Joel 2

Chapter two changes focus from the locust invasion in Joel’s day to the coming “day of the LORD” (Joel 2:1). The timing of this “day” is debated. Some scholars see only one final “day” to come, namely, the judgments of the Tribulation (Ironside, Keil & Delitzsch), while others see two “days” – a more immediate invasion along with the future Tribulation (Constable, Lange). Often, where they place Joel’s prophecy (see the introductory notes) determines whether they see one or two coming invasions.

In Joel 2:2-11 Joel described the coming army of the day of the LORD. Because he used language similar to the locust invasion of chapter one, it is difficult to determine whether the day of the LORD army is human or locust. It is well-documented that locusts physically look like miniature war horses, so Joel 2:4 could refer to locusts or war horses. 1 Remarkably, God will use locust-like demons as agents of judgment during the fifth trumpet of the Tribulation, which are also described as looking like war horses (Revelation 9:1-11), so this also does not help clarify whether one or more coming invasions are in view.

Just as any judgment for sin, the solution for delaying the day of the LORD judgment was to repent and return to the true worship of God (Joel 2:12-17). Joel 2:15-16 is similar to Joel 1:14, where Joel first called for a holy fast by the nation. The groups of people mentioned here are also similar to those addressed in chapter one – elders, newlyweds, priests. Every time God calls for someone to repent, it is because of his promise to relent judgment, and Joel 2:18-27 are another proof of this truth. The NET, NIV, and ESV translates this section as having been already completed, hinting at an immediate judgment, while the NASB and KJV translate God’s response as future, implying a future judgment and repentance. Jehovah is always merciful and gracious toward those who repent, and one day Israel will return never to run away again.

Joel 2:28-32 are probably the best-known verses in Joel, frequently written about and discussed for three reasons. First, it refers to a future time, when the Holy Spirit will come upon Jewish people in a way Joel had never seen. The celestial events described here match those during the Tribulation (Revelation 6:12-14). Second, Peter quoted this passage on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2:17-21. It is important to note that he did not claim that this was fulfilled at that time, but that the obvious coming of the Holy Spirit on that day should not have been surprising to the crowd, because God had already promised that the Spirit would come. Third, Paul quoted Joel 2:32 in Romans 10:13, revealing that Jews in this age need to recognize Jesus as Jehovah in order to receive salvation.

Notes:

  1. Constable notes that both the Italian and German words for “locust” refer to horses (Thomas Constable, Notes on Joel, 2015 Edition, 15).

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