Home > Joel, Promised land > Observations on the prophecy of Joel

Observations on the prophecy of Joel

June 23, 2011

Structure of the prophecy:

‘A nation is come up upon my land’  –  Joel 1:1-6
The desolation of the land  –  Joel 1:7-20
Description of the army  –  Joel 2:1-2:11
Call to repentance  –  Joel 2:12-17
God’s blessings  –  Joel 2:18-32
Judgment scene, involves all nations – Joel 3:1-15
God dwells in Zion – Joel 3:16-21

Joel’s prophecy begins by asking the reader to consider the uniqueness of the current conditions, [Joel 1:1-6] and the prophecy is later connected with the day of the Lord.

In Joel 1:7-20 the land is described as desolate. The trees are burned, crops are unproductive, wine is cut off, the grain rots in the soil, beasts groan for lack of pasture. There is no offering of wine and food at the temple. The account reveals that drought, fire, and a locust plague have combined to devastate the land.

The locust army

The invading army of locusts is described as people who have the teeth of lions. The prophet raises an alarm, proclaiming the day of the Lord, and he gives a detailed description of the locusts. [Joel 2:1-2:11] In the description, it appears that these locusts are metaphorical, and symbolic. Locusts are people who dwell in the land of promise, but who do not really enjoy the benefits of it; they are still like the Israelites in the wilderness, who lacked the faith needed to enter the land. When the 12 spies who Moses sent out returned to deliver their report on the land, they compared themselves to grasshoppers, in comparison to the people dwelling in the land. [Numbers 13:33]

The people of Israel described by the prophet were like alien invaders. They caused desolation, and the prophet likened them to a great army. In the day of the Lord, this army is unique; “there hath not been ever the like, neither shall be any more after it, even to the years of many generations.” The parallel between the Israelites in the wilderness, and the locust army, is made explicit by “the land is as the garden of Eden before them, and behind them a desolate wilderness.” The promised land was a new Eden, compared to the wilderness, where the Israelites wandered for 40 years. But here, the people dwelt in the land, yet did not enjoy the benefits of it.

Joel 2:10
The earth shall quake before them; the heavens shall tremble: the sun and the moon shall be dark, and the stars shall withdraw their shining:

The sun becoming dark is connected with false teachings, that obscure the gospel. This is also seen in Micah’s prophecy: “the sun shall go down over the prophets, and the day shall be dark over them.” [Micah 3:4] Stars that withdraw their shining may represent the saints, and wise men, whose light is hidden.

Joel calls for repentance.  [Joel 2:12-17]

Blessings that follow repentance

He described the happy results to be expected, when God hears the prayer of the people, and blesses them. [Joel 2:18-32] He says, “Then will the LORD be jealous for his land, and pity his people.” They are promised an abundance of corn, wine, and oil. God says, “I will no more make you a reproach among the heathen.” The invading army will be removed far from them. “His stink shall come up, and his ill savour shall come up, because he hath done great things.”

The land is comforted. “Fear not, O land; be glad and rejoice: for the LORD will do great things. Be not afraid, ye beasts of the field: for the pastures of the wilderness do spring, for the tree beareth her fruit, the fig tree and the vine do yield their strength. Be glad then, ye children of Zion, and rejoice in the LORD your God.”

Whereas before was drought, and desolation, and woe, now a time of plenty, and food in abundance, and blessings, are enjoyed by the saints. “And ye shall eat in plenty, and be satisfied, and praise the name of the LORD your God, that hath dealt wondrously with you: and my people shall never be ashamed.” The land is comforted. The crops and trees that had previously suffered desolation flourish, and become fruitful.

The spirit of God is poured out on the people. It is a universal promise: “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.”


In the final chapter, the prophet sketches a judgment scene. [Joel 3:1-15] All nations are involved in it. The events described previously, in particular the spiritual blessings coming upon the church following the repentance of the people, are the setting for God’s judgment upon the nations. God pleads with them for his people. Then the Lord dwells with his people, and there are abundant blessings. [Joel 3:16-21] Salvation and safety are in Zion, which in the New Testament, represents the church.


Day of the Lord: Joel 1:15; 2:1, 11
Alarm, call for repentance: Joel 1:5, 8, 11, 13, 14, 19; 2:1, 12, 13, 15, 17
Zion, temple: Joel 1:9, 13, 16; 2:1, 15, 17, 23, 32; 3:16, 17, 21.
Desolation: Joel 1:4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20; 2:3, 5, 6, 10
Blessing: Joel 2:3, 14, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 32; 3:16, 17, 18, 20, 21
God’s people: Joel 1:9, 13; 2:16, 17, 18, 19, 23, 27, 28, 29, 32; 3:1, 2, 3, 6, 8, 16, 17, 19, 20, 21
The locust army: Joel 1:4, 6; 2:2, 4, 7, 8, 9, 11, 20, 25; 3:2, 9, 11, 12
Land: Joel 1:2, 10, 14, 17, 19, 20; 2:2, 5, 10, 20, 21, 30, 30; 3:2, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21
Offering: Joel 1:9, 13, 16; 2:14
Wine, oil: Joel 1:5, 10; 2:19, 24; 3:3, 18
Fruit, trees: Joel 1:7, 12, 19; 2:22
Grain, pasture: Joel 1:10, 11, 17, 18, 19, 20; 2:19, 22, 23; 3:13
Cattle, sheep: Joel 1:18, 20; 2:22

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