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When they had gathered at Mizpah, they drew water and poured it out[a] on the ground before the Lord, and they fasted that day, saying, “We have sinned against the Lord.” It was at Mizpah that Samuel began to judge the Israelites.(A)

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  1. 7:6 Drew water and poured it out: this ritual act does not appear elsewhere in the Old Testament. Linked with fasting and admission of sin, it seems to function as a purification ritual that washes away the guilt incurred by worshiping the Canaanite Baal and his consort Astarte. Its effectiveness is immediately evident when the Lord thunders a response to Samuel’s offering.

12 They proclaimed a fast and set Naboth at the head of the people.

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47 That day they fasted and wore sackcloth; they sprinkled ashes on their heads and tore their garments.

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Chapter 1

The word of the Lord which came to Joel, the son of Pethuel.

I. Announcement of Unprecedented Disaster

Listen to this, you elders!
    Pay attention, all who dwell in the land!
Has anything like this ever happened in your lifetime,
    or in the lifetime of your ancestors?
Report it to your children.
    Have your children report it to their children,
    and their children to the next generation.
What the cutter left,
    the swarming locust has devoured;
What the swarming locust left,
    the hopper has devoured;
What the hopper left,
    the consuming locust[a] has devoured.
Wake up, you drunkards,[b] and weep;
    wail, all you wine drinkers,
Over the new wine,
    taken away from your mouths.
For a nation[c] invaded my land,
    powerful and past counting,
With teeth like a lion’s,
    fangs like those of a lioness.
It has stripped bare my vines,
    splintered my fig tree,
Shearing off its bark and throwing it away,
    until its branches turn white.
Wail like a young woman[d] dressed in sackcloth
    for the husband of her youth.
Grain offering and libation are cut off
    from the house of the Lord;
In mourning are the priests,
    the ministers of the Lord.
10 The field is devastated;
    the farmland mourns,[e]
Because the grain is devastated,
    the wine has dried up,
    the oil has failed.
11 Be appalled, you farmers!
    wail, you vinedressers,
Over the wheat and the barley,
    because the harvest in the field is ruined.
12 The vine has dried up,
    the fig tree has withered;
The pomegranate, even the date palm and the apple—
    every tree in the field has dried up.
Joy itself has dried up
    among the people.

Cry Out to the Lord

13 [f]Gird yourselves and lament, you priests!
    wail, ministers of the altar!
Come, spend the night in sackcloth,
    ministers of my God!
For the grain offering and the libation
    are withheld from the house of your God.(A)
14 Proclaim a holy fast!
    Call an assembly!
Gather the elders,
    all who dwell in the land,
To the house of the Lord, your God,
    and cry out to the Lord!(B)
15 O! The day![g]
    For near is the day of the Lord,
    like destruction from the Almighty it is coming!(C)
16 Before our very eyes[h]
    has not food been cut off?
And from the house of our God,
    joy and gladness?
17 The seed lies shriveled beneath clods of dirt;[i]
    the storehouses are emptied.
The granaries are broken down,
    for the grain is dried up.
18 [j]How the animals groan!
    The herds of cattle are bewildered!
Because they have no pasture,
    even the flocks of sheep are starving.
19 To you, Lord, I cry!
    for fire has devoured the wilderness pastures,
    flame has scorched all the trees in the field.
20 Even the animals in the wild
    cry out to you;
For the streams of water have run dry,
    and fire has devoured the wilderness pastures.(D)

II. The Day of the Lord

Chapter 2

The Day Approaches

[k]Blow the horn in Zion,
    sound the alarm on my holy mountain!
Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble,
    for the day of the Lord is coming!(E)
Yes, it approaches,
    a day of darkness and gloom,
    a day of thick clouds!
Like dawn[l] spreading over the mountains,
    a vast and mighty army!
Nothing like it has ever happened in ages past,
    nor will the future hold anything like it,
    even to the most distant generations.(F)
Before it,[m] fire devours,
    behind it flame scorches.
The land before it is like the garden of Eden,
    and behind it, a desolate wilderness;
    from it nothing escapes.(G)
Their appearance is that of horses;
    like war horses they run.
Like the rumble of chariots
    they hurtle across mountaintops;
Like the crackling of fiery flames
    devouring stubble;
Like a massive army
    in battle formation.(H)
Before them peoples tremble,
    every face turns pale.(I)
Like warriors they run,
    like soldiers they scale walls,
Each advancing in line,
    without swerving from the course.
No one crowds the other;
    each advances in its own track;
They plunge through the weapons;
    they are not checked.
They charge the city,
    they run upon the wall,
    they climb into the houses;
Through the windows
    they enter like thieves.

10 Before them the earth trembles;
    the heavens shake;
Sun and moon are darkened,
    and the stars withhold their brightness.(J)
11 The Lord raises his voice
    at the head of his army;
How immense is his host!
    How numerous those who carry out his command!
How great is the day of the Lord!
    Utterly terrifying! Who can survive it?(K)

Return to the Lord

12 Yet even now—oracle of the Lord
    return to me with your whole heart,
    with fasting, weeping, and mourning.
13 Rend your hearts, not your garments,
    and return to the Lord, your God,
For he is gracious and merciful,
    slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love,
    and relenting in punishment.(L)
14 Perhaps he will again relent
    and leave behind a blessing,[n]
Grain offering and libation
    for the Lord, your God.(M)
15 Blow the horn in Zion!
    Proclaim a fast,
    call an assembly!(N)
16 Gather the people,
    sanctify the congregation;
Assemble the elderly;
    gather the children,
    even infants nursing at the breast;
Let the bridegroom leave his room,
    and the bride[o] her bridal tent.
17 Between the porch and the altar[p]
    let the priests weep,
    let the ministers of the Lord weep and say:
“Spare your people, Lord!
    do not let your heritage become a disgrace,
    a byword among the nations!
Why should they say among the peoples,
    ‘Where is their God?’”(O)


  1. 1:4 Cutter…swarming locust…hopper…consuming locust: these names may refer to various species of locusts, or to some phases in the insect’s life cycle, or to successive waves of locusts ravaging the countryside.
  2. 1:5 Drunkards: this metaphor expresses both the urgency behind Joel’s preaching and his ironic assessment of his audience. There are no grapes to process into new wine, yet people view their situation as just another agricultural crisis. Joel argues that the problems they now face are lessons the Lord is using to provide the knowledge they lack.
  3. 1:6 A nation: the locusts are compared to an invading army, whose numbers are overwhelming. The ravaged landscape resembles the wasteland left behind by marauding troops; the order and peace associated with agricultural productivity (1 Kgs 5:5; Mi 4:4) has been destroyed.
  4. 1:8 Like a young woman: this simile personifies Jerusalem as a youthful widow, left unprotected and without resources by her husband’s sudden death.
  5. 1:10 The farmland mourns: or “the farmland is dried up.”
  6. 1:13 Judah’s situation is so grave and the day of the Lord so imminent that priests must lament day and night if they hope to reverse the divine punishment.
  7. 1:15 As in Am 5:18–20, the day of the Lord in Joel’s first speech brings punishment, not victory, for Judah. In his second speech, this event means victory for those faithful to the Lord and death for the nations who are the Lord’s enemies. Almighty: Hebrew shaddai. There is wordplay between shod (“destruction”) and shaddai.
  8. 1:16 Before our very eyes: Joel’s audience should have discerned the significance of the winter drought and the locust invasion they witnessed. Joy and gladness: the loss of field crops has reduced Joel’s audience to subsistence living, with no means for liturgical or personal celebration, as in v. 12.
  9. 1:17 The seed…clods of dirt: the meaning of the Hebrew is uncertain. Most commentators use the translation given here, since it fits the prophet’s description of an agricultural year plagued by winter drought and a spring locust infestation.
  10. 1:18–19 In figurative language, Joel describes how the insufficient winter rain, the locust invasions, and summer’s heat on pasture lands and water sources drive domestic and wild animals to cry out for rain.
  11. 2:1–11 Joel warns the people about the destruction he sees galloping toward Jerusalem. He combines the imagery of the locust invasion (chap. 1) with language from the holy war tradition in order to describe the Lord leading a heavenly army against the enemy, in this case, Jerusalem.
  12. 2:2 Like dawn: from the east comes dark destruction rather than a new day’s light.
  13. 2:3 Before it: fire precedes and follows the army’s advance. Even the ravaged landscape of chap. 1 looks like a lush garden compared to the devastation this army leaves behind.
  14. 2:14 Blessing: the rain that makes possible the grapes and grain (v. 19) that workers will process into Temple offerings.
  15. 2:16 Elderly…infants…bridegroom…bride: Jerusalem is in such great danger that even those normally excused from fasting or working are called upon to participate in activities to ward off the imminent catastrophe.
  16. 2:17 Between the porch and the altar: the priests stood in the open space between the outdoor altar for burnt offerings and the Temple building.