a day of foreboding storm clouds, 3
like blackness 4 spread over the mountains.
It is a huge and powerful army 5 –
there has never been anything like it ever before,
and there will not be anything like it for many generations to come! 6
a flame blazes behind them.
The land looks like the Garden of Eden 8 before them,
but behind them there is only a desolate wilderness –
for nothing escapes them! 9
1 tn The phrase “It will be” does not appear in the Hebrew, but is supplied in the translation for the sake of smoothness and style.
2 tn Heb “darkness and gloom.” These two terms probably form a hendiadys here. This picture recalls the imagery of the supernatural darkness in Egypt during the judgments of the exodus (Exod 10:22). These terms are also frequently used as figures (metonymy of association) for calamity and divine judgment (Isa 8:22; 59:9; Jer 23:12; Zeph 1:15). Darkness is often a figure (metonymy of association) for death, dread, distress and judgment (BDB 365 s.v. חשֶׁךְ 3).
3 tn Heb “a day of cloud and darkness.”
4 tc The present translation here follows the proposed reading שְׁחֹר (shÿkhor, “blackness”) rather than the MT שַׁחַר (shakhar, “morning”). The change affects only the vocalization; the Hebrew consonants remain unchanged. Here the context calls for a word describing darkness. The idea of morning or dawn speaks instead of approaching light, which does not seem to fit here. The other words in the verse (e.g., “darkness,” “gloominess,” “cloud,” “heavy overcast”) all emphasize the negative aspects of the matter at hand and lead the reader to expect a word like “blackness” rather than “dawn.” However, NIrV paraphrases the MT nicely: “A huge army of locusts is coming. They will spread across the mountains like the sun when it rises.”
5 tn Heb “A huge and powerful people”; KJV, ASV “a great people and a strong.” Many interpreters understand Joel 2 to describe an invasion of human armies, either in past history (e.g., the Babylonian invasion of Palestine in the sixth century
6 tn Heb “it will not be repeated for years of generation and generation.”
7 tn Heb “a fire devours before it.”
8 tn Heb “like the garden of Eden, the land is before them.”
9 tn Heb “and surely a survivor there is not for it.” The antecedent of the pronoun “it” is apparently עַם (’am, “people”) of v. 2, which seems to be a figurative way of referring to the locusts. K&D 26:191-92 thought that the antecedent of this pronoun was “land,” but the masculine gender of the pronoun does not support this.