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Holman Bible Dictionary

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Greek - Joel
Hebrew - Joel
JOEL

(joh' ehl) Personal name meaning, “Yah is God.” 1. Son of Samuel who became an evil judge, leading Israel's leaders to ask Samuel to give them a king, thus introducing kingship as a form of government for Israel. Samuel argued strongly against this, but to no avail (1 Samuel 8:1; compare 1 Chronicles 6:33). 2. A Levite (1 Chronicles 6:36). 3. Member(s) of tribe of Reuben (1 Chronicles 5:4,1 Chronicles 5:8). 4. Leader among the Levites under David (1 Chronicles 15:7,1 Chronicles 15:11,1 Chronicles 15:18), who brought the ark of the covenant up to Jerusalem. Compare 1 Chronicles 23:8; 1 Chronicles 26:22 for Levites named Joel. 5. Member of tribe of Simeon (1 Chronicles 4:35). 6. Leader of tribe of Gad (1 Chronicles 5:12). 7. Leader of tribe of Issachar (1 Chronicles 7:3). 8. Military hero under David (1 Chronicles 11:38; compare Igal in 2 Samuel 23:26). 9. Leader of the western half of the tribe of Manasseh under David (1 Chronicles 27:20). 10. Levite who helped King Hezekiah cleanse the Temple about 715 B.C. (2 Chronicles 29:12). 11. Israelite Ezra condemned for having a foreign wife who might lead nation to worship other gods (Ezra 10:43). 12. Leader of the people from tribe of Benjamin living in Jerusalem in time of Nehemiah (Nehemiah 11:9). 13. Prophet whose preaching ministry produced the Book of Joel. Personal information concerning the prophet is minimal, only that he was the son of Pethuel, about whom we know nothing. That the prophet lived in Jerusalem is probable because of his avid interest in the city, his repeated references to Zion, his call to the people to assemble for worship, and his interest in the Temple rituals and sacrifices.

His use of the popular formula, “The word of the Lord came,” demonstrates his devotion as God's prophet. Distinguishing himself from the priests, he respectfully urged them to lead the people in repentance. As many as twenty references to and quotations from other prophets attest to his position in the prophetic ministry.

Containing only 70 verses, the Book of Joel is one of the shortest in the Old Testament, comprising only three chapters in our English translations. The first of two natural divisions, the earlier section (Joel 1:1-2:17) describes a terrible locust plague concluding with a plea for confession of sins. The second section (Joel 2:18-3:21), written in the form of a first-person response from God, proclaims hope for the repentant people coupled with judgment upon their enemies.

An unprecedented locust plague was symbolic of the coming day of the Lord. The insects, depicted in their four stages of development, moved through the land in successive swarms, utterly destroying everything in their path. Farmers were denied a harvest. Animals desperately roamed the wasteland groaning and perishing for lack of food. Drunkards cried out for a little taste of wine. Because priests could not find enough offerings for sacrifice, altars were empty. Drought and famine followed the locust infiltration. Vegetation was stripped; the weather was hot; water was scarce. All God's creation suffered because of the sinfulness of His people.

Priests were urged to call for fasting and prayer (Joel 2:15-17). Only God's grace could avert annihilation. Then, on the basis of their repentance, God answered that He would show pity and remove their plague (Joel 2:18-27).

As a result of their return to God, His people were promised the presence of God's Spirit among them. Locusts were used to tell about a greater day of the Lord in the future. Judgment was pronounced against Phoenicia and Philistia (Joel 3:4) and eventually upon all nations as they were judged by God in the Valley of Jehoshaphat, which literally means “The Lord judges” (Joel 3:2,Joel 3:12). Judah faced unparalleled prosperity, but Egypt and Edom (traditional enemies) could look for terrible punishment (Joel 3:18-19). The Lord triumphed over his enemies in order that all shall “know that I am the Lord Your God” (Joel 3:17; compare Joel 2:27).

Opinions differ regarding the date of the book. Internal evidence makes it clear that the priests were in a position of strong authority; the Temple was standing; sacrifices were considered important; and certain foreign nations stood condemned. No mention was made of the world empires of Assyria or Babylonia. No reference was made to the Northern Kingdom of Israel; neither is the name of a king mentioned.

Two approximate dates generally are given as the possible times of the authorship of the book, either before the Exile around the time of the boy-king Joash (about 836-796 B.C.) or after the return from Exile (about 500-400 B.C.). The position of the book among the early prophets in the Hebrew canon is considered as evidence for an early date. Also, the omission of a king's name would be appropriate if a young boy such as Joash had not achieved maturity.

In favor of the late date, strong arguments are given. The returning exiles, comprising a small group in Jerusalem, centered their worship in the Temple. Sacrifices were important. Emphasis on ethical living, so characteristic of preexilic prophets such as Amos and Micah, was lacking. Idolatry and the high places were not mentioned, suggesting that they were no longer a serious problem. After the Exile, there would be no need for announcing the coming destruction of Assyria and Babylon. There would be no need to mention a king. Citation of the Grecian slave traffic (Joel 3:4-6) fits a late period. References to the scattering of the Israelites (Joel 3:2-6) would apply to an exilic period, and the use of the term “Israel” to refer to Judah (Joel 2:27; Joel 3:2) would have been appropriate in postexilic times. In addition, the style and language reflects the period after the Exile when the prophetic emphasis was beginning to give way to the apocalyptic.

Some early theologians viewed the entire book as an allegory with the locusts representing four heathen nations that opposed God's people. Few scholars hold to such an interpretation today. Other biblical students have seen in the book primarily a prediction of future events and have related it to certain apocalyptic literature of the New Testament (Revelation 9:3-11). Most scholars, however, accept the description of the locust plague as a literal invasion which the prophet used as a point of reference to speak to the people of his own day about the coming day of the Lord, at the same time incorporating predictive elements concerning the messianic age.

Primary teachings of the Book of Joel are numerous. (1) The Creator and Redeemer God of all the universe is in complete control of nature and can use calamities to bring His people to repentance. (2) All of God's creation is interdependent. People, animals, and vegetation all suffer when people sin. (3) Whereas the Jews considered the day of the Lord as a time of punishment upon their enemies, Joel make it clear that although God controls the destinies of other nations, His people, with a responsibility to live in accordance with their relationship with Him, are not exempt from His vengeance. (4) The God of judgment also is a God of mercy who stands ready to redeem and restore when His people come before Him in repentance. (5) Of special significance is the forward look to a time when the Spirit of God would be present upon all people. All could become prophets, with no exclusions, no go-betweens, and all could know His salvation. Peter, on the day of Pentecost, proclaimed that the new day of Spirit-filled people had arrived as it had been announced earlier by the prophet Joel (Acts 2:17-21).

Outline

I. The Day of the Lord Calls for God's People to Respond (Joel 1:1-2:17).

A. Witness to future generations (Joel 1:1-4).

B. Mourn and grieve over the destruction (Joel 1:5-20).

C. Sound the alarm because the day of the scLord is dreadful (Joel 2:1-11).

D. Repent inwardly because your gracious, patient God may have pity (Joel 2:12-14).

E. Assemble the congregation for mourning and repentance (Joel 2:15-17).

II. God Will Respond to His People's Mourning and Repentance (Joel 2:18-27).

A. God will have pity (Joel 2:18).

B. God will provide food needs and remove shame from His people (Joel 2:19).

C. God will defeat the enemy (Joel 2:20).

D. God will replace fear and shame with joy and praise (Joel 2:21-26).

E. God will cause His people to know and worship Him, and Him alone (Joel 2:27).

III. God Is Preparing a Great Day of Salvation (Joel 2:28-3:21).

A. God will pour out His Spirit to bring salvation to the remnant (Joel 2:28-32).

B God will judge all nations (Joel 3:1-17).

C. God will bless His people (Joel 3:18-21).

A. O. Collins


Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor.. "Entry for 'JOEL'". "Holman Bible Dictionary".
<http://classic.studylight.org/dic/hbd/view.cgi?number=T3451>. 1991.

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