JOEL. The second of the "Minor Prophets" in the Old Testa ment.
The book falls into two parts: (a) i. 2–ii. 17, (b) 21. (a) The occasion of the prophecy is a plague of locusts. Addressing the people the prophet vividly describes the calamity which threatens complete destruction owing to repeated ravages of the locusts : even the Temple services cannot be main tained because all agricultural produce is destroyed. In this visi tation of locusts the prophet sees signs of the approaching "Day of Yahweh" (i. 15) : there is no hope save in repentance and prayer, so the prophet urges priests and people to penitence and intercession that the "destruction from the Almighty" may be stayed. He bases his exhortation on an appeal to the obvious facts (i. 16-18). In ii. 1-17 the call to repentance and prayer is re peated and emphasized by a fuller description of the locust plague. This second description is influenced by experience of the scourge already well-known ; the stress is laid not upon the result of the visitation but upon the irresistible terror of the approaching hordes. The locusts of this future visitation are the "army" of Yahweh used by him as his agents in "the Day of Yahweh" to execute final judgment. It is not too late to avert destructive judg ment by solemn fast and penitence : it must be sincere repentance —"rend your heart and not your garments." (b) Between ii. 17 and 18 there is an interval, during which it is left to be understood that the call to repentance (ii. 12-17) had been obeyed. (The verbs in ii. 18 are in the past tense, so R.V., not future as A.V.) The second part of the book (ii. 17–iii. 21) opens with Yahweh's promise to remove the plague of locusts and restore fruitful seasons. In the new prosperity of the land the union of Yahweh and his people will be sealed anew, spiritual gifts will descend upon them so that all will be endowed with clearer perception of divine truth. Signs in heaven and earth announce "the Day of Yahweh." In the crisis there will be no terror for the Jews, they will be delivered and restored; judgment will ove:take the nations doomed to destruction for their oppression of Yah weh's people. A digression in prose (iii. 4-8) follows in which
special mention is made of the doom of Phoenicia and Philistia.
Then (iii. 9-17) the nations are summoned to prepare for war, not against the Jews but against Yahweh and his supernatural war riors, by whom they will be annihilated. In contrast to the fate of the nations, Yahweh will be a "refuge unto his people," who, by his intervention, are set free to enjoy the benefits he will send. Henceforth Judah and Jerusalem will be secure.
There has been difference of opinion as to whether the description of devastation by the locusts is to be re garded as literal or allegorical. Is the visitation of locusts with which the book begins historical, or is it a figurative description of an event yet future? In the latter case: are the locusts real locusts (in the future) which supply the imagery of the prophet's message? The allegorical interpretation is found in the Fathers, and was held by Pusey, who considered the book to have been written before Amos. Hilgenfeld, accepting a late date, took the four swarms of locusts to represent Persian invasions. Merx has suggested that the locusts are neither real nor symbolic but ideal, and the rest of the book a late compilation from the prophets. A distiaction between the two parts of the book is made by Duhm : according to his view i. 17 deals with a historical visitation of locusts, and ii. 21 is a long apocalyptic expansion from the Maccabaean age. Sellin modifies this view : he considers that Joel used an earlier poem dealing with a historical plague of lo custs; this poem, from the i st century of ter the Exile, was trans formed by Joel into an apocalypse. This transformation was based upon an older tradition which pictured locusts as a kind of de monic army forming one of the eschatological plagues (Gress mann).