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Joel 2:12-27

Context
An Appeal for Repentance

2:12 “Yet even now,” the Lord says,

“return to me with all your heart –

with fasting, weeping, and mourning.

Tear your hearts, 1 

not just your garments!”

2:13 Return to the Lord your God,

for he is merciful and compassionate,

slow to anger and boundless in loyal love 2  – often relenting from calamitous punishment. 3 

2:14 Who knows?

Perhaps he will be compassionate and grant a reprieve, 4 

and leave blessing in his wake 5 

a meal offering and a drink offering for you to offer to the Lord your God! 6 

2:15 Blow the trumpet 7  in Zion.

Announce a holy fast;

proclaim a sacred assembly!

2:16 Gather the people;

sanctify an assembly!

Gather the elders;

gather the children and the nursing infants.

Let the bridegroom come out from his bedroom

and the bride from her private quarters. 8 

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

from the vestibule all the way back to the altar. 9 

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

please do not turn over your inheritance to be mocked,

to become a proverb 10  among the nations.

Why should it be said 11  among the peoples,

“Where is their God?”

The Lord’s Response

2:18 Then the Lord became 12  zealous for his land;

he had compassion on his people.

2:19 The Lord responded 13  to his people,

“Look! I am about to restore your grain 14 

as well as fresh wine and olive oil.

You will be fully satisfied. 15 

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

2:20 I will remove the one from the north 16  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, 17 

and those in back westward into the Mediterranean Sea. 18 

His stench will rise up as a foul smell.” 19 

Indeed, the Lord 20  has accomplished great things.

2:21 Do not fear, my land!

Rejoice and be glad,

because the Lord has accomplished great things!

2:22 Do not fear, wild animals! 21 

For the pastures of the wilderness are again green with grass.

Indeed, the trees bear their fruit;

the fig tree and the vine yield to their fullest. 22 

2:23 Citizens of Zion, 23  rejoice!

Be glad because of what the Lord your God has done! 24 

For he has given to you the early rains 25  as vindication.

He has sent 26  to you the rains –

both the early and the late rains 27  as formerly.

2:24 The threshing floors are full of grain;

the vats overflow with fresh wine and olive oil.

2:25 I will make up for the years 28 

that the ‘arbeh-locust 29  consumed your crops 30 

the yeleq-locust, the hasil-locust, and the gazam-locust –

my great army 31  that I sent against you.

2:26 You will have plenty to eat,

and your hunger will be fully satisfied; 32 

you will praise the name of the Lord your God,

who has acted wondrously in your behalf.

My people will never again be put to shame.

2:27 You will be convinced that I am in the midst of Israel.

I am the Lord your God; there is no other.

My people will never again be put to shame.

1 sn The figurative language calls for genuine repentance, and not merely external ritual that goes through the motions.

2 tn Heb “and great of loyal love.”

3 tn Heb “and he relents from calamity.”

4 tn Heb “turn” or “turn back.”

5 tn Heb “leave a blessing behind him.”

6 tn The phrase “for you to offer” does not appear in the Hebrew, but is supplied in the translation for the sake of clarity.

7 tn See the note on this term in 2:1.

8 sn Mosaic law allowed men recently married, or about to be married, to be exempt for a year from certain duties that were normally mandatory, such as military obligation (cf. Deut 20:7; 24:5). However, Joel pictures a time of such urgency that normal expectations must give way to higher requirements.

9 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.

10 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]).

11 tn Heb “Why will they say?”

12 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.

13 tn Heb “answered and said.”

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

15 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).

16 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.

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

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

19 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.

20 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.

21 tn Heb “beasts of the field.”

22 tn Heb “their strength.” The trees and vines will produce a maximum harvest, in contrast to the failed agricultural conditions previously described.

23 tn Heb “sons of Zion.”

24 tn Heb “be glad in the Lord your God.”

25 tn Normally the Hebrew word הַמּוֹרֶה (hammoreh) means “the teacher,” but here and in Ps 84:7 it refers to “early rains.” Elsewhere the word for “early rains” is יוֹרֶה (yoreh). The phrase here הַמּוֹרֶה לִצְדָקָה (hammoreh litsdaqah) is similar to the expression “teacher of righteousness” (Heb., מוֹרֶה הַצֶּדֶק , moreh hatsedeq) found in the Dead Sea Scrolls referring to a particular charismatic leader, although the Qumran community seems not to have invoked this text in support of that notion.

26 tn Heb “caused to come down.”

27 sn For half the year Palestine is generally dry. The rainy season begins with the early rains usually in late October to early December, followed by the latter rains in March and April. Without these rains productive farming would not be possible, as Joel’s original readers knew only too well.

28 tn Heb “I will restore to you the years.”

sn The plural years suggests that the plague to which Joel refers was not limited to a single season. Apparently the locusts were a major problem over several successive years. One season of drought and locust invasion would have been bad enough. Several such years would have been devastating.

29 sn The same four terms for locust are used here as in 1:4, but in a different order. This fact creates some difficulty for the notion that the four words refer to four distinct stages of locust development.

30 tn The term “your crops” does not appear in the Hebrew, but has been supplied in the translation for the sake of clarity and smoothness.

31 sn Here Joel employs military language to describe the locusts. In the prophet’s thinking this invasion was far from being a freak accident. Rather, the Lord is pictured here as a divine warrior who leads his army into the land as a punishment for past sin and as a means of bringing about spiritual renewal on the part of the people.

32 tn Heb “you will surely eat and be satisfied.”



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