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The prophet Joel appeared in Israel during a time of the most terrible plague of locusts in the nation’s history. Joel came and prophesied in the land of Judah before the plague came. He warned the people of Judah that devastation would soon sweep through the land. He called for a season of fasting, mourning and repentance. 

He warned them of God’s judgment in the images of the impending locust invasion. He called the people of Judah and Jerusalem to weep for their sins, and to fast and repent because the day of the Lord is at hand. Soon the plague came and devastated the whole earth and its effects were clearly seen and felt. The locusts came like a storm, darkened the skies and every green thing became barren. 

There was no hope of escape and they left complete destruction in their wake 

Joel used the images of locusts as a kind of greater judgment that would come on “the Day of the Lord” in the last days: Woe to the day! For the day of the Lord is at hand; it will come as a destruction from the Almighty . The LORD gives voice before his army, for his camp is very great; for strong is he who executes his word. 

For the day of the LORD is great and very terrible; who can bear it? Joel 1:15, 2:11. Joel also gave a message of hope and prophesied the great blessings that would follow and the glories of the Messiah’s kingdom. The name “Joel” means “Jehovah is God”. Other than his name and the fact that he was the son of Petuel, little is known about this man, Joel, other than the fact that he wrote a very powerful book. 

Although it is not certain, it seems that he prophesied around 800 BC during a time when Judah was experiencing prosperity and security. God was kind enough to give ample warning in the face of such a devastating judgment.

When the plague of locusts came, the land of Judah suffered dramatically, and what followed was a time of famine drought. The plague was described by Joel in four stages, and Joel pointed out the greater judgment that would come upon the nation if they did not turn from their ways and seek the Lord with all their hearts. 

He called them to fast, repent, and weep for their sins (Joel 2:12). Joel also promised hope and spoke of the great blessings that would follow in the Messiah’s kingdom.

Joel Described the Next “Day of the Lord”

In the New Testament after the resurrection of Jesus Christ and on the day of Pentecost, Peter stood up to speak to the people of Israel about the last days. Peter described what they were seeing as “what the prophet Joel said” (Acts 2:16). Christians have always seen the church age as a time to be alert and aware that the Lord is returning in judgment. 

Today is the day of salvation, the door is open and “the fields are white for harvest. (John 4:35) but one day Jesus will “take vengeance on those who do not know God and do not obey the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 1:8).

The vivid description of the prophet Joel of the plague, and the style in which this brief three-chapter book was written, have made it a powerful classic of Hebrew literature. Joel sees the massive plague of locusts and the severe drought that ravages Judah as an omen of the “great and terrible day of the Lord” (2:31). 

The locusts he mentions in 1:4; 2:25 are best understood as real insects, not as allegorical representations of the Babylonians, Medo-Persians, Greeks, and Romans, as some interpreters claim. Faced with this crisis, he calls for repentance from everyone: old and young (1:2-3), drunkards (1:5), farmers (1:11) and priests (1:13). 

He describes the locusts as the army of the Lord and sees in their arrival a reminder that the day of the Lord is near. He does not express the popular notion that the day will be one of judgment on the nations, but one of deliverance and blessing for Israel. Instead, with Isaiah (2:10-21), Jeremiah (4:5-9), Amos (5:18-20), and Zephaniah (1:7-18), he describes the day as a punishment of unfaithful Israel. Restoration and blessing will come only after judgment and repentance.

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