New English Translation
The Locusts’ Devastation
2 Blow the trumpet[a] in Zion;
sound the alarm signal on my holy mountain!
Let all the inhabitants of the land shake with fear,
for the day of the Lord is about to come.
Indeed,[b] it is near![c]
2 It will be[d] a day of dreadful darkness,[e]
a day of foreboding storm clouds,[f]
like blackness[g] spread over the mountains.
It is a huge and powerful army[h]—
there has never been anything like it ever before,
and there will not be anything like it for many generations to come![i]
3 Like fire they devour everything in their path;[j]
- Joel 2:1 tn The word translated “trumpet” here (so most English versions) is the Hebrew שׁוֹפָר (shofar). The shophar was a wind instrument made from a cow or ram’s horn and used as a military instrument for calling people to attention in the face of danger or as a religious instrument for calling people to occasions of communal celebration.
- Joel 2:1 tn Or “for.”
- Joel 2:1 sn The interpretation of 2:1-11 is very difficult. Four views may be mentioned here. (1) Some commentators understand this section to be describing a human invasion of Judah on the part of an ancient army. The exact identity of this army (e.g., Assyrian or Babylonian) varies among interpreters depending upon issues of dating for the book of Joel. (2) Some commentators take the section to describe an eschatological scene in which the army according to some is human, or according to others is nonhuman (i.e., angelic). (3) Some interpreters argue for taking the section to refer to the potential advent in the fall season of a severe east wind (i.e., Sirocco) that would further exacerbate the conditions of the land described in chapter one. (4) Finally, some interpreters understand the section to continue the discussion of locust invasion and drought described in chapter one, partly on the basis that there is no clear exegetical evidence in 2:1-11 to suggest a shift of referent from that of chapter one.
- Joel 2:2 tn The phrase “It will be” does not appear in the Hebrew but is supplied in the translation for the sake of smoothness and style.
- Joel 2:2 tn Heb “darkness and gloom.” These two terms probably form a hendiadys here. This picture recalls the imagery of the supernatural darkness in Egypt during the judgments of the exodus (Exod 10:22). These terms are also frequently used as figures (metonymy of association) for calamity and divine judgment (Isa 8:22; 59:9; Jer 23:12; Zeph 1:15). Darkness is often a figure (metonymy of association) for death, dread, distress and judgment (BDB 365 s.v. חשֶׁךְ 3).
- Joel 2:2 tn Heb “a day of cloud and darkness.”
- Joel 2:2 tc The present translation here follows the proposed reading שְׁחֹר (shekhor, “blackness”) rather than the MT שַׁחַר (shakhar, “morning”). The change affects only the vocalization; the Hebrew consonants remain unchanged. Here the context calls for a word describing darkness. The idea of morning or dawn speaks instead of approaching light, which does not seem to fit here. The other words in the verse (e.g., “darkness,” “gloominess,” “cloud,” “heavy overcast”) all emphasize the negative aspects of the matter at hand and lead the reader to expect a word like “blackness” rather than “dawn.” However, NIrV paraphrases the MT nicely: “A huge army of locusts is coming. They will spread across the mountains like the sun when it rises.”
- Joel 2:2 tn Heb “A huge and powerful people”; cf. KJV, ASV “a great people and a strong.” Many interpreters understand Joel 2 to describe an invasion of human armies, whether in Joel’s past or near future (e.g., the Babylonian invasion of Palestine in the sixth century b.c., depending on the dating of the book), or in an eschatological setting. Others view the language of this chapter referring to “people” and “armies” as a metaphorical description of the locusts of chapter one (cf. TEV “The great army of locusts advances like darkness”). Typically, “day of the Lord” language relates to a future event, so the present-tense language of chapter 1 may look ahead.
- Joel 2:2 tn Heb “it will not be repeated for years of generation and generation.”
- Joel 2:3 tn Heb “a fire devours before it.”
- Joel 2:3 tn Heb “like the garden of Eden, the land is before them.” Gen 2:8-9 is clear that Eden is more of an orchard (“all kinds of trees”), but the translation retains “Garden of Eden” here because the phrase has now become a metaphor for the bounty, beauty, and fertility of the land, and as such is much more familiar to modern readers.
- Joel 2:3 tn Heb “and surely a survivor there is not for it.” The antecedent of the pronoun “it” is apparently עַם (ʿam, “people”) of v. 2, which seems to be a figurative way of referring to the locusts and describes ants and rock badgers in Prov 30:25-26. K&D 26:191-92 thought that the antecedent of this pronoun was “land,” but the masculine gender of the pronoun does not support this.