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Bible Commentaries
Joel 1

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

Verses 1-20

Joel 1:1 . Joel, the son of Pethuel. Nothing can be gathered from antiquity of this prophet, but what appears from his writings. His father was either a prophet or a man of note, as may be presumed from the beginning of Amos. The Hebrew canon makes Joel contemporary with Isaiah and Hosea. He lived near the time of a sore famine. Compare Joel 1:4, with 2 Kings 8:1, and Jeremiah 14:1-4, The latter famine must be alluded to, if there were not one in the interval. He is supposed to have lived under the long reign of Manasseh, and to have exercised his office for sixty three years. He lived after Jehoshaphat, for he mentions his valley: Joel 3:12. His labours were chiefly directed to Judah and Zion, whom he twice directs to blow the trumpet of humiliation. He nowhere makes mention of the kings of Israel; hence he probably lived when they were in captivity, or much weakened. His style is figurative, expressive, and strong.

Joel 1:4 . The palmer-worm, I once saw this insect. It was found in Mr. Freeman’s garden in Worth, nearly the size of my forefinger. It had twenty streaks of bright yellow shaded with brown, a little inclined from the back towards the posterior. When I came to make a scientific description, alas, it had gone the way of all flesh.

The locust. See a description of these insects in Exodus 10:4. They are called a nation: Joel 1:6. A great drought favoured the progress of these insects: Joel 1:17.

Joel 1:6 . A nation is come up upon my land. Joel foretold the desolations of the locust, and speaks of the scourge as already come. Elisha did the same. 2 Kings 8:0.


When a nation is secure, rioting in pleasure, and forgetful of God, a dark and portentous cloud is sure soon to gather against them; and the Lord is pleased so to diversify his gentler judgments as to do the afflicted good. He would not now dry up the heavens for three years, as in Elijah’s time; neither would he suffer the Assyrians nor the Ammonites to defile his sanctuary. The Lord gave a droughty season so as to favour an astonishing encrease of grasshoppers, which depredated the pastures; after the grasshoppers came nations of devouring and consuming locusts, which made the gardens, the vineyards, and the fields a complete desolation. And what could Israel do against the scourge? The well appointed army, the numerous cavalry, and the fortified places, were of no avail. They devoured the gardens, they scaled the walls, they forced the palaces. A whole nation employed in trampling on the foe, apparently neither diminished his number, nor retarded his progress. And if the locusts, the feeblest auxiliary of heaven, be so terrible to the earth, what can the wicked oppose to the thunderbolts of vengeance? Truly the smallest insect is able to humble the proudest enemy of the Lord. Why then should a mortal man boast against his Maker’s power?

We have the lamentation of the land because of the insects. The drunkard had no wine in his vaults, no smiling cups in his feast, and no joy at his protracted meals. The vine at midsummer had neither leaf nor cluster. The bride or betrothed woman, was girded with sackcloth in her father’s house, because her husband came not to receive her in marriage. He languished with famine, he was dead, or gone to eat bread with hardship in another land. The priests, the ministers of the Lord, mourned also. Neither corn, nor wine, nor oil, nor victim came to the house of the Lord. The husbandmen were amazed and confounded. Their promising crops of wheat and barley were consumed in the moment of hope; yea, all joy was withered from every class of men.

One calamity is seldom alone. The pastures in the desert were set on fire, as is not uncommon in a very droughty season, either by the lightning, or by the carelessness of the shepherds in managing their fires. Perhaps this was done to annoy the insects by the smoke; nor is there any way, under such circumstances, to stop the progress of the fire, but by digging a deep and broad ditch. Thus the cattle joined the people in mourning and complaint.

We have the remedy. Appoint a fast, proclaim a solemn assembly, gather the elders, and all the inhabitants of the land into the house of the Lord. It is proper under such complicated visitations for a nation to be recollected; to draw a close line of connection between their punishments and their sins; to implore a pardon, and the restoration of covenant mercies. The Lord is merciful and gracious. He often saved Israel from perishing by miracles; he gave them water from the rock, and bread from heaven. Once he affrighted the Assyrians when besieging Samaria, and once he slew them when investing Jerusalem. When adversity urges piercing cries, when the tears of repentance flow, and when prayer besieges heaven by its own arguments, Omnipotence is vanquished by worms; and the angry heavens dropping their sable clouds, smile with lovingkindness on offending man. May the considerations of God’s justice and mercy awe us from dissipation, from riot, and waste; and restrain us from all sin by the ties of fear and love. The passions of guilty nations need the restraints of a powerful hand, with a due mixture of encouraging hope.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Joel 1". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/joel-1.html. 1835.
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