Joel 1-3

Thursday Evening Bible Study

March 30, 2006


The book was written around 835 BC, during the days of young King Jehoash (835-796), who became king when he was seven years old (2 Kings 11:21). This was very close to the time of the ministry of Elisha.

The prophecy came when the land was hit by an invasion of locusts, followed by a drought. Joel saw this as a punishment for the sins of the people.

He also saw this invasion as a picture of a bigger invasion, one that would come during a time known as “the day of the LORD”.

As we’ve been seeing in many of the Old Testament prophets, there will be times in this book when prophecies will be flipping back and forth through time. There will be aspects of this book that will related to Joel’s day. There will be aspects that will be fulfilled in the times of the New Testament. There are aspects that are still around the corner for us.

Prophetic telescoping – where a prophecy skips through time at the drop of a comma.

Double fulfillment – where a prophecy may have more than one fulfillment.

Joel 1

1:1 – 2:27 The Current Situation

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

Joel = “Yahweh is God”

:2 Hear this, you elders, And give ear, all you inhabitants of the land! Has anything like this happened in your days, Or even in the days of your fathers?

:3 Tell your children about it, Let your children tell their children, And their children another generation.

:4 What the chewing locust left, the swarming locust has eaten; What the swarming locust left, the crawling locust has eaten; And what the crawling locust left, the consuming locust has eaten.

Joel mentions just four types of locust, but there are actually LOTS of types of locusts (also called grasshoppers).

The idea is that there are successive clouds of locusts that come and each one eats what it left over from the previous group until everything has been eaten.

The true locust is one of over 5000 species of grasshopper. Locusts travel in huge numbers capable of feeding on and destroying entire fields of cultivated plants and any nearby vegetation. Approaching swarms create an ominous hum and sometimes are large enough to block out sunlight.

 Photograph of Locust Swarm in Madagascar

A farmer in Madagascar watches a locust swarm form a menacing haze on the horizon.

Locust swarms can destroy crops worth millions of dollars, and—more seriously—trigger famines among subsistence farmers. Working with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, NASA scientists harnessed remote sensing satellites to help predict locust outbreaks. (Photograph Copyright Patrick Bollen)

Photograph of Feeding Locusts

Locusts can consume roughly their own weight of vegetation each day—swarms of millions will strip crops bare in hours. (Photograph courtesy Compton Tucker, NASA GSFC)

Map of
Locust Distribution

Normally, desert locusts live relatively solitary lives in the arid central Sahara, Arabia, and Persian Gulf regions (green). When conditions are right, however, they form swarms that migrate for thousands of kilometers (yellow). It is these migrating swarms that form plagues. (Map adapted from The Desert Locust in Africa and Western Asia: Complexities of War, Politics, Perilous Terrain, and Development, by Allan Showler)

It’s after the normally arid Sahara receives rain and the vegetation increases, that the conditions exist for the locusts to explode in their population and swarm. Today these kinds of conditions are monitored by satellites.

Solitary vs. Gregarious Locusts

When the population begins to increase, the normally “solitary” grasshoppers bump up against each other, and their bodies go through a transformation to the “gregarious”. Normally these grasshoppers like to be alone, but when they go through this transformation, they group together in swarms, even giving off a perfume of hormones that attracts other grasshoppers. Their color changes from green to yellow and green.

Sources:, Microsoft ® Encarta ® Encyclopedia 2005 © 1993-2004 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

:5 Awake, you drunkards, and weep; And wail, all you drinkers of wine, Because of the new wine, For it has been cut off from your mouth.

No grapes. No wine. Enough to make a drunk cry.

:6 For a nation has come up against My land, Strong, and without number; His teeth are the teeth of a lion, And he has the fangs of a fierce lion.

What nation? The locusts.


A man is sitting at home one evening when the doorbell rings. When he answers the door, a 6 foot tall cockroach is standing there. The cockroach immediately punches him between the eyes and scampers off. The next evening, the man is sitting at home when the doorbell rings. When he answers the door, the cockroach is there again. This time, it punches him, kicks him and karate chops him before running away. The third evening, the man is sitting at home when the doorbell rings. When he answers the door, the cockroach is there yet again. It leaps at him and stabs him several times before making off. The gravely injured man manages to crawl to the telephone and summon an ambulance. He is rushed to intensive care and they save his life. The next morning, the doctor is doing his rounds. He asks our hero what happened, so the man explains about the 6 foot cockroach’s attacks, culminating in the near fatal stabbing. The doctor thinks for a moment and says, “Yes, there is a nasty bug going around.”

Israel is being invaded by “nasty bugs”…

:7 He has laid waste My vine, And ruined My fig tree; He has stripped it bare and thrown it away; Its branches are made white.

The branches are “white” because they’ve been stripped of all their bark.

:8 Lament like a virgin girded with sackcloth For the husband of her youth.

The virgin might have even been engaged, but she never made it to the wedding chapel because her fiancé is dead.

:9 The grain offering and the drink offering Have been cut off from the house of the LORD; The priests mourn, who minister to the LORD.

:10 The field is wasted, The land mourns; For the grain is ruined, The new wine is dried up, The oil fails.

:11 Be ashamed, you farmers, Wail, you vinedressers, For the wheat and the barley; Because the harvest of the field has perished.

:12 The vine has dried up, And the fig tree has withered; The pomegranate tree, The palm tree also, And the apple tree; All the trees of the field are withered; Surely joy has withered away from the sons of men.

:13 Gird yourselves and lament, you priests; Wail, you who minister before the altar; Come, lie all night in sackcloth, You who minister to my God; For the grain offering and the drink offering Are withheld from the house of your God.

Without any crops, there would be no more grain offerings and drink offerings.

:14 Consecrate a fast, Call a sacred assembly; Gather the elders And all the inhabitants of the land Into the house of the LORD your God, And cry out to the LORD.

The priests are to call the people to prayer and fasting. They need to cry out to God for mercy.

:15 Alas for the day! For the day of the LORD is at hand; It shall come as destruction from the Almighty.

the day of the LORD

This is a special term in the Bible that is used to describe different times when God steps into human history. I found the specific phrase 17 times in the Old Testament (Is. 2:12; 23:6; 13:9; Eze. 13:5; 30:3; Joel 1:15; 2:1; 2:11; 2:31; 3:14; Amos 5:18; 5:20; Oba. 1:15; Zeph 1:7; 1:14; Zech. 14:1; Mal. 4:5). There are at least three ways that the term is used:

1) Historical – to describe when God got involved in the affairs of Israel or the heathen nations (Zeph. 1:14-18; Joel 1:15; Isa. 13:6; Jer. 46:10; Ezek. 30:3).
2) Double Fulfillment – when an incident in history doubles as a partial fulfillment of the final “Day of the Lord”, such as the invasion described in Joel 2:1-11.
3) The Final Day of the Lord – not limited to a single “day”, it covers the period in the future that occurs after the Rapture, the times we refer to as the Great Tribulation, the Second Coming of Christ, and the Millennial reign of Christ on the earth (Isa. 2:12-19; 4:1; Joel 2:30-32; Isa. 4:2; 12; 19:23-25; Jer. 30:7-9).

destruction … Almighty – a play on words in the Hebrew. Destruction (shod) is similar to Almighty (shaddai).

:16 Is not the food cut off before our eyes, Joy and gladness from the house of our God?

:17 The seed shrivels under the clods, Storehouses are in shambles; Barns are broken down, For the grain has withered.

Speaking of a drought.

:18 How the animals groan! The herds of cattle are restless, Because they have no pasture; Even the flocks of sheep suffer punishment.

:19 O LORD, to You I cry out; For fire has devoured the open pastures, And a flame has burned all the trees of the field.

:20 The beasts of the field also cry out to You, For the water brooks are dried up, And fire has devoured the open pastures.

Even the animals suffer from this, even though it came as a result of man’s sin.

Joel 2

:1-11 Future Invasion

:1 Blow the trumpet in Zion, And sound an alarm in My holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble; For the day of the LORD is coming, For it is at hand:

:2 A day of darkness and gloominess, A day of clouds and thick darkness, Like the morning clouds spread over the mountains. A people come, great and strong, The like of whom has never been; Nor will there ever be any such after them, Even for many successive generations.

The plague of locusts in Joel’s day is going to be a picture of another army that will one day invade the land, in the latter days.

:3 A fire devours before them, And behind them a flame burns; The land is like the Garden of Eden before them, And behind them a desolate wilderness; Surely nothing shall escape them.

As this army marches through Israel, things will be destroyed. The land will be in a state of beauty (Eden) until they go through.

:4 Their appearance is like the appearance of horses; And like swift steeds, so they run.

Some have noted that the grasshopper’s head is similar in shape to the head of a horse.

:5 With a noise like chariots Over mountaintops they leap, Like the noise of a flaming fire that devours the stubble, Like a strong people set in battle array.

:6 Before them the people writhe in pain; All faces are drained of color.

:7 They run like mighty men, They climb the wall like men of war; Every one marches in formation, And they do not break ranks.

This is a quality of the locusts:

(Prov 30:27 NKJV) The locusts have no king, Yet they all advance in ranks;

:8 They do not push one another; Every one marches in his own column. Though they lunge between the weapons, They are not cut down.

:9 They run to and fro in the city, They run on the wall; They climb into the houses, They enter at the windows like a thief.

:10 The earth quakes before them, The heavens tremble; The sun and moon grow dark, And the stars diminish their brightness.

It’s possible that Joel is describing how a locust swarm can even cover up the sun.

What future invasion is Joel referring to?

There are several possibilities. One if the army of “demon-locusts” mentioned in Revelation:

(Rev 9:2-7 NKJV) And he opened the bottomless pit, and smoke arose out of the pit like the smoke of a great furnace. So the sun and the air were darkened because of the smoke of the pit. {3} Then out of the smoke locusts came upon the earth. And to them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power. {4} They were commanded not to harm the grass of the earth, or any green thing, or any tree, but only those men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. {5} And they were not given authority to kill them, but to torment them for five months. Their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it strikes a man. {6} In those days men will seek death and will not find it; they will desire to die, and death will flee from them. {7} The shape of the locusts was like horses prepared for battle. On their heads were crowns of something like gold, and their faces were like the faces of men…

There are certainly a lot of parallels between these demon creatures and the locusts of Joel. Pain, mention of horses, sun darkened …

:11 The LORD gives voice before His army, For His camp is very great; For strong is the One who executes His word. For the day of the LORD is great and very terrible; Who can endure it?

Does this mean that this locust-army is being led by God?

Or is this a separate reference to God’s army, in contrast with this locust-army?

:12-17 Call for Repentance

:12 "Now, therefore," says the LORD, "Turn to Me with all your heart, With fasting, with weeping, and with mourning."

:13 So rend your heart, and not your garments;

Often the Jews would do certain things to show their sorrow – sackcloth, ashes, tearing the clothes …


Change of heart

It’s not that the outside is unimportant.  John the Baptist had a message for people who never showed any outward change:
(Luke 3:8-14 NKJV)  "Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. {9} "And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire." {10} So the people asked him, saying, "What shall we do then?" {11} He answered and said to them, "He who has two tunics, let him give to him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise." {12} Then tax collectors also came to be baptized, and said to him, "Teacher, what shall we do?" {13} And he said to them, "Collect no more than what is appointed for you." {14} Likewise the soldiers asked him, saying, "And what shall we do?" So he said to them, "Do not intimidate anyone or accuse falsely, and be content with your wages."

It’s interesting to think about John – do you remember what his diet was made of?  Locusts and wild honey.

Some people would be “devastated” by locusts. John ate them for breakfast.

Outward change in important.

But what Joel is saying is that repentance starts on the inside.
The change has to start in the heart.

If you don’t really want to stop looking at pornography, then no matter what you do to stop it, you aren’t going to change.

:13 Return to the LORD your God, For He is gracious and merciful, Slow to anger, and of great kindness; And He relents from doing harm.

This is how God has described Himself (Ex. 34:6)

:14 Who knows if He will turn and relent, And leave a blessing behind Him; A grain offering and a drink offering For the LORD your God?

It’s not an automatic thing that when we repent God will bless. But, “who knows?” God is not obligated. We turn from our sin because it’s the right thing to do, not because we want God to bless us.

:15 Blow the trumpet in Zion, Consecrate a fast, Call a sacred assembly;

:16 Gather the people, Sanctify the congregation, Assemble the elders, Gather the children and nursing babes; Let the bridegroom go out from his chamber, And the bride from her dressing room.

Everybody must show up for this meeting …

:17 Let the priests, who minister to the LORD, Weep between the porch and the altar; Let them say, "Spare Your people, O LORD, And do not give Your heritage to reproach, That the nations should rule over them. Why should they say among the peoples, 'Where is their God?'"

Picture the future invasion. I believe Israel will realize what is happening. They will do what God says.

:18-27 God’s response

:18 Then the LORD will be zealous for His land, And pity His people.

:19 The LORD will answer and say to His people, "Behold, I will send you grain and new wine and oil, And you will be satisfied by them; I will no longer make you a reproach among the nations.

:20 "But I will remove far from you the northern army, And will drive him away into a barren and desolate land, With his face toward the eastern sea And his back toward the western sea; His stench will come up, And his foul odor will rise, Because he has done monstrous things."

One of the other possibilities of this invading army is that it could be a description of the invasion mentioned in Ezek. 38-39, where the army comes from the north (like Russia).

(Ezek 38:9 NKJV) "You will ascend, coming like a storm, covering the land like a cloud, you and all your troops and many peoples with you."

In that future battle, only 1/6 of the enemy army will survive.

:21 Fear not, O land; Be glad and rejoice, For the LORD has done marvelous things!

:22 Do not be afraid, you beasts of the field; For the open pastures are springing up, And the tree bears its fruit; The fig tree and the vine yield their strength.

:23 Be glad then, you children of Zion, And rejoice in the LORD your God; For He has given you the former rain faithfully, And He will cause the rain to come down for you; The former rain, And the latter rain in the first month.

former rain – came in Sept.-Oct.

latter rain – came in March-April.

:24 The threshing floors shall be full of wheat, And the vats shall overflow with new wine and oil.

:25 "So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, The crawling locust, The consuming locust, And the chewing locust, My great army which I sent among you.

It’s not too fun to “lose” things …

A 747 was halfway across the Atlantic when the captain got on the loudspeaker: “Attention, passengers. We have lost one of our engines, but we can certainly reach London with the three we have left. Unfortunately, we will arrive an hour late as a result.”  An hour later the captain made another announcement: “Sorry, but we lost another engine. Still, we can travel on two. I’m afraid we will now arrive two hours late.”  Shortly thereafter, the passengers heard the captain’s voice again: “Guess what, folks. We just lost our third engine, but please be assured we can fly with only one. We will now arrive in London three hours late.”  At this point, one passenger became furious. “For Pete’s sake,” he shouted. “If we lose another engine, we’ll be up here all night!”



There are years in South Africa when locusts swarm the land and eat the crops. They come in hordes, blocking out the sun. The crops are lost and a hard winter follows. The “years that the locusts eat” are feared and dreaded. But the year after the locusts, South Africa reaps its greatest crops, for the dead bodies of the locusts serve as fertilizer for the new seed. And the locust year is restored as great crops swell the land. This is a parable of our lives. There are seasons of deep distress and afflictions that sometimes eat all the usefulness of our lives away. Yet, the promise is that God will restore those locust years if we endure. We will reap if we faint not. Although now we do not know all the ‘whys’, we can be assured our times are in His hands.

-- Ron Hembree in, Fruits of the Spirit, (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1969).

I’m not sure this is something that is promised for every situation we face. If you lose your car in an accident, I’m not sure that God is necessarily obligated to replace the car. But perhaps He will replace it with something more important.
(2 Cor 4:16-18 NKJV) Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. {17} For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, {18} while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
An evangelist told the following story in one of his campaigns. He said, “I have a friend who during the depression lost a job, a fortune, a wife, and a home, but tenaciously held to his faith—the only thing he had left. One day he stopped to watch some men building a stone church. One of them was chiseling a triangular piece of rock. ‘What are you going to do with that?’ asked my friend. The workman said, ‘Do you see that little opening way up there near the spire? Well, I’m shaping this down here so that it will fit up there.’

:26 You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, And praise the name of the LORD your God, Who has dealt wondrously with you; And My people shall never be put to shame.

:27 Then you shall know that I am in the midst of Israel: I am the LORD your God And there is no other. My people shall never be put to shame.

After the battle of Gog and Magog,

(Ezek 39:28-29 NKJV) 'then they shall know that I am the LORD their God, who sent them into captivity among the nations, but also brought them back to their land, and left none of them captive any longer. {29} 'And I will not hide My face from them anymore; for I shall have poured out My Spirit on the house of Israel,' says the Lord GOD."

:2:28 – 3:21 The Future Situation

:28-32 Israel’s salvation

:28 "And it shall come to pass afterward That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your old men shall dream dreams, Your young men shall see visions.

:29 And also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.

In Moses’ day, the Holy Spirit was not poured out on too many people.

Moses was having trouble because he was the only one who could make decisions for the people. To help him with guiding the huge nation, he set up seventy men to be elders. But even that wasn’t enough. These men needed the Spirit (Num. 11:24-29)

So God put His Spirit on these seventy elders. They helped spread the load out.
But Moses prayed for a day when all of God’s people had the Holy Spirit.
That day is now. That day would come with the “New Testament”, the “New Covenant” described in Ezekiel:

(Ezek 36:27 KJV) And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.

On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was poured out on the apostles in the upper room. When a crowd developed and wondered what was going on, Peter got up to explain:

(Acts 2:14-17 NKJV) But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them, "Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed my words. {15} "For these are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. {16} "But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: {17} 'And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams.
Peter told the crowd that Joel’s prophecy was coming to pass in their day.


The Holy Spirit

We are living in these days.
The power of the Holy Spirit is available to all of us.
Have you been filled with the Holy Spirit?

There is too much work to be done by just one or two leaders. God wants to put His Spirit on all the people.

:30 "And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth: Blood and fire and pillars of smoke.

:31 The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD.

:32 And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the LORD Shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be deliverance, As the LORD has said, Among the remnant whom the LORD calls.

Double fulfillment

Even though Peter said this was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost, we also see that it is something that speaks of the future as well, at the end of the Tribulation (sun turning to darkness, etc).

The Jews who are facing the wrath of the antichrist will call upon God and He will save them.

Joel 3

3:1-8 The nations are judged

:1 "For behold, in those days and at that time, When I bring back the captives of Judah and Jerusalem,

At the end the Jews will all be gathered back to Israel:

(Mat 24:31 NKJV) "And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

:2 I will also gather all nations, And bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; And I will enter into judgment with them there On account of My people, My heritage Israel, Whom they have scattered among the nations; They have also divided up My land.

Jehoshaphat – “Yahweh judges”

This may refer to the Kidron valley on the east of Jerusalem.

This seems to be the judgment known as the “sheep and the goats” (Mat. 25), where Jesus talked about the nations being gathered before God to be judged. The basis for the judgment will be what they had done to “the least of these My brethren”, the Jews.

:3 They have cast lots for My people, Have given a boy as payment for a harlot, And sold a girl for wine, that they may drink.

:4 "Indeed, what have you to do with Me, O Tyre and Sidon, and all the coasts of Philistia? Will you retaliate against Me? But if you retaliate against Me, Swiftly and speedily I will return your retaliation upon your own head;

The nations of Tyre, Sidon, and the Philistines would face specific, quicker judgment because of their practice of slavery of the Jews.

:5 Because you have taken My silver and My gold, And have carried into your temples My prized possessions.

:6 Also the people of Judah and the people of Jerusalem You have sold to the Greeks, That you may remove them far from their borders.

:7 "Behold, I will raise them Out of the place to which you have sold them, And will return your retaliation upon your own head.

:8 I will sell your sons and your daughters Into the hand of the people of Judah, And they will sell them to the Sabeans, To a people far off; For the LORD has spoken."

These people who enslaved the Jews would face slavery themselves.

:9-17 Armageddon

:9 Proclaim this among the nations: "Prepare for war! Wake up the mighty men, Let all the men of war draw near, Let them come up.

The whole world will be dragged into war at Armageddon.

:10 Beat your plowshares into swords And your pruning hooks into spears; Let the weak say, 'I am strong.'"

No time to plow fields, only for making weapons. When Jesus comes back, the opposite will be true – swords will be turned into plows (Is. 2:4).

:11 Assemble and come, all you nations, And gather together all around. Cause Your mighty ones to go down there, O LORD.

Your mighty ones – God’s army:

(Rev 19:14 NKJV) And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses.

:12 "Let the nations be wakened, and come up to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; For there I will sit to judge all the surrounding nations.

:13 Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come, go down; For the winepress is full, The vats overflow; For their wickedness is great."

harvest is ripe – ripe for judgment

:14 Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision.

valley of decision

Where God decides about men.

It will be too late for men to decide about God.

:15 The sun and moon will grow dark, And the stars will diminish their brightness.

:16 The LORD also will roar from Zion, And utter His voice from Jerusalem; The heavens and earth will shake; But the LORD will be a shelter for His people, And the strength of the children of Israel.

:17 "So you shall know that I am the LORD your God, Dwelling in Zion My holy mountain. Then Jerusalem shall be holy, And no aliens shall ever pass through her again."

:18-21 Jesus returns

:18 And it will come to pass in that day That the mountains shall drip with new wine, The hills shall flow with milk, And all the brooks of Judah shall be flooded with water; A fountain shall flow from the house of the LORD And water the Valley of Acacias.

This is a description of life in the Millennium, when Jesus rules.

fountain – as we saw in Ezekiel 46, flowing from the Temple.

:19 "Egypt shall be a desolation, And Edom a desolate wilderness, Because of violence against the people of Judah, For they have shed innocent blood in their land.

:20 But Judah shall abide forever, And Jerusalem from generation to generation.

:21 "For I will acquit them of the guilt of bloodshed, whom I had not acquitted; For the LORD dwells in Zion."

(Joel 3:21 NLT) 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."