf. Joel 1:8; 1 Kings 21:27; Neh. 9:1-2], you priests [responsible for teaching the people to observe the Law, passing down traditions from generation to generation, and sharing the stories of God’s interaction with the nation], and mourn; wail, you who minister before the altar [the priests served as mediators between the people and God; cf. Lev. 10:10-11]. [Joel called for two responses on the part of the priests…] [1] Come, spend the night in sackcloth, you who minister before my God; for the grain offerings and drink offerings are withheld from the house of your God.

1:14 [2] Declare a holy fast [generally observed when the nation was facing some calamity]; call a sacred assembly. Summon the elders and all who live in the land [possibly a small postexilic population that could fit in the temple] to the house of the LORD your God, and cry out to the LORD.

1:15 Alas for that day! For the day of the LORD is near; it will come like destruction from the Almighty.

1:16 Has not the food been cut off before our very eyes—joy and gladness from the house of our God?

1:17 The seeds are shriveled [the seeds do not germinate] beneath the clods. The storehouses are in ruins, the granaries have been broken down, for the grain has dried up.

1:18 How the cattle moan! The herds mill about because they have no pasture; even the flocks of sheep are suffering.

1:19 To you, LORD, I call [cf. Ps. 42:2], for fire has devoured the pastures in the wilderness and flames have burned up all the trees of the field.

1:20 Even the wild animals pant for you [ironically the people did not pant or long for God]; the streams of water have dried up and fire has devoured the pastures in the wilderness.

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