Joel Bible Walk
Theme: Day of the Lord
- The Day of the Lord is Joel’s theme. The Lord brought an overwhelming locust invasion to get Israel’s attention so that they might repent and return to Him. This historical Day of the Lord then becomes the basis for Joel’s messages about the prophetic or future day of the Lord that will overwhelm Israel, her enemies, and the world. The prophetic Day of the Lord will happen at the time around Jesus’ return to earth.
- Joel 1:15, Alas for the day! For the day of the LORD is near, And it will come as destruction from the Almighty.
- Joel 2:1 Blow a trumpet in Zion, And sound an alarm on My holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, For the day of the LORD is coming; Surely it is near,
- Joel 2:11 And the LORD utters His voice before His army; Surely His camp is very great, For strong is he who carries out His word. The day of the LORD is indeed great and very awesome, And who can endure it?
- Joel 2:31 "The sun will be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes.
- Joel 3:14 Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision.
- The prophet Joel is the author of this book (Joel 1:1). Some suggest that he might be a priest because he speaks to the priests in three passages (1:9, 13; 2:17), but that seems questionable. His name, יוֹאֵל yoel, means “Yahweh is God.” His father’s name is Pethuel (1:1). There are eleven other Joel’s in the Bible. Otherwise nothing is known about him.
- He is a prophet to Judah. Notice “to the house of he Lord your God,” (1:14), “Zion” (2:1, 15, 23, 32; 3:16, 17, 21), “Jerusalem” (2:31; 3:1, 6, 16, 17, 20), “Judah” (3:1, 6, 8, 18, 19, 20), “house of the Lord” (1:9, 14; 3:18), and “house of your God” (1:13, 16). Joel then ministered at the same time as Elisha.
- There are no date markers in Joel’s book, but content and context of the book best fits the pre-exile ninth century BC (around 830-835 BC), early in Joash’s reign. No king is mentioned.
- Though no king is mentioned, exhortations are given to the priesthood. In 841 BC Jehu killed King Ahaziah. Ahaziah’s mother, Athaliah was the daughter of King Ahab of Israel. She was not of David’s line and so not a legal ruler. She tried to eliminate all the legal heirs to the throne in Judah. One of Ahaziah’s sons, Joash (grandson of Athaliah), was rescued by the priest Jehoiada, and hidden for six years in the temple. When Joash was seven years old Jehoiada, the priest, overthrew Athaliah (835 BC). Joash became king and Jehoiada was his tutor. Johoiada tried to remove Baal worship and restore righteousness to the kingdom. When he died he was honored by being buried with the kings in the city of David (2 Chronicles 24:16). See 2 Kings 9-12 and 2 Chronicles 22-24.
- The enemies mentioned are the Tyre and Sidon (Phoenicians), Philistines, Egyptians, and Edomites (3:4, 19). These were the pre-exilic enemies of Israel.
- The exilic enemies of Israel and Judah (Assyria and Babylon) are not mentioned, nor is Persian mentioned. Furthermore, no post-exilic people or events are mentioned.
- Joel is placed second in the Hebrew list of short prophecies known as the twelve (Minor Prophets). This list generally follows a chronology of earliest to latest.
- The judgments of the locust day of the Lord and the prophetic day of the Lord, 1:1-2:2:17.
- The deliverance and restoration from the locust day of the Lord and from the prophetic day of the Lord, 2:18-3:21.
- Joel 1, The locust invasion day of the Lord
- Joel 2, The prophetic day of the Lord is coming
- Joel 3, The Lord will restore the fortunes of Judah
Trace the Theme
- The locust invasion day of the Lord. The Lord speaks through Joel (1:1) and calls to the leaders of Israel (Elders) and citizens (all inhabitants of the land) in verse 2. A horrendous locust storm has invaded and destroyed the vegetation of the land of Judah. Nothing like this had ever happened before in the history of Israel (1:3-12). Not only have the crops been destroyed, but the spirit of the people has been attacked (1:12). The temple offerings cannot even be offered due to the lack of grain and wine (1:13). Joel tells the priest to gather the elders and citizens to the house of the Lord to cry out to the Lord for help (1:14). He then says that the day of the Lord is near and will come (1:15), then continues to describe the present day disaster in 16-20. Note everything that has been cut off: food, gladness and joy, seeds and grains (1:16-17). The cattle and sheep suffer because there is no pasture food and no water (1:18-20). Apparently Joel is saying that the destruction from the locust day of the Lord is like the future or prophetic day of the Lord.
- The prophetic day of the Lord is coming. After announcing a future day of the Lord in 1:15 followed by the disasters of the present destruction, Joel in 2:1 sounds a warning about the day of the Lord that is coming and is near. Verses 2-11 describe God’s present locust judgment: darkness and gloom (2), desolate wilderness behind them (3), like horses (4), they climb the wall like soldiers (7), before them the earth quakes (10), the day of the Lord is indeed great and awesome (11). With verse 12 the Lord exhorts Israel to return to him. This continues through verse 17. Beginning with 2:18 and going through 2:27 the Lord, through Joel, promises Israel that he will replace the devastation with blessing. Woven within this promise the Lord seems to extend promises about blessing to include a distant and even better time (19, 20, 26, 27). This time is the future kingdom blessings that Messiah will bring. Joel 2:28 builds on this transition from the locust day of the Lord and now promises a future day of the Lord that includes the ministry of the Holy Spirit to all mankind— including, especially, the remnant of Israel (29). During this time the Lord will show his great power and sovereignty by miraculous changes in the sky and on earth, and these changes lead into the prophetic day of the Lord in which the Lord will judge the earth and its people (30-31). Anyone who accepts Messiah may call on him for physical deliverance (32).
- The Lord will restore the fortunes of Judah. In this chapter the Lord promises that he will restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem (3:1). Note “in those days” and “at that time.” The context goes back to the last part of chapter 2, the great and awesome day of the Lord (2:31). The Lord will gather all the nations (3:2) to the valley of Jehoshaphat (3:2) and will judge them for their vicious treatment of Israel (3:2-6). Tyre, Sidon, and Philistia (3:4) were nations of Joel’s time that pillaged Israel (3:4-6). This occurred in past history. In verses 7-8 the Lord promises what he will do in the near future to Tyre, Sidon, and Philistia. This may also stretch out into the distant future tribulation period. In 345 BC, Antiochus III enslaved the people of Sidon. In 332 BC Alexander enslaved the people of Tyre and Gaza. Jews may have had a part in that. The Sabeans (3:8) lived in the ranges of the Arabian Peninsula. The Queen of Sheba came from there to see Solomon (2 Chronicles 9). Israel will apparently sell the Sabeans to the far northwest. Joel 3:9 then instructs the nations about a great battle that will happen in the Valley of Jehoshaphat. The word “nations” is mentioned in 3:9, 11, and 12). The Lord will bring his war upon the nations because of their treatment of Israel. The Lord will be the victorious warrior (3:16), his people will be Israel (3:16), and his city will be Jerusalem (3:16-17). He will protect his people, Israel, and will be her refuge and stronghold (3:16). Verses 17 through 21 give details about the prophetic day of the Lord. Israel will be holy (3:17). There will be economic prosperity (3:18). The historic enemies of Israel, Egypt and Edom, will become desolate (3:19), Judah and Jerusalem will be inhabited forever (3:20), and the Lord will dwell in Jerusalem (3:21). This restoration and blessing is predicted many places in the Old Testament. For example, Deuteronomy 30:1-10; Isaiah 11:11-16; Jeremiah 16:15 and chapters 30-31; Ezekiel 36-39, but note 37:21-22; Daniel 12:1; Zephaniah 3:20; Zechariah 12-14 (“in that day” is used 16 times); Malachi 4 and many other Scriptures. The Messianic Kingdom will have come.
- Joel, the prophet (1:1). He is only mentioned here and in Acts 2:16.
Key Words and Phrases
- Day, 9 times in 7 verses. Joel 1:15; 2:1, 2, 11, 31; 3:14, 18
- Day of the Lord. Joel 1:15; 2:1, 11, 31; 3:14
- Those days, Joel 2:29; 3:1
- That time, Joel 3:1
- That day, Joel 3:18
- Valley of Jehoshaphat, Joel 3:2, 12. This is the place where God will judge the nations. The place is unknown, but may be the Valley of Jezreel, east of the Mt Carmel range.
- God governs mankind, and in particular, Israel, through prophets, through nations, and through creation such as “natural disasters.
- God is always gracious and desires Israel to return to fellowship with him.
- God works through creation and nations to turn his people back to reverence, obedience, and fellowship with him.
- When in a national crisis, leadership should rally the people and lead them to the best solution—relationship and fellowship with God.
- Concentration on God and prayer for God’s guidance and deliverance is the biblical approach for a people when they find themselves in a national crisis.
Lessons for us
- God also works through what mankind may call natural disasters such as earthquakes, storms, epidemics, plagues, and even warfare.
- When a crisis comes the leaders should gather the people where God is present and pray for God’s deliverance. This leadership will also rally the hopes of people. This can apply to a nation, to a church or mission, to a family, and to any group of believers.
- History is moving in God’s direction. God will judge nations based upon his character and according to their response or rejection of him. He will also judge nations according to their treatment of Israel. In the end time Israel will be restored as head of the nations.
- God works to bring his people into right relationship with him—faith, reverence, obedience, fellowship, service.
- Believers are on the winning side, though right now the spiritual battle “seems” to be going against us.