Monday, January 4, 2016

Conditions In Joel’s Day

Joel 1:1-20

There is no way of determining exactly when Joel was written.  Schofield and others have stated that Joel was a contemporary of Elisha, but there is no evidence to support the claim, so far as I know.  Joel’s prophecies resemble some of those by Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel’s.   

In any case, Joel’s prophecies were clearly accepted as being from God, as we see from Peter’s message on the day of Pentecost, in Acts 2:14-16.  “But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day.  But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel.”
“The word of the LORD that came to Joel the son of Pethuel.  Hear this, ye old men, and give ear, all ye inhabitants of the land. Hath this been in your days, or even in the days of your fathers?  Tell ye your children of it, and let your children tell their children, and their children another generation.  That which the palmerworm hath left hath the locust eaten; and that which the locust hath left hath the cankerworm eaten; and that which the cankerworm hath left hath the caterpillar eaten.” (Joel 1:1-4)

They were going through a period of pestilence such as they had never experienced in their lifetimes.  Early crops had been devoured by an infestation of Palmer worms.  What survived the palmerworms had been eaten by swarms of locusts.  When they replanted, canker worms attacked the sprouting plants, and finally caterpillars invaded the growing plants, killing nearly everything.  While an infestation of one of these pests was not uncommon, having all of them in single year was unheard of.   Such an event signified something important. 

“Awake, ye drunkards, and weep; and howl, all ye drinkers of wine, because of the new wine, for it is cut off from your mouth.  For a nation is come up upon my land, strong, and without number, whose teeth are the teeth of a lion, and he hath the cheek teeth of a great lion.  He hath laid my vine waste, and barked my fig tree: he hath made it clean bare, and cast it away; the branches thereof are made white.” (Joel 1:5-7)

Even the drunks and drug addicts could no longer ignore what was happening.  The insects had eaten off even the bark of the trees and vines, killing them so that there would not be a crop.  There wouldn’t be any drugs or alcohol even if they tried to steal it.  The economy was completely destroyed. 

“Lament like a virgin girded with sackcloth for the husband of her youth.  The meat offering and the drink offering is cut off from the house of the LORD; the priests, the LORD'S ministers, mourn.  The field is wasted, the land mourneth; for the corn is wasted: the new wine is dried up, the oil languisheth.  Be ye ashamed, O ye husbandmen; howl, O ye vinedressers, for the wheat and for the barley; because the harvest of the field is perished.  The vine is dried up, and the fig tree languisheth; the pomegranate tree, the palm tree also, and the apple tree, even all the trees of the field, are withered: because joy is withered away from the sons of men.” (Joel 1:8-12)

The churches and charitable organizations that the drunks and drug addicts had depended on were broke.  The farmers and workers who had supported the charitable organizations were starving themselves.  Even the solidest most dependable producers and industries had been wiped out.  They could no longer take pride in their ability to take care of themselves.  There was nothing left for them to feel good about. 

“Gird yourselves, and lament, ye priests: howl, ye ministers of the altar: come, lie all night in sackcloth, ye ministers of my God: for the meat offering and the drink offering is withholden from the house of your God.  Sanctify ye a fast, call a solemn assembly, gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land into the house of the LORD your God, and cry unto the LORD.  Alas for the day! for the day of the LORD is at hand, and as a destruction from the Almighty shall it come.  Is not the meat cut off before our eyes, yea, joy and gladness from the house of our God?” (Joel 1:13-15)

Under the Law, the priests and temple workers were to wear their holy garments and keep themselves to a certain moral standard.  Joel said they needed to get themselves back to that standard, humbling themselves and weeping over their sin because the offerings were not being given.  As so often happens the leadership was the last to feel the effects of the sin and resultant problems.  They needed to call for a fast, a time of seeking the Lord, because it was God who was causing the things that were happening and they would only get worse if they were ignored.  The fact that they were already going without should be warning enough. 

“The seed is rotten under their clods, the garners are laid desolate, the barns are broken down; for the corn is withered.  How do the beasts groan! the herds of cattle are perplexed, because they have no pasture; yea, the flocks of sheep are made desolate.  O LORD, to thee will I cry: for the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness, and the flame hath burned all the trees of the field.  The beasts of the field cry also unto thee: for the rivers of waters are dried up, and the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness.” (Joel 1:17-20)

It wasn’t as if no one was trying, they planted the seed, and it rotted in the ground rather than growing.  The storage barns were falling down from lack of care because there was nothing growing to put in them or or pay for repairs.  The livestock and wild animals were starving because the Locusts and other insects have left no food for them.  The trees had died and dried up, and fires spread rapidly through the dried branches.   Even the wild animals were turning to the people for help, coming into the cities in hopes of finding something to eat or a little water to drink because the rivers were dry.  Grass fires destroyed any straw or stubble left from previous years. 

The main reason Joel has been assumed to be contemporary with Elisha is because of the famine during Elisha’s say.  In fact we know that there was also famine in Hezekiah’s day, and again just before the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians.   Internal evidence suggests Joel was probably written during one of these later famines, rather than in Elisha’s day.       


  1. Dear Donald,
    This goes to show how we take our commodities for granted every time we enter a grocery superstore.
    I thank the Lord that nowadays we don't suffer that kind of famine experienced in ancient times.
    The fact is that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting their tresspasses against them..

    1. Amen, Frank. Even at the most unpleasant times, God is still trying to draw us to himself. We may see famines again for that very purpose.

  2. All of man's best efforts are futile if God does not bless them. Many today believe that man can control even the climate, failing to realize they can't even take their next breath unless God allows it.
    God bless,

    1. Amen, Laurie. So many have no understanding of how completely dependent on God we are.