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Joel 2:4-11


2:4 They look like horses; 1 

they charge ahead like war horses.

2:5 They sound like 2  chariots rumbling 3  over mountain tops,

like the crackling 4  of blazing fire consuming stubble,

like the noise of 5  a mighty army 6  being drawn up for battle. 7 

2:6 People 8  writhe in fear when they see them. 9 

All of their faces turn pale with fright. 10 

2:7 They 11  charge 12  like warriors;

they scale walls like soldiers. 13 

Each one proceeds on his course;

they do not alter 14  their path.

2:8 They do not jostle one another; 15 

each of them marches straight ahead. 16 

They burst through 17  the city defenses 18 

and do not break ranks.

2:9 They rush into 19  the city;

they scale 20  its walls.

They climb up into the houses;

they go in through the windows like a thief.

2:10 The earth quakes 21  before them; 22 

the sky reverberates. 23 

The sun and the moon grow dark;

the stars refuse to shine. 24 

2:11 The voice of the Lord thunders 25  as he leads his army. 26 

Indeed, his warriors 27  are innumerable; 28 

Surely his command is carried out! 29 

Yes, the day of the Lord is awesome 30 

and very terrifying – who can survive 31  it?

1 tn Heb “Like the appearance of horses [is] its appearance.”

sn The fact that a locust’s head resembles a miniature replica of a horse’s head has often been noticed. For example, the German word for locust (Heupferd, “hay horse”) and the Italian word as well (cavaletta, “little horse”) are based on this similarity in appearance.

2 tn Heb “like the sound of.”

sn The repetition of the word of comparison (“like”) in vv. 4-7 should not go unnoticed. The author is comparing the locust invasion to familiar aspects of human invasion. If the preposition has its normal force here, it is similarity and not identity that is intended. In other words, locusts are being likened to human armies, but human armies are not actually present. On the other hand, this Hebrew preposition is also on occasion used to indicate exactitude, a function described by grammarians as kaph veritatis.

3 tn Heb “jostling” or “leaping.” There is question whether this pictures chariots rumbling over the mountains (e.g., 2 Sam 6:14,16; 1 Chr 15:29; Nah 3:2) or the locusts flying – or “leaping” – over the mountains (e.g., Job 21:11); see BDB 955 s.v. רָקַד.

4 tn Heb “sound.”

5 tn The phrase “the noise of” does not appear in the Hebrew, but is implied by the parallelism, so it has been supplied in the translation for the sake of clarity.

6 tn Heb “people.”

7 tn Heb “being arrayed of battle.”

8 tn Or “nations.”

9 tn Heb “before it.”

10 tn Heb “all faces gather beauty”; or “all faces gather a glow.” The Hebrew word פָּארוּר (parur) is found in the OT only here and in Nah 2:11. Its meaning is very uncertain. Some scholars associate it with a root that signifies “glowing”; hence “all faces gather a glow of dread.” Others associate the word with פָּרוּר (parur, “pot”); hence “all faces gather blackness.” Still others take the root to signify “beauty”; hence “all faces gather in their beauty” in the sense of growing pale due to fear. This is the view assumed here.

11 sn Since the invaders are compared to warriors, this suggests that they are not actually human, but instead an army of locusts.

12 tn Heb “run.”

13 tn Heb “men of battle.”

14 tc The translation reads יְעַבְּתוּן (yÿabbÿtun) for MT יְעַבְּטוּן (yÿabbÿtun). The verb found in MT (עָבַט, ’avat) means “take or give a pledge” (cf. Deut 15:6, 8; 24:10) and does not fit the context. Some scholars have proposed various emendations: (1) יְעָוְּתוּן (yÿavvÿtun, “they make crooked”); (2) יָטּוּן (yattun, “they turn aside”); (3) יָעַוּוּן (yaavvun, “they err”); and (4) יְעָבְּתוּן (adopted in the present translation) from the root I עָבַת (’avat, “to twist, pervert”) or II עָבַת (’avat, “to change, abandon”). KBL adopt the latter option, but the only biblical evidence for this is the problematic reference in Joel 2:7. Another option is to view it as a variant of the root חבט (khavat, “turn aside from”), a meaning attested for the Arabic cognate. The difference in spelling would be due to the interchange of the guttural letters khet (ח) and ayin (ע). This may lay behind LXX rendering ἐκκλίνωσιν (ekklinwsin; cf. Syriac Peshitta nstwn and Vg declinabunt). See S. F. Whitley, “‘bt in Joel 2, 7,” Bib 65 (1984): 101-2.

15 tn “each one does not crowd his brother.”

16 tn Heb “each warrior walks in his own course.”

17 tn Heb “they fall upon.” This line has been interpreted in two different ways: (1) although they fall upon the sword, they shall not be wounded (KJV), or (2) when they “burst through” the city’s defenses, they will not break ranks (RSV, NASB, NIV, NIrV).

18 tn Heb “missile” or “javelin.” This term appears to function as a synecdoche for the city’s defenses as a whole (cf. NASB, NIV, TEV). Some scholars instead understand the reference to be an aqueduct by which the locusts (or armies) entered the city.

19 tn Heb “dart about in.”

20 tn Or “they run upon its wall.”

21 sn Witnesses of locust invasions have described the visual effect of large numbers of these creatures crawling over one another on the ground. At such times the ground is said to appear to be in motion, creating a dizzying effect on some observers. The reference in v. 10 to the darkening of the sun and moon probably has to do with the obscuring of visibility due to large numbers of locusts swarming in the sky.

22 tn Heb “before it.”

23 tn Heb “trembles.”

24 tn Heb “gather their brightness.”

25 tn Heb “the Lord gives his voice.”

26 tn Heb “before his army.”

27 tn Heb “military encampment.”

28 tn Heb “very large.”

29 tn Heb “he makes his word powerful.”

30 tn Or “powerful.” Heb “great.”

31 tn Heb “endure.” The MT and LXX read “endure,” while one of the Qumran manuscripts (4QXXIIc) has “bear.”

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