What is the Book of Joel About?
Read this 4-minute introduction to help you find your bearings in the Bible story, and be inspired to read Joel!
Little is known about Joel, a prophet from Judah (perhaps Jerusalem).
From Bibles.net: Remember that the ultimate author of every book of the Bible is the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21). He has written this book to equip you for life, to help you know the true God, and to give you hope (2 Timothy 3:16; Romans 15:4). The Holy Spirit wrote Joel for your good and to lead you into joy.
Most scholars date the book after the exile to Babylon (586 BC).
—ESV Global Study Bible
The first part of Joel takes for granted the existence of the Jerusalem temple (Joel 1:9, 14, 16; 2:17). This pushes the date of the book after the rebuilding of the temple (515 BC). The internal conditions presupposed by the prophecy fit well with this general period. The calls assume the existence of a community small enough to gather at the temple (Joel 2:16-17). Its leaders are priests and elders, with no king in sight (Joel 1:2, 13-14). The grain-offering and the drink offering (Joel 1:9, 13; 2:14) refers to the tamid sacrifice, the daily offering at the temple (see below, Joel 1:8-10), mentioned only in post-exilic sources…A few other considerations need to be added into the mix. Joel 2:32 quotes the exilic text of Obadiah 17 and so cannot be earlier than the sixth century BC. In addition, the language of Joel is thought to contain some late elements.
—Tchavdar S. Hadjiev
Source: Hadijev, Tchavdar S. Joel and Amos: An Introduction and Commentary. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2020.
It is in many ways providential that the book cannot be dated or traced to a particular person in a particular setting. The events described in it are, at one and the same time, unprecedented and timeless. The message of Joel is, therefore, relevant to any situation in any generation.
Source: David Prior, quoted from his book, “The Message of Joel, Micah, and Habakkuk”
Joel calls the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem to lament and return to the Lord during a time of national disaster. A locust plague has destroyed both wine (Joel 1:5, 7, 12) and grain (Joel 1:10). This threatens the people’s ability to present offerings in the temple (Joel 1:9, 13, 16).
The Setting of Joel
c. 500 BC?
Though there is much debate about the date of Joel’s prophecies, it is likely that they occurred during a national calamity sometime after Judah returned from exile in Babylon.
Unless otherwise indicated, this content is adapted from the ESV Global Study Bible® (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright ©2012 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Restored: How God Can Give Back What You’ve Lost by Colin Smith
Check out this phenomenal 4-part message series by Pastor Colin Smith. In these messages on the book of Joel, we’ll learn that God can restore lost years. We will hear the truths on how God does this by deepening our communion with Christ, by multiplying our fruitfulness, and recognizing that God can restore lost years by bringing a long-term gain from a short-term loss.
As you read through Joel, you might come across words and ideas that are foreign to you. Here are a few definitions you will want to know! Note that this dictionary was created for the New International Version (NIV) Bible.
(1) In the Old Testament, an older man in a family, tribe, or town. (2) Also in the Old Testament, a member of a group of older men in a town. The town elders made major decisions for the town. (3) In the first four books of the New Testament, the Sanhedrin—the group of men who governed the Jewish people in Jesus’ time. (4) In the Early Church, the church leaders.
To gather ripe fruits, vegetables, grain, and other crops from fields, vineyards, and orchards.
The most important city of Bible times. Jerusalem was the capital of the united kingdom of Israel and the kingdom of Judah. The temple was built in Jerusalem, so many people traveled to the city to worship God. In 587 BC, Jerusalem was captured and mostly destroyed by Babylonian armies. The city was rebuilt when the Jews returned after 70 years of exile in Babylon. Jesus taught in the city of Jerusalem, was crucified outside the city wall, was buried near the city, and then rose again. The first Christian church began in Jerusalem after the Holy Spirit came to the believers there.
(1) One of the sons of Jacob and Leah. (2) The descendants of Jacob and Leah’s son of the same name, who became the tribe of Judah. (3) The southern kingdom when the Israelites divided into two separate countries after the death of King Solomon. (The northern kingdom was called Israel.)
A large insect like a grasshopper. Sometimes locusts travel in huge swarms, eating all the plants they can find. In Bible times, locusts were sometimes eaten as food.
A gift of money, time, or other possessions given to God by a person who loves him. In Old Testament times, people brought food and animals to the tabernacle or temple as offerings to God. The offerings were often burned on the altar. Animal offerings were always killed. Their blood symbolized sins being forgiven by death. Christians believe that offering sacrifices for the forgiveness of sins is no longer necessary because Jesus’ death was the once-for-all sacrifice through which our sins can be forgiven.
A smooth, greasy, thick liquid. In the Bible, oil almost always means olive oil, which was squeezed from olives and used in food, as a fuel for lamps, as a medicine for wounds, and as a hair dressing and skin softener. Olive oil was used to anoint priests and kings. It was also used in religious ceremonies in the tabernacle and later in the temple.
A rough, dark material usually woven from goats’ hair. When someone died, the person’s friends and family wore clothes made of sackcloth to show that they were very sad. A person would also wear sackcloth to show that he or she was sorry for sinning.
The unseen part of a person that controls what he or she thinks, feels, and does; soul. The Bible says that God is a Spirit, showing that he does not have a physical body.
The place where grain was trampled by oxen or beaten with a stick to separate the heads of grain from the stalk. A threshing floor was usually a large, flat rock or a large area of clay that was packed hard. Threshing floors were usually built where wind would blow away the chaff and leave the heavier grain.
Something seen during a trance or dream. A vision was a way God showed someone a truth that would otherwise not be known. Sometimes people were asleep when God gave them visions (see Ezekiel 8:1-4; Acts 10:9-29).
A long, loud cry to show sorrow.
A large area of land where few people live. Depending on the amount of rainfall, the land might be a barren desert or be lush with vegetation.
(1) One of the hills on which the city of Jerusalem was built (Mount Zion). (2) The entire city of Jerusalem. (3) Another name for the nation of Israel. (4) Another name for heaven.
This content is from What the Bible Is All About, written by Henrietta Mears. Copyright © 1953, 2011 by Gospel Light. Copyright assigned to Tyndale House Publishers, 2015. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
We have found answers to some tough questions that we anticipate may arise as you read this book of the Bible. We know we can’t answer every question you will have; therefore, we have written this article, so you know how to find answers for your kids: How Do I Answer Tough Questions About the Bible?
The following insights are from pastors and scholars who have spent significant time studying the book of Joel.
Traditionally, Joel is called the prophet of Pentecost, since his prophecy of the outpouring of the Spirit (see Joel 2:28-32) is quoted by Peter in Acts 2:16-21 to explain the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. The occasion of his prophetic message was a devastating locust plague, which he interpreted as being a foreboding about the Day of the Lord, when God would act directly to punish his people for their sins. Joel calls upon the people of Judah to repent, promising that repentance will cause the Lord to pour out his Spirit and his blessings upon his people.
Source: This content is from What the Bible Is All About, written by Henrietta Mears. Copyright © 1953, 2011 by Gospel Light. Copyright assigned to Tyndale House Publishers, 2015. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
The first half of the book [of Joel] describes how God fought against his own people to make them honor him alone. And the second half of the book describes how he will fight against the nations who refuse to honor him alone.
…So Joel sees two things coming as the day of the Lord approaches: one is a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit (2:28, 29), and the other is a terrible time of divine judgment. He had fought against his own people in the past to lead them to salvation. He will fight against the nations in the future who reject his salvation and his people… Joel sees a future with two sides: salvation and blessing for those who call on the name of the Lord, but judgment and destruction for the people who go their own way.
…The purpose of God in the historical locust horde and the purpose of God in the final day of the Lord are the same: to make known that he alone is God and is to be loved and worshiped and served above all things.
From Bibles.net: We have linked to this message in the Tough Questions section, and encourage you to listen to the message!
In typical prophetic form, Joel gives his readers both the bad news of God’s judgment and the good news of his promised deliverance. The book contains a description of a dramatic judgment on God’s people through a devastating plague of locusts. This serves as a warning of the great “day of the Lord” at the end of time. Joel also includes one of the Old Testament’s most significant promises regarding the future coming of the Holy Spirit.
Both the judgment and the promise remind us of our desperate need for God’s help. The judgment that our sins deserve is far worse than a plague of locusts. The promise of the Spirit reminds us that the help we need is nothing less than supernatural. Through the ministry of Jesus Christ, the requirements of judgment and of supernatural provision have both been met. Jesus took upon himself the plague of judgment for our sins (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:24) and then promised (John 14:16) and provided (Acts 2) the gift of the Holy Spirit.
In the worst times that can ever happen, there is still salvation for men. When day turns to night, and life becomes death, and the staff of life is broken, and the hope of man has fled, there still remains in God, in the person of his dear Son, deliverance to all those who will call upon the name of the Lord. We do not know what is to happen: reading the roll of the future, we prophesy dark things; but still this light shall always shine between the rifts of the cloud-wrack: “Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered” (Joel 2:32 KJV).
…To “call on the name of the Lord,” is briefly to pray a believing prayer; to cry to God for his help, and to leave yourself in his hands. This is very simple, is it not? There is no cumbersome machinery here, nothing complex and mysterious. No priestly help is wanted, except the help of that great High Priest, who intercedes for us within the veil. A poor, broken heart pours its distress into the ear of God, and calls upon him to fulfil his promise of help in the time of need—that is all. Thank God, nothing more is mentioned in our text. The promise is—“Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
…When the need of deliverance shall apparently increase, the abundance of salvation shall increase with it. Fear not the direst of all wars, the bitterest of all famines, the deadliest of all plagues; for still, if we call upon the Lord, he is pledged to deliver us. This word of promise meets the most terrible of possibilities with a sure salvation.
…This way of salvation, by calling upon the name of the Lord, glorifies God. He asks nothing of you but that you ask everything of him. You are the beggar, and he is the benefactor. You are in the trouble, and he is the Deliverer. All you have to do is to trust him, and beg of him. This is easy enough. This puts the matter into the hands of the Lord, and takes it out of your hands. Do you not like the plan? Put it in practice immediately! It will prove itself gloriously effectual.
From Bibles.net: We encourage you to read the whole message listed above where we retrieved this quote. It would be a wonderful message to read as a family over the course of a few days. You will be so blessed by listening to Charles Spurgeon teach us to call on the name of the Lord.
“The grain is destroyed, the wine fails, and the oil languishes” (Joel 1:10 ESV). It is difficult for non-Mediterranean readers to absorb the force of this. For British people an equivalent might be bread, butter, and tea. For Americans it might be hamburgers, coffee, and gasoline. In China and many countries in the East, the grain concerned would be rice. Grain, wine, and oil were necessary for the staple diet of Mediterranean countries—the grain to make bread; the fruit of the vine as daily drink; olive oil for cooking, cleansing, soothing, lighting, and much else besides.
Source: Prior, David. The Message of Joel, Micah, and Habakkuk. The Bible Speaks Today. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999.
Joel’s chronological placement can make you think of him as the prophet of prophets, the CliffsNotes of the prophets… He’s taking all the information that the prophets have thought of in Ezekiel and Zephaniah and Isaiah and Amos and he quotes all of them throughout his whole book. He’s saying, “…If you’re going to take everything all the other prophets are saying about the Day of the Lord and the way that we should respond to natural disaster and expect coming judgment, then here it is in three chapters.”
The fact that there’s so few details about Joel’s life or when the book of Joel was written is by virtue of the fact that he’s giving you the CliffsNotes of all the major and minor prophets. That, and he’s wanting his book to be a repeatable liturgy that people could go through regardless of time. Anytime there’s a natural disaster, you could read Joel. Any time an enemy army is coming against you, whether they are locusts or a physical one, you could read Joel, lament, repent, and ask the Lord for mercy.
Joel has a practical use. Joel has a usefulness in my life as a meditation during a time of national mourning over natural disasters.
Source: David Bowden and Seth Stewart in the Spoken Gospel podcast, “Joel 1:1-2:27: The Day of the Lord (Is COVID God’s Judgment?),”published at spokengospel.com.
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