Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, September 23rd, 2023
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
Take our poll

Bible Commentaries
Joel 1

Poole's English Annotations on the Holy BiblePoole's Annotations



Joel declareth the destruction of the fruits of the earth by noxious insects, Joel 1:1-7, and by a long drought, Joel 1:8-13. He recommendeth a solemn fasting with prayer to deprecate these judgments, Joel 1:14-20.

Since this preface is word for word the same with that of Hosea, Hosea 1:1, see it there explained.

Verse 1

Joel; supposed to be of the posterity of Reuben, therefore could not be (as the Jews suppose) Samuel's son, nor will his time fit to 1 Chronicles 5:4,1 Chronicles 5:8; but of what tribe soever, we know he came from God, and with his authority, and is so cited by the apostle, Acts 2:16.

The son of Pethuel: more of this man I know not, and it is possible he might be, as the Jews suppose, very eminent, because he is named; however, it is an honour to be reported a prophet's father. The time of his prophesying, though not demonstrable, is with greatest probability laid about the latter end of Jeroboam the Second's reign over Israel, and in the days' of Uzziah over Judah.

Verse 2

Hear this: he is about to report a very wonderful occurrence, and desires all to consider it, mark it well, and tell me what you know.

Ye old men; the oldest among you, who can remember things done in your days when you were young, some scores of years past.

Give ear, all ye inhabitants of the land: it is an appeal to all that may possibly know more than others, and remember better than others can.

Hath this been in your days? did you personally ever know the like?

Or even in the days of your fathers? did your fathers ever tell you of such a thing happening in their days? was there ever such a thing known among them? have you ever heard them speak of it?

Verse 3

Declare it very particularly, or record it, write it as in a book, that your children may know it, and the memory of it may be perpetuated; for as it was a very wonderful and unusual thing, so it was for to mind us of the cause of it, and what it taught, or should have taught, them and us.

Verse 4

Four sorts of insects pernicious to all sorts of trees, corn, and herbs are here mentioned, which did succeed each other, and devoured all that might be a future support to the Jews; whence ensued a grievous famine for four years together, say the Jewish interpreters, though there is no cogent reason in what they mention for proof hereof. These insects might in the same year succeed each other, the one, as is usual, might come sooner, the rest successively, each in its season, and so spoil the springing of all things, which they did (I do believe) really; and though these might be emblems of some future devastation, yet it seems most agreeable to reason, and the context, that there should really have been such caterpillars and other vermin, and that they did devour all that was green; and though this is no where else mentioned, as I remember, in the sacred history, yet it is likely it was done, as here told, and as so done was a figure of some greater devastation made by foreign powers, as by Tiglath-pileser, Shalmaneser, Sennacherib, and Nebuchadnezzar.

Verse 5

Awake: great drinkers of intoxicating liquors are apt to sleep and be secure, the prophet doth therefore here call to them, as to sleepers, and by one apt word expresseth a double duty, vigilance of mind as well as of the body; so may this be paralleled with Romans 13:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:6; 1 Peter 5:8, or Ephesians 5:14.

Ye drunkards; riotous livers, such as Proverbs 23:30-32; Isaiah 5:11,Isaiah 5:12, whose life is nothing but a continued feasting with choicest wines, and in excess, such as Amos 6:4-6, describeth.

Weep and howl; lament your condition with sober tears, for the sorrows coming upon you are just matter of weeping; nor will an ordinary degree of weeping suffice, cry out and howl, like men surprised with insupportable miseries, Isaiah 13:6; Isaiah 14:31; Isaiah 15:2.

All ye drinkers of wine, who offend by an inordinate use of wine, for it is not to be understood of every one that drinketh wine, but of such as before are called drunkards, who are in love with wine.

Because of the new wine, which is sweet and pleasing to the taste, and no doubt drank without stint or measure by men of that age, against which Joel prophesieth.

For it is cut off from your mouth; suddenly cut off, even when you are ready to drink it, and totally, all cut off by these devouring vermin; which as it was a narrative of what was already done, refers to that waste and famine by the locusts; as it is allegorical and predictive, it will be more dreadfully fulfilled when the enemies of Judah shall destroy all.

Verse 6

This verse countenanceth their conjecture who take the locusts and vermin to be emblematical in part as well as literal; for it seems not very suitable to call their teeth teeth of a lion.

For a nation; an innumerable multitude of locusts and caterpillars, called a nation here, as Solomon calls the conies and the ants, Proverbs 30:25,Proverbs 30:26. A prognostic of a very numerous and mighty nation, that ere long will invade Judah.

Is come up, or suddenly will come, upon my land; upon Canaan, which God calls his land; or more particularly the two tribes, Judea strictly taken.

Strong; mighty in power and undaunted in courage, if you refer it to the Assyrians or Babylonians; if to those vermin, they are, though each weak by itself, yet in those multitudes which come, strong enough, and irresistible, and shall do God’s work, that is, waste the land, and devour all before them.

Without number; not simply numberless, but in such multitudes none of you shall be able to recount them.

Whose teeth are the teeth of a lion; a strong lion of the middle age, that hath whelps, and hunts the prey for them.

And he hath the cheek teeth of a great lion; which is old, and the more fierce and terrible in his looks, no way lessened in his strength, and that preys for his young ones: now what waste such lions make, such these locusts will make, such the Assyrians will make.

Verse 7

He, that nation of locusts, Joel 1:6, both literally and mystically understood, hath laid my vine waste; made it a desolation, i.e. most desolate, which is more particularly declared in what followeth.

And barked my fig tree; peeled off the bark. which is certain destruction to the tree.

Made it clean bare; eat off all the rind and green bark, and left the body of both vine and fig tree bare and stripped.

And cast it away; as vermin cast out of their mouth the chewings of what they spoil, so here.

The branches thereof, all the branches of both vine and fig tree, are by these devouring vermin made white, all their green being eaten off; so miserably desolate will the enemy signified by these locusts make Judah, God’s vine.

Verse 8

The vicious and wicked among the Jews were alarmed and threatened in the former part of the chapter; now the prophet bespeaks the good and godly among them to prepare for mournful times.

Lament: this is minatory, and threatens calamitous times shall come, as well as directive, what to do when they are come; when God calls for weeping we must not rejoice.

Like a virgin: this tells us to whom the prophet directs this part of his sermon, it is to those who amidst the Jews were like chaste and modest virgins, whose heart was fixed on one, her own, her chosen beloved husband.

Girded with sackcloth: in deep mournings the people of those countries did use sackcloth in their mourning habit, and wore it girded close to their skin.

For the husband of her youth; either married to her in youth, or espoused to her, but snatched away from her by an untimely death, which she doth most bitterly lament.

Verse 9

The meat-offering; which by Divine appointment was to be of fine flour, oil, and frankincense, as Leviticus 2:1, &c.; Leviticus 6:14, &c. This meat-offering was necessary to every sacrifice offered under the law; so that without the mincha, or meat-offering, the sacrifice was maimed and illegal.

The drink-offering; required daily, as appears Exodus 29:40,Exodus 29:41; Numbers 28:8; a fourth part of a hin of wine for one lamb, Numbers 28:7.

Is cut off; by the destruction of the vines by the locusts forementioned, all that wine (out of which they ought to, offer the drink-offering) did fail.

From the house of the Lord; it was to be poured out, if wine, and part of the meat-offering was to be burnt on the altar, so both were disposed according to the law in the house of the Lord.

The priests; sons of Aaron, with the Levites.

The Lord’s ministers, who did serve the Lord in the services of the temple.

Mourn; grieve inwardly, and express it by outward signs. These had more cause than others to mourn, for as they had equal cause with others in respect to God, whose service hereby failed, so the priests, in respect to their private gain and maintenance, had more cause to mourn, their provision was by this means shortened.

Verse 10

The field is wasted; the soil that was wont to be fat and fruitful, and did shout with fruits, now lieth waste, horrid to look upon, and such as promises no fruit; the famine in their houses, and the ceasing of the sacrifices in the house of God, is like to be perpetuated.

The land mourneth; the inhabitants of the land, by a usual figure, here called the land.

The corn is wasted; the wheat and barley, their bread corn, is eaten up in its greenness by these devouring locusts, whether in the letter by vermin, or in the figure by the Babylonians.

The new wine is dried up; the word may as well be rendered is ashamed, or confounded; it is then a figurative expression, which this prophet useth, Joel 1:12,Joel 1:17, in the last of which it is rendered withered; if you retain, as well you may, our version, it plainly tells us the heats and drought with them were so great, that the vines were withered, and all their hopes of new wine by this means cut off.

The oil; the olive trees, as the vines, fade too, and promise very little oil.

Languisheth; neither able to send sap from the root to maintain its verdure, nor to put forth berries, or to bring them to maturity. Now as these words declare what barrenness was now upon the land, so it is a plain account of the reason why the priests are called to mourn, and why the meat-offering and drink-offering are cut off; these must cease when that ceaseth which made them up corn, wine, and oil.

Verse 11

Be ye ashamed, O ye husbandmen: some read it assertively, the husbandmen are ashamed, and as to matter of fact it is true they were ashamed; but the imperative mood, or by way of exhortation, will better suit the context. They are now called upon to blush, repent, and search into the cause of this barrenness, and loss of their labour in ploughing, sowing, and manuring their tillage; the prophet aims at this principally, to bring them, as well as the priests, to repentance.

Vine-dressers; a sort of men as well known with that people as gardeners are with us; men whose work was to plant, water, prune, and manage vineyards, and whose labour (unless for sin blasted) did usually succeed to a great increase.

Because the harvest of the field is perished; your sins have brought upon you this woeful scarcity, your harvest in which you expected your labour, and cares should be recompensed is perished, quite destroyed, as the word imports. This is just cause why you, O husbandmen, should lament, and further inquire why God is so displeased with you.

Verse 12

The vine is dried up: see Joel 1:10,

The fig tree; a tree well known, and the fruit of it was usually a great advantage and benefit to the people of those countries.

The pomegranate tree; a pleasant tree, as appears Song of Solomon 4:13; Song of Solomon 7:12; and its fruit lovely, therefore fit for ornaments about the pillars of the temple. These in the common drought and by locusts have lost their beauty, and fail the hopes of him that planted them.

The palm tree; of great beauty in the height and uniformity of its growth, and that doth rise under the weight which would depress it, Psalms 92:12; with these Ezekiel’s temple was adorned, Ezekiel 40:16,Ezekiel 40:22,Ezekiel 40:26; with the branches of these triumphant shows were also made; but these are withered and dry.

The apple tree; the fruit whereof was very useful, and did ordinarily well recompense the care of the planter, but now, as other trees, fail them.

All the trees of the field; none so hardy and able to bear unkind seasons, but are now destroyed by the judgments of God in drought and locusts.

Are withered; not as in autumn, when the leaf falleth, but, because the root fails, is either dead or dying.

Because; or therefore, or surely, for the particle here used is oftentimes assertive, not causal.

Joy is withered away from the sons of men; all mirth and liveliness of men is blasted with this dismal blast upon their labours and hopes; they cannot rejoice who foresee they shall be, nay, are already, pinched with want and famine.

Verse 13

Gird yourselves; bind your mourning sackcloth close to you with a girdle, that it may be more troublesome to the flesh; for though in Hebrew it is only gird, the phrase is well known in the Scripture, on these occasions, to include sackcloth, as what is girded on the mourner, and sackcloth is expressly mentioned Joel 1:8, and in many other places, Isaiah 15:3; Jeremiah 4:8; Lamentations 2:10; Ezekiel 7:18; Ezekiel 27:31.

Lament; weep bitterly, as they do who mourn for the dead, lament over your dead joys; let it be a hearty grief, as that of Abraham for Sarah, Genesis 23:2, of Jacob’s children and friends sorrowing for his death, Genesis 1:10, or of Israel lamenting their brave judge, 1 Samuel 28:3. Ye priests; that you may be example to others, and because they had, as observed yet. 9, a double cause to mourn, one more than the rest of the people.

Howl: see Joel 1:5.

Ye ministers of the altar: they were the Lord’s ministers, Joel 1:9; now ministers of the altar, they served the Lord in the things of the altar.

Lie all night; the case needs a continued fasting, weeping, and supplication in the most humble posture, and with all the tokens of an afflicted spirit. The priests should above others mourn; if they mourn in the day, the priests should mourn night and day.

My God, who, having sent me to speak to you in his name, doth call you to this, that he may pardon and bless you. when you repent.

The meat-offering, & c.: see Joel 1:9.

Verse 14

Sanctify ye; you priests, ministers of my God, set apart a day, or more days, appoint a time, forbid all servile work and sensual pleasures, do what you may to prepare for such a necessary work.

A fast; wherein to afflict yourselves, confess your sins, repent of them, sue out your pardon, and return to God, that tie may remove your present calamities, and prevent the future.

Call a solemn assembly; proclaim and publish it, that every one may know they are restrained from common, daily work, and that they are commanded to come together, most solemnly to seek the Lord. Gather the elders; both for age and for authority, magistrates and rulers, who possibly had been by their sins, more than others, cause of these grievous calamities, and should now be examples to others in repenting.

And all the inhabitants of the land; make this fast as public and universal as you can, command all the people of the land, all that dwell with you; perhaps the prophet intends proselytes of the law, and those of commerce, as well as the Jews.

Into the house of the Lord; courts of the temple, for priests only might go into the temple itself; the court of Israel, where the people were wont to pray. Your God; remember the covenant by which you are his people, and he is your God, that you may plead his promises as well as wait for his mercies. And cry unto the Lord, with tears of repentance, with prayer of faith, cry more with the broken heart than loud voice.

Verse 15

This verse and the three next may be looked upon either as a particular declaration of the grounds of this fast, or as a direction how to manage the fast, a suggesting to the people what they should spread before the Lord, or else as the words of the priests, bewailing the calamitous state of the land.

Alas! it is a very pathetical bemoaning themselves, which speaks their sense of the evil they suffered.

For the day; the day of trouble, sorrow, and great distress.

For the day of the Lord: this explains the former; it is a day of greater troubles than yet they felt, troubles which God will heap upon them, a day in which God will be judge, and punish by the locusts, by the drought, and by Babylonians, unless you repent.

Is at hand; great calamities were now upon them, and greater were approaching to them: if the prophet aim at the captivity of the two tribes, it was one hundred and eighty years off; if of the ten tribes, it was about sixty years off, for he prophesieth about the latter end of Jeroboam the Second; it is likely therefore he aimeth at some other calamities.

As a destruction; a total overthrow of the kingdom, the worship of God, and all your labours in your land.

From the Almighty; whose displeasure, as a consuming fire, can and will burn up all before it; his power and hand will do it, and then nothing can resist it.

Shall it come; most certainly and speedily, nothing can retard or divert it, unless fasting, prayers, and tears, and amendment do it.

Verse 16

Is not the meat? the question does most vehemently affirm, our food, what we should eat, i.e. all provision we should live upon.

Cut off; devoured by locusts, or withered with drought, it is perished.

Before our eyes; we see it, it is not so far off as what is foretold, it is under our eye.

Yea, joy and gladness from the house of our God: sacrifices fail much, and priests have scarce enough to live upon, while free-will offerings, first-fruits, and tithes amount to very little, not sufficient to feast the sacrificers and offerers, who on such occasion did use to rejoice in the house of God.

Verse 17

The seed; called so from the seedsman’s scattering it abroad when he soweth it, and in this place only so used, for aught I can observe, and yet this use of it here is justified by all the following words; the grain which is sown for the seed against next spring.

Is rotten; is putrefied, grown musty and fruitless; nor is this word any where else used in Scripture. Under their clods, and earth, from under which the seed covered should spring up, but now, as unsound, rotten, and fruitless seed, is lost under it.

The garners, or storehouses, treasuries of corn, in which it was kept for future use,

are laid desolate; either run to ruin, because the owners, discouraged with the barrenness of the seasons, would not repair them; this will intimate that this judgment lasted some years, and is better ground for it than the four sorts of vermin repeated one after another, in Joel 1:4; or else desolate, being pulled down, and the materials employed for other uses, till they may have corn to keep in them.

The barns, in which they lodged their unthrashed corn,

are broken down; neglected, and without repair;

for the corn is withered; there was no use of them, no corn to be laid up, all withered, and therefore the barns were not regarded.

Verse 18

How do the beasts groan? so great was the penury and want of sustenance, that the beasts in the field, pinched with hunger, groaned, made dismal noise for fodder and water; the word beasts is general, and contains all sorts.

The herds of cattle; the greater cattle, which go wandering about, and range over all places, yet can find no pasturage.

The flocks of sheep; which, led by shepherds, might likely be supposed better secured; yet their shepherds find no pasture, and the sheep pine away and starve. These things are mentioned, either as convincing men of their stupidity, who were less sensible of present miseries than brute beasts were, or to provoke them to lay to heart the pressing calamities, or as arguments that lie would pity and relieve innocent brutes, though he punished sinful brutes.

Verse 19

O Lord, Maker and Preserver of these poor famished cattle,

to thee will I cry: either it is the prophet’s prayer he maketh, or a form prescribed for the priests.

The fire; the immoderate heats, or else the scorching and blasting flashes of fire in the air, which in those hot countries are more frequent and more precious than in colder climates.

Hath devoured the pastures; the fruitful and pleasant places where shepherds pitched their tents, and were used to feed their sheep, all are parched and dried as if burned with fire.

Of the wilderness; either because the shepherds chose to pitch their tents far from cities and towns; or else because in those vast wildernesses there were some fruitful pastures scattered up and down, some lower places of springs and water-courses.

The flame, the flashes of fire from the clouds, or in the air, without thunder, or else lightnings with thunder,

hath burnt all the trees, that they neither afford their fruit, their shade, or their green boughs for browse for the relief of man or beast. This extreme desolation should affect them all; it doth shame the sinfully Senseless among them; and it is a good argument to use with God, whose creatures they are as well as man.

Verse 20

The beasts: see Joel 1:18.

Cry; the wilder sort, that rove about many miles seeking their livelihood, find no sustenance, they look up to God, and cry to him: these creatures, that can better shift for themselves, yet can make no good shift; they utter their complaints in their sad tones, they have a voice to cry, as well as an eye to look to God.

Unto thee, who only canst open thy hand, and fill them. Learn, ye brutish among men, look and cry to God. And again, Have pity, O God, many of thy sinless creatures perish without relief; hear them, though thou shouldst not hear men.

The rivers are dried up; most extreme and tedious drought, which hath dried up the rivers themselves; there is no drink for the cattle, they must perish without help, unless thou, O God, send a plentiful and fruitful rain.

The fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness: see this explained above, Joel 1:19.

Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Joel 1". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mpc/joel-1.html. 1685.
adsFree icon
Ads FreeProfile