Category: Book of Joel


Author: The Book of Joel states that its author was the  Prophet Joel (Joel  1:1).

Date of Writing: The Book of Joel was likely  written between 835 and 800 B.C.

Purpose of Writing: Judah, the setting for the book, is devastated by a vast horde of locusts. This  invasion of locusts destroys everything—the fields of grain, the vineyards, the  gardens and the trees. Joel symbolically describes the locusts as a marching  human army and views all of this as divine judgment coming against the nation  for her sins. The book is highlighted by two major events. One is the invasion  of locusts and the other the outpouring of the Spirit. The initial fulfillment  of this is quoted by Peter in Acts 2 as having taken place at  Pentecost.

Key Verses: Joel 1:4, “What  the locust swarm has left the great locusts have eaten; what the great locusts  have left the young locusts have eaten; what the young locusts have left other  locusts have eaten.”

Joel 2:25, “I  will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten…”

Joel 2:28, “And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on  all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream  dreams, your young men will see visions.”

Brief Summary:  A terrible plague of locusts is followed by a severe famine throughout  the land. Joel uses these happenings as the catalyst to send words of warning to  Judah. Unless the people repent quickly and completely, enemy armies will devour  the land as did the natural elements. Joel appeals to all the people and the  priests of the land to fast and humble themselves as they seek God’s  forgiveness. If they will respond, there will be renewed material and spiritual  blessings for the nation. But the Day of the Lord is coming. At this time the  dreaded locusts will seem as gnats in comparison, as all nations receive His  judgment.

The overriding theme of the Book of Joel is the Day of the  Lord, a day of God’s wrath and judgment. This is the Day in which God reveals  His attributes of wrath, power and holiness, and it is a terrifying day to His  enemies. In the first chapter, the Day of the Lord is experienced historically  by the plague of locusts upon the land. Chapter 2:1-17 is a transitional chapter  in which Joel uses the metaphor of the locust plague and drought to renew a call  to repentance. Chapters 2:18-3:21 describes the Day of the Lord in  eschatological terms and answers the call to repentance with prophecies of  physical restoration (2:21-27), spiritual restoration (2:28-32), and national  restoration (3:1-21).

Foreshadowings: Whenever the Old  Testament speaks of judgment for sin, whether individual or national sin, the  advent of Jesus Christ is foreshadowed. The prophets of the Old Testament  continually warned Israel to repent, but even when they did, their repentance  was limited to law-keeping and works. Their temple sacrifices were but a shadow  of the ultimate sacrifice, offered once for all time, which would come at the  cross (Hebrews  10:10). Joel tells us that God’s ultimate judgment, which falls on the Day  of the Lord, will be “great and terrible. Who can endure it?” (Joel 2:11). The answer is that we, on our own, can never  endure such a moment. But if we have placed our faith in Christ for atonement of  our sins, we have nothing to fear from the Day of  Judgment.

Practical Application: Without repentance,  judgment will be harsh, thorough and certain. Our trust should not be in our  possessions but in the Lord our God. God at times may use nature, sorrow or  other common occurrences to draw us closer to Him. But in His mercy and grace,  He has provided the definitive plan for our salvation—Jesus Christ, crucified  for our sins and exchanging our sin for His perfect righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21).  There is no time to lose. God’s judgment will come swiftly, as a thief in the  night (1  Thessalonians 5:2), and we must be ready. Today is the day of salvation (2  Corinthians 6:2). “Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he  is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him  turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will  freely pardon” (Isaiah  55:6-7). Only by appropriating God’s salvation can we escape His wrath on  the Day of the Lord.

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Beginning in Joel 2:28, the  prophet transitions to a description of events in the distant future (from his  vantage point). Verse 28 says, “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will  pour out my Spirit on all flesh.” What did he mean? Has this been  fulfilled?

A New Testament reference to this verse provides help in  understanding this statement. In Acts 2:15-17  Peter is preaching on the Day of Pentecost:  “For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour  of the day. But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: ‘And in the  last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all  flesh.’”

In this sermon, Peter connects Joel’s prophecy with the Holy  Spirit’s coming and the commencement of the church. Not every detail of Joel’s  prophecy is yet fulfilled, but the “pouring out of the Spirit” began on the Day  of Pentecost. From that time, the Holy Spirit indwells all those who come to  faith in Jesus Christ.

This event marked a notable difference in the  Spirit’s role from Old Testament times. The Spirit had previously only empowered  certain individuals and sometimes only for a particular period of time. On the  Day of Pentecost, the 120 followers of Jesus in the Upper Room not only  experienced the Holy Spirit’s power but His abiding presence (cf. John 14:16). Three thousand people believed and were  baptized that day. These converts all received the Holy Spirit into their lives  that same day (Acts  2:38).

One of the surprising outcomes of Joel’s prophecy was that  even non-Jews were filled with the Spirit. In Acts 10:45 we  read, “The believers from among the circumcised . . . were amazed, because the  gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles.” God was lavishing  His Spirit on everyone who believed in Jesus, regardless of their culture,  nationality, or ethnicity. “All people,” as Joel had said, were offered this  gift.

In the future, the Holy Spirit will play an active role in  end-time events, bringing to pass the other aspects of Joel’s prophecies in Joel  chapters 2 and 3 (Revelation  1:4, 10; 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:1, 6, 13, 22; 4:2, 5, 6; 14:13; 17:3; 21:10; 22:17). However, the  initial fulfillment of this prophecy has already begun, as noted by the apostle  Peter, allowing all who follow Christ today to experience the blessing of the  Holy Spirit living within them and empowering them for Christian  service.