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!


Historical Context

Little is known about Joel, a prophet from Judah (perhaps Jerusalem).

From 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: Tchavdar S. Hadjiev, quoted from his book, “Joel and Amos: An Introduction and Commentary”

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.

—David Prior

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.

Message Series

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 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.

Joel Dictionary

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!

(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. See also Sacrifice.

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. See also winnow and chaff.

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. 

Tough Questions


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. 

—Henrietta Mears

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.  

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.  

—Spoken Gospel  

Source: Seth Stewart and David Bowden, quoted from the podcast episode, “Joel 1:1-2:17: The Day of the Lord (Is COVID God’s Judgement?)” from the Spoken Gospel Podcast.