Joel 1


The Prophet

The Book of Joel was written by the prophet Joel, Acts 1:16-17 / Acts 2:39, whose father’s name was Pethuel, Joel 1:1. Although there are twelve other men with the same name mentioned in the Bible, we can’t identify them with the author of this book.

In fact, all we know about Joel is what’s found within the book itself. We do know that His name means, ‘The Lord is God’, and he was a very powerful prophet who boldly spoke the word of God. He was from Judah and was addressing the nation of Judah, especially southern Judah.


The date of the book is pretty much uncertain, some place it as written around 900 B.C., some place it around 400 B.C. which means they believe it was written after the exile, and still others date it around 830 B.C. It was probably written around the same time as Obadiah, Elijah and Elisha and around the time of King Joash.

Summary of the Book

Basically, God through His prophet Joel, warns the people of Judah, that they need to repent but if they don’t repent of their sins, then judgment would come, and they would be punished severely.

The book was written in response to a devastating event which totally destroyed the land, a plague of locusts had devoured everything in the land, of which we have no record and then a drought followed, it’s during this drought which Joel writes his prophecy because at this time the whole land, all the animals and everyone living in it were suffering greatly, Joel 1:9.

Joel really wanted the people to understand that the locust plague and drought were God’s doing in order to bring about their repentance. If they didn’t repent, then even more destruction would come upon them. The good news is that within all the doom and gloom there was hope for the future, Joel 2:28-32.


1. Introduction. Joel 1:1

2. The Locust Plague and Deliverance. Joel 1:2-2:27

3. God Will Act on the Day of the Lord. Joel 2:28-3:21

The Text

‘The word of the LORD that came to Joel son of Pethuel.” Joel 1:1

This is all we know about Joel, his father’s name was Pethuel.

It’s God who’s speaking through His prophet Joel and his first word is the word, ‘hear’. Oh, how people need to listen to God, even today! When God speaks everyone should be silent and listen to what He has to say, it’s such a shame that there are so many people who want to speak on ‘God’s behalf’ but they themselves, never listen to what He actually says.

Hence why we have so many different religious groups in the world today and so many fragments of Christianity.

An Invasion of Locusts

“Hear this, you elders; listen, all who live in the land. Has anything like this ever happened in your days or in the days of your ancestors? Tell it to your children, and let your children tell it to their children, and their children to the next generation’.” Joel 1:2-3

Joel first calls on the elders and then all who live in the land to hear and listen to what God is about to say to them, Romans 10:9, What was God going to say to them?

Something so bad was going to happen which would be spoken of for five generations. It wasn’t going to happen in their generation but in the generations to come, Exodus 10:2 / Psalms 78:5-7. Like most of the Old Testament prophets, I doubt very much if Joel completely understood what was going to happen, 1 Peter 1:10-12.

Judgment is coming to Judah, the locust plague which happened in the past is now going to be used by Joel to speak of an army sent from God in the future. The locust plague was going to be devastating, it was going to be so big that they would speak about it for five generations to come, Isaiah 45:7 / Amos 3:6.

‘What the locust swarm has left the great locusts have eaten; what the great locusts have left the young locusts have eaten; what the young locusts have left other locusts have eaten. Wake up, you drunkards, and weep! Wail, all you drinkers of wine; wail because of the new wine, for it has been snatched from your lips. A nation has invaded my land, a mighty army without number; it has the teeth of a lion, the fangs of a lioness. It has laid waste my vines and ruined my fig trees. It has stripped off their bark and thrown it away, leaving their branches white.’ Joel 1:4-7

Locusts are around 2 ½ inches long and can fly up to 25 mph. It’s reported that one locust can eat the leaves on a tree in 15 minutes. The female of the species is more dangerous than the male.

Back in 1915, there was a reported locust plague, they came from the Tarsus Mountains in the north through to Egypt in the south. Millions were captured and buried alive and it took two months for all the trees to be destroyed down to the bark.

Three things accompanied this plague

1. The noise of their wings.

2. There were so many of them it blocked out the sun.

3. Their excrement fell like rain and was very acidic.

Four Hebrew words used for locusts

1. Yalek, meaning hedge eater.

2. Gazem, meaning creeping locusts.

3. Chasil, meaning devourer.

4. Arbeh, meaning swarming.

Because there are four kinds of locusts, this means it covers everything, this was total devastation, this is the picture it gives, this is what happened in the past. Moses and Solomon had prophesied this kind of judgement before, Deuteronomy 28:38-39 / 1 Kings 8:37, but even then, God’s people didn’t recognise that God was behind it.

Notice that Joel describes the locust plague as a ‘nation’, this was going to be a strong nation which would come and ultimately devastate the whole land, Proverbs 30:25-27.

Note that the KJV uses the words, the palmer worm, the canker worm, the caterpillar in Joel 1:4.

Clarke, in his commentary, says the following, concerning the nation.

‘That real locusts are intended there can be little doubt; but it is thought that this may be a double prophecy, and that the destruction by the Chaldeans may also be intended, and that the four kinds of locusts mentioned above may mean the four several attacks made on Judea by them. The first in the last year of Nabonassar, (father of Nebuchadnezzar,) which was the third of Jehoiakim; the second when Jehoiakim was taken prisoner in the eleventh year of his reign; the third in the ninth year of Zedekiah; and the fourth, three years after, when Jerusalem was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar. Others say that they mean four powers which have been enemies of the Jews:

1. The palmerworm, the Assyrians and Chaldeans.

2. The locust, the Persians and Medes.

3. The cankerworm, the Greeks, and particularly Antiochus Epiphanes.

4. The caterpillar, the Romans.

Others make them four kings; Tiglath-pileser, Shalmaneser, Sennacherib, and Nebuchadnezzar. But of such similitudes there is no end; and the best of them is arbitrary and precarious.’

Dummelow, in his commentary, says the following.

‘The palmerworm, cankerworm, caterpillar, and locust, are not different insects, but in the original four different names of the locust, possibly representing it in different stages of growth; yet here in a climactic description, i.e. ’swarm upon swarm.’ The use of synonyms for a common object is characteristic of Hebrew.’

Pliny, says the following, concerning the locust teeth.

‘Locusts will gnaw with their teeth the doors of houses; so the teeth of locusts are described in Revelation 9:8; this may denote the strength, cruelty, and voraciousness of the Chaldean army.’

Even though the vine and fig trees belonged to God and very important to their economy, these too were totally destroyed, Joel 1:10. Joel asks the drunkards to ‘wake up’, Joel 1:5, and look at the devastation the locusts have caused.

‘Mourn like a virgin in sackcloth grieving for the betrothed of her youth. Grain offerings and drink offerings are cut off from the house of the LORD. The priests are in mourning, those who minister before the LORD. The fields are ruined, the ground is dried up; the grain is destroyed, the new wine is dried up, the olive oil fails. Despair, you farmers, wail, you vine growers; grieve for the wheat and the barley, because the harvest of the field is destroyed. The vine is dried up and the fig tree is withered; the pomegranate, the palm and the apple tree—all the trees of the field— are dried up. Surely the people’s joy is withered away.’ Joel 1:8-12

In the custom of the Jews, if a virgin woman was engaged to a man, the man automatically became known as her husband, being engaged was as good as being married in Jewish law, Deuteronomy 22:23-24 / Isaiah 7:14 / Matthew 1:19.

Sackcloth is a very coarse, rough fabric woven from flax or hemp and is usually worn as a sign of mourning. Notice that the grain, oil and crops are also affected, this basically means that their religion is going to be affected, Exodus 29:38.

If the farmers and vine-dressers couldn’t produce anything, there would be nothing to sacrifice and so the priests would end up going hungry. Cereal crops and fruit trees signify that their day-to-day living is going to be affected too, Joel 1:11. no wonder there would be no joy, Joel 1:12.

Ellicott, in his commentary, says the following, concerning the new wine.

‘The necessaries and delights of life are all gone: “the wine that maketh glad the heart of man, the oil that makes his face to shine, the bread that strengthened man’s heart’, Psalms 104:15.’

Barnes, in his commentary, says the following.

‘As, when God pours out His blessings of nature, all nature seems to smile and be glad, and as the Psalmist says, “to shout for joy and sing” Psalms 65:13, so when He withholds them, it seems to mourn, and, by its mourning, to reproach the insensibility of man.’

A Call to Lamentation

‘Put on sackcloth, you priests, and mourn; wail, you who minister before the altar. Come, spend the night in sackcloth, you who minister before my God; for the grain offerings and drink offerings are withheld from the house of your God. Declare a holy fast; call a sacred assembly. Summon the elders and all who live in the land to the house of the LORD your God and cry out to the LORD. Alas for that day! For the day of the LORD is near; it will come like destruction from the Almighty. Has not the food been cut off before our very eyes—joy and gladness from the house of our God? The seeds are shrivelled beneath the clods. The storehouses are in ruins, the granaries have been broken down, for the grain has dried up. How the cattle moan! The herds mill about because they have no pasture; even the flocks of sheep are suffering. To you, LORD, I call, for fire has devoured the pastures in the wilderness and flames have burned up all the trees of the field. Even the wild animals pant for you; the streams of water have dried up and fire has devoured the pastures in the wilderness.’ Joel 1:13-20

Here we see Joel pleading for the people to cry out to the Lord, we see that he begins by telling the priests that they should put on sackcloth, mourn and wail, Isaiah 22:12 / Jeremiah 4:8 / Jeremiah 6:26, and lead this plea by introducing a fast and bring everyone together.

This is a call for repentance and Joel is saying, ‘they know this has happened in the past, they know what it can do’ and so now he has set them up and is going to tell them what all of this means, Joel 2-3 is basically a commentary of Joel 1.

This is a call by Joel to the people and he tells them to repent and pray from their hearts. He starts with the ‘priests’ which means this was to start from the top to the bottom, God starts with the people who should know better, James 3:1.

God was withholding their grain and drink offerings, which means they couldn’t offer God them as offerings. And notice, God didn’t say, proclaim, or appoint a fast, but ‘sanctify’ it.

Dummelow, in his commentary, says the following.

‘Many of the celebrations at the Temple were occasions of rejoicing over abundant harvests and the like, Deuteronomy 16:10 / Deuteronomy 16:13-15 / Deuteronomy 12:6-7 / Deuteronomy 26:1 / Deuteronomy 26:10.’

Fasts were observed in times of distress along with confession of sin and prayer for divine favour, Judges 20:26 / 1 Samuel 7:6 / 2 Samuel 12:16 / 1 Kings 21:27 / Psalms 69:10 / Ezra 10:6 / Nehemiah 9:1 / Jonah 3:5-9 / Daniel 9:3. 

They are encouraged to summon the elders, Leviticus 19:32 / Deuteronomy 31:28, to cry out to God. 

The priests had to put on sackcloth which is a sign of mourning and they are told to repent because this thing that was coming isn’t very far away.

‘The day of the Lord is near’, this was to be a day of destruction and judgement and if the people didn’t repent then, all would suffer the consequences.

The Day of the Lord

The phrase ‘The day of the Lord’ is found five times throughout the Book of Joel, Joel 1:15 / Joel 2:1 / Joel 2:11 / Joel 2:31 / Joel 3:14.

In the Old Testament, it’s used to describe when God vents His anger, Isaiah 13:9 / Zephaniah 2:2-3 and the day when He stands against His enemies, Ezekiel 13:5. Notice that Joel says that the day is ‘near’, other prophets used this same phrase, Isaiah 13:6 / Ezekiel 30:3 / Obadiah 15 / Zephaniah 1:7 / Zephaniah 1:14.

In the New Testament that day is called, ‘the Day of the Lord’, 1 Thessalonians 5:2 / 2 Thessalonians 2:2 / 2 Peter 3:10. This is the Day when the Lord will return for the final time with His saints and His angels, this is the Day when He will judge the nations, 1 Thessalonians 5:2 / 1 Thessalonians 5:4 / 2 Peter 3:10, and rule over them, Matthew 25:31ff / Revelation 19:11ff.

Joel asks two questions, Joel 1:16, to which the answer is ‘yes’ to both of them. God never does something without prior warning and He never punishes people without letting them know why.

The results of the terrible drought, and the devastation caused by the locusts, are described in Joel 1:17-20. Every animal, everyone and even the land was suffering, Joel 1:17-18, and so Joel cries out to the Lord for some kind of break from it all, Joel 1:19.

The fire had destroyed the land and the trees and so in a sense, God had brought them to their knees. Even the wild animals panted for God, Psalm 42:1, because their was no water.

Benson, in his commentary, says the following.

‘Even the cattle and wild beasts utter their complaints, and express their want of food by the mournful noise which they make, as it were beseeching thee to have pity on them and relieve their wants. Even they have a voice to cry, as well as an eye to look to God. The drought drying up the springs, the rivers have failed, and have little or no water in them.’

Keil, in his commentary, says the following.

‘Fire and flame are the terms used by the prophet to denote the burning heat of the drought, which consumes the meadows and even scorches the trees. This is very obvious from the drying up of the water brooks.’


We often wonder what it will take to bring people to their knees, never mind a nation, for Judah it was going to take a plague of locusts and a drought to bring them to repentance.

The locust plague had already happened and now they’re in the midst of a drought, Joel uses the past plague and the current drought as lessons to let them know that God is trying to get their attention and they need to repent of their disobedience.

We see many people finally turning to the Lord when life gets tough, usually through bad decisions or difficult circumstances. The problem comes when we forget our past and what the Lord has done for us.

Maybe it’s not a bad thing to speak about how God finally brought us to our knees to our children and grandchildren, maybe through our past experiences we can help them to recognise when God is trying to get their attention, maybe we can teach them to learn from our past mistakes, Romans 15:4 / 1 Corinthians 10:11-12.

Go To Joel 2