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An Appeal for Repentance

12 “Yet even now,” the Lord says,
“return to me with all your heart—
with fasting, weeping, and mourning.
13 Tear your hearts,[a]
not just your garments.”
Return to the Lord your God,
for he is merciful and compassionate,
slow to anger and boundless in loyal love[b]—often relenting from calamitous punishment.[c]
14 Who knows?
Perhaps he will be compassionate and grant a reprieve,[d]
and leave blessing in his wake[e]
a meal offering and a drink offering for you to offer to the Lord your God![f]
15 Blow the trumpet[g] in Zion.

Announce a holy fast;
proclaim a sacred assembly.
16 Gather the people;
sanctify an assembly!
Gather the elders;
gather the children and the nursing infants.
Let the bridegroom come out from his bedroom
and the bride from her private quarters.[h]
17 Let the priests, those who serve the Lord, weep
from the vestibule all the way back to the altar.[i]
Let them say, “Have pity, O Lord, on your people;
please do not turn over your inheritance to be mocked,
to become a proverb[j] among the nations.
Why should it be said[k] among the peoples,
‘Where is their God?’

The Lord’s Response

18 Then the Lord became zealous[l] for his land;
he had compassion on his people.
19 The Lord responded[m] to his people,
“Look! I am about to restore your grain[n]
as well as fresh wine and olive oil.
You will be fully satisfied.[o]
I will never again make you an object of mockery among the nations.
20 I will remove the one from the north[p] far from you.
I will drive him out to a dry and desolate place.
Those in front will be driven eastward into the Dead Sea,[q]
and those in back westward into the Mediterranean Sea.[r]
His stench will rise up as a foul smell.”[s]
Indeed, the Lord[t] has accomplished great things!
21 Do not fear, my land.

Rejoice and be glad,
because the Lord has accomplished great things!
22 Do not fear, wild animals.[u]
For the pastures of the wilderness are again green with grass.
Indeed, the trees bear their fruit;
the fig tree and the vine yield to their fullest.[v]
23 Citizens of Zion,[w] rejoice!
Be glad because of what the Lord your God has done![x]
For he has given to you the early rains[y] as vindication.
He has sent[z] to you the rains—
both the early and the late rains[aa] as formerly.
24 The threshing floors are full of grain;
the vats overflow with fresh wine and olive oil.
25 I will make up for the years[ab]
that the ‘arbeh-locust[ac] consumed your crops[ad]
the yeleq-locust, the hasil-locust, and the gazam-locust—
my great army[ae] that I sent against you.
26 You will have plenty to eat,
and your hunger will be fully satisfied;[af]
you will praise the name of the Lord your God,
who has acted wondrously in your behalf.
My people will never again be put to shame.
27 You will be convinced that I am in the midst of Israel.
I am the Lord your God; there is no other.
My people will never again be put to shame.

An Outpouring of the Spirit

28 (3:1)[ag] After all of this[ah]
I will pour out my Spirit[ai] on all kinds of people.[aj]
Your sons and daughters will prophesy.
Your elderly will have prophetic dreams;[ak]
your young men will see visions.
29 Even on male and female servants
I will pour out my Spirit in those days.
30 I will produce portents both in the sky[al] and on the earth—
blood, fire, and columns of smoke.
31 The sunlight will be turned to darkness
and the moon to the color of blood,[am]
before the day of the Lord comes—
that great and terrible day!
32 It will so happen that
everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be delivered.[an]
For on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be those who survive,[ao]
just as the Lord has promised;
the remnant[ap] will be those whom the Lord will call.[aq]

The Lord Plans to Judge the Nations

(4:1)[ar] For look! In those[as] days and at that time
I will return the exiles[at] to Judah and Jerusalem.
Then I will gather all the nations,
and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat.[au]
I will enter into judgment[av] against them there
concerning my people Israel who are my inheritance,[aw]
whom they scattered among the nations.
They partitioned my land,
and they cast lots for my people.
They traded[ax] a boy for a prostitute;
they sold a little girl for wine so they could drink.[ay]
Why are you doing these things to me, Tyre and Sidon?[az]
Are you trying to get even with me, land of Philistia?[ba]
If you are, I will very quickly repay you for what you have done![bb]
For you took my silver and my gold
and brought my precious valuables to your own palaces.[bc]
You sold Judeans and Jerusalemites to the Greeks,
removing them far from their own country.[bd]
Look! I am rousing them from that place to which you sold them.
I will repay you for what you have done![be]
I will sell your sons and daughters to[bf] the people of Judah.[bg]
They will sell them to the Sabeans,[bh] a nation far away.
Indeed, the Lord has spoken.


  1. Joel 2:13 sn The figurative language calls for genuine repentance and not merely external ritual that goes through the motions.
  2. Joel 2:13 tn Heb “and great of loyal love.”
  3. Joel 2:13 tn Heb “and he relents from calamity.”
  4. Joel 2:14 tn Heb “turn” or “turn back.”
  5. Joel 2:14 tn Heb “leave a blessing behind him.”
  6. Joel 2:14 tn The phrase “for you to offer” does not appear in the Hebrew but is supplied in the translation for the sake of clarity.
  7. Joel 2:15 tn See the note on this term in 2:1.
  8. Joel 2:16 sn Mosaic law allowed men recently married, or about to be married, to be exempt for a year from certain duties that were normally mandatory, such as military obligation (cf. Deut 20:7; 24:5). However, Joel pictures a time of such urgency that normal expectations must give way to higher requirements.
  9. Joel 2:17 tn Heb “between the vestibule and the altar.” The vestibule was located at the entrance of the temple, and the altar was located at the other end of the building. So “between the vestibule and the altar” is a merism referring to the entire structure. The priestly lament permeates the entire house of worship.
  10. Joel 2:17 tn For the MT reading לִמְשָׁל (limshol, an infinitive, “to rule”), one should probably instead read לְמָשָׁל (lemashal, a noun, “to a byword”). While the consonantal Hebrew text permits either, the context suggests that the concern here is more a fear of abandonment by God to ongoing economic depression than a fear of the potential political subjugation of Israel (cf. v. 19). The possibility that the form in the MT is an infinitive construct of the denominative verb II מָשַׁל (mashal, “to utter a proverb”) does not seem likely because of the following preposition (Hebrew בְּ [be], rather than עַל [’al]).
  11. Joel 2:17 tn Heb “Why will they say?”
  12. Joel 2:18 tn The time-frame entertained by the verbs of v. 18 constitutes a crux interpretum in this chapter. The Hebrew verb forms used here are preterites with vav consecutive and are most naturally understood as describing a past situation. However, some modern English versions render these verbs as futures (e.g., NIV, NASB), apparently concluding that the context requires a future reference. According to Joüon 2:363 §112.h, n.1 Ibn Ezra explained the verbs of Joel 2:18 as an extension of the so-called prophetic perfect; as such, a future fulfillment was described with a past tense as a rhetorical device lending certainty to the fulfillment. But this lacks adequate precedent and is very unlikely from a syntactical standpoint. It seems better to take the verbs in the normal past sense of the preterite. This would require a vantage point for the prophet at some time after the people had responded favorably to the Lord’s call for repentance and after the Lord had shown compassion and forgiveness toward his people, but before the full realization of God’s promises to restore productivity to the land. In other words, it appears from the verbs of vv. 18-19 that at the time of Joel’s writing this book the events of successive waves of locust invasion and conditions of drought had almost run their course and the people had now begun to turn to the Lord.
  13. Joel 2:19 tn Heb “answered and said.”
  14. Joel 2:19 tn Heb “Look! I am sending grain to you.” The participle used in the Hebrew text seems to suggest imminent action.
  15. Joel 2:19 tc One of the Qumran manuscripts (4QXXIIc) inserts “and you will eat” before “and you will be fully satisfied,” the latter phrase being the reading of the MT and LXX.
  16. Joel 2:20 sn The allusion to the one from the north is best understood as having locusts in view. It is not correct to say that this reference to the enemy who came form the north excludes the possibility of a reference to locusts and must be understood as human armies. Although locust plagues usually approached Palestine from the east or southeast, the severe plague of 1915, for example, came from the northeast.
  17. Joel 2:20 tn Heb “his face to the eastern sea.” In this context the eastern sea is probably the Dead Sea.
  18. Joel 2:20 tn Heb “and his rear to the western sea.” The western sea refers to the Mediterranean Sea.
  19. Joel 2:20 sn Heb “and his foul smell will ascend.” The foul smell probably refers to the unpleasant odor of decayed masses of dead locusts. The Hebrew word for “foul smell” is found only here in the Old Testament. The Hebrew word for “stench” appears only here and in Isa 34:3 and Amos 4:10. In the latter references it refers to the stench of dead corpses on a field of battle.
  20. Joel 2:20 tn The Hebrew text does not have “the Lord.” Two interpretations are possible. This clause may refer to the enemy described in the immediately preceding verses, in which case it would have a negative sense: “he has acted in a high-handed manner.” Or it may refer to the Lord, in which case it would have a positive sense: “the Lord has acted in a marvelous manner.” This is clearly the sense of the same expression in v. 21, where in fact “the Lord” appears as the subject of the verb. It seems best to understand the clause the same way in both verses.
  21. Joel 2:22 tn Heb “beasts of the field.”
  22. Joel 2:22 tn Heb “their strength.” The trees and vines will produce a maximum harvest, in contrast to the failed agricultural conditions previously described.
  23. Joel 2:23 tn Heb “sons of Zion.”
  24. Joel 2:23 tn Heb “be glad in the Lord your God.”
  25. Joel 2:23 tn Normally the Hebrew word הַמּוֹרֶה (hammoreh) means “the teacher,” but here and in Ps 84:7 it refers to “early rains.” Elsewhere the word for “early rains” is יוֹרֶה (yoreh). The phrase here הַמּוֹרֶה לִצְדָקָה (hammoreh litsdaqah) is similar to the expression “teacher of righteousness” (Heb., מוֹרֶה הַצֶּדֶק, moreh hatsedeq) found in the Dead Sea Scrolls referring to a particular charismatic leader, although the Qumran community seems not to have invoked this text in support of that notion.
  26. Joel 2:23 tn Heb “caused to come down.”
  27. Joel 2:23 sn For half the year Palestine is generally dry. The rainy season begins with the early rains usually in late October to early December, followed by the latter rains in March and April. Without these rains productive farming would not be possible, as Joel’s original readers knew only too well.
  28. Joel 2:25 tn Heb “I will restore to you the years.”sn The plural years suggests that the plague to which Joel refers was not limited to a single season. Apparently the locusts were a major problem over several successive years. One season of drought and locust invasion would have been bad enough. Several such years would have been devastating.
  29. Joel 2:25 sn The same four terms for locust are used here as in 1:4, but in a different order. This fact creates some difficulty for the notion that the four words refer to four distinct stages of locust development.
  30. Joel 2:25 tn The term “your crops” does not appear in the Hebrew but has been supplied in the translation for the sake of clarity and smoothness.
  31. Joel 2:25 sn Here Joel employs military language to describe the locusts. In the prophet’s thinking this invasion was far from being a freak accident. Rather, the Lord is pictured here as a divine warrior who leads his army into the land as a punishment for past sin and as a means of bringing about spiritual renewal on the part of the people.
  32. Joel 2:26 tn Heb “you will surely eat and be satisfied.”
  33. Joel 2:28 sn Beginning with 2:28, the verse numbers through 3:21 in the English Bible differ from the verse numbers in the Hebrew text (BHS), with 2:28 ET = 3:1 HT, 2:29 ET = 3:2 HT, 2:30 ET = 3:3 HT, 2:31 ET = 3:4 HT, 2:32 ET = 3:5 HT, 3:1 ET = 4:1 HT, etc., through 3:21 ET = 4:21 HT. Thus Joel in the Hebrew Bible has 4 chapters, the 5 verses of ch. 3 being included at the end of ch. 2 in the English Bible.
  34. Joel 2:28 tn Heb “Now it will be after this.”
  35. Joel 2:28 sn This passage plays a key role in the apostolic explanation of the coming of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost recorded in Acts 2:17-21. Peter introduces his quotation of this passage with “this is that spoken by the prophet Joel” (Acts 2:16; cf. the similar pesher formula used at Qumran). The New Testament events at Pentecost are thus seen in some sense as a fulfillment of this Old Testament passage, even though that experience did not exhaustively fulfill Joel’s words. Some portions of Joel’s prophecy have no precise counterpart in that experience. For example, there is nothing in the events recorded in Acts 2 that exactly corresponds to the earthly and heavenly signs described in Joel 3:3-4. But inasmuch as the messianic age had already begun and the “last days” had already commenced with the coming of the Messiah (cf. Heb 1:1-2), Peter was able to point to Joel 3:1-5 as a text that was relevant to the advent of Jesus and the bestowal of the Spirit. The equative language that Peter employs (“this is that”) stresses an incipient fulfillment of the Joel passage without precluding or minimizing a yet future and more exhaustive fulfillment in events associated with the return of Christ.
  36. Joel 2:28 tn Heb “all flesh.” As a term for humanity, “flesh” suggests the weakness and fragility of human beings as opposed to God, who is “spirit.” The word “all” refers not to all human beings without exception (cf. NAB, NASB “all mankind,” NLT “all people”), but to all classes of human beings without distinction (cf. NCV).
  37. Joel 2:28 tn Heb “your old men will dream dreams.” In context these are prophetic visions, messages from God, as are the visions mentioned in the next line.
  38. Joel 2:30 tn Or “in the heavens.” The Hebrew term שָׁמַיִם (shamayim) may be translated “heavens” or “sky,” depending on the context.
  39. Joel 2:31 tn Heb “to blood,” but no doubt this is intended to indicate by metonymy the color of blood rather than the substance itself. The blood-red color suggests a visual impression here—something that could be caused by fires, volcanic dust, sandstorms, or other atmospheric phenomena.
  40. Joel 2:32 tn Or “escape.” The Hebrew form may be passive or middle. While a number of English versions render this as “saved” (e.g., NIV, NRSV, NLT), this can suggest a “spiritual” or “theological” salvation rather than the physical deliverance from the cataclysmic events of the day of the Lord described in the context. The LXX renders as σωθήσεται (sōthēsetai), which is traditionally rendered as “will be saved.”
  41. Joel 2:32 tn Heb “deliverance”; or “escape.” The abstract noun “deliverance” or “escape” probably functions here as an example of antimeria, referring to those who experience deliverance or escape with their lives: “escaped remnant” or “surviving remnant” (Gen 32:8; 45:7; Judg 21:17; 2 Kgs 19:30, 31; Isa 4:2; 10:20; 15:9; 37:31, 32; Ezek 14:22; Obad 1:17; Ezra 9:8, 13-15; Neh 1:2; 1 Chr 4:43; 2 Chr 30:6).
  42. Joel 2:32 tn Heb “and among the remnant.”
  43. Joel 2:32 tn The participle used in the Hebrew text seems to indicate action in the imminent future.
  44. Joel 3:1 sn Joel 3:1 in the English Bible is 4:1 in the Hebrew text (BHS). See also the note at 2:28.
  45. Joel 3:1 tc The MT and LXX read, “in those days,” while MurXII reads, “in that day.”
  46. Joel 3:1 tc The Kethib has אָשִׁיב (ʾashiv, “I will return the captivity [captives]”), while the Qere is אָשׁוּב (ʾashuv, “I will restore the fortunes”). Many modern English versions follow the Qere reading. Either reading seems to fit the context. Joel refers to an exile of the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem in 3:2-6 and their return from exile in 3:7. On the other hand, 2:25-26 describes the reversal of judgment and restoration of the covenant blessings. However, the former seems to be the concern of the immediate context.
  47. Joel 3:2 sn There is a play on words here. Jehoshaphat in Hebrew means “the Lord has judged,” and the next line in v. 2 further explicates this thought. The location of this valley is uncertain (cf. v. 12). Many interpreters identified the Valley of Jehoshaphat as the Kidron Valley, located between old Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives. They supposed it was the “Valley of Berachah [“blessing”],” where King Jehoshaphat defeated his enemies (2 Chr 20:26). Since this is described as a scene of future messianic activity and judgment, many Jews and Muslims have desired to be buried in the Kidron vicinity, and there are many graves in the area. A variation of this view, mentioned by Eusebius (Onomasticon 1:10), is the Hinnom Valley, on the south side of the old city, perhaps as a “valley of slaughter” (Jer 7:31-32; 19:5-6). Many modern scholars think Joel’s valley is part of an idealized and nonliteral scene of judgment. Another theory is that there is no reference to the ancient king but to the eschatalogical judgment to occur in the Valley of Esdraelon (Armageddon: Ezek 39:11; Rev 16:16-17; cf. Joel 3:12-21).
  48. Joel 3:2 tn Heb “I will execute judgment.”
  49. Joel 3:2 tn Heb “concerning my people and my inheritance Israel.”
  50. Joel 3:3 tn Heb “gave.”
  51. Joel 3:3 sn Heb “and they drank.” Joel vividly refers to a situation where innocent human life has little value; its only worth is its use in somehow satisfying selfish appetites of wicked people who have control over others (cf. Amos 2:6 and 8:6).
  52. Joel 3:4 tn Heb “What [are] you [doing] to me, O Tyre and Sidon?”
  53. Joel 3:4 tn Or “districts.”
  54. Joel 3:4 tn Heb “quickly, speedily, I will return your recompense on your head.” This is an idiom for retributive justice and an equitable reversal of situation.
  55. Joel 3:5 tn Or perhaps, “temples.”
  56. Joel 3:6 tn Heb “border.”
  57. Joel 3:7 tn Heb “I will return your recompense on your head.”
  58. Joel 3:8 tn Heb “into the hand of.”
  59. Joel 3:8 tn Heb “the sons of Judah.”
  60. Joel 3:8 sn The Sabeans were Arabian merchants who were influential along the ancient caravan routes that traveled through Arabia. See also Job 1:15; Isa 43:3; 45:14; Ps 72:10.