Joel

 

I   INTRODUCTION

Joel, book of the Old Testament, one of 12 short prophetic books known, primarily because of their brevity, as the Minor Prophets. In Hebrew (Jewish) versions of the Old Testament the book is divided into four chapters; chapter 3 in the Hebrew versions appears as 2:28-32 in Christian versions, and chapter 4 appears as chapter 3.

II   CONTENTS

The book falls into two distinct parts. In the first part (1-2:27), the prophet depicts the devastation resulting from a plague of locusts. The people are summoned to a solemn fast at “the house of the Lord” (1:14) and urged to pray there for deliverance. The prophet, interpreting the plague as a portent of the coming “day of the Lord” (1:15), or day of judgment, warns the people that only heartfelt repentance can save them on that day. If they repent, the Lord will not only remove the locusts; he will also restore to the land its former fruitfulness and will restore to the people their former plenty. They shall know that God is “in the midst of Israel” (2:27).

In the second part (2:28-3:21), Joel prophesies an age of deliverance, in which God will pour out his “spirit on all flesh” (2:28), and “will give portents in the heavens and on the earth” (2:30), and “gather all the nations” (3:2) into the “valley of decision” (3:14) for a final judgment. The enemies of Judah will then be laid waste for “violence done to the people of Judah,” but “Judah shall be inhabited for ever, and Jerusalem to all generations” (3:19-20).

III   ORIGINS

Tradition attributes the book to the Hebrew prophet Joel, about whom biblical scholars currently know nothing except his name. From references in the text, however, most scholars have concluded that the book dates from the immediate postexilic period (after 538 bc). Christian theologians have always found considerable significance in the second part of Joel. St. Peter believed that the passage about God’s Spirit was a prophecy concerning the descent of the Holy Spirit, and he cited this passage from Joel (Acts 2:16-21) on the day of Pentecost. Scholars see in the second part of Joel an early, well-realized example of the apocalyptic style (writing dealing with events at the end of the world).

 

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