By Joseph Benson
Joel 2:1. Blow ye the trumpet in Zion — The prophet, having in the preceding chapter described the locusts and caterpillars as a mighty army sent by God, in pursuance of this metaphor now exhorts the people to prepare to meet them, in the same terms as if they were alarmed to oppose an enemy, which was always done by the sound of the trumpet. Danger is proclaimed in this way, Ezekiel 33:3; Ezekiel 33:5; Hosea 5:8; Amos 3:6. Natural means were wont to be used, to prevent the devastations of locusts; pits and trenches were dug, bags were provided, and combustible matter was prepared and set on fire: see Shaw’s Travels, 4to. p. 187. Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble — Let them be seized with as terrible an apprehension of this approaching judgment, as if they saw an enemy invading their country.
Joel 2:2. A day of darkness and of gloominess — A day of great calamity and trouble, which is often expressed in the Scripture by darkness. Or, perhaps, the prophet’s words are to be taken here in the literal sense; for it is certain that, in the eastern countries, locusts will sometimes, on a sudden, cover the sky like a cloud, intercept the light of the sun, and diffuse a darkness on the tract of country over which they are flying. “Solem obumbrant,” They darken the sun, says Pliny, Nat. Hist. lib. 11:28. Thuanus, (lib. 34:7, p. 364, vol. 5.,) describing a calamity of this kind, says, Laborabat eo tempore, &c. “Syria was afflicted at that time with the want of every kind of forage and provisions, on account of such a multitude of locusts as was never seen before in the memory of man, which, like a thick cloud, darkening the light in mid-day, flying to and fro, devoured the fruits of the ground everywhere.” And Adanson, in his Voyage to Senegal, p. 127, says, “Suddenly there came over our heads a thick cloud, which darkened the air and deprived us of the rays of the sun. We soon found that it was owing to a cloud of locusts.” And in Chandler, on Joel 2:10, Hermanus is quoted, as saying that “locusts obscure the sun for the space of a mile;” and Aloysius, “for the space of twelve miles.” For a further account of them, see note on Exodus 10:5; Exodus 10:13. As the morning spread upon the mountains — This signifies, that the darkness occasioned by the locusts should be very diffusive or general; that they should spread themselves everywhere, as the rays of the morning do upon the mountains. A great people and strong — The locusts, being represented as a great army coming to destroy, are here termed a great and strong people: see note on chap. Joel 1:6. There hath not been ever the like, &c. — The locusts which plagued Egypt are described after the same manner, Exodus 10:14. The expression in both places seems to be proverbial, and intended to set forth the extraordinary greatness of the judgment; but is not to be understood too strictly, according to the grammatical sense of the words. Thus we read of Hezekiah, that after him there was none like him among all the kings of Judah, 2 Kings 18:5; and yet the same character is given of Josiah, 2 Kings 23:25.
Joel 2:3. A fire devoureth before them, &c. — They consume like a general conflagration. “They destroy the ground,” says Sir Hans Sloane, (Natural History of Jamaica, 1:29,) “not only for the time, but burn trees for two years after.” “Wheresoever they feed, says Ludolphus, (History of Ethiopia, lib. 1. c. 13,) “their leavings seem, as it were, parched with fire.” Pliny bears the same testimony, 11:29, Multa contactu adurentes, “Burning things up by the touch.” The land is as the garden of Eden before them, &c. — The land of Judea, so famous for its fertility and pleasantness, shall be turned into a desolate wilderness by the ravages they will make. The garden of Eden is a proverbial expression for a place of pleasure and fruitfulness, in which sense we commonly use the word paradise. And nothing shall escape them — Namely, which the ground produces. “After devouring the herbage,” says Adanson, as above, “with the fruits and the leaves of the trees, they attacked even the buds and very bark. They did not so much as spare the reeds with which the huts were thatched.” Thus also Ludolphus: “Sometimes they enter the very bark of trees, and then the spring itself cannot repair the damage.” “Omnia morsu erodentes, et fores quoque tectorum,” says Pliny, 11:20. “Consuming all things, even the doors of the houses.” In the Philosophical Transactions, No. 112, A.D. 1686, we have an account of the locusts in Languedoc, being about an inch in length, of a gray colour. “The earth,” it is observed, “in some places, was covered four inches thick with them, in the morning, before the heat of the sun was considerable; but as soon as it began to grow hot they took wing, and fell upon the corn, eating up both leaf and ear; and that with such expedition, by reason of their number, that in three hours they would devour a whole field, after which they again took wing, and their swarms were so thick, that they covered the sun like a cloud, and were whole hours in passing. After having eaten up the corn, they fell upon the vines, the pulse, the willows, and even the hemp, notwithstanding its great bitterness; after this these insects died, and stunk very much.”
Joel 2:4-6. The appearance of them is as the appearance of horses —
Bochart and many other writers mention the resemblance which the head of a locust bears to that of a horse; whence the Italians call them cavalette. Like the noise of chariots on the mountains shall they leap — Or, as the clause may be better rendered, They shall leap on the tops of mountains with the noise of chariots. The locusts being represented as an army attacking the country, and chariots being anciently a part of warlike preparations, the text says that these locusts shall resemble them in their swiftness, noise, and terror. Pliny mentions (Natural History, lib. 40. cap. 29) locusts “making a noise with their wings, as if they were winged fowls.” Like the noise of a flame of fire, &c. — Like the crackling of the fire burning up stubble. Cyril says of them, that while they are breaking their food with their teeth, the noise is like that of flame driven about by the wind. See Bochart on the place. The Baron de Tott, quoted by Harmer, speaking of the clouds of locusts coming from Tartary toward Constantinople, observes, “To the noise of their flight succeeds that of their devouring activity; it resembles the rattling of hailstones, but its consequences are infinitely more destructive. Fire itself eats not so fast, nor is there a vestige of vegetation to be found, when they again take their flight, and go elsewhere to produce like disasters.” As a strong people set in battle array — Their noise is like that of the shouts of an army going to be engaged. These expressions are undoubtedly hyperbolical; but yet the noise which such a vast multitude of locusts would make must needs be very great. Before their face the people shall be much pained — At seeing their vast multitudes, and the havoc they make of the fruits of the earth, the inhabitants of the land shall be in great pain and anguish, and shall be seized with such a dread and fear as shall make their visage look black and ghastly, like that of persons who are dying.
Joel 2:7-8. They shall run like mighty men — They shall proceed everywhere like stout and mighty men, who are afraid of nothing. The description here given agrees perfectly to locusts, as Bochart has shown. “First, They shall run. Now their manner of fighting is thus described: They strike, or wound, not as they stand, but as they run. Secondly, They run as mighty men. What are more innumerable or strong than locusts, says St. Jerome, which no human pains can resist? Thirdly, They shall march every one in his way, and not break their ranks: and in the next verse, Neither shall one thrust or press his comrade. St. Jerome, in his notes on this place, observes, ‘This we lately saw in our part of the country; for when swarms of locusts came and filled the lower region of the air, they flew in such order, by the divine appointment, and kept their places as exactly, as when several tiles, or party-coloured stones, are skilfully placed in a pavement, so as not to be a hair’s breadth out of their several ranks.’“ The same is observed by other writers cited by Bochart: and what is further remarkable, before the body of them come to any place, they send scouts and messengers, as it were, to view the ground, and measure it out for their use; as the same last-mentioned writer remarks from Sigibertus, concerning the locusts which destroyed France in the year 874. When they fall upon the sword they shall not be wounded — By reason of their lightness and nimbleness, and the hardness and smoothness of the outward coat of their skin. It “refers,” says Newcome, “to the scales with which locusts are covered as with a coat of mail.” “Most animals retreat at the sight of a man, but it is the reverse with locusts, for they will studiously attack. Where they collect in numbers, the inhabitants retire into their dwellings as fast as possible, lest by appearing abroad they might provoke their anger. They show no fear, and, from their slender shape, frequently elude the blow aimed at them.”
Joel 2:9-10. They shall run to and fro in the city — No place shall be inaccessible to them, nor free from them. “Every place,” says St. Jerome, “lies open to them; for they infest not only the fields, and the fruits of the earth, but creep into cities, houses, and the most secret recesses.” The earth shall quake before them — The inhabitants of the land of Judea shall be seized with a horrible dread at their approach. The heavens shall look dark and dismal, because they shall come in such swarms as to intercept the rays of the sun, and the light of the moon and stars. By the expression, The heavens shall tremble, is either meant, that the whole state of the kingdom of Judah, of the very highest in rank and dignity, as well as the meanest, should be struck with a panic at this unusual judgment; or else that the locusts should so fill the sky, that, at a great height, it would appear as if the heavens themselves trembled.
Joel 2:11. And the Lord shall utter his voice before his army — God, who can make the meanest parts of the creation the instruments of his vengeance, is here sublimely introduced, like a leader or general, commanding and animating this his army by his voice. For his camp is very great — That is, his army is very great and terrible, making whatsoever havoc he orders them, and wheresoever. For the day of the Lord is great, &c. — The time of God’s particular judgments, as well as that of his general one, is commonly expressed by the day of the Lord, the former being an earnest and imperfect representation of the latter.
Joel 2:12-14. Therefore, also now, &c. — Or, Nevertheless, also now, saith the Lord, &c. — Here a method is pointed out, whereby they might still have hopes of avoiding the calamity denounced against them, namely, by turning to God sincerely, and publicly testifying their inward repentance and grief for their sins, by outward expressions of sorrow and humiliation. And rend your heart — Rending of the garments was customary in times of great sorrow and affliction, not only among the Jews and Israelites, but among almost all the ancient nations. The prophet here does not absolutely forbid their using this outward sign of sorrow, but exhorts them to attend more to inward contrition and humiliation, without which the outward signs of them were of no signification before God. The Hebrew writers often signify the preference that is due to one thing above another in terms which express the rejecting of that which is less worthy. Thus we read, Hosea 6:6, I will have mercy and not sacrifice; that is, I require mercy rather than sacrifice. In the same sense we are to understand the text before us. God prefers a broken and a contrite heart far before all outward expressions of humiliation and grief. For he is gracious and merciful, &c. — These words allude to God’s own declaration of himself, Exodus 34:6, on which they might with good reason ground hopes of forgiveness on their repenting unfeignedly of their sins, and bringing forth fruit worthy of repentance. And repenteth him of the evil — That is, of the evil which he had threatened to inflict in case those, against whom his threatenings were denounced, did not turn to him in true repentance. God is in Scripture said to repent when the humiliation of sinners and the reformation of their conduct make it unfit that he should inflict the punishment threatened by him. Who knoweth if he will return, and repent — God’s own nature, and the former instances we have found of his merciful disposition, encourage us to hope, that our sincere repentance may avail to avert his wrath, and engage him to restore his blessings upon us and our land. The prophet expresses himself between hope and fear of what might be the event, lest he should fill them with too much security on one hand, or drive them on the other, by a despair of pardon, to have no thoughts of repentance or amendment, but to go on still in their sins. Even a meat-offering and a drink-offering unto the Lord your God — At least sufficient provision to supply the necessary parts of God’s public worship, which since the dearth had been necessarily omitted.
Joel 2:15-16. Blow the trumpet in Zion — This was a signal for assembling the people at the solemn times of public worship. Sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly — Or, appoint ye a fast, proclaim a solemn day: so Archbishop Newcome. Sanctify the congregation — Let the people prepare themselves for this solemn time of humiliation, not only by washing themselves and their clothes, and cleansing themselves from all legal impurities, as is required Exodus 19:10-15, but by true contrition of heart, godly sorrow for, and forsaking all known sin, as also by abstaining from all sensual pleasures, however innocent and allowable at other times. Absolute self-denial is but a reasonable preparation for keeping a day of solemn humiliation before God, on account of national sins or calamities. This kind of abstinence was recommended among the heathen as a necessary preparation for solemn worship. Assemble the elders, gather the children, and those that suck the breasts — Let both young and old join in this duty, for all ages joining in it will add much to the solemnity of it, and is very proper to work in men’s minds that sincere contrition, which may avert those judgments which threaten the whole nation, and in which their posterity may suffer. Let the bridegroom go forth of his chamber, and the bride out of her closet — Even on the day of their marriage, or during the marriage-feast. Let newly-married persons disregard the concerns and enjoyments peculiar to their situation, and afflict themselves with the rest of the people.
Joel 2:17. Let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep between the porch and the altar — The priests, being in a peculiar sense the Lord’s servants, are here required to take the lead in this sacred work of penitence, and to stand weeping and praying between the porch and the altar; that is, in the open court, just before the porch of the temple built by Solomon, (see 1 Kings 6:3,) and the altar of burnt-offerings. This was called the priests’ court, and was the place where the greatest part of those, whose course it was, gave their attendance. Hereupon this is mentioned as the most proper place for the priests to stand in, while they addressed their prayers and intercessions to God in behalf of the people; because here they could best be seen and heard by all the assembly, and here they had before offered the sacrifices proper for such an occasion. And let them say, Spare thy people, O Lord — It was usual to prescribe certain forms of prayer or praise to the priests, in their public ministrations: see Hosea 14:2; 1 Chronicles 16:36. Such was this here mentioned, wherein they beseech God to deliver his people, not for any merit of theirs, but for his own glory, lest the heathen round about them should take occasion to blaspheme his name, as if he were not able to protect his worshippers. That the heathen should rule over them — This translation of the Hebrew verb שׁמל, favours their interpretation, who understand by the army, at the beginning of the chapter, an invading human enemy. But if expounded of a plague of locusts, still this translation, as Archbishop Newcome justly observes, may be supported, because, when the people were distressed by the locusts, they would be an easier prey to their enemies. But, to make a proverb of them, or to use a by-word against them, as the margin reads, is the more natural translation: for to have their country destroyed by locusts would naturally make them the subject of their enemies’ scorn and derision, as if they were forsaken by the God whom they worshipped; and the Hebrew verb above mentioned is indifferently taken in either sense.
Joel 2:18-20. Then will the Lord be jealous for his land — If you do what I propose to you, if you sincerely humble yourselves before God, confess your sins, and truly repent of them, turning to God in newness of life, then will the Lord be concerned for the honour and welfare of that land which he has chosen to settle his worshippers in. Yea, the Lord will say, Behold, I will send you corn, &c. — I will restore your former plenty, and the nations about you shall have no more occasion to reproach your desolate condition. But I will remove far off from you the northern army — Or, enemy, nation, or people; that is, the locusts, which might enter Judea by the north, as Circassia and Mingrelia abound with them. Because Joel represents this army as coming from the north, some have been ready to imagine, that he was speaking not of real locusts, but of the Chaldeans, or some other desolating army of men that should come from that quarter. “But the Baron de Tott assures us, in a late publication of his, that he found locusts coming in great numbers from Tartary toward Constantinople, which lies to the south of that country. ‘I saw,’ says he,
‘no appearance of culture on my route, because the Noguais (the Tartars) avoid the cultivation of frequented places. Their harvest by the sides of roads would serve only as pasture to travellers’ horses. But if this precaution preserves them from such kind of depredation, nothing can protect their fields from a much more fatal scourge. Clouds of locusts frequently alight on their plains; and, giving the preference to their fields of millet, ravage them in an instant. Their approach darkens the horizon, and so enormous is their multitude, it hides the light of the sun. When the husbandmen happen to be sufficiently numerous, they sometimes divert the storm by their agitation and cries; but when they fail, the locusts alight on their fields, and there form a bed of six or seven inches thick. This plague, no doubt, would be more extensive in countries better cultivated; and Greece and Asia Minor would be more frequently exposed, did not the Black sea swallow up most of those swarms which attempt to pass that barrier. I have often seen the shores of the Pontus Euxinus, toward the Bosphorus of Thrace, covered with their dried remains, in such multitudes, that one could not walk along the strand without sinking half-leg deep into a bed of these skinny skeletons. Curious to know the true cause of their destruction, I sought the moment of observation, and was a witness of their ruin by a storm, which overtook them so near the shore, that their bodies were cast upon the land while yet entire. This produced an infection so great, that it was several days before they could be approached.’ — Memoirs, part 2. p. 58-60. They frequently then, according to this writer, in that part of the world, pass, or attempt to pass, from north to south. In Judea they have been supposed to go from the southeastward in a contrary direction. And if this is the common route they take there, it must have struck the Jews very much, when they found the prophet predicting the going of the locusts to the southward; and still more so when they found it exactly accomplished, as it was a demonstration of the perfect foreknowledge of Jehovah, perhaps of his guiding and directing those vast bodies of insects. The locusts, it is said, have no king, yet go they forth by bands, Proverbs 30:27. But if they have no king of their own species, they are undoubtedly under the direction of the God that made them: he is their king.” — Harmer, vol. 4. obs. 146.
Some of the locusts, which here are the subject of Joel’s prophecy, were to be driven by the wind into the desert, or, as it is here styled, a land barren and desolate; some into the Dead sea, called here the east sea, lying eastward of Jerusalem; some into the Mediterranean, or western sea, called here the utmost sea. By his face toward the east sea, and his hinder part toward the utmost sea, is described the extent of the body, or army of locusts; the face meaning the foremost of them, and the hinder part the hindmost of them. And his stink shall come up — “That a strong and pestilential smell,” says Newcome, “arises from putrefied heaps of locusts, whether driven upon land or cast up from the sea in which they have perished, appears from the testimony of many writers. Among various other authorities to the same effect, St. Jerome is quoted by Bochart as saying, that in his time those troops of locusts which covered Judea were cast by the wind in mare primum et novissimum; and that, when the waters threw them up, their smell caused a pestilence. Thevenot says of them, They live not above six months; and when dead, the stench of them so corrupts and infects the air, that it often occasions dreadful pestilences. — City Remem. 1:123. There came such a stench from those which appeared at Novogorod in 1646, as not only offended the nose, but the brain: it was not to be endured: men were forced to wash their noses with vinegar, and hold handkerchiefs dipped in it continually to their nostrils, Ibid. 125. In Ethiopia, when they die and rot, they raise a pestilence. — Mead, 1:36.” Because he hath done great things — That is, committed great devastation. Or rather, although he hath done great things: though this army of insects, by God’s appointment, has made such destruction in the land, yet it shall come to this shameful end.
Joel 2:21-22. Fear not, O land, &c. — “In the former part of this prophecy the land is elegantly represented as mourning, the beasts groaning, and the herds of cattle as greatly distressed; the rivers of water dried up, and the pastures of the wilderness as all consumed. In the same elegant strain he calls upon the land to rejoice, and the beasts of the field to be glad; because the rain should descend, the trees yield their increase, the earth its plenty, and every thing minister to the joy and comfort of the inhabitants: so that though the threatening ran, that the land (which looked, before the locusts invaded it, like the garden of Eden) should appear behind them like a desolate wilderness; the blessing intimated upon their repentance is, that the desolate wilderness should be again turned into a garden of Eden, and abound with every thing for usefulness and pleasure.” For the Lord will do great things — God will magnify himself, and show his power as much in acts of mercy as he did before in the strokes of his justice. Be not afraid, ye beasts of the field — As the cattle and the wild beasts had their share in the dearth, (chap. Joel 1:18; Joel 1:20,) so now even they shall receive comfort, in the return of plenty. The fig-tree and the vine do yield their strength — That is, bear fruit according to their kind, in great abundance.
Joel 2:23. He hath given you the former rain moderately — The season of the former rain was about the middle of October. The Hebrew word לצדקה, rendered moderately, literally signifies, according to righteousness: and is equivalent with according to judgment. Archbishop Newcome renders it, in just proportion: and he will cause to come the latter rain in the first month — Which was Nisan, partly answering to our March. The regular season for this rain was three months before harvest, Amos 4:7; that is, before wheat-harvest, which was later than the barley-harvest in Judea. Of the former and latter rain, see note on Hosea 6:3.
Joel 2:25-27. And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten — I will compensate you, or make you amends, for what the locusts have eaten in the foregoing years, by an extraordinary plenty of the fruits of the earth. This verse proves, beyond a doubt, that they mistake who interpret this prophecy of a hostile invasion of Judea; for it seems to be a general rule in the prophecies, that when any thing of a common nature is expressed by metaphors, that which is the literal sense of these metaphors is generally signified in the conclusion, that there may be no mistake about it. Of this many instances have been given; and perhaps no instances of the use of metaphors in the prophetic writings, about things of a common nature, can be brought, but that in the end the metaphor is explained, and what is meant by it expressly declared. But here, instead of any indication in the conclusion of a metaphor’s being used, or what is meant by that metaphor, the locust is literally spoken of as being the cause of that calamity, and, indeed, in such very express terms, that the passage cannot, without great violence, be interpreted of a hostile invasion. “We have here,” says Archbishop Newcome, “a key to the grand and beautiful description which runs through these two chapters. And if we consider Joel 2:7, and the propriety of the adjuncts, as applicable to locusts, and often to locusts only, there can remain no doubt but that the prophet is to be understood in a literal sense, as foretelling a plague of locusts. Every reader of taste must be struck with the poetical and sublime manner in which the allegory is conducted. There is not a more splendid piece of poetry extant.” And my people shall never be ashamed — Provided they continue to serve me. And ye shall know that I am in the midst of Israel — God’s giving tokens of his especial blessing and protection to his people, is expressed by his dwelling among them, or in the midst of them, Joel 3:17; Leviticus 26:11-12; Ezekiel 37:26. This is a favour he never promises, but upon condition of their sincere and steady obedience: as appears in the fore-cited places. And that I am the Lord your God, and none else — You will then be convinced that I am always ready to protect you, and you need not apply yourselves to any other gods in your wants or troubles. And my people shall never be ashamed — Shall not be any more disappointed of the trust they place in me, nor be reproached by the heathen, as if I had forsaken them.
Joel 2:28-29. And it shall come to pass afterward — Some versions begin the third chapter with this verse; and indeed the subject which is begun here is of so different a nature from what goes before, that it seems evident a new chapter ought to be begun here. The Jewish Rabbi Kimchi says here, that the expression afterward signifies the same as in the latter days, Isaiah 2:2, and that whenever the words occur, they denote the times of the Messiah; and therefore he refers this prophecy to his days, and makes it descriptive of the event which is foretold Isaiah 11:9, The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord. This is unquestionably the true meaning of it, and thus it is explained by St. Peter, Acts 2:17. “And though the things here prophesied of were not to happen till several ages afterward, yet was the prophecy highly proper to encourage the minds of the pious Jews; as it was an assurance to them that, let them be brought ever so low by this or any other calamity, yet God would preserve them a people, till all the promises made to their forefathers should be actually accomplished; and especially till the Messiah should come, under whom the knowledge of God should spread itself among all the nations of the earth, and the gifts of the Spirit of God should be poured out in a much more abundant manner than ever they were before:” see Chandler. I will pour out my Spirit — In extraordinary gifts on the first preachers of the gospel, and in various graces on all believers; upon all flesh — Upon believing Gentiles, as well as believing Jews. In former times those gifts were confined to one particular nation, but now they shall be extended to those of all nations that will apply unto God for them through faith in the Messiah. The plentiful effusion of the Holy Spirit is often represented by the prophets as the peculiar character of the gospel state, and is elsewhere compared to the pouring out of waters upon the thirsty ground, and thereby rendering it fruitful: see the passages referred to in the margin, and compare them with John 7:39. That this prophecy was in a great measure fulfilled in the days of the apostles and first messengers of the Lord Jesus, we have abundant proof from the Acts of the Apostles and the epistles of the New Testament. We need not, however, confine this prophecy to those early times, but, since many prophecies have gradual completions, we may understand this as implying that there shall be another remarkable effusion of the Holy Spirit upon the Jews, in order to their conversion in the latter times of the world. This exposition, which is favoured by some expressions in this prophecy, renders its connection with the contents of the following chapter more manifest. And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy — The gift of prophecy was bestowed upon some women under the Old Testament, as upon Miriam, Exodus 15:20; upon Deborah, 4:14; and Huldah, 2 Kings 22:14.
But this gift was more frequently conferred upon that sex in the times of the New Testament. Thus we read of four daughters of Philip the Evangelist who prophesied, Acts 21:9; and church history affords us several other instances; such as Perpetua and Felicitas, who were martyrs for the Christian faith; Potamiena, mentioned by Eusebius, lib. 4. cap. 5, and others. Your old men shall dream dreams — Divine dreams, either imparting unto them the knowledge of future events, or discovering to them the will of God in other respects. By this method God often made known his will to the patriarchs and prophets, impressing their minds, while they were asleep, with the things he intended to communicate; sometimes directly, without any parabolical representation, which was a pure dream; as to Solomon and others: sometimes under representations and images, which might be a vision and dream mixed, as in the case of Pharaoh, Joseph, Daniel, and others. Your young men shall see visions — In visions, distinguished from dreams, the inspired person was awake, but his external senses being bound up, and, as it were, laid in a trance, (see Numbers 24:4,) he had a distinct knowledge of the things revealed to him, and that sometimes accompanied with external representations: such was that vision of St. Peter’s, mentioned Acts 10:11. And in this way St. John seems to have received all his revelations. From visions being applied to young men, and dreams to old men, some have observed that the imagination is stronger in those that are young than in the old; so that their senses need not be bound up with sleep, in order to make them capable of receiving heavenly visions. Also upon the servants and upon the handmaids — Even persons of the lowest condition shall be made partakers of the saving graces of the Holy Spirit, and in many instances also of his extraordinary gifts. The poor have the gospel preached to them, and all the blessings of the gospel, whether ordinary or extraordinary, are as free for the poor as the rich, and are more commonly desired and received by them than by the rich.
Joel 2:30. And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth, &c. — Whoever will be at the pains to compare this prediction with the prophecy of Christ, Matthew 24., and Luke 21., will have no doubt concerning the application of it. It principally and evidently refers to the destruction of the city and temple of Jerusalem, and the desolation of Judea by the Romans; a judgment justly inflicted upon the Jewish nation for their rejecting and crucifying their Messiah, resisting the Holy Spirit, contemning the gospel and the means of grace connected therewith, and persecuting the apostles and God’s other messengers. Thus Malachi, after he had foretold the coming of the Messiah, preceded by that of his forerunner John the Baptist, (chap. Joel 3:1,) immediately adds, that his coming should be attended with terrible judgments upon the disobedient, Joel 3:2-5, and chap. 4:1. The prophet in the next clause predicts also the extraordinary signs which were to be forerunners of that destruction, by blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke, meaning probably the great slaughter which should be made of men, and the burning of the towns and cities of Judea, events which preceded that last and finishing stroke of the divine vengeance, the destruction of Jerusalem. He may also refer, perhaps, in the last expression, to the comet which hung over their city, and the fearful sights seen in the air some time before, which are mentioned by Josephus, and were foretold by Christ, Luke 21:11; and of which the reader may see an account in the note on Isaiah 66:6.
Joel 2:31. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, &c. — Particular judgments upon kings and nations are often described in such terms as properly belong to the general judgment and conflagration of the heavens and the earth, as has been observed on Joel 2:10 th of this chapter. The expressions here used, in their literal sense, import the failing of light in the sun and moon, whether by eclipses or any other cause, such as perhaps, at the time here referred to, by the prodigious quantity of smoke arising from the burning of cities, towns, and villages on every side, and also of Jerusalem itself, which undoubtedly was sufficient to obscure the heavenly luminaries for some time. Or, the expression in this verse may be interpreted figuratively of the dark and melancholy state of public affairs before and at the destruction of the Jewish nation by the Romans, and of the utter overthrow of their state and government: see note on Isaiah 13:9-10. The last destruction of Jerusalem, the desolation of Judea, and the prodigious slaughter made of the Jews, might with great propriety be called, as it is here, The great and terrible day of the Lord; since the divine justice was then executed with a severity which had never been used before toward the Jewish people. The calamities of those times were indeed dreadful, almost beyond description, and seem to have exceeded any thing that any other nation had ever suffered; which was agreeable to what Moses, in the very beginning of their state, had foretold should happen to them, if ever, by their disobedience to God’s commands, and their other crimes, they should fill up the measure of their iniquity: see notes on Deuteronomy 28.
Joel 2:32. And whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord — Whosoever, having heard the gospel, shall repent and believe in Christ, and call on him, or shall make application to God in prayer through him, shall be delivered — Namely, from temporal and eternal destruction: thus St. Paul interprets this passage, Romans 10:13. For to believe in Christ, give ourselves up to him, and profess ourselves his disciples, is the most effectual, and indeed the only effectual means of escaping the judgments coming upon the unbelieving and disobedient, and likewise of being preserved from the wrath to come. The prediction, as it stands here in the prophecy, chiefly refers to those in Jerusalem who believed in Jesus as the true Messiah; for these, having a firm faith in what he had said, upon seeing some of the signs come to pass which he had foretold should precede the destruction of Jerusalem, they quitted the city in time, and so saved their lives, and escaped all those dreadful calamities which the unbelieving Jews suffered during the siege. For in mount Zion, &c., shall be deliverance — The gospel is described as taking its rise from Jerusalem, and as being from thence carried to all nations. The deliverance, therefore, here said to be in mount Zion, is deliverance by embracing the gospel, which had its rise there. Or mount Zion and Jerusalem may be here put for the gospel church, the mystical Jerusalem, the city of the Messiah, the only place of salvation present and eternal. As the Lord hath said — That is, according to his promises and declarations by his prophets. And in the remnant — Or, among the remnant, whom the Lord shall call — Namely, to believe in Christ, and by him to wait for eternal life. Or, whom the Lord shall appoint to be preserved. This may primarily be understood of those who were converted by the preaching of Christ and his apostles, and who therefore escaped the vengeance which involved the rest of the nation, Acts 2:40; 1 Thessalonians 2:16. These are called the σωζομενοι, such as should be saved, or delivered, Acts 2:47. But there is another remnant of the Jews included in this promise, who shall be converted at the end of the world, when the obstinate and incorrigible shall be destroyed. In this sense the word remnant is often understood: see the margin. This sense of the word agrees well with what follows in the next chapter.