Joel means "Jehovah is God". He wrote in Israel during the early days of King Joash (835-796)...who became king at age 6 or 7 (2 Kings 11:21) and was under the direction of the priests.
Time written & time covered in history:
He is considered by some to be one of the earliest prophets whose writings have survived and are included in the Scripture. He lived either in the time of Joash (about 830 B.C.), or Uzziah (about 750 B.C.). He was possibly a younger contemporary of Elijah and Elisha.
Joel used a contemporary event in his day to describe events that would take place in the future. Joel wrote after there was a severe drought and a plague of locusts...that he saw as the judgment of God.
But he looked beyond the locusts and saw another “army” – a literal army of Gentile nations attacking Jerusalem and the Jewish people (3:2). In other words, Joel used the immediate judgment of God (the locusts) as an illustration of the ultimate judgment, “the day of the Lord.”
Expository Outlines on the Old Testament, Warren Wiersbee, p. 305
A terrible plague of locusts (4 different names are used to indicate different specie…or, to indicate different stages of growth…there are over 90 varieties) had devastated Israel (1:4,12). Joel tells us that this was God’s judgment on them for sin (1:5). He calls them to repentance (1:14).
The central themes of Joel are:
(1) God’s judgment of sin
(2) The need for repentance (2:12)
(3) “the day of the Lord”…specifically mentioned 5 times (1:15; 2:1,11, 31; 3:14)…refers to God’s judgment. This is a two-fold description: (1) of Current Problems, God’s judgment, the correct response, and the outcome; and, (2) the Future Events concerning what will occur in the last days after the rapture and during the time of the Tribulation…when God will judge the Gentile nations…probably referring to:
- The invasion by armies from the geographical area of current Russia…led by Gog (Ezekiel 38-39)…locusts represent them (Revelation 9:1-11)
- The final invasion at the end of the Tribulation, led by Antichrist (Revelation 16:13-16; 19:11-21)
- Valley of Jehoshaphat (Valley of Megiddo, Kidron Valley)
- It is a description of Satan’s final attempt to destroy God and all that He has created…but ultimately the victory of God over Satan and the rulers of this world that are under his influence.
(4) The recognition of God (2:27; 3:17)
A Description of Current Problems Joel 1-2:27
Joel 1:1-12 The destruction of the land
Joel describes the total destruction of the land and its crops that has taken place as a result of a drought and a plague of locusts. It is the worst plague of locusts that anyone has ever heard of. In verses 8-12, he says that everything (all their crops) have dried up…and as a result, their joy has dried up.
Joel 1:13-14 The first call for repentance
Joel calls on the priests to lead the people in a time of mourning and fasting.
Joel 1:15-20 The devastation of the people
He again describes the destruction...it includes animals and crops. Because of the intense drought fire has destroyed much. Joel cries out to God for help (:19).
Joel 2:1-11 The coming judgment of God
Joel describes a future judgment of God, which is yet to come..."the day of the LORD"...and uses the current judgment to do so.
2:1-11 The locust army is regarded as a foretaste of an invading army in the day of the LORD; i.e., in the Tribulation period. The future reference may be to the demon-locusts described in Rev. 9:1-12 and/or the invasion of the king of the North (Ezek. 38:15; Dan. 11:40). Resembling the Garden of Eden before the invasion, the land of Palestine will be reduced to a wilderness afterward (v. 3). The same (or similar) disturbances described in verse 10 are predicted in Rev. 6:12-13; 8:12.
The Ryrie Study Bible, footnote on Joel 2:1-11, p. 1353
Joel 2:12-17 The second call for repentance
God calls for the people to repent of their sin. He is not looking for mere shallow, external actions…but true repentance that comes from the heart (:12-“with all your heart”, :13-“rend your heart”). Because God is “gracious and compassionate”, this could result in His “lovingkindness” (:13)…relenting of His judgment and giving a “blessing” instead (:14). He again calls for a fast (:15). Since Israel is the chosen people of God…it isn’t right for them to not know the presence of God in their midst (:17).
Joel 2:18-27 The promised deliverance
Joel now says that God would be “zealous” for them if they would repent…and He would have “pity” on them. He would destroy the army from the north that is about to destroy them (:20). God tells the people, “Do not fear…” (:21), but instead, “rejoice…be glad” (:23). He will replenish everything that has been destroyed. Then, they will worship the LORD as God, and no other (:27).
A Prediction of Future Events Joel 2:28-3:21
Joel 2:28-32 The Spirit will be poured out
- It shall come to pass afterward: After the restoration Joel spoke of previously in the chapter, there will come a time of ultimate restoration and blessing. This latter time will be marked by an outpouring of God's Spirit on all flesh - not only selected men at selected times for selected duties.
- The Old Testament has a rich record of the work of the Spirit, but He was not poured out on all flesh under the Old Covenant. Instead, certain men were filled with the Spirit at certain times and only for certain duties. It was rather selective:
- Joseph was filled with the Spirit of God (Genesis 41:38)
- The craftsmen who built the tabernacle were filled with the Spirit of God (Exodus 31:3)
- Joshua was filled with the Spirit of God (Numbers 27:18)
- The judge Othniel was filled with the Spirit of God (Judges 3:10)
- The judge Gideon was filled with the Spirit of God (Judges 6:34)
- The judge Jephthah was filled with the Spirit of God (Judges 11:29)
- The judge Samson was filled with the Spirit of God (Judges 13:5, 14:6, 14:19, 15:14)
- Saul was filled with the Spirit of God (1 Samuel 10:9-10)
- David was filled with the Spirit of God (1 Samuel 16:13)iii. This was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost when the disciples gathered in the upper room, waiting in Jerusalem for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that Jesus promised would come (Acts 1:4-5). When the outpouring of the Spirit came, the 120 followers of Jesus were all filled with the Spirit and began to praise God in other tongues. Jerusalem was crowded at that time, because of the feast of Pentecost - so a crowd quickly gathered because of the commotion. Those who heard the disciples praise God in these miraculous languages began to mock them, claiming they were drunk. Peter stood up and boldly set the record straight: the disciples were not drunk at all, but this was a fulfillment of Joel's great prophecy of the outpouring of the Spirit.v. Peter's sermon of the Day of Pentecost also shows us that there is never any disparity between the work of the Spirit and the work of the Word. When Peter was filled with the Spirit of God in the midst of miraculous signs and wonders as he had never experience before, what did he do? He said, "Let's open up our Bibles to the book of Joel." He had a Bible study, one that both taught the 120 disciples (they better understood their experience according to the Scriptures) and called the lost to salvation.b. And also on My menservants and on My maidservants: In this latter time, all the servants of the LORD will be filled with His Spirit in this unique and powerful way. Under the New Covenant, every believer can receive the full measure of the Spirit, and be used in a special and wonderful way.
- vi. We also notice that Peter's application was exactly the same as the application made by the Prophet Joel: repent. Joel said, "Now, therefore," says the LORD, "Turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning." So rend your heart, and not your garments; return to the LORD your God (Joel 2:12-13) Peter said, Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38)
- iv. At first, any Jew would scoff at the idea of 120 followers of a crucified man being filled with the Holy Spirit. Based on their understanding of the Old Testament they would think, "These 120 people are not kings or prophets or priests; God only pours out His Spirit on special people for special duties. These are common folk, and God doesn't pour out His Spirit on them." Peter uses the prophecy of Joel to show them that things are different now, just as God said they would be. Now, the Holy Spirit is poured out upon all who believe and receive, even the common folk. Now God offered a New Covenant relationship, and part of the New Covenant was the outpouring of the Spirit for all who receive in faith.
- ii. Here, Joel looks forward to the glorious New Covenant, when the Spirit of God would be poured out on all flesh. Why, even your sons and daughters, your old men, and your young men would be filled with the Spirit of God.
- Sometimes the common churchgoer simply wants a building to worship in, a nice service that isn't too offensive, and a good sermon - after that he thinks, leave me alone. That isn't New Covenant Christianity, which sees the work of the ministry as belonging to the people, not the "clergy."
- Some people have taken this idea and run too far with it saying, "Therefore we don't need ministers or clergy. We believe in the priesthood of all believers, so there is no room for offices of any kind in the church." This ignores the clear teaching of Scripture, which says that the work of the ministry belongs to all the people of God, but the work of equipping the saints belongs to God-appointed offices and ministries (Ephesians 4:7-16). It is because the ministry belongs to all Christians that God has appointed offices and ministries to equip every saint to fulfill their role. Acts 2:42-47 describes a wonderful fulfillment of this ideal.
- I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth: This time of great outpouring of the Spirit of God will culminate with cataclysmic signs in the heavens and the great and awesome day of the LORD.
- On the Day of Pentecost, the prophecy of Joel was fulfilled, but not consummated. Peter rightly saw that this was a remarkable outpouring of the Spirit of God, given freely upon all who believe and receive as was promised in the New Covenant (Ezekiel 11:19, 36:24-28). The prophecy of Joel was also especially appropriate, because the Day of Pentecost ushered in the last days - with history now moving along the edge of the consummation of all things, not rushing towards it as a distant point.
David Guzik :: Study Guide for Joel 2,
Joel 3:1-15 The enemy will be conquered
At the Second Coming of Christ (at the end of the Tribulation Period), Israel will be regathered to Palestine (:1, Matthew 24:31). At this same time, the Gentile nations will be judged for their treatment of Israel (:3-15, Matthew 25:40,45) in the valley of Jehoshaphat (:2,12, which means “Yahweh judges” and may refer to the Kidron Valley, which is to the east of Jerusalem).
Joel 3:16-17 The nation of Israel will be delivered
Joel 3:18 The land will be blessed
Joel 3:19-21 The Kingdom of Israel will be established forever
Prayer: Lord, You have already poured out Your Spirit on those who have accepted Jesus as their Savior. Now, I pray, help us to live in Your Spirit. It is not enough to just know that the Spirit is present in us…we must know how to release His power through us. Please, Holy Spirit, teach me how to submit my life to You. Do whatever is necessary so that You may flow through me, unhindered.