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Joel’s prophecy and its parallels

February 12, 2011

The prophecy of Joel is about a great invading army in the day of the Lord. But, there are some interesting things said about this invasion, that suggest it is not a military invasion.

The first chapter of Joel contains a wake-up call to drunkards, and those who enjoy wine. They are to be told that a nation has come upon the promised land, without number, with teeth of lions, and they have destroyed the vine, and made the fig trees bare.

Does it seem reasonable, that while an invasion was in progress, the drunkards would need to be awakened, and informed about a threat to the vineyards?

Would the prophet’s main concern at such a moment be about God’s vineyards being spoiled, and his fig trees being unfruitful, and losing their leaves?

Also, the prophet complains about the perishing state of the corn, new wine, wheat, and barley. But it seems hardly likely that if a huge army had recently invaded the land, those particular things would be what he would be worried about. Yet Joel addresses the priests, and ministers, and says: “howl, ye ministers of the altar: come, lie all night in sackcloth, ye ministers of my God: for the meat offering and the drink offering is withholden from the house of your God.”

If there was a great foreign military force occupying the land, would that be his concern? That the regular offerings at the temple were interrupted?

Joel says that “joy and gladness” was lacking in the house of God, and he said: “The seed is rotten under their clods, the garners are laid desolate, the barns are broken down; for the corn is withered.”

Is this really about a military invasion? Or are the vine, fig trees, wheat, corn, etc., metaphors, that represent the gospel? Does the lack of joy and gladness really refer to the sad condition of the church, which is the spiritual temple?

It is unlikely that Joel’s prophecy speaks of a military invasion, because none of the points mentioned above fit that interpretation. In fact, it seems to be seriously flawed.

The prophet says, “How do the beasts groan! the herds of cattle are perplexed, because they have no pasture; yea, the flocks of sheep are made desolate… the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness… the beasts of the field cry also unto thee.”

The “flocks of sheep” may represent congregations of Christians. The “pasture” that is burned up would be their spiritual nourishment, the scriptures, which have been misinterpreted, and discredited by scholars, and even by theologians.

Joel says “for the rivers of waters are dried up.” An invading army would not cause rivers to dry up. These rivers represent the spirit, such as those Jesus spoke of, when he said, “He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” [John 7:38] Also the “living waters” in Zechariah 14:8.

Joel’s prophecy parallels other similar prophecies in Ezekiel, Zechariah, and Revelation. The parallels demonstrate the unity of prophecy, and help to show how Joel’s prophecy may be interpreted. The parallels are noted in the table below.

Joel Ezekiel, Zechariah, Revelation
Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain [Joel 2:1] And the sixth angel sounded [Rev. 9:13]
let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of the LORD cometh, for it is nigh at hand; [Joel 2:1] Behold, the day of the LORD cometh [Zech. 14:1]
a great people and a strong; there hath not been ever the like, neither shall be any more after it, even to the years of many generations. [Joel 2:2]

For a nation is come up upon my land, strong, and without number, [Joel 1:6]

And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: [Zech. 12:2-3]

I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle [Zech. 14:2]

And the number of the army of the horsemen were two hundred thousand thousand: [Rev. 9:16]

Satan…shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog, and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea.
And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: [Rev. 20:7-9]

A day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness [Joel 2:2] But it shall be one day which shall be known to the LORD, not day, nor night: but it shall come to pass, that at evening time it shall be light. [Zech. 14:7]
whose teeth are the teeth of a lion, and he hath the cheek teeth of a great lion. [Joel 1:6] To take a spoil, and to take a prey … Art thou come to take a spoil? hast thou gathered thy company to take a prey? [Ezek. 38:12, 13]

and the heads of the horses were as the heads of lions; [Rev. 9:17]

The appearance of them is as the appearance of horses; and as horsemen, so shall they run. [Joel 2:4] and I will bring thee forth, and all thine army, horses and horsemen, [Ezek. 38:5]

And thou shalt come from thy place out of the north parts, thou, and many people with thee, all of them riding upon horses, a great company, and a mighty army: [Ezek. 38:15]

And so shall be the plague of the horse, of the mule, of the camel, and of the ass, and of all the beasts that shall be in these tents, as this plague. [Zech. 14:15]

In that day, saith the LORD, I will smite every horse with astonishment, and his rider with madness: and I will open mine eyes upon the house of Judah, and will smite every horse of the people with blindness. [Zech. 12:4]

And thus I saw the horses in the vision, and them that sat on them [Rev. 9:17]

Like the noise of chariots on the tops of mountains shall they leap [Joel 2:5] in the latter years thou shalt come into the land that is brought back from the sword, and is gathered out of many people, against the mountains of Israel, which have been always waste: [Ezek. 38:8]

And I will call for a sword against him throughout all my mountains, saith the Lord GOD: [Ezek. 38:21]

They shall run like mighty men; they shall climb the wall like men of war; and they shall march every one on his ways, and they shall not break their ranks: [Joel 2:7]

They shall run to and fro in the city; they shall run upon the wall, they shall climb up upon the houses; they shall enter in at the windows like a thief. [Joel 2:9]

And thou shalt come from thy place out of the north parts, thou, and many people with thee, all of them riding upon horses, a great company, and a mighty army: [Ezek. 38:15]

the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity [Zech. 14:2]

and when they fall upon the sword, they shall not be wounded. [Joel 2:8] all of them handling swords: [Ezek. 38:4]
Neither shall one thrust another; they shall walk every one in his path: and when they fall upon the sword, they shall not be wounded. [Joel 2:8] all of them clothed with all sorts of armour, even a great company with bucklers and shields [Ezek. 38:4]

Persia, Ethiopia, and Libya with them; all of them with shield and helmet: [Ezek. 38:5]

And the LORD shall utter his voice before his army: for his camp is very great: for he is strong that executeth his word: for the day of the LORD is great and very terrible; and who can abide it? [Joel 2:11] Thou shalt ascend and come like a storm, thou shalt be like a cloud to cover the land, thou, and all thy bands, and many people with thee. [Ezek. 38:9]
Let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, Spare thy people, O LORD, and give not thine heritage to reproach, that the heathen should rule over them: wherefore should they say among the people, Where is their God? [Joel 2:17] and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.
In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon. [Zech. 12:10-11]
But I will remove far off from you the northern army, and will drive him into a land barren and desolate, with his face toward the east sea, and his hinder part toward the utmost sea, [Joel 2:20] And thou shalt come from thy place out of the north parts, [Ezek. 38:15]

And I will plead against him with pestilence and with blood; and I will rain upon him, and upon his bands, and upon the many people that are with him, an overflowing rain, and great hailstones, fire, and brimstone. [Ezek. 38:22]

and his stink shall come up, and his ill savour shall come up, because he hath done great things. [Joel 2:20] And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will give unto Gog a place there of graves in Israel, the valley of the passengers on the east of the sea: and it shall stop the noses of the passengers: and there shall they bury Gog and all his multitude: and they shall call it The valley of Hamongog.
And seven months shall the house of Israel be burying of them, that they may cleanse the land. [39:11-12]
Be glad then, ye children of Zion, and rejoice in the LORD your God: for he hath given you the former rain moderately, and he will cause to come down for you the rain, the former rain, and the latter rain in the first month. [Joel 2:23] Ask ye of the LORD rain in the time of the latter rain; so the LORD shall make bright clouds, and give them showers of rain, to every one grass in the field. [Zech. 10:1]
And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions:
And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit. [Joel 2:28-29]

And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered [Joel 2:32]

And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: [Zech. 12:10]
for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the LORD hath said, and in the remnant whom the LORD shall call. [Joel 2:32] Jerusalem shall be safely inhabited. [Zech. 14:11]
then shall Jerusalem be holy, and there shall no strangers pass through her any more. [Joel 3:17] and in that day there shall be no more the Canaanite in the house of the LORD of hosts. [Zech. 14:21]
and a fountain shall come forth out of the house of the LORD, and shall water the valley of Shittim. [Joel 3:18] In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness. [Zech. 13:1]
all the rivers of Judah shall flow with waters [Joel 3:18] Afterward he brought me again unto the door of the house; and, behold, waters issued out from under the threshold of the house eastward: [Ezek. 47:1]

Then said he unto me, These waters issue out toward the east country, and go down into the desert, and go into the sea: which being brought forth into the sea, the waters shall be healed.
And it shall come to pass, that every thing that liveth, which moveth, whithersoever the rivers shall come, shall live: and there shall be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters shall come thither: for they shall be healed; and every thing shall live whither the river cometh. [Ezek. 47:8-9]

And it shall be in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half of them toward the former sea, and half of them toward the hinder sea: in summer and in winter shall it be. [Zech. 14:8]

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