The Minor Prophets: Joel

The Minor Prophets Hosea


I. Historical context

    A. Debate over the date of writing

      1. “The date of Joel is vigorously disputed, the dates assigned by commentators ranging all the way from the tenth century B.C. to the second century B.C.” (Coffman)
      2. A number of scholars in the brotherhood have placed Joel’s life and writing in the time of Joash, who became king at seven years old and reigned 40 years (2 Chronicles 24:1)
      3. 837 B.C. (Coffman); ca. 830 B.C. (Hailey); 830-810 B.C. (Waddey); 840-830 B.C. (Butler)
      4. “Although it must be admitted that the evidence for the late date is impressive, the balance falls in favor of the earlier.” (Hailey)
      5. “If an early date of approximately 835 B.C. is to be accepted, then Joel is quoted or alluded to by Isaiah, Amos, Micah, Nahum, Zephaniah, Obadiah, Ezekiel and Malachi. He would thus be the first to speak of the ‘Day of the Lord.’” (McGee)

    B. “Those who would date Joel in the pre-exilic period—often as early as the ninth century to make him among the earliest prophets—point out that the enemies dealt with in the book are the Philistines, Phoenicians, Egyptians, and Edomites rather than those of the exilic period. Furthermore there is no reference either to Assyria which emerged as a power as early as 760 B.C. or to Babylon which followed but which had fallen out of the picture by 537 B.C.” (Lewis)
    C. “Politically, both the Northern and Southern Kingdoms had recently cast off the devastating yoke of Ahab and Jezebel in the North and Athaliah, daughter of Jezebel, in the South. King Joash was a mere child of seven when crowned king of Judah. The nation was guided by the high priest Jehoiada who served as regent for the young king. Jehu was seeking to stamp out the last vestiges of Jezebel’s influence in the North. Spiritually, both nations were at a low ebb.” (Waddey)
    D. “The religious reform instituted by Jehoiada at this same time seems to have been superficial and short-lived. The people turned reformation into formalism.” (Butler)

II. About the prophet

    A. “Twelve men in the Bible bear the name Joel which means ‘Jehovah is God’; however, there is no valid reason for connecting the others with the prophet.” (Lewis)
    B. “He definitely is a man of moral integrity. He was undoubtedly a native of Judah and most likely of Jerusalem itself for he speaks like a native (2:1, 15, 32; 3:16, 17, 21; 2:32; 3:20). He was very familiar with the Temple and the ministry of the priests (1:9, 13, 14, 16; 2:14, 17; 3:18).” (Butler)
    C. “From the internal evidence some have concluded that possibly Joel was a priest or the son of a priest, but this is purely conjectural.” (Hailey)

III. Lessons for today

    A. The importance of loving, yet uncompromising preaching (2:1, 11)

      1. Joel 2:1, “Sound an alarm…Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble…”
      2. “Borrowing the metaphor of war, Joel calls for the watchmen to sound the trumpet of alarm to awaken the people to the imminent danger of invasion.” (Waddey)
      3. “No compromise is found in his words as he warns of impending judgment upon the sinners of Israel. And yet Joel is no heartless, pityless preacher. He cries to the Lord for the people (1:19). He reminds them of God’s graciousness and mercy (2:13).” (McGee)
      4. “The preaching and the teaching of judgment causes men to live righteously and to love and respect God’s love and will….But often men deceive and rationalize themselves into thinking that judgment is either not near or altogether impossible.” (McGee)
      5. Cf. Ecclesiastes 8:11; Ephesians 4:15; 2 Timothy 4:2-5
      6. The judgment at the time of Joel came by way of a plague of locusts; Joel warned that such natural occurrences were often used as discipline from Jehovah and called the people to repent to avoid further calamity
      7. “The natural calamity they faced was so terrible and overwhelming, so far beyond the normal bounds, it could only be explained as a divine judgment.” (Waddey)

        a. This was not the first time locusts were used by God in judgment
        b. The plague in Egypt (Exodus 10:3-6)
        c. Solomon prayed for deliverance from locusts, among other plagues (1 Kings 8:37)
        d. Locusts were used figuratively by John in Revelation 9

      8. We must take care that we do not immediately assign the motive of judgment to natural disasters we see today

        a. Remember that Joel was inspired to interpret and identify them as God’s chastisement upon His people
        b. However, we can still trust in the faithfulness of God, even when we face the tragedies that often come with natural disasters
        c. Natural disasters can also serve to remind us of our dependence upon God

    B. The importance of internal spirituality (2:12-13)

      1. “God’s people are in grave danger when the outward forms of religion are not accompanied with a spiritual undergirding (see Matt. 22:36-40)….How useless is the Lord’s Day worship if all of the divinely authorized ‘acts’ are correct but the heart is far from God (see Matt. 15:8-9).” (McGee)
      2. “Repentance means a complete turn-about, and not only so, but a turning toward the Lord. Reformation is not repentance! One must not only change by giving up former habits and sinful ways but one must in a positive way turn unto the Lord and do His will and walk in His way! It is all the heart which God demands. The heart, of course, means the dwelling place of the personality—the intellect, the will, the emotions. All of man’s mind, all of man’s will, all of man’s desires are to be turned toward God’s will….This must be a turning of the inner man, not merely an outward, ritualistic ‘rending of the garments.’” (Butler)
      3. Mark 12:30; Deuteronomy 6:5
      4. God wants “all men everywhere” to turn to Him (Acts 17:30; 2 Peter 3:9)

    C. The establishment of the church foretold (Joel 2:28-32)

      1. “This is that” (Acts 2:16-21)
      2. Verse 29 “refers to the universality of membership in the Lord’s church and the consequent reception of a measure of God’s Spirit in the hearts of all believers during the times of the Messiah. Many of the Christians to whom Colossians and Ephesians were originally addressed were slaves; and in is a most accurate and extensive fulfillment of these very words.” (Coffman)

Butler, Paul T. (1968). The Minor Prophets: The Prophets of the Decline. Joplin, MO: College Press. [Online at]

Coffman, James Burton. (1981). Commentary on the Minor Prophets, Volume 1: Joel, Amos and Jonah. Austin, TX: The Firm Foundation Publishing House. [Textual commentary excluding introductory notes on each book available online at]

McGee, Pat. “The Living Message of Joel.” (1977). The Living Messages of the Books of the Old Testament. Garland Elkins and Thomas B. Warren, editors. Jonesboro, AR: National Christian Press, Inc.

Hailey, Homer. (1972). A Commentary on the Minor Prophets. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

Lewis, Jack P. (1966). Minor Prophets. Austin, TX: R.B. Sweet Co., Inc.

Waddey, John. (2011). The Testimony of the Twelve Minor Prophets. Delight, AR: Gospel Light Publishing Company. [Online at]

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