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
they charge ahead like war horses.
like the crackling 13 of blazing fire consuming stubble,
All of their faces turn pale with fright. 19
they scale walls like soldiers. 22
Each one proceeds on his course;
they do not alter 23 their path.
each of them marches straight ahead. 25
and do not break ranks.
they scale 29 its walls.
They climb up into the houses;
they go in through the windows like a thief.
the sky reverberates. 32
The sun and the moon grow dark;
the stars refuse to shine. 33
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.
10 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.
11 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.
12 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.
13 tn Heb “sound.”
14 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.
15 tn Heb “people.”
16 tn Heb “being arrayed of battle.”
17 tn Or “nations.”
18 tn Heb “before it.”
19 tn Heb “all faces gather beauty”; or “all faces gather a glow.” The Hebrew word פָּארוּר (pa’rur) 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.
20 sn Since the invaders are compared to warriors, this suggests that they are not actually human, but instead an army of locusts.
21 tn Heb “run.”
22 tn Heb “men of battle.”
23 tc The translation reads יְעַבְּתוּן (yÿ’abbÿtun) for MT יְעַבְּטוּן (yÿ’abbÿtun). 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 (yÿ’avvÿtun, “they make crooked”); (2) יָטּוּן (yattun, “they turn aside”); (3) יָעַוּוּן (ya’avvun, “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.
24 tn “each one does not crowd his brother.”
25 tn Heb “each warrior walks in his own course.”
26 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).
27 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.
28 tn Heb “dart about in.”
29 tn Or “they run upon its wall.”
30 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.
31 tn Heb “before it.”
32 tn Heb “trembles.”
33 tn Heb “gather their brightness.”