The English word prophet in the Old Testament comes from the Hebrew word “nabiy” which means “spokesman” or “speaker”. The Greek word for prophet is “prophētēs”, which can mean “one who speaks forth” or “advocate.” Prophets are also called “seers,” because of their spiritual insight or their ability to “see” the future, as directed by God.
Joel, prophesied about the day when God would pour out His Spirit upon all flesh and that they would speak prophecies and have dreams and visions.
Joel 2:28-29 (NLT)28 “Then, after doing all those things, I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your old men will dream dreams, and your young men will see visions.29 In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on servants—men and women alike.
Peter mentioned this prophecy in his sermon on the Day of Pentecost.
Acts 2:16-18 (NLT)16 No, what you see was predicted long ago by the prophet Joel:17 ‘In the last days,’ God says, ‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams.18 In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on my servants—men and women alike— and they will prophesy.
Joel is the author of the Old Testament that bears that bears his name. What little we know about him are the few personal details in the book itself. He identified himself as the son of Pethuel
Joel 1:1 (NLT) The LORD gave this message to Joel son of Pethuel.
We know that preached to the people of Judah, and expressed a great deal of interest in Jerusalem.
Joel 1:2-3 (NLT)2 Hear this, you leaders of the people. Listen, all who live in the land. In all your history, has anything like this happened before?3 Tell your children about it in the years to come, and let your children tell their children. Pass the story down from generation to generation.
Whether he was a priest or not is not know from the book however he was very familiar with the center of worship in Judah.
Joel 1:13-14 (NLT)13 Dress yourselves in burlap and weep, you priests! Wail, you who serve before the altar! Come, spend the night in burlap, you ministers of my God. For there is no grain or wine to offer at the Temple of your God.14 Announce a time of fasting; call the people together for a solemn meeting. Bring the leaders and all the people of the land into the Temple of the LORD your God, and cry out to him there.
Joel 2:14, 17 (NLT)14 Who knows? Perhaps he will give you a reprieve, sending you a blessing instead of this curse. Perhaps you will be able to offer grain and wine to the LORD your God as before. 17 Let the priests, who minister in the LORD’s presence, stand and weep between the entry room to the Temple and the altar. Let them pray, “Spare your people, LORD! Don’t let your special possession become an object of mockery. Don’t let them become a joke for unbelieving foreigners who say, ‘Has the God of Israel left them?’”
The book of Joel does not mention the name of any king so there is no definite indication in the book of the date that it was written. One theory is that it was written in the aftermath of Judah’s only ruling queen, Athaliah (d. 835 BC).
2 Kings 11:1-2 (NLT)1 When Athaliah, the mother of King Ahaziah of Judah, learned that her son was dead, she began to destroy the rest of the royal family.2 But Ahaziah’s sister Jehosheba, the daughter of King Jehoram, took Ahaziah’s infant son, Joash, and stole him away from among the rest of the king’s children, who were about to be killed. She put Joash and his nurse in a bedroom to hide him from Athaliah, so the child was not murdered.
Because Joash was too young to rule, the priest Jehoida ruled in his place until he came of age, so it would seem appropriate to not mention the name of a king in the book.
2 Kings 11:4,12 (NLT)4 In the seventh year of Athaliah’s reign, Jehoiada the priest summoned the commanders, the Carite mercenaries, and the palace guards to come to the Temple of the LORD. He made a solemn pact with them and made them swear an oath of loyalty there in the LORD’s Temple; then he showed them the king’s son. 12 Then Jehoiada brought out Joash, the king’s son, placed the crown on his head, and presented him with a copy of God’s laws. They anointed him and proclaimed him king, and everyone clapped their hands and shouted, “Long live the king!”
So if Joel prophesied during this care taking period, it would make sense that he mentioned no official king.
Joel focuses on the southern kingdom of Judah and his many references to the temple and temple worship indicate that he may have lived in Jerusalem.
Joel 2:23, 32(NLT)23 Rejoice, you people of Jerusalem! Rejoice in the LORD your God! For the rain he sends demonstrates his faithfulness. Once more the autumn rains will come, as well as the rains of spring. 32 But everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved, for some on Mount Zion in Jerusalem will escape, just as the LORD has said. These will be among the survivors whom the LORD has called.
Joel 3:16, 21 (NLT)16 The LORD’s voice will roar from Zion and thunder from Jerusalem, and the heavens and the earth will shake. But the LORD will be a refuge for his people, a strong fortress for the people of Israel. 21 I will pardon my people’s crimes, which I have not yet pardoned; and I, the LORD, will make my home in Jerusalem with my people.”
Why Is Joel Important?
Joel is the first prophet to really develop the idea often mentioned in the Bible of the “Day of the Lord”. He gives specific details, full of vibrant and physical imagery, about that Day which is not a single day but a period of time.
Joel 2:1- (NLT)1 Sound the alarm in Jerusalem! Raise the battle cry on my holy mountain! Let everyone tremble in fear because the day of the LORD is upon us.2 It is a day of darkness and gloom, a day of thick clouds and deep blackness. Suddenly, like dawn spreading across the mountains, a great and mighty army appears. Nothing like it has been seen before or will ever be seen again
Both Paul in 2 Thessalonians, and Peter mention the “Day of the Lord” which is still to come.
2 Thessalonians 2:2 (NLT)2 Don’t be so easily shaken or alarmed by those who say that the day of the Lord has already begun. Don’t believe them, even if they claim to have had a spiritual vision, a revelation, or a letter supposedly from us.
2 Peter 3:10 (NLT)10 But the day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief. Then the heavens will pass away with a terrible noise, and the very elements themselves will disappear in fire, and the earth and everything on it will be found to deserve judgment.
Robert B. Chisholm, Jr., in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old Testament notes that the day of the Lord, is a period of judgment and restoration, consists of three basic features:
- The judgment of God's people
- The judgment of foreign nations
- The purification and restoration of God's people through intense suffering
Judgement of God’s People
Joel 2:1-11 (NLT)1 Sound the alarm in Jerusalem! Raise the battle cry on my holy mountain! Let everyone tremble in fear because the day of the LORD is upon us.2 It is a day of darkness and gloom, a day of thick clouds and deep blackness. Suddenly, like dawn spreading across the mountains, a great and mighty army appears. Nothing like it has been seen before or will ever be seen again.3 Fire burns in front of them, and flames follow after them. Ahead of them the land lies as beautiful as the Garden of Eden. Behind them is nothing but desolation; not one thing escapes.4 They look like horses; they charge forward like war horses.5 Look at them as they leap along the mountaintops. Listen to the noise they make—like the rumbling of chariots, like the roar of fire sweeping across a field of stubble, or like a mighty army moving into battle.6 Fear grips all the people; every face grows pale with terror.7 The attackers march like warriors and scale city walls like soldiers. Straight forward they march, never breaking rank.8 They never jostle each other; each moves in exactly the right position. They break through defenses without missing a step.9 They swarm over the city and run along its walls. They enter all the houses, climbing like thieves through the windows.10 The earth quakes as they advance, and the heavens tremble. The sun and moon grow dark, and the stars no longer shine.11 The LORD is at the head of the column. He leads them with a shout. This is his mighty army, and they follow his orders. The day of the LORD is an awesome, terrible thing. Who can possibly survive?
Judgement Of Foreign Nations (Non-Believers)
Joel 3:1-16 (NLT)1 “At the time of those events,” says the LORD, “when I restore the prosperity of Judah and Jerusalem,2 I will gather the armies of the world into the valley of Jehoshaphat. There I will judge them for harming my people, my special possession, for scattering my people among the nations, and for dividing up my land.3 They cast lots to decide which of my people would be their slaves. They traded boys to obtain prostitutes and sold girls for enough wine to get drunk.4 “What do you have against me, Tyre and Sidon and you cities of Philistia? Are you trying to take revenge on me? If you are, then watch out! I will strike swiftly and pay you back for everything you have done.5 You have taken my silver and gold and all my precious treasures, and have carried them off to your pagan temples.6 You have sold the people of Judah and Jerusalem to the Greeks, so they could take them far from their homeland.7 “But I will bring them back from all the places to which you sold them, and I will pay you back for everything you have done.8 I will sell your sons and daughters to the people of Judah, and they will sell them to the people of Arabia, a nation far away. I, the LORD, have spoken!”9 Say to the nations far and wide: “Get ready for war! Call out your best warriors. Let all your fighting men advance for the attack.10 Hammer your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears. Train even your weaklings to be warriors.11 Come quickly, all you nations everywhere. Gather together in the valley.” And now, O LORD, call out your warriors!12 “Let the nations be called to arms. Let them march to the valley of Jehoshaphat. There I, the LORD, will sit to pronounce judgment on them all.13 Swing the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come, tread the grapes, for the winepress is full. The storage vats are overflowing with the wickedness of these people.”14 Thousands upon thousands are waiting in the valley of decision. There the day of the LORD will soon arrive.15 The sun and moon will grow dark, and the stars will no longer shine.16 The LORD’s voice will roar from Zion and thunder from Jerusalem, and the heavens and the earth will shake. But the LORD will be a refuge for his people, a strong fortress for the people of Israel.
Purification And Restoration Of God's People
Joel 2:28-32 (NLT)28 “Then, after doing all those things, I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your old men will dream dreams, and your young men will see visions.29 In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on servants—men and women alike.30 And I will cause wonders in the heavens and on the earth— blood and fire and columns of smoke.31 The sun will become dark, and the moon will turn blood red before that great and terrible day of the LORD arrives.32 But everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved, for some on Mount Zion in Jerusalem will escape, just as the LORD has said. These will be among the survivors whom the LORD has called.
The vivid visions of the future in Joel can seem remote to us today. They should, however, awaken us from our complacency and cause us to remember that we should always faithfully follow because the “Day of the Lord” is going to come.