Prophecy and the Prophets

By Barnard C. Taylor

Part II - A Story of the Individual Prophets

Chapter 6



Parallel reading: 2 Kings 11, 12; 2 Chronicles 23, 24; Ezra; Nehemiah.

1. Date and Occasion

The date of Joel is not given in his book, and it can be decided by internal evidence only. There are two chief views concerning it: some think it to belong to the time of the minority of Joash king of Judah, while Jehoiada the priest was acting as regent, others that it belongs to the post-exilic period. The arguments for these views will be found in the dictionaries and commentaries.

The teaching of the book is so general in character that it does not depend upon the historical occasion of the prophet. Its meaning remains the same whatever date be accepted as correct.

The special occasion of the prophecy was the severe devastation of the land by locusts as a punishment for the sin of turning away from Jehovah. The warning that a worse calamity would come unless the people repented, was heeded. Then the calamity and the blessings promised suggest the more terrible day of Jehovah and greater spiritual blessings.

2. The Chief Work of Joel

Like almost all the other prophets the work of Joel was to induce the people to repent. It is remarkable that no specific sin is named as being the cause of the calamity that had come. It seems merely that in some way the people had turned away from Jehovah. We might suppose that if they had actually fallen into idolatry, it would have been distinctly mentioned. Unlike what was true of the effect of the messages of the other prophets, Joel’s warning was heeded; the people repented, and that gave occasion to the prophet to predict that they would receive abundant blessings from Jehovah, among them the overthrow of their enemies.

3. The Chief Thought of the Book

All the contents of this book may be connected with the term “judgment.” The locusts had been sent as a judgment, but a worse one would come if the people did not repent; they could avert it if they did. Then the idea of judgment is presented in the prediction of the gathering of all the nations who had shown enmity to Jehovah that they might be judged in the valley of judgment. Such judgment would result in punishment coming upon the heathen, but blessings upon God’s people. Both the locust devastation and the future judgment predicted are associated with the term “day of Jehovah.” With this there is always the idea of punishment.

4. The Divisions of the Book

There are two clear divisions: (1) Ch. 1:1 to 2:17; and (2) 2:18 to 3:21. In the first division the people of all classes are aroused to the greatness of the calamity that had come, and that might be still worse. The extent of the devastation is described in vivid terms, and the people are urged to repent. The thought is clear, the style simple.

In the second division, it seems best to understand that the repentance had taken place, rather than to suppose that the prophet assumed that the people would repent. Here we have the answer1 of Jehovah, promising first every temporal blessing, especially such as would result from the rain that had been sent to end the drought that accompanied the locust calamity. Then spiritual blessings are promised, the greatest being the gift of the Spirit of God, by which the hearts of the people would be refreshed as the ground had been by the rain, and they would all show their close relation to God by the signs common in Old Testament times, dreams and visions.

5. The Chief Teaching of the Book

The fact that God will punish for sin is taught. That some physical calamities were sent as judgments in Old Testament times is also taught. The Israelites could know that the locusts were sent as a judgment because the prophet of God said so. Such judgments were for the purpose of teaching, (1 Cor. 10:11.) We may not understand calamities as judgments now, because the period of teaching culminated with the coming of Christ.

Joel teaches that God readily forgives when his people repent. The blessings that had been withheld came, it would seem, quickly after the prayer.

The term “day of Jehovah” occurs in Joel for the first time, and it means here, as always, a time of judgment. In the second part of the book the day was one of threatening to the heathen only. A distinction is made between God’s people and all others, and here it is determined by nationality. The heathen are sinners and will be punished; God’s people are righteous, and will be blessed.

The promised giving of the Spirit of God was not fulfilled till the day of Pentecost, when it only began to be fulfilled.

The whole of the book is very simple and the thought easily followed.