To understand the message of Joel one must decide to what degree the book is a description of actual events, represents allegorical teaching, or is apocalyptic in nature. These elements need not be viewed as mutually exclusive of each other. The position taken here is that the description of the locust invasion and drought (1:1-20) is of actual events. These natural calamities are an expression of God's wrath in the present but are also portents of the coming day of judgment. From this position the prophet moves easily into the ultimate judgment of God upon the nations of the world. In the process of expounding these themes, other of the prophet's convictions are exposed.
For Joel, as for other Hebrew prophets, it was natural to assume that God's judgment upon wrongdoing could take the form of natural calamity. The appropriate response to such disaster is repentance. Repentance in turn would result in forgiveness granted by a gracious God. Like other postexilic prophets (Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi) he regarded temple worship as of the greatest importance. Joel was provincial. His interests centered in his own people and their particular relationship to God. This seems to be true even in his prediction of the outpouring of the Spirit of God upon “all people” (2:28), since in its context this promise seems to be given to those who are in Jerusalem (v. 32). Peter, however, on the Day of Pentecost cast this statement appropriately in an inclusive promise to all nations (Ac 2:17). The day of the Lord, when in God's providence it comes, will be a day of destruction for the nations of the earth but a day of blessing and salvation for his people Israel (3:16). (For further elaboration of these themes see the commentary below and Thompson, 734-35).