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Joel 2:17-21

Context

2:17 Let the priests, those who serve the Lord, weep

from the vestibule all the way back to the altar. 1 

Let them say, “Have pity, O Lord, on your people;

please do not turn over your inheritance to be mocked,

to become a proverb 2  among the nations.

Why should it be said 3  among the peoples,

“Where is their God?”

The Lord’s Response

2:18 Then the Lord became 4  zealous for his land;

he had compassion on his people.

2:19 The Lord responded 5  to his people,

“Look! I am about to restore your grain 6 

as well as fresh wine and olive oil.

You will be fully satisfied. 7 

I will never again make you an object of mockery among the nations.

2:20 I will remove the one from the north 8  far from you.

I will drive him out to a dry and desolate place.

Those in front will be driven eastward into the Dead Sea, 9 

and those in back westward into the Mediterranean Sea. 10 

His stench will rise up as a foul smell.” 11 

Indeed, the Lord 12  has accomplished great things.

2:21 Do not fear, my land!

Rejoice and be glad,

because the Lord has accomplished great things!

1 tn Heb “between the vestibule and the altar.” The vestibule was located at the entrance of the temple and the altar was located at the other end of the building. So “between the vestibule and the altar” is a merism referring to the entire structure. The priestly lament permeates the entire house of worship.

2 tn For the MT reading לִמְשָׁל (limshol, an infinitive, “to rule”), one should instead read לְמָשָׁל (lÿmashal, a noun, “to a byword”). While the consonantal Hebrew text permits either, the context suggests that the concern here is more one of not wanting to appear abandoned by God to ongoing economic depression rather than one of concern over potential political subjection of Israel (cf. v. 19). The possibility that the form in the MT is an infinitive construct of the denominative verb II מָשַׁל (mashal, “to utter a proverb”) does not seem likely because of the following preposition (Hebrew בְּ [bÿ], rather than עַל [’al]).

3 tn Heb “Why will they say?”

4 tn The time-frame entertained by the verbs of v.18 constitutes a crux interpretum in this chapter. The Hebrew verb forms used here are preterites with vav consecutive and are most naturally understood as describing a past situation. However, some modern English versions render these verbs as futures (e.g., NIV, NASV), apparently concluding that the context requires a future reference. According to Joüon 2:363 §112.h, n.1 Ibn Ezra explained the verbs of Joel 2:18 as an extension of the so-called prophetic perfect; as such, a future fulfillment was described with a past tense as a rhetorical device lending certainty to the fulfillment. But this lacks adequate precedent and is very unlikely from a syntactical standpoint. It seems better to take the verbs in the normal past sense of the preterite. This would require a vantage point for the prophet at some time after the people had responded favorably to the Lord’s call for repentance and after the Lord had shown compassion and forgiveness toward his people, but before the full realization of God’s promises to restore productivity to the land. In other words, it appears from the verbs of vv. 18-19 that at the time of Joel’s writing this book the events of successive waves of locust invasion and conditions of drought had almost run their course and the people had now begun to turn to the Lord.

5 tn Heb “answered and said.”

6 tn Heb “Look! I am sending grain to you.” The participle used in the Hebrew text seems to suggest imminent action.

7 tc One of the Qumran manuscripts (4QXXIIc) inserts “and you will eat” before “and you will be fully satisfied” (the reading of the MT, LXX).

8 sn The allusion to the one from the north is best understood as having locusts in view. It is not correct to say that this reference to the enemy who came form the north excludes the possibility of a reference to locusts and must be understood as human armies. Although locust plagues usually approached Palestine from the east or southeast, the severe plague of 1915, for example, came from the northeast.

9 tn Heb “his face to the eastern sea.” In this context the eastern sea is probably the Dead Sea.

10 tn Heb “and his rear to the western sea.” The western sea refers to the Mediterranean Sea.

11 sn Heb “and his foul smell will ascend.” The foul smell probably refers to the unpleasant odor of decayed masses of dead locusts. The Hebrew word for “foul smell” is found only here in the Old Testament. The Hebrew word for “stench” appears only here and in Isa 34:3 and Amos 4:10. In the latter references it refers to the stench of dead corpses on a field of battle.

12 tn The Hebrew text does not have “the Lord.” Two interpretations are possible. This clause may refer to the enemy described in the immediately preceding verses, in which case it would have a negative sense: “he has acted in a high-handed manner.” Or it may refer to the Lord, in which case it would have a positive sense: “the Lord has acted in a marvelous manner.” This is clearly the sense of the same expression in v. 21, where in fact “the Lord” appears as the subject of the verb. It seems best to understand the clause the same way in both verses.



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