Book of Joel
The Book of Joel is part of the Hebrew Bible
Hebrew Bible
The Hebrew Bible is a term used by biblical scholars outside of Judaism to refer to the Tanakh , a canonical collection of Jewish texts, and the common textual antecedent of the several canonical editions of the Christian Old Testament...

. Joel is part of a group of twelve prophetic books known as the Minor Prophets or simply as The Twelve; the distinction 'minor' indicates the short length of the text in relation to the larger prophetic texts known as the "Major Prophets".


After a superscription ascribing the prophecy to Joel
Joel (prophet)
Joel was a prophet of ancient Israel, the second of the twelve minor prophets and the author of the Book of Joel. He is mentioned by name only once in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, in the introduction to his own brief book, as the son of Pethuel...

 (son of Pethuel), the book may be broken down into the following sections:
  • Lament over a great locust
    Locusts are the swarming phase of short-horned grasshoppers of the family Acrididae. These are species that can breed rapidly under suitable conditions and subsequently become gregarious and migratory...

     plague and a severe drought (1:1–2:17)
    • The effects of these events on agriculture, farmers, and on the supply of agricultural offerings for the Jerusalem temple, interspersed with a call to national lament. (1:1–20)
    • A more apocalyptic passage comparing the locusts to an army, and revealing that they are God’s army. (2:1–11)
    • A call to national repentance in the face of God’s judgment. (2:12–17)
  • Promise of future blessings (2:18–32)
    • Banishment of the locusts and restoration of agricultural productivity as a divine response to national penitence. (2:18–27)
    • Future prophetic gifts to all God’s people, and the safety of God’s people in the face of cosmic cataclysm. (2:28–32)
  • Coming judgment on God’s (Israel’s
    The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

    ) enemies and the vindication of Israel. (3:1–21)

Historical context

As there are no explicit references in the book to datable persons or events, scholars have assigned a wide range of dates to the book. The main positions are:
  • Ninth century BC, particularly in the reign of Joash
    Jehoash of Judah
    Jehoash or Joas , sometimes written Joash or Joás , was the eighth king of the southern Kingdom of Judah, and the sole surviving son of Ahaziah. His mother was Zibiah of Beersheba ....

     - a position especially popular among nineteenth-century scholars (making Joel one of the earliest writing prophets
    Literary prophets
    The literary prophets is a name given to the Biblical figures who wrote down their prophecies and personal histories, rather than histories of the Israelites. By extension, the term is also sometimes used to refer to their writings, which mostly appear in the form of biblical poetry...

  • c.630–587 BC, in the last decades of the kingdom of Judah (contemporary with Jeremiah
    Jeremiah Hebrew:יִרְמְיָה , Modern Hebrew:Yirməyāhū, IPA: jirməˈjaːhu, Tiberian:Yirmĭyahu, Greek:Ἰερεμίας), meaning "Yahweh exalts", or called the "Weeping prophet" was one of the main prophets of the Hebrew Bible...

    , Ezekiel
    Ezekiel , "God will strengthen" , is the central protagonist of the Book of Ezekiel in the Hebrew Bible. In Judaism, Christianity and Islam, Ezekiel is acknowledged as a Hebrew prophet...

    , Habakkuk
    Habakkuk , also spelled Habacuc, was a prophet in the Hebrew Bible. The etymology of the name of Habakkuk is not clear. The name is possibly related to the Akkadian khabbaququ, the name of a fragrant plant, or the Hebrew root חבק, meaning "embrace"...

  • c.520–500 BC, contemporary with the return of the exiles and the careers of Zechariah and Haggai
    Haggai was a Hebrew prophet during the building of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, and one of the twelve minor prophets in the Hebrew Bible and the author of the Book of Haggai. His name means "my holiday"...

  • The decades around 400 BC, during the Persian
    Achaemenid Empire
    The Achaemenid Empire , sometimes known as First Persian Empire and/or Persian Empire, was founded in the 6th century BCE by Cyrus the Great who overthrew the Median confederation...

     period (making him one of the latest writing prophets)

Evidence produced for these positions are allusions in the book to the wider world, similarities with other prophets, and linguistic details. Other commentators, such as John Calvin
John Calvin
John Calvin was an influential French theologian and pastor during the Protestant Reformation. He was a principal figure in the development of the system of Christian theology later called Calvinism. Originally trained as a humanist lawyer, he broke from the Roman Catholic Church around 1530...

, attach no great importance to the precise dating.

History of interpretation

The preservation of the book of Joel indicates that it was accorded special status by its contemporaries as “the word of the Lord” (1:1). Its history as part of the Jewish and Christian canons followed that of the entire scroll of the Minor Prophets.

The Masoretic text
Masoretic Text
The Masoretic Text is the authoritative Hebrew text of the Jewish Bible and is regarded as Judaism's official version of the Tanakh. While the Masoretic Text defines the books of the Jewish canon, it also defines the precise letter-text of these biblical books, with their vocalization and...

 places Joel between Hosea
Book of Hosea
The Book of Hosea is one of the books of the Hebrew Bible. It stands first in order among what are known as the twelve Minor Prophets.-Background and Content:...

 and Amos
Book of Amos
The Book of Amos is a prophetic book of the Hebrew Bible, one of the Twelve Minor Prophets. Amos, an older contemporary of Hosea and Isaiah, was active c. 750 BCE during the reign of Jeroboam II, making the Book of Amos the first biblical prophetic book written. Amos lived in the kingdom of Judah...

 (the order inherited by the Tanakh and Old Testament), while the Septuagint order is Hosea–Amos–Micah
Book of Micah
The Book of Micah is one of fifteen prophetic books in the Hebrew bible/Old Testament, and the sixth of the twelve minor prophets. It records the sayings of Mikayahu, meaning "Who is like Yahweh?", an 8th century prophet from the village of Moresheth in Judah...

Book of Obadiah
The canonical Book of Obadiah is an oracle concerning the divine judgment of Edom and the restoration of Israel. The text consists of a single chapter, divided into 21 verses, making it the shortest book in the Hebrew Bible....

Book of Jonah
The Book of Jonah is a book in the Hebrew Bible. It tells the story of a Hebrew prophet named Jonah ben Amittai who is sent by God to prophesy the destruction of Nineveh but tries to escape the divine mission...

. The Hebrew text of Joel seems to have suffered little from scribal transmission
Textual criticism
Textual criticism is a branch of literary criticism that is concerned with the identification and removal of transcription errors in the texts of manuscripts...

, but is at a few points supplemented by the Septuagint, Syriac
The Peshitta is the standard version of the Bible for churches in the Syriac tradition.The Old Testament of the Peshitta was translated into Syriac from the Hebrew, probably in the 2nd century AD...

, and Vulgate
The Vulgate is a late 4th-century Latin translation of the Bible. It was largely the work of St. Jerome, who was commissioned by Pope Damasus I in 382 to make a revision of the old Latin translations...

 versions, or by conjectural emendation.
While the book purports to describe a plague of locusts, some ancient Jewish opinion saw the locusts as allegorical
Allegory is a demonstrative form of representation explaining meaning other than the words that are spoken. Allegory communicates its message by means of symbolic figures, actions or symbolic representation...

 interpretations of Israel's enemies. This allegorical interpretation was applied to the church by many church fathers
Church Fathers
The Church Fathers, Early Church Fathers, Christian Fathers, or Fathers of the Church were early and influential theologians, eminent Christian teachers and great bishops. Their scholarly works were used as a precedent for centuries to come...

. Calvin took a literal interpretation of ch.1, but allegorical view of chapter 2, a position echoed by some modern interpreters. Most modern interpreters, however, see Joel speaking of a literal locust plague given a prophetic/ apocalyptic interpretation.

The traditional ascription of the whole book to the prophet Joel was challenged in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries by a theory of a three stage process of composition: 1:1–2:27 were from the hand of Joel, and dealt with a contemporary issue; 2:28–3:21 were ascribed to a continuator with an apocalyptic outlook. Mentions in the first half of the book to the day of the Lord were also ascribed to this continuator. 3:4–8 could be seen as even later. Details of exact ascriptions differed between scholars.

This splitting of the book’s composition began to be challenged in the mid-twentieth century, with scholars defending the unity of the book, the plausibility of the prophet combining a contemporary and apocalyptic outlook, and later additions by the prophet. The authenticity of 3:4–8 has presented more challenges, although a number of scholars still defend it.

Biblical quotes and allusions

There are many parallels of language between Joel and other Old Testament prophets. They may represent Joel’s literary use of other prophets, or vice versa.

In the New Testament
New Testament
The New Testament is the second major division of the Christian biblical canon, the first such division being the much longer Old Testament....

, his prophecy of the outpouring of God′s Holy Spirit upon all people was notably quoted by the apostle Peter in his Pentecost
Pentecost is a prominent feast in the calendar of Ancient Israel celebrating the giving of the Law on Sinai, and also later in the Christian liturgical year commemorating the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples of Christ after the Resurrection of Jesus...

 sermon .

The table below represents some of the more explicit quotes and allusions between specific passages in Joel and passages from the Old and New Testaments.
Joel Old Testament New Testament
1:6 & 2:2–10 Revelation
Book of Revelation
The Book of Revelation is the final book of the New Testament. The title came into usage from the first word of the book in Koine Greek: apokalupsis, meaning "unveiling" or "revelation"...

 9:3, 7–9
1:15 Isaiah
Book of Isaiah
The Book of Isaiah is the first of the Latter Prophets in the Hebrew Bible, preceding the books of Ezekiel, Jeremiah and the Book of the Twelve...

Ezekiel 30:2–3
2:1 Zephaniah
Book of Zephaniah
The superscription of the Book of Zephaniah attributes its authorship to “Zephaniah son of Cushi son of Gedaliah son of Amariah son of Hezekiah, in the days of King Josiah son of Amon of Judah” . All that is known of Zephaniah comes from the text. The superscription of the book is lengthier than...

2:11 Malachi
Book of Malachi
Malachi is a book of the Hebrew Bible, the last of the twelve minor prophets and the final book of the Neviim...

2:27 Isaiah 45:5
Ezekiel 36:11
2:28–32 Acts
Acts of the Apostles
The Acts of the Apostles , usually referred to simply as Acts, is the fifth book of the New Testament; Acts outlines the history of the Apostolic Age...

2:31 Malachi 4:5
2:32 Obadiah 17 Romans 10:13
3:10 Isaiah 2:4
Micah 4:3
3:16 Amos 1:2
3:17 Obadiah 17
3:18 Amos 9:13

Recent Works on Joel

See also works on the Minor Prophets as a whole.
  • Achtemeier, Elizabeth. Minor Prophets I. New International Biblical Commentary. (Hendrickson, 1999)
  • Ahlström, Gösta W. Joel and the Temple Cult of Jerusalem. Supplements to Vetus Testamentum 21. (Brill, 1971)
  • Allen, Leslie C. The Books of Joel, Obadiah, Jonah & Micah. New International Commentary on the Old Testament. (Eerdmans, 1976)
  • Anders, Max E. & Butler, Trent C. Hosea–Micah. Holman Old Testament Commentary. (B&H Publishing, 2005)
  • Baker, David W. Joel, Obadiah, Malachi. NIV Application Commentary. (Zondervan, 2006)
  • Barton, John. Joel & Obadiah: a Commentary. Old Testament Library. (Westminster John Knox, 2001)
  • Birch, Bruce C. Hosea, Joel & Amos. Westminster Bible Companion. (Westminster John Knox, 1997)
  • Busenitz, Irvin A. Commentary on Joel and Obadiah. Mentor Commentary. (Mentor, 2003)
  • Calvin, John. Joel, Amos, Obadiah. Calvin’s Bible Commentaries. (Forgotten Books, 2007)
  • Coggins, Richard. Joel and Amos. New Century Bible Commentary. (Sheffield Academic Press, 2000)
  • Crenshaw, James L. Joel: a New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. The Anchor Bible. (Yale University Press, 1995)
  • Finley, Thomas J. Joel, Amos, Obadiah: an Exegetical Commentary. (Biblical Studies Press, 2003)
  • Garrett, Duane A. Hosea, Joel. The New American Commentary. (B&H Publishing, 1997)
  • Hubbard, David Allen. Joel and Amos: an Introduction and Commentary. Tyndale Old Testament Commentary. (Inter-Varsity Press, 1990)
  • Limburg, James. Hosea–Micah. Interpretation – a Bible Commentary for Teaching & Preaching. (Westminster John Knox, 1988)
  • Mason, Rex. Zephaniah, Habakkuk, Joel. Old Testament Guides. (JSOT Press, 1994)
  • McQueen, Larry R.M. Joel and the Spirit: the Cry of a Prophetic Hermeneutic. (CTP, 2009)
  • Ogden, Graham S. & Deutsch, Richard R. A Promise of Hope–a Call to Obedience: a Commentary on the Books of Joel & Malachi. International Theological Commentary (Eerdmans/ Hansel, 1987)
  • Ogilvie, John Lloyd. Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah. Communicator's Commentary 20. (Word, 1990)
  • Price, Walter K. The Prophet Joel and the Day of the Lord. (Moody, 1976)
  • Prior, David. The Message of Joel, Micah, and Habakkuk : Listening to the Voice of God. The Bible Speaks Today. (Inter-Varsity Press, 1999)
  • Pohlig, James N. An Exegetical Summary of Joel. (SIL International, 2003)
  • Roberts, Matis (ed). Trei asar : The Twelve Prophets : a New Translation with a Commentary Anthologized from Talmudic, Midrashic, and Rabbinic Sources. Vol. 1: Hosea. Joel. Amos. Obadiah. (Mesorah, 1995)
  • Robertson, O. Palmer. Prophet of the Coming Day of the Lord : the Message of Joel. Welwyn Commentary. (Evangelical Press, 1995)
  • Simkins, Ronald. Yahweh's Activity in History and Nature in the Book of Joel. Ancient Near Eastern Texts & Studies 10 (E. Mellen Press, 1991)
  • Simundson, Daniel J. Hosea–Micah. Abingdon Old Testament Commentaries. (Abingdon, 2005)
  • Stuart, Douglas. Hosea–Jonah. Word Biblical Commentary 31. (Word, 1987)
  • Sweeney, Marvin A. The Twelve Prophets, Vol.1: Hosea–Jonah. Berit Olam – Studies in Hebrew Narrative & Poetry. (Liturgical Press, 2000)
  • Wolff, Hans Walter. A Commentary on the Books of the Prophets Joel & Amos. Hermeneia – a Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible. (Augsburg Fortress, 1977)

External links

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